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Present Situation (Debate)

Volume 155: debated on Tuesday 20 June 1922

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( by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement to the House with regard to the situation in Ireland this week?

The House knows that I am not at all disinclined to give it the fullest possible information about Ireland, and, indeed, I think the Government has frequently gained very considerable advantage by the fact of the discussions which have taken place in this House on the Irish question. At the same time, I do feel that the present is not a very opportune moment for a discussion. I feel that one ought to take place before very long, but there are so many uncertain factors at this moment that discussion in this House might very well be prejudicial to the public interest, and, if the House would permit rue, I would ask to be allowed to reserve any statement I might make till a somewhat later period.

Can the right hon. Gentleman be a little more definite as to the date? The state of Ireland is deplorable. Outrages are taking place every day, and it is very desirable that the House should be fully informed as to what is taking place in Ireland and what measures are being taken.

The Colonial Office Vote is down for next Thursday, but I am sure it would he of no advantage to discuss Ireland then. Provided that it comes round, however, there is an Irish Supply Vote, I understand, still open, and application through the usual chan- nels, if my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House approves, would undoubtedly enable the House to discuss it then.

In view of the fact that questions on Ireland in this House are very difficult, is it not only fair that the House should have an opportunity of getting some explanation from the Colonial Secretary as to what is going on in Ireland, and what definite steps are being taken, seeing that loyalists are being butchered there every day?

Will the right hon. Gentleman take note that I will repeat the question at an early date next week?

In view of the fact that at the beginning of last week we were told that we were going to have a statement on Ireland, first of ail next day, then, as far as my memory serves me, it was put off till the Thursday, then we were told we must wait till this week—possibly a late day in this week—and, now that we were waiting till Thursday, which is the last day, I understand that all we shall have is an opportunity for discussing it on the Colonial Office Vote—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Then, in those circumstances, I do think the House should know what is going on and that we should have some explanation of the events that are taking place. I do not wish to insinuate for one moment that there is not a proper answer to be given by the Government, but I think the Government ought to give an answer, and ought not to say that at some later date, without any date being mentioned, something will be done.

If it be the desire of the House to have a discussion on Ireland next week, we have no wish to shirk such a discussion. What my right hon. Friend and the Government are anxious for is to avoid an incomplete discussion, which settles nothing, where the statements cannot be conclusive, and may be mischievous because of the uncertainties of the situation at the moment. If, however, it be the desire of the House to take an Irish Vote next week for the purpose of discussing the Irish situation, I will make arrangements accordingly. I am sure the House will recognise that, as my right hon. Friend has said, he has never shown the slightest desire to shirk discussion. When we are in the position, not of agreeing to or of refusing, but of choosing a day for discussion, we are not actuated by any desire to conceal information from the House or to shelter ourselves, but solely by the desire that discussion in the House should do no mischief, and should be as useful and informative as it can be.

Is it the fact that during the Whitsuntide Recess, when there was no discussion in this House and when no questions were being put, there was more peace in Ireland than there has been during the period when this campaign has been carried on in this House?

I do not think the two events had the slightest relation to one another.

When the time comes for the discussion of the lamentable state of affairs in the North of Ireland, will the Colonial Secretary, in deploring and describing the horrors that have taken place in the North of Ireland, and particularly in Belfast—horrors of which I have an equal abomination with himself —take care to describe the horrors not merely on one side, hut on both sides?