HL Deb 23 June 1882 vol 271 cc179-81

, in rising to ask the Lord Privy Seal, Whether Her Majesty's Government are now prepared to state their intentions with regard to the officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary? said, that the House would remember the proposal, made when the Budget was introduced, to grant a sum of money to the men of the Force, as some compensation for the increased expense and responsibility that had been entailed upon them during the past year by the disturbances that had taken place in the country. That expense and responsibility had unquestionably been shared, and more than shared, with the men by the officers, who, however, were to receive no part of the intended grant. Three weeks ago he had asked a Question on the subject, and had been told that the matter was "under consideration." Well, the matter had been now under consideration for three months; and, therefore, not to take the noble Lord by surprise, he (Viscount Midleton) had given him a week's Notice of his intention to repeat the Question in their Lordships' House. He did not know anything more discouraging than to be told that a matter was under the consideration of the Government, except one thing, and that was—that it had been referred to the Law Officers of the Crown in Ireland; and had he been told that, he should have at once concluded that it was postponed to the Greek Kalends. The noble Lord who answered the Question had doubted, at the time, the ac- curacy of the figures he (Viscount Midleton) had then given as to promotion in the Constabulary; but since then communications had reached him from officers of the Force in various parts of Ireland on the subject, from which it appeared that there was abundant evidence of their correctness, and of the disappointment that was very generally felt. As they were aware, both the officers and the men were a most meritorious body of public servants, and it was very hard that an unnecessary grievance should be inflicted upon them by the delay that had occurred, especially as they were not permitted to complain in the newspapers; and he did trust that the answer that would be given on the present occasion would state not only that the matter was receiving careful consideration from the Government, but also that some definite steps were to be taken at an early date to relieve the anxiety with which the officers of the Constabulary very justifiably regarded their future prospects.


said, he rose to support the appeal of his noble Friend (Viscount Midleton), and to impress upon the Government, from a personal knowledge of the Irish Constabulary, that officers and men alike were always loyal and energetic, and ready to do their duty. The members of the Force had been unswervingly true to their allegiance, although they had been exposed to greater temptation than a military body had ever before experienced, having become obnoxious to the people among whom they moved on account of that very loyalty. Further than that, the performance of their duties had been rendered still more arduous by the changing policy of the Government. Indeed, the country had become so much demoralized, that, probably, for the first time in history, a Christian Bishop had made a statement which was tatamount to an avowal of Socialistic principles. It had been a slur on the intelligence of the Force to know that about 1,000 persons had been imprisoned as "suspects," and had been suddenly released during the extraordinary events following the Kilmainham compact, suggesting that it must have been wrong either to imprison them or to release them. If the country obtained Home Rule—as a recent speech of the Prime Minister implied it might —one of the first things that would probably be done would be to get rid of this body of men, who, up to this time, had behaved so well. He should be glad to hear that it was intended to do justice to the officers as well as to the men, and hoped that the reply of the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal would be such as to satisfy them on the point.


said, he could assure both noble Lords that the matter had not been in any sense shelved or postponed by the Government. They were quite as well aware as others of the high merits of the Force and of its officers. The matter did not belong to his Department, and, therefore, he was not personally responsible for the progress of the necessary communication between two Departments of the Government; but he was informed that the Lord Lieutenant had given the matter a most thorough examination; that the Irish Government had made a definite proposal for the settlement of the matter, and that it was at this time before the Treasury. That being the state of the case, he could state that a decision would probably be arrived at in a few days.