§ MR. O'DONNELL
asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, If he will state why he has refused to grant a Return of the number of Catholics, Protestants, and Presbyterians, in the various grades of the Irish Constabulary; and, whether it is a fact that among the officers, non-commissioned officers, and men, the promotions of Protestants to higher rank and higher pay are immensely out of proportion to the respective totals of Protestants and Catholics in the Force?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
in reply, said, the hon. Member asked him two Questions. The first was, why he had refused to give a Return of the religion of the persons in the various grades of the Irish Constabulary? The reason he did so was that, judging from English experience, and perhaps from English feeling, he rather revolted against the idea of asking men in the service of the country what their religious opinions were. He had since ascertained, however, that a record of the religious belief of the members of the Constabulary already existed, and, consequently, if he refused any longer to make the required Return, he might probably give the idea that there was some reason for the refusal. Therefore, he should put the Return on the Table. At the same time, he must state that when he got to Ireland he should very seriously consider the real reason why the religious beliefs of the members of the Constabulary were recorded, and he hoped he should find out that he should be able to do away with it. The Return would itself answer the second part of the hon. Member's Question—namely, whether among the officers, non-commissioned officers, and men, the promotions of Protestants to higher rank and higher pay were immensely out of proportion to the respective totals of Protestants and Catholics in the Force? He suspected that there 185 were more Protestant than Catholic officers; but he thought it would be most unfair to suppose on that account that promotion had been given because men were Protestants rather than Catholics. It was a fact, which he did not suppose would be disputed, that although the majority of the population of Ireland were Catholics, yet the majority of that class which generally supplied officers were not Catholics. He had no reason to suspect that promotion was ever given by preference to a Protestant, and ho need hardly assure the House that the Lord Lieutenant and himself were determined that such a thing should never occur.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to observe that a certain proportion of officers are drawn from the ordinary rank and file, in which, of course, the Catholics preponderate; but, I am sure, however, he will look into the Question with impartiality.