HC Deb 24 November 1884 vol 294 cc230-2

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, If he has received a Memorial from the magistrates of Portadown, complaining of the conduct of District Inspector Smith; if it is the fact that the magistrates met on 1st November to consult as to the preservation of the peace on 5th November, and unanimously agreed that the public houses should be closed at four o'clock upon that day; if it is the case that District Inspector Smith was present, and was directed by the magistrates to have the necessary notices prepared, and stated to the magistrates that he would carry out their instructions; if it is the case that District Inspector Smith did not carry out the order of the magistrates; if it is a fact that District Inspector Smith attended a special meeting of magistrates on Saturday 8thNovember, to arrange for the preservation of the peace on Sunday the 9th; if, on Sunday the 9th, District Inspector Smith, without any authority from the magistrates, despatched cars to Armagh, Lurgan, and other places for extra police, and placed them across one of the leading streets, and if, when the police were ordered by a magistrate to "withdraw, any disturbance followed; and, if, taking into consideration the friction which exists between the magistrates and the District Inspector, the Lord Lieutenant will order the removal of Mr. Smith to another district?


The Memorial referred to has been received, and is before the Government. The Question of the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson) compels me to anticipate the reply to that Memorial. It is true that the local magistrates at Portadown decided to close the public-houses at 4 o'clock on the 5th of November, a day when, according to annual custom, Orange drumming parties march into the town. Had the notices been issued, it was not the duty of the District Inspector to prepare them, but only to have them delivered. This arrangement was not carried out, because the Resident Magistrate, who was temporarily in charge of the district, decided, and, as I am advised, rightly, that he could not issue the orders except on sworn information that a breach of the peace was apprehended. The police were not in a condition to tender such informations, as they did not apprehend disturbance, nor did any occur. The drumming parties did not inarch through the town in anything like the usual numbers, directions forbidding them having, I understand, been issued by their Lodges. These directions were given after the magistrates had held their meeting, at which they decided to close the public-houses; and probably if they had been given earlier the fact would have modified the opinion of the magistrates as to the necessity for closing the public-houses. It is to be regretted that these circumstances were not communicated to the magistrates, which course would probably have prevented any misunderstanding in the matter. With regard to the circum- stances which occurred on Sunday, the 9th of November, it is true that the magistrates had held a meeting on the previous day to consider what steps were necessary to preserve the peace; but on the Sunday District Inspector Smith became aware that the Salvation Army intended to march into a Roman Catholic quarter of the town. The magistrates had been led to believe that they would not do so, and had made their arrangements accordingly. In the emergency caused by this change of plan on the part of the Salvation Army, the District Inspector, on his own responsibility, and not having time to consult the magistrates first, collected a sufficient force of police to prevent the carrying out of the plan, which would certainly have seriously endangered the peace. It is, no doubt, to be regretted that on this occasion also the change of circumstances was not at once communicated to all the magistrates; but in the emergency of the moment this may have been difficult, if not impossible. The District Inspector did communicate with, atleast, two magistrates, who proceeded to the spot and took charge of the police. If there has been any friction between the magistrates and the District Inspector, it does not, at all events, appear, from the evidence now before the Government, that it has existed to such an extent as would necessitate or justify his removal.