HC Deb 07 May 1908 vol 188 cc439-41

I beg to ask the Prime Minister whether he is fully informed of the condition at present prevailing in the South and West of Ireland as regards the Unionist minority; whether he is aware that a vigorous campaign has been restarted since 1906 by the United Irish League, in which firearms are used with increasing frequency, directed against farmers who graze their holdings; and whether he can make any statement to the House as to the steps the Government propose to take to restore law and order, and insure that the United Irish League will cease holding courts and terrorising the peasantry into attending them.


The Government are fully informed of the condition of the South and West of Ireland, but if the hon. and gallant Member means to suggest that Unionists in particular are affected, there is no foundation for the suggestion. It is unfortunately the fact that in some districts there has been a considerable increase in the number of offences in which firearms are used, and that an agitation against the grazing system, mainly in the form of cattle driving, is in operation. The Government are taking all possible measures for the preservation of the peace and the punishment of offenders, and for the protection of the persons and property of those who are affected by the agitation. The Royal Irish Constabulary has been strengthened by the addition of 400 men, who have been assigned to the counties affected, together with 236 men drawn from the Reserve and from other counties. In all there are serving in the disturbed counties 636 extra police, for whom the local authorities have to pay. Offenders are prosecuted according to law in all cases in which evidence is forthcoming.

MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)

Is it not a fact that in several cases recently it has happened that the police have been driven back by the mob and compelled to retire? In the interest of the preservation of the law is it not desirable that the force detailed for special service should be sufficient to resist attack?


I agree that it is a matter of the utmost importance that the police force should be in sufficient numbers to resist any attack that may be made upon them, and the most careful endeavours are being made to ensure that result.

MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen a telegram which appeared in a morning paper from the police officer in charge of the district saying that this story is untrue?


I have not seen the telegram.


It is in the Daily Mail this morning.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of reintroducing the Arms Act and of applying the Pistols Act to Ireland?


The question of applying the Pistols Act has been under consideration for some time, and I am willing again to consider whether its introduction would do any good. Personally I have come to the conclusion it would not.

MR. MOONEY (Newry)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the last published statistics of crime show that Derry and Down are the worst counties?


Will the right hon. Gentleman do something to prevent the distribution of arms among the peasantry in the South and West?


And on the 12th July in the North?

[No Answer was returned.]