HC Deb 06 March 1884 vol 285 cc662-3

asked the Secretary of State for War, If it is the fact that no Catholic Non Commissioned Officers have been appointed to the 1st Royal Dragoons since the present Commanding Officer took charge of the regiment in 1881; if there is now only one Catholic Non-Commissioned Officer in the regiment, and that he is passed over, time after time, while others are promoted; how many Catholics are there in the regiment; if it is the case that two privates were recently recommended for promotion by the captain of the troop, but that the one who was a Catholic was not appointed; whether both were recommended by the same Troop Officer, and were equally qualified; whether other Catholic troopers have several times been recommended for promotion, and have been passed over; and, if he is aware that a strong feeling prevails amongst the Catholic soldiers of the regiment on the subject?


Before the noble Marquess answers the Question, I wish to ask him whether ho will consider the expediency, in the public interest generally, of answering Questions of this nature, especially containing such paragraphs as the last?


As the statements are put in the form of a Question, it would be very misleading if the real facts were not stated, particularly as the Questions are on the Paper. It is not a fact that no Catholic Noncommissioned Officers have been appointed in the 1st Royal Dragoons since the present Commanding Officer took charge of the Regiment. There are two Catholic Non-Commissioned Officers. One of them has been passed over as unfit for promotion unless he improves in his duties. Out of a total strength of 549 there are 45 Roman Catholics in the regiment, of whom 35 have joined within the last 18 months. Two privates were recently recommended for promotion by the Captain of a Troop. One was Catholic, the other Protestant. There was but one promotion made, and that fell to the Protestant, by the Captain's advice, as the better educated man of the two. All such promotions are made for merit without any reference to religion, and the Commanding Officer does not believe that any ill-feeling prevails on the subject.


On the first opportunity on the Army Estimates I shall call attention to the persecution of Catholics in the 1st Royal Dragoons; to the persistent attempts of the Commanding Officer, before the recent War Regulations, to exclude Catholic recruits; and to the manner in which they are treated under the present Regulations.