HC Deb 10 June 1886 vol 306 cc1301-3
MR. SEXTON (Sligo, S.)

I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant a Question of which I have given him private Notice, with reference to the apprehension of continued disturbances in Belfast. I wish now, having regard to the extremely grave condition of affairs, to ask the right hon. Gentleman, Whether he can give to the House a full statement of the causes of the origin and continuance of the riots; whether they were due to any action on the part of the Nationalist population; how many persons have been killed and wounded, and what were the particular circumstances attended by loss of life; what is the present condition as to public order of Belfast, Armagh, Lurgan, and Monaghan; and whether the Government consider that adequate measures have been taken for the restoration of order?


I am sorry to say, in reference to the state of Belfast, that I am not able to give very full and precise particulars of the origin of the very lamentable occurrence last night; but I will, by permission of the House, read the substance of a telegram which I received about 3 o'clock this afternoon. It comes from the Resident Magistrate in charge at Belfast— Until 8 o'clock last night matters at Shankhill were quiet. After that a very hostile feeling set in against the constabulary. They were assailed in the most determined and violent manner with stones, and had to return to their barracks, which were immediately attacked, and every window in front of the house was broken and several men were wounded. The Riot Act was then read, and the police fired with fatal effect. Two women and four men were killed, and some were wounded. The men had to remain in barracks until relief came of 240 military. I have, therefore, no information as to the circumstances which are alleged in the newspapers to have exasperated the mob against the police. The telegram on to say— There are now 1,075 constabulary on duty, I may say that since that that force has been reinforced by 300 further constabulary, so that there are now in Belfast 1,375 Royal Irish Constabulary— The military force available for duty numbers about 400. The Mayor and the magistrates are now engaged in making arrangements for to-night, and a requisition has been signed by the General here to have a reinforcement of military. The constabulary were all posted by half-past 5 last night, and if we except the riot at Shankhill the rest of the town remained perfectly quiet. About 100 military have this day been sent to the Shankhill Barracks at the request of the Mayor. I will send further particulars later on. As to the general origin of the disturbances in Belfast, the information is already, I should have supposed, in the possession of the House. The attack by the shipbuilders upon the navvies on Castleisland has already been described in the House. On Saturday last the funeral of the boy who was drowned took place, and the Catholic party made a demonstration and attended to the number of 12,000. Everything passed quietly till a place called the Brickfields was reached, where a large number of Protestants were assembled. The funeral party then began to throw stones, and made a determined attempt to close with their opponents; but that the police were able to prevent. At another place called Broadway, the Protestant party attacked the processionists, but were attacked by the police and driven back. On returning from the funeral the processionists attacked a small body of police, who charged with batons, and dispersed them. On Saturday evening the town was quiet. On Sunday the rioting was renewed, but was quickly suppressed. On Monday everything remained quiet. On Tuesday, about a quarter-past 11 in the evening, serious rioting set in, and the Town Inspector was injured and rendered unfit for duty, and one of the Resident Magistrates was also struck and disabled. There are now, besides the Divisional Magistrates, seven Resident Magistrates in Belfast—that is, five more than the regular number. As far as other parts of the North are concerned, at Lurgan, as the House is aware, there was a disturbance on Friday last, and a man was shot dead by firearms from a window. A man is now under arrest on the charge of having fired the shot which killed the man. Since then all has been comparatively quiet. This afternoon the man who was shot is to be buried, and it is apprehended that there may be some disturbance. A large body of police has been sent into Lurgan, and we hope they will be able to grapple with any circumstances which may arise. I do not think I have any intelligence from Monaghan or Armagh which is worth communicating to the House.


I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, considering the accounts which have appeared in the newspapers, the Government have any information that the serious riots resulting in loss of life which have occurred from Tuesday night forward were entirely due to the action of those who assembled to celebrate the defeat of the Government of Ireland Bill?


Our information is that the celebration of the defeat of the Government of Ireland Bill was the origin of the assembling of the crowd.


Was not the man shot at Lurgan a Protestant, and was he not shot by the other Party?

MR. T. M. HEALY (Londonderry, S.)

Before that Question is answered, may I ask whether the two men shot at Monaghan were not shot by the Orange Party?


Yes, Sir; I believe it is proved that the man Gallagher, who was shot at Lurgan, did belong to the Protestant Party, and that the two men shot at Monaghan belonged to the National Party.

MR. W. O'BRIEN (Tyrone, S.)

I should like to ask whether any proceedings will be taken against the men whose speeches have incited to violence by telling the rioters that Ulster would fight and Ulster would be right?


That is a Question which will require some consideration.