(From The Times August 23rd.)
|Every Englishman who has reached middle age knows what it is to
have a son, a brother, a nephew, or a cousin who is the drop of bitter in his cup, the thorn in his side, the fly
in his ointment. It is not necessary that the graceless relative should be irreclaimably bad. He is, perhaps,
simply improvident and reckless, impulsive in action and hasty in speech ; generous with other
people's money ; warm- hearted, if fickle, in love as in hate. Unstable as water, he is by turns sanguine
and despondent, but whatever else may be doubtful about him, it is certain that at short intervals he will
be thrown back upon his friends for assistance out of some scrape or help in some sore necessity.
Acknowledging no obligation to provide for the future, he is continually in distress how to meet the
necessities of the present, and, ignoring. the existence of law, he is constantly reminded of it by incurring
its penalties. The most remarkable part of his case, however, is that his sober friends, who are outraged
by his lawlessness and have to pay for his extravagance, bear no malice against him, and at times feel a
kind of pride in befriending a creature who has emancipated himself from all the burdens of duty.
Ireland stands in the same relation to Englishmen ; collectively that our unfortunate sons and nephews do to us individually. We may say or do what we will, and may receive or reject promises of amendment ; we may believe or disbelieve assurances that the inhabitants of the sister isle have at length turned over a new leaf, but the end is always the same. The Irishman has a passion for lawlessness, and the only thing constant about him is his hatred of order and of those, appointed to maintain it. We published yesterday a narrative of an outrage at the little town of Dangan, near Youghal, which shows that the old Irish feeling that a policeman is hostie humani generis, and should be treated accordingly, has not died out as some people have fondly supposed. The outrage is called an affray between Fenians and the police, but nothing has yet appeared to show that it was an affair of the Fenians any more than of the Chartists, Whiteboys, Luddites, Rockites, or any other discontented mob. The evidence makes out the common Irish case of a united assault on the, police for doing their duty, and it would probably never have been heard of outside the county of Cork had not a man unfortunately lost his life in the affray. It appears that on the evening when the fatal business happened there had been drinking and fighting at Dangan, until at last the constabulary stepped in and took two of the disturbers of the peace, brothers named Connory, into custody. Such an interference with the enjoyments of the people was not to be borne quietly, and the whole party of rioters turned upon the constables and demanded the release of their prisoners. The police took refuge in the farmyard of a man named Walsh, and an increasing crowd assembled outside the gate, which had been shut to keep them, out, and proceeded to force it open. One Terence Ahearn got upon the wallwe all know the kind of man, eager, impetuous, brainless, with a torrent of words and an incapacity of Reasonand harangued the crowd outside, urging them to rush in and overpower the men who were loyal for a miserable fifteen pence a day. Cheering and hat-waving followed, the gate was broken open, and the crowd burst into the yard to find the policeseven in numberdrawn up under arms within, whereupon there was a retreat, and the gate was closed again. The repulse was, however, momentary, for the crowd reformed, and pressed again upon the gate. What followed we have as yet mainly on the evidence of the constable who commanded the policemen, and it is needless to add that every word of it will probably be disputed, as facts are disputed in Ireland on Crown prosecutions. The constable's evidence is not, however, without corroboration, for the farmer in whose yard the affray took place and his daughter have both deposed to the siege of the house and the series of assaults on the police before they ventured to defend themselves, and if anything were wanting to show the respect for the law and the desire to get at the truth felt at Dangan, the treatment of the farmer's daughter after she had given her evidence may supply it. When she left the Court she was hunted by a mob, and before the constabulary could interpose and take her to safe quarters, she was so maltreated that for two days she was unable to stir out. To return, however, to the evidence of the policeman. According to his account the mob pressed a second time on the gate, re-opened it, and, rushing in again, assailed the constables with showers of stones. The stones came so thick and fast that it was impossible to live under them, and three out of the seven policemen fairly ran away. The rest were separated, and the constable in command was left crouching under a car-shed about 5ft. high in the yard. In this position he became the sole object of the shower ; his rifle was unloaded, and when he attempted to, load it, and in so doing became a little more exposed to the shower, he was, so severely assailed that in self-defence he called upon his men to fire. One shot was fired, and under cover of it the, policeman escaped into the house. The showers of stones, however, continued ; the windows and window-sashes of the house were broken to pieces. Walsh, the farmer, took refuge first under his bed; and next to the chimney, and the constables were compelled to fire again. From first to last ten shots were fired ; they were aimed low, so as to frighten rather than hurt the rioters, but one struck a man as he was stooping to pick up a stone, and he fell mortally wounded. There was a cry raised to set the house on fire and burn the policemen out, and Terence Ahearn threatened them that within half an hour they should have twenty double-barreled guns about their ears. But the policemen knew their danger and were resolute. The four of them stood on their defence against the infuriated mob until help came, and they were able to effect a retreat to their barracks.
There will, as we have said, be without doubt a great deal of contradictory evidence as to the circumstances under which the unfortunate victim of the fight was killed, but the main facts of the case will scarcely be disputed. Two men were taken into custody for riotous and disorderly conduct, and their friends and associates at once proceeded to rescue them by force. The constables were of course bound to keep their prisoners, and the mob were determined to release them. If the evidence of the constables be anything like the truth, they displayed an uncommon moderation under outrageous treatment until their lives were in danger. We are content, however, to leave the question of their forbearance to be decided upon hereafter ; at present it is sufficient to point out the character of the offence of the mob. They were bent upon resisting the due execution of the law, and a forcible interference with the administration of the law is an offence which ought never to be tolerated and should rarely be condoned. Least of all should it be lightly treated in Ireland, where the Queen's peace is at any moment liable to outrage. We have no desire to be hard upon the Irishman or to judge him hastily because he is unlike ourselves ; we can pardon his improvidence and laugh at his exaggeration ; but when he lets his passionate instincts override all regard for social order and domestic peace he must be taught that, whatever else may be forgiven, mob justice and mob law cannot be tolerated.
[see also The Irish Times, 9 May 1866.]
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