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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Tue 26 Feb 2013 - 18:48

Ninety-second Day of Proceedings - Thursday, June 20, 1889



The Knocknagashell grocer and draper, Thomas J. O'Connor, submitted himself for further cross-examination by Sir Henry James, today. He produced several of the books of the League yesterday. These Sir Henry said he had gone through, and wished to ask a few questions upon a portion of the contents. One of the extracts was from a resolution in which the League condemned a certain land agent as a "firebrand" who had persecuted the tenantry "on the bleak and barren mountains of Glenbeigh." Several other resolutions, all of which were very characteristic, condemned outrages of various kinds. One was particularly amusing. It condemned those "who had issued threatening notices against, and poisoned the hens of, Mary O'Sullivan."


Next came Mr. T.P. O'Connor, the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool. He entered Parliament first of all in 1880, representing the Galway borough, and was in 1885 returned for both the Scotland Division and Galway, and selected the former. He informed the Court, led by Mr. Lockwood, that he was a native of Athlone, and even in his boyhood had heard of the existence of secret societies, especially when he launched into journalism, with which he has been connected since 1867. Giving it as his own opinion, he said that it was necessary, when the Land League was formed, that some combination should be formed amongst the tenants. The rejection of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill brought matters to a crisis, and he advanced this supplementary opinion in support of this contention. Speaking of the recess of 1880, he said he went to Ireland at that period. There he found, as the heads of the League, Mr. Egan and Mr. Brennan, and, thinking the staff insufficient, he suggested an augmentation, and he believed he was the first to suggest, or, if not, he backed up the suggestion of others, that organisers should be appointed throughout the country.


Having described his "tooth-and-nail" opposition to the Crimes Act of 1881, observing that in support of that Act the Government of the day produced statistics, including "trivial and petty crimes," such as upsetting a beehive, maliciously spilling a barrel of tar, and upsetting cocks of hay - Mr. O'Connor took the Court on to his American tour, which he embarked upon on the 5th of October, 1881. He assured the Court it was a matter of impossibility for any visitor to institute a rigid inquiry into the character of each of the individuals occupying seats on the platform. At his Boston meeting the platform was occupied by a "number of young ladies and gentlemen, who sang for an hour before I was allowed to speak." (Laughter.) Mr. O'Connor delivered several speeches during his tour.
"How many speeches a night?" asked Mr. Lockwood.
"Only once," was the reply, "but --" and the additional remark was greeted with great laughter - "I usually spoke for two hours."
"I won't read your speeches through, Mr. O'Connor," Mr. Lockwood remarked, jocularly.


Continuing, Mr. O'Connor denied that the physical force party had any control of his movements, or that his meetings were under its auspices. Indeed, he and a Mr. Dillon Egan, who he described as his "attendant," arranged the meetings entirely; and he had to complain, like Mr. Parnell, of the want of organisation.
"Did you ever take part in any secret conclave at the Chicago Convention?"
"Never, except in the private meetings of the Resolutions Committee."
"Did you ever hear of any such conclave?"
"Well, I heard of private meetings, of the State delegates, and of the priests, and I may say that I requested several of my friends in the priesthood to attend these meetings, to moderate any extravagant proposal that might be made."
Patrick Ford, he admitted, he saw while in America; but that gentleman never once spoke to him on matters relating to the policy of the extreme party.


"During the whole of your visit was there any discussion as to a policy of violence or dynamite?" - "Yes, on one occasion."
"When?" - "Mr. Finerty had a conversation with me, and said something to the effect that any means were justifiable to obtain what the Irish demanded. I strongly denounced it on that occasion, and whenever it cropped up. I may say that I believe something of the kind occurred at the Convention, when a priest attempted to raise the question of physical force; but there was such an uprising at the whole meeting that it was at once dropped.
It was just before the Phoenix-park murders that Mr. O'Connor left America, on his way back to England. He heard nothing of the terrible tragedy till the vessel arrived off Queenstown, and then the news was conveyed to him through the pilot, who boarded the vessel there.
Did that come to you, as your colleagues have said it came to them, as a horrible shock? - Yes. I would not like to be asked to describe the feelings with which I received the news.


Speaking of the Land League of Great Britain, Mr. O'Connor said that in the early days the organisation received grants from the kindred society in Ireland. He had no recollection of the grant made by cheque to Frank Byrne, but such a grant would be so ordinary an occurrence that it would not call for attention.
The minutes of the League were here produced. In these it was recorded that at a meeting before the grant was made a letter was read from Byrne, the general secretary, stating that he was still too unwell to continue the duties, and asking for the 100 pounds.
Concluding his examination, Mr. Lockwood explained that he had confined himself to a general examination. This course the President approved of, stating that it appeared to him to be the right course.


Mr. Ronan's first question in cross-examination caused a great deal of amusement. "Tell me," he said, "the beginning, not of the Land League, or of the National League, but of the Parnell movement?"
"What do you mean?" asked Mr. O'Connor.
Mr. Ronan intimated that he meant the Parnell movement, as he had said.
"Well, if you mean the Parnell movement," Mr. O'Connor replied, "I should say it began three centuries ago." (Laughter.)
Then Mr. Ronan produced a series of books, which led up to an amusing remark from the President. The first volume was one on Ireland, written by Mrs. A.M. Sullivan, wife of Alexander Sullivan, to which Mr. O'Connor wrote a preface; and the next one was by John Devoy. Mr. O'Connor declined to hold himself responsible for the contents simply because he had written the preface of one. So Mr. Ronan was about to produce another book, when the President observed that if many more volumes were produced they would be involved in the intricacies of a "Chinese puzzle." (Laughter.)
Mr. Ronan altered his course, and directed his attention to Mr. O'Connor's own book on the Parnell movement - a move which the President welcomed, as being more to the point. The point was not one of importance, and again Mr. Ronan took a retrogressive movement, diving into the pages of Mrs. Sullivan's book, but elicited nothing worthy of record.
Mr. O'Connor having been briefly cross-examined as to his American tour, the Court adjourned for luncheon.


After luncheon, Mr. Ronan took Mr. O'Connor through several of his speeches. He put several questions upon them, describing the meaning of various passages, which, extracted from the context, appeared to have a totally different meaning from that given by Mr. O'Connor. He contended that continual denunciation of land-grabbing tended to keep down land-grabbing, and, as a consequence, outrage. In one of his speeches, Mr. O'Connor declared he would not like to insure the life of a land-grabber. Asked to explain, he said he only used the expression when dealing with the state of civil war in Ireland, which owed its existence to the action of the Government there. Turning to the American tour he denied that he did not think it safer not to speak at the Chicago Convention because money was raised there for war against England.
(The report will be continued.)


When the Special Commission will conclude its labours is a question which has become more difficult to answer since it resumed them yesterday. The Nationalist case may be expected to close next month; but if the Times, as is now believed to be probable, presents a rebutting case, Sir Charles Russell and his colleagues will "sur-rebut," and will claim the right to put forward all the evidence which, in order to save the time of the Court, they had previously withheld. This opens up a sufficiently dismal vista, but it does not exhaust all the possibilities of prolongation, for the Commissioners are understood to have resolved, before agreeing to their report, to call certain evidence on their own account, in order to elucidate some points which they regard as doubtful. One of the most interesting witnesses yet to come forward on the Nationalist side is Mr. Davitt, who, though representing himself, will be examined by counsel in the ordinary course, as was Mr. Biggar, who is in a similar position. It is not impossible, also, that Mr. Davitt will claim the right to address the Court on his own behalf when the time for speech-making arrives.



CHICAGO, June 19. - The man Burke, recently arrested at Winnipeg, and indicted by the Grand Jury for complicity in the murder of Dr. Cronin, will oppose his extradition to the United States. P. O'Sullivan, Coughlin, and Woodruff have also been indicted by the Grand Jury.

The following gave me a real chuckle, and I must say, it did not take me long to figure out who the learned counsel was.....see my answer at the end.


One of the most popular, and not the least eminent, of the counsel engaged in the Parnell case has been in dire peril during the holidays. He went over to Brittany to spend a quiet holiday. On the voyage across the channel the packet boat ran into a dense fog, in which it lay for the space of twelve hours. When the fog cleared off it was discovered that the steamer was lying off Cape La Hogue, and the remainder of the journey was made without adventure. "But it was," says the London Correspondent of the Liverpool Post, "a terrible time, and though it may be fancy, it is impossible to resist the suspicion that the learned gentleman's hair is distinctly whitened."

Answer: Sir Charles Russell!!! Laughing

Source: The Echo, Thursday June 20, 1889, Page 3

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

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