§ LORD DIGBY
My Lords, I beg to ask His Majesty's Government how many cattle-drives have taken place in King's County during the month of April, 1914, the estimated number of cattle driven, and what steps are intended to be taken to put a stop to these cruel proceedings in this hitherto peaceable part of the country.
§ LORD WIMBORNE
My Lords, in reply to the Question which the noble Lord asks, I have to say that during the month of April there were three cattle drives in King's County, the number of animals driven being estimated at 235 cattle and 59 sheep; and there was a further attempted drive which was frustrated by the action of the Police who were present in anticipation of this occurrence. During the night of April 11, 96 cattle belonging to Mr. J. Dunne were driven off Anna villa grazing farm by unknown persons; the gates were opened but not broken; the cattle were all found during the day in groups within a distance of seven miles of the farm and were uninjured. Mr. Dunne purchased this farm from a Mrs. Guyse and resides in Portarlington. A notice was found attached to a pole in a conspicuous part of the farm bearing the words, "The land for the people and the road for the bullocks." Then there were two subsequent drives which took place in the morning of April 12. At about 3 a.m. 120 cattle and 59 sheep, the property of Messrs. E. Digby, F. Abraham, and S. Kavanagh, were forcibly driven by unknown persons from Ballydowman farm. Nineteen cattle were also driven from Cappyroe farm. Both of these farms, I understand, are on the noble Lord's estate and in the Tullamore district. The gates of the farms were forced by taking them off their hinges and in two cases breaking the locks. All the cattle were recovered uninjured and placed back on the land. The abortive attempt took place on April 19. About thirty persons went on to the lands of Fenter, near Killeigh, and drove the cattle, numbering 107, in the direction of the public road, but just as the people were opening the gate leading to the road two policemen who were in ambush rushed out and put the drivers to flight, arresting two and identifying three others. These five persons have been returned for trial at next Assizes on a charge of unlawful assembly. Those are the only four cases which have occurred, 1195 the last of which, as the House will see, was frustrated by the action of the Police.
With regard to the second part of the Question, as to what steps the Irish Government are taking, I have to say that in order to prevent any further drives of this description a special post of seven police has been formed at Gaeshill, which, I believe, is on the noble Lord's property, and the three adjoining police-stations have also been reinforced by an addition of six police. It is thought that this action will prevent further driving. At any rate, the matter is being carefully watched by the Police. I hope the noble Lord will not think that this cattle-driving has any sort of sympathy or countenance from the Irish Executive. The Irish Government has always strenuously exerted itself to put down this very barbaric and sometimes very cruel form of revenge or inducement, and it is satisfactory to note that there has been a great diminution, taking Ireland as a whole, in this process of cattle-driving. I have some figures here which I think on the whole are very satisfactory in this connection. I find that in the year 1908 there were 681 drives; in 1909 there were 200; in 1910 there were 186; in 1911 there were 114; in 1912 there were 69, and in 1913 there were 55. There has, I regret to say, been a slight increase in the year 1914 up to date, the figure being 62; but it must not be supposed that that 1196 number is likely to be a quarter of the total number of drives in the year, because, as I think the noble Lord knows, these drives are local and spasmodic. They depend very often on local disputes or questions which do not affect Ireland as a whole, and it is not likely that that figure will be greatly exceeded in this year. I would also like to tell the noble Lord with regard to the drives that have occurred recently, that in nine cases 108 persons who have been connected with the driving have been proceeded against, of whom eleven have been discharged, eleven were bound over to keep the peace, and eighty-six were returned for trial at the Assizes and are awaiting trial. I hope this will show the noble Lord that the Government are fully sensible of the serious character of the matter in question, and are doing everything in their power to put an end to it.