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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Sat 13 Oct 2012 - 13:27

Thirty-first Day of Proceedings - Friday, December 14, 1888






This was to have been the last day of the Commission prior to the Christmas holidays. It had been arranged that tonight the Court should "break up," to use a scholastic term, for a fortnight or so. Later events have altered all this. The court officials had anticipated a crush today in consequence of the arrangements made for the cross-examination of the informer, O'Connor. Their expectations were not, however, realised, for the attendance was not so large as on any morning during the week when the Court opened. Mr. Davitt and Mr. E. Harrington were early in their usual seats, and Mr. Herbert Gladstone occupied a seat in the Q.C.'s bench by the side of Mr. Lockwood.


The business opened with a very sensational move on the part of the Attorney-General. With that very solemn air Sir Richard assumes when anything serious is about to discussed, he arose with a copy of United Ireland in his hand. He had, he said, to ask their Lordships to sit on Tuesday morning to allow him to give notice to Mr. William O'Brien, one of the persons charged, to attend before the Court, as the proprietor and editor of United Ireland, in respect of an article which has just appeared in that journal.
The President: Is it something which renders it necessary that we should attend here and make other arrangements?
The Attorney-General - If your Lordships will deal with it today it will be better.
The President - Is it absolutely necessary to make other arrangements?
The Attorney-General replied that he had read the article. He would not, he assured their Lordships, bring the matter before the Court if it was not one of the most urgent character, and he might say he should also have to bring before their Lordships' notice an affidavit of what had happened to witnesses who had given evidence before the Commission.


The Attorney-General then read the article, in the course of which it was said that so far the evidence had been a meaningless parade of eight-years old outrages. The Court had been encumbered with files of old newspapers, and inundated with the opinions of policemen, evictors, and the "tuft-hunting old Catholic Clergymen." Upon all this business the journal claimed a right to comment freely and openly. Further, the article said they did not care twopence for the opinion of the three Judges especially selected in the teeth of Liberal expostulation and protest by the "forgers'" friends and accomplices. Assuming that the Coercion Government had especially selected them for their impartiality, their judgment was still open to question. The article went on to comment upon the evidence given in the course of the Commission, declaring that the lad Walsh, of county Mayo, was sprung upon the Court out of his turn, and before his county was reached, and that he was a fair specimen of the class of witness "the forger" produced, and asserting that the country had not done laughing at the hoax played upon "the forger" by the young man Molloy, whose evidence showed to what extent it had been attempted to bribe witnesses. The Attorney-General added that the paper was printed by William O'Brien, and as, during the recess, they would be at the mercy of such papers in Ireland, he asked that some steps should be taken to suppress comments of the kind and punish the writer.


Mr. Reid said he had a similar application to make with reference to some comments made by the Warden of Merton College, and reported in the Times. As the Attorney-General had made an application without the slightest provocation -----
The President - I do not say "without the slightest provocation."
Mr. Justice A.L. Smith - Nor do I.
The President (warmly) - I had hoped the appeal I addressed in various forms would have had effect. If it were in my power I would at once throw up the Commission on account of these comments; but I have a duty I cannot get rid of.


Mr. Reid then read the reported speech of the Warden of Merton. That gentleman said - according to the report - that not only had a Home Rule League been started at Oxford, and Undergraduates of advanced views pressed to join, but there was also an Oxford branch of the National League, with a Nonconformist minister as president. "There had not yet been any outrages," remarked the Warden, "but Oxford had received the visits of Mr. Davitt, Mr. Dillon, and Mr. George, who had lectured," and the Warden added that he had no doubt but that if they could find the Whitechapel murderer, he would be called upon to deliver a lecture also. (Laughter.)
The Attorney-General here pointed out that Mr. O'Brien was in London, and could be called before the Court if necessary.


The President then said - We think it is absolutely necessary that this matter should be disposed of, and as promptly as possible. A proper affidavit being filed, unless that is waived as to the proprietorship of a newspaper, the person against whom the application is made must appear before us tomorrow morning.
Mr. Reid - I shall raise no question of the responsibility of Mr. O'Brien here.
The President - With regard to the other matter, it is of an entirely different character, and, of course, notice must be served upon the gentleman against whom the complaint was made. We do not think it a complaint of a character which calls upon us to alter the arrangements which have been entered into.
Sir R. Webster hoped that Mr. Reid would not require further notice.
Mr. Reid - I am perfectly certain that, if Mr. O'Brien is within reach, he will come here.


O'Connor, the informer, then entered the witness-box to undergo his cross-examination, which has been postponed nearly a fortnight. Upon the solicitation of Sir Charles Russell, he was allowed a seat, as it was said he was ill. Replying to Sir Charles Russell, he said the meeting was held in Castleisland in October, 1880, at which Mr. Biggar spoke. A few weeks after that a branch of the League was formed there.
How long after that meeting were you asked to join the "Boys"? - Some time in the December following.
You called it the "Inner Circle." Whether it was "inner" or "outer," do you adhere to the statement that you joined the "Boys" in December? - I do.
At the time of your joining the "Boys" had you taken any part in any kind of outrage? - No.
How long after you joined the "Boys" did you take part in the reinstatement of Mrs. Horan! - It is in my recollection that it was soon after.
Will you undertake to swear the reinstatement was not in October? - I believe, perhaps, it was; but it is in my recollection.
Was there any but one? - There were two.
Now, is it not a fact that the man Brown did not give up possession until December? - I don't know. I recollect that the League was suppressed in 1881.
Will you undertake to say that any meeting was held of the League in Castleisland in the years 1881 and 1882? - I do undertake to say there was.
Was any meeting held except that of the Ladies' Land League? - Yes. They used to meet privately every time they could, sometimes at the house of the secretary, who was now dead, and sometimes at the house of Thomas Moore.
You have referred to a meeting held before the man Cullaty was shot at. Where was that meeting held? - It was at John Cullaty's house, I think.
Are you able positively to say where it was held? - I could not positively say where. I think it was held sometime in the month of April, on a Sunday. It was a week or two after, at the farthest, that Cullaty was shot at.
Can you recall the names of any persons who are living, besides Brosnan and Father Callaghan, who were, you have said, present at that meeting? - Yes; Patrick Kenny, Father Moore, and Patrick Hernavy. They are now living in the district of Castleisland.


Do you recollect speaking of Mr. E. Harrington in your evidence, in relation to an election of guardians? - Yes, I do; at Curragh, about three miles from Castleisland. That meeting was on a Sunday. I don't remember the date.
Was it Sunday, the 13th of March? - I don't know.
Sir Charles Russell: Well, I am suggesting to you that that was the day when Mr. E. Harrington attended a meeting in support of a Guardian at Curragh? - Well, I don't know.
You spoke of you and two other men standing together, and Mr. E. Harrington speaking to these men. Give us the names of those men again? - Thomas Brosnan and Michael Brosnan. I don't know where Michael is.
But, do you know that Brosnan has not been in Castleisland for some years? - For three or four years, I think. There were a good many who saw Mr. E. Harrington speak to the Brosnans. Mr. Richard Burke, the candidate, I am sure saw him speak. It is so many years ago that I cannot recollect anyone else. Mr. Harrington on that occasion said he was afraid Mr. Burke would be returned. I am quite sure Mr. Harrington said they were to go round with a petition, telling the people how to vote.


Was this in the open street? - On the road.
People about? - Yes.
Was the group in which this conversation took place composed only of you, the two Brosnans, and Mr. Harrington? - Yes.
You say a man named Joseph Murphy canvassed for the candidate opposing the landlord candidate. Did you go round with him? - Sometimes.
Did Murphy get the voters to initial the voting-papers in favour of the Land League candidate? - Yes.
How long was it after that conversation with Mr. Harrington that you went canvassing? - About a week afterwards, but I did not get anyone to initial a paper.
Who did you visit? - Thomas Brosnan and I visited Thomas Walsh and a man named Donleary. Those were two men who had refused to give Murphy their votes for McSweeney. We asked them why they would not. They said it was because Burke, the landlord candidate, was a friend of theirs. We then told them that they would have to vote for McSweeney, or we would do something to them. They were very much frightened, and promised to do anything we wanted. We were disguised.


Sir Charles Russell then questioned witness with regard to his visit to Tralee. O'Conner said it was about a month after the conversation with the two Brosnans and Mr. Harrington that he went to Tralee, accompanied with Thomas Brosnan. They went to an office in Eltham-street, and there again saw Mr. Harrington.
Now can you name anyone who knows you, and who you saw in Tralee on the day in which you allege you saw Mr. Harrington? - No one knows me in Tralee. Mr. Harrington refused to give us anything, and told us that he was ashamed of us, and would send someone to see us. He appeared to not understand when we said we wanted the money for canvassing.
Did you name any sum? - No, but he told us we could name our own hire.
And someone came to you next Sunday? - Yes.
And you got some money from him? - Yes, we were paid in notes.
What became of the man who gave you the money? - I can't say. He was a tall man about 5ft. 7in. high.
Where did you change those notes? - I haven't any recollection.
Can you name a bank? - I can't; but I believe I changed them at the Castleisland branch of the National Bank.


In 1886 you recollect two letters coming to your brother purporting to be signed by Mr. T. Harrington? - Yes.
And did you not say they were destroyed? - Yes.
Did you look for either of those letters? - I did.
For which? - For the one on plain paper.
Why did you not look for the other one? - Because I didn't care to.
Now, is this one of the letters (handing a letter to the witness)? - O'Connor read the contents through very carefully, and replied "It is."
I will read this letter. It is dated February 5th, 1886, is written upon the official paper of the Irish National League, and dated from the Central offices in Dublin. It is addressed to Mr. John O'Connor, and purports to be signed by Mr. T. Harrington. Sir Charles Russell read the letter, which ran thus: - "At the last meeting of the Organising Committee of the League I laid before them your application on behalf of the evicted tenants Mary Russell, Mary Butler, and Mary Riordan. I regret to say that the Organising Committee found themselves compelled to refuse grants, owing to the very disturbed and lawless state of the county of Kerry at the present time. The Committee decided upon sending no grants to those districts where continual disturbances had been kept up. I don't wish you to consider that they believe the branches of the National League in any way associated with lawless outrages. They wish to save the general organisation from even the suspicion of sending funds to places where outrages of this kind have been encouraged; and they regard this step as necessary for the safety and character of the organisation at the present time, and have directed me to communicate their views to the Secretaries who have made these applications. - Yours truly, T. HARRINGTON."
Sir C. Russell - This letter which your brother received does not speak of the lawless and disturbed state of that part of the district but of Kerry. - I know it does.
Was Kerry at the time in a disturbed state? - Well, Castleisland and other parts of the county were.


You said you didn't look for the letter. - I did.
That was because it didn't answer your purpose. - Not so well as the other.
Did you think that other letter was in existence? - O'Connor replied that he thought it was. He looked for it in his brother's desk. He did not know that the letters were destroyed, but he presumed so, so he could not find them. (Examining Mr. Harrington's letter, witness thought the handwriting in the one sent to his - witness's - brother was larger.) Both the letters came by the same post, but in separate envelopes, and were addressed to his brother. Witness could not swear that he opened them. He thought he saw them on his brother's desk, and then read them.


What age are you? - O'Connor replied that he was about 29 or 30. In 1887 he would be about 18 or 19. He did not enlist in the Kerry Militia in the name of Kelly. He was never in the Kerry Militia; as a matter of fact, he could not.
Sir Charles Russell - Why?
O'Connor - Am I bound to say?
Sir Charles Russell - If it is detrimental to yourself I won't press you.
Witness - Well, I have varicose veins in my leg - (laughter) - and, therefore, could not join. I tried to enlist in the Army, but could not.


When did you first, if ever, give any information to the police?
Witness said he never did, only when he conversed with Inspector Rice and Inspector Davis he told them as to outrages that might be committed. He did get some money from the police, but would not swear that he did not receive 3 pounds from Inspector Davis about two years ago. Rice gave witness a shilling or two to have a drink. They were the first policemen that witness spoke to about outrages. When witness came over here he did not expect that he would be paid anything beyond bare expenses. "I came over for the sake of putting down the hell in my own district," said the witness, "and not for any benefit to myself."


Were you asked to make statements incriminately of the popular leaders in Ireland? - No, I was not.
Will you swear that? - Yes.
Do you know Mr. Walker? - I got to know him in the Court.
Were you asked by him to incriminate any of the leaders in Ireland? Were you asked to tell "queer things"? Now, take care, O'Connor! - What do you mean by "queer things"? (Laughter.)
Were you asked to tell "queer things"? I use this phrase on purpose. - I don't know how to answer.
Were you not asked to tell "queer things"? - Well, I understand that I was forced rather hard by Mr. Walker.
Did he try to get you to fix incriminating evidence on Irish Members? - I told him I wanted to get out of it altogether.
Was he trying to fix anything of an incriminating character on Irish leaders? - I think not.


Sir Charles Russell (handing him a letter) - Is that your signature? - I don't know. It looks like it.
Have you any doubt that it is written by yourself? - Well it is very like it, but I am not accustomed to writing.
Have you any doubt, Sir? - I have no doubt.
Sir Charles Russell read the letter. It was dated London, 3rd Dec., 1888, and addressed to "Dear Pat" - witness's brother. In this O'Connor remarked, "I am here in London since yesterday morning. I was in Dublin two days, I got myself summoned for the Times. I thought I could make a few pounds out of the transaction, but I found I could not unless I could swear "queer things." I am afraid they will send me to jail or give me nothing to carry me home." The letter further stated that the writer had "thought he would take a voyage and see a doctor at their expense." Instead of that voyage doing him good it had made him worse. Whatever way the matter ended, he hoped his brother would not blame him for it. He added, "I thought I could do some good, but fear I cannot. I will write again tomorrow, or, at the latest, on Wednesday, if I am alive and at liberty."
Your brothers are hard-working men, are they not? - They are.
Have you that reputation? - Yes; at all events, I think so. (Laughter.)
This was the last question Sir Charles had to put to the witness.


The Attorney-General then rose to examine the witness.
After giving your evidence did you receive a telegram? - I did.
Did you give it to the police? - I did.
The telegram was then produced; but Sir Charles, Mr. Asquith, and Mr. Reid objected to it being put in on the ground of irrelevancy.
The Attorney-General pointed out that Sir Charles Russell had read a letter written by the witness on the 3rd of December to members of his family. He, therefore, proposed to ask the witness questions as to what had passed between the witness and those same members of his family.
The President remarked that, although it was certainly not pertinent evidence here, in any other case, in the exercise of his judgment, he should have allowed that telegram to be put in as evidence, in order that it might afford some explanation in regard to the letter which was read.
"How can that be?" asked Sir Charles.
The President (hotly) - I decline to argue after having given my decision, and after having consulted with my brethen.
"But your Lordship will observe that there is no proof as to who wrote the telegrams." Sir Charles next hazarded. The President, however, did not reply, and the telegram was put in.


It was dated the 7th of December, and was addressed to Thomas O'Connor, and read as follows: - "Letter received. Family and friends will die of shame. Contradict all evidence in cross-examination, and all is well. Martin left today to see you. Meet him. Reply."
Did you subsequently have a conversation with your brother Martin in London. - Yes.
Did you receive a telegram this morning? - I did.
Had you written any other letter except the one that Sir Charles read? - I wrote three letters.


I will read this telegram then - "Costs will be sent to you immediately after trial. Do as you promised me. Admit being terrified with imprisonment at their hands unless you swore to your statement. The law cannot touch you there when you tell the truth. Be cheerful. Reply immediately. Telegraph. Address Martin, care of Thomas Callagher, Ballymead, Tralee." (To the witness) - Is that the same brother who came to you? - I understand it is.
There is one question I wish to ask you now. Are the answers you have given Sir Charles Russell today respecting what happened in 1880, 1881, and 1882 true? - As far as I can remember they are.
This concluded the re-examination of O'Connor, who, looking very pale, left the box.
Mr. Reid informed the Commissioners with regard to the application respecting Mr. O'Brien, and said it was believed Mr. O'Brien was now in Dublin.
The Attorney-General explained that the notice might be served upon him by telegraph, but no decision was then arrived at.


Another of the witnesses of the official class followed. Sergeant Droghan proved the arrest of several men for moonlighting, and asserted that they were maintained by members of the Land League while awaiting their trial. He admitted, in cross-examination, that none of the men were convicted at the trial.
Sergeant Gilhooly proved the arrest of a man named Twiss, who, O'Connor stated, gave him a revolver. He declared, in reply to Sir Charles Russell, that Twiss was well-known to Inspector Davis, but he could not say that he had seen him driving about the country with the inspector.


Mrs. O'Donoughue, a lodging-house-keeper at Tralee, said that while certain persons were in jail at Tralee in 1882, for moonlighting and other outrages, she dieted them. She received the order to do so from a Mrs. Fitzgerald, and received pay, 20 pounds or 25 pounds, from Mr. T. Harrington.
This witness also said, in reply to Sir Charles Russell, that the prisoners were not convicted.
The evidence was corroborated by the witness's husband, the witness adding that the money was subscribed all through the district for the imprisoned men.


Michael Keefe, who lives at Millstreet, in the county Cork, described a conversation he had in 1880 with Cornelius Duggan, as to the payment of rent. He, however, paid, and in 1881 he was boycotted, while, in the month of June, a party of moonlighters visited and attacked his house, firing shots and breaking the windows. Subsequently, he took an evicted farm, and has been boycotted ever since.


Pat Sheridan, an elderly man, whose rubicund face was surrounded with a mass of iron-grey whiskers, and around whose neck was a great white muffler, gave evidence as to the action of certain moonlighters in Mayo against persons who had taken evicted farms in Mayo.
Patrick Walsh proved purchasing a meadow from Miss Fitzpatrick, in county Mayo, and subsequently the hay was set alight, and he and his wife were fired at while returning from Ballinrobe Fair.
The Court at this point adjourned for luncheon.


On the Court resuming, a witness from Castlerea, Rosscommon, entered the witness-box. This was Thomas Wynne. He said he joined the Land League about 1880. During the years 1881-2 the chief business of the League was to pass resolutions deciding to boycott those persons who were guilty of land-grabbing, paying rent, or letting cars to eviction parties. When the National League was established resolutions of a similar character were passed. In June of this year witness resigned from the League because he took one acre of land which was within two yards of his doorway. The tenant who formerly occupied the land owed six years' rent, and he gave up the land without any legal proceedings being taken. He was then boycotted, owing to a resolution which was passed by the League. He was certainly of opinion that the people were afraid that if they did not comply with the wishes of the League they would be boycotted.


Wynne told Mr. Reid that it was only when tenants paid what were considered unfair rents that they were boycotted.
"If the people were afraid of the League, do you know if they were also afraid of eviction?" This was Mr. Davitt's first question. - Wynne replied that they were; and, in answer to a further question, said the tenants were more afraid of evictions than of the League.


Wynne then left the witness-box, and a witness from Milltown was called. This was Hanna Connell, an old woman, who was attired in the garb peculiar to the Irish peasants. She appeared to be in a very weak condition, and was led into the Court by the usher. She answered Mr. Murphy's questions in a voice that was so broken and hoarse that she was not easily understood. It was elicited from her that her son was boycotted for taking a piece of land from which a tenant had been evicted. He was a fisherman, and he could get no other fisherman to go out with him after that. Witness was also boycotted, and she was pelted with stones when she went into the road.


The son of the last witness succeeded his mother in the box. He declared, in answer to a question as to his age, that "he was 19 at the time of the Crimean War." He took half-an-acre of land that another person had been evicted from, and was boycotted in consequence, and appeared before a meeting of the Land League. He corroborated his mother's statement as to his inability to secure the services of men in working his fishing boat after he was boycotted. He then asked the parish priest not to "see him die, for the honour of God, of starvation, nor his mother either," but the priest replied that he had nothing to do with it. The result of the boycott was that he was obliged to sell his nets, and could not carry on his trade.


Head-constable William Brady next entered the witness-box, and told Sir Henry James that the reason why Connell's partners would not go to sea with him was because they were afraid of also being boycotted if they did so.
Mr. Lockwood elicited from the witness that Mrs. Connell was sent round to the various shops to try and get provisions, in order to get evidence for boycotting prosecutions.


Mr. Charles W. Perry next entered the witness-box. He said he was agent on Mr. Thomas Brown's property at Newgrove, in county Clare. In 1881 the tenants came to him in a body, and said they could not pay their rent. Two men, however, afterwards came back to the house and paid theirs. One of them, a man named Moroney, was subsequently murdered. In 1884 witness evicted a man and he was consequently boycotted. The farm remained empty until 1888, when witness took back the former tenant. All trouble then ceased.
The Commission adjourned until January 15th.

Source: The Echo, Friday December 14, 1888, pp. 2-3

Karen Trenouth
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