HC Deb 19 March 1906 vol 154 cc95-7
MR. KENDAL O'BRIEN (Tipperary, Mid.)

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether he will state the result of the Constabulary inquiries into the statements of Thomas Pratt and his wife that they were fired at twice at Gurteenreery, Kilcooley, county Tipperary, on the 17th Februrary; have Pratt and his man, William O'Keeffe, firearms in the shape of revolvers and guns; could the marks on the walls of the old dwelling-house have been caused by shots fired at Pratt or his man; and, having regard to the peaceable state of the district and the doubtful character of this alleged outrage, will he order that these men be deprived immediately of the firearms which they possess.


The circumstances of the alleged firing at Mr. and Mrs. Pratt will be stated in my reply to the next Question. The local police are of opinion that the case was a genuine one and not bogus. Mr. Pratt possesses a gun and a revolver, for both of which he is duly licensed under the Peace Preservation Act; but, so far as the police are aware, O'Keeffe has no firearms. On the day after the alleged firing, the police examined Pratt's gun and formed the decided opinion that it had not been fired for a considerable time. In these circumstances, no sufficient reason for the revocation of Pratt's arms licence appears to exist.


I beg also to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether he will explain the circumstances under which an evicted tenant named Philip M'Donnell, from near Kilcooley, county Tipperary, was arrested on February 18th and committed to Clonmel gaol; is he aware that he was subsequently brought up on remand, after spending eight days in prison, before Mr. Turner, R.M., at Clonmel petty sessions, and that Mr. Turner refused the remand, on the ground that no evidence was produced to sustain the charge then entered against him of having fired two shots at Thomas and Mary Ellen Pratt; that, notwithstanding the refusal of the remand and his consequent release from custody, he was immediately re-arrested and brought back to Killenaule under arrest, and that depositions were then taken from Pratt and his wife, who are there in possession of the farm from which M'Donnell was evicted; and whether, seeing that the case was finally brought before two magistrates, Mr. R. Hemphill and Mr. R. Ashby, at Killenaule, and dismissed on the grounds that there was not a particle of evidence to support it, he propose to take any steps to compensate M'Donnell for the imprisonment suffered by him and the annoyance he was put to.


Mr. and Mrs. Pratt reported to the police that at 7.30 on the evening of February 17th two gun shots were fired at them as they were crossing the yard of their residence, but they both escaped injury. The police on examining the place found that several pellets of shot had struck a wall and a cart in the yard. On February 19th, Philip M'Donnell was arrested upon suspicion, and was remanded in custody for a week. M'Donnell is the son of a tenant who, twenty-four years ago, was evicted from the farm which Pratt now holds. The police had not completed their investigation of the case by the expiration of the remand, and they therefore applied for a further remand, but this was refused by the magistrates, upon the ground that no evidence to justify it had been produced. The police thereupon re-arrested the accused, and on the following day Mr. and Mrs. Pratt gave sworn evidence that they had been fired at, and the accused was further remanded in custody for a week. Upon the expiration of this remand, the accused was discharged, the police having failed to obtain evidence incriminating him in the offence. The Inspector-General is of opinion that the local police ought not to have re-arrested the accused in the circumstances stated, and he has so informed them, but he is satisfied that they acted in good faith. I regret that I have no power to give compensation to a person arrested on suspicion in such a case.