§ THE MARQUESS OF CREWE rose to ask His Majesty's Government what is the nature of "the careful inquiry" which the Prime Minister stated at Carnarvon on October 9 is being made into the so-called "reprisals" alleged to have been undertaken by certain of the military or police forces in Ireland; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I feel strongly that even the distractions with which we are faced lure in Great Britain owing to the industrial situation of the moment will not justify us in postponing even for a day the discussion of the important subject to which my Question refers. In putting this Question, although I may have to develop the subject at certain length, I desire to confine myself exclusively to what have been spoken of as reprisals for crime, undertaken in Ireland by some of His Majesty's forces, and I do not propose to touch in any way on the question of Irish government as such.10
§ At the outset I wish to make two observations in order to guard myself from possible misconstruction. In the first place I desire to express—what it is hardly necessary to express here, but misapprehensions are always possible—the utmost detestation of the outrages which have occurred in Ireland, and of which the Royal Irish Constabulary and its auxiliaries and also the military forces of the Crown in Ireland have been the object. No punishment that could legally be inflicted in respect of these outrages would in my opinion be excessive. Upwards of 100 policemen and soldiers have been the victims, and if 500 men were proved in any Way to be guilty of perpetrating these outrages it would be no matter of concern to me if the whole 500 were hanged, except so far as one would feel concerned for the state of the country in which such punishments became necessary.
§ It is, of course, a shallow, false pretence to speak of these outrages on the Constabulary and soldiers as acts of war on the part of Sinn Fein. As has been explained by many, including the Prime Minister, there is no resemblance between acts of war and such outrages as are perpetrated in Ireland. We did not think the German nation very particular in its conduct of war, but at any rate the Germans did not attempt to assassinate either the French or British commanders of the Armies. I have no sympathy whatever with, and no desire in any way to spare, any person found guilty of the perpetration; of or complicity in these crimes. I have always recollected, not entirely without satisfaction, that when I was viceroy of Ireland I was burned in effigy in an important place in the South of Ireland because I had refused to commute the death penalty upon a man who was guilty of a peculiarly atrocious agrarian murder but who became the object of so much interest, owing to the fact that he was the principal secret society leader in a large area, that the streets of Dublin were placarded with black-bordered announcements denouncing the Chief Secretary and myself. I can therefore assure the House that what I am going to say is in no sense founded upon indifference to the horrible murders which have taken place in Ireland.
§ In the second place I desire to make it clear that I in no way ignore the intense provocation to which the forces of the Crown have in many parts of Ireland, and 11 on many occasions, been subjected; and I particularly desire to recognise the self-control and restraint which, in the face of these almost intolerable provocations, has been exercised, as I believe, by the great body both of the Constabulary and also of the soldiers who compose the vast garrison which is now occupying Ireland. Therefore I wish it to be understood that I make no indiscriminate charge against either police or military in these matters. But I confess that I differ profoundly from something that fell from Sir Edward Carson in a speech which he made on October 14, in which he appeared to deprecate any allusion whatever to these reprisals, and urged everybody to concentrate their attention solely upon the crimes which were committed against the military and police. Coming from a man in Sir Edward Carson's position, this I fear can be only regarded as something like an encouragement to disorderly acts, about which I am going to say a word.
§ By whom have those disorderly acts been committed? An explanation, apparently official, appeared in Dublin on October 8 which made it quite clear what the different forces of the Crown are. There is, of course, the great military garrison, and there is the R.T.C., as we used to know it in old days, but that body of the Royal Irish Constabulary has been numerically strengthened by the recruiting of a number of extra constables who are known by the slang title of "Black and Tans," and who are, as I understand, kept in a depot until they have been trained, and are then dotted about in threes and fours always in company with the constabulary and who do not act independently in large bodies in any part of Ireland. Therefore, as I understand, they resent the imputation that where these excesses have occurred they are or can be the work of the "Black and Tans" as such. Then in addition to these there is a body of auxiliary constabulary composed of ex-officers of the British Army and of men who have served in the ranks but are of the same calibre, in point of education and standing, as officers. Many of these—most of them, I suppose—are men who have served abroad. Some of them had experien e at the front of sniping, raiding, and the dangerous forms of patrolling which went on there, which has apparently made them, in the opinion of the authorities, specially fitted to guard threatened posts and to meet and even to beat the criminal gangs at their own game. In the lack of 12 any continuous official information, I honestly do not know what bodies of men have been accused or ought to be accused of the different excesses which have taken place. We have, in fact, had curiously little official information on this subject.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
Perhaps the noble Earl when he replies will be able to tell me why. We were all of us used during the war to the refusal of information, more especially at the early stages of the campaigns, but the authorities gave reasons, many of which no doubt were very strong, for refusing a great deal of information which the public would have been glad to have. So far as I am able to understand, those reasons do not exist at all in the case of Ireland, and I shall be curious to hear what the noble Earl says regarding the refusal, or at any rate, the absence, of any coherent official statement or series of statements as to what has occurred, in face of the great public uneasiness which has been felt at the snippets of news on the subject which appear from time to time in the public Press.
What are the sort of outrages which we see described in those reports as having been executed by men dressed in His Majesty's uniform? We have seen stories that people have been shot in their houses, altogether apart from those who, in resisting arrest, may themselves have used firearms and been shot in the scuffle. It has been stated that there are cases where uniformed men have gone to a man's house and killed him. It is also stated that there are cases in which houses have been thus visited and a man has been taken out and shot in the road. In addition to that, something like fifty towns—many of them, no doubt, according to the Irish use of the word, quite small places—and villages have been attacked in one way or another and destruction done, that destruction in many cases taking the form of burning. At Balbriggan— which, as your Lordships know, is in the immediate neighbourhood of Dublin just at the north of the county, close to Drogheda—according to the account one read the town was more or less laid waste. A great deal of damage was also done at Trim, which, as your Lordships know, is also at no great distance from Dublin. Then we were told that quite recently the Cork City Hall was attacked with some form of explosive; and a great 13 deal of destruction also took place at two small places, Athenry and Tubbercurry. I mention these merely as in stances, and I do not ask the noble. Earl to give me particulars of any of them. If I had desired them I should have told him beforehand that I wished him to obtain, if he could, from the Irish Office the particulars regarding these special cases. I only mention them as cases about which much has been said in the newspapers, and regarding width sooner or later a full explanation will be demanded.
Then, my Lords, there is the destruction of creameries, regarding which I have had no explanation that appealed to me as in any way reasonable. Creameries, of course, are in a peculiar position in that they are not popular with a considerable body of Irishmen, many of whom have been what we have been in the habit of calling Nationalists. It is quite obvious, of course, as we know in this country, that the cooperative movement, part of which they represent, finds little favour with small shopkeepers and others; therefore the movement, however welcome to the farmers, has not been liked by many Irishmen. But why in the present political situation creameries should be made the subject of special attacks, apparently, as we read, by men wearing His Majesty's uniform, I confess I do not comprehend. The movement for the establishment of co-operative creameries, as I think we have often agreed in this House, has been or vast benefit to Ireland, and Sir Horace Plunkett, who was the prime mover in it, has been praised by many who do not agree with all his views. I was all the more sorry, therefore, to see that in his speech at Carnarvon the Prime Minister extracted a cheat giggle from his sympathetic audience by a jibe at Sir Horace Plunkett.
Then Fermoy apparently has twice been the subject of raids. I detain your Lordships for a moment by mentioning the case of Fermoy because I received a letter from a man who, according to his own account, had been the victim of an outrage there. His story is this. He is a jeweller in Fermoy, which, I suppose your Lordships know, is on the borders of Cork and water-ford, and a considerable place. On the night of June 27 the soldiers stationed in Fermoy—this was military outbreak—smashed and destroyed the shutters and the plate-glass windows of his shop. They forcibly entered and remained there for 14 two hours, looting and destroying all the show cases with tools brought from the barracks for the purpose. The constables of the Royal Irish Constabulary telephoned to the barracks for assistance, which was not sent, and the soldiers carried away several thousand pounds' worth of jewellery Mr.Cole, the gentleman in question, then describes the rather unsuccessful efforts which he made to recover some of the goods, and he apparently received very little back. He then says—I know of no reason why the troops should attack my shop. I am a loyalist and North of Ireland Protestant, and have always been on friendly terms with the officers and men. Many of the films have enjoyed the hospitality of my house from time to time. My shop—my Only means of support—has been closed for three months. I ant compelled to sell my furniture. I am told that the Government officials ale making an excuse of not paying compensation because certain people in Fermoy have sworn allegiance to Dail Eircann—that is, the Sinn Fein Parliament—I have not given allegiance to, nor sin I in sympathy with, Sinn Fein. I have no one to lock to for compensation sire to tie Government. A colonel told me that if he had been in town he could have prevented the outbreak. If that was so, why did the office in command not prevent it?I cannot vouch for that statement, but I give it to the House as it was given to me. I understand that it is this gentleman's intention also to raise the matter in another place. There fore I do not pursue it but I think I have said enough to show that both life and property in Ireland have been for some time past in grave jeopardy, not merely from the revolutionary outrages, but also from what are called these reprisals—undertaken, it is to be presumed, in revenge for the outrages.
Let us consider for a moment what the Government has so far had to say about this matter. Very little has so far been said. On September 30 the Chief Secretary, when reviewing the Constabulary in Dublin, said that the newspaper reports of reprisals were misleading and often untrue. That is quite possible in the absence of authorised official statements. But the Chief Secretary went on to say that in some cases there had been unjustifiable action—which I think is a mild way of putting it—which was being investigated. I will say a word later about the investigations. The Prime Minister went into the matter at greater length when he spoke at Carnarvon on 15 October 9. He dwelt, as he was fully entitled to dwell, on the intolerable provocation which the troops and the police have received. That is denied by nobody, and full weight ought to be given by all fair-minded people to that fact.
But then the Prime Minister went on to give two instances of reprisals which apparently he regarded as typical and as explaining why the provocation received by the forces of the Crown was past all bearing. He mentioned the case of five policeman who were traveling on a car and were shot with expanding bullets, and, with all the skill of a Mark Antony, he described to his audience how horribly these poor fellows were mutilated. He went on to say that a second police car unexpectedly came up, and the men on that car followed and shot at sight those who were undoubtedly the assassins. If they were undoubtedly the assassins we should all say that, as a reprisal, even if it was a breach of discipline, that was about as venial a breach of discipline as could be conceived. At the same time, if those men undoubtedly were the perpetrators of the murders with the expanding bullets, it would I think have been preferable if, instead of being shot, they had been taken, tried, and hanged—I am assuming, of course, that the evidence was clear. They would have been tried, not by a jury, who might have acquitted them, but by a Court-Martial, and they would have been hanged, which, I should have thought, was an infinitely better example to the public, besides being a terror to evildoers, than shooting them in a way which, although not perhaps in strict conformity with military usage, is the sort of thing which very often takes place in the course of a war. Well, that was one case, which the Prime Minister apparently regarded as a typical reprisal.
He mentioned one more. He mentioned what was almost the most startling and appalling crime in the long list, namely, that of the elderly official who was taken out of a tramcar in the suburbs of Dublin and murdered in cold blood—a man against whom Sinn Fein itself could say nothing, except that he had in his official capacity tried criminals in the past—a most atrocious outrage, and every whit as bad as the murders in Phoenix Park in 1882. I never heard that any reprisals had been executed in answer to that crime, and I never heard of anybody who was supposed to have been concerned in it having been killed by soldiers 16 or police, even out of hand and untried and in the heat of a quite intelligible revenge. Perhaps some day we shall hear whether there ever was such a reprisal. I cannot recall having seen any account of it in the newspapers.
Those are the two instances which the Prime Minister gave, but he said nothing whatever about other instances of reprisals of the kind which I fear I may have wearied the House by mentioning, although not at length, in the earlier part of my speech. One has to ask generally when these reprisals are committed—Is it always clear that they are committed upon people who are presumed to be concerned with assassinations or members of a murder gang? I ask this because it is a notorious fact that there are two quite distinct revolutionary bodies in Ireland—namely, that of Sinn Fein proper, Republicans, guilty if you like of treason and prepared to engage in civil war in order to secure the independence of Ireland; then there is the inner, or possibly different, gang answering to the Invincibles of earlier date, who are presumed to be the people who carry out these crimes of all kinds. It is admitted, as I understand, by a great many people, loyal people, that it by no means follows that all Sinn Feiners approve of these assassinations, and it may be even that some of them definitely disapprove of them, just as we know a great many of the Nationalist Members disapproved of the Invincibles of 1881 and 1882. My point is, may it not have happened that some of the people who have been victims of these reprisals have not been concerned with the assassination wing, if that is the proper phrase, but have been active politicians, Republicans, men who may, if you like, be locked up and tried for high treason, but against whom there is not even the same colour for taking this particular form of revenge, either by violence or by destruction of property, as conceivably might be condoned in the case of those who are actively concerned in a campaign of assassination.
So far I have not noticed anywhere any statement which would justify one in saying that those who have spoken for His Majesty's Government are in any way shocked at these reprisals, whatever form they may take. I can imagine it is said, "The Government necessarily disapprove of breaches of discipline and of outbreaks of this kind, with their un- 17 fortunate results, and it s not necessary to say so." "That goes without saying," somebody once said to Talleyrand, and his reply was "That would go better still if it were said." it is not a time I think, public opinion being what it is, when members of His Majesty's Government can afford to have it asserted that, in the difficulty of securing evidence in Ireland and consequently of punishing crime, they are content to say nothing in reprobation of these reprisals because a certain number of guilty people may be their victims.
Then I may be told that the Government have to stand by their subordinates; that if they begin to express disapproval of these reprisals they dishearten a large number of men who are doing their best. As to that, I believe there is a distinction that tan be clearly, drawn and a canon that can plainly be laid down. I think that it is the duty of the head of a Department, so far as he can, to make the best of a subordinate's ease where subordinate has been guilty of an error of judgment, however disastrous; of a blunder, however unlucky; or even of a misapprehension of duty, however painful it s consequence; but there can be no question of standing by a subordinate by condoning, still less by conniving at, offences against the public. I am pretty well convinced—if I might have the attention of the noble Earl for one moment, as I am going to mention him—I am pretty well convinced that when he was governing India he adhered strictly to a canon of that kind, and that he did not mind incurring some unpopularity on several occasions by strictly adhering to the rule which I have ventured so lay down.
The Chief Secretary said that these matters were being inquired into. Well, what does that mean? It means, I take it, a regimental or a divisional inquiry, leading perhaps to stoppage of leave of some officers and confinement to barracks for a fortnight or more for some of the men. Possibly—I have no desire to be unfair—it may mean some more severe penalty. But in any case I venture to say that that will not do. I do not believe that the people of this country generally will have confidence in private inquiries of that kind into these charges; especially will they not have confidence in them after such speeches as the Prime Minister made at Carnarvon. I did not have the fortune to see a report of the speech which the Secretary of State for War made some- 18 where in Scotland, but I gathered that it was couched in very much the same tone.
It may be that these reprisals fail; that those who are guilty of them do not, by their means, intimidate the criminals sufficiently to stop crime; and, indeed, that they lead to worse excesses on the part of the criminals. But, on the other hand, reprisals of that kind may succeed. My impression is that the Germans succeeded pretty well in Belgium with their reprisals; I think they kept the country fairly quiet; but I do not hesitate to say that in Ireland their success would be a greater disaster than their failure. I would very much sooner see Ireland engaged in a civil war, fairly conducted on both sides, than apparently pacified by destructive means such as those which I have described. I noticed in a French newspaper, which is more or less uniformly friendly to the Prime Minister, an appeal to him to crown his astonishing career by finding a half-way house between the civil war which is the policy of Sinn Fein and the ruthless repression and systematic reprisals which constitute the policy of the men who are responsible for maintaining the authority of the Crown in Ireland. I should be very sorry to admit the accuracy of that last description, but it shows what is felt, at any rate by sonic, in other countries, regarding the state of things across the Irish Channel.
How will those who take such a view as that—and there may be many of them—regard the relegation of an Inquiry into these matters into merely private and Departmental investigations? In my opinion some more regular Inquiry is needed. An Inquiry of that kind might be made by a Parliamentary Committee, but there are obvious difficulties, which I need not develop, in taking such a course. On the other hand, it might be made by some form of Special Commission, in some ways analogous to that which enquired into the Punjab disturbances. Some of your Lordships may possibly remember that I did not favour that particular Commission of Inquiry. I thought it a mistake in the special conditions under which India is governed, but I think there is far more to be said for it in the case of Ireland, both from Ireland's nearness to this country and from the possibility of the proceedings of such an Inquiry being carefully watched here and being ultimately, with full comprehension, sanctioned or criticised by Parliament. If I could have my way I 19 would not make such an Inquiry judicial. I should try to get some soldier of the first distinction, like Lord Allenby or Lord Plumer, to take charge of it; but that is a detail.
I ask His Majesty's Government to consider the possibility of some such Inquiry, in the first place for the sake of the good name of this country which is liable to be besmirched by the uncontradicted tales which we hear of these excesses committed by the agents of the Government, and not less do I make the request for the sake of those, the Army and the Royal Irish Constabulary, who have not been guilty of any of these outrages, and who, in circumstances of great danger, very thankless circumstances and circumstances of enormous difficulty, have preserved their sense of duty and their sense of discipline. I have suggested the possibility of appointing a special Inquiry. But meantime and apart from that question I move for Papers, because I feel that the House and the country ought to receive a regular Bluebook on the subject, dating from the time when the first charges of these outbreaks were made and carried as nearly as possible down to the present date.
§ VISCOUNT BRYCE
My Lords, as I am one of the few surviving members of your Lordships' House who have filled the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland, I may perhaps be permitted to say a few words upon the question which has been raised by my noble friend Lord Crewe. I need hardly say that I agree entirely, as I am sure every member of your Lordships' House does, with the expression which my noble friend gave to the horror that we all feel at the events which have been happening in Ireland and at the suffering which has been inflicted, in particular upon many perfectly innocent civilians. I do not feel able to express the indignation and horror with which, as one who has known Ireland for more than seventy years, I think of the present condition of that country—far worse than it has ever been in living memory. One has to go back to 1798, if not to 1641, to find a parallel for the conditions which now exist in Ireland.
This matter of reprisals is a new feature in Irish history. So far as I know, there has never been a case before in which the forces of the Crown were allowed to proceed to lawless acts of vengeance on their own behalf without authority from their proper 20 commanders. The closest parallel I can think of is what happened in the Rebellion of 1798. After that Rebellion was suppressed irregular levies traversed the country from one end to the other, not under regular military command but under the command of temporary chiefs, and conducted all sorts of outrages upon the population, arresting, flogging, and shoot-lag people on suspicion, and looting where-ever they went. These outrages excited the indignation which stands recorded in the letters and despatches of Lord Cornwallis, a man of most humane mind, then Viceroy of Ireland, who did his utmost to stop them. They were also condemned by Sir Ralph Abercromby, afterwards the victor at Alexandria, then Commander-in Chief of the Forces in Ireland. They put on record the horror they felt that these lawless bands should scour the country shooting people and putting them to death.
We looked upon these things as belonging to one of the worst and painful pasts which would never recur. But these reprisals now are like them in this respect, that they appear to be done without proper control and in violation or disregard of the orders which we must assume to have been given them by the proper military commanders under whose direction they are placed. It is news to me that the Royal Irish Constabulary should have been a party to these things. As I knew Ireland as Chief Secretary there was no better disciplined force than the Royal Irish Constabulary no force more obedient to its officers, and a force which on many occasions has shown the utmost patience and good temper under great provocation. I cannot conceive any provocation greater than that which the Irish Constabulary had often to stand in remote parts of the country where they were living among what may be an angry population. The patience, good sense, and forbearance which they have shown deserve the highest praise. I cannot but hope that the excesses of which we have heard to-night have been perpetrated rather by those who have come back slightly accustomed to habits of violence in other countries than by the members of a force which has borne so good a character hitherto.
I cannot suppose that the Government approve of these outrages; I cannot suppose that they do not regret what are called "reprisals"; but I regret that they should even appear to palliate them. They ought 21 to have spoken with no other language except that of condemnation of conduct of this kind by any one wearing the uniform of His Majesty. What are reprisals? I will not enter into any legal definition of the term. There are many your Lordships who can discuss that question with more competence than I can; but in war, reprisals are not the unauthorised acts of individual soldiers. They are things which are done under authority in certain circumstances and in a particular way. These reprisals appear to be the acts of irregular bodies of men, whether with or without their officers we are not informed, who suddenly burst into a town or village and commence wrecking and shooting almost at random in the streets. Reprisals in this sense may be defined as being the punishment of the innocent because you cannot find the guilty. It does find a sort of parallel in the earlier part of the late war when the forces of the enemy invaded France and Belgium. They seized the innocent inhabitants, choosing the most respectable they could find, took them out of town, put their backs to the wall and shot them in order to terrorise the rest of the town. There was no pretence that these citizens were guilty; it was thought that terror would be impressed on the minds of the inhabitants if they saw these citizens shot. The matter has not been pressed to that extreme in Ireland; it has not been clone in the same cold-blooded way as it was done in those countries. But there is this similarity, that a great loss of life and property is inflicted upon persons against whom there is no evidence or any proof that they are even in sympathy with the crimes for which reprisals are undertaken.
The excuse given is that of provocation. Of course, the provocation has been very great. No one will deny that crimes such as the noble Marquess referred to—the shooting of constables in the streets of Dublin, the atrocious murder of Mr. Brooke in his room at the railway station, the case in which the magistrate, Mr. Bell, was dragged out of the tramcar and murdered—do excite our strongest indignation and horror, but they ought to be punished in a way so as to impress the mind of the people. The Government, it must be remembered, have extremely wide powers. They have a Court-Martial granted with more liberal powers than I can remember has ever been granted in Ireland, and with these powers they ought to be able, if summary punishment is to be inflicted, to find the persons 22 who deserve it and punish them instead of leaving this wild justice of revenge to wreak its will.
Another argument which has been used is that these outrages, the destruction of life and property, fall upon persons who are known to be disaffected and dangerous. It is really too much to ask us to believe that a crowd of "Black and Tans," disgorged from a motor car at midnight in the streets of an Irish village, go straight to the people who are suspected of being disaffected and dangerous. It is far more probable, and I believe is borne out by the fact, that in many cases the houses and shops of perfectly innocent people who have no complicity whatever with Sinn Fein have been looted and they themselves greviously wounded or killed. One case was given by the noble Marquess. I know of others, and several have appeared in the public Press in which the houses of persons who had given no ground for suspicion suffered Take the case of towns like Balbriggan and Mallow, where there scents to have been an orgy of destruction in the streets. Is it suggested that only the houses of people who were known to be guilty were the houses to be attacked?
Ireland is a peculiar country. It. is a country in which more than any other it is possible for a small minority to terrorise a majority. I do not believe from what little I can learn that the bulk of the inhabitants of Ireland, even in the three west and southern Provinces, are in active sympathy with Sinn Fein. The appearance of acquiescence which is given is clue to the terrorising power exercised by a minority, aided no doubt by the want of sympathy with the Government which many historical causes have tended to produce and which has been much aggravated by the political mistakes of the last few years. But your Lordships must not assume that the bulk of the people in these towns that have been attacked are to be classed as Sinn Feiners; neither must you assume that the people who perpetrate the murders are necessarily Sinn Feiners.
My noble friend referred to that point with perfect truth, and I go a little further. I recollect very well the events of 1881 and 1882. The murders of that time were perpetrated, not by the Nationalist Party, which was then the political party that was opposing British rule in Ireland; they were perpetrated by other organisations. There 23 was the organisation to which Lord Crewe referred as the Invincibles; there was the organisation—which may have been the same thing under another name—that was called the Irish Republican Brotherhood. We all know that the murders of Mr. Burke and Lord Frederick Cavendish were perpetrated by that organisation, and so far from that organisation being in any way under the orders of or amenable to the political party of the time, the leaders of the Irish Nationalist Party themselves went in daily fear of their lives at the hands of that extreme organisation. I dare say some of your Lordships know, what I was told at the time by the then Home Secretary, that Mr. Charles Parnell had actually asked for police protection to perserve him from the attacks of these extreme partisans. I know that he went constantly armed in fear of an attack from them. So far were those organisations from being at the beck and call of the political party; they were in antagonism to it, and I should not be at all surprised to know that the same thing exists to-day, and that the leaders of Sinn Fein itself may be alarmed by the threats of these murder organisations which carry on their detestable work. I hope therefore, my Lords, that none of you will suppose that by attacking the inhabitants of a town, as has been done, any impression is produced upon the minds of those secret societies which have been the real bane and curse of Ireland for so many years.
All that I have heard from Ireland and what I saw during the short visit I paid to the country three months ago give me, I must confess, a very painful impression—an impression that I never had before in Ireland, the impression of a complete loss of moral authority there on the part of His Majesty's Government. It is perfectly distressing to hear—and this not from people in any way sympathetic to Sinn Fein, but who could be described as moderate Unionists—of the way in which there has been loss of confidence and loss of respect for His Majesty's Government in Ireland. It is a very serious matter in any country when that moral authority disappears. And can anything do more to destroy the last shred of moral authority which belongs to our Government in that country than our acquiescence in, or tolerance or palliation of, such offences as are attributed to the soldiers and police which we are considering this evening? How can His Majesty's Government claim to be the defenders of law and order? How can they 24 claim that their policy is one which supports the law if they allow these lawless acts to continue? If they want to restore order their first duty is to stop these so-called reprisals and endeavour to award due punishment to those who have allowed or connived at them.
In the meantime I join in the appeal which my noble friend has made to His Majesty's Government to let us know the facts. Let us have an impartial inquiry, conducted by persons whose eminence and character will inspire confidence, and who will make it their business to get to the bottom of the whole matter. I need hardly say that we all entirely sympathise with the extreme difficulty in which His Majesty's Government has found itself during all these painful months; indeed more or less ever since the Easter Insurrection. But that does not make it less necessary that we should take our stand upon the principle of justice and law (if it is them that we desire to restore) for the sake of our own credit. Remembering the criticism to which we are exposed all over the world regarding the events that are happening in Ireland, I hope that His Majesty's Government will feel that the time has come for a frank and full disclosure of all that has happened, and for a resolute determination that such things shall not occur again.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, an Englishman who has no personal acquaintance whatever with the conditions of Irish life must always feel uneasy if he intervenes in a debate relating to the administration of Irish affairs. He is conscious of his own unfamiliarity with the conditions to which that government must apply, but is quite unable to understand why it is that the religious sects should be engaged in active and violent hostility to one another when living side by side, and he is unable to realise why there should be such bitter hostility between two classes of people who together are entitled to enjoy the honourable right of calling themselves Irishmen. But that hesitation does not apply to the consideration of the matter that is raised by the Motion in the name of the noble Marquess behind me. That deals with quite a different question—namely, the question as to what are the principles upon which English government should be administered and the authority of English law maintained.
25 I should hope it was unnecessary in debates such as this for any person to be required to express his deep and unfeigned abhorrence of the abominable murders that have stained and disgraced Irish life. It used not to be necessary for any English politician to preface his speech by a declaration of faith in the Decalogue, but it seems now that unless he does so he may be accused of a desire to break all the Commandments. These murders must fill everyone with horror and disgust, and it is not a profitable occupation to look back and see whether this outbreak of outrage has not in some way been associated with the ever-tightening force of the coercive measures which this Government has thought fit to apply to the administration of Ireland. It is at least a remarkable thing that as the coercion intensified so the murders increased. It is not profitable because in the end all that can result from such an inquiry is to show that at the best these murders represent nothing but the fiendish perversion of a noble sentiment.
Just as it is easy to condemn the murders of the police and the military that have taken place in Ireland on the one hand, so it would be easy to condemn the excesses by which they have been followed upon the other, if the reports that we have received with regard to those excesses are trustworthy and can be taken as the guide of our censure. As the position stands, we are told again and again and without contradiction that bands of men have looted and burned houses in Irish towns, have wantonly and deliberately destroyed as an act of vengeance instruments of agricultural industry like the co-operative creameries, have burned down public buildings such as town hails, and in one case a memorial erected to fallen soldiers, and that, I will not say from end to end, but from village to village in Ireland—again, I say, if the reports we receive are to be trusted—there have been acts of excess and outrage which mug: be condemned by any person who desires to take pride in the administration of English affairs.
What is the suggested excuse? The just anger, the just wrath of soldiers at the assassination of their comrades. My Lords, that is no excuse at all. If that once be accepted, this follows—that if armed forces find their own members killed by civilians they are justified in shooting innocent people as a reprisal for the wrong and for the purpose of inspiring terror in the minds of other evil-doers.
26 Against such a doctrine as that, there is no one, I am certain, who would protest more vehemently and with greater conviction than the noble Earl the Leader of this House. I should like, if I might, to add to what the noble Marquess said about the record of the noble Earl's rule in India, and to assure him that there are many people over here whose voices may not often be heard in public who feel intensely how much the administration of English justice owes to his firmness and his courage when he was Viceroy of India.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
But, my Lords, there is no geographical limit to the administration of justice. You cannot possibly justify the thing that is wrong because it is taking place in Ireland. If it be wrong in itself, it, is wrong everywhere. And if what we are told be true, there is not only wrong taking place there, but it is active and organised wrong, and the people there believe to-day—I should be sorry myself to credit that belief without further assurance—that these acts of which complaint is made are not merely the accidental acts of men beyond control, but that they know that they will not be called to account for what they do, and that if they have not got the express support they have at least the tacit support of the Government behind them. One of the objects of this debate is to obtain from the noble Earl the Leader of the house a complete and absolute repudiation of any such doctrine, and an assurance that if these wrongs have occurred and if they continue there will not merely be verbal expressions of censure but there will be investigation and punishment meted out to the men who have committed them. No General in the field can possibly excuse excesses by his troops if he desires to maintain military discipline. I can imagine nothing more distasteful to him than to punish good soldiers for wrongful acts done, it may be, in the flush of victory, it may even be in the agony of defeat. None the less he has done it again and again, and it is because such discipline has been maintained that the standard of the British Army is as high as it is to-day. My Lords, that standard must be maintained everywhere, where a British soldier sets his foot. It is not by terror, it is by the administration of justice and the administration of justice alone that English rule may be respected and obeyed.
§ LORD SHANDON
My Lords, it can be only painful for any one who is an Irishman to discuss the questions which have been raised by the Motion of the noble Marquess. Were I to gratify my own feeling I should prefer to be silent, but no matter how humble one's position may be there is a duty upon him to express his views. In my own case I promise to confine them within a very narrow scope indeed, untrammelled by any questions arising out of mere matters of politics or of whether or not His Majesty's Government are deserving of censure in respect of what is taking place in Ireland at the present time.
As a lawyer, I naturally look at this question almost entirely from the lawyer's point of view. But a lawyer cannot be blind to the result of actions, committed by whoever it may be, on the future of peaceful living and good order and government. Nor can he shut his eyes to the fact that it would be deplorable indeed if there should remain a suspicion even that those whose duty it is to preserve order by legitimate means were at all culpable, either directly or indirectly, for breaches of the duty which lies upon them. To that extent only do I desire to say anything contrary to the mere legal position as I conceive it to be Nor does the fact that a matter is looked upon merely from the view of the lawyer necessarily imply that it is something which is not deserving of consideration quite outside the narrow scope to which we are supposed to confine our views.
I have just spent five or six weeks in my country, and I can endorse to the fullest extent what was said by the noble Viscount who at one time was the highest executive official in that country, when he pictured the shocking condition of things which exists there. I yield to no one in my heartfelt condemnation of the crimes which have been committed in that country for a long time past. On the very first occasion when I had the privilege of addressing your Lordships I did so. Then they had not assumed anything like the magnitude which they have assumed since, so that, so far as I am concerned, it is hardly necessary that I should make what has been described as a profession of faith in the matter.
I have always deeply deplored that there has been amongst many—I think rather from an impetuous way of looking at things—a tendency on the one hand to set up these terrible crimes, and on the 28 other to set up the reprisals, which in themselves, if they are really in the nature of authorised reprisals, are just as much crimes. I think that is an unhappy view to take of it, because, making every allowance for human nature—and no one is more willing to do it than I am—making every allowance in those cases where acts were committed by His Majesty's forces in Ireland which could not be technically justified, there still remains, as far as I can see, very strong prima facie evidence that more or less—I was going to use the word "organised," but I do not think that is quite right—but bodies of His Majesty's forces have been guilty of conduct under circumstances which cannot technically or morally be justified. I do not for one moment say that on mere newspaper report we should pass a final and conclusive judgment. That is only one side of the question. I am simply considering whether or not in the charges levelled against the forces of the Crown in Ireland there has been sufficient ground to enable us to say that there is a prima facie case for inquiry and report. I seems to me that there is such a prima facie case.
But let me develop it very shortly. Unquestionably on more than one occasion the Chief Secretary has condemned anything in the nature of the outrages which are said to have been committed by the forces of the Crown in Ireland. Those outrages have also, so far as they concern the military, been spoken of by the General Officer Commanding the Forces in terms of reprehension. I do not at all forget that. But what I do say, and what unfortunately is troubling that portion of the public in Ireland who have no sympathy whatever With the crimes, be they loyalists or be they Sinn Feiners, and what, I think, is troubling the public in England is that, no matter how strongly the members of the Government have condemned such acts, these acts continue, and they do not seem to have been dealt with in such a manner as would give us confidence that they will be effectually stopped.
The dates are these. The first alleged reprisal is stated to have occurred in Fermoy in September, 1919, and there were afterwards in that year four other cases where the forces of the Crown were alleged to have acted in the manner which has been so strongly condemned—whether rightly or wrongly I do not for the moment 29 desire to express an opinion. In the year 1920 we find beginning en January 22 a case in Thurles in Tipperary, followed by one on February 27. There was also an alleged raid into houses in Dublin, but in that case I am rather inclined to think that it would not have come under the head of reprisals. But at any rate we have an alleged act by the troops in Tipperary. There were then a number of alleged breaches by the regular troops in Tipperary and Limerick. I do not wish to dwell on those for the very excellent reason that I do not, any more than your Lordships, know anything of the details of those cases, nor do I think that the facts, so far as I am aware of them, stand out with sufficient prominence to further the argument. But when we come to May we find undoubtedly cases of reprisals by police at Kilmallock, and Tuam, and: Bantry; on June 27, by troops in Fermoy; and so on continuously. The number is alleged to have been altogether about 100. Let us take the figure which was mentioned by the noble Marquess who made this Motion and state it at 50. But they are still going on. On October I the Chief Secretary spoke, as one would naturally expect in condemnation of breaches of discipline which resulted in the destruction of property. But almost on the same day—I think it was on October 1— one of the most serious cases is alleged to have taken place, and two creameries are stated to have been destroyed, and also a portion of the country town of Navan.
A very unpleasant, part of the whole situation is that, certainly in the case of the Balbriggan buntings, there is riot that continuity of criminal act, followed by reprisal, which might be alleged as ground for mitigation. In that case we have a very unhappy instance of what is alleged to be occurring. The police did not come from Balbriggan itself. They came from a distance, some miles away, and they came in the Government waggons, with petrol to drive the engine, and also they were armed. They not only set to to burn the property in Balbriggan which might be considered to belong to Sinn Feiners, but they undoubtedly endeavoured to burn one of the hosiery mills—there are two, I think, in Balbriggan. Very much to the credit of the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the older body, it is stated that they prevented the burning of that mill, whereupon these men proceeded and destroyed another mill. It is a typical 30 instance of how the innocent suffer from these unauthorised acts—I assume them to be quite unauthorised. It is stated that there were 200 women and young girls employed in that factory. Of course, they were left entirely without the means of employment which they had before. The owners of the factory, who, it is also alleged and I think accurately, are a London firm, have no remedy except to recover from the county such compensation as they can and set about the reconstruction of their business as best they can. Now that was on October 1. I may be inaccurate in that date.
But even in this morning's newspapers you will find a further report—be it well-founded or not, I am sure I do not know—where a reprisal is alleged to have taken the form of the execution of two men who are supposed to have been connected in some way with the Sinn Fein Association. We have no proof of that, but it is quite clear that notwithstanding the strong censures of the Chief Secretary these outrages are going on—at least they have not ceased—and they seem to have been more or less continuous down to the present time. Quite recently, and when I was in Ireland, on two successive nights bodies of military seemed to have gone out with sticks smashing and breaking windows on the ostensible ground of punishing somebody for wrongs which had been done. The whole of that state of things is causing intense fear and anxiety in Ireland, not to the perpetrators of crime—I am rather inclined to think that the perpetrators of crime are not the people who suffer; the people who suffer are, I should think, those whose property is damaged and destroyed, perhaps not deliberately, because it happens to be the property of those who are loyal, but because it goes with the general run of property that is being destroyed.
I can quite understand, as has been expressed, the difficulty of His Majesty's Government, and I do not at all seek to minimise it, but if effective steps are not taken to prevent this terrible indiscipline which is leading to those outrages I fear not only disastrous results to my country but also disastrous results in the state of unfortunate exacerbation of feeling which it produces between the two nations. I suggest that an inquiry such as has been mentioned would be far the most desirable method of clearing the air. It will demonstrate, as I must take it on the statements 31 of the Chief Secretary, that these acts are condemned by the Government, and it will fix the responsibility on the right persons. It will also, I think, by the very fact of granting it, establish the desire of the people of England that no matter what has been done by their subordinates, whatever their position may be, they do not shirk inquiry, and that where it is alleged that wrong has been done, even though the circumstances may be such as exist at the present time in Ireland, England is always ready to right that wrong and does not allow, as she would not wish to allow, mere passion or ill-feeling to guide her in government.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I said at an earlier period this afternoon that no one had more occasion to lament the temporary absence from the Woolsack of the Lord Chancellor than myself, and I feel so more particularly at this moment because, as is known to all your Lordships, that noble and learned Lord has charged himself on several occasions in the last six months with representing and defending the Irish policy of His Majesty's Government. He has followed stage by stage the details of Irish administration and Irish legislation with certainly much greater closeness than I, owing to my heavy duties elsewhere, have been able to devote to them, and I am sorry, therefore, that the case has to be presented by myself rather than by him: this afternoon.
I do not, I need hardly say, complain for one moment that on the first effective day of the session this question should have been raised by the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition. On the contrary, viewing the amount of public feeling that has been aroused with regard to it I think it was a duty in both Houses of Parliament, without the lapse even of an hour of time, to raise this question and to give His Majesty's Government the opportunity of making a statement about the case. The noble Viscount, Lord Bryce, challenged the Government to make a frank and full disclosure of the facts, and so far as that is possible within the limits of a speech in your Lordships' House this afternoon I will endeavour to respond to his appeal.
There is one word of caution that I should like to utter in advance. The noble Viscount (Lord Bryce) throughout his speech appeared to accept as proven truth the greater part of what he has read in the 32 newspapers about this subject. I noted on the other hand that the two noble and learned Lords who followed, Lord Buck-master and Lord Shandon, speaking with the restraint and the caution which no doubt are the result of their own prolonged legal experience, at each turn used a conditional phrase. For instance, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, more than once said, "if the reports that are published are correct," "if the things that are stated are true," and the same "if" appeared more than once in the speech to which we have just listened. If I may say so it was a very necessary "if," and it was necessary for these reasons. We all know how difficult it is to regard, even with the most sincere intentions, information that comes from Ireland with a perfectly dispassionate eye. Irish affairs are apt to be viewed through a somewhat distorted lens according to the predispositions or convictions of those who treat them. But there is a second reason much more important than that. I doubt very much whether you get any newspapers at the present moment giving a faithful or correct account of what is passing in Ireland. Impartial newspaper evidence is not welcomed in Ireland; impartial newspaper reporters are not tolerated in Ireland—they are intimidated, they are not allowed to exercise their craft with frankness and truth, they are driven out of the country. I know myself more than one case in which the correspondents of important English newspapers have been so driven in recent months. And it is fair, therefore, to bear in mind that a great deal of what we see in the newspapers comes from a tainted source, comes through channels unjust and very often corrupt, and you must not, in justice to those who are accused, at once accept all the things that you see in the newspapers from day to day.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I utter that word of caution, which I am grateful to your Lordships for accepting; and I do not rest my case upon that alone, because I shall be prepared to take seriatim many of the cases to which reference has been made this evening. In another respect I entirely concur with what fell from the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe. There is no need on the present occasion to diverge on to the wider field of Irish politics, no need to talk about the general 33 policy of the Government, or anything of that sort. This debate has been scrupulously confined by every speaker to the Motion which stands upon the Paper, and to the best of my ability I will follow that excellent example.
Now what is the case which is made and to which it is my duty to reply? I draw some distinction between the case as it has been popularly made in the Press during the last few weeks and the case as I have heard it made, or attempted to be made, this evening. In the Press we have been invited to think that in the struggle that is going on in Ireland between a camp sign of atrocity, arson, and assassination on the one hand and the forces of law and order on the other, the police and the military have indulged, and indulged on a large scale, in acts inconsistent with any high sense of discipline, repugnant to the ordinary feelings of humanity, and dishonouring to the uniform which they wear; and arising out of that charge comes the second one—that these so-called "reprisals," Instead of being condemned, have been condoned (the phrase of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buck-master, was "tacitly supported") by His Majesty's Government. That is the charge in its extreme form as we see it in the Press from day to day. In this House this afternoon it has been expressed in more diluted language. For instance, the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, speaking with his customary moderation, alluded to these alleged acts as "disorderly acts" with regard to which he did not quite know what body of men he ought to accuse. Lord Bryce went rather further, as I have already remarked; because; accepting the acts as proven, he spoke r bout them as "lawless acts of vengeance." Then, as regards the action of the Government, with the exception of the remark made by Lord Buckmaster I gathered that the charge against us which I have to meet is that we ought to have made more speeches on the matter, and, in the recess, to lave made our attitude more clear. That, I gather, is the maximum charge as made in this House that I have to meet.
In our endeavour to get at the facts in this case let us see, first, if we can get at the environment. Let each one of us try to ascertain the atmosphere which renders these things, if they are done, possible; which, indeed, accounts for all that is going on at the present moment in Ireland, whether it is done by one side or the other.
34 What is going on in Ireland at the present moment? You have there a desperate, a malignant conspiracy, known by the name of Sinn Fein, which is endeavouring by every' means in its power, seldom fair, usually foul, to sever the connection with this country and to set up an independent Republic in Ireland. They first tried to effect this end by open rebellion in April, 1916. That attempt ended in failure, and is, I think, not likely to be repeated. They have now passed to a different method of attack—firstly, by passive resistance. They have set up a widespread and, I am told, in its way, a, highly efficient form of organisation and of government in many parts of Ireland; and, secondly, they pursue what I will not honour by describing as guerilla warfare. It is not guerilla warfare. It is the warfare of the Red Indian, of the Apache. It is the warfare which nearly a hundred years ago the Government of India had to suppress, and which was known as "Thuggee"—the man œuvres of the thugs of that country.
Let us observe what are the methods adopted. In the first place, they want arms, ammunition, and explosives to enable them to conduct their campaign. These they endeavour to obtain by attacking barracks, by raiding patrols, and by pillaging private houses. Next, they endeavour to intimidate the agents of law and order. There is no doubt about their object. They want to demoralise and to destroy the forces of the Crown. Hence it is they assassinate soldiers, police, and private persons. We know pretty well how it is done. A secret society meets. It passes sentence upon the marked-out individual. The guilty person is to be destroyed. A party of men, usually from three to ten in number, is designated for the task, and these foul criminals, like sleuth-hounds, stalk their prey until, be it in public or in private, wherever it may be, they succeed in shooting him down. And observe another thing—that all this is done at the minimum of risk to them-selves, because, although they claim to be engaged in warfare and to have the right of shooting the enemy at sight, they do not wear a uniform by which they can be detected. They perform their crimes in the open, or, if not in the open, they skulk behind walls and hedges and in ditches, and then, the moment they have perpetrated the crime, they jump into a motorcar waiting round the corner and are gone.
( 35 I say, and no one will dispute me, that this is not rebellion by rising; this is not freedom by fighting; this is revolution by murder. It is an attempt to paralyse the Government, to destroy the agents of law and order in this country, and to bring the British Empire, if they can do so, to the ground. I put the question, What have they done? Let the House, which wants facts, which wants a frank and full disclosure—let the House apprehend clearly what it is that these persons have done. I give the outrages of which they have been guilty from January 1, 1919, to October 18, 1920; that is one year and three-quarters—
I am coming to the question of houses presently—
- Courthouses destroyed, 64.
- Royal Irish, Constabulary vacated barracks destroyed, 492.
- Similar barracks damaged, 114.
- Royal Irish Constabulary occupied barracks destroyed, 21.
- Similar barracks damaged, 48.
- Raids on mails, 741.
- Raids on coastguard stations and lighthouses, 40.
- Raids for arms, 2,876.
- Policemen killed. 117.
- Policemen wounded, 185.
- Military killed, 23.
- policemen wounded, 71.
- Civilians killed, 32.
- Civilians wounded, 83.
- Private residences of loyal citizens destroyed, 148.Total outrages in that period of 21 months, somewhat over 5,000.It has been my duty in preparing for this debate to read, in ease they might be brought up, score upon score of these cases. I have never gone through a more heart-rending experience. I have read almost innumerable cases of the treatment meted out to the force whose conduct we are considering this afternoon, the Royal Irish Constabulary, many of whose bosoms are decorated by medals won in the Great War. These men have been fired at and shot on duty and off duty, in uniform and in plain clothes, from the front and from the rear, in open and in ambush; and I have read of cases in which men have been killed in the porch of a Roman Catholic chapel, when returning from divine service, in railway carriages, in public houses, and in the privacy of a club. They have been shot with revolvers, rifles, shot guns, and explosive bullets, inflicting the most atrocious and agonising of wounds; they have even been burnt alive in the houses which have been set fire to over their heads.
36 Let me give you two cases, and only two, which have not been mentioned this afternoon. The first is the murder of Constable King. This constable was an Irishman and a devout Roman Catholic. After going to confession at Bantry he started on his bicycle for his station at Glengariffe. He was unarmed. He was ambushed and shot in the head and back. Badly wounded, he made his way to a farmhouse and sought shelter there. His murderers, both of whom were masked, pursued him into the house and dragged him out. He was weak and covered with blood from his wounds and tried to get away from his captors. They shot him dead through the head and threw his body on to a manure heap and walked away. Constable King, before he joined the Royal Irish Constabulary, served for four years in the Navy and took part in the Battle of Jutland.
Then there is the case of Mrs. Crean. At midnight four men, one of whom was masked, entered the house of Patrick Crean and accused his wife of supplying the police at Frenchpark with milk. Two of the men seized Mrs. Crean by the hands and feet, another put his hand over her mouth and the fourth fastened three pig rings with pincers into the unfortunate woman's body. These rings were removed by a doctor the day following. The object of this savage crime was to terrorise the neighbourhood into boycotting the police.
I will not distress your Lordships by reading more of these cases. Nor need I refer to the case of the two distinguished civilians—they have already been referred to—one of whom, a popular and powerful resident magistrate, Mr. Allan Bell, was taken out of a tram car and killed, and the other, a Privy Councillor, a man of the very highest repute and chairman of one of the leading Irish railways, Mr. Frank Brooke, was shot dead in his office.
In this terrible and desolating narrative here are perhaps one or two consoling features, one of which was referred to by Lord Bryce. He said, and I think with truth, that he did not believe that the whole of Ireland sympathised with this sort of thing. On the contrary there are large sections of the population, I believe a large majority, and large parts of the country which have nothing but detestation for this reign of horror. The figures which I will now give your Lordships will demonstrate the correctness of this view.
37 Including Dublin and Belfast there are thirty-two counties in Ireland. In nine of these no policeman, soldier, or other servant of the Crown has been murdered. In each of thirteen other counties one policeman has been murdered; in each of three other counties two policemen; in one other three policemen; in two other counties four policemen, and in one other county five policemen have been murdered. In Dublin, including the city, nine policemen have been murdered; in Tipperary, ten; in Limerick, including the City of Limerick, fifteen; in Clare, fifteen; and in Cork, including the City of Cork, twenty-two policemen have been murdered by persons acting in the name of the Irish Republic and Sinn Fein. The real murder area, there gore, where any considerable portion of the population support or acquiesce in assassination is narrowed down to certain counties, and those are the counties in the main where the wave of crime has always been highest in the disturbed periods of Irish history. In the remaining counties Sinn Fein tills tried, and tried ineffectually, to organise the murder campaign which I am describing, and it is, I think, a matter of real satisfaction and consolation that the great majority of the Irish people refuse to be a party to this detestable series of crimes.
There is another consoling feature to which I should like, in passing, to allude. The attempt to demoralise the Force by intimidation has wholly failed. Every one knows that these things have been done in order to deter men from joining the Royal Irish Constabulary, to force those who have joined into resigning, and in this way to begin by decimating and end by destroying the entire Force. Here again I can best give you the case by figures. I will take a recent week. On October 10 the total strength of the Royal Irish Constabulary Regular Force was 10,463. In that week 18 retired, 22 resigned, 4 were killed, and 10 were dismissed—and let me point out that these dismissals were for breaches of discipline which the noble Viscount so earnest y deplored—the total wastage in that week being 54. The recruits in the same period numbered 365. Let me be quite frank about the matter; it is quite true that the greater part came from this country but no fewer than 25 came from Ireland itself. The net increase, therefore, in the week was 311, leaving the total strength of the force 10,774.
38 Take the other force, the Royal Irish Constabulary Auxiliary Division, a force which is in the main recruited from officers who served in the late war and who have gone over from this country in order to assist in the work of preserving law and order. On October 10 the strength of this force was 629; the wastage was 7, recruits 61, and the net increase 54. The strength of the force at the end of the week was 683. At this moment the strength of the Royal Irish Constabulary is greater than at any time since 1912.
I have tried in this brief résumé to give your Lordships some idea of the position in Ireland, of the objects and acts of the 'conspiracy with which we are dealing, and of the effect, the small effect, that they have so far produced on the moral of their would-be victims. I think this narrative, though I have no desire to harrow your Lordships' feelings, does enable us in some measure to understand, as we ought to attempt to understand, the strain under which these men live, the provocation to which they are subjected, and the temptation—in some cases it must, be an irresistible temptation—to strike back at the assassins.
I come to the question of reprisals, upon which this debate has turned. I do not think that in substance there will be any disagreement between us on all sides of the House that there are different classes of reprisals; that there is, for instance, a class of reprisals—I rather dislike the word, and will use the expression acts of retaliation—which are entirely legitimate. I allude to such actions, whether they be taken by police or military, as are taken either for the purpose of self-protection or for the just retribution of crime. No one would contend for a moment that if a policeman or soldier is shot he is not entitled to shoot back—
EARL CURZON OP KEDLESTON
—and I think it can fairly be argued that, given the nature of the danger that confronts him, he is not very far wrong if he gets his shot in first. If he knows that he is going to be shot (as he does), if he knows that hiding behind the hedge along which he is passing, or the house which he is approaching, or the wall which he is skirting, there lurks a party who at a moment's notice may shoot him dead, he 39 is entitled, I think, to be first upon the field. If it comes to that, and if the question is put—and it is a fair question to put—where is the responsibility, I think the answer is clear. If there were no murders there would be no reprisals. If murder ceased to-morrow reprisals, supposing them to be committed—and I am coming to that—would automatically cease at the same moment The last man, it seems to me, who ought to complain is the Sinn Feiner. He is a rebel, a criminal, an assassin. He glories in his crime. He is out to destroy the British Empire, and every representative of that Empire is his sworn foe whom it is his duty to shoot at sight. He cannot complain if he is sometimes paid back in the same coin. Those, my Lords, I think you will agree, are legitimate and defensible acts of retaliation, reprisal, or whatever be the phrase you like to adopt.
There are allegations that other acts are committed of what I may call indiscriminate reprisals—reprisals which have no definite object except one of destruction, reprisals which may injure the innocent as well as the guilty and have no special provocation in the circumstances of the case. Of course, reprisals of that nature are indefensible and wrong—morally indefensible and practically unwise and wrong—whether they are committed from feelings of uncontrollable resentment or inspired by deliberate revenge. No one would contest that for one moment. No member of His Majesty's Government would contest it. But when the police are charged with this particular kind of reprisal, again I have to say, "Remember the source from which the charge comes, and also bear in mind "here again I quote my noble friend Lord Bryce—"the character and the record of these men." He recalled the fact that he had been Chief Secretary for Ireland, and said that in his day the Irish Constabulary were picked men of the highest honour and self-restraint, likely to conduct themselves, clearly conducting themselves, as gentlemen. Have they changed? Has the moral of the Force altogether disappeared? Take these men, some of whom I have mentioned; particularly take the men of the Auxiliary Force who were officers in the recent war. Are we to believe that those men, who declined to demean themselves to the level of the Germans, are going to sink to a lower standard of morality and honour when they are confronted even with the criminal 40 classes in their own country? I decline to believe that for one moment. I am prepared to investigate charges, I am prepared to listen to evidence, but I will not judge unheard.
We then come to the complaints about the Government. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, complained of what he thought was the somewhat pallid language employed by the Chief Secretary for Ireland—
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
—and the Prime Minister. I have here the Order which was issued by the headquarters of the Royal Irish Constabulary on September 28, and I think it only fair to read it to the House. It was circulated throughout the Forces in Ireland, and says—Alleged acts of reprisal by police and soldiers.Many reports have appeared in the Press of alleged acts of reprisal by police and soldiers. These accounts are generally thoroughly misleading and often misrepresent acts of justifiable self-defence as reprisals, but there are cases in which unjustifiable action has undoubtedly been taken. These cases are being carefully investigated. Meanwhile it is necessary to repeat and emphasise that reprisals will ruin the discipline of the Force and cannot be countenanced by these in authority. The great provocation under which men suffer who see their comrades and friends foully murdered is fully recognised, but the police are urged to maintain in spite of this provocation that self-control that has characterised the Force in the past. By so doing they will earn the respect and admiration of the majority of their fellow-countrymen.That does not seem to strike any halting note. It seems to me calculated on the one hand not to dishearten or dismay this gallant Force, but on the other hand it points out with exemplary clearness the nature of the offences which they may not commit, and the attitude and views of the Government with regard to them.
I come to the particular cases, because although the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, said that he would not deal with specific cases, not having given me an opportunity of preparing a reply on them, other speakers have dealt with specific cases or groups of cases, and I will deal with these in turn. I will take first the case of the destruction of houses. Some speaker said, "What a monstrous thing that these constables should get out of hand and burn and destroy the houses of innocent persons." Innocent persons, any Lords! That is an assumption which I cannot accept. These houses 41 that have been destroyed are in many cases the dens of murder. They are the places where these plots are hatched. They are in-habited by assassins. I do not think, as far as I can ascertain, that there has been a single case of the destruction of a house in which the destruction has not been preceded by a particularly brutal murder. Some of these houses, further, have been destroyed, it is only fair to remember, either in the search for arms, which is one of the elementary functions of the Constabulary, or in far fighting; and if we begin to talk about destruction of house s let us look at numbers. Some noble Lords seemed to think that there had been indiscriminate destruction of the houses of innocent people by the police. The total number of houses destroyed—with the exception of those that have been destroyed in Ulster in faction fighting between the two religious sections—or alleged to have been destroyed by the police in Ireland, is fifty.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
By the police and military, Meanwhile the total number of private residences that have been destroyed in the same period by Sinn Feiners, about which no one has said a word, is 148. Each one of these cases is examined and has to be examined on its merits. Supposing clear evidence establishes that a house has been destroyed, that property has been destroyed, or injury has been inflicted by he police or the military not in the legitimate discharge of their duties. I frankly admit that that is a case not only for investigation not only for punishment, but for the assumption of financial responsibility by the Government. That seems to me to be the elementary duty of the Government.
Then I pass from the houses to the creameries. Great play has been made with the creameries. We have been told, quite properly, that these creameries represent a public-spirited effort to promote the industrial and economic development of Ireland, and they are more particularly owing to the patriotic activities of Sir Horace Plunkett. The noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, said he could not understand why they had been attacked It is difficult to understand why they should be attacked unless you are quite clear who is the attacking party. If the attacking party were the police—I am coming to that in a moment— 42 I imagine that some explanation might be found in the fact that a good many of these creameries are managed by well-known Sinn Feiners, and also that they have in many cases deliberately refused to issue their supplies either to the police, or their wives or families, or anybody connected with them. As regards the actual scale of destruction, there are in Ireland, or at any rate there were, 710 of these creameries; of these 16 have been destroyed and 11 partially destroyed, the total destruction, either complete or partial, being 27 out of a total of 710. Nor can I find, having gone carefully into the matter, any certain evidence that these creameries have been destroyed by servants of the Crown.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
In no single instance has evidence been put before me that they have been destroyed by servants of the Crown, and I will give a curious corroboration of that. On August 19 last a letter was written by the Chief Secretary for Ireland to Sir Horace Plunkett with special reference to these creameries, and his letter contained these words—I deplore and condemn these outrages which have no other result than to injure the economic and agricultural development of the country, and can assure you that the Irish Government will do all in if s p to put a stop to them and to punish those responsible. The difficulty is to obtain evidence as to the persons responsible. So far the outstanding difficulty has been that the sufferers have been unable or unwilling to come forward with such evidence, and I am very glad to see that you undertake that the officers of the society will do all they can to aid us in this respect. If evidence is brought forward proving that any servant of the Government is guilty of any such outrage the offender will be dealt with severely.That letter was written on August 19, but no evidence of any sort has as yet been supplied by Sir Horace Plunkett.
I pass to a case in a rather different category—the case of Balbriggan, which was mentioned this afternoon. The Balbriggan case was a very unfortunate and. regrettable one. In one respect it is singular, because this is the only factory, I believe—it is a hosiery factory, and it happens to be owned by an Englishman—that has been destroyed in Ireland in these turmoils. The circumstances were these. Head Constable Burke, a very popular police officer, who had just been promoted to be District-Inspect or, was passing through 43 Balbriggan, and as he left a publichouse in that town he was murdered. His brother was seriously wounded at the same, time. The sight of the dead body of this man lying upon the ground provoked his comrades to uncontrollable passion, and they indulged in the reprisals to which reference has been made. Persons were killed, publichouses were burned, and a number of private houses were destroyed. I think, my Lords, that the case of Balbriggan is one in which the servants of the Crown exceeded their legitimate functions. I make no doubt about it, but I merely state to the House the character and the extremity of the provocation under which they laboured.
Then the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, mentioned one particular case, that of Fermoy. As far as I can ascertain there have been two eases in which damage has been done at Fermoy. The first was as far back as September 9, 1919, when considerable damage was committed by the troops as a reprisal for the murder of a soldier. The second occasion was on June 27 of the present year, when again Fermoy was attacked and partially sacked by troops, this being an act of reprisal on their part for the kidnapping of General Lucas which we remember reading of in the papers at the time.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
That was the time—the second occasion—at which the gentleman who wrote to me complained of his shop being attacked.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Then my noble and learned friend Lord Shandon alluded to a case which appeared in the newspapers this morning, where two men were alleged to have been called out and shot. We telegraphed to Ireland for information in regard to that in case the matter should be raised, but it has not yet reached me. Here again I applaud the caution of my noble and learned friend, because cases have occurred—I do not say without further knowledge that this is one—in which outrages alleged to have been committed by the police are committed by men who have stolen the uniforms of the police or of the soldiers, and who are themselves committing reprisals on Sinn Feiners who have been insufficiently active in the prosecution of their cause.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Therefore if you read in the papers, probably from a tainted source, that the police have done this, do not jump at once to the suspicion that it necessarily was the members of that particular force.
I have alluded to a definite pronouncement made by the Government in Ireland. Von may ask me what steps are actually taken day by day when these things occur or when they are alleged to occur. Take the case, for instance, of damage to and destruction of property. An immediate police inquiry is instituted; a claim is filed at once by the man who is the petitioner, the man who has suffered; a County Court Judge sits upon the case, and the damages are assessed under the Criminal Injuries Act. Take the case of a death. An immediate inquest is held by a coroner's jury, and if it he a case in which soldiers are involved a military inquiry is at once held under the Restoration of Order Act. There is no attempt to conceal the matter. It is investigated with the utmost promptitude and with the fullest desire to do justice. Take the case of these alleged reprisals. If the accused parties are the military, an investigation is at once ordered from military headquarters. If the accused are the police, an inquiry is ordered and undertaken by the Inspector-General of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and this is done not merely in the interests of justice, but in the interests of the force itself. Neither soldiers nor police like to remain under the weight of charges of this description, and it is in their own interests and in the interests of discipline that the inquiry is at once held.
But the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, is dissatisfied with this. He says that this sort of inquiry is not sufficiently public; it is not on a large enough scale; let us have something bigger, more sensational, something which will produce a greater effect upon the public mind. And the two particular forms of inquiry that he suggested this afternoon were, first, an Inquiry by a Parliamentary Committee—a suggestion which he himself rejected as impracticable, or at any rate undesirable, almost as soon as he had made it—and an Inquiry by a Special Commission, presided over by some eminent soldier, such as Lord Allenby or Lord Plainer. I wonder if that was a serious suggestion? I wonder if your Lordships, as you examine it, can seriously urge such a proposal upon the Government.
45 Let us look at it from two points of view. Supposing such an Inquiry were held, with all the circumstances of dignity and impartiality that you can create. What kind of evidence would be given before that body? The present competition in murder would be followed by an equally, and possibly an even more, dangerous competition in perjury. The life of every policeman in Ireland would be sworn away. There is not a Sinn Feiner who would not come before that tribunal to perjure his soul fifty times over in order to get the blood of a. policeman. And the idea of setting up an Inquiry of that sort to sit in Ireland now and take evidence when, as every one knows, evidence is not procurable—and if evidence is given it is false and perjured evidence—does not seem to me to be a suggestion that has any practical merit.
one other point of view. Is it not fair to consider the position of these men who are fighting your battle? They are facing desperate odds. They carry their lives in their hands. Any one of them may be shot under circumstances that I have described at any hour of any day or night. Are they, standing up with the intrepid courage that I have described, to be told that in the midst of this turmoil a Commission, presided over by a great General, is to go to Ireland and sit in judgment upon their conduct? I cannot imagine anything more disheartening, more cruel, more 'instates-manlike, or more disastrous. I hope that His Majesty's Government trill not do anything of the sort. The inquiries which I have described are being continuously and fearlessly pursued, and where it is true that wrong things have been cone justice is meted out. But at this moment, when you are battling with these forces, when the existence of this Empire almost is at stake, to set up this Inquiry with all our experience of these Inquiries in the past—I decline to consider it for a moment.
And when the noble Marquess asks for Papers, I wonder what are the Papers he expects me to lay. To tell the truth, when I saw his Motion for Papers I thought it was one of those conventional methods which we all adopt in order to enable ourselves to make a second speech, and I was looking forward with becoming gratification to that experience at tie hands of my noble friend. Now I know, however, that he really wants Papers. But it is very difficult to call for Papers without stating what you want. And really what the particular Papers are that the noble 46 Marquess wants at the present moment I am at a loss to understand. My arguments against the institution of an Inquiry apply equally to the production of Papers, and my noble friend Lord Crewe, with his great experience of public affairs, must know perfectly well that nothing could be more injurious at the present moment than the laying of Papers before Parliament.
Such is, as I conceive it, the nature of the struggle in which our forces are engaged in Ireland. These men whose virtues I have extolled, but whose faults, where they have been committed, I do not think I have said anything no excuse or to condone, are fighting the battle not merely for their own lives, not merely for Ireland, not merely for the British Government or the British Empire, they are fighting the battle of civilisation. And—with reference to something that fell from another noble Lord—I do not believe it is a losing battle; I believe it is a battle in which from day to day we are gaining ground. There is a steady decrease in lawlessness in Ireland; the commission of crime is becoming more dangerous and more difficult. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, said that coercion had been a failure, and that as coercion intensified murder increased. I do not, think he can be aware of the results of the Act which your Lordships passed, I am glad to say unanimously, in the concluding stages of the earlier period of the present session of Parliament—I speak of the Restoration of Order Act, which you passed in August of the present year. The Regulations under that Act were published on August 24. In the six weeks before August 21 there had been in Ireland 260 arrests and only 36 convictions. If we allow a fortnight for the Act to become operative, and take the six weeks after that—namely, the six weeks from September 4 to October 16—in that period there were 433 arrests and 233 convictions. In the last week of which I have record there were 78 trials, with the result of 71 convictions and 7 acquittals. These are, I venture to submit, encouraging symptoms, and if we in this country do our best to support the men who are conducting this fight, and if the country continues to give to the Government its support in backing these men, which it has hitherto done, I personally have hopes that we may before long point to a better time.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, before the noble Marquess replies I should like to 47 say something in answer to the noble Earl. I agree with all that he has said in condemnation of these outrages, either by the secret societies or the Sinn Feiners in Ireland. But whatever those deeds may be, and however much we may detest them, I entirely concur with Lord Crewe and Lord Buckmaster that they have nothing to do with the question of the legitimacy of the principle of reprisals.
Let me deal with what the noble Earl has said on this subject. In my view, when there is no state of war government by reprisals is nothing more than an almost inconceivable travesty of anything we mean by organised justice or equity. I will test what I say by the illustrations which the noble Earl himself has given. Let me take them in turn. The first illustration he gave was that of self-protection. Self-protection is not an act of reprisal at all in the ordinary sense of that term. It is always a perfectly justifiable act that a man who is anticipating some murderous attack upon him should do what he can for his own defence. That is not involved in the doctrine of reprisals; it is not involved in any question which we are discussing at the present time.
The second proposition which the noble Earl laid done was this. I am not quite sure that I appreciated him or took down the words rightly. He said that reprisals were legitimate not only in the case of self-protection but in what he called the just retribution for crime. I do not want to mis-state any words which the noble Earl used, but these are the words that I took down. Now what does that mean? It means that instead of having crime investigated in the ordinary way either by civil tribunal or by Court-Martial you leave it in the hands of some individual or individuals, it may be to wreak their private vengeance or for any other reason, themselves to take the law into their own hands under what the noble Earl calls "just retribution." Why, that is the very negation of civilised government. It is the very object of law and order in the ordinary sense of the term that just retribution for crime should be given to legalised tribunals, either, if he likes, through the Restoration of Order Act in Ireland, the system of Court-Martial, or under the ordinary system of civilian government which generally prevails in civilised countries.
Towards the end of his speech the noble Earl told us that in his view the Restora- 48 tion of Order in Ireland Act was operating satisfactorily. Now what is the principle of that Act? It is opposed in every word to the principle of reprisals. It was a system substituting Courts-Martial for ordinary civil tribunals, and in the discussion upon that Act—I am sorry the Lord Chancellor is ill, which we all deeply regret—and the former Act as regards the Court-Martial system in Ireland, it was pointed out by the Lord Chancellor that every accused person in Ireland would have the protection of the Court-Martial system, which I think all members of this House recognise would probably be justly applied. And he went further, because he said that in the case of serious crime the Judge- Advocate would be consulted, and although the deciding word, as we know, would not come from the Judge-Advocate himself, yet that he would be consulted, and that the military Court of Appeal would in all probability be guided by his advice.
Now let me come to the other part of the speech of the noble Earl in which he referred to indiscriminate reprisals. I was glad to hear that in his view no principle of that kind could be justified, if I understood him aright, by any civilised Government. It appears to me to be utterly impossible to say that without any shadow of trial, without any chance of explanation, without any hope of proving innocence, under the system of indiscriminate reprisals you may have what, after all, was described by one of the learned Judges in Ireland as nothing less than arson or murder.
I should like to say a word or two as to the suggested justifications. First of all as regards the creameries. I had the advantage of seeing Sir Horace Plunkett, only yesterday, and I wish he could be present here to speak for himself. What did he say? First of all, that all persons who took part in creameries put on one side all ideas either sectarian or political; in other words, the basis of the successful creameries in Ireland was that they were economic and economic only. He said further that he himself had been to headquarters in Ireland and had asked them for the explanation of the wreckage of these creameries, and, as I understood him, had placed before them what he thought was conclusive evidence that the wreckage had been brought about by the action either of the police or of the military. I do not want to be too positive—no one would be about 49 any statement—but if that can be proved, if that allegation of wrecking creameries can be proved against either the police or the soldiery, is that an action which the Government will reprobate, which they will do all they can to prevent in the future, and in reference to which they will, as I think they ought, take steps to bring the perpetrators to justice? That is a real test of the sincerity of the Government in matters of that kind.
I do not want to underrate the difficulty of the position of the police or the military in Ireland, but that is no excuse whatever for looting, burning and killing in an indiscriminate way—I use the very words winch the noble Earl himself used—and if there have been instances of these indiscriminate reprisals then I say the Government can show its sincerity by bringing the parties before a properly constituted tribunal. They must know perfectly well who the persons are against whom these allegations are made. Now let me say a word as regards the destruction of houses. As I understand, the noble Earl gave as a justification for the destruction of houses by the police and the military the fact that even a larger number of houses had been destroyed through Sinn Fein agency.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I did not say that it was a justification. I informed the House of the fact.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I would not for a moment dispute what the noble Earl says. I think that is a very important matter. But what I want to nut to him is this, and it goes to the root of what is just and fair in matters of this kind, Who is to decide that the houses destroyed by the military and police are the houses of guilty persons? That is what I want to ask him. Is the question whether a particular house which is to be destroyed is the house of a guilty person to be decided by the police or the military, or is it to be decided by some proper system under which the accused person can bring forward his story and disprove, if he can, any allegation made against him either by military inquiry or by the ordinary processes of civil government? That is the point The question is, Is the accused person innocent or guilty? In any civilised legal system, that is decided by legal methods and before a legal tribunal. I ask the noble Earl, Does he, as the representative of the Government, justify a system under which 50 a question of that kind is decided, not in the ordinary legal way, but by the band of police or military who take the petrol or other machinery for the destruction of that particular house?
§ LORD PARMOOR
The only question which is decided by the County Court Judge is as to damages and reparation. The question of innocence or not is not decided by the County Court Judge. That question ought to be decided before the house is destroyed. What is the advantage of telling a man after his house has been destroyed and after the inhabitants of that house have been killed that then the question of whether the action taken is right or not is to be decided? It has to be decided in the first instance, and that is the essential distinction between a system of civilised government and what are called acts of reprisals.
Reprisals as a system of government outside war conditions is not known to any civilised country, and when you come to war conditions you have the system of reprisals most carefully safeguarded. Anyone who has read with care the Manual of Military Law on which we act in this country will know that under the head of "Reprisals" there are the most careful safeguards as regards the officers by whom orders are to be given and the way in which orders are to be carried out. None of these apply in the Irish case. None of these have been attempted to be applied in the Irish case, because, of course, the conditions there are not the conditions of war. Take again sea reprisals such as took place in consequence of what is called the U-boat campaign during the late war. The question whether these reprisals were justified or not had to come before the Prize Court of this country, and they came to the Prize Appeal Court of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The decision is not in question, but if you allow reprisals at all—and they can only be allowed in the case of war—you have the most careful safeguards that they shall be applied only in as legitimate and as legal a way as possible 51 There was one expression used by the noble Earl towards the end of his speech which I admit astonished me. I may have made a mistake. He said that if an Inquiry was allowed there would be a competition in perjury as there had been a competition in murder. Can there be a greater condemnation of a. system of Government than to be able to describe it as a "competition in murder"? That means competition in brutality, competition in demoralization—
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
The noble and learned Lord is entirely misrepresenting me. When I spoke of competition in murder, to be followed by competition in perjury, I was alluding to the same portion of the community in Ireland—namely, the extremist Sinn Fein party. They have been competing with each other in this campaign of murder, and equally would they compete with each other in the campaign of perjury.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I accept at once what the noble Earl has said. I am glad that explanation has been given, because I understood, when he was talking of competition in murder and competition in perjury, that he was dealing with the system of Government in the one ease and the system of Sinn Fein in the other. I apologise to the noble Earl; I have no doubt I misunderstood him. I want to say only a word or two in conclusion. Can it be in accordance with the conditions of civilised government to allow matters to go on as they are in Ireland at the present moment? It is a scandal, and a disgrace to our national honour. It is a menace to our national position. It is a menace because it affects our world interests; it is a menace because it is likely to raise friction between the United States and ourselves, and it is a menace because no civilised Government can commit what appear to me to be crimes of this kind without a period coming of punishment which will inevitably follow, whether it comes with halting or with quick foot.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords my noble friend opposite need not have been afraid that I should make anything of a long speech in reply, but I am obliged to say one or two sentences as he has altogether refused to meet us on this side of the House. In the first place, I think the noble Earl resented what my noble and learned friend 52 Lord Buckmaster has said about the somewhat mild reprobation which the Chief Secretary uttered at the end of September where the so-called "reprisals" were concerned. I read out part of what the Chief Secretary said, and the noble Earl completed the quotation. The words which were used by the Chief Secretary were that "the reprisals would not be countenanced," and I think that is a somewhat gentle form of blame where the County Court Judge in Clare, a plain-spoken person, spoke of "murder and arson" as having been committed in his neighbourhood. However, there is no need to dwell upon that further.
I cannot pretend to be satisfied with the noble Earl's reply to our request for information. Even now, with all the lucidity of the noble Earl, I am not clear whether he generally denied the existence of these violent reprisals or not; and when he spoke of exaggeration I really do not know to what extent he considered that the Press had been guilty of exaggeration or even of invention. Are we to believe that the whole thing is quite a trivial matter and that the greater part of these stories are pure invention? The noble Earl used arguments of which I admit the weight, against the institution of an Inquiry in Ireland at this moment. I see the force of a great deal that he said, and I do not dispute the difficulty of obtaining trustworthy evidence about these matters; but I do not quite see why he applied precisely the same language to the demand for Papers. I should have thought it would be possible to supply some form of Parliamentary Return somewhat analogous to the Returns of the agrarian outrages which we used to produce in former days, stating in what cases life had been taken or property had been destroyed, and what steps had been taken to vindicate the law?
Is it true that people have been taken out of their houses and shot by men in uniform? If they have, has there been a particular reason to suppose that in those individual cases, which can be named and known, the men in uniform were really bogus men in uniform, Sinn Feiners, exercising vengeance on supposed traitors to the cause in a manner which was always authorised by the Fenian organisation, although it did not admit assassination as part of its creed. Two other cases come to my mind which I have seen mentioned as occurring in County Clare, and in one, at Lahinch, 53 the well-known watering-place, it is stated that a man was taken out of his house and shot in the street. How are we to know what has happened about these events? Are we ever to be told whether anybody has been punished in respect of these excesses or outrages, or whatever you may call them, and, if not, what is the reason for concealment in such matters?
It may be, I hope it is, true that many of these charges are exaggerated and that some are altogether baseless. If that is so it would be far more satisfactory if the authentic cases, few in number as we hope, were described and the action taken by the Government announced. I cannot think that the credit of the Army or of the Royal Irish Constabulary can suffer by bang compared with that of Sinn Fein; it is inconceivable in any case that the action of those who are serving the Government can be compared disadvantageously with the action of the murder wing of Sinn Fein. Therefore I cannot conceive what harm 54 could be done by a frank statement on this matter. If none is made and we are merely to depend on vague statements that these cases are being investigated, such as the noble Earl has given us to-night—though he spoke with perfect candour and directness in refusing to condone all these reprisals—these imputations, which in many cases as I can well believe are unfair, will remain and will still be believed by many.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.