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Volume 155: debated on Monday 26 June 1922

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many British subjects in Southern Ireland have been murdered or have died of wounds since the signing of the Treaty; whether it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to relinquish no effort to secure the punishment of the guilty persons: and whether it is his intention to make representations to this effect to the Provisional Government of Southern Ireland in the same terms as has been made in the case of the murder of servants of the Crown?

In reply to the first part of the question, the number of persons murdered in Southern Ireland since 6th December is as follows:—

Serving members of the Royal Irish Constabulary15
Ex-members of the Royal Irish Constabulary8

* These figures do not include the three officers and the soldier kidnapped at Macroom, or the soldier kidnapped at Rathdawney in January.

In reply to the second and third parts of the question, it is for the Provisional Government, so long as they are responsible for the maintenance of law and order in the area within their jurisdiction, to take such steps as may be possible to trace and punish the guilty persons; and we shall expect them to do this.

What steps are you taking to assure it? It is no use expecting it unless you do something.

If the Provisional Government do nothing, as they already have done nothing, is the right hon. Gentleman going to sit still and do nothing?

No, Sir. I said the other day that we were not going to allow a single one of these cases to drop. They will be pressed by us upon the Provisional Government on every opportunity that is open to us, and I venture to think that in proportion as they become a settled, ordered Government, in that proportion our influence and pressure upon them will become more effective.

Did not the right hon. Gentleman say that he would regard what went on in Ireland with stony indifference?

I did not say anything of the sort. My right hon. Friend is taking one phrase out of one part of my speech, and applying it to a quite different set of circumstances—a proceeding far different from his usual standard in dealing with Parliamentary controversy. I said that if Ireland continued to degenerate into anarchy, it would 'be watched with the stony indifference of the world. By that, I meant, and was understood to mean, that there would be no sympathy for the Irish people in foreign countries if, having been given this splendid chance, they throw it away.

In saying that the rest of the world would regard it with stony indifference, did the right hon. Gentleman include this country, which has a responsibility which the rest of the world has not.

I certainly do not consider that we can indefinitely con- tinue to regard with indifference a progressive degeneration into anarchy throughout Ireland.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether in his mind lie has fixed any period at which his patience will break down?

I have certainly fixed in my own mind certain tests, both of circumstances and of time, which would determine the moment when a change of policy is necessary.