HL Deb 10 July 1902 vol 110 cc1316-8

, who rose to ask "Why the military band did not play in the Phœnix Park last Sunday," said: Before I put this Question I must claim the indulgence of the House to make a few observations on the subject to which it relates. No doubt I could supply a military answer of more than one kind, but there is something behind the Question that deserves to be considered. There was a most disgraceful row in the Phoenix Park on Sunday, 29th June. A lot of rowdy blackguards, as I must call them, hooted the band, and made such a noise that at last the baud had to leave the park. The band was that of the Seventh Provisional Regiment. Those people sang what arc called patriotic songs; they called on the military band to "clear out"; then they formed up in a body and inarched through Dublin hooting at the Coronation decorations in the streets. Now, it is very difficult in Ireland to dissociate any row that takes place from political feeling; and an English paper, the Pall Mall Gazette, heads its account of this business, "The Growth of the United Irish League." I am not standing here Lo whitewash the United Irish League or to say anything about them. The fact of the matter is, that this had nothing whatever to do with the United Irish League. The circumstances were these. For several years a workmen's band had been playing in the park, and there arose a feeling on the part of these working men that the military were interfering with their band. Everybody who knows the size of the Phœnix Park, knows that ten or fifteen bands might be playing at the same time, and unless the wind happened to be blowing very strongly in a certain direction, one band would not interfere with another. But there was nothing in the whole of this business of a political character at all, and if English newspapers report every little row that takes place and attribute it to political feeling, it becomes very difficult to get anything done. [The noble Earl read from an Irish newspaper an account of a meeting held recently in Dublin, for the purpose of starting a branch of the United Irish League, when Mr. John Dillon was interrupted by his audience calling for him to deal with this question of the "English soldiers in the Park." This showed, the noble Earl argued, that the disturbance about the band in Phœnix Park was quite unconnected with any political movement. The noble Earl proceeded:] The real point of my Question is this: If such a thing had happened in one of the London parks, the authorities would have taken good care that the band should have been playing on the following Sunday, without interference from these blackguards. What I ask is that the authorities should see that the people of Dublin—the poor who come out from the slums to enjoy the band on a summer afternoon, and the bettor-to-do citizens who choose to spend their time in that way—are allowed to enjoy the hand in peace and quiet, and that the rowdyism of these blackguards should be put down.


I hardly know whether it is for me to answer the Question of my noble friend, but all I am able to inform him is that I have no information—which is rather the language of his native country I cannot but think that this is a matter which might be very safely left to the discretion of the illustrious Duke the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief in Ireland. As far as the War Office is concerned, I am afraid we cannot undertake to inquire into the reasons why a particular band does not play in a certain place on a given day.


That answer is exactly what I expected, and, having been a soldier, I quite appreciate it; it is a; thoroughly military answer. But I think the Irish Office, in courtesy to myself and other Lords interested in Dublin, might have said that they would take measures to stop this blackguardism, which no doubt will go on in the park unless strong measures are taken. I raised the question really in the interests of the respectable citizens of Dublin, who wish to hear the band in the park on a summer evening.


I rise in courtesy to my noble friend, who has addressed the Question in a general way to anyone on this Bench connected with Ireland; that undoubtedly applies to my self for I only came from Ireland today. I was not aware that this Question was to be put until I saw it on the Paper this afternoon. I have listened with great attention to what the noble Karl has said, and I have heard the concise answer given to him by my noble friend representing the War Office. I can only toll the noble Earl that I will make inquiries into this matter, and find out exactly what the position is.