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The Union Jack In Ireland

Volume 12: debated on Monday 8 May 1893

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I bog to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland if he is aware that the Police Authorities of the City of Londonderry ordered the Union Jack flags to be taken down from the hotels of that city during the recent visit of Lord Salisbury on Friday last; and if this was done under the orders of the Government?

I will, at the same time, ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland by whoso authority was the order given to certain holders of licences in Londonderry to remove the Union Jack from their premises during the visit of Lord Salisbury; and on what grounds?

Before the right hon. Gentleman answers, may I inquire whether the late Government did not prosecute a licensed victualler for displaying a flag from his house; and whether the late Colonel King-Harman did not state in the last Parliament that the law would be enforced and prosecutions instituted in all such cases?

I believe the circumstances alluded to by my hon. Friend did take place, and that the answer to which he refers was given. In reply to the questions on the Paper, as they have given rise to some not wholly unnatural excitement and to a great deal of wholly unfounded comment, perhaps I may be allowed to answer at some length. The true story is this. On the 26th inst. Mr. Humphrey Babington, publican, of Derry, applied to the Magistrates at Petty Sessions for permission to put up flags on his licensed premises in honour of the visit of the Marquess of Salisbury. The Mayor referred Mr. Babington to the District Inspector of Constabulary, who drew the attention of the Magistrates to Section 8 of the 6 & 7 William IV., cap. 38, and stated he could give no directions in the matter, and that any person putting up flags should act on his own responsibility, as it was against the law. The matter then dropped. The same evening a sergeant of police saw a flag displayed from the Northern Hotel. He spoke to the proprietress, and told her it was wrong. He does not know what flag it was, except that it had a "red look." The same sergeant saw flags displayed from the Imperial Hotel on the same evening. He told the proprietor, Mr. Hagan, they were not legal, and the latter replied that as they were out he would leave them out. Up to this time the sergeant had only consulted the Head Constable, and no order had been given by any person in superior authority. Next day, the 27th, an acting sergeant on duty was directed by Mr. Doherty, a local Magistrate, to warn a publican named MacIlwaine to take down the flags which he had displayed on his licensed premises. The acting sergeant obeyed the Magistrate's order. The publican, however, would not take down the flags. This was the only interference by the police; they drew attention to no par- ticular flag, and merely stated it was illegal to display "flags" from licensed premises. I need hardly say that no order was ever issued by any Central Authority, and that it had no cognizance of these transactions until after they had taken place. Under the 9th section of the 6 & 7 William IV., cap. 38, a constable authorised by a Justice of the Peace or Chief Constable may enter into licensed premises

"To remove and take away and destroy, if he shall think proper, any banners, flags, colours, symbols, emblems, or decorations hanging out or displayed from such premises."
It is clear to my mind that the Union Jack is not one of the flags contemplated under this section as a flag proper to be destroyed. That and the previous sections of the Act would seem to be prohibitive of holding in licensed premises illegal assemblies or secret societies, or hanging out or displaying from such premises party flags, emblems, or banners. I think the words used by Colonel King-Harman wise words when he said that the law would continue to be enforced wherever and whenever the preservation of the peace demanded it.

Can the right hon. Gentleman inform the House what is the flag with regard to which a prosecution was instituted by Colonel King-Harman?

It was not the Union Jack. It was a piece of calico with the words "God save Ireland!" upon it.

I beg to give notice that on an early day I will ask leave to bring in a Bill to repeal the section of the Act of William IV. referred to, or, at any rate, to refer it to the Statute Law Revision Committee.

And I beg to give notice that I shall oppose the introduction of such a Bill.