HC Deb 04 July 1898 vol 60 cc924-7
MR. KILBRIDE (Galway, N.)

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, with reference to the recent riots at Belfast, whether he can explain for what reason the policemen within the city of Belfast, where riots were apprehended, were deprived of their rifles, and were armed with batons only, while the constabulary under Assistant Inspector General were allowed to carry rifles outside the city of Belfast, in the district of the Nationalist demonstration, and where there were no riots; whether within the next day or two, and after upwards of 100 policemen had been wounded by the Orangemen in the Shank-hill Road district, rifles were still kept from the police doing duty there until the constabulary were forced to retire, in order to satisfy the mob and certain local justices; and if he is aware of the dissatisfaction existing among the police because they were made targets for the paving stones coming from the Orangemen, and not allowed to defend themselves?

MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)

May I ask if the statements in the latter part of the question respecting Orangemen are not false and malignant slanders on the Orangemen of Belfast?


In reply to the supplementary Question of my honourable Friend, I think he will find an adequate response in the reply I have to give to the Question, on the Paper. I have to say that the police in Belfast have not carried rifles since 1886. They are armed with truncheons in the same manner as the police in other large cities. It is incorrect, therefore, to state that the police in Belfast were deprived of their rifles on the occasion of the recent rioting there. The men outside the city, under the Assistant Inspector General, Mr. Singleton, were armed in accordance with the regulations of the force, that is to say, one-third of the men were armed with rifles, and the remaining two-thirds with truncheons. The Question contains several unfounded statements which it is desirable to correct. It is untrue to allege that the assailants of the police were all Orangemen; on the contrary, the great majority of the rioters on the occasion were roughs from all parts of the city, who, as far as can be ascertained, did not belong to that Society. The police were not forced to retire in order to satisfy the mob or certain local justices, and my right honourable Friend has already stated more than once that the police were never withdrawn from the streets, though at one point they were driven back until reinforcements arrived. There is no discontent of any kind existing amongst the police in Belfast.


Can the right honourable Gentleman give us the exact proportion of Orangemen involved? He said the rioters were not all Orangemen. Can he tell us—


Order, order! The honourable Member is not entitled to enter into an explanation.


I have to put a Question which may, perhaps, be in order. I want to know why, in a case like this, where Orangemen are involved, police are left unarmed, while in other cases, where the rioters are Catholics, directions are given to the police not to hesitate to shoot?


In what way do the authorities differentiate between "rabble" and Orangemen?

[These Questions were not answered.]

MR. YOUNG (Cavan, E.)

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieu- tenant of Ireland whether, in view of the very strong recommendations of the Royal Commission of 1887 and of the fact, that, notwithstanding the recommendations, the local magistrates interfered with the police arrangements during the recent disturbances in Belfast, he will insist on the police arrangements being absolutely in the hands of the responsible police officers during the Orange celebrations on 12th July and on all future occasions?


It has already been explained that it is the practice of the. chief officer of police in Belfast to consult the Lord Mayor and magistrates with a view to their co-operation in making provision for the maintenance of order, and that the Commissioners, in their Report of 1887, noticed, with an expression of approval, the existence of a machinery for bringing into communication the police and municipality of Belfast. It is an error to suggest, as is done in the question, that the magistrates interfered with the arrangements of the police during the recent disturbances in that city. They were merely consulted as to the proper police arrangements to be made, as has invariably been done; but the carrying out of these arrangements by the police was entirely under the unfettered control of the responsible officer of that force. As regards the 12th of July celebrations, the course hitherto adopted, and which experience has shown to be the best for the preservation of peace, will be followed.


I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that the Royal Irish Constabulary authorities have recently paid to the Belfast Board of Guardians a sum of money which had been advanced by the guardians by way of loan to a Belfast policeman who in the discharge of his duty had been bitten by a dog; and whether, in view of this admission of liability by the authorities, he will see that the principle is extended to the policemen injured in the discharge of their duty during the recent Belfast riots?


Expenses amounting to nearly £14 were recently incurred by the Belfast Board of Guardians in sending for treatment at the Pasteur Institute, Paris, a constable of the Royal Irish Constabulary, who had been bitten by a rabid dog, which he was endeavouring to destroy, and a refund in respect of the expenses so incurred has been made to the guardians out of the Constabulary Vote, which provides for medical attendance on the police in Belfast and else where in Ireland. The cost of medical attendance on the police who were injured in the late rioting in Belfast, will be defrayed from the same source.


Was it an Orange dog that attacked the policeman?


I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether meetings of local justices of the peace are convened in the Nationalist districts of Ireland when a breach of the peace is apprehended in those parts; if so, whether their suggestions are complied with; and, if such meetings are not held, why such meetings are convened in Belfast and the suggestions there made complied with?


I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether the local justices of the peace in any other town outside Belfast are accustomed to direct the operations of the police when engaged in conflict with riotous mobs?


In answer to these Questions, I am not aware whether local justices have convened meetings in districts described as Nationalist on the occasion of an apprehended breach of the peace, but it is quite open to them to do so. In Belfast the justices have usually held such meetings, and in go doing they were acting in the discharge of their duty as conservators of the peace. Neither in Belfast nor elsewhere are the local justices accustomed, as alleged, to direct the operations of the police when engaged in conflict with riotous mobs.