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Volume 155: debated on Wednesday 28 June 1922

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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.