HC Deb 27 March 1922 vol 152 cc1087-104
Captain CRAIG

I am going to ask the House to come back from India and follow me for a few moments while I take them to the border between Ulster and Southern Ireland. As the House knows, the Government, by the Treaty which we were discussing last week, and by their action since that discussion in this House, have done all that they could, whether deliberately or not, to inflame and exacerbate the feelings of Ulster. Certain parts of the Treaty, particularly the setting up of the Boundary Commission and the inclusion of Ulster in the Treaty, have given great offence to the people of Ulster. There is another matter also which we look upon as a deliberate attempt on the part of the Government, and very successful it has proved, to irritate feeling in Ulster. I refer to what is known as the Ulster month. The Treaty stated that within a month from the passing of the ratifying Bill Ulster was to have the right to vote herself out of the Treaty. Practically every lawyer I have met—

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)

I must remind the hon. and gallant Member that the Debate must be confined to questions of administration, and that we cannot discuss legislation.

Captain CRAIG

I would point out that the condition of which I am about to complain on the borders of Ulster arose almost altogether from the state of feeling which has been caused both in Ulster and Southern Ireland by the Treaty and the action of the Government since the Treaty. However, I think I shall be able to keep within your ruling. About five or six weeks ago an organised raid was made from Southern Ireland over the Ulster border, in which a large number of people took part. The result was that some 40 or 50 inhabitants of Ulster were forcibly taken into the Southern area, and it was two or three weeks before many of them were restored to their homes. At about the same time a serious incident took place in Clones, where, I think, five special constables travelling by train through a small portion of Southern Ireland were killed and others were taken prisoners. Of those who were taken prisoners, I think two are still in the hands of the Irish Free State authorities, or, at any rate, of someone within the Irish Free State. From that time till the present moment things have continued to get worse. There have been events of various kinds which have tended still further to inflame the passions of the people of Ulster, and to-day we have an extraordinary state of affairs on the border. On the Southern side we have regular organised troops, so the information at our disposal leads us to believe, in many cases in uniform, with all the accoutrements of soldiers, entrenched within a few hundred yards of the border line, and for some time past they have been carrying on a regular fusillade across the border into Ulster. It is true that not many lives have been lost, but it is also true that there is a sort of neutral zone where the inhabitants have had to leave their houses and give up tilling their land, while outside that zone the people are living in terror of their lives. In spite of such arrangements for defence as Ulster has been able to make in the way of posting special constables in different places, raids are still being made, people are being dragged out of their houses, and only a few days ago several persons were murdered. When that raid took place the Colonial Secretary made excuses for the Free State people. It was stated, either by him or by some other member of the Government, that such events were not altogether unexpected, and we were led to believe that such a thing was a more or less natural outcome of the Treaty. That is a very nice commentary on the Treaty.


Who said that?

Captain CRAIG

It was some Member of the Government. I did not think the statement would be contradicted, and therefore I have not the actual quotation with me. If the right hon. Gentleman says that he made no such statement, I, of course, absolve him. The position at the present moment is very serious and critical, and I want to ask the Government what action they propose to take in the matter. They have taken none up to the present, or, at any rate, none that is worthy of the name. It is true that they wrote some long telegrams to Mr. Collins stating that this action was entirely wrong and could not be tolerated, but beyond that they have done nothing.


Did not Lord Carson arm the Volunteers?


They gave you six battalions.

Captain CRAIG

During the War the volunteers handed over their arms to the Government, and with regard to the six battalions they have not been, and are not going to be, used for the purpose of ejecting these people.

When this raid was made the men who made it were either under the control of Mr. Collins and the Free State-Government or they were not. If they were under the control of Mr. Collins, the Government's duty was to tell him that he must remove these people from the border and must bring to justice those who had been guilty of kidnapping Ulster inhabitants. It seems to me that is the elementary duty first of all of the Free State Government, and in the second place of this Government which, after all, up to the present, is or ought to be the master of the Free State Government. If, on the other hand, as is more likely to be the case, the people who perpetrated these outrages and kidnapped these Ulster inhabitants are not under the control of Mr. Collins, it is an absurd position for the Government to take up to say they can do nothing more than treat with Mr. Collins. My view of the situation is that these persons who committed these outrages do not owe any allegiance to Mr. Collins, who has no power over them whatever. On the other hand everyone knows that they are a large and important and organised band of people. Therefore we are in the position that the Government has handed over the entire Government in Southern Ireland to Mr. Collins and his Government, and at the same time they are prepared to tolerate another authority in Southern Ireland committing the outrages I have mentioned, and the only protest apparently that they make is that they tell Mr. Collins that this is not as it ought to be and these men ought to be removed. That position is not one worthy of this, country or this Government. That attack on Ulster was, to my mind, just as much an act of war on this country as it would be if Germany or any other country tried to land a force and make an invasion into one of the eastern; counties. If that happened those invaders would be very summarily disposed of, and for people to come from the Southern State into Ulster and carry off the people of that province is an act of war just as much as the invasion of Belgium by the Germans, and should be so treated by the Government. But we all know that is the very last thing the Government, propose to do with them.

The position at present is that terror reigns amongst the inhabitants, and to save themselves and to prevent further incursions of Free Staters, it has been necessary to blow up bridges and to break up the roads so that motor cars containing raiders cannot so easily get into Ulster. Trade and business between the two sides of the border has been completely interrupted. I have details here of a case where a motor car belonging to a gentleman who went constantly from one side of the border to the other was commandeered as soon as it got into the Free State, and is being used by the Free Staters since, and another case of the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society, which has a large business covering ground on both sides of the frontier, which on one of its ordinary rounds that it has been in the habit of making for years past was commandeered by the Free Staters and is now being used by them. In the original raid, I am informed on very good authority that a notorious member of the Irish Republican Army, known as McKeon, the Ballinalee blacksmith, actually organised and carried out the details. I am informed on equally good authority, that two of the special police who were captured at the time of the Clones' outrage are now in Ballyshannon workhouse. How does it come about that with all the might the right hon. Gentleman has behind him, and the six battalions which the hon. Member opposite so glibly talks about, these two special constables, taken prisoners five or six weeks ago, are still prisoners, and that they cannot be handed back to the Ulster Government? Protestants and Loyalists in the South have been evicted from their farms and sent across the border. The condition of affairs is shown by two telegrams which the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies some days ago. I believe a paraphrase of these telegrams was read to the House by the right hon. Gentleman, but they contain such an interesting picture of the condition of affairs that I propose to read them to the House: The following telegram was forwarded to the Secretary of State for the Colonies on Wednesday last: 'Have received report from Londonderry County that situation there is very precarious owing to raids and murders by the Irish Republican Army from mountain district in our area. The Northern Border Commission'"— that is the Commission appointed by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies and composed entirely of military men. It consists of the Northern and Southern Border Commission, and their duty is to try to preserve order on the border— 'visited the border between North East Monaghan and Tyrone and Caledon this morning. As reported on 17th instant fire was opened from the Free State territory about 20 hours on the nights of the 16th and 17th March upon a party of special constabulary who were commencing the demolition of Burns Bridge on the Emyvale Road. Desultory firing has continued since that time. Aimed fire has been directed upon any individual police or civilian who has exposed himself in the vicinity of Burns Bridge. Unaimed shots have been constantly fired across the Aughnacloy-Caledon Road. The attitude of the special constabulary in the above area has been and still is a purely defensive one, and they have shown commendable patience. They have so far refrained from replying to the fire to which they have been exposed for two and a half days. The actions of persons on the Free State side of the border in assuming the offensive by means of rifle fire is, in the opinion of the Commission, uncalled for and provocative. It is recommended that the matter should at once be brought to the notice of the Free State Authorities with a view to the issue of the necessary orders for its cessation.'— A very pious and excellent hope, but so far it has been entirely without result— 'It is feared that if normal conditions are not restored patience might become exhausted on the Northern side of the border, and very soon troubles may spread over a wider area. The civilian population inhabiting this side of the border are in considerable terror. They have been shot at whilst approaching their homes by day, and they are afraid to remain in their homes by night. The Commission interviewed a Loyalist who had just reached Caledon from Glasslough whence he had been evicted at 24 hours' notice. He stated that seven more Loyalist families have received similar notice to leave Glasslough and to proceed north to the border. He did not know who were the persons who gave him his orders. They were dressed in civilian clothes and wore trench coats. In order to provide accommodation in Caledon for these refugees the civilian population there had compulsorily evicted three families of Southern sympathies.' This is the only piece of retaliation that I have been able to discover that the Northern men have been guilty of.

The second telegram states: Your representative on the Northern Border Commission reports as follows: On the morning of the 21st the Commission visited the Caledon area. There had been heavy firing from Free State territory near Burns Bridge between 7.45 and 8 o'clock this morning. The houses of Loyalists on the north side of the border had received considerable attention, and are being evacuated by their occupants. Any individual who exposed himself has been fired at, and desultory shooting has continued throughout the day across the Caledon and Aughnacloy Road. The fire has not been Teplied to from northern territory except for a few rounds which appear to have been fired on Sunday evening. The discipline of the A specials, who have been exposed to this fire for 5½ days, is excellent. They can be relied on to carry out their orders. The B specials of Caledon give the impression of being hotheaded and anxious to take the law into their own hands. They are showing signs of impatience, and it may soon become difficult to restrain them from carrying out reprisals. It appears that on Saturday night they removed furniture from the houses of Southern sympathisers and dumped it on the border. This action was unreasonable and provocative. The owners do not appear to have been evicted, and the furniture had been returned to them. The B specials at Tynan were visited. They are well in hand, and their attitude is tolerant and reasonable. The incident of shooting into the bedroom of a Mr. McGuire of Tynan on the night of the 12th-13th March was further inquired into. There seems no reason to doubt that this was carried out by two Northern sympathisers domiciled in Glasslough. Their motive probably was reprisal for certain treatment by I.R.A. police in Glasslough which they resented. In the afternoon the Commission visited Dr. Bradly in the County Tyrone, who was stated by the Southern Boundary Commissioners to have cause for complaint against the B specials. His only complaint was that he was twice fired on at night by B specials while out in his car, and that on another occasion a B patrol had pointed a loaded rifle too close to him when challenging him at night. He appears to have been satisfied that these incidents were due to excessive zeal and excitement on the part of the patrol and not to any political hostility. I maintain that these two telegrams give a very fair picture of what is happening on the border, and I claim that they show that there has been great self restraint on the part of the Constabulary and the people on the borders of Northern Ireland. What have the Government done up to the present? Obviously, whatever it is it has had no effect in bringing this state of affairs to an end. What are they going to do? So far as I can see, their one method of treating cases like this, where they are in a difficulty, is to apply the only panacea which seems to be known to them, to a conference. They seem to love conferences. Why I do not know. I do not think they have much reason to be proud of the results of the innumerable conferences that have taken place during the last few years. They seem to think that that is the best way of getting out of their difficulties. Things are going from bad to worse, and unless they interfere matters may soon extend from the comparatively small outbreaks which exist at present to a general civil war. Hence they proposed to apply this Conference panacea and, so far as I know, they have asked the representatives of the Free State and the representatives of Ulster to meet them in conference in London, and we were informed this afternoon that the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland has consented to come over here to take part in the conference. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I notice that hon. Members think that that is a good thing. I hope it may result in a settlement of these matters, but I have comparatively little expectation that that will be the case.

It is a little way the Government have when they find themselves in a difficulty, as they did over the boundary question, when we asked them to define what the boundary Clause of the Bill meant, and when we asked for an assurance that it meant only a slight rectification of the Bill. They said, "That is all finished with, and we have nothing further to say in the matter. If you want to come to a settlement about the boundaries you must confer with Mr. Collins." The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, deeply anxious as he is for peace and to have these horrible doings in Belfast and other parts of Ulster brought to an end as soon as possible, did consent to meet Mr. Collins. Everybody knows the result of those meetings. The first meeting was thoroughly satisfactory. He brought back to Belfast, where I was at the time, a message of peace which relieved us all very much, but within a few days all our high hopes were blasted, and we found Mr. Collins, I presume because of the pressure brought to bear upon him, quite unable to carry out the promises which he had given to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister here, in dealing with the question, said, "Oh, that is nothing. You know what these Irishmen are. They disagree five or six times." According to the Prime Minister, the procedure for coming to an arrangement was to have about a dozen of these conferences, and then possibly something might be done. That may be the way with Southern Ireland, thought I do not believe it is. It is not the way with Ulster. If they cannot come to an agreement after two solemn conferences, they give it up as a bad job.

As the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland found it quite impossible to come to an amicable arrangement on that occasion, I see very little hope of his coming to any amicable arrangement with reference to this border trouble at the meeting on Wednesday. This I take to be the more unlikely because that meeting will not be a conference between the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and Mr. Collins alone, but a conference between the Government of this country and Mr. Collins and Sir James Craig. That is to say, the dice will be loaded against Ulster. The Government, of course, will be acting with Mr. Collins in presenting his case. [HON. MEMBEES: "Why?"] Because they have done it all along. [HON. MEMBERS: "No; the reverse."] They have favoured him on every occasion. They have broken their pledges time after time, and hon. Members know that as well as I do. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That being so, I see comparatively little hope of any good coming from that conference. I say this in all sincerity. I have had no means of knowing the views held by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. Therefore, I have to state my view from what I know of the feeling of the people at home. I know that they are full of suspicion and distrust of this Government.

It is only a few months ago since the heart of every Ulsterman beat high with hope for the future of his province. Particularly was that the case on the day when His Majesty opened our Parliament. We thought that at last the Government had brought us into some sort of a haven of refuge. That feeling of hopefulness has been slowly changing to one of suspicion and distrust, and, I am sorry to say, has rapidly become one of hatred of this Government. We consider, as I have said on many occasions, that we have been betrayed by the Government, and every action they now take is looked upon by each one of us with the utmost suspicion. It is natural, therefore, as we hold these feelings, that we do not look forward with any hopefulness to the Conference on Wednesday. Apart from that, I maintain that for this purpose there should be no need of a conference. This is not a matter which ought to be arranged between the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and Mr. Collins. This is a matter which should be taken in hand and settled by this Government. Northern Ireland has been invaded by organised troops form Southern Ireland, and whatever Southern Ireland may be, Northern Ireland is still a part of the United Kingdom.

The entry into Ulster of bodies of men, whoever they may be, armed with rifles and other weapons of destruction, and the driving "of our people away, is just as much an invasion as was the inroad of the Germans into Belgium. Had the Government the faintest respect for their own honour and their obligations, they would have used those six battalions—which an hon. Member was so proud of having placed in Ulster—for putting the Free Staters back into their own part of Ireland. It is a positive disgrace, and every man in this House ought to feel ashamed that his own fellow countrymen, his own flesh and blood in Ulster, should be treated in this way. I know we have still some staunch friends in this House, but I am sorry to say the great majority of Members, even on my own side of the House, seem to have forgotten their obligations and the promises so often made to the people of Ulster. I await with interest to hear what the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies intends to do in reference to these matters.

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

My hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim (Captain Craig) has given us some very serious accounts of the conditions which prevail upon the Ulster border. He has read out telegrams, the authenticity of which is beyond dispute, and I do not quarrel with him at all in the general survey he has made of the position along the boundary. Luckily not many people have been killed or wounded, although one or two have been, but a great state of disturbance exists there. Bridges have been blown up, roads have been cratered, and a good deal of firing is going on, which each side declares is confined to the other. At any rate there is a sort of "No Man's Land" growing up between Northern and Southern Ireland in which the ordinary cultivators find it very difficult to carry out their agricultural pursuits, and in which a number of residents have been forced to quit their dwellings.

All the same, so far, nothing very serious has happened. It is quite true, as my hon. Friend said, that a considerable raid was made about seven weeks ago from the South into the North, for which there is absolutely no defence, and about 48 prisoners were taken as hostages. The object was to prevent an execution which it had been intended to carry out in Londonderry. These hostages were taken into the Free State, not by the troops of the Provisional Government or any forces acting under the orders of the Provisional Government, but by the Monaghan Irish Republican Army, so called, who are a law unto themselves in that disturbed and excited part of the country. My hon. Friend says we did not make a descent on that district, and start to hunt for these people who had been kidnapped about the wilds of Monaghan. Nothing would have been more foolish. It is very likely that had we attempted to do that, injury would have been done to these people; but by the innocuous expedient of telegrams and letters and peaceful representations, we have, in fact, secured the return, the unconditional return, of all these persons. We might easily have taken more violent measures, and have reached less good results, but, at the same time, I have no words whatever to defend a raid of this kind. It is disgraceful, and who has suffered by it most, I should like to know? There is no doubt whatever that the Southern Irish, the Provisional Government, who were not responsible for the raid, the Sinn Feiners generally—the cause of a united Ireland—have suffered, and suffered very formidably, by these things.

What is happening now as a result of this raid and of other events that have occurred on the one side and on the other? There is growing up a sort of military frontier between Northern and Southern Ireland, the very thing that, above all others, the Irish Provisional Government most desired to avoid. The only remedy in their power is to quieten things down on the border as far as they can, and that, I believe, they are increasingly doing. Their position is that every shot fired across the border, every man kidnapped, every little house fired into, every act of lawlessness or excitability that is done there deliberately injures and postpones the future reconciliation of the whole of Ireland. And, as the Southern Government have that as one of their principal objects, and the Northern Government are taking the view that a complete separation on their part will suit them best, I say the injury in all cases falls upon the Southern Irish; and it is their interest, their strong interest, to arrive at a satisfactory solution of the situation on the frontier.

But let me say that it is a great mistake to suppose that the difficulties on the frontier arise on the frontier; they are created by the difficulties in Belfast. In Belfast a far worse state of things prevails than on the frontier, and there is far more disturbance, danger, or loss of life in Belfast than in the whole of the rest of Ireland. The whole of the 26 counties have not shown a quarter of the things which in a single week-end are sometimes exhibited in Belfast. I know well what the difficulties are in Belfast, and I know the strenuous efforts which the Government of Northern Ireland are making to compose matters. I trust they will be successful, but it seems to me that if they are to be really successful in re-establishing a tranquil and stable situation in Belfast, they ought frankly to invite the assistance of law-abiding and law-respecting Catholics to help them keep order in the Catholic areas. In some way or other they ought to endeavour to make all sections of the community and both creeds take a responsible share in the peace and order of their city. [An HON. MEMBER: "That has been done!"] I am afraid that, in the nature of things, it has not been possible to carry it very far. So much for the actual situation. My hon. and gallant Friend said the Government had done nothing. I cannot agree. We have placed very large military forces in Ulster—

Captain CRAIG

They do nothing.


—and we shall place still larger ones if they be needed. Apart from that, we have issued over 15,000 rifles and a considerable proportion of transport to the Ulster Special Police, and we are bearing, out of moneys provided by this House, a very heavy expenditure for the maintenance of these police, of whom over 25,000, armed and unarmed, or in the process of being armed, are at the present moment mobilised. You cannot say that that is nothing. These very considerable measures have been taken, and I have seen no evidence which shows that a multiplication of these forces, or a large increase of them at the present time, would add anything to abate the evils which are going on. The remedy lies in an abatement of the shocking conditions which prevail in the city of Belfast. That is the great responsibility which falls upon the Northern Government. They have a right to be aided in every way by the Imperial Government, and also by the Provisional Government of Southern Ireland, in order that this city may resume some semblance of decent, orderly, Christian, civilised life. I am quite prepared to consider the question, with the military authorities, of placing a portion of this city definitely under martial law. That is what is greatly desired by the Catholic population, in order that the control of law and order may be in the hands of more or less impartial Imperial troops; but I, of course, can only take such steps in agreement, and in accord, with the responsible Government of Northern Ireland. At any rate, it is one of the questions which we ought to discuss in the next few days.

The other proposal which we must discuss, and on which military assistance has been called for, is the idea of drawing a cordon of Imperial troops along the frontier. At the present moment we have the so-called Irish Republican Army on one side, and the special constables facing on the other. These are two sparking points in the closest juxtaposition, while the British troops remain three or four miles back at the various barracks and centres where they naturally dwell. I have been very anxious to put an insulating pad—I am not quite sure of the technical word—an insulating barrier between these two very electric forces, but the difficulties of putting troops there have been very great during the inclement weather at this season of the year.

With the approach of spring, however—by the middle of April—it should be possible to put troops under canvas, and put them in just those exact positions, among the more troubled sections of the frontier, which will enable them to control the situation. At any rate, this is being carefully studied, and we must discuss it with representatives of both Governments. In that event, we should endeavour to secure the withdrawal of the armed forces of both sides for a certain distance, leaving this area to be policed entirely by the troops. Naturally, that could only be done, as I say, in agreement with the two administrations, and it is a matter which will be considered. I say frankly that all these measures are mere palliatives. The proper way of stabilising conditions on the frontier, of stabilising the position in Belfast, and of giving Ireland a chance to resume peaceful and orderly life is through a friendly working agreement between the Governments of Northern and Southern Ireland. If that could be achieved, you would touch the disease, and not the symptoms. You would find an immediate abatement of all the anxieties and dangers that are now causing so much complexity and doubt. Why should it not be so?

On the 21st January an arrangement was reached between the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and Mr. Collins, in which a whole series of very difficult questions were satisfactorily adjusted between those two areas. It has broken down in some particulars, but only in some particulars. It has broken down on the question of the boundary—not on the agreement in regard to the boundary—but on the interpretation of the Clause to be put into the Treaty about the boundary. It is not for me to try and weigh up the balance and credit, or the want of balance and credit, on the one side or the other. A speech was made by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, in which he used words to the effect that not one inch would be conceded. Whereupon Mr. Collins, being visited by large deputations from the Northern area, immediately made statements of a still more far-reaching character in the opposite direction. Whereupon a complete lack of concord was created between these two parties. Then followed the lamentable raids which I have described.

Let us try to get back to the policy of 21st January. It may be very difficult, but it is surely the common interest of both parties to do so. I have shown how it is to the interest of the South to get peace on the frontier, and so to avoid a sterotyped military line across Ireland It is also to the interest of the Northern Government, who wish to have a fair opportunity of developing the commercial activities of their Province, and who greatly need to be in harmony and in peaceful relations with the rest of Ireland. This Conference must, of course, be master entirely of its own proceedings. The matters to be discussed can only be subjects which both sides are willing to discuss. So far as we are concerned, there is no subject which both sides are willing to discuss that we will not bring before them in the most helpful manner. All our good offices are available in every way; but we do not desire in any degree to intrude or interfere. If at any moment the representatives of the Northern and Southern Governments would like to discuss a matter between themselves, face to face, the British Minister or Ministers will leave the room without the slightest hesitation, and will await some convenient moment, in retirement, until, or in case, they are wanted again. We are not standing on ceremony of any kind. If one Minister be not agreeable, another will present himself. Whatever these two different Irish Governments want at our hands, we will give them.


Why do you not invite de Valera?


Because I have no reason to suppose that either Mr. Collins or Mr. Griffith would consent to sit in conference with Mr. de Valera at the present time. Mr. de Valera is using astonishing language to the Irish Provisional Government. In his violence he is even declaring his intention of wading through blood. We have had enough complications for it not to be necessary for us to wish to add to that by bringing together the two parties in Southern Ireland who are so violently opposed to each other. I do not pretend to guarantee that there will be good results from this conference. There may be no result at all, except that both sides may go home with more hopeless feelings than before, and the trouble will continue to grow. We will do our very best, but it rests with Irishmen who care for Ireland to try to bring about a better state of things. They alone can do it. Great Britain will help, but the initiative, the controlling administration, has passed out of our hands by our own will, deliberately, into the hands of Irishmen. Let them meet together, and endeavour to create in a satisfactory manner a decent future for Ireland.

Captain Viscount CURZON

To-day at Question time I made a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary with regard to this Conference. I suggested that it might be- a good thing for Mr. O'Duffy to be present at this Conference, I had read in the papers that Mr. O'Duffy had advocated using lead to Ulster. If that be so, why did the right hon. Gentleman tell me that it was not a helpful suggestion to ask Mr. O'Duffy to come? Would it not be well to invite him so that he might share the responsibility of putting things right? Anyhow, it was intended to be a helpful suggestion. Another point, following the remarks which the right hon. Gentleman has just made about the use of the British military. I do hope you will not put the British military between these opposing parties in the North and South. If you do, you will only put them where they will be a target and will probably be shot at by both sides. There are sympathisers with the South in the North and there are some that would not, I think, hesitate to shoot at the Southern forces and put the blame on to Ulster. I trust the right hon. Gentleman wilt give attention to these two points.


The discussion has been kept entirely to the question of Northern Ireland. I rather hope that in one word the right hon. Gentleman will tell us his hopes for Southern Ireland. From what I hear things are going from bad to worse: I refer specially to Sligo and Roscommon. The Sinn Fein courts which were functioning a short while ago are having less business now, and our own courts are doing nothing. This has nothing to do with Belfast; now the boundary question. Is the Government going to do anything with a view to restoring law and order in Southern Ireland? The state of things there recently is such that had they occurred in any other part of Europe we should have had people asking questions about it every day in this House.

11.0 P.M.


I can only speak by leave of the House, but may I say that I do not think things are so bad as all that in Southern Ireland. I noticed today that a gang of four or five men who had robbed a bank had been brought up in the ordinary way, had been found guilty, and sentenced to penal servitude. I know that in many parts of the country life is normal. The Provisional Government, I am sure, as fast as they can get their armed police trained, will -secure control in one way or another. I had instances brought to my notice by Southern Unionists only to-day of the way in which Dail Eireann have been settling disputes between the agricultural labourers and their landlords. The public meetings which are being held are everywhere giving them very great encouragement, and representatives of the whole strength of the country have assembled round them.

Mr. de Valera's action is a sign that he no longer expects to have behind him the majority of the Irish people. We can only carry out the experiment on which we have embarked with courage and consistency, and I am by no means disappointed with the situation up to the present time. When we consider the extraordinary conditions under which the country has been handed over from one Government to another, all the police and soldiers withdrawn, that in the interval there should be so few really terrible cases of outrages and lawlessness is, to my mind, not at all unsatisfactory. I hope the House will now allow me to have the Second Reading of this Bill.

Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.

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