HC Deb 01 November 1920 vol 134 cc31-3
Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister if he will state how many Irish prisoners are on hunger-strike in Cork Prison; how many have already died; whether he is aware that in the case of the late Michael Fitzgerald witnesses were produced to prove his innocence, but their evidence was not taken; that in the, case of Murphy, who has since died, and in the case of Hennessy, who was dying on the 29th October, evidence was produced by Mr. Philip Harold-Barry, late Sheriff of Cork, proving the innocence of both these men; and whether he will cause a strict inquiry to be held into the cases of these Cork prisoners, especially with regard to the untried men?

Sir H. Greenwood supplied the following answer to Question (132), which, under the direction of Mr. Speaker, was treated as a non-oral question:

Nine prisoners are on hunger strike in Cork Prison, and two prisoners have recently died there as a result of hunger-strike. I am aware that Mr. Barry offered to produce evidence on behalf of Fitzgerald, charged with murder, against whom a grand jury had previously found a true bill. The officer, before whom he offered to produce witnesses, stated, as was the case, that he had no authority to hear them. I am also aware that Mr. Barry produced evidence on behalf of Murphy and Hennessy, but it is not the case that this evidence proved the innocence of both these men. I do not propose to order any other inquiry into these cases than that provided by the law, namely, their trial by court-martial, an inquiry which they themselves by their abstention from food have up to the present rendered impossible.


I have received a letter from the hon. and gallant Member setting out this question as a private notice question. The same question is down on the Order Paper to-day as a starred question, No. 132. Therefore, I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, on a point which is of interest to hon. Members, whether I should answer—I am prepared to answer if you so rule—a private notice question which is also on the Order Paper?

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I did not intend to raise this as a private notice question. On Friday I gave notice of my intention to ask this question of the Prime Minister, and the question appeared on the Order Paper as addressed to the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I put it to you, Sir, that in view of the urgency of the case I was entitled to ask the Prime Minister the question, having regard to the high policy concerned, and that it was not in order for my question to be altered without consulting or asking me.


The hon. Member handed me his question immediately before the House met, but he gave me no intimation that it was already upon the Paper. Although I have read the questions to-day, I confess that I did not remember the exact terms of question 132. Under the circumstances, I do not think it can now be asked as an urgent question. With regard to the alteration of the name of the Minister to whom the question is addressed, this matter is evidently one for the Irish Office. They alone have the information. Therefore, the question should be addressed to them. The hon. and gallant Member will see that by patting the question to the Prime Minister he might possibly, if it were admitted, be depriving other Members who desire to ask the Prime Minister questions on matters which are really in the Prime Minister's Department of the opportunity of getting answers.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

May I put it to you that this is a matter of high policy concerning the Prime Minister and a matter of great urgency in view of the fact that one of these men is either dead or on the point of dying. In view of that fact, I put it very respectfully that this is a proper question to put to the Prime Minister. Any question on any subject addressed to the Prime Minister might under your ruling be out of order as every Department of the State has its head, apart from the Prime Minister. That is the reason why the question is put to the Prime Minister.


I do not see anything in what the hon. and gallant Member has said to lead me to alter my views.