§ MR. B. COLLERY (Sligo, N.)
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland—(1) whether he is aware that the street preachers in Sligo, who were convicted and imprisoned for obstructing the public thoroughfares, still continue to pay weekly visits to Sligo accompanied by a large force of police from the Phœnix Park depot; and although they are not allowed to remain more than a few moments in the streets, their action still continues to throw the town into turmoil and confusion; (2) whether, considering all these circumstances, he will still continue to order this large police force from Dublin to accompany these street preachers; and (3), whether he will order the constabulary in Sligo to take the necessary steps to have them prosecuted as disturbers of the public peace, as they are in England?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I am aware that the preachers still continue to make periodical visits to Sligo, and that the disorder which has accompanied the preaching has necessitated the presence on such occasions of an additional force of police to prevent obstruction to the thoroughfare and to prevent attacks by the mob upon the preachers. So long as these regrettable 1332 scenes occur it will be necessary to supplement the small police force of the town of Sligo by sending down men from the reserve force, and to charge to the borough a portion of the expense entailed in dispatching these men. Elsewhere in Ireland street preachers are unmolested, and if the people of Sligo acted similarly there would be no necessity for incurring the expense of an extra police force every time the preachers visited the town. In answer to the last paragraph, I have to state that street-preaching is not per se, an offence in either England or Ireland. The law upon the subject is identical in both countries. Should the preachers violate the law in Sligo they will be prosecuted. In the instances referred to in the Question they do not appear to have done so.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the rioting in Sligo was largely stimulated by the Mayor of Sligo and the Roman Catholic magistrates?
§ MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the local authority have offered to these street preachers the use of the Town Hall and Fair Green; and, secondly, is it not the obvious duty of the constabulary to prosecute these men, not for preaching, but for obstructing the public streets?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The answer to the first supplementary question of the hon. Member for Cork is in the affirmative. As regards the second, if the police are convinced that an offence has been committed no doubt a prosecution will follow.
§ MR. COLLERY
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of any precedent in England or Ireland for sending police to a town for such a purpose, and whether he is not of opinion that the very fact—