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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Thu 28 Feb 2013 - 11:29

Ninety-seventh Day of Proceedings - Friday, June 28, 1889

PARNELL COMMISSION.
DR. COMMINS AND FRANK BYRNE.

MR. J.F.X. O'BRIEN IN THE BOX.
HIS OATH OF SECRECY TO THE FENIANS.

The Commissioners were late today. It was a quarter to eleven when they took their seats.

THE AGITATION FREE FROM CRIME.

Thomas Harrington, a sub-editor on the Freeman's Journal, and formerly a reporter on the Cork Herald, was the first witness. He spoke to having attended meetings in the latter capacity, and to hearing frequent denunciations of crime on the part of the speakers. Of these he produced about a dozen specimens. In each case it was shown that speakers very urgently impressed upon the people that the agitation should be kept free from crime.
The reading of these extracts had proceeded for about an hour, when Sir Henry James pointed out that one of them was not a faithful reproduction of the original report. After some discussion it was decided to hand the whole of the extracts over to the other side, so that their accuracy might be tested.
Then Mr. Biggar rose, and obtained from Mr. Harrington the expression of his opinion that the speech of Mr. Biggar, delivered at a banquet at Cork, in 1880, was not correctly represented by one of the witnesses of the Times. It was the speech known as the Hartmann speech, and the witness said Mr. Biggar did not use the violent language attributed to him.
Martin Fitzpatrick, who was secretary of the Robeen branch of the League, gave a few instances of outrages prior to the establishment of the League - such as the burning of hay and the destruction by fire of an agent's offices.

TO DENOUNCE CRIME OF ALL KINDS.

Dr. Commins, M.P. for the Southern Division of Roscommon, said, amidst some laughter, that he was one of the parties charged with "something" - he didn't know what. He had been a member of the Land League since the first moment of its existence, and also of the National League, and he assured the Court it had always been the object of the organisations to denounce crime of all kinds.
Frank Byrne was briefly mentioned in the cross-examination. It seems that Dr. Commins is the gentleman who introduced Byrne to a prominent position in Irish politics. He told Mr. Atkinson that he first engaged him as a clerk in the Home Rule movement of Mr. Butt, and he always regarded him as a most exemplary young man. He was astounded when he heard Byrne had stated publicly that he had had a share in the Phoenix Park murder.

"TO BE HANGED, DRAWN, AND QUARTERED."

The next witness created a little stir. This was Mr. J.F.X. O'Brien, M.P. The first question addressed to him caused a little sensation, and ladies in the gallery levelled their glasses at the witness.
"Were you in your early life a Fenian?" asked Mr. Reid. - "I was," was the candid reply.
"And were you not sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, in 1867?" - That is so."
"For high treason, I believe?" - Yes.
And were you not released in about two years? - Yes. Mr. O'Brien went on to say that it was not for some years after his release that he again entered Irish politics. In 1885 he entered Parliament, and was at present M.P. for South Mayo. He confessed that when he was a Fenian the body was prepared to secure its objects by open rebellion.

"HAD TAKEN THE OATH OF SECRECY."

When Sir Henry James came to cross-examine, he was met with some opposition. Mr. O'Brien said he had taken the oath of secrecy, and he could not, and would not, say whether he was on the Executive Council or was not. He, however, vouchsafed the information that the body did not countenance outrages.
Replying to Mr. Reid, Mr. O'Brien informed him that he believed his sentence was remitted because the police swore he had saved the lives of the police and women in a police barracks.
The brother of Mr. T.D. Sullivan, Mr. Donald Sullivan, who represents one of the Meath divisions, followed. His evidence went to show that he had never directly or indirectly been connected with crime.
Then came Mr. Clancy, the Member for the County of Dublin, who made a similar avowal, adding that he was a barrister, and had also been connected with the Nation from 1870 to 1885.
Mr. Clancy was under cross-examination by the Attorney-General about the extracts from that paper, when the Court adjourned for luncheon.

QUESTIONED ABOUT FENIANS.

When the Court resumed, the Attorney-General cross-examined Mr. Clancy as to his association with Mr. John O'Connor, Mr. Matt Harris, and gentlemen who were connected with the Fenian body. Mr. Clancy denied that he ever contributed towards a fund formed for the purpose of sending Frank Byrne out of the country.
Mr. Reid here put in some returns, obtained from Clerks of the Peace, in regard to ejectments from the years 1848 and 1852, and from 1879 and 1880.
Patrick Scanlon, a witness of the peasant-farming class, followed. He is a tall man, with a long, white beard, and bushy, grey hair. Scanlon comes from Moybella, in the county Kerry, and all he deposed to was that, after his lease fell out in 1872, his rent was increased. A few years later it was reduced by the landlord, and then again by the Land Court. Eventually he was evicted, but he lived in a Land League hut.

LEAGUE'S OPPOSITION TO CRIME.

Mr. Patrick Joseph Power, Member for one of the Waterford Divisions, denied that the League, so far as he knew it, had ever countenanced crime.
Mr. Vincent Scully, a landlord in Tipperary, said that till 1884 he was a Magistrate and Deputy-Lieutenant of the county. In that year, he said, he resigned owing to the many "acts of coercion" - he really couldn't remember how many were passed - and because he "would not sit as a political Magistrate." He endorsed Mr. Power's observation as to the opposition that he had always shown to crime.
Mr. Reid having no other witnesses at hand, the Court rose at a quarter past three.

Source: The Echo, Friday June 28, 1889, Page 3

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