HC Deb 17 July 1912 vol 41 cc533-6

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Gulland.]


I wish, according to the notice I have given, to draw the attention of the House to a matter connected with the administration, or lack of administration, of the Irish Government which occurred on Saturday last. It is a matter for comment that although this matter happened on Saturday last, and was the subject of an arranged question to-day at Question Time between the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway and the Vice-President, that up to the present there has been no Official Report.

Mr. MOONEYrose—


I think the hon. Member should withdraw the word "arranged."


I withdraw the word "arranged" and will say, "a question of which private notice was given last night." It is a curious fact that although the executive of the county of Derry and the county inspectors presumably made inquiries on Sunday night, yet the Irish Office at present profess entire ignorance of what happened. I am anxious to give the right hon. Gentleman five minutes in which to reply, so I will be as brief as possible. I think I am the nearest neighbour of Kilrea in this House, and I therefore speak with local knowledge. What happened was this: The whole of the county Derry Orangemen arranged to hold their annual celebration on Friday last, 12th July. Kilrea is a very Protestant town, but it has got a Nationalist quarter in the country. The Orangemen proposed to hold their annual celebration. The Nationalist party think they have already got Home Rule in their part, and a meeting of the Roman Catholic magistrates—appointed by this Government—was held, and they said they must have two hundred additional police to protect themselves, a thing absolutely unheard of when Orangemen are meeting in a Protestant town, and I am glad that for once Dublin Castle did not yield. They only sent twenty-five police. There was no occasion for their services. Twenty thousand men met there, and there was no disturbance except one trivial incident. It was a thing that might occur in any town in, England if 20,000 men had gathered there, and I do not care what the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. T. W. Russell) will say. I challenge him to deny that the 12th July in Kilrea was absolutely orderly with 20,000 Orangemen present. The particular incident is this. There is a Catholic publican in the town, a man called Dempsey. He is not yet a magistrate, but the Government will make him one soon. An Orangeman turned into his public-house. There was a quarrel. I do not go into the rights and wrongs of it, but his nose was split with a porter bottle. I am not making a tragedy of it. But let us see what the Nationalists did. Another Orangeman stood outside the Catholic, publican's door to prevent visitors to Kilrea from going in, in order to secure that the peace would be kept. I do not see anything to laugh at in that. Anybody who desired the peace of the town would do the same. This man's name was Gordon. The 12th passed off quietly in spite of this action on the part of the Nationalist magistrates. Then what followed? It is customary in the Northern towns that as the men have their holiday on the 12th the women and the young people not concerned in politics go to the seashore for an excursion on the 13th, and on Saturday, 13th July, the first thing that happened was that the twenty-five extra police who had nothing to do the day before were withdrawn, quite rightly in one sense, but if the local police had known what the Nationalists were up to they would not have been withdrawn. The excursion went to Portrush. It was mainly composed of women, boys, and young people. They went off at 12 o'clock, and the police were withdrawn exactly at that hour. Then Mr. Dempsey, the owner of the public-house, found the man who was outside his house the day before, and he proceeded to hit Gordon for preventing Orangemen coming into his house. Another man came up to Gordon's rescue, and Dempsey retired hurt. Dempsey at once took his revenge—he is at the bottom of the whole thing, and the Government are backing him up. During the afternoon a number of Hibernians came into the town and went to Dempsey's public-house. There was no complaint on the part of the police, because they are afraid to touch the Hibernians. And what Was the result? These men congregated in Dempsey's public-house and in the entrance into his back yard. Of course hon. Members will always laugh at any suggestion of intolerance. At 10 o'clock the excursion train from Portrush arrived. It was a body of harmless pleasure seekers. There was not a band with them or a procession, and they were mainly women. There were a few men but they were not pleasure seekers. The party was mainly girls and boys and people who were taking their annual holiday, and they came not in procession or not in organised form. As soon as they passed Dempsey's public-house, where those Nationalists were lying in wait, they received a volley of bottles and stones and revolver shots. They were harmless people in whose minds politics did not enter, and they were at ten o'clock at night in the streets of a northern town. That is what the Vice-President describes by saying, "It appears that an excursion party from Portrush and some Nationalists came into collision in the vicinity of Kilrea." That was the collision—these harmless women and people flying away under a shower of bullets and revolver shots. There was a Roman Catholic Nationalist with the party named Riley. He tried to join his own party, and they mistook him for a Protestant and shot him in the ankle. These unfortunate women and children fled before this hail of bullets, and naturally their fathers and brothers came out to drive the aggressors out of the town, and there is not an hon. Member opposite who would not have had the pluck to do the same thing. They are following the Chief Secretary's advice, given again and again in this House, when he has said he could not protect people in Ireland if they would not protect themselves. When these people came to protect themselves and eventually drove the Nationalists out of the street, the Nationalists broke every Protestant shopkeeper's windows all the way down the street, and that is disguised under the form of the answer we had from the Vice-President to-day. Why is this? It is because they know, just as at Castledawson and Magherafelt, that the Government have I so packed the bench with Nationalists and Hibernians and Irish Leaguers that nothing would happen. The thing is the purest farce, and hon. Members would not say it was a farce if it happened in their own village or their own town. What is called justice as administered in these towns since the Government has packed the Bench is a farce, and we want an independent inquiry into this and into the Castledawson affair. We know what the facts were in Castledawson and what is the result. You have thirty-five Hibernians on trial, and for; show sake you have picked out nine Protestants. They are being tried before a Bench of nine magistrates, of whom six are pledged, sworn Hibernians and Nationalists. I appeal to hon. Members—I do not care whether they are Labour or Radical—for fair play. Will you give us a fair trial in this case and not an inquiry by a packed Bench? Of course this is a foretaste to us of Home Rule. We do not like it, and we are determined to resist, and while this House purports to have authority over the administration of justice in Ireland for goodness sake let us see it is not tainted at the source. That is what is happening. I would not be right if I did not say I cordially approve of these Kilrea men in getting up to avenge them selves for this brutal barbarity. Unfortunately I was three miles from the town, but if I had had five minutes' notice I would have gone into it myself.

And, it being Half-past Eleven of the clock, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Half after Eleven o'clock.