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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Sat 2 Mar 2013 - 0:33

One hundred and second Day of Proceedings - July 9, 1889

PARNELL COMMISSION.
MR. J. O'CONNOR IN THE BOX.

HIS CONNECTION WITH FENIANS.
REFUSAL TO ANSWER QUESTIONS.

THE PRESIDENT'S REMONSTRANCE.

When the Court reassembled this morning, Mr. Garratt Byrne, one of the Members for Wicklow, was in the box. He is one of the persons charged, but he was called principally with reference to speeches put in against him. One of these was said to have been delivered at a place in county Waterford. "It is entirely untrue," said Mr. Byrne, "for I was never in the county of Waterford up to this moment." Alluding to the Enniscorthy meeting - one of the numerous meetings he held during his last campaign - already referred to, he said Mr. Parnell's policy was energetically opposed by the advanced section of the Nationalists.

HIS ONE SECRET SOCIETY - THE TEMPLARS.

Nothing occurred in the cross-examination, and Mr. Byrne left the box after occupying it just ten minutes. Mr. Jeremiah Jordan followed. He is Member for West Clare, and he declared that he had never been a member of a secret political society, but he had - he admitted, amid loud laughter - been a member of the Good Templars. He explained that he had mainly organised the Land League in various parts of the country, and, in consequence, he had been boycotted.
"By whom?" asked Mr. Davitt, in cross-examination.
"By the landlords, who used the Protestant and Orange institutions for their purpose," replied Mr. Jordan.
This witness occupied the box five minutes longer than Mr. Byrne, and then came Mr. Mahon, the M.P. for Mid Tipperary, who emphatically denied that he had ever encouraged crime or outrage, and pronounced in favour of boycotting, saying it was only the weapon the people had for redressing their wrongs without resorting to a much worse and deplorable method.

"SCORCHED LIKE HAY ON THE GROUND."

Sir Henry James treated us to a string of extracts from Mr. Mahon's speeches, which have already been put in, either by the Attorney-General or in evidence. In one of these Mr. Mahon advised the people to boycott a landgrabber, so that his situation should be made so hot that he should be "scorched like hay on the ground." What did he mean by that? Well, he meant that the landgrabber should be so boycotted that his hay should be allowed to lie on the ground and burn up. He would, he said, refuse to sell anything to a landgrabber, and would carry that even to the denial of the necessaries of life. If a man wanted the necessaries of life, he explained, he knew that he could get them by becoming friends with all those whose friend he had previously been.

MR. J. O'CONNOR'S POLITICAL EXPERIENCES.

Mr. John O'Connor, the Member for South Tipperary, was the next witness. He entered Parliament in 1885, but before that period he took a great deal of interest in Irish politics. Indeed, at the early age of 15 (in 1866), he joined the Fenians when living at Cork. He explained that he was attracted to Mr. Parnell's movement at its inception, and in 1880 he formally attached himself to the Parnellites, having left the Fenians about that time - a step due to the perusal of Mr. Devoy's letters and Mr. Davitt's speeches at that period. Shortly after joining the movement, he started a branch of the Land League in Cork, and in 1881 was imprisoned as a suspect for eleven months. It was, he added, most untrue to say that the branch he started had at any time countenanced outrage. Mr. O'Connor produced a book showing expenditure made by himself on the part of the League, after the League was suppressed, and when the work concerned himself personally. Continuing, he said he had always done everything in his power to stay outrage, looking upon it as an enemy to the cause.

HIS DENUNCIATION OF THE CURTIN MURDER.

Explaining the Cork incident, Mr. O'Connor said he did not shout "Down with British law," but "Give us British law;" and did not shout "Down with Cork Jurors," but "Down with packed Juries." When the news of the Curtin murder reached him, Mr. O'Connor said, he immediately went to the murdered man's house, and he became a guest of the family, and remained with them for some days. He subsequently denounced the crime in most emphatic terms.

HE HAD DISTRIBUTED ARMS IN IRELAND.

Cross-examined by Mr. Atkinson, Mr. O'Connor admitted that he had been engaged in the distribution of arms throughout Ireland. He was pressed as to the persons associated with him in this matter. "But," said he, "I don't intend to admit to you who were bound to me in these Fenian transactions. I was bound to them by an obligation, and I don't intend to betray them." However, he went so far as to say that anybody and everybody who paid for a rifle received one. The first time he met John Devoy was in 1874. He was at that time in America, having gone there on a Fenian mission, but he declined to say whether he met him there with reference to Fenianism.

THE REFUSAL TO ANSWER - SIR JAMES'S REMONSTRANCE.

Here the President intervened. He said that several times this question of refusing to answer has arisen. "Men come here," he said, "who have bound themselves by illegal oaths and associations, which are not to be recognised. My brothers and I have a delicate task to perform, and I don't propose to take those measures which are placed in my power. All I can do is to point out to this gentleman, and all others that are in the same position, that it must necessarily have an unfortunate influence in our judgment when we find that at points in those inquiries which we are bound to pursue we are confronted by these refusals to give evidence."
A few moments later, and another little scene occurred. Mr. O'Connor still declined to answer certain questions. "I have too much regard for my own obligation," he explained.
"Are you a Protestant or a Roman Catholic?" asked the President, sharply.
"A Catholic, my Lord."
"And do you mean to assert (continued the President) that your Church justifies your refusal to give evidence, on the ground that you have taken an illegal oath?"
"Well, I have never studied the theological aspect of the case," Mr. O'Connor replied.
"Nor the moral?"
"No. But I know what my own code of honour is, and I mean to adhere to it."
A little later and the President urged Mr. Atkinson not to press his questions, observing, "We have sufficient to place an inference upon the reply if the witness will not give direct answers."
"With every respect to the Court," Mr. O'Connor answered, quietly, "I am giving direct answers upon matters I know of. There is no equivocation about me. I have told you of matters to which I will not speak, but of those which I can I will."
The Court rose for luncheon at half-past one o'clock.

"CAN'T OR WON'T SAY." - "I WON'T."

When the Court reassembled Mr. Atkinson took Mr. O'Connor through a great many incidents connected with Fenianism and his earlier association with the Fenian organisation, and produced several of his speeches. Mr. O'Connor went on to say that he knew General Millen, but, not considering the matter germaine to the question at issue, he declined to answer.
The President - It is not for the witness but for the Court to determine whether it was germaine or not.
Mr. Atkinson - When did you meet him? - I can't say
Do you mean that you can't, or won't, say? - I won't. I met him in 1879 on Fenian business, and I won't say.
Passing on, Mr. O'Connor admitted he knew John Daly, but he was not aware of the mission of Miss Ford when she visited Ireland in 1883, for the purpose - it is alleged by the Times - of administering the Martyrs Fund.
(The report will be continued.)

Source: The Echo, Tuesday July 9, 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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