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Volume 155: debated on Tuesday 20 June 1922

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Kidnapped Persons (Pettigo)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can now state the result of the inquiries he has made in regard to the kidnapping from Pettigo of certain loyalists by Free State forces; whether these persons have been released un- injured; if not, where they now are; and who is responsible for their safety?

I am in communication with the Provisional Government with regard to these men, but am not yet in a position to make any statement.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that nearly two weeks have elapsed since these men were kidnapped, and does he not think that in this space of time the Government ought to have obtained information as to their safety or otherwise?

I am holding for the time being 14 prisoners taken at Pettigo. They are in Ireland.

Will my right hon. Friend insist, when these men are released, that the Provisional Government pay full compensation for their injuries, because they have been captured by the Provisional Government's forces?

Will my right hon. Friend answer it if I put it down at 48 hours' notice? It is a very important point.

I am not prepared to say, until I am better informed of all the circumstances, as to what demand could be made for compensation.

If, as stated in my right hon. Friend's answer, he holds the Provisional Government responsible for the capture of these men, surely the Provisional Government ought to pay compensation.

Will my right hon. Friend say why the Provisional Government cannot give an answer as to the illegal action of their troops in less time than a fortnight?

I think this matter might much better be allowed to be adjusted in the course of a few days. I expect these men will be delivered over to us, and then we shall find out what were the circumstances in which they were taken away, and whether there are any grounds for the charges of misconduct against them. I have heard certain charges which are made, and we have to look into all these matters before you can say straight off whether a demand for compensation can be made. I am not prepared now to go any further than to say that I am provisionally holding the men taken at the capture of Pettigo, although it is by no means clear that charges can be formulated against them.

Are we to understand from what the right hon. Gentleman has said that he is satisfied these men are alive and in safety?

I have never said anything which indicated that. The names have been given to me of four men who were carried off, but I am not clear in each case whether they have been carried off from territory inside the Free State, in which they were domiciled, or whether they were carried off from just over the border. I have no further information.

Distress (Imperial Grant)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he proposes to take to ensure the impartial administration of the money voted by Parliament for the relief of distress in accordance with the Collins-Craig pact?

I see no reason, whatever, to doubt the assurances given me by Sir James Craig that the money promised by the Government for relief of distress in Belfast is being administered with impartiality. At the same time the British Government countersigned the Agreement in question and is, therefore, bound to form its own judgment for the information of the House as to how far effect has been given to its terms. For this purpose I have instructed an experienced public official to proceed to Belfast and to inquire and report to me upon the extent to which effect has been given to the Agreement. The officer selected for this purpose is Mr. S. G. Tallents, C.B., who at one time represented the British Government with marked ability at Riga. In order to make his services available, Mr. Tallents has been detached from the post he has since filled as Private Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant.

Was it not part of the Agreement that there should be an equal number of Catholics and Protestants on the Committee to distribute this money which has been voted by the Imperial Government?

No, Sir. There were two Committees, as far as my recollection serves me. One was to investigate cases and the other to assist in the formation of a new joint police force. This money was to be distributed on certain principles and in certain directions, but, as far as my recollection goes, there was no such arrangement as the hon. Member mentions.

Under the agreement of 31st March, £500,000 was to be granted by the British Exchequer for the relief of distress in Belfast, of which two-thirds was to go to Protestants and one-third to Catholics.

How much has been allocated by the Government for the relief of Protestants driven out of the South of Ireland?

That has nothing to do with the question or with the supplementary question.

Do I understand that £350,000 is to be devoted to those who drove the Catholics out and £150,000 to the Catholics who were driven out?

I think that is an extremely one-sided manner of summing up the causes of the difficulties at present arising in Belfast.

Royal Irish Constabulary


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether a pensioner of the Royal Irish Constabulary who accepts a position in the Colonial police or the Indian police will have any deduction made from his pension or his pay?

I would refer the hon. and learned Member to the provisions of Clause 1 (3) of the Constabulary (Ireland) Bill, which provides that if any officer or constable to whom a compensation allowance has been awarded takes service in any police force, the allowance may be suspended in whole or in part so long as he remains in such force. I am in communication with the Treasury as to the scope of this provision.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consult the law officers as to whether the Indian and Colonial police forces are police forces within the meaning of the Section to which he refers?

Murders (Macroom)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the three officers and one soldier murdered at Macroom were employed on service when they were captured; and whether the Government, either individually or in concert with the Provisional Government, are going to take any further steps to catch the murderers and avenge the death of these gallant soldiers?

These officers and the soldiers with them were not on any special duty when they were kidnapped. In reply to the latter part of the question, the Provisional Government is continuing its inquiries into the matter, but I regret that they have hitherto not been able to trace the persons responsible for this outrage. With regard to the future steps which can be taken, I wish dis- tinctly to state that neither in this case nor in the case of any other servants or ex-servant of the Crown murdered in South Ireland since the signature of the Treaty will the British Government relinquish its efforts to secure the apprehension and punishment of the guilty persons. It would be quite impossible for the Irish Free State to retain the position of a civilised Government unless it were to make untiring exertions to secure the apprehension and punishment of persons guilty of having broken the solemn pact entered into between the representatives of the two countries by treacherous and brutal assassinations. There can be no question of drawing a veil over these events.

Has the attention of the right hon. Gentleman been drawn to the letter from the father of one of these murdered officers in Monday's "Times" stating they were seen to enter an inn at Macroom and that they never came out again, and that., if no one has been arrested, it is not for want of clues, but because there is no machinery of law and order in the district?

I have read the letter. It is, no doubt, true there has been no machinery of law and order in the district, up to the present. I trust as the time passes law and order will regain authority. Then will be the time when inquiry can be made and evidence gone into, and when, I trust, the guilty parties will he brought to justice.

Can the right hon. Gentleman not inform the House whether the innkeeper, or some persons living in the have been interrogated as to what happened to the officers after entering the premises?

I certainly cannot at the present time. I have said the district at present is not under the effective control of the Provisional Government. I have no means or methods of making inquiries other than those which have already been conducted.

I have given the hon. Gentleman answers to his questions. I should have thought he would have accepted them.

Special Constabulary (Ulster)

( by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been called to, the acts of the Special Constabulary holding up the motor car in which His Eminence Cardinal Logue and His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin were travelling to Armagh after administering confirmation last Thursday; whether the car was pulled up by the Specials who demanded the chauffeur's licence, which he immediately produced, informing them that the passengers he was driving were Cardinal Logue and the Archbishop O'Donnell; whether the leader of the Specials ordered the Cardinal and the Archbishop to get, out on the roadside and be searched, which they did, after which they were-searched, their bags also searched; whether the pockets of the car were-searched, the cushions lifted and the bonnet of the engine scrutinised and the chauffeur ordered to take off the spare wheel. Whether this is the third occasion in three months that Cardinal Logue and his coadjutor Archbishop have been submitted to similar indignities; and whether in view of the repeated declarations made on behalf of the Northern Government that these insults were committed against their explicit instructions and in opposition to their orders, steps would be taken to have the Special Constabulary suspended, and what action he proposed to take to put an end to these constant and recurring outrages against distinguished ecclesiastics in the pursuit of their religious duties?

The incident referred to by the hon. Member, came to my knowledge on the 16th instant, and I immediately asked the Secretary to the Government of Northern Ireland for a report on the subject. His reply, received yesterday, was in the following terms:

"I received your wire about Cardinal Logue's car, but as the Constabulary Authorities were making inquiries, news came in of five Unionists murdered in that district this morning, and all of the former inquiries are necessarily postponed. In any case the matter does not seem of outstanding importance. Both the Prime Minister's car and the cars of the highest Protestant ecclesiastical and judicial dignitaries have been searched without protest. We ore trying to stamp out murder, and no citizen need object to a little inconvenience caused by measures to this end."
I have for the moment no further information to add to this reply.

Does the right hon. Gentleman, as paymaster of these Special constables, really think that is a serious answer to give to the House? Has he not himself stated at the Treasury Box repeatedly that he resents and regrets these indignities put upon ecclesiastics? Is it suggested by implication that these ecclesiastics were in any way responsible, directly or indirectly, for the things he quotes in his answer?

I gave an answer on this subject which is correctly described by the hon. Gentleman, in which I expressed regret at this kind of events happening, but I should have thought that the last possible occasion on which to draw attention to an inconvenience of this kind would be in connection with five or six most horrible murders in Ireland which had convulsed the whole district and which had naturally led to the police being active and vigilant.

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in denouncing these horrors, but similar horrors had occurred three or four days before, and these were, I understand, reprisals. My main point is that these distinguished dignitaries were attacked on two separate occasions before there were any murders, and Cardinal Logue, a venerated ecclesiastic, 83 years of age, was stopped and a pistol held at his head—

On a point of Order. Is an hon. Member, under the guise of a question, entitled to make a most provocative speech?

With all respect, the right hon. Gentleman has not answered my question at all. What I want to know is what he proposes to do to stop these indignities being put upon these ecclesiastics in the pursuit of their duty. He pays these Special constables, and has the right to determine what is to be done.

I do not think that it would be opportune for me to make any further representation to the Government of Northern Ireland. I have stated, on behalf of the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, his regret that anything in the nature of inconvenience or discourtesy should have been experienced by the Cardinal and the Archbishop, but they are travelling about now in districts which are convulsed by excitement—

and they cannot be sure that they may not be subjected to the same sort of interrogatories and examination of their papers as are all other persons there. I think it is inopportune to press a matter like that, in view of the fact that this very district was the scene of these murders.

Present Situation (Debate)

( 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?