HL Deb 14 February 1922 vol 49 cc130-2

My Lords, I beg to move for a Return of the malicious damages done (including the killing of persons) during the last three years in Ireland for which damage decrees have been given by Judges in Ireland. There is much tragedy behind the question which is here raised. The gentlemen of England have no idea of what the ladies and gentlemen and indeed all respectable citizens of Ireland have gone through during the last three years. I shall not find fault in any way with the Government or with anybody at all. I shall state as briefly as possible some of the events which are within my knowledge. One of them took place in the district in which I live. Two of the instances of killings and malicious outrages to which I shall refer were done by what were called Black and Tans, who were afterwards known as the Auxiliary Police, and the two remaining instances which I shall mention were caused by what is called the Irish Republican Army. I will describe them to your Lordships.

In a town close to me two of these Black and Tans, or Auxiliary Police, put on civilian attire—one of them had a revolver—and proceeded to the house of a respectable farmer and Justice of the Peace. When they entered the house they demanded money. The farmer went up-stairs, accompanied by the man with the revolver, to get the money. In the meantime, his son attacked the other intruder, and shouted: "You can come down, father; I have got one, and I think we can do something." The other fellow ran down with the revolver, followed by the farmer. He shot the father dead and severely wounded the son. The women then attacked the two men, followed them to the police barracks, and found out all about them. The next morning one of the constables committed suicide by shooting and the other was arrested, tried and hanged at Mountjoy gaol in Dublin. I do not suppose that in any Greek tragedy you could find anything more heartrending or horrible than this. The women were left in the silent house to weep over their dead and wounded.

Now for the other case. I refer now to an occasion when the Black and Tans got loose, seized some lorries, "shot up" the town of Balbriggan, and then burned down the hosiery factory. That was about as bad a thing as happened during the troublous time through which we have passed in Ireland. These men were absolutely without any discipline. I do not know whether they shot anybody, but they did a great deal of damage to very valuable property. Those are two instances regarding the Auxiliaries or Black and Tans.

Let me next take the so-called Irish Republican Army. I will refer first to the murder of Sir Arthur Vicars and the burning of his house. It will be remembered that Sir Arthur Vicars had before been visited by a band. He behaved very pluckily. They held him up at the end of his dining-room table. There were some six men with revolvers, and they kept him for about half an hour. They told him he must give up his guns. He refused to do so. Luckily, the guns were in a reinforced concrete safe, and though the men tried to break it open they did not succeed. But some months afterwards thirty of them appeared, shot him dead, and burned the house, with all the beautiful things in it—and he had many. He was a very old friend of mine, and it came as a great shock to me to hear of his death. I turn to the other instance, with which your Lordships will be familiar; I refer to the killing of officers in Dublin on a Sunday morning when some of them were actually torn from the arms of their wives and shot dead in their presence. Those are four instances of the sort of thing that has been going on in Ireland. I do not make any remarks on the subject, but leave it to the House to decide what they think about the facts that I have related. There have, of course, been demands for decrees in these cases and we should like to know if there is any chance of that money being paid.

I will turn now to another kind of outrage, the burning of houses. There is one very bad case, that of Summerhill House, which belonged to an old friend of mine, Lord Langford, who was a member of this House and well known to many of your Lordships. The military said that they were very likely to take over Summerhill. Once a rumour of that kind gets about the place is, of course, a marked house. The tragic thing is that Mr. Rowley, who inherited the house, actually had a letter in his pocket saying that the military were not going to take it over when he went down to find the house burned. Some of your Lordships may know the house; it was a beautiful building, and full of beautiful things. Then there were the cases of Convamore, Moydrum Castle, belonging to a member of your Lordships' House, and Mr. Pike's house, full of beautiful things, in Cork. Those are only a few instances.

What is the explanation? These are reprisals. I think we all had a pretty good experience of what reprisals were during the war with Germany. What was the effect of them? We tried reprisals on some of the prisoners in this country, and the result was that our officers were locked up in separate cells, and we had to abandon reprisals in order to get our officers out of those separate cells. It is very easy to go one, or even two, better on the question of reprisals. A public house and a few cottages are burned down, and the biggest house in the district is visited by about thirty men, soaked with petrol, and then burnt with everything in it, and the occupants are given eight or ten minutes to clear out. I make no comments. I only wish to state these facts; your Lordships can draw your own conclusions. I beg to move.


My Lords, without subscribing—they are somewhat imperfectly known to me—to all the illustrations which the noble Earl has given, it does appear to me to be quite plain that he has established a case for such a Return, and the Motion therefore will be agreed to, so far as the Government are concerned.

On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.