HC Deb 08 June 1899 vol 72 cc653-6

On behalf of the hon. Member for S. Down, I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether his attention has been called to the meeting in Shaftesbury Avenue, Belfast, addressed by one of the Custom House steps preachers, on the 27th May last; whether he is aware that the men present there then marched through the City of Belfast, and when passing through Dougall Street stoned and smashed the windows and fixtures in the business houses of a number of Roman Catholics, and that they afterwards attacked and assaulted with stones or otherwise a number of the city police; and, whether he will take steps to have this practice prevented by the local authorities.


The facts are generally as stated in the question, except that it is not true that the mob on this occasion made an attack on the police, none of whom were injured. Proceedings have been instituted against 17 persons for obstruction and riotous behaviour, and the cases will be heard at the Belfast Petty Sessions Court on the 18th instant.


On behalf of the hon. Member for South Down, I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether Ids attention has been called to the report of the proceedings at the inquest upon the body of the old man Davies who died from injuries received at a so-called religious meeting at the Custom House steps, Belfast; whether a copy of the depositions taken thereat has been received by the authorities, and if a copy will be laid upon the Table of the House; whether he is aware that the depositions disclose that foul and filthy imputations were made by the evangelists disturbing the peace there upon the members of a Roman Catholic Sisterhood remarkable for their works of mercy and charity, respected by the whole community of Belfast, and very dear to the Roman Catholic citizens; also that the coroner's jury and the coroner condemned these open-air demonstrations as disgraceful and a menace to the public peace of the city; and what steps, if any, will he taken to prevent a recurrence of this danger.


I replied to a question on this subject, addressed to me by the hon. Member for East Mayo, on Thursday last. I see no reason for laying a copy of the depositions taken at the inquest on the table of the House, but if the hon. Member so desires I will be happy to supply him with a copy. In answer to the last paragraph, I do not propose, in view of all the circumstances of the case, and after conferring with the local authorities in Belfast, to institute proceedings for the language used on the occasion mentioned, but the Government will certainly prosecute in the event of a repetition of such language in future.


On behalf of the hon. Member for South Down, I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that an attack was made upon the Nationalist demonstration on its way home from the meeting at Hannahstown, near Belfast, on Sunday evening last; that stones were thrown by a mob; that a disturbance took place in the Old Lodge or Shankhill Roads, and near the Townsend Street Police Barracks; and that the house of a Roman Catholic publican was attacked in or near Upper Townsend Street. Whether any, and how many, persons have been arrested; and if he can give particulars as to the damage done to persons and property in Belfast during these riots.


Upon the return journey of the Nationalist procession from Hannahstown on the 5th instant, when near Broadway on the Falls Road, a small crowd of the Protestant party assembled in a field and groaned and displayed party emblems. Some of the processionists left the procession and attacked them, both mobs throwing stones. They were at once dispersed by the police and military, and no one was injured. On the Old Lodge Road a mob of roughs of the Protestant party, who had collected to watch the return of some of the processionists, made a wanton attack with stones on the police. They then immediately dispersed. They shortly afterwards reassembled and threw stones at the house of a Roman Catholic publican named O'Neill, breaking all the glass in the windows. They were dispersed by the police and military, and three of them arrested. The place where this disturbance took place is about 300 yards from Brown's Square Barrack, on the Shankhill Road. The disturbance extended to the Shankhill Road and continued for about three hours, but the rioters were held in check from the outset by the military and the police, and very little damage was done to property. In all 47 persons were arrested for riotous conduct, stone throwing, etc. So far as the police are aware, no person was seriously injured. Six members of the Royal Irish Constabulary were wounded, though not seriously. Mrs. O'Neill, wife of the publican whose house was attacked, and two of her boys were injured by stones, and one of them is in hospital suffering from a broken nose. Accurate particulars regarding injury to property cannot yet be given, but at present it would appear that about £270 would cover the damage done.


I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether the military were withdrawn from the streets of Belfast at a very early hour yesterday morning; and, if so, by whose orders was this done; and whether he can say anything further as to the injuries inflicted on the military magistrate Major Tobin, and give further particulars generally as to the riots.


Early yesterday morning the Commissioner of Police satisfied himself that the services of the military were no longer required, and an intimation to that effect having been conveyed to the magistrates on duty with the military, the latter were withdrawn front the streets by degrees. The injury to Major Tobin was of a trivial character, and it never incapacitated him from the discharge of his duty as a military magistrate. Further information regarding the riots is given in my reply to the previous question of the hon. Member. The city has been quiet since Tuesday night, and the riots may now be regarded as virtually over.