91. Mr. NUGENT
asked the Home Secretary whether a number of Irish political prisoners were called upon to do work which was resented by local labour in the district; that these men, refusing to act as blacklegs, were deprived of certain facilities and privileges to which they would ordinarily be entitled as prisoners; and is he aware that letters which have been duly censored have been received by relatives, stating that several of them were called upon to identify some of their comrades who had been suggested as liable under the Military Service Act, and, when the men refused to act as spies upon their comrades, they were penalised accordingly?
The answer to the first two parts of the question is in the negative. The prisoners were offered voluntary work at quarries in the neighbourhood at the rates current in the district, subject to a deduction for lodging and keep, similar to that made from the earnings of prisoners of war. Their refusal of the offer did not render them liable to penalties and none were inflicted. As regards the last part of the question, the hon. Member is probably referring to the case of one of the prisoners, who, when called up for military service, attempted to evade his obligation by concealing his identity under a false name. The inmates of the camp professed ignorance about him in order to shield him, and the staff were put to considerable trouble before he could be identified; but no question of spying arose. In the circumstances, the disciplinary measures taken by the commandant were confirmed by the proper military authorities.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the information has been conveyed in letters, duly censored, sent to people in Dublin, whose suspicions are aroused in view of their experience?
92. Mr. NUGENT
asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that numerous complaints have been made in letters from Irish political prisoners at present in Frongoch to the effect that a number of them have to sleep in a disused distillery which is infested by rats; that recently one of them suffered from blood poisoning as a result of a bite; that no prisoners were ever detained in this distillery before and will he give permission for independent representatives to visit and inspect the place and hear complaints from the men regarding their treatment?
The building referred to, which was formerly a distillery, was fitted up as a camp for German prisoners of war, and was so used until shortly before the Irish prisoners were interned there. Vigorous measures have been taken to exterminate the rats, which find their way into the building, and the commandant, who makes a daily inspection of the camp, has received no complaints about them recently. The allegation that a prisoner has suffered from blood poison- 560 ing owing to a rat-bite is, I am informed, untrue. With regard to a further inspection of the camp, I would refer the hon. Member to the statement made yesterday in reply to a similar question by the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin.
Is it correct that German prisoners were removed from this camp after a protest from the American representative?
No; I have already stated in the House that the direct contrary is the fact. The American Embassy inspected this camp and made a most favourable report upon it.
I answered that question yesterday. The camp has already been inspected three times, the last time by a special sanitary officer of the Royal Army Medical Board, and the reports have all been favourable.
§ 93. Mr. BYRNE
asked the Home Secretary if he will allow Irish prisoners in English prisons and camps to receive additional underclothing from their friends during the coming winter months; and if he will allow them to receive books and papers, including official Parliamentary Debates and other Parliamentary Papers?
The question relates to two different classes of Irish prisoners. With regard to those sentenced to penal servitude or imprisonment, all are well clothed, and additional clothing is issued whenever the medical officer considers it necessary, as is the case with other prisoners. The prison libraries are well supplied, and the prisoners are allowed to receive from outside sources educational books approved by the directors, including books for the study of the Irish language. With regard to those who are interned, sufficient underclothing is issued to all needing it, but there is no objection to their friends supplying them with additional garments, if they desire to do so. A number of newspapers have been approved by the Censor and are regularly received by the prisoners, and all non-political books are allowed. There is no objection to official Parliamentary Debates and other Parliamentary Papers being supplied to them.
No, I am not aware of that. If the hon. Member will give me information about this particular case, I will inquire.