HL Deb 04 May 1916 vol 21 cc940-1

My Lords, I rise to ask His Majesty's Government whether any steps have been taken, or are about to be taken, to show their approval of the action of the sergeant of the Royal Irish Constabulary who, with the assistance of three constables, cleverly effected the arrest of Sir Roger Casement on his landing in Ireland. I draw the attention of your Lordships to the conduct of this officer because I feel that probably in Ireland we have been saved from what might have been a very much greater danger than that from which we have just escaped. Events follow one another with such rapidity and so startling are those events that I fear very often the public memory is not as long as it should be, and therefore before it is too late I wish to draw attention to what we have to thank this constable for.

Let us consider briefly the circumstances of the case. This officer was in command of a small station far away from human resort on the coast of Kerry, with three constables under him. He received information from evidently a loyal peasant, who I hope will be rewarded, that an extraordinary thing had happened on the Banna Strand. A boat had been found, and in this boat there was a sheath dagger. To an Irishman that means something foreign, although he understands a blackthorn. The man travelled several miles at a great deal of trouble until he got to the Constabulary Barracks, and there he informed the sergeant of what he had seen. I am afraid that if this had occurred in higher circles, and if somebody had informed the officials in Dublin Castle of this fact very likely nothing would have been done, and he would have had the cold shoulder. But this sergeant recognised that something extraordinary had probably happened. He went there and discovered the boat. Not only did he discover the boat, but after a search he found, close by, three revolvers and a good store of ammunition, three flash lamps, maps, a cipher code, and the green and gold flag of the "Sinn Fein Republic"—a flag which was made in Germany. Not content with having found these things, he followed with his fellow constables the traces on the sand for two miles, and there, sitting quite calmly in the midst of an ancient fort, was a civilian. Many a constable would hardly have dared to arrest a man with so little proof of his having done any harm. But this sergeant had the courage to do it, and believe His Majesty's Government will recognise that by so doing he stopped what might have been a very serious rising in other portions of Ireland. I do not want to go at length into the whole subject of what this police officer was able to effect, but I think his case ought not to be forgotten. I know it will be said that there are many others who have distinguished themselves. So there are. The Royal Irish Constabulary in this recent rising has shown, as it always has done, courage and intelligence and loyalty, and I have no doubt will be suitably rewarded. But I wanted to draw the attention of His Majesty's Government to this particular case.


My Lords, when the noble Earl's Question appeared on the Paper we made inquiry in Ireland. I am sorry to say, however, that I am not in a position to give a definite answer to my noble friend's Question, because, owing to the interference with the Postal Service, the Inspector-General has not received as yet a full account of the circumstances of the arrest of Sir Roger Casement. My noble friend appears to have been in some ways more fortunate, because he has given us a most interesting account of the general circumstances in which this capture took place. He will understand, of course, that the question of rewarding the police who took part in the capture must depend upon the report received from their official superiors. Therefore until that arrives it is impossible for His Majesty's Government to say anything on that particular question. But, assuming the facts to be as my noble friend has stated, it is evident that good service thus rendered will not be lost sight of.