HC Deb 20 July 1894 vol 27 cc559-61
MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland is he aware that last week, on a farm on the De Freyne Estate, from which a tenant had been recently evicted, at Sheepwalk, in the County of Roscommon, a number of cattle belonging to the landlord were driven by his bailiffs into a crop of oats and potatoes; and that during three days whilst they were engaged in eating and trampling the crop they were protected by five policemen and six of the landlord's bailiffs; and whether, if this be so, the police were justified in assisting at such proceedings?


It is a fact that on the 10th instant a number of cattle belonging to Lord de Freyne were driven by his steward and five assistants on the evicted farm referred to, and that since the date mentioned the cattle have been cared for by one of the landlord's herds, who drives them to the farm each morning and back again to the demesne at night. These cattle ate down the crops of oats and potatoes on the farm—unlawfully sown by the tenant—as well as the grazing of it. It is not the case, however, that the landlord's employés, while engaged on this work, were assisted by the police. Three constables attended on the morning of the 10th instant to preserve the peace, but they did not remain long at the farm, as their presence there was not required. Since that date the police to the number of two men have occasionally patrolled to the vicinity of the farm in the capacity of peace officers, as they are well aware that the landlord's action was calculated to create a feeling of hostility against him and his employés. The police have done nothing that could be regarded as assisting the landlord or his employés in any way, but have acted simply in their capacity of peace officers.


The Chief Secretary admits that three policemen attended on one occasion, and what I want to know is this: If when a landlord proceeds to drive cattle on growing crops on a farm the police are obliged to attend the operation, as they are on the execution of a decree of the courts, and if not, why do they put in an appearance when no breach of the peace had occurred?


The police put in an appearance, because they were given to understand that a breach of the peace was not unlikely to happen. Under those circumstances they were bound to go, and, as I have stated to the House, that was when it was thought a breach of the peace might well happen, because of the indignation and disgust which these proceedings gave rise to.

MR. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)

When the police went on this duty were they aware that it was for the purpose of placing cattle on growing crops—were their services asked for this purpose, and were they aware that was the duty they were on?


Their services were certainly not asked to assist this transaction of driving the cattle on to the growing crops.


Were they asked to be present, and did they know the purpose that was to be carried out?


I really cannot tell what was the purpose of the operation; but they were given to understand that a breach of the peace would take place on this spot, and they did no more than their duty in being there to prevent it.

MR. W. REDMOND (Clare, E.)

Is not the Chief Secretary well aware of the fact that conduct such as this on the part of Lord de Freyne, which causes, as he says, indignation and disgust, would never be attempted by Lord de Freyne if he was not well aware that he would receive the support and the protection of the police? I would ask him whether once and for all he will now say that he will give orders to the police not to afford protection in cases of this kind, or to seem to afford protection in such cases which have created disgust and indignation?


I cannot, of course, give orders to the police not to be present on occasions when they are informed that a breach of the peace is possible and likely. It would be quite contrary to any sense of duty that I should give such an order.


Is it not a fact that on such occasions it is perfectly notorious that the presence of the police rather tends than otherwise to a breach of the peace?


Order, order!

MR. HAYDEN (Roscommon, S.)

Is it not a fact that terms were recently offered on the part of the evicted tenants to Lord de Freyne, and that they were refused?


I am not aware of that.

MR. CAINE (Bradford, E.)

Did the information as to a breach of the peace being likely to occur come from Lord de Freyne?


I cannot undertake to describe all the circumstances of this case.


May I ask the Chief Secretary or the Home Secretary whether in England if a case occurred in which the landlord sent cattle in to trample down the growing crops of a farm a large force of police would be ordered to attend?

[No reply was given.]