§ Mr. GINNELL
It was my wish to bring to the notice of the House this afternoon the sufferings of the agricultural community in Ireland, owing to cattle disease and restrictions on the sale of cattle, sheep and pigs, and the consequent inability of the people, prevented from selling their stock, to pay the instalments of purchase money now due; the form of relief required being merely time for payment, which will cost nothing, and I intended to say that it could be given by order of the Treasury without any legislation at all; and that the Treasury has been accustomed to do stronger things than this for its own convenience, and that, under the circumstances, and with so many people involved, it would be much stronger to refuse this request than to concede it. However, the Prime Minister two days ago vetoed the subject altogether, and, since I am not allowed to discuss that important subject, perhaps the House will bear with a brief instalment of the case relating to Dublin Castle jewels. The Chief Secretary's evasive answers on this subject render it necessary for me to disregard form and logic and sequence and deal with the crime in Dublin Castle in any way I can. Hence, on the present occcasion, I propose to confine my remarks to two of the characters, who are, of course, perfectly well known to the Government, and who dare not prosecute anyone without connecting them with the crime. I am entitled to name them, but in deference to your wish, Sir, and for that reason alone, I withhold the names. In the years preceding and during the Boer War the British Army in South Africa had the distinction of comprising first as a private, afterwards as a petty officer, a railway guard, and finally as captain, the greatest scoundrel then in South Africa. He was well known in the Army to be a reckless bully, a robber, a murderer, a bugger, and a sod. I believe that the exploit for which he was court-martialled, I think, in 1906, was robbery of the Buluwayo-Salisbury mail coach, but the crime for which some years later he was kicked out of Thorneycroft's Horse Regiment was sodomy. In the in- 1956 terval he had made his impression on all who knew him. Such a reckless being was he known to be, so many lives of native blacks was he known to have taken wantonly, that though his guilt was a matter of common knowledge, no one would take the risk of publicly giving evidence against him on any charge. Hence the first court-martial failed, and it was not thought useful to attempt another. Finally, in 1902, he was informed that he could no longer be tolerated in the Army, and the only way he could escape expulsion from it was by resigning, which he would be allowed to do. He was good enough to resign on the pretext of ill-health—ill-health not certified by any medical officer. He came to Ireland, and, as if nothing had happened, was given a commission in the Third Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment. Finding robbery of mail coaches not feasible in Ireland, he practised his other accomplishments there, and got congenial spirits in Dublin Castle to admit him to their society. He awaited his opportunity, and availed of it when it came, to steal, in conjunction with others, the Crown Jewels. One of his chums in the Castle, and a participant in the debauchery, was also a lieutenant in the Third Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, then stationed in county Armagh.
This person threatened what is called the Irish Government that if they attempted to put him on trial he would make a full disclosure of worse crimes and of everybody connected with them. There was a chance for a righteous ruler, such as the Chief Secretary claims to be. Apart from that impudent confession, so notorious was that person's connection with crimes and criminals, that no one wishing to avoid exposure would venture to accuse him. It was a pretty state of things when a criminal so bad knew his environment to be so bad that he could safely flout a thing calling itself a Government. His threat was submitted to, and all that was done was to call upon him to leave the Castle and to resign his commission in the Army in order to escape punishment. He accordingly sent in his resignation in September, 1907. The commander of the forces offered no remark as to why he had been called upon to resign. That proved the thing and indelibly fixed the guilt upon him. This South African hero managed to escape expulsion from the Army in Ireland until 9th August, 1908. On that day he was once more told he must leave the Army, and that he would again be allowed 1957 to resign. Out he went as quietly as he could. In addition to his personal part in the crimes in Dublin Castle, two questions of wider importance arise. First, how this person, discharged as he has been in Africa, was afterwards able to obtain admission in Ireland; and, secondly, by what authority criminals found a second time in the Army are turned loose amongst the public, instead of being hapded over to be dealt with under the ordinary criminal law?
Immunity of criminals is a startling thing anywhere. It derives a special significance from the fact that Dublin Castle is the seat of Irish Government, the centre of Anglo-Irish society; the fountain of Anglo-Irish honour as by law established. Immunity of criminals acquires a deeper meaning when criminals belong to the class whose function in Ireland is to set us all a good example. Dublin Castle and the Crown Jewels are public property. The Viceregard Court is a manifestation of State, maintained at the public expense, where social distinction is conferred upon young women and young men on being ushered into society. It is the right and the duty of this House, which maintains that institution, to require it to be fit for its purpose, and to that end to require all in it and all connected with it to vindicate their character in a Court of Law when a crime has been committed, from which they can in no other way dissociate themselves. Is a den of thieves and criminal debaucheries a fit place for introducing young Irish women and Irishmen to society? If any one questions proof of debauchery, the answer is that the theft would to-day be in the same condition, and a title hunter would have been found to buy back the jewels from the thieves for restoration, but for the prompt disclosure of the police and the difficulty of evading the criminal law after that disclosure. Concealment of the theft having been made impossible, and that crime being inextricably mixed up with debauchery, an ordinary criminal investigation of it is avoided in order to prevent the disclosure of debauchery. If the Chief Secretary denies that, let him allow the ordinary law to take its course, and we shall then see. To conceal criminals, with a knowledge of their guilt, is to become an accomplice and conpounder of felony, and the more closely the criminals are connected with the Government, the graver the crime of shielding them. With what object but shielding the crime and the criminals was the Viceregal Commission set up? Does 1958 anyone suppose for a moment that if a Government Department in England were implicated in crime committed upon its own premises, that that Department would be allowed at some time it pleased to select and appoint persons in its own power to hold a sham inquiry for the purposes of exculpating itself. That unthinkable thing is what the Chief Secretary did. He selected three men in his own power and in need of certain things at his hands. He appointed them as men ostensibly to investigate the jewel theft, but really to do what he and the thieves wanted done. To prevent effective inquiry was manifestly what these criminals, like all criminals, desired. That is what the Chief Secretary gave them. To that extent he made himself their champion. He did not give these Commissioners power to summon witnesses or to administer an oath, or to allow anyone who condescended to appear before them to be cross-examined. In short, his Commission was exactly what a model hushing Commission ought to be. Even such as it was, he did not allow Sir James Dougherty, the Under-Secretary at the Castle, to be examined by them. He appointed his own secretary to act as secretary to that hushing Commission, and afterwards, in order to seal his mouth in perpetuity, he placed him in a high position in the Irish Land Commission, over the heads of old and able servants in that Department. The Chief Secretary salved his conscience and threw dust in the eyes of the public by asking the officials involved, one of whom had threatened a full disclosure, to give him their "word of honour" that they had not been in Dublin Castle at the date of the theft.
Imagine the Chief Secretary for Ireland going amongst these scoundrels and saying, "Now look here, gentlemen thieves, you have got me into a pretty mess; public opinion has compelled me to appoint a Commission to inquire into your work, but I have taken care that it is of the right sort. It will look far better, however, if I can safely produce some of you as witnesses, but I am unable to do this unless you first give me your word of honour that you know absoluiely nothing about your own theft." In order to give some appearance of reality to the sham, they closed with this offer. Of course, they all declared that they were absent from Dublin on the day of the theft. Why should they not? Nobody could blame them. It was awkward for some of them 1959 that the contemporary fashionable intelligence in the Dublin newspapers gave them the lie, but the Secretary was too well fitted for his job to bring that discrepancy under the notice of the Commission. It was awkward also that the police knew several persons in Dublin, some of whom are still able to prove on oath and willing to be subjected to cross-examination, that the jewels had been stolen by certain specified Castle officials and Army officers, whose assurance as to their absence the Chief Secretary had accepted. Again, the Secretary of the Commission proved how fitted he was for his job by not bringing this under the notice of the Commission. Such was the hushing Commission.
I submit that the setting up of this imposture by a Minister was a greater crime than the theft of the jewels. If the law, as administered, was the same for officials and non-official persons alike, there could be no doubt that the threat of the criminal officials to make a full disclosure would have been seized, and public investigation, subject to open cross-examination, would have been set up at once. Had this crime and the evidence available been discovered in a crowded slum inhabited by poor working people, there cannot be a shadow of doubt that the Chief Secretary would have had everybody concerned arrested and imprisoned under (he ordinary law, and why not? If the Crown Jewels had been stolen by a servant or a labouring man, even though it might be to procure food for a starving family, we all know he would now be in penal servitude. There is no pretence in this case that the jewels were stolen by servants or working people. The theft was on far too grand a scale for them to accomplish it with safety. The ordinary law would have been good enough for them, but some persons paid out of the public funds regard themselves as above the ordinary law. Here was a case in which the police, with full knowledge of the thieves, were prevented from touching them. If I have done the Chief Secretary any injustice—[HON. Members: "No, no."] —the right hon. Gentleman has at his command the obvious and only satisfactory remedy, and that is a full inquiry. If that would prove the immaculate purity of Dublin Castle, what can be the reason for not doing a thing so desirable? A jaunty air of blank ignorance has served the Chief Secretary very well. It is not a very defensible attitude for a constitutional ruler. It does not explain by what 1960 authority he presumes to determine what persons may commit crimes with impunity and what persons may not. It does not dispose of the facts that the jewels disappeared, that the persons having access to them at the time have never been put upon their trial as such persons would certainly have been had the crime been committed anywhere else, that the Castle criminals still enjoy immunity from the criminal law, that the right hon. Gentleman refuses to give their names to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and that no inquiry has been held but a packed inquiry to find a foregone verdict. I repeat that the motive of all this evasion is to conceal crimes worse than theft. It is to be hoped the House, which is entitled to the truth in this matter, will not be again put off with the stale official pretence of blank ignorance, but that the criminal law will be put in operation in Dublin Castle as well as throughout the rest of this realm.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Birrell)
The Chief Secretary for Ireland, in the course of his multifarious duties, is often exposed to a good many things, and I certainly think the House will agree I have been exposed to a good deal during the last ten minutes. I do not, however, propose to adopt a tone of virtuous indignation on that subject, because I can assure the hon. Member I listened to him from first to last with the utmost anxiety which I possibly could in order to extract from him some information which I presume he has at his back, and which would enable me to do the one thing I am most desirous of doing before I leave office, and that is to see the Crown Jewels restored to their proper keeping. The hon. Member has suggested, indeed he has said quite plainly, that the Crown Jewels might easily be discovered and restored but for the fact that to do so would be to reveal horrible crimes committed in Dublin Castle by persons known to me, and that I shrink from doing my plain duty and from the discovery of the jewels because I wish to avoid a scandal affecting certain such persons. That, I understand, is his allegation, and he says there is not the least use my getting up at this box or anywhere else and stating, either on my word of honour or on oath, that there is not a word of truth in any one of those charges. I do not know of any person whom I am shielding at the present time. I do not know of any criminal. I 1961 have had no consort with any criminal, at least with any known criminal. I do not know whether I can reach his heart or conscience, but I can assure him there is not a word of truth in the imaginary conversation he narrated, how I went to persons whom I knew to be guilty of abominable crimes and said to them, "Look here, I am in a hole, something must be done," and that the ignorance which I am now professing, and which I deeply regret is real ignorance. I do not know any of the incidents to which he has referred. I know nothing whatever about them. All I know is the police assure me that during the course of their inquiries into the robbery of these jewels they did not come across the names of any persons to whom they could depose, and they were not put upon the track of any crime of any sort, horrible, or the reverse, in Dublin Castle or in the city of Dublin. They did not come upon any track or clue which would enable them to put anybody on his trial for these odious offences. The hon. Member may say that he knows better than the police; let him tell me, not across the floor of the House, not at the fag-end of the sitting, but at some other time, the names of the officers of the Army against whom he makes these accusations.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The hon. Member does not need to ask Mr. Speaker's permission to communicate these facts to me. Let him put me and the police in possession of the names.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The hon. Member can communicate with the War Office and ascertain the circumstances under which those officers resigned their positions in the Army. I am not here to say a word in defence of either of these gentlemen whose names have just been given. Their names have been known to the police, and if the police were in possession or have any information which would lead to their detection, not necessarily as stealers of the jewels, but as having been guilty of odious crimes, every effort will be made to bring them to justice. Does the hon. Member suggest that I am in collusion?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
That is not the way to ascertain whether people have been guilty of odious crimes. You do not have a sworn inquiry before you arrest a person. You proceed upon evidence, and if it is good enough to justify the police in making an arrest, the arrest is made; and it then has to be proved whether it was properly made and whether the crime can be brought home to them. I want to discover who stole these jewels; I want to purge the City of Dublin of crime, and every effort I can make will be made in that direction. The hon. Member spoke in a manner, which I regretted very much to hear, about the Commission appointed by me at the request of the Knights of St. Patrick. He asserted that they were "creatures of mine." One has gone to his last account—County Court Judge Shaw, the Recorder of Belfast. Will the hon. Member dare to get up, and say that that man, one of the most honourable and upright who ever lived in Ireland, was a "creature of mine"?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I leave the House to judge whether a person capable of making a remark of that sort is likely to be of use to me in the further conduct of this inquiry. I assure him that I shall totally disregard what he says in the future.