HC Deb 22 February 1922 vol 150 cc1893-4
47. Mr. DEVLIN

asked the Prime Minister what steps have been taken to restore the expelled Catholic workers to their employment in Belfast; and what effective effort has been made to mitigate the lot of those who are still out of work?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Churchill)

The Government cannot undertake, nor would it be proper that they should undertake, to answer in this House questions regarding matters of administration for which another Government is solely responsible; but I have complete confidence that that Government is taking all possible steps to carry out in the letter and in the spirit the agreement arrived at between the Prime Minister for Northern Ireland and Mr. Collins on this subject.


Did not the right hon. Gentleman in his speech in introducing the Treaty Bill distinctly promise that he would enter into negotiations with Sir James Craig and that he had hopes that effective steps would be taken to have these expelled workers restored to their employment, and is it a fact that on the strength of that promise I am now putting the question in order to find out whether it is going to be performed?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these men are quite capable of looking after their own affairs, also that the speech delivered the other night by the hon. Member for the Falls Division (Mr. Devlin) has gone a long way to prevent a settlement?


The facts undoubtedly are that the boycott, which was in itself an improper thing, of Ulster goods was removed by the Southern Government and it was the counterpart to that that every effort should he made by the Northern Government to secure the reinstatement and employment of these Catholic workers, who, in the troubles through which Ireland has been passing, had been forcibly expelled from the yards. Owing to the great un-employment which prevails there and in other parts of the United Kingdom, no means have yet been arrived at of securing this side of the agreement, and it was understood that where work did not exist of course it could not be provided. They could only take off the invidious barrier. I know that Sir James Craig is trying his best. He has made various suggestions to this Government to help in various ways, but they all cost money and money to-day is hard to come by.


Are we to understand that since the Southern Government have most effectively carried out their part of the bargain and that Sir James Craig states, according to the right hon. Gentleman, that he is willing to carry out the bargain but it costs money on the part of the Government, the Government are going to stand in the way of having the other side of the bargain carried out owing to financial causes, and that these 5,000 people are to remain out of employment, and no effort is to be made to restore them?


All the Southern Government had to do was to withdraw an edict—a wrong thing—namely, to take off the boycott. A positive act is required on the other side, not merely to take off the boycott of Catholic workmen, but to provide them with work, which is quite another matter—a far more difficult thing to do, and the problem that is being faced.

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