THE CURRAGH INQUIRY. OPENING OF THE COMMISSION AT NEWBRIDGE

by ehistoryadmin on November 2, 2019

Leinster Express 15 September 1866

The Curragh Inquiry

Opening of the Commission at Newbridge

(From our own reporter)

Newbridge, Friday one o’clock.

The Commission of Inquiry directed to be held at Newbridge Court-house, to inquire into the rights of way and public rights over the Curragh, opened this day (Friday), at eleven o’clock a.m.

The Commissioners appointed to hold the inquiry are – Major-General Alexander Hamilton Gordon, Edmund A. Mansfield, Esq., and N. Wetherell, Esq., Barrister-at-Law, Assistant Enclosure Commissioner (England). Mr. T. P. Wilkinson acted as secretary.

Mr. Horace Watson, solicitor, of London, Solicitor to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, and Mr. James Hallowes, of the firm of Hallowes and Hamilton, Solicitors in Ireland to the Commissioners, were in attendance.

The following members of the Committee of the Grand Jury, appointed at the last Assizes, were in attendance:- Major Borrowes, John La Touche, Esq., George P. L. Mansfield, Esq., Eyre Powell, Esq., James E. Medlicott, Esq. William Lewis, Esq., solicitor to the Grand Jury, appeared on their behalf.

Major-General Gordon opened the proceedings. He stated that the Commission was issued by the Lords of the Treasury after having had before them the correspondence between themselves, the War Office, and the Commissioners of Woods and Forests on the subject of the Curragh of Kildare and the bill introduced into Parliament to make better provision for the management of the Curragh. The Lords of the Treasury, approving of the intention of the late Government to appoint a Commission to make the necessary inquiries to obtain information as to the basis of legislation, had issued the present Commission with the view of ascertaining whether it was expedient that any, and if any what, legislation should take place for the better management and more beneficial use of the Curragh. Such being the nature of the inquiry, the Commissioners would begin by hearing the statement of Mr. Hallowes on the part of the Crown; they would afterwards hear the statements of others representing the different interests.

Major Borrowes intimated that the course to be taken by the Grand Jury of Kildare would depend very much on the statement of the Crown as to whether rights of way were interfered with.

Mr. Constantine Molloy, Barrister, and Messrs Johnston, Thomas Fell White, Pelham J. Mayne, John B. Meredyth, J. Thorpe, and Henry C. Kelly, solicitors, appeared for a number of the interested parties.

There was a large attendance, amongst whom were – Messrs J. F. Meekings, John Cassidy, Thos. Brazill, C.E., George Knox, sen., George Knox, jun., Richard Kelly, john Dunne, Thomas Sullivan, Wm. Gannon, Patrick Garrell, William Blowney, W. Newcomen, William Ryan, Michael Clancy, Thomas J. Dowling, Patrick Carey, Edward Flood, Patrick Healy, William Curtis, Fitzjames Clancy, &c., &c.

Mr. Hallowes then proceeded. He said the Commissioners had not power to compel the attendance of witnesses or to examine witnesses on oath. Neither had they any power to determine rights of any parties who made claims. Their jurisdiction was solely to hear the claims advanced, and then report to the Government, who would hereafter consider whether an Act of Parliament should be introduced for the better regulation of the Curragh, and for preserving the rights of such aprties as had rights over the Curragh. The Crown claimed to be entitled to the fee-simple of the Curragh, to such rights as had been granted from time to time by the Crown, or to be shown to exist. The Crown, he was instructed to say, had no desire whatever to deprive individuals or the public of any rights which they possessed over the Curragh; on the contrary, it was the desire of the Crown to protect those rights and prevent the infringement upon them by trespassers who now exercised a jurisdiction over the Curragh to a very considerable extent, and that it had from time to time granted rights of commonage over the Curragh from the year1710. The Crown had also appointed an officer called “the Ranger of the Curragh,” and paid him a salary, and appointed also caretakers to prevent trespassing. As might naturally be expected, there had been numerous cases of trespass, but it was unnecessary to go back further than 1856. In that year six persons were brought before the magistrates at Kildare for trespass. One man, named John Dunne, thought he had certain rights beyond what the public were entitled to claim – the right of passing over the Curragh by a particular road. Some men in his employment having been summoned, Mr. Dunne applied to the Queen’s Bench for a prohibition to prevent the magistrates from issuing their warrant to enforce the fine they levied. The Court directed an issue to be tried to decide the question of Mr. Dunne’s right, and the case, which was tried at Kildare, resulted in a verdict for the Crown. In 1857 other trespasses were committed, and the offenders fined. In 1855 the Camp was established, and as the traffic became much more considerable than before, it was necessary to become more vigilant in detecting trespassers, and in 1857 parties were frequently summoned before the magistrate. In 1860, after the establishment of Petty Sessions in this town, certain claims were brought for the first time before the magistrates adverse to the title of the Crown, and they claimed rights by prescription. The magistrates having decided that they had no jurisdiction it was necessary to have recourse to another form of procedure. For instance, if pigs or horses were found grazing the only thing that could be done was to file an injunction in Chancery to restrain parties from allowing the animals being turned out on the Curragh. The expense of this procedure was very large, and it was determined that some other course should be adopted to prevent this trespass. After the establishment of the Curragh Camp, an agreement was entered into between the Commissioners of woods and Forests and the War Department, in 1865, which led to a proposal that the Curragh should be leased to the War Department, but a deputation of several members of the House of Commons waited upon the Secretary at War and made such an objection to the case that the project was abandoned. It was found necessary to give notice of an intended application to bring in a Bill appointing certain commissioners to make inquiries as to existing rights. He might state that so far as the county was concerned, there were certain parts of the Curragh that were to be exempted from the Bill; so that the gentlemen of the county might feel satisfied that the same protection of the rights of the public would be given in any future Bill. Some persons becoming alarmed at the Bill, the late Government withdrew it, and it was stated that a commission would be issued for the purpose of making inquiry, and that the commission was now sitting.

[Mr. Hallowes was still proceeding when our dispatch left.]

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