HC Deb 27 March 1889 vol 334 cc986-9
MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

I have urgently to call the attention of Irish Ministers to circumstances connected with the action of the police and what occurred yesterday at Dybank in the town of Arklow, the attempted arrest of Father Lawrence Farrelly, curate of the parish, sentenced to a term of imprisonment under the Crimes Act, and when I add that the circumstances are similar in character to those that have attended the arrest of reverend gentlemen in Ireland the urgency will be more apparent. Father M'Fadden, it will be remembered, was arrested in the midst of his congregation on leaving church immediately after the celebration of Mass. Father Kennedy was arrested after the police had broken into the house of a friend where he was staying. Father Clarke was arrested in the dead of the night. I can narrate the circumstances in the case I am referring to by reading a letter I have received from Father Farrelly. He, writing yesterday, says— The police early this morning broke into my house and wrecked my home. They tore down the wall and effected an entrance. I was not there at the time. There was no necessity for such violence, for I was walking about the own every day, and they could have arrested me without any difficulty. I wrote to Inspector Cruze on the 21st of last month saying I was to be had whenever I was wanted. The Rev. J. Doherty, writing on the same subject, says that 20 police called at the house at 5 o'clock and forced an entrance through the kitchen. They burst open every door until they came to the bedroom. Father Farrelly was not there. The police, 200 strong, are now in the town, which is full of country folk, and much public feeling has been excited. Father Farrelly was about town all the week, and celebrated Mass in the parish church on Sunday. Now, the warrant for this arrest was issued five or six weeks ago, and Inspector Cruze could have effected the arrest on any day during that time. I wish to ask, if Father Farrelly made this communication to the Inspector, and if the reverend gentleman could have been encountered any day as he went about the town, why did the Arklow police withhold the warrant all this time and then proceed 20 strong to the reverend gentleman's residence before dawn, break down the outer wall, burst open every door, and do all this unnecessary damage. I emphatically condemn this course of action, and before the House I earnestly protest against it. It is the fourth instance in which clerical gentlemen have been treated in this manner, and is, therefore, not due to accident. I protest against this course of conduct as being in the highest degree calculated to excite public feeling to the point of exasperation, and to produce a disturbance of the public peace, and I may even say loss of life. I call on the Minister to say that ecclesiastics liable to arrest under the Crimes Act, and not attempting to evade arrest, shall not be subjected to this unseemly violence.


Although the right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to give me intimation of his intention to mention this matter on the Motion for Adjournment, it has been quite impossible for me in the time to obtain information upon the facts, more especially in regard to the letter to the Inspector which has only now come to my knowledge. I would ask hon. Members not to form any opinion on the subject-matter of the interrogation until I can put the House in possession of the facts. The only information I have received is contained in a telegram to the effect that a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Father Farrelly, he being sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment for inciting to conspiracy to boycott a man named O'Connor. I am told that a number of police went to Arklow to effect the arrest, but found the house barricaded. They then broke into the house, but the reverend gentleman was not there and has not been arrested. Of course, the facts shall be fully inquired into, but the short space of time since I had notice of the question has not enabled me to ascertain how the case stands.


Will the hon. and learned Gentleman have any objection to instruct the police at Arklow to inquire whether Father Farrelly expressed his willingness to surrender, and why they adopted this alternative to effecting the arrest in the ordinary manner by day?


In the absence of information, it would not be right for me to make any statement that might seem to imply a doubt that the officer acted in accordance with his duty, and with due exercise of discretion in the matter.