HL Deb 09 June 1882 vol 270 cc623-7

said, that those of their Lordships who were acquainted with Ireland, especially those of them who had seen the state of things on the spot within the last few months, he might say the last two years, must know how responsible were the duties cast upon the Royal Irish Constabulary. From the time the present Government succeeded to Office, the life of the members of the Force had been one long round of duties of the most disagreeable and delicate character. They had to patrol by night, and were liable to be called upon to march long distances into every part of the country, and, in fact, had to perform some of the most unpleasant duties that could possibly fall to the lot of any body of men. By common consent those duties had been discharged with rare fidelity and forbearance. The present Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (Earl Spencer), in reply to a Question put to him last year, took occasion to refer, in terms of the highest encomium, to the manner in which the duties of the Constabulary had been discharged. He could tell their Lordships that the duties—the exceptional duties—which had been imposed upon the Force had not only been conducive to a great strain upon the physical qualities of the men, but had also interfered in a very serious manner with them, and entailed upon them very serious pecuniary loss. Both officers and men had been despatched on various occasions long distances from their homes, and to places in which, from the peculiar character of the service in which they were employed, it was extremely difficult for them to obtain provisions except at fabulous prices. In consequence of this in the early part of the Session some efforts were made to acknowledge the extra services which had been rendered by the Force, and to place them in a somewhat better position in more than one particular. He remembered hearing the question put to one of the County Inspectors—when a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary was on duty? The reply was very much to the point—"Sir, a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary is never off duty. He is liable to be called on at a moment's notice to go in any direction, and to remain there any length of time." When the Budget was introduced a Vote was included to compensate the Constabulary for the extra services they had rendered, and the extra expense to which the men had been put. That, probably, was not a subject which fell within the jurisdiction of their Lordships' House; but, on a Question being put, the official answer given was that the whole of that sum was to be distributed amongst the men, and that none of it was to go to the officers of the Force. Upon its being asked what was going to be done for the officers, the reply—which he could not help thinking was a very unsatisfactory reply —was that a Bill, at some uncertain date, was to be brought in dealing with the whole subject. He wanted to know definitely when that Bill was to be introduced, and he also wanted to know7 what would be the general provisions of the Bill? So far as the men were concerned, he believed they were content with what would be a substantial remuneration for their services; but he hoped that in any measure which might be introduced the provisions of the Act of 1866, which now regulated the constitution of the Force, would be amended so far as to restore the old privileges with regard to pensions. The Act of 1866 cut down very materially the pensions allowed to retiring members of the Force. He could not help thinking that it was exceedingly improper that men in the Service who received any injury in the discharge of their duty should not have a pension which would enable them to live in respectability and comfort, without having to appeal to the charity of the public; and he hoped if any Bill was introduced this matter would not be lost sight of. But what he especially wished to ask was what it was proposed to do for the officers of the Force, and, if it were impossible to make a statement on the subject at present, when they were to know what would be done? The officers of the Force were left in a very bad position. They had shared to the full all the labour which had fallen to the lot of their men, while there was attached to them a peculiar amount of responsibility, the strain caused by which could be properly judged of only by those who had seen what the duties were which they were called upon to perform. If a hasty act was committed, or the slightest want of judgment shown, and anything serious followed, the coroners' juries, in three out of the four Provinces of Ireland, were certain to find a verdict of murder against them. They had been told officially they had no claim to any part of the remuneration to be awarded by Parliament to the Force. He asked, therefore, what the officers were to have? He supposed he might be told that they were to rely upon promotion, and that brought him to the second part of his Question, what chance was there of promotion? He wished to know whether it was necessary that the highest appointments in the Royal Irish Constabulary should always be given to distinguished military officers? He had ascertained the number of Inspectors General who had been appointed to the Royal Irish Constabulary since the year 1856. The number was seven, and only one of those, Sir Henry Brownrigg, was appointed from the Force. Coming lower down, the number of Deputy Inspectors appointed was 12, and of those only one was appointed from the Force. In the grade immediately below that a very large proportion—more than a moiety—of military men had been appointed to those positions. It was also rumoured that the next vacancy, which could not be long before it occurred, in the command of the Constabulary Depot at Phoenix Park, was to be filled by a military man. One of the great complaints with regard to the Irish Constabulary was that its military organization rendered it extremely ill-adapted for the detection of crime. He did not himself bring forward any such charge against the military officers; but it was a charge which was frequently made by strong supporters of Her Majesty's Government, and also by those journals which took Her Majesty's Government under their especial protection. He wanted to know how it was possible that the Force could be otherwise than military in its charac- ter, if it was necessarily officered by distinguished men taken from the ranks of the Army? It was hard to complain of their not detecting crime, if they were not trained up to that duty, but to duties entirely dissimilar. He never yet heard, with regard to Sir Henry Brownrigg, that any complaints of want of discipline or any other matter had been made; and he ventured to think that the experiment might be tried of appointing men from the Force with great benefit to the country, and certainly with great encouragement to members of the Force itself. In another department also, that of the Resident Magistracy, the officers of the Constabulary might do valuable service. Within the last two years one gentleman, Mr. Henry Blake, had been appointed a Resident Magistrate; that gentleman had been selected for special service, and from the way he was spoken of he did not think the experiment had been repented of. He had no doubt that at the present time there were plenty of men who would be willing to accept Sub-Inspectorships, which seemed to be a small fortune to a man who had nothing. But a young man of 18 or 20 years of age did not, as a rule, look forward to making provision for himself when he became a married man; and it was only when he married and found what little chance he had of promotion that he found how inadequate his pay was to meet the expense of a wife and family. Then a man began to feel a very bitter sense of disappointment, which militated very seriously against the real efficiency of the Force. Severe as the duties of the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary were, he did not think that the events of the last few days—he might say the events of the last few hours—gave any hope that their duties were likely to be lighter; and when the peace of Ireland depended upon the courage and conduct of these men, it would not be wise to stint them in regard to remuneration or prospects of promotion. He trusted that that would not be the course which would be adopted by Her Majesty's Government, and that he should not be told that the Government believed such a course to be unjust as well as impolitic. He begged to ask, When the Bill dealing with the position of officers in the Royal Irish Constabulary is to be intro- duced; and whether it is intended that the highest commands in that Force are to be invariably held by military men?


I will answer first the last Question of the noble Viscount—namely, with respect to the higher offices of the Royal Irish Constabulary Force. It appears by the information which has been furnished to me that those appointments are not so exclusively filled by gentlemen having been officers in the Army as the noble Viscount seems to think, be-cause it appears that three Assistant Inspectors General were officers in the Force, and were raised to that rank. Of course, in the case of the newly-appointed Inspector General, Colonel Bruce, that was not an appointment from the Army, as he was promoted from the post of Deputy Inspector General. I am also able to tell the noble Viscount that I am informed by my noble Friend the Lord Lieutenant that there is no intention whatever of laying down any rule that the superior appointments in the Force shall be limited to candidates coming from the ranks of the Army. With respect to the earlier part of his Question, I am not able to tell the noble Viscount the exact provisions of the Bill which will shortly be introduced on the subject of the pay and allowances of the Royal Irish Constabulary. But the delay which has taken place has been mainly caused by the fact that it was necessary to reconsider the scheme which had been adopted and recommended by the Departmental Committee which inquired into the matter, for the purpose of giving further and better consideration to the claims of the officers of the Force. That is the cause of the delay. The question is now under careful consideration. The Treasury have to be consulted; but we are in hopes that within a very short time a Bill dealing with the whole question, and including the case of the officers of the Force, will be presented to Parliament.