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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Sun 3 Feb 2013 - 14:32

Sixty-eighth Day of Proceedings - Wednesday, April 10, 1889





There was quite a large gathering of ladies in the body of the Court today. The Jury-box, part of the Press-box, and, indeed, some of the seats under the gallery, were set apart for their convenience. Amongst them were Mrs. Gladstone - who, it may be mentioned, was in the Ladies' Gallery at the House of Commons at half-past twelve this morning, when Mr. Gladstone spoke on the Scotch Home Rule motion - Miss Catherine Gladstone, Lady Vernon Harcourt, Lady Plowden, Lady Russell, Miss Mathews (daughter of Mr. Justice Mathews), Mrs. Benson, Mrs. Constance Hill, Mrs. Geo. Lewis, and Mrs. Reid. One of the front seats of the gallery was occupied by Mrs. Georgina Weldon, while Father Lockhart, a London priest, who has been a frequent visitor of late, sat on the judicial bench.


Sir Charles Russell took up the threads of his narrative at the point where they were relinquished last night. He continued the analysis of the evidence given by the other side with a view of showing the complicity of the Land League, or members of that organisation, with murders and outrage in various parts of Ireland. The murder of the man Curtin was dealt with at some length, Sir Charles asserting that it had no connection with the Land League in any way. As a matter of fact, there had some months prior to Curtin's death been a raid for arms at his house. When, on the night of his death, a gang of men entered the house, John Curtin stood in the hall and fired the first shot, which resulted in the death of a mere lad named Dempsey. (* This "mere lad" had just committed the illegal act of breaking and entering into a man's home, and Curtin was completely in the right to shoot Dempsey!) It was then, and not till then, that the gang fired upon him with such deplorable results. So far from the League, or any of its members being concerned in the tragedy, even the Inspector-General, in his official returns, had not classified it as an agrarian crime. Subsequently, no doubt, local feeling against the Curtins, on account of the death of the lad Dempsey, ran very high, but every branch of the League in the neighbourhood passed resolutions condemning the outrage, and the local priest denounced it from the altar in very strong terms.


Sir Charles described the events leading up to the murder of James Fitzmaurice. He showed that James Fitzmaurice took possession of his brother's land, and that it was not till after that conduct had been denounced all through the neighbourhood that the murder took place. It had been asserted that the solicitor of the League defended the man charged with this murder. That was not a fact, and his instructions were that the Land League never defended cases of murder under any circumstances. Then, again, two men were hanged for the murder. Both of those men were proved not to be connected with the Land League, and several witnesses attributed it to the family feud.


There were (Sir Charles added) many sad stories that could be told before their Lordships of estate rules which made it something like a capital offence to harbour a family or any member of a family which had been evicted from a holding upon the estate. Their Lordships had now had a continuous narration of serious crime extending over four counties, and over a period of ten years. He had, in the history of those crimes, endeavoured to make good the proposition that with recurrent distress there was recurrent crime, and he thought he had made good that proposition by showing that in former periods, when there was no organisation, general or local, to blame, there had been an excess of crime in greater volume and much more serious than that which their Lordships were engaged in considering.


Sir Charles then proceeded to consider the evidence which related to any Members of Parliament. He pointed out that in the schedule given by the prosecution there were altogether the names of sixty-five M.P.'s and four or five other persons. Sir Charles read out nearly two-thirds of the names of those gentlemen, and he asked their Lordships whether there was a particle of evidence against any one of those gentlemen. For his part, if that were an ordinary case he would treat it with entire contempt, and would ask their Lordships to consider that there was no evidence worthy of the name. It was true that the Attorney-General had put in 440 speeches; and although some of them were not marked with wisdom, he contended that no one could consider those speeches as inciting to outrages. Foolish and reprehensible speeches had been made by "Scrab" Nally, who had been made a hero by the Attorney-General. His fame had spread far and wide because of the prominence given to him in this case; but their Lordships would hear his true position, and would be able themselves to assign his orations their true importance. Then there were the speeches of Mr. Tully, which seemed to be capable of misconstruction and evil meaning; but he would point out that Dr. Tully had not been shown to have been associated with anything beyond those foolish speeches. There were no less than thirty Members of Parliament against whom no speeches had been put in, while in relation to the period from October, 1881, to the end of 1882, when the League was suppressed, and when crime was worse than at any other period, only two speeches had been put in.


Sir Charles proceeded to deal with the evidence relating to Sheridan, Byrne, Boyton, Brennan, and Egan. With regard to Sheridan, it had, he said, been suggested that he was a Fenian, and also a Land League organiser in the West of Ireland, and asserted that at the time of the Kilmainham Treaty Mr. Parnell knew he had been engaged in getting up outrages in the West, and so that he would be useful in putting down outrages in the West. From beginning to the end of the story there was not a tittle of evidence, except that of the man Delaney, to show that Sheridan was connected with any one of the crimes in the West of Ireland, or to show that he was a party to the organisation of any outrages in any part of Ireland. As to the man Delaney he had great curiosity about his proof and the person who took it. He was examined by the Attorney-General, and, in answer to questions, spoke of facts as if they had been within his own knowledge, or as if his proof justified its being assumed that they were facts that were actually within his knowledge. But upon cross-examination the whole evidence crumbled away, for Delaney was obliged to admit that he had never seen any one of the persons named at any meetings of the Invincibles whatever. Delaney's evidence was tainted evidence, and the cross-examination proved it was wholly unreliable. In remembering the history of the rise of the Invincible conspiracy in the Autumn of 1881, it was important to recall the fact that Brennan, who was associated with the conspiracy by Delaney, was actually in prison from the early part of 1881, long before it started, until June of 1882, when it had thoroughly ripened and became firmly grounded and established. The only evidence against Mr. Patrick Egan, a man of great ability and attainments and high character as a Dublin tradesman, was that of the man Farragher, who had been a clerk in the Land League offices in Dublin. That man had declared that he had conveyed money from Egan to Mullett, one of the men connected with the Phoenix Park murders. But he was very vague as to dates, and, taking the statement for what it was worth, all it amounted to was that Egan was in communication with Mullett long before the murders occurred.


It was stated by the Attorney-General in the case of "O'Donnell v. Walter," that the Jury returned a true bill for complicity in the Phoenix Park murder against Mr. Egan. There was not, and he desired to emphasise this statement, the slightest foundation for such an assertion. Apart, then, from these stories of Delaney and Farragher, which he would prove to be unreliable, beyond the fact that he was very zealous and active in his work for the National and Land Leagues, there was not a tittle of evidence against Mr. Egan to bear out the allegations made against him.


Mr. Davitt would, of course (said Sir Charles - pursuing this subject of the charge), be able to speak for himself, but he would say that he had been engaged in open, straightforward, manly work in a cause which he believed to be righteous and just. In his conduct, Mr. Davitt had shown great moral courage. He separated himself - no easy matter. Sir Charles thought - from former associates bound to him and he to them by secret oaths; he had incurred in great part their personal hostility; he had incurred the risk of his life. He had dared to meet them face-to-face, even in the camps of the Clan-na-Gael, to justify his new departure, and try to win them into the straight and open paths of constitutional agitation. With regard to Mr. J.J. O'Kelly, he unquestionably was a Fenian, and was high up in the ranks of that body. But when he joined the open movement, he (Sir Charles contended) took no further part, either directly or indirectly, in the work of his former associates.


Against Mr. O'Kelly there was absolutely not one tittle of evidence. Neither was there any evidence against Mr. E. Harrington. With regard to Mr. John Dillon, whatever anyone might think of the wisdom or discretion of some part of his public conduct, or of any part of speeches to which he had given utterance, he did not think anyone - even those most hostilely opposed to him - would have any doubt regarding the integrity of Mr. Dillon's purpose, and the perfect honesty of his motives. Against Mr. Dillon, also, there was no evidence. With regard to the five M.P.'s - Mr. Maurice Healy, Mr. Lane, Mr. Deasey, Mr. P. O'Hea, and Mr. Gilhooly - the evidence, such as had been given, was childish and ridiculous.


Then Sir Charles came to deal with the charge against Mr. J.E. Kenny, M.P. And here he considered was the only fact - the sole fact - in the case which in any way went to show that the central branch - or any member of the central branch - of the League in Dublin had any complicity, direct or indirect, with crime, or with any payments, or supposed payments, in connection with crime. Sir Charles, of course, referred to the letter written by Horan to Mr. J.E. Kenny, in which he asked for compensation for men who had been injured in some kind of illegal affray, and to the fact that a cheque was afterwards sent to Horan by Mr. Kenny, presumably - Sir Charles thought - in answer to that letter. He did not (he said) wish to mitigate the importance of that incident at all, but he would point out that it occurred at a time when the League was in its most disorganised condition, and that the very tenor of Horan's letter proved that the payment of money to men so injured was an exceptional circumstance. Mr. Sexton, Mr. Arthur O'Connor, and Mr. Kenny would all go into the box and tell their Lordships that so far as their knowledge went no money was at any time paid for the purpose of the payment for crime, or for the purpose of screening persons engaged in crime. Dealing with the evidence against Mr. Biggar, Sir Charles said that gentleman would deal with the speeches produced against him; but, at the same time, he (Sir Charles) desired to point out that it was not even suggested that any outrage followed those speeches. Mr. Biggar admitted that he, like Mr. Egan, was a member of the I.R.B.; but he, like Mr. Egan, was expelled for joining the open movement.


As to the evidence against Mr. J. Redmond, he really had no conception of what it was. It consisted in this - that he, being a member of the Bar, defended, some years ago, a woman charged with intimidation. It was well, perhaps, to recall the fact that, after the Phoenix Park murder, Mr. Redmond spoke in very strong terms in denunciation of that terrible crime; but the Times newspaper the next day pointed out that, while Mr. Redmond denounced the murder of Lord Frederick Cavendish, he did not say one word about the murder of Mr. Burke. Mr. Redmond wrote explaining the facts, but the Times refused to insert the letter; and when Mr. Redmond got up in the House of Commons and gave a full explanation, the Times actually cut out from its Parliamentary report all reference to the explanation that Mr. Redmond made. He (Sir Charles) need hardly say that such an act on the part of the Times newspaper was, as a distinguished statesman had said, "nothing short of infamous."


Referring to the celebrated "partridge speech" of Mr. Matt Harris, Sir Charles denied that Mr. Parnell, as alleged by the Times counsel, was on the platform at the time it was delivered, and pointed out that when the speech was denounced on the same platform as that upon which it was delivered, and at the same time, Mr. Harris withdrew his remarks, and explained what he actually meant. Subsequently, at another meeting, he again explained what he meant.


The next case (as Sir Charles put it) was that of Mr. Timothy Harrington. Apart from the evidence of the informer Thomas O'Connor, there was no evidence whatever against him. O'Connor's almost incredible statement was that Mr. Harrington went to a certain town in March of 1881 upon the occasion of the election of some local Guardians of the Poor, and in the open street Mr. Harrington told him, and other men, who were strangers to him, to visit at night certain persons, and to frighten them sufficiently to induce them to vote for the popular candidate. O'Connor further stated that he afterwards went to Tralee, where he saw Mr. Harrington, and he and his companions were paid for their work. That statement, said Sir Charles, was on the face of it ridiculous in the extreme, and was a complete and absolute fabrication. There was also to be considered Thomas O'Connor's statement concerning a letter, which, he alleged, Mr. Harrington had sent to his brother, John O'Connor, and in which the hon. member was said to have declared that the real reason why the central branch of the League refused to send a grant to their branch of the League, was that that branch was not sufficiently active in crime and outrage. That statement Sir Charles thought, did not even require Mr. Harrington's denial. He, Sir Charles, referred to Thomas O'Connor's reported confession, and expressed the opinion that it would be advisable to have O'Connor in the box again, and get the truth of the matter from him. The Court could not, of course, but remember that letter of Thomas O'Connor's to his brother, in which he said, "I thought I might make a few pounds on the transaction, but I find I cannot unless I swear queer things." A good many persons had (said the learned counsel, amid laughter) made a few pounds out of the transaction in that way. (Laughter.) He would, however, now dismiss this portion of the case by pointing out the hardship inflicted upon men engaged in public life - like those gentlemen now before their Lordships - in being exposed to defamation of character, which were supported by such corrupt and such rotten testimony as that.
Referring to a remark made by the President that he had received a communication informing him of O'Connor's confession, and stating that both parties had been notified of that confession, the Attorney-General said Mr. Soames had received no such letter.
Sir James Hannen said he was under the impression that Mr. Soames had been informed of the matter, and he thought if Sir Richard made inquiries he would find he was under a misapprehension.
The Court shortly after adjourned for luncheon.


After luncheon Sir Charles resumed his speech. He directed his attention to what the Times counsel had called the American portion of the case. He said that the population of the vast Continent of America was computed to rhach the figure of between sixty and seventy millions of human beings; and of that number fifteen or sixteen millions were Irish, or of Irish descent. How came it that at least until comparatively recent days that vast multitude of persons were embued with deep feelings of resentment to the Government of the land they had left. The explanation was to be found in the story of the history of misunderstanding, misgovernment, misrule, with which he had been obliged to trouble the Court. Passing on, in a most impressive manner and with a great deal of feeling, Sir Charles referred to the emigration of Irish people to America. Referring to the scene presented on arriving at New York, he said - "On the hill-side above New York the emigrant's attention is drawn to a collection of huts, as miserable as any to be seen in Galway or in Mayo. What are they? What is their history? What purpose have they served? My Lords, they have served as squatting refuges for the wretched creatures who have been landed on the hospitable shores - for they have been hospitable shores to the Irish race - of America, but who, without the means to eke out their existence, have been compelled to seek refuge, until they could find employment, in these wretched homes." Continuing, Sir Charles said he might only refer to the names of the hospital wards of New York to show the extent and nature of the emigration to America during the period of which he spoke. In New York hospitals they found wards named after Irish landlords - named after these gentlemen because of the death, and misery, and disease, imported into them by those who had come from their estates. Indeed, the exodus had been like that of the Israelites of old when they were seeking to escape from the Egyptian bondage. The Irish, like the Israelites, had made their way into "a good land and large," but there was no Moses to guide them; and to them there was no land flowing with milk and honey, was it, he asked, remarkable that, considering the treatment these poor people had received, they should entertain such feelings as they unquestionably did towards the English people?


Upon resuming, Sir Charles alluded to the policy which he said Mr. Parnell had consistently pursued. The keynote of the policy of Mr. Parnell - who emphatically disdained physical force - was this: Appeal to the people of England - not to the classes, but to the people. He was of opinion that between the people of England and Ireland there was no just cause for quarrel, and that there was no conflicting influence. He held that the people of England were not accountable for the misgovernment and the misrule of other days, and he believed that with the enlightenment of the English people, what he described as the international strife of centuries would be ended.
(The report will be continued.)

Source: The Echo, Wednesday April 10, 1889, Pages 2-3

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

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