HC Deb 13 June 1881 vol 262 cc356-7

said, that there had been a painful and disturbing rumour in Dublin that during the visit of the Chief Secretary for Ireland to that city the right hon. Gentleman had more than once expressed his personal regret that the police and military had not been more frequently ordered to fire on the people. Would the right hon. Gentleman say whether there was any foundation for the rumour? [Loud cries of No!"]


Sir, I observe that it is not the desire of the House that I should answer this Question, and I need hardly say that I shall not do so. But it gives me an opportunity of doing what I think it would be well to do. Although, generally speaking, the instructions issued to the resident magistrates and the police must be considered to be of a confidential character, I think it may be of advantage to the peace of Ireland if I were to state what were the private instructions I thought it right to issue to the extra force sent down to Limerick. The House is aware that a fortnight ago, or rather more, there was considerable resistance to the execution of the law near New Pallas; consequently, it was found necessary to send a larger force there and to issue a proclamation warning the people against such resistance. Moreover, I thought it right, with the concurrence of the Lord Lieutenant, to issue certain instructions; and as I do not wish to avoid any responsibility, I had better read them to the House. The instructions to Mr. Rolleston, the resident magistrate in charge, dated June 2, 1881, were in these terms— The sheriff or sub-sheriff of Limerick is about to execute certain writs at or near New Pallas, in the county of Limerick. The execution of these writs and of any other legal pro- cesses with which the sheriff or sub-sheriff may be entrusted must be carried out notwithstanding any resistance which may be attempted. In case of resistance, the crowd must be dispersed and the principal ringleaders arrested and properly secured. In carrying out these instructions, the resident magistrate will give due warning to the crowd to disperse and will use his best discretion to avoid giving orders to fire, unless he has satisfied himself that other less extreme measures will not suffice. But he is to bear in mind that these instructions are to be carried out. (Signed) W. E. FORSTER.—To the Resident Magistrate in charge of the force employed to aid the sheriff at or near New Pallas. I may add that, in giving the instructions, I did it in the hope and expectation that by sending a large force we should prevent what would be to me, and I suppose to almost everybody in the Three Kingdoms, a matter of great grief—namely, the necessity of firing in order to defend the police or military, or to carry out the law which must be enforced. It is necessary to understand that the law cannot be defied, and that in very extreme cases resort must be made to firing. Generally speaking, we leave the firing to the discretion of the resident magistrates; but, in this particular case, it seemed, necessary to give instructions in the spirit in which we shall continue to carry out our difficult duties.