( by Private Notice)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can give the House any further information with reference to the happenings in Dublin during the last 24 hours?
The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Churchill)
I am afraid I have very little to add to the full and continuous reports which are reaching this country through the medium of the Press. The Provisional Government, as I said yesterday, are conducting these operations and they are not reporting their progress to me officially in any way. They appear to be persisting in their operations with resolution. There are considerable difficulties from the point of view of the great structural strength of the building in the lower portion of which the insurgents are ensconced, and the artillery have not yet made sufficient impression upon them to induce a surrender. There has been a certain amount of disorder in different parts of the City of Dublin by sympathisers with the insurgents, who have commandeered houses at different points from which they have fired on the passers-by and of course upon Free State troops. This again is a subject of some consequence. The situation is not wholly free from anxiety, but we are confining our assistance entirely to supplying the Government of the Free State with any material they may require, and they have continued to decline any assistance of any sort or kind from the British troops, in which they are no doubt well advised, as it is undoubtedly an Irish quarrel, in which the Irish Provisional Government are acting in the sense of the mandate they have received from the Irish people.
Has the right hon. Gentleman any information to give beyond what appears in the public Press? Surely he must be in communication with the Commander-in-Chief there and also with Mr. Cope, at Dublin Castle, who would inform him fully of what is going on?
I have a good deal of information of one kind and another, but I have no information beyond what has appeared in the Press which it would be useful for me to give to the House or which the House in its discretion would wish me to give. Naturally, I make continual inquiries and get a good deal of information, but, on the whole, I think the case is pretty fairly put by the reports which are appearing in the newspapers.
Sir F. BANBURY
Are we to understand from the answer that the British Government are giving arms and ammunition to the Free State troops, and, if so, what guarantees have we that those Free State troops will not mutiny and turn round against us?
We are certainly giving arms and ammunition to the Free State troops, and I am sure that in so doing we are acting in full accordance with the wishes and intentions of the House when it passed the Irish Free State (Agreement) Bill.
If we are giving arms and ammunition to the Free State troops, what steps are we taking to ascertain whether this is really a serious affair or only a sham fight?
In a sham fight people do not usually get killed, and I deprecate very much suggestions which seem to show that the Irish Provisional Government and the troops under their orders are not doing the very best they can loyally and effectively to carry out the Treaty and to maintain order in their country. They are making an effort and they are suffering, and it, is quite true of both sides that there is little organisation. Both sides are weak, but it is certainly not a time to mock at a serious attempt made by men who are striking a blow for the freedom, order and ultimate unity of their country.
Colonel Sir C. YATE
If this be purely an Irish quarrel, can the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that there will be no interference on the part of British troops in Dublin?
Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD
Before the right hon. Gentleman answers that question, I would like to know what action British troops would take, providing the Free State troops were finally defeated?
We have enough real trouble on our hands without my attempting to forecast our actions in such hypothetical conditions.
Sir W. DAVISON
The original question has been very fully answered.