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ness and mastery of his subject, he then laid the cases and the whole actings of Government in connection with them before the committee, standing the fire of questions from the enemies of the Government with great calmness, and answering them with great ability. A single extract from the evidence may be given to illustrate the character of the Government proceedings :
“I mentioned that the first case of Ribandism that came to the knowledge of the Government was that of a man who was apprehended in Dublin in 1835; but he appeared to be connected with Sligo, and not with Dublin. The first Dublin case occurred in 1837-I mean that was the first time a man was arrested with papers. It was known that there were two associations that were constantly engaged in fighting with one another—the Northerns or Widgeons, and the Billy Welters; but what their objects were, or whether they had any political objects in view, no precise information could be obtained. The magistrates seemed to regard them as two factions, whose main objects seemed to be to fight with one another. Previous to the establishment of the new police they were a constant source of violent disturbance in the city. In March 1837 a report was received, with the information of a man detailing the existence of an illegal body, styled the 'Sons of Irish Freedom,' who were stated to be in the habit of meeting in publichouses in the city, and to be composed of the labouring and working classes, to the number of 1500, sworn on their admission to keep down all Protestants, beat Orangemen, upset the King, &c. [On this information the law officers advised no proceedings to be taken.] The next case occurred in September 1837. It is merely the detail of a combination assault, as such assaults were called at the time. The parties committed an outrage and disappeared, and the police being very inadequate, no trace of them could be discovered. These assaults had grown to such a frightful extent about that time, that a public meeting was called in Dublin, the Lord Mayor presiding, upon a requisition set on foot, I think, by Mr O'Connell, who denounced at that meeting both the combinations of the trades and the combinations of the Billy Welters and the Widgeons. Mr O'Connell made a communication to the Government at that time, that he had received information that a person had important intelligence to give respecting those societies. I saw that person, and he made a stipulation that he should not be required to communicate with any police magistrates. I was to see him alone, in secret, and at night. He came to me accordingly by appointment, and detailed much of that information which has subsequently been given by the police commissioners respecting those two societies. He told me of several outrages which he said were concocted at their meetings. I urged him, seeing that those outrages were committed almost daily, and as he belonged to one of the societies, to give me, as a test of the accuracy of his statements, information previous to the commission of an outrage, that the police might be able to arrest the offenders in the act. From that time to this, however, he has never given such information in any one instance, nor has any other among the many informants known to the Government given information which would enable the constabulary to take measures for the prevention of crime. I had a communication from Lord Morpeth, who was at that time in England. Parliament met in November 1837, and Mr O'Connell, who had taken a very leading part in denouncing these secret and illegal societies, waited on Lord Morpeth in London, and told him he had heard of another person who was prepared to give information. Lord Morpeth wrote to me in these words : 'O'Connell has just been with me, and brought me the enclosed. I need not talk of its importance. will call on you. Protection, personal and pecuniary, is what he wants to be guaranteed to him. I am sure you will be sparing of no effort to fathom and blow up this business. It is quite clear that the man is not exaggerating it for the purpose of magnifying his own merits.' I continued to see this man from day to day without any result whatever. His information was a mere statement of the names of persons alleged by him to be members of these associations. At that time there were outrages committed against Mr Guinness. I was in constant communication with this informer concerning them; he declared to me that the persons committing them were in the very lodge to which he belonged; but, notwithstanding his repeated promises to bring to me information that would lead to the apprehension of these men, he never in a single instance brought information that would enable us to anticipate an outrage. Seeing this going on, I told him it would be necessary to put him in communication with the police commissioners, for I could not devote more time to it.”
No practical results could be reached through the numerous informers who offered themselves at different times to the Government.* Many of them were discovered to be utterly worthless and infamous persons. One, who made a trade of playing informer, tried several magistrates in turn, and got money from them, before his true character was discovered. In another case, where an informer came forward as an accessory to a Riband murder, it was clearly established that his information was wholly false, and that he knew nothing whatever of the murder. Yet it was in reliance on statements obtained from persons of this class that Earl Roden founded his charge, and that one of the magistrates—a Mr Rowan-firmly believed in the Earl's Riband conspiracy. To this Mr Rowan every facility was afforded by the Government of following up the information he received, and on which he relied ; but nothing ever came of his exertions. During the period 1835-39, the Government had examined into forty-five cases of reported Ribandism. They occurred in Sligo, Cavan, Louth, Meath, Wicklow, Leitrim, Tyrone, Mayo, Galway, Monaghan, Donegal, Dublin, Longford, and
* The “Spy” system, so abhorrent to so-called British feeling, is a necessary recourse of every government that has to deal with disaffection. It
be questioned whether it has in any country been carried to greater lengths than it has been, at times, in Ireland.
Westmeath. The cases in which there was such evidence procured as to justify legal proceedings were exceedingly few. In the others, there was little more than the statements of informers-generally one in each case-commonly not on oath, and given on the condition that the informer would not have to appear as a witness,