HC Deb 26 March 1897 vol 47 cc1436-8

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland under what Statute the meeting at Knox was prohibited on Sunday last; who swore the informations; what means were taken to inform the people that the meeting was proclaimed; and whether the proclamation of a meeting in Ireland confers a right on the police to attack and disperse groups of people assembled at very considerable distances from the place where the meeting was announced to be held?


The Crown has the right under the common law, not under Statute, as part of the administration of preventive justice, to prohibit any meeting called for an illegal object, or which, by reason of the circumstances of terror and alarm attending it, becomes an unlawful assembly, or where it is believed on reasonable grounds that its prohibition is necessary to prevent the public peace and tranquillity of the district from being endangered. All these elements entered in the present instance. An information was sworn, and, according to the invariable practice, I must decline to state by whom. A proclamation per se confers no rights on anybody; it merely serves as a warning. There was no proclamation issued in the present case, but the promoters of the meeting were fully warned that it would not be permitted, and the orders given to the police covered the case of every meeting attempted to be held in the neighbourhood.


asked whether any steps were taken to convey the information to the people who were attacked by the police and dispersed, and also whether the so-called proclamation was known to the common law?


Order, order. The last question does not arise.


asked whether it was intended to revive the Coercion Act in Ireland?


I have no reason to believe that the meeting was dispersed without the people being fully cognizant of the fact that it would not be permitted to be held, and therefore I think that the fact that there was no proclamation in this case would not cause any inconvenience to arise. In answer to the hon. Member for Cork I have to state that there is no intention of reviving the Coercion Act in Ireland. ["Hear, hear!"]


said that the right hon. Gentleman had not answered his question. What he asked was why were no steps taken to bring to the knowledge of the people the fact that the meeting was prohibited, and the right hon. Gentleman's answer was that he had no reason to know that they were not warned. Had the right hon. Gentleman any reason to know that they were warned.


I have already informed the hon. Gentleman that the leaders of the meeting received full information that the meeting would not be permitted.

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