HC Deb 12 March 1918 vol 104 cc172-4
47. Major NEWMAN

asked the Prime Minister whether he has received from the county high sheriffs and grand juries of counties in the West and South of Ireland representations as to the continued prevalence of agrarian Bolshevism, raiding for arms, and assaults on isolated members of the forces of the Crown and members of the Royal Irish Constabulary; and has he been able to assure them that the full authority of the executive will be used to restore order?


My right hon. Friend has received the representations referred to, and has asked me to reply. His Majesty's Government has been well aware of the extent to which crime was occurring in association with the existing state of political unrest and anxiety in Ireland, and before any of these representations were made had taken measures whereby without any intentional interference with political controversy occurrences such as are mentioned in the question would be guarded against, and, if not prevented, would be punished.

Resolutions such as the hon. and gallant Member mentions must not be accepted in all cases as evidence of local conditions. I observe to-day that the grand jury of county Fermanagh unanimously resolved on Saturday last that the disgraceful state of the country at the present time is entirely due to the neglect of the most elementary obligations of government by the present Irish administration. I observe, however, that the learned and very experienced judge who presided at the assize in Fermanagh is reported to have stated in his charge to the same grand jury that there were two cases for trial, and there was nothing in the returns to suggest that the country was in anything but a satisfactory condition. A decrease of three was noted in the specially reported cases.

Perhaps I may add that specially reported eases are cases which the police think it necessary to bring to the attention of the executive.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the grand jury at Fermanagh referred to the West and South of Ireland?


I ask the House to beware that these representations come from gentlemen, although they are of the highest respectability, who are drawn entirely from one class of the community.


Have the Government considered the effect of using coercive measures simply, without removing the root causes of the unrest?


Nothing of what is ordinarily called coercion has occurred in Ireland. If it is desired to challenge that assertion, the proper opportunity must be taken to challenge it. But where there was an organised outbreak of crime which threatened to overturn the ordinary administration measures were taken without the interference of anybody who did not desire to break the law, and I am happy to say that they appear likely to have the desired effect.


I will raise this question to-day.