HC Deb 16 December 1919 vol 123 cc243-5

May I ask the Leader of the House whether, in view of the suppression of the Dublin"Freeman's Journal" by the military authorities in Ireland, he will postpone the discussion on the Irish Education Bill until the liberty of the Press is again established in Ireland?


No; I do not see the connection. The hon. Member must not take me as agreeing with him that the liberty of the Press does not exist. There is a difference between liberty and licence.

Captain WEDGWOOD BENN (by Private Notice)

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether the"Freeman's Journal" has been suppressed; and, if so, whether it has been done by the military or the civil authority, and under what powers and for what reason?

The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Macpherson)

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative; the answer to the second is by the competent military authority after consultation with the civil authority; and the answer to the third is under the Defence of the Realm Regulation 27. The reasons are that the issue of the 15th of December contained statements flagrantly violating that Regulation.

Captain BENN

Will the right hon. Gentleman publish to this House the statements to which he takes exception?


I am afraid that that would be rather difficult, because I have seen a copy of the paper, and, in my judgment the whole of the paper practically violates that Regulation. The facts are these. The Regulation refers to statements published to the prejudice of the good discipline of the police force. Hon. Gentlemen opposite always take occasion to condemn me for the use of the military. They seem to forget that the ranks of the police are being thinned nightly. These men go out to their duty always in danger. They do it loyally. They do it steadfastly. I endeavoured, by circulating an appeal for volunteers front the loyal civilian population, to strengthen the Dublin police force. This paper, knowing the. circumstances better than any other paper in Ireland, immediately produces this issue, which is, as I said, a flagrant violation of that Regulation and a malevolent attempt to destroy the honest effort of the Irish Government to preserve the lives of the police.

Captain BENN

Will the right hon. Gentleman circulate to the Members of this House the statements to which he takes exception, so that they may judge for themselves?


The hon. Gentleman is an ex-Minister of the Crown. I will ask him to read the paper which is in the Reading Room, and if he does not take the same view as I do I shall be surprised.


Does yesterday's issue of this paper contain any statement which if published in an English newspaper would have involved suppression in this country?


Certainly, if the conditions were the same.


Have not English papers published precisely the same statements and are not these English papers circulating in Ireland, and is it illegal for an Irish paper to publish documents of this character, and does it become illegal because it is an Irish paper published in Ireland, when an English paper publishing the same material is allowed to circulate in that district?


This is not a question of publishing a document. That is only part of the offence. I would ask hon. Gentlemen who have got time to go to the Reading Room, where the paper is at the present moment, and read, for example, the leading article.


And the article upon yourself. That is the real explanation.


I have no doubt that there was an attack upon myself, but the House will believe me when I say that such an attack would not cause me to deviate for a single instant from what I believed to be my duty. This scurrilous abuse does not affect me. It is merely amusing. But I regret to say that other statements in this particular issue bear out what I have been saying, and I will leave the House to judge.

Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR (later)

rose in his place, and asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House, for the purpose of calling attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the seizure and suppression by the military authorities of the 'Freeman's Journal' newspaper in Dublin as a dangerous invasion of the liberty of writing and speech in Ireland."

The pleasure of the House nut having been. signified, MR. SPEAKER called on those Members who supported the. Motion to rise in their places, and, not fewer than forty Members having accordingly risen,

The Motion stood over, under Standing Order No 10, until a quarter-past eight this erening.

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