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Royal Irish Constabulary (Refugees)

Volume 154: debated on Monday 22 May 1922

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asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that there are large numbers of ex-Royal Irish Constabulary men at present in this country who have been compelled to leave Ireland on disbandment by threats of murder should they remain or return to their homes; that many of these men are unable to find accommodation for themselves and their families, and receive no allowance towards their maintenance; that in the cases of men whose families are still in Ireland the separation allowance is only 2s. a day for wife and children, or a maximum payment of 14s. a week, whatever the size of the family may be, which is quite inadequate for their maintenance; and whether, under these circumstances, the Government will place at the disposal of these refugees some of the empty barrack accommodation which is available in this country, and allow adequate separation allowances to those men whose families are still in Ireland?

I am aware that it is stated that large numbers of disbanded members of the Royal Irish Constabulary are in this country, having been compelled to leave Ireland, but I have not been able to ascertain the actual numbers. As the House is aware, an Accommodation Bureau has been set up in Chester, with branches elsewhere in this country, for the purpose of assisting these men to secure accommodation. There has been no difficulty in securing accommodation at reasonable rates in any part of the country for single men or married couples; every application of this kind which has been received by the bureau has been met, and a considerable proportion of the men so accommodated have written expressing satisfaction with the accommodation provided. There is still plenty of vacant accommodation of this class, and any member of the force who desires accommodation should write at once either to the R.I.C., Accommodation Bureau, Chester, or to the Resettlement Branch, Irish Office. There has, however, been considerable difficulty in securing permanent accommodation for families with children, and special efforts to compile a register of houses in all parts of the country to be let or sold at reasonable rates are being made. Meanwhile, as an emergency measure, a boardinghouse in London has been secured by the Government, and a number of families are accommodated there at reasonable rates pending the finding of permanent accommodation, and it is hoped, if necessary, to make similar arrangements in other parts of the country. I should like to take this opportunity of acknowledging the very great assistance which the Government and the Royal Irish Constabulary have received from the police in all parts of the country. As regards separation allowance in the case of men whose families are still in Ireland, I cannot agree that 14s. a week, in addition to the disbandment pension, which can, if the pensioner so desires, be increased, for a period of two years, up to 35/60ths of the maximum pay of his rank, can be regarded as insufficient, but it is, of course, open to any individual member of the force who considers that he suffers exceptional hardship in this or in any other respect to apply to the tribunal appointed to deal with such eases.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are some 800 ex-Royal Irish Constabulary men in this country who inform me they have been unable to find accommodation—even such accommodation as the right hon. Gentleman indicates, for which they will have to pay—and is that fair, considering that they are expelled from their homes through no fault of their own?

Is it a fact that these men and their wives and families have to leave the town or village where they resided in Ireland at a moment's notice to save their lives, leaving all their property and furniture behind, and will the right hon. Gentleman consider the possibility of giving them some compensation for the loss of their property?

Yes, Sir, the tribunal which is set up for these special eases obviously will take into consideration cases of this kind.

Will the right hon. Gentleman not give these people the use of empty barracks, which are not being utilised in any way at present, and for the use of which they would be grateful?

Are we to understand that all these claims have to be met out of the wretched sum of £10,000?

That has nothing whatever to do with these cases. The £10,000 is a small sum placed at the disposal of the Committee, headed by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) for the relief of civilians who have come over here, temporarily as we hope, from Ireland. That has nothing whatever to do with the obligation which the Government has undertaken in regard to tile Royal Irish Constabulary.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consent to seeing one or two of us who have interviewed these men so that we may place their case more fully before him?

I shall be very glad to put my hon. Friend in touch with the persons who have this matter in their charge. Anything that he may bring forward will be carefully considered.