Irish Prisoners

Oral Answers to Questions — Naval and Military Pensions and Grants. – in the House of Commons on 5th March 1925.

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Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

15.

asked the Home Secretary whether Mr. Sean T. D. McCurtain, Member of Parliament for Temporary, is at present confined in Leeds prison and is in a precarious state of health; and if he will state what is the nature of the charge against Mr. McCurtain for which he has been sentenced to imprisonment?

Photo of Mr John Gilmour Mr John Gilmour , Glasgow Pollok

I have been asked to reply, as the question appears to relate to an Irish prisoner named John McCurtain, who was sentenced at Enniskillen Assizes on the 13th March, 1922, to 10 years' penal servitude for feloniously having firearms and ammunition in his possession. John McCurtain is at present in Aberdeen prison. He has recently been medically examined and found to be in excellent health.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there is any Irish prisoner of this name in Leeds prison?

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

I thought that had been answered. I transferred it to the Scottish Office. T am sorry that T have not the information.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I asked a question about, this man, and gave the wrong Christian name? I got the proper name and put the question down again. I should very much like to know whether he is the same man of whom we have often heard.

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

Is this the right name which is given on the paper I hold in my hand?

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

I will have it looked into.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

16.

asked the Home Secretary whether the following persons are confined in Maidstone Prison: Doherty, P. Parelly, John Kearney, Jos. McGuire, P. McOoragher, Sean McCarrol, J. McMullen, Dick McVeigh, James Smith, Thomas Trainer, Hugh O'Eourke, and O'Toole; and, if so, whether he will state the nature of the offences for which they have been sent to prison, the terms of their imprisonment, how much longer they have each to serve, and what is the state of their health?

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

As the answer is rather long, I propose, with the hon. Member's permission, to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. If it will relieve the hon. Member's feelings, I may say that all these gentlemen are in good health.

Photo of Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence , Leicester West

In view of the abnormal conditions under which

Four of these men are in Maidstone Prison, namely:—

NameOffence.Sentence.Earliest possible-date of release on licence.
James DohertyPossession of explosive substance5 years' penal servitude22nd August, 1926.
J. J. MaguirePossession of explosive substance.4 years' penal servitude4th January, 1926.
John McMullanShooting with intent to do grievous bodily harm.5 years' penal servitude22nd February, 1926.
James SmithPossession of explosive substance.4 years' penal servitude4th January, 1926.
One is in Parkhurst Prison:—
Hugh O'RourkePossession of explosive subtance4 years' penal servitude10th January, 1926.
One is in Borstal:—
Daniel O'TooleArmed robbery; shooting at Peace Officer with intent to murder; possession of explosive substance,6,4 and 3 years' penal servitude concurrent.Commuted to Borstal Detention
The health of all these men is satisfactory.
John Kearney was released on the 20th ultimo.
The five others named in the Question do not appear to be in any English prison.

Photo of Mr Hastings Lees-Smith Mr Hastings Lees-Smith , Keighley

36.

asked the Home Secretary what were the terms of the agreement with the Government of Northern Ireland by which political prisoners in Northern Ireland are imprisoned in English gaols?

the crimes committed by these people were in fact committed, will the right hon. Gentleman use his influence to procure the release of these prisoners who were sentenced for comparatively small offences and for a comparatively short time?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

That does not arise out of the reply given.

Photo of Mr Campbell Stephen Mr Campbell Stephen , Glasgow Camlachie

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider making representations to the Government of Northern Ireland to release these prisoners?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

This is the same again.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

Has the right hon. Gentleman satisfied himself that it is legal for him to retain these men in custody?

The following in the answer:

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

Owing to the lack of accommodation in Northern Ireland for persons sentenced to penal servitude, arrangements were made with that Government in J923 for the reception of some of these prisoners in prisons in England and Wales. The arrangement is of general application. All expenses are defrayed by the Government of Northern Ireland, who are responsible for any questions in regard to length of sentence. The prisoners are subject to English convict rules, and I am responsible for their custody and treatment.

Mr. SMITH:

By what legal authority was such an arrangement entered into between this Government and the Government of another country?

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

I do not think that there is anything legally wrong.

Mr. SMITH:

If that be so, will the right hon. Gentleman say what is the legal authority? Were the Law Officers consulted with regard to it?

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

I think that it is allowable under the ordinary Penal Servitude Act. It has always been allowable to transfer prisoners from one part of the United Kingdom to another, and Northern Ireland is still part of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

If Northern Ireland is still part of the United Kingdom, is it not in order to have the question of the release of these prisoners discussed in this House?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

That is a matter for me.

Mr. SMITH:

As Northern Ireland has been granted a separate Parliament, and it is no longer part of the United Kingdom in that sense, has the right, hon. Gentleman satisfied himself that there is authority? [HON. MEMBERS: "Speech!"]

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

On a point of Order—

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

The question on the Paper is what were the terms of the agreement? That has been answered. If the hon. Member will hand in a further question, it can be considered.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

On a point of Order—

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

What is the point of Order?

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

It has been stated by the right hon. Gentleman that Northern Ireland is still a part of the United Kingdom. I have handed in questions on this matter and each time they have been refused on the ground that Northern Ireland is not now a part of the United Kingdom and that we have no authority to deal here with the sentences on these prisoners. Seeing that it is now stated that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom will questions in reference to these prisoners be accepted now?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

I answered that question two days ago. The Government of Northern Ireland have been endowed with separate and responsible powers in reference to these matters in that part of the United Kingdom, and questions about its duties are not in order here.