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Republican Courts

Volume 155: debated on Tuesday 27 June 1922

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that neither by British process of law or the law as administered by the Irish Republican Courts can British subjects domiciled in the Irish Free State collect rents or similar debts due to them, and are consequently in many cases being made bankrupt by their creditors for moneys owing in Great Britain; will he press that a moratorium should be established to meet such cases; and, if not, what means will he adopt to prevent the ruin of British subjects who are in reality perfectly solvent?

His Majesty's Government recognise the difficulty in which many persons are placed owing to inability in present circumstances to collect rents and other debts due to them in Ireland. This difficulty is not a new one; it has been a symptom of all periods of disturbance in Ireland, and can only be made to disappear by the removal of the cause from which it arises, namely, by the restoration of orderly and resolute Government. As I informed the House yesterday, His Majesty's Government think it right to give a further opportunity to the Provisional Government to effect such a restoration, and, in the meanwhile, they do not feel that the time has come to take any exceptional measures to deal with this as distinct from other evils arising out of the present state of disorder in Ireland.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that in former times, no matter how bad they were, we could always get British decrees in Ireland, and we could carry them out if we could get a force which had pluck enough to do it? Now we cannot get decrees.

Could the right hon. Gentleman say, for the information of the House, what is the exact position of these so-called Republican Courts under the present arrangement? Are they legal courts or not?

They have no legal status at all, and they are not recognised in any official sense by the Provisional Government.

Do I understand that there are now no courts of any sort functioning in the Free State where a law-abiding citizen can go to recover his debts or damages for injury?

Yes, there are two complete sets of courts functioning in the Free State which interfere with each other, have their decisions reversed by each other, repudiate each other's authority, and generally bring the whole process of common, civic justice, in the smallest matters as in the greatest, into utter confusion and contempt.

Will the right hon. Gentleman write an opera on the lines of Gilbert and Sullivan?