§ MR. LONSDALE
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether his attention has been called to the evidence given by District-Inspector Preston at Waterford, on Friday last, with reference to his Report on the Glenahiery explosion and the remarks of Mr. Justice Kenny thereupon; and whether, having regard to the publicity given to that Report by official sanction and to the fact that it contained a false charge against Lord Ashtown, he will direct a public inquiry into the circumstances connected with the preparation of this Report at Dublin Castle.
The following Questions on the same subject also appeared on the Paper:
§ MR. MOORE
To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland if his attention has been called to the sworn evidence if District-Inspector Preston that his Report on the explosion at Glenahery was altered and amended in Dublin Castle so as to convey the charge that Lord Ashtown was privy to or concerned in the explosion; will he state if the Report was then signed by District-Inspector Preston; who were the persons responsible for this alteration; was the Report, as published, a violation of a rule relating to reports on malicious injuries in the constabulary code; was such alteration made; was such Report signed by Mr. Preston under the direction of the Inspector-General; and what action he proposes to take in the matter.
§ MR. MOORE
To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland by whose authority certain original reports and statements relating to the explosion at Glenahiery were removed from the file at Dublin Castle and destroyed, so as to prevent their production in Court on the hearing of Lord Ashtown's claim.
§ MR. MOORE
To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland if his attention has been called to the statement on oath by District-Inspector Preston, in reply to Mr. Justice Kenny, that he was prepared, 1536 and did do so, at the bidding of his superior officer, to put his name to a statement affecting Lord Ashtown in which he did not believe; and if it is intended to take any action in respect of this officer.
To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether his attention has been called to the admissions made by District-Inspector Preston on the hearing of the appeal arising out of the Glenahiery incident; and whether he proposes to take any, and, if so, what, action in the matter.
§ EARL WINTERTON (Sussex, Horsham)
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenaut of Ireland whether in view of Inspector Preston's admissions in the Glenahiery case, it is intended to retain him in the service.
§ MR. BIRRELL
My Answer applies to all these Questions. District-Inspector Preston, in whose district Glenahiery Lodge is situated, was, at the date of the explosion, absent on special duty in the North of Ireland. He was at once recalled by the Inspector-General and directed to make an inquiry into the circumstances in the ordinary course of his duty. Having investigated the circumstances of the explosion, he prepared at his office in Cappoquin, County Water-ford, and submitted to his superior officer, Mr. Jennings, the County Inspector of that county, a Report dated 7th September, 1907, stating the results of his inquiry. The County Inspector forwarded that Report to the Inspector-General of the Royal Irish Constabulary at Dublin Castle in the usual course, and without note or comment. The Inspector-General, considering the Report to be of special importance, summoned District-Inspector Preston to the Castle, and subsequently took him, with the Report, to the Under-Secretary, with the view to its being considered whether it was desirable, in the interests of justice, that the Report should be communicated to Lord Ashtown and the local councils of Waterford as the opposing parties in the pending litigation. The Undersecretary, regarding the question as one for the law officers, referred the matter 1537 to them. The law officers were of opinion that it was essentially just and necessary that a statement of the matters within Mr. Preston's knowledge should be sent to the parties, in order to prevent the undoubted surprise and possible injustice which would follow if these matters, as to the important part of which Mr. Preston was corroborated by the Home Office expert, Captain Lloyd, were disclosed for the first time by Mr. Preston as a witness in Court. They were, however, of opinion that the Report of 7th September, inasmuch as it contained suggestions and views of Mr. Preston, and matters some of which had occurred before his arrival on the scene and were therefore outside his own knowledge, could not be properly submitted to the parties, but that Mr. Preston should prepare a statement to be sent to them, confined to the actual matters to which he could personally depose. Thereupon, Mr. Preston proceeded to a separate room in the Castle for the purpose of preparing a, statement on that basis. He, accordingly, prepared and signed the statement, dated 11th September, without any interference, direction, or suggestion from anybody. This statement was read in the presence of the Inspector-General, the Under-Secretary, and the two law officers, and no alteration whatever was made or directed to be made therein. It was then, by the direction of the Inspector-General, sent to County Inspector Jennings for transmission to the parties. This was accordingly done. The transmission of this statement was in no sense a violation of any rule or circular of the Constabulary Force. On the contrary, it was in the highest sense in conformity with the spirit and intentions of these rules. It contained merely a narrative of facts, and made no charge against any individual. The publication of the statement which afterwards took place was made without the desire, knowledge, or sanction of the Government, and the Government is in no way responsible for it, directly or indirectly. In view of the imputations made I have considered it my duty to lay upon the Table of the House District-Inspector Preston's Report of 7th September, 1907, and his statement of 11th September, 1907. It will be apparent to anybody that instead of representing a change to the prejudice 1538 of Lord Ashtown, the statement of 11th September was a modified, not to say a mitigated, reproduction of Mr. Preston's Report of 7th September. It did not contain a single statement not to be found in the Report of 7th September; nor was there omitted from it a single matter to which Mr. Preston could personally depose. On 14th September, 1907, Mr. Jennings, County Inspector, submitted a Report, in which for the first time he expressed dissent from the conclusions arrived at by Mr. Preston in his Report of 7th September, which had been forwarded through him. Immediately on its receipt, Mr. Jennings was directed to furnish copies of this Report to the parties, which he forthwith did. In the process of preparing the statement of 11th September, District-Inspector Preston made for his own guidance certain pencil marks and notes on the margin" of his original Report of 7th September. He also made a manuscript draft of the statement which he had been directed to prepare. When completed this draft was typed and signed by him. The draft was then destroyed and the pencil marks made upon the original Report of 7th September partially affaced by him. This is the explanation of, and the sole foundation for, the allegations contained in the Question of the hon. and learned Member for North Armagh. No document upon the file has been effaced, destroyed, or removed therefrom. All are intact. If any hon. Member is desirous of inspecting the original Report of District-Inspector Preston of 7th September, with his pencil marks and notes still partially legible thereon, I shall be glad to show it to him. My attention has been called to the newspaper reports of the cross-examination of District-Inspector Preston at the recent trial at Waterford. If accurately reported, I can only say of Mr. Preston's answers, in view of the facts which I have now stated, that they afford but another example of the evident confusion to which an unprotected witness, who has been most severely attacked, and for whom nobody is appearing, can sometimes be reduced in our Courts, when in the hands of an able cross-examining counsel. Regarding the answers, it must, however, be observed that according to the newspaper accounts, M. 1539 Preston, on re-examination, expressly reaffirmed the accuracy of every single statement in his statement of 11th September furnished to Lord Ashtown and his own personal responsibility for it. In reply to the hon. Member for Mid-Armagh, the Government will not direct an inquiry, as suggested in his Question. In reply to the noble Earl the Member for the Horsham Division, it is intended to retain District-Inspector Preston in the service?
§ MR. LONSDALE
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why, in the Report sent by District-Inspector Preston, there is an entire suppression of all facts which indicated that the explosion was the work of an outsider?
§ [No Answer was returned.]
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
Inasmuch as the original Report of September 7th is now published for the first time, and was withheld from the Court in the recent inquiry, and in view of the fact that that Report contains a number of startling and sensational statements, raising all sorts and kinds of suspicions with reference to this case, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Government can maintain their attitude of refusing a full sworn inquiry into all the circumstances of the case.
§ MR. GORDON (Londonderry, S.)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on the hearing of the appeal, counsel for Lord Ashtown called for that Report of 7th September, and the Inspector-General of Police successfully refused to produce it? He stated it would be against the public interest to do so. Will the right hon. Gentleman say how he can justify the publication of that Report by laying it on the Table when counsel has not an opportunity of cross-examining with regard to it, particularly having regard to the evidence given by Mr. Preston, and the result of the cross-examination?
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. CHERRY,) Liverpool, Exchange
Allow me to answer. The Inspector-General was distinctly informed 1540 that he was at liberty to produce the Report if called for, and he attended in Court with it to do so. Why he did not produce it I do not know. I may add that the inspector-general was subpoenaed by both sides, and was examined by neither.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I must, respectfully repeat my Question, whether in view of the publication of this new document, which contains a number of extraordinary statements, the Government can maintain their attitude by-refusing a full inquiry into all the circumstances attending this alleged outrage?
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)
Before the right hon. Gentleman answers-that, and arising out of his reply, he-referred to the White Paper, which has been in the hards of Members within an hour, although it appeared in the Press; some hours ago. That Paper contains the Reports of District-Inspector Preston, two of which were already published and one of which has been withheld. Is it not a fact that prior to the receipt by the Inspector-General of the Report from Mr. Preston, the Inspector-General had received Reports from County Inspectors Jennings and Rodgers and District-Inspector Tweedy, and whether those Reports were not in direct conflict with the reports of Mr. Preston; and why were they not included in the Report to Parliament in common justice to a. man who is under a charge in these Papers, who cannot defend himself, and who is entitled to have the full case put before the country?
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
Is it not a fact that these Reports which have been asked for were already published in the papers?
You see, the document referred to in the first Report 1541 contains, I quite agree, opinions, whether valuable or not, of that inspector, which are now for the first time given to the public. But the Government have long been aware of the nature and contents of that Report, and they do not see anything in the suggestions made by this gentleman of sufficient importance as likely to lead to anything. But if both sides want a public inquiry the last thing that the Government wish is to conceal or keep back anything. I do not think myself that Mr. Preston's first Report will afford much assistance to a public inquiry.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I give notice that, on the first opportunity available, I will move a Resolution to the effect that a public inquiry should be held.
§ MR. CHERRY
I may say with regard to the Question of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin, that so far as I know, the first Report that the Inspector-General got was that from Mr. Preston who was the District Inspector for the district, and by whom in the ordinary course it would be made.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
That may be the case, but is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to tell the House that within a few days the Government did not receive reports from the two county inspectors and District Inspector Tweedy, in direct conflict with his Report?
§ * MR. CHERRY
No. So far as I am aware they did not receive such. The only Reports that they received, to my 1542 knowledge, were those from District Inspector Preston, and County Inspector Jennings. The other police officers belonged to different counties.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Report which he says the Government did receive from County Inspector Jennings was not in direct conflict to that received from Mr. Preston, and why is it not included in the White Paper?
§ * MR. CHERRY
District inspector Preston's first Report was furnished by the county inspector without note or comment. County Inspector Jennings' Report furnished on 14th September, was sent to the Castle, and immediately sent to the parties, and has been published. There was no necessity therefore, to include it in the white Paper. Mr. Preston's two Reports are there, so that hon. Members may compare them, and see whether the statements made about the Government are true or not.