Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/325

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
311
NOTABLE IRISH-AUSTRALIANS.

of the government of the day, who bore a reputation for cunning smartness in political life, began to indulge in some depreciatory personal criticism of his parliamentary opponents. Said he, in pompous style: "On the front Opposition bench, Mr. Speaker, I see neither a Pitt, nor a Burke, nor a Sheridan." "No," quietly retorted Mr. Ireland, looking straight across the table with a twinkle in his eye, "but I see a Fox on the other side of the House." Every one present felt that this happy pun upon a great statesman's name fitted the ministerial speaker's public character like a glove, and he immediately subsided amidst general laughter. As senior law officer of the Crown, Mr. Ireland was the colleague of Sir John O'Shanassy and Sir Gavan Duffy in two Victorian Ministries. Sir Gavan was Minister of Public Works, and in that capacity had occasion to call for tenders for the completion of the Houses of Parliament in Melbourne. The bluestone found in the colony being rather difficult to work, the architect, a staunch Protestant, suggested alternative tenders, with Carrara marble as the material of construction. Some Scotchmen, who were interested in the selection of the local article, set the story afloat that His Holiness the Pope was the secret proprietor of the Carrara quarries, and that Sir Gravan's real object was to try to put Victorian money into the Pope's pocket. A "Papal Aggression" agitation on a small scale sprang up, and when, a few weeks afterwards, tenders were called for the construction of another public building, a no-Popery member rose in the House and gave notice of his intention to ask what material Sir Gavan meant to employ in this particular case. Sir Gavan happened to be absent when the question was formally put, but his colleague, Mr. Ireland—an Irish Protestant—was there, and he gave the honourable