HC Deb 27 June 1876 vol 230 cc570-2

rose to call attention to the claims of the Royal Irish Constabulary Pensioners who retired from the "Force" previous to the month of August 1874, with respect to the readjustment of their "Pensions;" and to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the justice of the claims of the Royal Irish Constabulary Pensioners who retired before the month of August 1874, and to report thereon. The case of the Constabulary pensioners was a very hard one, and called for equitable redress. At the time the Royal Irish Constabulary were established, in 1847, they were to have two-thirds of their pay settled on them as pensions after 15 years' service, and after 20 years' service they were entitled to retire on the whole of their pay. When the Act of 1866 was passed they were to receive an increase of pay; but they had reason to complain that injustice was done to them. Up to 1866 the Constabulary out of their own pay contributed to a fund to provide pensions for themselves. That fund, he was informed, was amply sufficient for the purpose, so that if the pensions were given, they would not be paid by the public, but out of their own savings; but from 1866 to 1874 this justice had been refused to them. He thought these other facts would induce the Government either to make an inquiry into the matter, or to give him a Select Committee on the subject.


seconded the Motion. He mentioned as a type of many cases that one man received £36 of a pension, while another man of the same rank and service received £76. The system of pensions accorded to the Irish Constabulary was nothing better than a kind of "blindman's buff," because a man who retired on the 31st July, 1874, did not know what was taking place, or the serious disadvantage at which he was placing himself by retiring 24 hours too soon, and the man who took an increased pension the next day also did not understand it. The Government having determined on a change, it ought to be carried out on equitable principles; and those who had faithfully discharged their duties for a long series of years ought not to be sent back to their native districts with a sense of wrong rankling in their breasts.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the justice of the claims of the Royal Irish Constabulary Pensioners who retired before the month of August 1874, and to report thereon."—(Mr. Meldon.)


supported the Motion, and said that the case of the Constabulary, as laid before the House by his hon. Friend, was quite in accord with the feeling of the people of Ireland.


denied that the members of the Constabulary who had retired before the passing of the Act of 1874 had been unfairly treated, for the pensions granted to them had been calculated in strict accordance with the provisions of the law.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


resumed, by saying that although differing in opinion upon this subject from hon. Members who had addressed the House, he regretted the interruption which had taken place. All he wished to add to that which he had already said was, that the men received the exact amount of pension which they were expecting to receive, and which was the amount calculated upon the provisions of the then existing law, and no complaint of unfair treatment had ever been made on their behalf until the rate of pensions was largely increased under the Act of 1874. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kildare seemed to think that the Government would refuse a Select Committee, because it was certain to report against them. He had no such dread; but looking at all the circumstances of the case he could not grant the inquiry asked for, as it would only have the effect of raising hopes which would never be realized.


suggested that, as the matter was a difficult and complex one, it might be referred to an independent party.


said, there was no disposition to act unhandsomely by the Constabulary pensioners. He had previously gone carefully into the question with the Chief Secretary; but if they would leave the matter in the hands of the Government they were quite prepared to look again carefully into the matter, and take the opinion of the English Law Officers of the Crown in respect to it. They did not think it desirable to appoint a Committee, which must cause excitement injurious to the Service.


thought they ought not, after the concession just mentioned, to fly in the face of the Government. The House was prepared, if necessary, to fight out the matter on behalf of the Motion.


wished to explain that, in giving his vote for the Motion, he was not voting for pensions for a semi-military Force. He hoped the time would come when good and true Irishmen, as these men were, would not be employed by the Government in hunting down their countrymen.


said, he felt that, under the circumstances, he would not be acting in the interests of the Irish Constabulary if he proceeded with the Motion, which he begged to withdraw—["No, no!"]—and thus leave the matter in the hands of the Government.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 3; Noes 75: Majority 72.