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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Sun 3 Feb 2013 - 2:43

Sixty-seventh Day of Proceedings - Tuesday, April 9, 1889





There was a very scanty attendance of the general public when the Court opened this morning. Indeed, the Court has scarcely presented such a deserted aspect since the newspaper extracts were produced by the Times counsel. Mrs. and Miss Gladstone were in their usual seats in the Jury-box; Lady Charles and Miss Russell again had seats in the Press-box; Lady and Miss Davy sat parallel with the Judicial Bench; Lady Watson and Miss Watson were in close proximity; and Sir U. Kay-Shuttleworth occupied a seat in the gallery.


Proceedings were resumed soon after half-past ten, when Sir Charles again addressed himself to his task. At the outset he explained that the object of his past treatment of the case was to show that the action of the Irish Parliamentary Party was Constitutional action, and was inspired with the hope of bettering the condition of the people of Ireland by and through Parliament. He then went on to make what he called a passing reference to the Ladies' Land League, which, he said, was dissolved soon after the release of Mr. Parnell from Kilmainham in 1882. Mr. Parnell then undertook the discharge of the liabilities of the Ladies' League, such as the maintenance of suspects in jail and the relief of the families of suspects. Sir Charles dismissed the story of the League very briefly, and asserted that he would not, perhaps, have touched upon it had it not been that the Attorney-General, in opening the case, referred to Miss Reynolds, observing, "Whose career will be traced, whose course through the country will be traced by the deeds which followed her agitation." Here, then, they had a picture of blood presented to them - a picture of this lady wading through blood, and leaving bloody footprints behind her. And yet they had never had one iota of evidence bearing out the imputation conveyed in that assertion. Addressing himself more particularly to the actions of the Irish Party, Sir Charles and Mr. Parnell did not deny that he advised the tenants to combine for their own protection; and did not deny that he did not differentiate, in advising that combination, between the strong tenants and the weak tenants. His object was mainly the protection of the weak tenants, believing, as he did, that the strong ones, in the strength of combination, could at all times support and help them.


Sir Charles next dealt with the interview between Mr. Parnell and Capt. O'Shea, asserting that, according to his instructions, in the course of the conversation Mr. Parnell never asked that an exception should be made as to the release or continued imprisonment of certain suspects. Proceeding, Sir Charles said that when Mr. Davitt was released from Portland Prison, Mr. Parnell went to see him, to let him know what then was the state of affairs. At that moment a signal triumph of the policy of Mr. Parnell had occurred. The policy of Mr. Forster and Lord Cowper had been reversed, they had resigned, and Lord Spencer and Lord Frederick Cavendish went to Ireland,


in their hand, the first - he might almost say - that had been brought since the Lieutenancy of Lord Fitzwilliam. They were received with acclamation, and the change was recognised as one pointing to better days. Then came the tragedy in Phoenix Park. The most malignant enemy of Ireland - Sir Charles added - could not have struck a more malignant blow; and it was, indeed, hard that public men should have accusations and insinuations levelled against them for complicity in a foul and dastardly a crime, and held up to public obloquy and opprobrium as hypocrites when they raised their voices in condemnation of those dastardly deeds. In passing, Sir Charles added, he would state - although he should have to refer to it again - that the sole foundation upon which suggestions were made of knowledge of participation in, and condemnation of, the atrocities of Phoenix Park were the forged letters, and their Lordships would find them running through the whole of the more serious allegations which constituted "Parnellism and Crime." Sir Charles next alluded to the evidenc which had been given as regarded


He pointed out that the earliest appearance of anything like an Invincible conspiracy was in October, 1881, and it was not suggested that it existed earlier than that date. It had been said that the conspiracy had been set on feet by Captain Macafferty, an American gentleman, and Tynan; and the greatest number suggested as having had anything to do with that conspiracy - directly or indirectly - in Dublin, was thirty persons. Sir Charles, therefore, called their Lordships' attention to the fact that the majority of these persons had been brought to justice; and some of them - he thought five - had expiated their crime on the scaffold. Sir Charles next alluded to the Arrears Act of 1882. The effect of that Act in Ireland, he said, was exactly in accordance with Mr. Parnell's anticipations, and he quoted statistics to show the enormous increase of crime in Ireland in that year, and its great diminution in the five following years.


The foundation of the National League was the next subject touched upon by the learned counsel. The objects of the League were: - (1) National self-government; (2) Land Law reform; (3) local self-government; (4) extension of the Parliamentary and Municipal franchise; and (5) the development and encouragement of the labour and industrial resources of Ireland. Having read the Articles of Constitution, which elaborated these avowed objects,


Sir Charles came to the election of 1885. He referred, in reaching this topic, to the Franchise Act, then for the first time in vogue, regarding the passing of that Act as a most important step, and as giving a decisive voice to the people in the election of Members of Parliament. He pointed out the peculiar state of things existing in Ireland as to voters in Parliamentary elections prior to the passing of the Act. He said that two men out of five voted in England previous to 1885; but there was only one in five who voted in Ireland prior to that time. To emphasise this assertion Sir Charles gave these statistics, relating, of course, to the period prior to 1885: -

Population Electors
Staffordshire (East Division) 136,324 11,275
Dublin (County) 145,628 4,982

So they found that with a population very much larger than the Staffordshire Division Dublin possessed only about a third of its number of voters. Sir Charles next referred to the suggestion which had been made that the Irish people were subject to relentless tyranny - first by the Land League, and then by the National League; that, in fact, a minority - by force and intimidation - were mainly controlling the majority. He, however, quoted - in disproof of this assertion - the majorities obtained by the Parnellites at the election of 1886. In County Carlow they had a majority of 4,050; in East Clare, 5,985; West Clare, 6,474; East Cork, 4,043; South-East Cork, 3,959; and West Cork, 3,547. These were some of the figures which Sir Charles quoted, and he urged that there was no ground for suggesting that that election was anything else than the free, open, unbiased opinion of the Irish people in the selection of men to represent them.


Some discussion arose at this point as to the admissibility of evidence given by Sir Redvers Buller before the Cowper Commission. The President thought it was not admissible, but Sir Charles Russell represented that the other side had actually been allowed to call evidence which came to the Court even at third and fourth hand.
The President, after consulting with his colleagues, decided that Sir Charles could fix upon particular passages, and point his argument upon these passages.
Sir Charles Russell thereupon read the extract from the report in which Sir Redvers Buller was represented to have informed the Commission that the tenants' sympathy was with the Land League because they believed it had been their salvation, adding that it was well known in Parliament and out that it was generally believed Sir Redvers Buller's original sentence was that the tenants supported the League "because it had been their salvation."


Passing on, Sir Charles said that beginning with 1881 real and substantial protection was afforded the Irish tenant class - protection which, if carried out, would have changed the whole face of the country. There would have remained the political question; but it would have been modified. The whole condition of the country would have been changed had that protection been given to them, as it should have been. He could not recognise sufficiently the work the leaders of the Irish Party had done, and he asserted that it was entirely owing to their energy for the good of their fellow-countrymen that they were arraigned before that Court. He did not claim that they had always shown conspicuous wisdom, but disinterestedness of purpose had always been exhibited. Next, Sir Charles dealt with the action of the Land Courts, and the effect they had had upon the tenants and their rentals, showing particularly how excessive rent had always been. He quoted figures representing the amount of reductions made in the rentals all over the country from 1880 to 1887. The figures were as follows: -

Average reduction 1880-81..................20.5 per cent
1882-83..................19.0 per cent
1883-84..................18.9 per cent
1884-85..................18.2 per cent
1885-86..................24 per cent
1886-87..................31.1 per cent

They found consequently that the average reduction for the years 1881-85 inclusive was 19.4 per cent, and for the years 1886-87 31.3 per cent.


With these figures Sir Charles concluded his comments of that part of the case, and proceeded to deal with the efforts that had been made to connect those who are charged with complicity in outrage. At the outset he declared that he should call evidence to show that the Land League exercised a controlling and moderating influence upon the tenants. He next analysed Captain Plunkett's evidence, especially referring to the fact that the Captain could give no positive proof of his conviction that the Land League was followed by crime except the assertion that crime was more prevalent in a district where the League existed than in another where the League was not so strong. He also dwelt upon the unreliability of the "private information" the Captain had relied upon.


A man named Coleman was one of Captain Plunkett's informants. He was the man who, while engaged in the Crossmolina conspiracy, had been giving information to the police. But the only reference to the League in that fellow's evidence was that he had heard that 10 pounds was to come from the Ladies' Land League. Seeing that at the time to which they were alluding the Government was intensely hostile to the whole of the movement, and to those who were at the head of the movement, and that it would have been a matter of the greatest political moment to the Government of the day if there could have been found any evidence to connect the Land League in any direct fashion with crime, it was marvelous that Coleman's evidence was not earlier taken advantage of, and marvelous that the League was not mentioned with the exception of that one instance. The evidence of Captain Plunkett, and men of whom he was a type, while it pointed to their suspicions, gave no tangible grounds - no legal grounds - to justify or defend the conclusion to which they came.


With regard to Captain Slack, he contended that that gentleman, who had had experience over eight counties, had brought forward a trumpery collection of cases to substantiate the serious allegations which had been made. Having analysed the cases from the co. Mayo, of which twenty-one outrages had been brought forward, Sir Charles referred to the twenty-five Cork cases, of which he said the only cases of importance were the boycott of Heggarty and the cases connected with him. (* Russell is now cherrypicking which crimes he finds important and denying that the League had anything to do with the others. pfft) But he pointed out that Heggarty was a man who had incurred popular disfavour by his resolute championship of the cause of the landlords. He was boycotted owing to personal animosity entirely. The Ballydahob cases of boycotting were also analysed, Sir Charles contending that the evidence disclosed no connection between the outrages and the Land League.
At this point the Court adjourned for luncheon.


Upon the Court resuming, Sir Charles Russell said that before he passed on from the question as it related to Cork, he would like to say with regard to Heggarty's case - which was the one which had been proved - that if Canon Griffin had acted like other priests, and taken an active part in the work of the League, instead of taking up a position of hostility to it, he might have done more good. (* The reason that Canon Griffin was hostile to the Land League and refused to assist them proves that he was acting like a proper priest. Why would a priest wish to affiliate himself with crime and criminals?) Sir Charles then passed on to Galway. In this county there were forty-two outrages, of which twelve were cases of murder. He, however, contended that not one witness proved that the branch of the Land League had been connected with these outrages, while some witnesses had actually declared that the League was not connected with them. Some of the outrages were denounced by the League. In the case of Mrs. Blake he would have further evidence to bring before their Lordships. Mrs. Blake, he asserted, gave her evidence with considerable animus. She was the woman whom the witness following her alluded to as "her Royal Honour." That was an illustration of the condition of servility to which a certain class of the Irish people were reduced.
(The report will be continued.)


This Committee resumed their inquiry this afternoon under the presidency of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain. Mr. A. Arnold, President of the Free Land League, said he had given great attention to the question of small holdings for many years practically, officially, and politically, and read a return which showed that four-fifths of the land of the United Kingdom were in the hands of seven thousand persons.


Judge Purcell, at Limerick, today, confirmed the Crimes Act sentence of four months' imprisonment passed on Mr. Finucane, M.P., Mr. Sheehy's two sentences of six and four months being reduced to one term of five months.

Source: The Echo, Tuesday April 9, 1889, Pages 2-3

N.B. The fact that Sir Charles Russell is so vehemently against the testimony of honourable persons such as Captain Plunkett, Captain Slack and Coleman, I must go back to the beginning of this Commission and see what truths they must have unearthed for Russell to be so vehemently opposed to them. Hmmm...........

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

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