HC Deb 11 June 1886 vol 306 cc1489-91

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury a Question of which I have given private Notice. It is, Whether his attention has been called to a paragraph in The Times of this day to the effect that the Orangemen have not taken part in the recent riots in Belfast; and whether the Government intend to have a sworn inquiry into the whole circumstances?

THE FIRST LORD (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE) (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)

I received a private note from the hon. and gallant Gentleman two or three hours ago, and I have sent him an answer which I am afraid he cannot have received. My reply, however, is this—that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary left London last night for Dublin for the purpose, in great part, of considering the grave occurrences which have unfortunately happened in the North of Ireland. I think the hon. and gallant Member will agree with me that it would be quite premature on my part if I were to announce until he has had the opportunity of considering the whole matter in conjunction with the permanent officers of the Government on the spot, or if I were to anticipate what conclusion may be arrived at. I do not intend, however, in the least degree to cast any reproach or any shade of disapproval on the suggestion which appears to be made by the hon. and gallant Member.

MR. SEXTON (Sligo, S.)

I understood that the Home Secretary would be ready at the close of Questions to make a further statement with reference to the grave state of affairs in Belfast. I wish particularly to ask him whether the Catholics whose houses were pillaged gave any provocation; whether they or their friends have indulged in any retaliation; and whether the officials in Belfast do not recognize that the whole of these proceedings—the riots, the pillage, and the siege of the police barracks—have been conducted by the Orange faction, and have been commenced by provocative rejoicings over the defeat of the Government of Ireland Bill?


I will read to the House, in reply to the hon. Member's Question, the whole of the information which has reached me from my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary. My right hon. Friend telegraphed to me at 1 o'clock this afternoon the following:— In addition to the statement made by me in the House last night, the only official information received goes to show that the rioting was continued in Belfast last night over a more extended area than on the previous night, that all available police and military were employed, and that there were no fatal results. One policeman is reported to have been shot in the face. We have a large number of very experienced magistrates in Belfast, and every requisition made by them has been promptly attended to. There are now over 1,600 constabulary in the town, the normal force being 502, and the military have been augmented by 250 men despatched from Dublin last night. I received a second telegram at 4 o'clock this afternoon, which is as follows:— Further telegrams from Belfast show no material change of any sort. The most serious rioting last night took place at York Street and Henley Street, at the junction of which the police were obliged to fire on the mob who were stoning the police and wrecking houses, and several men were more or less injured, but none seriously, so far as at present ascertained. Several of the police were knocked down before they fired. The rioting spread to other parts of the town, and several public-houses were wrecked and liquor carried away. This rioting was more directed against public-houses than against the police. Public-houses will be closed this evening, and the Mayor will issue a notice with a view of preventing assembling of people in the streets. That is every word I have received from the right hon. Gentleman, and I am unable to answer anything further.


Are we to understand that the Government find it impossible to say from what section of the populace of Belfast the riots originated?


That is a totally different Question. The information I have given is all I have received. I am not in charge of the Irish Department. I have read verbatim the telegrams sent by my right hon. Friend; but when my right hon. Friend returns to his place in Parliament then will be the time for the hon. Member to put such a Question.

Forward to