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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Wed 6 Mar 2013 - 4:03

One hundred and sixteenth Day of Proceedings - Thursday, October 31, 1889




Mr. Davitt took up the threads of his speech this morning in a fairly crowded Court. Last night, when the Court rose, he was discussing the celebrated Timothy Horan letter, and in this connection he now dealt with the evidence of the witness Farragher, the ex-Land League clerk, who, it will be recollected, swore that emissaries of outrage received from the funds of the Land League, through Mr. Biggar, sums of money as compensation for their work. Mr. Davitt declared that not one of the documents produced could be construed into a payment for the commission of crime, except the Timothy Horan letter, which was written when the leaders of the League, like himself, were under lock and key. As to Boyton, there was not an iota of evidence which went to show that he was ever engaged in the commission of crime.


The missing Land League books were next discussed. Of course, said Mr. Davitt, in effect, the absence of these documents naturally gave strength to the suspicion with which this case was pregnant all the way through. "But," and here he paused, and threw a great deal of emphasis into his observation, "How could the fact that the books are missing be used against us, or go to show that we were connected with crime?" Not by any legitimate means, he went on to explain; unless, indeed, it was argued that the wicked persons now before their Lordships had in 1882 possessed, in addition to their other sins, a prophetic faculty which enabled them to foresee the Commission, and to destroy everything that could prove - to use Mr. Davitt's words - "that Pigott's facts and figures were true."


Mr. Davitt's references to Delaney and his evidence were brief and piquant. He traced Delaney's criminal career for years past, and then described the scene in Maryborough Jail when Mr. Shannon visited the convict, as Crown Solicitor, and drew from him a statement - which he afterwards repeated in the witness-box - after administering to him, as Shannon subsequently himself admitted, on oath. But, said Mr. Davitt, it was due to Delaney to say that during the last few weeks he had addressed a letter, to which he would refer.
Here the Attorney-General, who had sat with folded arms and closed eyes in the Q.C.'s bench, leaned forward and made some remarks which drew from Mr. Davitt the observation "Oh! very well; the Attorney-General objects. He apparently knows all about it."
The Attorney-General, slightly flushed, exclaimed, "No, Mr. Davitt; you have no right whatever to make such a statement."
"Very well, I withdraw it," replied Mr. Davitt. "But," he added, "it must be proved in the box."


So Mr. Davitt went on again, dealing exhaustively with the forged letters, the history of which, as given in the witness-box, he traced. He scouted as absurd the idea that such experienced men of the world as the Macdonalds, the Buckles, and Blennerhassets, and the staff of the Times should be imposed upon by such a person as Houston - "the son of an Irish prison warder or gatekeeper! Oh! sancta simplicitas!" "No, my Lord," went on Mr. Davitt very impressively, "it is known who subscribed the money which Houston gave to Pigott, and as your Lordships tolerate my address here today so surely shall the names, the donations, and the dates they gave them be made public before long, and they will have to take the consequences before the world." The Phoenix-park murder and all the charges brought against the Parnellite Party in connection with it formed subject for discussion for some half-hour. Mr. Davitt very critically analysed every point made against the Parnellites in this connection, laying special emphasis on the evidence of Mulqueeney, whom he described as the "political tool and errand boy of Captain O'Shea." Mr. Davitt declared that the evidence on the other side did not establish a connection between the murder party and the Parnellites, bringing forward the personal history of the witnesses called to substantiate the charges, with the object of throwing doubt upon their testimony.


Passing on, Mr. Davitt referred in a very impressive manner to two incidents which occurred at the period of the Phoenix Park murders. The day after the murder hundreds of persons, full of sympathy for the widowed woman, called at the residence of Lady Frederick Cavendish. Among the number was the late Mr. A.M. Sullivan, who little thought that his name would be sought out among the many others. On the following day he received a letter in Lady Frederick Cavendish's own hand, thanking him for his sympathy, and assuring him that in her misery she, at least, did not lay the terrible crime at the door of the Irish nation; nor did she believe that the Irish ever sought his death. The other incident, which was exceedingly touching, and related with great oratorical effect, created some sensation in the Court. When the men were lying under sentence of death for the murder of Lord F. Cavendish and Mr. Burke, a Sister of Mercy visited them daily, talking and pleading earnestly with them. She appeared to take more than ordinary interest in Joe
Brady, with whose career she became acquainted, and daily saw him, and was even with him a few moments before he went to the scaffold and eternity. "That woman," said Mr. Davitt, very impressively, "was the sister of the man whom Joe Brady had killed with his own hand in Phoenix-park - Mr. Burke." With the "truly noble conduct of these two women, who lost more by that horrible deed in the Phoenix-park than anyone" else in the world Mr. Davitt contrasted that of the Times years later, in bringing forward these hideous charges against Mr. Parnell for the sole purpose of encompassing his political destruction.


He submitted that a firm and unprejudiced review of the Land League and Mr. Parnell's action would not reveal anything opposed to a constitutional action. Therefore, he asked the Court to reject the Times case, and to report that the charges had not been sustained, and should never have been circulated. He was only too sensible that he had trespassed upon their Lordships' attention to an extent which might not have been permitted of a lawyer; he had spoken hot words and resorted to hard phrases, which might have been out of place in a Court of Law, but if he did so, it was because the character of the matters he had to speak of required it. He appeared there to address the Court, contrary to the advice of Mr. Parnell, and so he only spoke for himself. He felt it imperative that he should do so no matter what the advice to the contrary. Speaking for Ireland, he declared that no matter how much she had suffered in the past, she would allow all bitter feeling to die away before an awakening sense of British justice triumphing over landlordism and Castle rule. In a peroration that was extremely impressive Mr. Davitt spoke of the high duty of their Lordships; and on behalf of himself, and on behalf of the peasantry of Ireland, he said, "Let justice be done though the heavens should fall."
An outburst of applause greeted Mr. Davitt as he resumed his seat. The tumult having subsided,
The President, leaning forward on his desk, paid Mr. Davitt a very high compliment. "It was unnecessary for you, Mr. Davitt," he said, "to plead your want of legal knowledge, for you have put your arguments with great force, and we are obliged to you for having given us the assistance which has been withheld by others."


Mr. Davitt having bowed his thanks,
Sir Henry James rose to reply on behalf of the Times. After expressing his sense of the importance of the task imposed upon him, and his regret at the absence of his learned friends, the counsel for the other side, he laid down the lines he should follow, promising that he would be all through extremely anxious only to make statements of the strictest accuracy. He defended the Times from the accusations made against it, or rather sought to remove from it the weight of the declarations made by Parnellite counsel as to its constant opposition to Irish matters and the Irish nation, quoting incidents of its support of the demands of the Irish nation. This, he said, was his reply to the query of his learned friend, "Who were the accusers?"
The Court here adjourned for luncheon.

When the Court resumed after luncheon, Sir Henry James set himself to examine the contentions put forward in Sir Charles Russell's speech. The learned counsel for the Irish Party had attributed the recent troubles and crimes of Ireland mainly to the baneful effects of political and religious inequality. Sir Henry James quoted from Mr. Lecky to show that political and religious equality were of so far distant date that they could not possibly have been responsible for the troublous times of 1880 or thereabouts. Speaking of Mr. Davitt, whom, adopting another's words, he described as the father of the Land League, Sir Henry said that, though they could feel nothing but sympathy for him, they could not countenance his connection with a criminal conspiracy.
(The report will be continued.)


The speech of Mr. Davitt before the Special Commission is so much longer than even he himself had originally anticipated, that he seemed determined yesterday to force the pace, so as to bring it to a fairly early end. As a consequence, he spoke for some time at a speed, according to a calculation carefully made in Court, of 220 words a minute; and the sympathy of all the reporters present who had not to give a full account went forth to their brethren of the Times, who are under strict orders not to miss a word. Condolence was not so much required by the official stenographers appointed by the Court, for it is understood (so the London Correspondent of the Birmingham Post says) that Mr. Davitt daily hands them that portion of his manuscript with which he has dealt.

Source: The Echo, Thursday October 31, 1889, Page 3

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

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