HC Deb 15 March 1887 vol 312 cc362-5
MR. LANE (Cork Co., E.)

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether he had an inter- view in Dublin on last Thursday with Captain Plunkett, Divisional Magistrate for Cork District;whether it was with his knowledge or by Ms instructions that Captain Plunkett sent the following telegram to the officer in command of the police at Youghal from the General Post Office in Dublin—

"To District Inspector,


"Message received. Deal very summarily if any organized resistance to lawful authority. If necessary, do not hesitate to shoot them.



whether the police force that went to Youghal on the previous Tuesday evening, and caused the death of a fisherman named O'Hanlon by a bayonet charge, were acting under orders from Captain Plunkett;whether the last Return of agrarian crimes for quarter ended 31st December;1887, shows a total of only five offences reported by the Constabulary for the whole Division of East Cork, which contains the three largo towns of Queenstown, Midleton, and Youghal;whether three of the se cases so reported were threatening letters, another a case of alleged intimidation, and the fifth a case of trivial assault;and, whether he can give any explanation of the se special instructions being given to the police to use their bayonets and rifles on the unarmed inhabitants of this district without either reading the Riot Act or calling upon them to disperse?

MR. SEAGER HUNT (Marylebone, W.)

also had the following Question on the Paper:—To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, If there is any truth in the paragraph in The Pall Mall Gazette of March 14th, which attributes to Captain Plunkett a telegram sent to the District Inspector at Youghal, in the following words—

"Message received. Deal very summarily if any organized resistance to lawful authority. If necessary, do not hesitate to shoot them.



and, if so, is Her Majesty's Government determined to support their officers in such action?


I will answer at the same time the Question which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for West Marylebone (Mr. Seager Hunt). I rather think that the interview alluded to in the Question was on Wednesday, and not on Thursday. My conversation dealt solely with the general state of Captain Plunkett's district. The circumstances under which O'Hanlon met his death are at present the subject of investigation. I do not question the accuracy of the hon. Member's statistics;but they do not appear relevant to the question raised by Captain Plunkett's action. The explanation which the hon. Member requires seems to lie on the face of the telegram itself. The Divisional Magistrate received information that an organized attack on the police force was intended. He gave directions that such an attack was to be energetically met, and that, if it should prove necessary, recourse must be had to fire-arms. In doing so, he appears to me to have not only acted according to his duty, but in the manner which is best calculated to support the authority of the law;and, in the long run, to prevent the injuries and loss of life which must ensue if it is supposed that the police, in the execution of their duty, may be attacked and maltreated with impunity. The Government approve Captain Plunkett's action, the ugh they greatly regret the necessity which gave rise to it.

DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman why it was that only 30 policemen were sent to Youghal on the occasion in question;and also whether, if danger was apprehended, it would not have been advisable to send 100 or 200, as the authorities are in the habit of doing on critical occasions? It is assassination. ["Order!"]

MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)

Might I be permitted to ask whether the police force referred to in the Question and the commanding officer were in Youghal to assist in serving a warrant on the Rev. Father Keller, which warrant has since been found to be illegal?


The warrant in question was withdrawn, not because it was illegal, but because the name was mis-spelt.

MR. P. O'BRIEN (Monaghan, N.)

asked the Chief Secretary if he would communicate to the House the message which led to the despatch by Captain Plunkett of the telegram quoted in the Question of the hon. Member?


Order, order!


MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

I do not know whether, from the answer of the Chief Secretary with reference to the telegram of Captain Plunkett, I correctly understood him to say that the Irish Government approve of the language of Captain Plunkett in ordering the police to shoot without delay and without hesitation;and I wish to ask whether the Irish Government do not think it necessary to give instructions to that gentleman that the police should not fire without exhausting every means to avoid the shedding of blood?


I think that the hon. Gentleman cannot have read the telegram to which he refers. He asks whether the Irish Government approve of a telegram ordering the police to fire "without delay and without hesitation." That is not the language of Captain Plunkett. I have already told hon. Gentlemen opposite that the Government approve of Captain Plunkett's action;and I do not conceive that an order given to the police, couched in the language which the hon. Member suggests, would in any way alter the conduct of the police, which appears to mo, as far as I know, to be conduct of the greatest patience under very great provocation. I am given to understand, the ugh I do not guarantee the authenticity of the fact, that on the occasion when O'Hanlon was unfortunately killed—[Several Irish MEMBERS: Murdered!]—21 out of 22 policemen were severely injured.

MR. FOX (King's Co., Tullamore)

I would ask the Chief Secretary if a private telegram was received stating that they expected organized resistance, why they treated it thus by sending only 20 or 30 men?

[No reply.]