HC Deb 13 June 1881 vol 262 cc347-50

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether he can give to the House a detailed account of the recent riots at Skibbereen, Schull, and Cork, and can state what injuries were inflicted on individuals and on property owing to those riots; and, whether he will lay upon the Table the official reports of the magistrates and constabulary officers?


Sir, the disturbances in the south and west of Cork, although serious, have been a good deal exaggerated. The entire disturbance is attributable to the unfounded rumour that the Rev. Mr. Murphy, parish priest of Schull, was to be arrested. On Monday, June 6, this rumour first spread. Horns were sounded, men on horseback summoned the people, and large crowds to the number of between 4,000 and 6,000 people, armed with spades, pitchforks, and other weapons, rapidly collected at Schull, many of them coming from a distance of 10 or 12 miles. The police force was only sufficient for the defence of the barrack, and could not leave it. About 9.30 in the evening a number of stones were thrown at the police barrack. The Head Constable called on the mob to desist, and threatened to fire on them. The mob then desisted, but subsequently some windows in the barrack were broken by stones, thrown principally by women. The mob also attacked the house of J. Sullivan, breaking the windows and doors, and stealing £50. His car was also taken away and thrown into the sea, and the windows of three other houses were broken. As regards the amount of property injured, the injury estimated in Schull is about £105. A scene of great disorder was kept up until daylight. During the night, or early on Tuesday morning, telegraph poles between Ballydehob and Skibbereen were torn down. Tuesday, the 7th, was fair day at Ballydehob, a village about five miles nearer Skibbereen than Schull. Large crowds had also collected there on the previous evening to prevent the arrest of the Rev. Mr. Murphy, and had remained up all night, partaking freely of whisky. On the morning of the 7th stones were thrown at the police barrack. Immediately application was made to Mr. Warburton, the resident magistrate at Bantry, for military aid, who at once started from Bantry with a force of 44 Marines and two officers. They reached Ballydehob at 5 P.M. On entering the town they were hooted, and some stones were thrown at them, principally by women in houses. The Marines then fixed bayonets, and the stone-throwing ceased for a time. They then marched to the Constabulary barrack, when more stones were thrown, and the men then prepared to charge. They did not do so, however, because in the front of the crowd were some dozen men trying their best to keep the people quiet, and behind them numbers of women, and those would have been the sufferers, instead of the roughs who were throwing the stones from behind. The Catholic curate arrived at this period, and did his utmost to restore order. The resident magistrate, seeing that the Constabulary barrack was perfectly safe, decided to return. The crowd, finding that the Rev. Mr. Murphy's arrest was not intended, exhibited most friendly feeling to the troops, and repeatedly cheered them. As regards the rioting at Skibbereen, it appears that Head Constable Droghan, when returning there on the evening of the 7th, was surrounded, by a violent mob and cut on the head with a stone. The mob proceeded, at about 9 P.M., to attack the house of Mr. Coppel Thorne—who had resisted "Boycotting" and had supplied the police with cars. All the available police turned out, and the stone-throwing became so serious that the resident magistrate in charge threatened to fire. The Rev. Mr. O'Brien came up, and by great efforts induced the rioters to disperse. Quiet was restored, and the police withdrew. About midnight another attack was made on Coppel Thorne's house, which was wrecked. The police charged the mob several times with fixed swords, and drove them away, several, it is believed, being wounded. Quiet was again restored. In this riot several of the police were struck with stones; but, except in two cases, none were seriously hurt. As regards the injury to property in Skibbereen, the amount was about £850. The latest Reports I have received represent the district as quiet; but there is is still considerable latent excitement. With a view, however, of preventing any further disorder, the police force has been strengthened, troops have been sent to Schull and Skibbereen, and a resident magistrate of experience placed in special charge of the district. On the 8th instant, at 2.20 A.M., an attempt was made to throw two special trains, carrying troops from Cork to Skibbereen, off the lines between Ballineen and Enniskean, by placing a quantity of sand on the line. This, however, did not succeed. Again, on the same day, a crowd, consisting of 200 men, some on horseback, assembled near Drimoleague, and a body of about 40 of them set to work and tore up the rails for a distance of 80 yards, and threw them over the embankment. Having done this, they placed a small red flag where the rails nad been torn up. They then proceeded to Drimoleague. It is believed this was done to stop, not upset, the train, as it was believed Father Murphy, of Schull, was in it, and being conveyed as a prisoner to Cork. I do not deny that the state of the district is such as requires anxious care; but I fully believe that the force sent down is sufficient not only to restore, but to keep order. In Cork the riot has been put down. The police there behaved with great forbearance with regard to the people who had been arrested.