§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
Since the answer was given to me yesterday with regard to the disturbances at Belfast, I have received information which in my judgment would entitle me to move the Adjournment of the House. I wish, however, to avoid that course, and I would ask your leave to make a brief statement, with a view of avoiding a discussion. I asked yesterday whether it was true that a number of boys had taken part in an attack on another boy, whose name I gave, and the Irish Attorney General replied in the following terms:—I am informed that the report in the newspaper to which the hon. Gentleman has referred is wholly unfounded.That statement was received with laughter. The right hon. and learned Gentleman continued:—There does not appear to have been any incident to suggest it beyond the fact of a trifling quarrel between two young boys of about fourteen years of age, such as might occur in any place and at any time.The boy referred to has been seen. His name is Longman, and he lives at 4, Waugh's Court, off North Road. He has made the following statement:—I went to Queen's Island about a week before the Easter holidays to look for a job. I was there two days when the boys working at the different boats threatened that if I would come back into the yard after the holidays that I would not go out of it alive.What reason did these boys give for threatening you in this manner?—Because I was a Catholic.How did they know you were a Catholic?—There was a boy who lives not far from me, a Protestant, who knew me, and he must have told them what I was. I know that boy's name. I worked on well enough until Thursday evening last. When I was leaving my work at half-past five o'clock, the boys started at me on the Queen's Road and knocked me down. The men coming from work pulled away the boys who were beating me. When I got up I walked on to the Queen's Bridge, where there were some policemen, and the boys were afraid to touch me there. When I went on to my home up North Street they followed me, and when I went into my own house, No. 13, Waugh's Court, off North Street, they gathered round the Court and were shouting at me to 1668 come out again, and said what they would do if I came to work in the morning. The police, after a while, came up and chased them away.Did you go to your work on Friday morning?—Yes, about six o'clock, and I was lighting the fire for heating the rivets, when about fifty of the boys came up, some of them with pieces of sticks which they got lying about the yard. Two or three of them hit me together with sticks and called me a Fenian b—and other names, and one fellow drew something like a pistol or revolver, and said in the course of a month they would not leave a Fenian in the yard, that that (meaning the revolver) was for shooting them down.Do you know any of the boys who beat you?—Yes; I could point out about a dozen of them.What did they do after you were knocked down?—They kicked me and beat me about, and they wanted to shove me in the river.The House will remember that a man was shoved into the river in the same place only a few months ago.I thought they were going to throw me into the river, and was trying to save my face with my hands when the horn blew for them to start their work again after breakfast, and they all went off the boat to go to their work again. They broke my can which was full of tea for my dinner and kicked it about, and then threw it into the water. When I was going up the yard to go to my work two or three of the men told me to go to the hospital or go home and get my face bathed, as it was in a dreadful state and all covered with blood. I went home then, as my face was swollen and bleeding, and got it bathed. I was afraid they would beat me again at dinner time. I was afraid to go for my money at half-past five o'clock, and my brother came with me at three to Mr. Wright, the head manager, and he paid me and told me to come back to work on Saturday and he would have the boys who beat me found out. I did not go to work on Saturday, as I was afraid of being attacked again.Did you tell the police the way you had been treated?—Yes; on Friday I told a constable in Royal Avenue, and he said if I knew any of the boys to point them out to the police, who would take their names.Did you tell any other policeman about the occurrence?—Yes; on Saturday morning a head constable came up to my bed, and I told him all about it.Did you give the head constable the name of any of the parties?—Yes; I gave him one name; that was all I could remember at the time. When another policeman came later on I gave him all the other names I remembered.Do you know how many were in the crowd at the time you were beaten?—There was a big crowd; I could not say how many was in it. Many of the boys were big fellows, nearly men.That is the boy's statement, and remembering that the Belfast riots broke out in this very same place, and that 1669 they were produced by speeches made by persons who were not then, but are now, Ministers of the Crown, I have to ask the Government two questions. In those Belfast riots thirty lives were lost, many houses were wrecked, and the disturbances continued for several months. What I want to ask is, What are the Government going to do? and how it came to pass that the Irish Attorney General, yesterday, having telegraphed to the police of Belfast, told us that there was no incident to suggest the question, beyond a trifling quarrel between two young boys, which might have occurred at any time and in any place?
§ MR. JACKSON
If the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to let me have the report which he has read to the House, I shall be glad to have a full inquiry made, and give a complete answer to all the statements made in the report. The Attorney General answered the question on the information supplied by the police of Belfast, and I am quite prepared to admit that we must have some further inquiry. But I do not gather from the report which has been read by the hon. Member—and that is the only opportunity I have had of hearing the facts—that there is much discrepancy between that statement and the statement made by my right hon. Friend from the information of the police. I do not think it would be an inconsistent conclusion to arrive at that the boy had had a quarrel with another boy, whose name he mentioned, when it is borne in mind that when the head constable went to see the boy only one name was given.
§ MR. JACKSON
I do not know the date of the second policeman's visit, but it is quite possible that the other names were given after the information was supplied on which my right hon. Friend made his statement yesterday. However, there is no difficulty, and if the hon. Gentleman will give me the materials, I will make inquiries and furnish him with full and complete information, so far as the facts are submitted to us. I do not, however, find any complaint that the police failed in their duty, because it appears from the 1670 report that has been read that at certain points they protected this boy from violence. I do not see that the police neglected their duty, and the hon. Member may rest assured that we shall enforce protection of all classes by the authorities.
§ MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
Do we then understand that the right hon. Gentleman, without further communication from this quarter of the House, will make inquiries as to what really took place?
§ MR. JACKSON
Certainly. Will the hon. Member tell me the name of the paper from which he read the extract just now?
§ MR. J. MORLEY
What the House wants to know — and knowing as I know what took place in Belfast in 1886, I appreciate the importance of the inquiry—is whether the Government is fully and accurately informed on this transaction, because unfortunately in Belfast there are now and again outbursts of a very serious kind, and this is a very serious matter.
§ MR. JACKSON
I do not underestimate the importance of this matter, and I ask that the report should be furnished to me to enable me to give a complete and categorical answer to all the allegations. At the same time, that report does not make any specific allegations against the police.
§ MR. SEXTON
I shall want the explanation on Thursday, and on that day on the Vote on Account I shall call the attention of the House to the origin of the Belfast riots in 1886, and the conduct of all concerned, and by all concerned I mean everyone from the police who gave the information to the Irish Attorney General up to the Prime Minister.