THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
said, he had a Question to put to the Government of some importance. He wished to know, Whether Her Majesty's Government have decided upon the measures they will adopt for rendering more defensible the Police Barracks in Ireland? The subject had attracted considerable attention at the time of the Fenian insurrection. It then became notorious that the police barracks throughout the country were almost defenceless. In consequence it had been generally understood that the Government intended to lose no time in putting the barracks into a proper condition for defence. Up to the present time, however, no steps had been taken in that direc- 504 tion. Very few noble Lords, except those who had taken more than a common interest in the question, were aware in what a miserable condition, as regarded defence, the police barracks in Ireland really were. The consequence was that in times when there was an apprehension of a disturbance of the public peace, it was thought necessary to call in all the police from the out stations into the towns or villages where they could find protection. He quite admitted the necessity of that precaution; but a most unfortunate effect was produced, because it not only caused panic throughout the rural districts at the very time when it was important that the authorities should inspire confidence in the law, but it deprived the people of those districts of that protection to which they were entitled. He was quite aware that considerable delay was necessary in dealing with a question of this kind, and no doubt Her Majesty's Government had exercised a wise discretion in refraining from asking Parliament for a Vote for this purpose until it was found to be absolutely necessary; but he thought that if the Government went fairly into the question many of the difficulties by which it was surrounded would vanish, and they would find that in the majority of cases they might by comparatively minor alterations, involving but a small cost, put the greater number of the police barracks in Ireland into a good state of defence. He thought that if the Government would put themselves into communication with the owners of the police barracks, they would be willing—some for a slight increase of rent, others without asking for any increase—to put the barracks into a tolerable condition for defence. In the case of owners who were unable or unwilling to incur this expense, it would be necessary that some small demand should be made upon the public purse, and it was the duty of the Government, under the circumstances, to ask for it. He scarcely thought that if the case was fairly put to the House of Commons, and the necessity for the outlay proved, as it would undoubtedly be, that that House would be unwilling to grant a few thousand pounds to carry into effect improvements so desirable for the welfare of the country. It was not his province to give any advice to the Government as to how they should set about this work; but as he was in Ireland at the time of the outbreak, and knew the great interest taken in this question by all classes of loyal subjects, and by no class 505 more than by the constabulary themselves, he thought it his duty to bring the subject before the House, and to ask Her Majesty's Government what their intentions were, or whether they had made up their minds upon the question.
THE EARL OF BELMORE
said, he quite admitted that at the present time the police barracks in Ireland were in a most indefensible condition. His own attention had been called to one case where there were not even shutters to the windows; so that if any person from the outside had wished to fire upon the inmates, there was nothing to prevent his doing so, and the barracks had been for some time in use before any steps were taken to remedy this defect. This question, as the noble Earl was aware, had been for some time under consideration, and his noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland had informed him that the instructions already issued had been withdrawn, and that to-morrow fresh instructions would be issued to the different county inspectors, directing them to consult with the proprietors of the different barracks as to the best means of putting these into a proper state of defence. On the receipt of that information no doubt immediate and active steps would be taken, and he trusted that the proprietors would be found willing to meet the efforts of the Government in that direction. At the same time, speaking not as a Member of the Government, but as a landed proprietor, he must remind the noble Earl that it was very hard upon the proprietors of those barracks to be called upon to spend money upon them considering the very low rate of remuneration which they received. Frequently in country places there were only six or seven of the constabulary located in the barracks, and in such cases the proprietor did not receive more than £10 or £12 a year, and could therefore hardly be expected to incur any very great expense in order to put the barracks in a state of defence.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
said, he was convinced that the owners of the barracks would do all they could to assist the Government in this respect; but the fact was that being mostly small shopkeepers or publicans they had not the £40 or £50 which was required for this object. He therefore trusted that Her Majesty's Government would think it to be their duty to ask Parliament for a grant.