MR. PATRICK O'BRIEN
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether there is any military rule to exclude Roman Catholic recruits from service in the Royal Irish Rifles; whether Captain Tobin, while acting as Recruiting Officer of the 83rd Regimental District, Belfast, from 1886 to the present year, introduced and carried out a system, not previously provided for in the printed headings of the recruiting books, of asking the religion of the recruits; whether it was the custom of Captain Tobin to reject Catholics if they wished to join their territorial regiment, the Royal Irish Rifles; whether he will cause an examination to be made by an independent person of Army Recruiting Book, No. 46, in use during the period from 1886 to 1890, while Captain Tobin was in command, and state the number of Catholic recruits accepted for the Royal Irish Rifles during that period, and also the number rejected; and whether he will instruct the officer now in charge of this department 1128 in Belfast to discontinue the practice if it is found to exist.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE, Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
Every recruit has to state his religious denomination for insertion in his attestation paper. The recruiting officer at Belfast, Captain Tobin, made no alteration in the recruiting books; nor did he reject any recruit on account of his religion. While he was recruiting officer for the Royal Irish Rifles he enlisted for that regiment 206 Roman Catholic recruits, and rejected three. Recruits are now, and have been in the past, received irrespective of their religion; but some are refused if they cannot produce good evidence of character.