I rise for the purpose of calling attention to the most unsatisfactory answers to questions which have been addressed to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland in relation to some very vital and important matters that are occurring in Ulster. I should like at this stage to complain, and to complain bitterly, of the method the right hon. Gentleman adopts in dealing with Irish questions. If there are any incidents occurring 12 or 14 hours before the House meets the right Hon. Gentleman can always arrange for questions to be asked about them by one of his followers in the House, and if he has an answer that is detrimental to Irish Nationalist feeling he is prompt and ready to answer the question. He seems to be fully informed of all the facts and circumstances, and he can dilate with almost dramatic power upon the incidents which have only occurred a few. hours before. But when questions are put from this side of the House it is impossible to get an answer from the right hon. Gentleman, and, as some of these matters are of the most vital concern to the people whom I represent, both Nationalists and Catholics of Ulster, I take advantage of this opportunity to call attention to them. On 17th November my hon. Friend the Member for South Armagh (Mr. Donnelly) asked the following question:
To ask the Chief Secretary whether his attention has been called to the condition of affairs existing in many districts in the County Armagh; whether he is aware that in these districts armed Unionists are in the practice of waylaying Catholics and searching them along the roads in the rural areas; whether some time ago a young man
named Hughes was stopped by a gang of Unionists armed with rifles and revolvers and searched; whether a few nights afterwards a young man named Devlin was stopped and searched by a crowd of 12 men armed; whether another man named Donnelly was stopped and searched and £3 10s. taken from him; whether on the night of the 1st November, a number of men coming from a concert in the City Hall, Armagh, were held up at different spots by armed Unionists and searched; whether he is aware that these things are taking place in a countryside which has hitherto been quiet and peaceable; whether this conduct of armed Unionists has received official sanction; and whether he will take steps to put an end to this conduct, which can only lead to the disturbance of the peace in these districts.
The Chief Secretary asked that that question should be postponed in order that he might have an opportunity of making inquiries. The question was on the Paper, I think, for two days. I take it the right hon. Gentleman has made inquiries, but from that day until now there has not been a single explanation given. I put down a question to-day, after an interval of a fortnight, calling the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the reign of terror which wras springing up in several districts in the North of Ireland, and asking whether the Ulster Volunteers for several weeks past have been holding up pedestrians and motor cars, and whether on the night of Wednesday, the 24th inst., at Killylea, County Armagh, a military patrol was stopped and ordered to put up its hands, and on inquiry the military officer was told they were Ulster volunteers, with orders to hold up all road traffic, and whether the officer arrested the volunteers and subsequently released them, and what action the right hon. Gentleman proposes to take in the matter?
In the time from which the first question was put down by my hon. Friend until my question was put down one would have expected that the right hon. Gentleman would have conceived it to be his duty to inquire into these allegations which have been made, and that he would have been able to give some answer to the question I put to him to-day in the House. The answer was;
I have called for a further report.
Continuing, the right hon. Gentleman said:
With regard to the incidents referred to by my hon. Friend, I am informed that at
11.45 on 24th inst. a military officer and 20 other ranks, with two Royal Irish constables, left Armagh for Killylea in a motor lorry, and near Killylea they were halted and ordered to put up their hands by three men described as Ulster Volunteers. The military dismounted and arrested them.
Then the right hon. Gentleman said, I have called for a further report. He continued that he had no evidence of a reign of terror having sprung up in several districts of the North of Ireland; the evidence was that the reign of terror was on the decline in that and other parts of Ireland. He only knew of one or two cases of hold-ups of pedestrians and motors. After listening in this House, for the last two months, to the most harrowing details which the right hon. Gentleman is so ready to recite about attacks on the military in Ireland, one would imagine that he would be ready to give an explanation as to what had been done in this case. I asked if these men held up the lorry. It seems to me very strange that three men can hold up a military lorry containing twenty soldiers and two members of the Irish Constabulary. If that had occurred in Limerick or Cork, those three men would have been instantly shot. This is a fair indication to the House of the character of the feeling of confidence which exists amongst these Ulster Forces of the Crown, if three men could hold up a military lorry in the full knowledge that nothing would be done to them. When I asked if it was true that they were arrested, the right hon. Gentleman said they were. I asked if they were instantly released, and he did not answer.
I want to know what happened to these three men. Were they tried? If they were released I want to know why, and what further steps he proposes to take? The right hon. Gentleman, in this House and on platforms, has held himself up as the model arbiter between all sections in Ireland. He says that he is the one strong man who is going to rule Ireland imparitally, and stamp out disorder and lawlessness. That is the only ground on which he can stand, and yet here he allows bands of Ulster loyalists to parade the public road night after night to attack innocent and law-abiding citizens, and to take upon their own shoulders the duty of law defenders, and they act as officers of the law, and not one of them has been brought to justice.
Innocent women and children can be shot by uniformed men in this way for nothing at all. The Orange allies of the right hon. Gentleman in Ulster can hold up people and tell them to put up their hands. They then hold gentle conversations with the assailants of the military power, take them by the arm and convey them to the prison house and then say to them, Oh, gentlemen, we thought you belonged to Tipperary, or Cork, or Cavan, or we would not have arrested you at all. We were going to charge you with holding up a military lorry and calling upon soldiers of the Crown to put up their hands, but you must now be released, and we do not want you here at all. I never heard of a more disgraceful condition of things. I have been receiving complaints from every part of the North of Ireland that it is becoming impossible for Nationalists and Catholics to go out upon certain roads, because they will be held up by these un-uniformed officers of that part of the North of Ireland, although the Northern Parliament is not yet established. It has now become fashionable for these men to go about with revolvers in Ireland. I understand that about 20 people have been recently arrested for carrying arms, and they have been fined Is. each.
Here is the case of a Nationalist in Belfast named John Crawford who was found guilty of having a revolver and endangering the safety of a police constable, and he was sentenced to penal servitude for 10 years. The accused, who pleaded not guilty, was represented by a solicitor who urged that he was an innocent spectator and called attention to the fact that one constable only identified him. No revolver was found on him. Yet he was found guilty of having a revolver and of endangering the safety of a police constable, and was sent to penal servitude for ten years. Thus John Crawford, a Nationalist, was charged with having a revolver which was not found on him, and he got ten years from a Court-Martial. But I have another case. Arthur Maginnis was charged in Belfast with being in possession of a revolver and with riotous behaviour in Durham Street on the 2nd October. Evidence was given by Sergeant Kelly that he found defendant in a public-house with a revolver in his possession, and the defendant was fined 40s. and costs and ordered to give security for good behaviour. A more monstrous condition of affairs could not be found in any civilised country. One man gets ten years before a Court-Martial on a charge of having a revolver although none was found on him, and another, on whom a revolver was found, was fined 40s. Ulster Unionists are allowed to perambulate through peaceful agricultural districts, along roads at night, and hold up pedestrians and motor cars. They may even go so far as to hold up the military in lorries, and although they are arrested they are released before they are tried. The House is well aware of what happens to a Nationalist volunteer in the South of Ireland. I have recorded two cases taken from newspapers of the charges of having revolvers. One man, because he is a Nationalist, gets ten years' penal servitude: the other, because he is a Unionist, is only fined 40s.
The right hon. Gentleman in one of his most dramatic perorations told this House not long ago that he was going to rake Ireland from end to end so as to seize the arms of every person carrying arms but not entitled to do so. Has he made the slightest attempt to seize arms in Ulster? If so will he tell the House what is the character of the raking in process, what he has raked in and what results have accrued. These cases give us a clear indication that the right hon. Gentleman may allow lawlessness to prevail in all its hideousness in one part of Ireland and use the power of the military machine to crush lawlessness in the other part of Ireland. Those who stand for order in Ireland demand that if order is upheld and the law defended it must be upheld and defended not in the interests of one class or section only, and that one class of malefactor shall not be patted on the back and encouraged, and the other class pursued with all the rigour and all the severity that the law and administration can carry into effect. These are two typical cases, but I could give bundles of cases, notwithstanding the sneers of erstwhile members of the Labour party—bundles of cases of a similar character, in which the heaviest penalties have been imposed on men for offences in Nationalist districts, while practically nothing has been done to men guilty of similar offences in the North of Ireland. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will give us some explanation with regard to these things. First of all I want to know how it is that when we put questions down and give him plenty of time to answer he never has the information, while, when hon. Members opposite rise and ask questions about incidents of the day before, the right hon. Gentleman presents the fullest information to the House. How is it that revolver carrying can get off with 40s. and costs in Belfast when the revolver is carried by a Unionist, while a Nationalist charged with carrying a revolver gets 10 years' penal servitude although there was no proof that he had a revolver?
The Ulster Orangemen are not yet in possession of the six-county Parliament; they have not got control of the military machine and the power of administration. There are 300,000 of us in those six counties out of a population of less than 1,000,000. These gentlemen are not yet our masters. Is this the way they intend to induce us to accept their Ulster Parliament? As long as this spirit prevails in Ulster, that Parliament will never be recognised by us. The Government have shown that what they want to do is to hand over the Nationalists of those six counties to the tender mercies of these gentlemen. We know what we will receive from them, and how the Government are encouraging them to carry on their work, by the things which I have ventured to put before the House to-night.
The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Devlin), in the course of his speech, seemed to indicate that there were erstwhile members of the Labour party who sneered at him. It is never my practice in this House to sneer at anyone, and the hon. Member has no right to make that statement. Neither my hon. and gallant Friend nor myself were making any observation with respect to the hon. Gentleman.
I do not think my right hon. Friend below me (Mr. Roberts) need worry himself about that. He has been long enough in this House to know that it is part of the hon. Gentleman's stock-in-trade. When he starts abuse of that kind—and he has served a long apprenticeship in the art—it really means that he has not a decent shot left in his locker. He complains that the Chief Secretary is never ready to answer his questions. Let me ask him to take his mind back to Thursday last. A series of questions were put on Thursday, mostly by my hon. Friend, and he addressed to the Chief Secretary a whole litany, more than 20 of which I counted, of supplementary questions; and he expects that a cross-examination of that kind can be anticipated and provided for in advance.
Nor any day. On a point of Order. The hon. Gentleman is confounding me with someone else. Since he has made the charge, I challenge him to bring before the House this series of interrogations which he says I put. I deny point blank that there were any such questions.
The hon. Gentleman has stated that I put down a question with about fifty others. I said there was not a word of truth in that statement. I have challenged him now to quote the question and he refers me to Hansard. He repeats it after my denial, and I again challenge him—
I think the hon. Member for the Falls Division is mistaken. What the hon. Member for Ormeau (Mr. Moles) said was that he (Mr. Devlin) put a number of questions in cross-examination on Thursday last. I think if he will refer to the OFFICIAL REPORT of what occurred last Thursday he will find that the hon. Member (Mr. Moles) is not very far wrong in his estimate.
The House will remember that that was so, Sir, and you will remember that you protested against these supplementary questions. This, however, is all for the purpose of interruption, and I am too well accustomed to the hon. Member's argumentative methods to be put out of my stride by them. He says a reign of terror is springing up over the North. Who is responsible for the reign of terror? Who started it?
There is no man in the entire country more guilty than the hon. Gentleman who protested against it. I could remind him of speech after speech which he has made, when he poured vulgar abuse on people who were targets for him, when he poured vitriol into their gaping wounds, and heaped abuse and contumely on men whose boots he is not fit to black; time after time he has spoken, making the position of peaceful people who wish to live together impossible. When he has succeeded in this contemptible task he gets up here, and with an exhibition of hypocrisy which this House has never seen, complains of a reign of terror. Does the hon. Gentleman forget that only recently nearly every large building in Belfast was entered by people who held his political faith. Documents were burned, and the revolvers of the Sinn Feiners were brandished in the face of public officials. Did anybody hear the hon. Gentleman get up in his place in the House and talk then of a reign of terror? There were threats against jurors, who were precluded from going to discharge the public duty to which they were summoned. There were threats against voters in the County of Tyrone, and he knows perfectly well that only the other day legal proceedings taken against the Nationalist party concluded—in which intimidation was proved in 35 cases—and if there had been a few more cases proved the election could have been rendered invalid. He talks about a reign of terror. Take the case of Killylea. He says that if these men had been in Cork they would have been shot; but if the military lorry had been held up in Cork, the 20 occupants would have been hurried into eternity, as 15 auxiliary officers were hurried into eternity to-day in Cork. Really, it is difficult to be patient with my hon. Friend when one hears this sort of thing. I venture to say he was perfectly cognisant of what happened in Cork to-day, yet he skids away from it with no word of reference. What is the position in Killylea? Not long ago I heard of an attempt made by the hon. Gentleman to address the people near there—
That shows how far the hon. Gentleman is prepared to go. He complained in this House not long ago that he was prevented by the police from addressing a meeting at Caledon. It is just half a mile from the town of Killylea. The hon. Gentleman was on his way to address a public meeting when he was held up. That shows how much he knows about this. The police barracks adjoining had to be evacuated by the police just the same as many other barracks, owing to intimidation. This was on the borders of County Monaghan and Tyrone, about three-quarters of a mile from each, and it is one of the places through which bands of terrorists have been passing to different quarters of the country. It is an area within three miles of which a policeman was captured when he was to have been a witness at the assizes the following day. It adjoins an area in which outrages have been frequent, Burnings have taken place, midnight raids by Sinn Feiners and terrorism generally. There is not a police barracks near the place until you come to Armagh on the one side and Monaghan on the other. The law was paralysed for a period. The police had to be withdrawn, and the citizens were obliged, in consequence, to undertake their own self-defence. They set up a patrol, and I defy the hon. Member, or the hon. Member whose question he quoted, to come forward with one real case that can be conclusively proved of any person hurt in mind, body or estate because of that patrol. On the' contrary, we can quote more than a dozen cases of people on unholy, unlawful, and improper errands. There is not a more peaceful quarter of the three kingdoms than that area, despite all that has been said to the contrary.
The hon. Member told the House two specific instances which, he said, were typical. He quoted the case of John Crawford, a Nationalist, and he seriously asked the House to believe that John Crawford, brought before a court-martial and defended by competent counsel, was sentenced to ten years for carrying a revolver. I do not know to what extent the credulity of the Labour party will go. Apparently it will go a long way! They have the faith that will remove mountains in this particular matter. I do not complain. It is part of the duty they owe to these other hon. Gentlemen because of the alliance between them. John Crawford received no ten years' penal servitude for carrying a revolver. The hon. Member omitted this all-important detail—whether purposely or not I do not know. I really think he does not know. If you want to know things about Belfast, I do not believe you can go to a more untrustworthy source in this House
When my right hon. Friend comes to deal with this case he will tell you that John Crawford received his ten years' penal servitude for an attempt to murder a policeman, which is a somewhat different thing, when you come to think about it, from carrying a revolver. Even if the hon. Member had been on the court-martial, he could not, if he had any sense of justice whatever, have escaped imposing a penalty of this kind. Then he quoted the case of Arthur Macginnis. Macginnis was standing at a public-house bar. I am quoting what transpired at the court-martial. He appears to have confided to a Nationalist friend standing by that he had a revolver, and his Nationalist friend, after his kind, walked out, played the role of informer to a policeman, the policeman came in, got the revolver, Macginnis was dealt with, paid his 40s., and did not go on hunger strike. The hon. Member and I know each other pretty well. He would not. exchange his citizenship of Belfast for any other city in the three kingdoms, no matter what he states to the contrary. He has no real belief that he or any other human being who holds his political or religious opinions is in peril of his life in Belfast. Every loyal law abiding man is safe; he is just as safe in Belfast, and so am I, as in this House. When he asks the House to believe that he is standing in peril, either of his life or of his property, he really in his heart of hearts does not believe one word of it, and I hope the House does not believe it.
Before the right hon. Gentleman replies, may I say that many of us are horrified by the news that has appeared in the Press? Can he give us any information whether it is correct that 15 men have been ambushed and murdered in Cork during the last 48 hours?
I am certain that every hon. Member is horrified to hear of the tragic event that has happened in Ireland to-day. One cannot but sympathise with the victims of the tragic events which are happening from day to day, and for which evidently both sides are responsible.
The hon. Member knows sufficient of me to know that I have not a word of justification for an act of the kind which has taken place to-day. I have no intention of leaving any such impression when I say that there are tragic events happening in Ire land for which both sides must carry responsibility—[HON. MEMBERS: No!]—and I hope we are nearing the time when this House and this country will set themselves to effectively remove the causes which I fear lie at the root of these tragic events. I did not rise for the purpose of making general remarks on the condition of affairs in Ireland. I simply want to ask the Chief Secretary if his atteniton has been drawn to a report which has been passed on to me of the raiding and partial destruction of the house and farm of Mr. Edward Lysaght, of County Clare. Mr. Lysaght, as the Chief Secretary is well aware, is a gentleman who takes great interest in co-operative farming in Ireland. He is also chairman of one of the publishing firms in Dublin, and was a member of the Convention nominated by the Government. Mr. Lysaght is also well known for his writings. He belongs, so far as the information which has been passed on to me goes, to no political society or club, and the only thing that can he said against him is that he is a member of an Irish speaking society, and that he has written a letter, which appears in some of the newspapers, which pointed out that one of the three men who were shot the other day in Dublic Castle, namely, Conor Cloone, had come to Dublin on a purely business mission, and being, accompanied on his journey to Dublin by Mr. Lysaght himself. These are the only things, as far as I know, that can be said against Mr. Lysaght; and I would like the Chief Secretary to let us know if his attention has been called to it, because it seems a peculiar proceeding to have taken place in connection with a man who holds the record of this one, and I thought that I would avail myself of the opportunity to ask the Chief Secretary if he had any information to give us on this matter.
When the Chief Secretary is dealing with the tragic and brutal affair in Cork, perhaps he will also give us some information about the burning in Cork of a millinery store with damage done to the extent of £15,000, the burning of a club-house, and a number of dwelling-houses and shops, it is alleged by Forces of the Crown?
I can add nothing to what I said to-day as to the burnings in Cork. I can give no answer at all in reference to the alleged burning of Mr. Lysaght's place. I hope that the House, will realise the difficulty which officers of the Irish Government have in securing detailed information as expeditiously as hon. and right hon. Members would like. Every man in Ireland who secures this information secures it as a rule in a remote area, and he goes in hourly danger of his life. Wires are cut, and are kept cut sometimes for twenty-four hours. Communication is often difficult and immediately an outrage takes place it is quite impossible to ask military or police officers to give up their chief duty—that of tracking the murderers and protecting their own lives—to find out what is important at ordinary times, but is unimportant in the present condition of Ireland, namely, if some man's home has been burned, or some man's property has been destroyed. I take the stand, as I always, have, that the prevention of murder is my primary duty. The destruction of property cannot be compared with the loss of life. Therefore, I insist upon priority always being given to questions involving the life of the individuals, rather than to questions involving property, however great may be the loss.
In reference to the question raised by the hon. Member for the Falls Division I have no further information. The three men described as Ulster Volunteers, who are alleged to have held up a lorry load of military men, if they are guilty, will be punished, for whatever else might be said of my administration of Ireland, I claim that I am trying to be impartial throughout Ireland. To me, neither a man's politics nor his religion has anything to do with the case. If he comes within the meshes of the law, I will do my best to see that he gets justice; if he does not come within the meshes of the law, he has no better Friend than I am. I cannot, offhand, give any further information in reference to Mr. John Crawford, who was sentenced to 10 years' penal servitude for endangering the life of a policeman. That means that he was shooting at a policeman, with the intention of killing him.
The charge was endangering the life of a policeman. Those were the exact words used by the hon. Member. All these matters which have been raised tonight do not involve human life. I must say that we seem, some of us, to lose a sense of perspective and proportion in dealing with this Irish question. Of course, it is a distressing thing for a man to have his house entered, or to be held up by a patrol, legitimately or otherwise. But let us realise what is now taking place in Ireland. These outrages in Liverpool and attempted outrages in London show that the Sinn Fein murder gang is carrying on its sinister campaign of murder and arson in this country, and, unless this country be roused, that campaign will extend to persons and to property.
This evening I received a telegram which is one of the most distressing telegrams that I have ever read in this House. When I have read it, I will resume my seat. I will do my best to answer questions dealing with individuals and their property, but I must restrict my attention, and must ask my officials—military, police and civilian—to concentrate their energy an I their splendid devotion—there are no better servants of this House than these Irishmen—to the prevention of this murder business, by whomsoever committed. I might explain that the Auxiliary Division in Ireland is composed entirely of ex-officers. Every one is selected because of conspicuous merit and courage shown in the field of battle during the late War. This is the telegram from District Inspector, Macroom, County Cork:
17 Auxiliary Force under D.I. Crake went on a two-lorry patrol at 3.30 p.m. yesterday. They were ambushed near Kilmichael by 70 to 100 men. Fifteen of the Auxiliary Force were killed, one is missing, and one wounded and dying. Their ammunition and arms were taken; their lorries burnt. Ambush is supposed to have been at about 10 p.m. last night. Full details not yet to hand. Bodies are being taken to Macroom.
This telegram came late to-night from the head of the police forces in Ireland, Major-General Tudor:
The ambush consisted of about 80 to 100 men, all dressed in khaki with steel trench
helmets. They fired from both sides of the road, and had also direct enfilade fire straight down the road. By force of numbers some of my poor fellows were disarmed and then brutally murdered. It was brutal murder. The bodies were rifled. All money and valuables were taken, and even articles of clothing were robbed from the corpses.
At the moment there are 15 British officers lying dead, the victims of Irish assassins. I must make one protest. I do not think this House would like to proceed with the discussion about some patrols in Ulster or the destruction of a farmer's house, in face of this challenge to the authority of this House and of civilisation.
There is not, I think, anyone in the House, either on the Government Benches or elsewhere, who would accuse me, or those associated with me, of having other than the deepest and most profound regret for the tragic circum stances recited by the Chief Secretary. As everyone is aware, neither my hon. Friend for the Falls Division (Mr. Devlin) nor myself has ever been associated with what the Chief Secretary has described as the murder gang in Ireland, but it is we, the only surviving representatives of Nationalist Ireland, who had to fight them on their own soil at the last General Election, when we were not assisted by the representatives of the present Government, who did everything in their power otherwise, and so well succeeded in driving us almost out of existence. Murder has never appealed to any patriotic Irishman as a means of attaining his national aims and ambitions. Murder to my mind is a sure path that will lead to the inevitable result of destroying the ambitions and aspirations of the majority of the Irish people. But one has got to view this condition of our country from all points of view. The Government cannot escape its responsibilities in this matter—