HC Deb 27 March 1922 vol 152 cc959-61

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any information to give the House with regard to the disturbed conditions in Ireland—in Belfast especially?

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

I have no information to give the House other than what has appeared in the Press, except that General Macready telegraphed me this morning that the situation on the border is quiet and that a sergeant of the Royal Irish Constabulary has been killed, and another sergeant of the Royal Irish Constabulary has been fired at, at Rathmines, near Dublin, but providentially escaped.

As the House is aware, His Majesty's Government has invited representatives of the Provisional Government and of the Government of Northern Ireland to come to London to discuss the situation. The Provisional Government accepted the invitation on Saturday morning, and Sir James Craig advised me this morning that his Cabinet has decided to accept the invitation for a conference on the present position in Ireland, and that he will arrive in London on Wednesday morning, no doubt with some of his colleagues. I have telegraphed at once to the Provisional Government asking Mr. Collins that he and his colleagues should be here on Wednesday. I understand the Provisional Government are sending Mr. Collins, Mr. Griffith, Mr. Duggan, and possibly Mr. O'Higgins to represent them. I do not think there is any advantage in discussing the matter further before the conference.

Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE

Arising out of the right hon. Gentleman's statement about the murder of a policeman, what steps are the Government taking to permit these ex-policemen to leave Ireland, where many of them are in grave danger?


I do not think I could at Question Time give a full account of the measures we are taking, but the greatest amount of care and of pains have been taken in working out a plan, which we believe is adequate, and I should be quite ready to discuss it in the House at any time, or even to lay a Paper on the subject, if that were desired. Everyone feels that the pledge with regard to the Royal Irish Constabulary must be fully and generously kept, and I am of opinion that that condition is established by the terms which we have prescribed.

Viscount CURZON

Could not the representatives of the Provisional Government be pressed to bring Mr. O'Duffy across to London as part of their delegation?


That does not arise out of this question.


Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that these Royal Irish Constabulary who are about to be disbanded are all marked down for murder when they are disbanded and return to their homes, and will he take steps to meet that situation?

Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE

Could my right hon. Friend arrange that we should have some time to discuss this matter of the Royal Irish Constabulary even if after 8.15?


Perhaps it would be better for me to lay a Paper showng the actual position of the pensions, and of the advances on the pensions and commutation scheme, as well as the special arrangements we have settled with regard to these men.

Lieut.-Colonel ASHLEY

What is really important, and what is necessary to be done at once, is this: Will the right hon. Gentleman give them money for them to come to England with their wives and families?


Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that this is not a matter of pension, but that when they return to their homes they will be murdered, if no arrangement is made to protect them and take them to a place of safety?


I do not think that is so with regard to the whole of this force, but there are, no doubt, a number of men who are in great danger. Facilities will be given those men to move to another part of Ireland, or out of Ireland, if they wish to do so, directly.


May I ask whether the man who has been shot in Cork is in addition to the ex-sergeant who is reported in this morning's papers to have been shot?


It is the same man.


Has the right hon. Gentleman assisted to provide some money for these unfortunate people, to enable them to get away from places where they are in great danger?