(by Private Notice) asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether representations have been made to him by members of the Royal Irish Constabulary who are now being disbanded that, owing to threatened danger to their lives, they cannot return to their homes, and under these circumstances what action does he intend to take for their protection?
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Sir Hamar Greenwood)
Yes, Sir, I have received the representations referred to, and my attention has also been called to the brutal and savage murder of one and the severe wounding of another recently disbanded member of the force in County Mayo. The latter, 2236 I regret to say, is in a critical condition. In accordance with the unanimous wish of the officers and men of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the Government decided to disband the whole force. On 5th January notice was issued that, in the event of the Royal Irish Constabulary ceasing to be an Imperial force, members would be permitted to retire on the terms laid down for compulsory retirement under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. Disbandment commenced on the 29th of last month. Postponement of the disbandment, in the hope of more settled conditions at a later date, would not be in accordance either with the interests or with the wishes of the Constabulary. As the House is aware, the men have been informed that, in addition to the compensation and disturbance allowances payable to them on disbandment, the fares of themselves, their families and dependants will be paid by the Government to any part of the United Kingdom to which they may wish to go. It is open, therefore, to any man who so desires to leave Ireland immediately on disbandment and to arrange for his family and dependants to follow him. Notice was given to the Provisional Government of the impending disbandment of the Royal Irish Constabulary before dispersal began. The Provisional Government were asked to do all in their power to protect these men, all of whom are Irishmen, and nearly all of whom are Roman Catholics. The police authorities in Great Britain have also been asked TO show every consideration to ex-members of the force who may report to them.
How are these men to support their wives and families over here for a long period merely on their pensions?
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the same facilities will be afforded to these men and their families if they decide to emigrate overseas?
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
Special facilities and arrangements are being made for commuting a portion of the pension for emigration purposes. With reference to the question of the hon. and gallant Member for Finehley (Colonel Newman), the White Paper, which will be available for Members to-morrow, will show the terms of disbandment, and will show that 2237 they are the most generous ever granted by this House. I do not anticipate that under these terms any member of the force will be in want on disbandment.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
Would not the position be simplified if these men could be treated in the way that we treat the military? Could they not be brought to this country and disbanded here instead of being disbanded there and running all these unnecessary risks? It would be a simple bit of machinery.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
In view of the possibility of an entirely mistaken impression arising in this country about the Royal Irish Constabulary, would the right hon. Gentleman say whether any substantial number of these people want to leave Ireland at all?
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to state that there-is to be commutation of the pensions to enable the men to emigrate. Does not that mean simply that the men will be paying their own fares to another part of the Empire? Does the right hon. Gentleman not think it would be right that, in view of the overcrowding here, rather than bring these men to this country, the fares for themselves and their families should be paid for them if they wish to go to some of the less populated parts of the Empire?
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
I think the Paper giving the terms of disbandment will clear up all questions as regards commutation. In reference to the question of disbanding this force in Great Britain, I may say that the Royal Irish Constabulary in Southern Ireland has already been disbanded to the number of approximately 6,000 officers and men. As far as I know, it is the wish of the men to be disbanded in Ireland and not in England.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
Has the right hon. Gentleman ascertained that that is their wish? In view of the question put by the hon. Member for Falls, will he take steps to ascertain as soon as possible how many men do wish to leave Ireland, and will he take steps to bring them over here in safety, having regard to the fact that if they are disbanded in Ireland they will likely have very great difficulty in leaving that country?
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
Before that is answered, I wish to ask will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to see that these men get money for their travelling expenses instead of warrants, in view of the fact that the receipt of warrants by them very often places their lives in serious danger?
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
We have had many interviews with deputations from the Royal Irish Constabulary, and no request to be disbanded in England has ever been raised. Every man of the force on disbandment not only gets a free ticket to his home in Ireland if he wishes to go there, but gets a free ticket for himself, his wife, children and dependents to any part of Ireland or Great Britain. At the same time, in addition to that, every single man gets his month's pay— the last month up to the date of disbandment—and an advance for contingencies. This advance he must account for in the future, if he uses it for travelling. Married men get from an advance of two to three months' pay, depending upon the number of children they have, to tide them over any expenses incurred by reason of moving. For this advance they also have to account.
§ Mr. McNEILL
On a point of Order. I put a question to my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, and then my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) put another question, which he asks the right hon. Gentleman to answer before mine. In consequence of the hon. and learned Member cutting in in that way, my question has not been answered at all. In these circumstances may I repeat it. It is this: Is it possible that the right hon. Gentleman does not realise that there are parts of Ireland where these men, if disbanded, cannot, with safety to their own lives, escape from the country?
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
No one realises it more than I do or regrets it more than I do, and I am sure the House shares the regret, but it is to meet that difficulty that we have, as I say, made special payments in addition to free warrants, for the man, his wife, his children and his dependents to any part of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I have already allowed a great number of questions, and I think, as the White Paper is to be circulated to-morrow, hon. Members had better see it first before putting further questions.