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Ireland

Volume 154: debated on Tuesday 23 May 1922

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Ex-Service Men

12.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that on 8th May every ex-service man employed in the Army departments in Southern Ireland received a notice stating that he will be liable to discharge on a week's notice at the end of one month after the date of the notice of 8th May; and whether the men so discharged will receive any pensions or gratuities or be transferred to England, as recommended by the General Officer Commanding in Chief in Ireland on 16th January last?

I have not seen the terms of the notices referred to, but I am aware that such notices have been given by the local military authorities in Ireland. These notices are not specially applicable to ex-service mien, but have been given to all civilians for whom local War Department employment cannot be found under the new conditions, with the object of affording them as much opportunity as possible of seeking new employment. I trust that a large number of those concerned, and especially of those who have been employed continuously since before the War, can be absorbed in vacancies elsewhere than in Ireland, and all steps consistent with economy and with fairness to other employés of the Department are being taken to that end. I regret that, as regards special pecuniary assistance, I am not in a position to make any statement.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration the desirability of giving employment in England under the War Office to ex-service men in Ireland who will be without any protection and probably lose their lives if they remain in Ireland?

My answer indicates that, so far as possible, that will be done. I have, however, to take into account the fact that there are ex-service men in England and that employment of that sort is being reduced.

Where these ex-service men in Ireland cannot be absorbed, will they be dealt with by the Committee presided over by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare)?

If they come within the terms of reference to that Committee.

Will it be possible for these men to be brought to England for disbandment, and not disbanded in Ireland, having regard to the great risks in that country?

I do not think that all of them would run those risks. If their cases are put before the Committee referred to they can be taken into consideration.

In view of the impossibility of these ex-service men getting employment in Southern Ireland in present conditions, will the right hon. Gentleman do his best to transfer them to England where they can get employment?

I have already answered that, so far as the limited employment in my power is concerned, that is being done.

48.

asked the Prime Minister what special measures the Government have in view for the future subsistence of men of the Army, Navy, and Air Forces, and the Royal Irish Constabulary who are displaced by the Government policy of financial retrenchment or Irish government; and, especially, whether, pending the passage of the Empire Settlement Bill, the Government will provide these officers and men and their families with free passages to any part of the Empire overseas and invite the overseas governments to co-operate in their settlement under the most favourable possible conditions?

In the case of the officers and men in the Army and Navy who are discharged in consequence of the reductions in those forces the Government has decided to grant special compensation terms. Particulars are contained in the Fleet and Army Orders which were recently published in the Press.

In addition the Admiralty and the War Office will render all possible assistance to discharged officers and men who desire to obtain fresh employment In the case of the Air Force, no discharges have proved to be necessary. The special steps taken to meet the case of the R.I.C. have been explained in recent answers to Parliamentary questions and are described in Command Paper 1618A.

As regards the second part of the question, I trust that the passage of the Empire Settlement Bill will enable schemes to be framed at an early date for co-operation with the Dominions which will secure the object indicated by my hon. Friend. In the meantime, everything possible is being done to assist those who desire to proceed overseas forthwith. Special arrangements have been made to enable members of the Royal Irish Constabulary to commute part of their pensions to meet the cost of their passages, and temporary arrangements are being made with some of the Oversea Governments to find them employment overseas.

Barracks And Camps

19.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can give the total number of barracks, the property of the Crown, that under the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act have been handed over to the Southern Ireland Ministry of Defence, together with the number of camps and training grounds such as the Curragh and Kilworth; and has he now been able to form a rough estimate of the value of such buildings and of the acreage and value of the training camps?

No barracks, camps or training grounds have yet been transferred, but as evacuation proceeds a number of properties are being placed in the hands of the Provisional Government for custody pending settlement as to which of them shall be formally taken over, and on what terms.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the other day the Curragh was taken over, and that Kilworth was taken over months ago, and does he say that these great properties, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, have been handed over without provision for repayment?

I mean exactly what my answer says, that they have been placed in the hands of the Provisional Government for custody, pending settlement as to which of them shall be formally taken over, and on what terms.

Supposing there is no settlement arrived at, what is to happen to the camps?

Then my hon. and gallant Friend had better repeat his question.

Kidnapped British Officers

30.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the precise terms of the representations which have been.made to the Provisional Government for Southern Ireland with regard to the three British officers and private who were kidnapped last month; and what action has so far been taken by the Provisional Government to ascertain the fate of these four British citizens in the pay of the Crown?

34.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether there is as yet any news of the three officers and one private kidnapped at Macroom; if not, what steps are being taken by the Provisional Government to ascertain their fate; whether the Government have reason to think that they are still alive; and can their names now be given?

I will answer this question and No. 34 together. I regret that I am still without information in regard to the fate of these men, but it is obviously undesirable, and could serve no useful purpose, for me to disclose the precise terms of the representation made to the Provisional Government, or the exact steps taken by the Provisional Government in pursuance of their investigations. I must ask the House to accept my assurance that everything possible is being done by His Majesty's Government in the matter. The names of those kidnapped are as follow:—

  • Lieutenant R. A. Hendy, Royal Warwickshire Regiment;
  • Lieutenant G. R. A. Dove, 2nd Hampshire Regiment;
  • Lieutenant K. R. Henderson, M.C., 2nd The Green Howards; and
  • Private J. Brooks, Royal Army Service Corps.

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the third part of the question—whether the Government have reason to think that these officers and one man are still alive?

I am afraid that those British authorities in Ireland to whom we handed the matter and who have been endeavouring to trace these officers, have maintained a growing depression of hope of that.

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman give the House some information as to what has happened to the motor-car these officers were in, or what was the last news the Government officials had with regard to these officers? Great anxiety is felt in the matter.

Every effort is being made by His Majesty's Government to have the matter unravelled, and every effort will continue to be made.

Having regard to the grave danger incurred by soldiers returning to Ireland to their homes, will the right hon. Gentleman postpone the disbandment of the Irish regiments?

If, unhappily, it proves that these unfortunate officers and this man, have been murdered, will compensation be paid to their relatives; and, if so, who will find the money—the British taxpayer or the Provisional Government?

I have received a letter from the Provisional Government in regard to the expenses which are to be disbursed on behalf of refugees from Ireland now in this country, in which the Provisional Government express appreciation of the fact that the British Government has undertaken this task in the first instance, and complete readiness to defray the expenses on their part. I am. certain, if no serious turn takes place in the general relations between the two Governments, that matters of this kind must be dealt with and will be dealt with, if not by one Government, certainly by the other.

Has the right hon. Gentleman received a strong opinion from a source not likely to be misinformed, that there officers were murdered immediately after they were taken?

What has the Provisional Government done in regard to these officers? Have they taken any really effective steps to find out what happened to them?

They have done everything in their power, as far as I have been able to ascertain, but the part of the country in which these murders—if murders there have been—took place, is a part of the country which has been completely out of their control; they have not had the least control or authority there.

In that connection, will the right hon. Gentleman consider my suggestion as to not disbanding these men at present?

These are not disbanded men; they are officers who were on active service.

I know that, but is it not the fact that the Irish regiments are to be disbanded very shortly; and should this matter not be considered?

Bloomhill National School (Seizure)

88.

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland if his attention has been drawn to the seizure of the National School at Bloomhill, Shannon-bridge, King's County; whether he is aware that the parents have been forbidden to send their children to this school again; whether this action constitutes a breach of Article 16 of the Articles of Agreement with Southern Ireland; and, if so, will he make representations to the Provisional Government on this subject?

I am inquiring into this matter, and shall be glad if the hon. and gallant Member will repeat the question one day next week.