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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Fri 1 Mar 2013 - 4:39

One hundred and first Day of Proceedings - Friday, July 5, 1889



When the Court met this morning Mr. Davitt was again in the witness-box. Sir Charles Russell, however, informed the Commissioners that, while it was his original intention to put a few more questions to Mr. Davitt, that gentleman had decided to refer to the matters the questions would have related to in his speech.


Mr. Davitt accordingly left the box and called one of his witnesses. This was Mr. J.J. Lowden, who is a leading spirit in the National League. He is a large owner of land in the county Mayo, and is also a tenant under Lord Sligo. A barrister by profession, he carries on a large sheep, cattle, and horse ranch, and has always been identified with local politics.
Examined by Mr. Davitt as to the recurring distress in Ireland about 1880, Mr. Lowden said he attributed it to the rack rents, observing that as the tenants improved their holdings the landlords increased their rent, and thus never gave them an opportunity of saving anything for a rainy day. One great factor in the discontent of the Irish peasantry was the absence of landlords from Ireland. Of one Mr. Lowden said, he lived on the land for a few years and got a little money together; then, leaving his tenants, he went abroad, and since had never been near his property, except to evict some of the poor half-starved creatures who could not gather the few pounds together to discharge their liabilities.


A volume of Times leaders Mr. Davitt produced just here. They were written so long ago as 1846, during the famine period, but the point was that they were reproduced by the Times in 1880, when there was a danger of the recurrence of famine, with a preface in which it was said they had as direct a bearing upon the state of affairs in Ireland at the time as when they originally appeared.
Mr. Davitt was about to read them, when Sir Henry James objected.
But the President decided in Mr. Davitt's favour, and several extracts were then read by Mr. Davitt, who emphasised the fact that they very pointedly declared against the system of absentee landlordism, and asserted that it was in a great measure the cause of discontent.
Dropping his book of leaders, Mr. Davitt proceeded with his questions.


Mr. Lowden ridiculed the suggestion that the Fenian body had anything to do with the Irishtown and Westport meetings. They were neither directly nor indirectly connected with revolutionary bodies, and, as a matter of fact, he paid the expenses out of his own pocket, the same night of the Convention at Castlebar on the 16th of August, 1879, when the Land League was formed. Of course, it was possible individual members of the secret organisations might have been present, but certainly not with their knowledge.


Mr. Lowden was asked his experience as to the discharge of their duties by the Commissioners appointed under the Land Act. Some who knew their business did very well, he said, but those who did not did it badly. Dublin Castle appoints the Commissioners, he added.
"Is Dublin Castle in touch with the Irish people?" asked Mr. Davitt.
"No," was the reply, "nor in touch with civilisation."
Although the evidence dropped back to the common place here and there, Mr. Lowden made a point of some interest and importance to the Nationalists' case, and more than once a point which excited great interest in Court. For instance, he said he had heard of two agrarian murders in Mayo since the League was established; that the murder of Lord Mountmorres was due to the popular feeling that he was a Government spy, and that the murder of Feerwick was due to his bullying disposition.


What is your opinion of the Huddey and the Lyder murders? - I say that, as a result of my investigations, they were all committed at the instance of an organisation in the locality known as the Herds' League.
What was the nature of the League? - Purely and simply a murder organisation.
Had they anything to do with the Land League? - Nothing, except shooting Land Leaguers, and destroying their sheep and cattle.
Have you any instances in which they were the instigators? - Yes. Michael O'Neil and Pat O'Neil - these were the men whose sheep were driven over the cliff by the Herds' League. They were summoned to London here by the Times, but they were sent back and never called.


Did you know whether, in any way, this organisation was in any way in the pay of the police? - Oh, decidedly.
The President - What authority have you for making such a statement?
Witness - The authority is the statement of a man named Garratt and several other persons.
Mr. Justice Smith - Do you mean to say that the police were instigating these murders? - Most decidedly; and I swear that Head-constable Whelan had been engaged in organising murders, and he lost his life in that work; and then they had a man named Tracey, who was connected with the police; he was arrested for a similar offence. He was never charged, and has always been a bailed prisoner. He was brought over to London by the Times, but he has never been examined. Mr. Macguire, a Protestant gentleman, and owner of a large hotel, told me - "
The President (excitedly) - Well, I can't have what you were told. You are exceeding the limit. You make these charges without clear evidence.
Witness - Very well, my lord.
Just after this little scene, which caused some excitement in Court, Mr. Parnell came in. He was attired in a light summer suit, and wore a boating vest, and carried a light dust-coat on his arm.
Sir Henry James cross-examined Mr. Lowden, but no point was raised beyond those already mentioned over and over again by witnesses on the side of the Parnellites. In fact, the proceedings, up to the adjournment, became so dull that several of the audience left, and Mr. Parnell only stayed in Court for about half-an-hour.
(The report will be continued.)

Source: The Echo, Friday July 5, 1889, Page 3

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

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