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Special Constabulary, Ulster

Volume 155: debated on Wednesday 14 June 1922

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54 and 55.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) whether his attention has been called to the action of the Ulster special constabulary in holding up, searching, and subjecting to insult and indignity His Eminence Cardinal Logue arid Most Reverend Dr. O'Donnell at Lisnadell, County Armagh, on Tuesday 6th June, when proceeding on their religious duties; whether he is aware that, on His Eminence protesting against such treatment and objecting to the searching of a parcel of diocesan letters and documents, an order was given to cover that man with a rifle, and a rifle and revolver were immediately thrust under his nose; that a full search was then made of all papers and documents; that even a box in which were holy oils for confirmation was opened, though Archbishop O'Donnell explained what was in it; that this was the second occasion on which His Eminence the Cardinal and Dr. O'Donnell had been subjected to this indignity, as they had been similarly held up on the 24th May by the specials at Lisnadell and subjected to search and insult; and whether, in view of the fact that this repeated interference with ministers in the discharge of their religious duties is a direct breach of the letter and sprit and whole intention of Section 5 of The Government of Ireland Act, 1920, he will have that Act suspended as its constitution is no longer being observed;

(2) whether his attention has been drawn to the official statement from the headquarters of the special constabulary in Belfast that the specials, in holding up His Eminence Cardinal Logue and the Most Reverend Dr. O'Donnell, had exceeded their instructions; whether he can state what are the instructions given to special constables in such matters; and whether he will issue in the form of a White Paper a statement setting out the nature of the instructions, written and oral, issued to the specials for carrying out their duties in the Northern area?

My attention has been called to this incident, and I took the opportunity of reading His Eminence's letter in the Irish newspapers. I may say at once that His Majesty's Government consider that the incident was very regrettable. His Eminence had just delivered a speech, the whole object of which was to bring about a more peaceful, rational and Christian temper in Ireland, and it is indeed lamentable that he should have been subjected to so much want of consideration. I was very glad to learn that an official rebuke was spontaneously administered by those in charge of the Special Constabulary to their agents for their conduct in this matter. The phrase "exceeded their instructions" is clearly intended in that sense. I do not think it is necessary, nor indeed do I think it is practicable, to lay in the form of a White Paper instructions, general or special, which may be issued by the police authorities to constables coping with the kind of situation which has arisen in Northern Ireland.

I may add that I have had the advantage of a conversation with Sir James Craig on this subject, and he has desired me to say that it is far indeed from the wishes or intentions of the Government of Northern Ireland that any want of courtesy or consideration should be shown to Cardinal Logue or any other high dignitary of the Catholic Church.

In view of the fact that the first insult and indignity was put upon Cardinal Logue in pursuit of his ecclesiastical duties on 24th May, and that subsequently he was insulted in a much more offensive form on 6th June, why were no steps taken to protect him and other distinguished ecclesiastics in the discharge of their functions?

I have no information other than that which I have given to the House. The matter, of course, is one primarily to he raised in the Ulster Parliament.