HL Deb 04 May 1916 vol 21 cc942-4

THE EARL OF MEATH rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether the following statement made by the Editor of the Irish Times and published in The Times of May 1 is correct—

"A crowd of rebels raided the General Post Office, turned out the employees, except such as themselves were Sinn Feiners—a thing of which the Government had been warned repeatedly—cut the telegraph and trunk telephone wires, and put the building in a state of strong defence";

and, if so, why were Sinn Feiners permitted to remain in the employment of the Government after the warning was given.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, after the speech which was delivered by the late Chief Secretary for Ireland in another place yesterday, I think my Question has been practically answered. I do not desire on this Question to raise a discussion on the origin of the lamentably bloody conflict which has lately taken place in Dublin. I only ask it in order to emphasise what I believe will be the answer—that His Majesty's Government did not recognise that there was danger in allowing Sinn Feiners to occupy positions of trust in a Public Department. I am afraid that is what the answer mill be. But I would point out that this incident, if it is true that there were officials known to be Sinn Feiners employed in the Post Office and elsewhere, only shows that what the late Chief Secretary said in another place was perfectly correct—that the Government knew all about the danger which the country was running but had to consider whether it was better to allow the disease to spread, hoping it would not have any fatal consequences, rather than take their courage in both hands and put an end to what was evidently a very serious danger. The truth is that for long many in Ireland have known quite well what was going to take place, and the Government have been warned over and over again; but their policy has been not to stir up dirty water. It has been said, "You will do more harm than good. Let these men alone. Nothing will happen." Unfortunately we know what has happened. It may be said that it is easy to be wise after the event; but I am afraid there are a great many of us who knew that the Government's policy was a fatal one to adopt in Ireland. I hope that the speech made by the late Chief Secretary in another place and the awful horrors which have taken place in Dublin will be a lesson to all future Irish Governments.


My Lords, I fear that once more I am not in a position to give a reply to my noble friend which he will consider satisfactory, but this time it is for a different reason. The charge involved in my noble friend's Question is one of neglect of duty on the part of the Irish Government in not having noted certain facts which may in all probability, as the noble Earl thinks, have contributed to the recent rising. The noble Earl has no doubt seen from what was said in another place, that a full and close Inquiry is to be made as soon as it possibly can be made into the responsibility resting upon different members of the Irish Government, and ultimately, of course, upon His Majesty's Government as a whole, in respect of what has taken place. It May be assumed, I think, that in both Houses there are certain to be debates of importance on the question of this responsibility of the Irish Government, and therefore I do not think it would be advantageous—apart from the fact that the condition of the Benches of your Lordships' House obviously does not admit of anything like a long discussion on the subject—to attempt to deal with the business in a piecemeal manner by stating our view now either of the facts or the conclusion to be drawn from the facts in respect of this particular allegation. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will forgive me if I do not pursue the subject further.