HC Deb 08 April 1889 vol 334 cc1798-800
MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-on-Tyne)

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether the Inspector General of Constabulary, or, if not, what other authority in Dublin, ordered or sanctioned the dispatch to Letterkenny of an ironhooped, spiked, battering ram, along with boat-hooks, chains, ropes, shod poles, crowbars, picks, sledges, and scaling ladders; and under what Vote the charges for these engines will come before the House?


I am informed that no special orders from headquarters were issued for this occasion. In the opinion of the Irish Government it is desirable, in cases where houses are illegally fortified, and occupied by rioters engaged in resisting the officers of the law, that effectual means should be taken for promptly overcoming the obstacles erected by the tenants, in order that the limbs and lives of the policemen engaged may not suffer any unnecessary risk. If the cost comes on the Votes at all, as I imagine it will, it will be on the Police Vote.


I do not quite know what the right hon. Gentleman means by saying that no special orders were issued. I presume that extraordinary machines of this kind could not have been provided and supplied without special orders. I must really press him to answer this question. In what sense can a battering ram and machinery of this elaborate character be used for protective purposes?


I presume the orders in this case were issued by the Divisional Commissioner; and, as I have stated, they are in accordance with the principles laid down by the Irish Government. If the police are to be kept in fear of stones and hot water, if they are to be attacked by pitchforks and every species of weapon, surely they may adopt the best means to overcome illegal resistance. They are exposed to great risks, and the shorter you make these operations the more effectually you protect the lives of those who, after all, are only doing their duty.


I quite assent to what the right hon. Gentleman has said as to the necessity for protecting the police; but I do not see the need of a battering ram for that purpose; and I would ask whether it could be used for any purpose but that of destroying the cottages of the tenants, and whether that is work which the police are called upon to do?


I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman follows with sufficient closeness the accounts of the perfectly disgraceful transactions that have occurred at recent Irish evictions, and he will therefore know that in the case of these evictions the police have been subjected to very great risks. The risks are proportionate to the length of the proceedings, and therefore everything should be done to expedite the proceedings and diminish the risks to all concerned.


I agree to what the right hon. Gentleman has said as to the necessity of protecting the police; but are the police to pull down the houses of tenants who are being evicted?


If they contain rioters I conceive it would be the duty of the police.


I wish to know how the Chief Secretary reconciles his present answers with the statement he made a day or two ago in reference to these said evictions—that the police were only employed to protect the bailiffs and emergency men?


I conceive that the two answers are in perfect harmony.


I wish to know whether these engines are to be brought by the police to all evictions, and particularly if they are to be employed to evict the families now awaiting eviction on the estates of aides-de-camp of Dublin Castle?


I conceive that no general rule can or ought to be laid down on the subject. This kind of implement is necessary chiefly in the case where the tenants put up what I may call elaborate fortifications in order to resist legal process.

MR. CLANCY (Dublin, Co., N.)

I have to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the resistance has not been offered to the bailiffs of the landlords, and not to the police; and whether he can deny that the resistance has in every case been abandoned the moment the police came on the scene?


I could not imagine that such a question would be put to me in this House by an hon. Member who has followed the course of these proceedings. I am not aware of a single case where elaborate resistance to the bailiffs was abandoned when the police appeared upon the scene.


I can state that it was abandoned in every case in Donegal.