HC Deb 20 April 1893 vol 11 cc759-62

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to what officers of the Civil Service in Ireland the proposed Government Amendment to Clause 27 of the Government of Ireland Bill is intended to apply; and are the Assistant Commissioners legal and lay appointed under "The Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881," and the Acts amending and extending the same intended to be included amongst the officers to which the said clause when amended will apply?


The Amendment to Clause 27 of the Government of Ire-land Bill is proposed mainly for persons holding the joint offices of Clerk of the Crown and Peace under the County Officers and Courts Act, 1877, but it would apply to any other persons who hold by a similar tenure. Such of the Assistant Land Commissioners, legal and lay, as have been declared permanent Civil Servants of the Crown under Section 28 of the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1891, come, not under this proposed Amendment, but under Clause 28 of the Bill.


I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, with reference to the refusal of the Irish Government to grant permission to the officers and men of the Royal Irish Constabulary to appoint a central representative committee of the Force to meet in Dublin for the purpose of considering the future position of the Force and representing its views to Parliament by Petition, whether, having regard to the intense feeling now existing in the Force in respect of the Schedule provisions to the Government of Ireland Bill, the Government will grant permission to the officers and men of that Force to appoint a central representative committee to meet at Dublin?


At the same time, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if the Royal Irish Constabulary will be allowed, if they so desire, to hold in Dublin a general meeting of their members under the presidency of the Inspector General or other high officer, and to send thereto delegates from the several districts, counties, cities, and boroughs to consider their fate under the Home Rule Bill; and, in such case, if he would consent to receive a deputation from the general meeting on the proposed terms of disbandment?

MR. ROSS (Londonderry)

And may I ask the Chief Secretary if he will take steps to induce the Royal Irish Constabulary authorities to re-consider their decision refusing to permit a central representative committee of members of the Force to meet in Dublin to discuss their position as affected by the Home Rule Bill?


Some misapprehension appears to exist with reference to the decision come to by the Inspector General of Constabulary in this matter. The officers and men were informed that they might form representative county committees to prepare and send forward their views. The Reports of many such county committees have been received by the Inspector General and are being fully inquired into, and when all these Reports have been received the Inspector General will then consider the question of the propriety of inviting the attendance in Dublin of a small number of officers and men representative of the interests of the Force. No good purpose would be served by the assembling in Dublin of a large number of officers and men. Some bad purposes might be served by it; and such a meeting, besides being unworkable, would be undesirable from a disciplinary point of view, just as a meeting of troops would be. As regards the concluding paragraph of the question of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Sheffield, I believe no object would be gained by an interview with me which could not be better served by the course proposed by the Inspector General.


As a point of Order, may I ask you, Mr. (Speaker, whether such a phrase as the following in a question is in Order:— Having regard to the intense feeling now existing in the Force in respect of the Schedule provisions to the Government of Ireland Bill. Have we not had such remarks constantly disallowed in the case of questions by Nationalist Members?


The hon. Gentleman took upon himself the responsibility of asserting that there is an "intense feeling now existing in the Force." I think it would be better to leave such expressions out of questions, and make these as colourless as possible.


May I ask whether, if there is a strong desire on the part of the Force to send a deputation to the right hon. Gentleman, he will receive them in the same way as he had received the Civil servants?


The Royal Irish Constabulary, being an armed, disciplined, and semi-military Force, they are not in the same position as Civil servants. I do not say it might not be desirable I should receive a deputation; but certainly at this stage I should regard such an interview as inexpedient, when the person with whom they should most properly communicate is the official head of the Force—the Inspector General.


Am I to understand that a representative committee meeting of officers and men of the Constabulary had been prohibited by order of the Inspector General? [Cries of "Speak out!" and "You speak loud enough in a Coercion Court."]


I rise to Order. Is it in Order to call out about a Coercion Court?

MR. MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)

I used the expression. I have heard the hon. Gentleman speak loudly in a Coercion Court.


I am not aware whether the Inspector General has been asked to sanction such a meeting; but my impression is that the Inspector, if asked, would decline, and that, I should think, would be a decision commanding the approval of the Government.


Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been called to attempts by the officers to work up feeling among the men? Has he received any complaints from the men to that effect?


Order, order! That is clearly out of Order.