HC Deb 05 July 1869 vol 197 cc1170-2

said, he wished to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Whether, from the reports that have reached the Government relative to the lamentable affray at Portadown on the 1st of July, he considers that the Police were justified in acting on their own responsibility when the assistance of a Magistrate residing on the spot might have been instantly obtained; and, whether their conduct on the occasion is in accordance with the instructions issued by Government for the maintenance of the public peace in Ulster during the July anniversaries?


said, in reply, that it would be wrong for him, and he declined, on the part of the Government, to pass any judgment on the conduct of the police, which would be subjected to a strict investigation, both judicially and by the Government, as was absolutely necessary whenever a public force used their firearms against the people. Besides that, the inquest on the body of the unfortunate man who was killed was still proceeding. But he must add that the police could hardly be said to have acted on their own responsibility, because they fired on the order of their sub-inspector, after they had been violently assaulted with stones, and their lives put in danger. Besides, he had no reason to think that they could have reached the local magistrate, who was not at that time with them, or have availed themselves of his assistance at a moment of great pressure and danger, when they were making their way back to their barracks. There were no special instructions issued to the police with reference to the July anniversaries beyond those ordinary rules that they were to preserve the public peace and protect their lives by all legitimate means.


said, he wished to ask, Whether the Government will institute an Inquiry into the matter, and what will be its precise nature?


said, that as soon as the inquest was concluded, he would be happy to answer that Question.



said, he wished to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Whether the Government have received any official information as to a riot which occurred at Portadown, in the county of Armagh, on the evening of the 1st July, when two young men were shot by the Police?


, in reply, said, of course he had received information as to the unfortunate event in question, although he did not know that he could add much to what was contained in the public papers. The state of the case appeared to have been this—On the night of the 1st July two parties of police were sent out patrolling the town and neighbourhood of Portadown. One of those parties, at the time when those occurrences began, were upon one side of a bonfire which had been lighted on the road, and the other party were on the other side, the two being separated from each other by a considerable interval. As far as his official information went, he had no reason to believe that the police interfered with the bonfire, or attempted to put it out, although it was so stated in the public Press. His information went to this—that the first party of police were attacked violently with showers of stones, and, being armed only with sidearms, they were obliged to run for their lives into the country, from which they did not get back to their barracks for many hours, and then they returned one by one, and some of them in disguise. Upon that, the other patrolling party armed themselves, and went in search of their missing comrades, who they had reason to believe were in danger. They were still more violently assailed by the crowd, and after being apparently subjected for a considerable time to volleys of stone, which wounded nearly everyone of the party, they at last, on the order of their sub-inspector, fired, and the unfortunate result was that two young men were shot; the one, being a Protestant, mortally; and the other, a Roman Catholic, not mortally. The police then escaped to their barracks, and so the affair ended. He might add that ample provision had been made for the preservation of the public peace in Portadown, and now there were a large force of police and a company of soldiers in that neighbourhood.