HC Deb 23 September 1909 vol 11 cc593-4
Mr. PATRICK O'BRIEN (for Mr. Hay-den)

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he is aware that Sergeant Carrigan, of the Royal Irish Constabulary, on last Saturday evening ordered Mr. Mark M'Cormack, a licensed publican in the town of Castlerea, to remove a flag bearing the stars and stripes which he had hung out upon his house to honour two American citizens who were visiting the town; whether any other publicans in the town, all of whom displayed flags, were similarly instructed; whether Sergeant Carrigan, in taking this action, was acting under instructions from the Government; whether he is aware that, upon the refusal of Mr. M'Cormack to remove the flag, he was informed that the renewal of his licence would be opposed; and whether the Government intend to carry out this threat of the police?


I am informed that Sergeant Carrigan did call the attention of the publican in question to the fact that it was a breach of the Licensing Acts to display any flag from his licensed premises except the accustomed sign of the house. In doing so, I understand that the sergeant acted on his own initiative, the law being quite clear that any such display is an offence under the licensing code. The sergeant did not inform the publican that the renewal of his licence would be opposed if he refused to remove the flag. No communication was made by the police to the two other publicans in the town who displayed flags.


Is not the Act of Parliament dealing with the display of flags an Act dealing with illegal and secret societies, and is it not a fact that in Dublin every day of the week the large hotels and public-houses display flags, and the police take no action, and is it not the fact that in this case the action of the sergeant is based on the allegation that the United States flag was a party emblem?


I do not know that there is any foundation for the suggestion.


May I ask whether it would be illegal for a publican in Ireland to fly the Union Jack?


That is a hypothetical question. The hon. Member should give notice of it.


May I ask the Solicitor-General whether the police authorities at headquarters have issued any orders all over Ireland that flags are not to be displayed, and, if so, whether he can explain the fact that hotels in Dublin are allowed to fly flags in contravention of the law, while publicans in small towns are visited with pains and penalties? Will the hon. Gentleman explain why there is a distinction?


I am not aware of the existence of any general Regulation on the matter. The Act of Parliament is perfectly distinct.


In view of the fact that the act of this policeman is likely to be regarded as an insult to a great and friendly Power, does the hon. Gentleman propose to offer any explanation that this act was done by one of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and that though he is an officer of the British Government, you are not able to deal with him?


The law on the matter is perfectly distinct.