HC Deb 16 February 1922 vol 150 cc1192-4
41 and 42. Mr. PENNEFATHER

asked the Prime Minister (1) what is the precise relation between the Provisional Government of Southern Ireland and the Irish republican army; whether arms, ammunition, motor vehicles, &c., handed over by the British Government to the Irish Provisional Government are in turn handed over by the latter to officers of the republican army; if so, what control, if any, the Provisional Government have over their ultimate destination and use?

(2) the number of the forces of the Irish Provisional Government; whether, by differences in uniform, terms of engagement, or otherwise, they are distinguishable from the Irish republican army; and whether the Captain Fitzgerald who signed receipts for arms, ammunition, and cars handed over by the British Govern- ment was a member of the forces of the Irish Provisional Government or a member of the Irish republican army, or of both?


I would refer the hon. Member to the answer that I gave to a supplementary question which he addressed to me on the 14th instant. The Provisional Government must have at its disposal, like any other responsible Government, an armed, trained and disciplined force for the maintenance of order, and I am fully prepared to assume that the personnel of this force, as well as the headquarter staff engaged in equipping and training it, will be drawn to some, and possibly to a considerable extent from those who, during the period of conflict, constituted what was known as the Irish Republican Army. It would be manifestly impossible for His Majesty's Government and their agents to refuse to have dealings with those persons on the grounds of their previous connection with an unlawful organisation, but all such dealings will be with those persons in their individual capacity as accredited agents of the Provisional Government, established in virtue of the Articles of Agreement approved by Parliament. I have no information regarding the uniform, terms of engagement or other details of the equipment or constitution of the forces of the Provisional Government, nor regarding Captain Fitzgerald, otherwise than that he is one of the agents to whom I have already referred. As regards the numbers of the force I am not in a position to make any statement. If the hon. Member, in the last part of his question, is repeating the suggestion already made that the arms and equipment handed over to the Provisional Government have been or are being used for attacks on Ulster, I would refer him to the categorical reply which I gave on the 13th instant, to the hon. Member for Woodvale, and I would, at the same time, deprecate these insinuations against the good faith of the Provisional Government, which the British Government has no reason to doubt.


Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the last part of my second question?


We do not recognise the validity of the Irish Republican Army or the Irish Republic. They have no legal authority of any sort or kind, and never will have. I cannot answer for what persons with whom we deal choose to call themselves.


Having regard to the fact that this Provisional Government is purely an illegal body as yet, and that His Majesty's Government supplied them with arms without laying down conditions as to the use they may make of such arms, will any action they take be covered by the Act of Indemnity?


No, Sir. That only shows how important it is to pass the Bill which is coming before the House to-day.


With reference to the handing over of motor cars, what arrangements has the right hon. Gentleman made in regard to the cars stolen by the Irish Republican Army?


Naturally, when we hand over motor-cars or arms to the Irish Provisional Government, we are dealing with people in whose good faith we have confidence, but when cars or weapons are acquired by improper methods we have not the same measure of control.