HC Deb 06 April 1908 vol 187 cc913-4

To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether there is any regulation which disqualifies a Roman Catholic officer from fulfilling the position of commandant at the Royal Irish Constabu- lary Depot, Phœnix Park, Dublin; if not, why have two senior Roman Catholic county inspectors been passed over, and County Inspector Ball, of Cork, appointed to the position; whether this County Inspector Ball is the same officer who ordered the police to fire on the people at Ballina, county Mayo, some years ago; and, if so, whether this is the qualification which entitles him to promotion over the heads of his seniors who have no such record; whether there has ever been a Roman Catholic commandant at the Royal Irish Constabulary Depot; what are the proportions of religious denominations there at present amongst the officers and rank and file; whether the Inspector-General and the Town Inspector, Belfast, are Protestants; and whether even one position of trust might be given to a Catholic.

(Answered by Mr. Birrell.) There is no regulation which prohibits the appointment of a Roman Catholic officer to the post of commandant. County Inspector Ball has been appointed to the post as being the officer best fitted for it. He is the same officer who when district inspector, twenty-six years ago, ordered the police to fire on a riotous mob at Ballina. This circumstance had no bearing whatever on his selection as commandant. The post in question has not been held by a Catholic since its creation in 1859. On 1st January last there were eleven Protestant and three Roman Catholic officers at the depot and sub-depot; and the rank and file there, including recruits in training, comprised 820 Catholics and 224 of other denominations. The Inspector General and the Commissioner of Belfast are Protestants, but it may be mentioned that the Deputy Inspector-General, who is second in command of the force, is a Catholic. In selecting officers for the staff of the Royal Irish Constabulary professional qualifications only are taken into account, and not religion.