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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Sun 21 Oct 2012 - 1:34

Thirty-fifth Day of Proceedings - Friday, January 18, 1889



It was a quarter to eleven before the Court resumed business this morning. The gallery was more crowded than on any morning during the week, but the Irish Parliamentary Party was only represented by Mr. Biggar, Mr. Davitt being, as usual, in his seat by the solicitors' table.


The Attorney-General reverted to the discussion of last night as to the examination of witnesses connected with the "Plan of Campaign" independently. He explained that he was very anxious, as far as possible, to prevent political considerations being introduced; but he mentioned the "Plan" as incidental to the non-payment of rent, and as part of the combination of whose acts they had already given evidence. After consideration he had decided not to ask witnesses direct questions as to the "Plan of Campaign," but to ascertain from them particulars of the non-payment of rent and the causes.
Mr. Reid, in reply, expressed his pleasure that the Attorney-General had arrived at such a decision, and he expressly pointed out that his clients did not accept the description of the "Plan" made by the Attorney-General.
Mr. Asquith again referred to the documents mentioned yesterday, which the Times have in their possession - bearing Mr. Parnell's signature - for purposes of comparison. Mr. Asquith informed the Court that his clients did not desire to inspect those documents.
The President - Very well.


George Young, who was under examination yesterday, was recalled. It will be recollected he is the son of an Irish landlord, and was, so he said, obliged to return home from his University studies to carry on the estate, because his father was boycotted. He produced letters written to him by his tenants as to the secret payment of rent. One man, he said, asked permission to be allowed to hide in his yard all day, and go home at night, so that no one would see him leave the place. Several tenants called, so he said, on a fair day to pay their rent, saying their object in choosing that day was that their neighbours should think they had gone to the fair.


Garrett Tyrrell, of King's County, a land agent, gave evidence as to events in Leap, King's County, and Kildare. He told the Attorney-General that many of his tenants had asked to be served with writs, because they were afraid to pay their rents. He gave a few instances of the way in which tenants who paid their rents were treated. They were boycotted, their houses were fired into, and every possible opposition was made to the "drawing" of their crops. All this happened, so he said, after the establishment of the Land League. The witness's evidence, in short, was very similar to that given by agents in the earlier stages of the sittings of the Commission. It was entirely directed to showing that after the Land League had been established in the locality in which the witness was agent, intimidation, the boycott, and outrage were resorted to.
In cross-examination by Mr. Reid, he said he believed the great bulk of the tenants under him were always willing to pay their rents, but were intimidated by the others. He had certainly never heard of Moonlighting prior to 1880.


To Mr. Davitt the witness communicated the fact that he was agent for eight estates in all. He was remunerated by a commission on what rent he collected, and the Land League having succeeded in reducing the rents, he did not regard it with any degree of favour. For the same reason he was not an enthusiastic admirer of the Land Commission. He admitted that the conversion of tillage into grazing land, resulting as it did in reduced wages-bill week by week, reduced labour, and reduced incomes to the village shopkeepers, always had created discontent and ill-feeling amongst the agricultural and other classes dependent upon the land for a livelihood, in various parts of Ireland.
The Attorney-General briefly re-examined the witness, who expressed his firm conviction that one result of the Land League was the destruction of the feeling of good-will and friendship that had formerly existed in the districts to which it had penetrated. Notwithstanding this, however, he informed Mr. Davitt, in reply to further questions, that he had heard and read of outrages occurring in various parts of Ireland before the Land League was established.
Do you know that, where landlordism is abolished, there are few or no outrages at all.
The President (smiling) - Ah! now Mr. Davitt, I think you are going beyond the points raised in the re-examination.


Robert Powell, of Westport, Mayo, also a land agent, next gave evidence. He, too, said that the tenants on the estates belonging to Lord Sligo, Mr. Fitzgerald, and Mr. Robertson - on which he was agent, were afraid to pay their rent in 1880-1, although some of them had paid it secretly. He was not, he said, aware that Moonlighting outrages upon tenants for payment of rent occurred before 1879.
Mr. Davitt elicited from the witness that the rental of Lord Sligo's estate was 22,000 pounds. Lord Sligo was not a resident landlord.
Henry Vereker, another land agent from Mayo, gave similar evidence as to the result of the establishment of the League on the estates under his care.


John Barrett, who lives at Bantry, in the County Cork, and who described himself as a landlord, and also an agent, spoke of the condition of the tenantry on the estate of Lord Kenmare in the county before and after the League was formed there. He also described the extent to which he was boycotted, and mentioned that after a meeting of the local branch of the League, he wrote to the parish priest, who was then the President, deploring the use of language by speakers at the meeting "too foul for publication," and calling attention to the fact that the meeting discussed the question of his assassination "as plain as could be." The letter added that, inasmuch as the priest had presided over a "mob that was in pursuit of blood," and had never opened his mouth to denounce their conduct, that friendship that had formerly existed between Mr. Barrett and the rev. gentleman must cease.
Having read the letter through, Mr. Atkinson asked - and the joke was not very generally noticed - "Is the statement of "fact" in that letter "true"? - "It is," solemnly replied Mr. Barrett.
In cross-examination by Mr. Reid, the witness said that one man evicted from a farm on the Kenmare estate was not allowed to re-enter his old home, and he subsequently died in a ditch, beneath an upturned boat - his only shelter - under circumstances of the greatest distress.


Dominick O'Donnelly, a landlord in the county Mayo, told a story similar to those of his predecessors today in the box. It was, like theirs, directed to showing the result of the working of the League. His servants left his employ through fear of the Land League, his neighbours would not associate with him, he received threatening letters, and was fired at twice - one bullet going through his coat, and another striking him in the thigh. He was once on a Coroner's Jury, called to inquire into the circumstances of the death of a man shot when the police fired on a mob in 1881. A verdict of wilful murder was returned against the inspector of the district, and he dissented from that verdict, which was, he incidentally added, eventually quashed by the Grand Jury.
Mr. O'Donnell told Mr. Reid that he believed his unpopularity was due to two circumstances - his action on the Coroner's jury and his position as a landlord.
The Court here adjourned for luncheon.


Cross-examined subsequently, after luncheon, the witness described to Mr. A. O'Connor certain evictions carried out on his land. Mr. O'Connor referred especially to a case in which a woman was lying ill in bed at the time the bailiffs and police reached the house for the purpose of carrying out the eviction. The witness said the police did not refuse to carry the woman out of the house, because they had never been asked to do so. The bailiffs might have refused to carry her out.
Was there a man named Froome watching the evictions? - There was.
Did you, assisted by Froome, remove the woman from the house in her bed? - We did, gently.
And did not a policeman run up, in the presence of the people, and throw a coat over her? - Well, a policeman certainly did; but she was kicking all the clothes off her. I may say I should never have carried her out had I not previously ascertained that she was not ill and was only "shamming."


Mr. Reid here rose with a contents bill of the Sheffield Daily Telegraph in his hand. He said he was sorry he had to make another application to their Lordships. He, however, called their Lordships' attention to the following sentences contained in the placard: - "The League's Murder Ring. Confession in open Court." Mr. Reid added that he would a great deal rather not make these applications, but he was compelled to do so.
The President - You must base your application on an affidavit. I cannot have these things brought forward in this manner.
Mr. Reid - Of course, as in other cases, I must make an affidavit.


Captain Plunkett, a gentleman of medium height, with black curly hair, very bushy iron-grey whiskers, and receding forehead, was the next witness. He was examined by the Attorney-General, in reply to whom he said he had been in Ireland twenty-two years as Resident Magistrate. Until 1879 he had not known of organisations existing with the avowed intention of opposing the payment of rent, and the only outrages that were committed were due to the Ribbon Societies and other such bodies. Prior to that time he had never heard the expression "landgrabber" used, and he declared emphatically that no such organisation could have existed in West Meath, where he was resident Magistrate, without coming to his knowledge. The establishment of the Land League in 1879 resulted in the resistance to legal processes in every shape and form. The police were assaulted whenever they assisted at evictions, and the greatest difficulty was experienced in protecting the Sheriffs while discharging their duty. In alluding to co. Kerry, Captain Plunkett said that the Land League was most active in the four districts, Listowel, Tralee, Killarney, and Castle Island. It was in those four districts that crime was concentrated.


Captain Plunkett (continuing) said he had attended many evictions in 1881. In many cases the houses were barricaded, and bottles of hot water and boiling tar were used. He knew no society, with the exception of the Land League, up to 1883, and the National League after that date, which would assist the tenants in their resistance. It had been suggested that it was a secret society which had assisted the tenants, but he did not believe that was correct. Captain Plunkett went on to say that he had heard from tenants statements as to why they had not paid. They would, they said, be willing to pay, but were not allowed. The injury done to the houses where an eviction took place was very much greater than would be covered by the amount in dispute. He found an improvement in the district after the suppression of the Land League in July, 1882.


He deposed to the boycotting of the Cork Steam Packet Company, incidentally, and proceeded to say that one of the general results of the meetings of the League, held in different localities, was a series of outrages. He also gave statistics showing the numbers of policemen in the different districts prior to and after the League was established. In the Castleisland district there were, in 1878, eight policemen; in 1882, that number was increased to 179. In Listowel, in 1878, there were 39; in 1881, 56; in 1882, 77; in 1883, 97. In Tralee, there were 59 in 1878 (at that time Tralee had other districts, described as "outlying districts"); 79 in 1881; 112 in 1882, and 146 in 1883. In Killarney, in 1878, there were 55 officers, in 1881, 66, in 1882, 108, and in 1883, 105. Referring to county Cork, the captain said that there was a good deal of disorder in the beginning of 1882 - more than in any other place - in the districts of Ballincorry, Kanturk, Mallow, and Youghal, where the Land League was very powerful.
Has the condition improved since the Crimes Act of 1887? - Oh, very much.
Cross-examined by Mr. Reid - The Captain said he was now a Divisional Magistrate, and had a number of counties under his control. He explained that he had found the unpaid Magistrates had ceased to discharge judicial business very largely since 1880. Such business was now discharged by resident Magistrates, who were also executive officers, and were officials commanding the police when occasion required.


The Captain gave reasons why he arrived at the conclusions that the League was strong in some places, and did not exhibit much vitality in others. In some places where much vitality was exhibited outrage invariably followed. He relied also upon the fact that, whenever a man was denounced, he was immediately visited by some punishment. Asked by Mr. Reid to give instances, he said that Mr. Herbert was denounced only a few days before he was murdered, and also that the parish priest at Fahyrees denounced Mr. Curtin, who was shot a week afterwards. Referring to that speech he observed: "I believe that speech was a direct incitement to crime, and I say that the inflammatory speeches were generally followed by outrage." Giving further reasons for arriving at his conclusion, Captain Plunkett referred to the murder of Fitzmaurice, who, he asserted, was denounced by the Lixnaw branch of the League shortly before his death. "In fact," he said, "whenever a man was denounced, he had to have protection of some sort." He could recollect no further incidents, and accordingly Mr. Reid led him back to the question as to what was his further reason why the League caused crime. The Captain explained that he had private information which caused him to arrive at this conclusion; but he thought those he had already given were the strongest. The Captain was very much pressed as to his definition of the term "vitality" as applied to the League, but could give no other explanation than that crime was greater in some districts than in others where the League was no so strong.


You have some private information, I understand, as to the connection of the League with crime? - I have.
Who gave you the information? - Members of the League.
When did you receive the information? - Within the last two years.
Are those people available now? - I don't know.
Are they in the United Kingdom? - I'm sure I can't say. They did not say they had taken part in outrages; but that they had been present at the meetings where outrages were organised. They were not there as spies, and did not express to me that they dissented in any way from the resolutions passed at the meetings.
(The report will be continued.)

Source: The Echo, Friday January 18, 1889, pp. 2-3

Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"

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