HC Deb 20 May 1830 vol 24 cc869-71
Mr. O'Connell rose

to move for the returns of the numbers killed and wounded in affrays with the police in Ireland, in the shape proposed by the hon. and learned Solicitor General. He was glad to see that hon. Gentleman in his place, as he would be able to contradict a report that had been circulated in the county of Clare. In a letter he had that morning received it was stated that persons had been fired at by the police because they did not immediately stand when challenged. A boy was shot through the back, and died instantly. In vindication of this barbarous act, the police alleged that they had received orders to fire on all persons found out at night who did not immediately give an account of themselves. He trusted that no such orders had been given, which in Ireland would be most cruel and would inevitably lead to much bloodshed. The hon. Member concluded by moving for the following returns: "Of the number of persons who have lost their lives in affrays or otherwise by the Constabulary in Ireland in each year since the formation of that body; specifying the place where homicide occurred, and also the nature of the warrant, if any, which the Constabulary had to execute at the time of such homicide; and also stating what was in each case the verdict of the coroner's inquest, and in which of those cases bills of indictment were preferred and the manner in which the same were disposed of. Of the number of persons severely wounded in affrays with or by the constabulary in Ireland, in each year, since the formation of that body, specifying the place where each such wounding occurred and also the nature of the warrant, if any, which the Constabulary had to execute at the time of such wounding, and also stating in which of those cases bills of indictment were preferred, and the manner in which such bills were disposed of: Of the names and number of persons employed in the Constabulary Force in Ireland, who have been killed or severely wounded in affrays with, or otherwise, by any of the people in each year, since the formation of that body, stating in which of those cases bills of indictment have been preferred, and the manner in which such bills were disposed of."

Mr. Doherty

thought it unnecessary to state that no such orders as those referred to by the hon. Member could have been given, and he could affirm from his own experience that the Government of Ireland was anxious that the policemen should do their duty so as to offend and injure the people the least possible. With respect to the returns moved for, he had no objection to their being produced, as he was desirous of having the subject of the Irish police calmly and dispassionately discussed. For himself, however, he must say, it was his decided opinion that such a force as the police was necessary for Ireland. He doubted if the returns could be made correctly, but such as could be procured he was prepared to consent to their being laid on the Table.

Mr. Jephson

was convinced that these returns would not show that proper precaution was used by the police, who were armed in an improper manner. In one; district several of them were furnished with rifles, and it appeared from some circum- stances which had come to his knowledge, that they were very ready to use their arms. A party of them was sent some time ago to arrest some fellows, and apprehensive of their escape they fired at them as men would hunt out and fire at wild beasts. He blamed the policemen, however, much less than those who instructed and commanded them.

Mr. Doherty

deprecated such a discussion, particularly as the law was open to those who had been injured. The fact was, that the spirit of hostility against the police on the part of the peasantry was so strong that every report concerning them was exaggerated. In truth the peasantry were animated with a deadly animosity, and had on more than one occasion begun an attack which rendered it imperative on the police to have recourse to fire-arms for protection.

Mr. Hume

thought, this animosity was a proof that the system was a bad one, and he should look at the Returns and attend to the inquiry which he hoped would take place, with considerable interest.

Mr. O'Connell

said, his object was to discuss the merits of the system, not the faults of individuals. He knew of one attack made by the peasantry on a police barrack, but that was in 1822, when the south of Ireland was almost in a state of insurrection. At that very time, however, the peasantry behaved with great kindness towards the regular troops, avoiding to attack them, and even succouring them after a rencontre with themselves. If the returns answered his expectations he should be able to prove that more individuals had fallen by the hands of the police than by the sword of the law, and to make out a case that called for the interference of Parliament. He did not believe that such a force was necessary for Ireland, unless it were necessary to keep up irritation, and occasionally shed blood. The whole country was in fact tranquil, except that now and then there was an affray with the police constables; as that body was constituted, instead of preserving peace it provoked disorder and riot.

Mr. James Grattan

said, that in the part of the country where he resided the police maintained order without having recourse to fire-arms.

Returns ordered.

Back to
Forward to