§ DR. ROBERT AMBROSE (Mayo, W.)
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that, in a police charge at a meeting held in Castlebar on 2nd April, of the 18 police engaged five were armed with rifles, and the rest with batons; that the people so attacked were simply taking part in a meeting got up for the purpose of carrying out the enactments of the Local Government (Ireland) Act; and that a poor boy had his head and ear cut open by a blow of a baton and is now in hospital, and whether he is entitled to any compensation for such injury; and, if so, from whom; whether he is aware that neither women nor children were spared by the police in this charge; by whose orders were the police ordered to use their batons and rifles and charge the crowd; and was the person so ordering within his right in doing so; and, if not, will his conduct be brought before the proper authorities?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
This Question appears to be founded on an article recently contributed to the "Daily Chronicle" by a person describing himself as the special commissioner of that paper. The reports which I have received in reference to what took place on the occasion, as well as the accounts given by other newspaper reporters who were present, are altogether inconsistent 1135 with this gentleman's description of the procedings. There were 17 police, under the command of a district inspector, on duty at the meeting referred to. Twelve of these men were armed with batons, and the remaining five men were armed with rifles, but these latter took no part whatever in the charge. The meeting was an election meeting, and the supporters of the two candidates, both of whom were Nationalists, were present in considerable numbers and were about evenly divided. As soon as the speakers attempted to address the meeting a scene of great disorder took place, and a large number of persons, estimated at some 300, became engaged in a fierce hand to hand encounter. It was at this stage of the proceedings that the police were ordered by the district inspector to draw their batons. This course was necessary for the purpose of dispersing the rioters, and of restoring the peace, and the district inspector in ordering a charge in the circumstances acted in the discharge of his duty. No injuries were inflicted by police on women. One boy received a slight cut on the head, and even assuming that the injury in this case was inflicted by a blow from a baton and not from one of the sticks which were freely used by the crowd, the boy would have no claim for compensation from the police. It is not a fact that the boy is in hospital; he has been at his work, as usual, every day since the occurrence. I may mention that when it was attempted to commence the meeting, and the fighting began, one of the speakers present on behalf of the United Irish League candidate appealed to the district inspector to interfere, alleging that "murder would take place."