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Ireland

Volume 155: debated on Wednesday 28 June 1922

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Gun-Running

30.

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he can state the extent to which gun-running from abroad is now being carried on in Irish waters; how many ships are known to have landed cargoes; how many have been detected; and what is the general policy of the Government in the matter?

I have no reason to suppose that gun-running from abroad is being carried on in Irish waters to any appreciable extent; nor so far as I am aware, has any ship successfully attempted to land a cargo of arms. One vessel carrying ammunition has been intercepted and her cargo confiscated. A second suspected vessel was also intercepted, but no arms were found on hoard her. In reply to the last part of the question, I can assure the hon. Member that the policy of His Majesty's Government has been, and will continue to be, to prevent by all possible means the acquisition of munitions of war by persons or parties known to be acting in defiance of lawful authority.

Is it a fact that factories have already been set up for the manufacture of ammunition, and what steps are being taken to prevent necessary materials being landed for that purpose?

The Provisional Government are within their rights in setting up factories for the manufacture of munitions if they find it necessary, or to apply to us or to make contracts abroad.

Is the right hon. Gentleman in a position to get accurate information as to whether or not arms are landed in Ireland?

I do not know. I cannot say; but we have intercepted several cargoes which were ordered for people who were opposed to the Provisional Government. The Provisional Government can import arms. They have only to ask for arms and they will be supplied with them.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what right the British Government has to interfere with the importation of arms either by the Free State Government or by the Free State Government's opponents?

Would the right hon. Gentleman interfere with a citizen of Canada who was importing arms?

It is very difficult to know from a question like that what is the position of the hon. and gallant Member in these matters. We are passing through a very difficult time, which is not comparable to any existing situation in any of our great Dominions. The Provisional Government is in a period of transition, and very exceptional and anomalous procedure is involved in that period.

Is the House to understand that the Free State Government will be furnished with further supplies of arms if they ask for them?

If in my judgment, and with the approval of my colleagues, that course is thought necessary and proper, certainly.

Military Force, Southern Ireland

32.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can inform the House of the existence of any obstacles in the way of the Irish Provisional Government raising an adequate force to maintain law and order, from the absence of which so many British subjects are suffering; and whether, in that case, these obstacles are in any way due to causes whose removal this country might facilitate?

I am not aware of any material obstacles preventing the achievement of the desirable end indicated by the hon. Member; but there have been obvious political difficulties, which still exist, although I am glad to think that they are now far less formidable than before the recent elections. I know of no way in which His Majesty's Government can assist at present in the removal of these difficulties otherwise than by a consistent fulfilment of the policy which has been fully explained to the House.

Attack On Insurgents, Dublin

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he could give the House any account of the happenings in Dublin during the last 24 hours?

This morning at dawn the forces of the Provisional Government attacked the insurgent bands occupying the Four Courts in Dublin. This decision in no way arose out of the Debate in this House, nor in consequence of the declaration of His Majesty's Government to Parliament. It arose as the result of further aggressive anarchic action by Mr. Rory O'Connor's insurgents, culminating in the forcible seizure of one of the principal officers of the Irish Army.

I can add little to the information which has already been published by the Press on the course of the fighting. The Provisional Government are solely responsible for the operations, and they have so far made me no communication on the subject. They have declined all assistance from the Imperial forces, except so far as equipment is concerned.

The fighting is still in progress, and I have no trustworthy information as to casualties. The Four Courts appears to be a position of considerable structural strength, and no definite result has yet been achieved.

It is not for me to make suggestions. I merely asked a simple question.