§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the words,But we humbly represent to Your Majesty that the policy and practice pursued by the Executive in Ireland have failed to secure the repression of organised outrage, have involved the officers and servants of the Crown in a competition in crime with the offenders against the law, have handed over to the military authorities an unrestricted discretion in the definition and punishment of offences, and have frustrated the prospects of an agreed settlement of the problem of Irish self-government.I will not trouble the House by reading the terms of the Amendment, which stands in my name and that of other hon. and right hon. Friends of mine, but will say that it falls into four points. It charges the Government with having failed to secure the suppression of crime. It charges them with having entered into a competition in crime. It charges them with having undertaken a definition and punishment of new offences, and it charges them with having frustrated the prospects of a settlement of the problem of Irish self-government. In dealing with this question, I think it right that one should admit at once the enormous difficulties which face the Irish Government. I think it right also to draw attention to statements which have been made by independent witnesses, such as General Sir Henry Lawson, as to the general good conduct of the Regular troops in Ireland, and to point out that independent observers have borne testimony to the good conduct in general of the Regular 604 troops in Ireland. Also I desire, as far as possible, to avoid any language of a violent or inflammatory kind, but I shall merely recite the heads of the charges to the House, summarising each charge, and if any hon. Member wishes to question anything I am saying, then it will be my duty to supply a more detailed statement of the case. I can only say I have devoted a great deal of time to sifting the numerous cases which have been brought forward, and I shall not bring to the notice of the House any single case which does not appear to me, prâ facie, to justify the charge.
The first question I propose to ask is this: How far has the Government succeeded—I will not, for the moment, enter into the merits of the methods which they have seen fit to adopt—but has the system which they have adopted, has the administration for which the right hon. Gentleman is responsible, actually in fact been a success in Ireland? I will not trouble the House at great length with the question of expense. It is a very costly administration. Over £3,000,000 was voted in this year's Estimates for the police alone, and a subsequent revised Estimate given by the Front Bench puts the cost much higher—almost double the estimated charge. The Army is costing £1,500,000 a month, that is, not including the cost of the Air Force. Claims for damages, the burning of buildings in Ireland, amounted, up to October last, to over £5,000,000. In addition to that, there is the enormous decrease in the trade of Ireland. I will only give the case of creameries, which had an annual turnover of £1,000,000; 42 have been destroyed in that unhappy country. I would deal for a moment with the side of the question as to the necessity of all the large expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman said— and with the statement we are all in cordial sympathy—that what is required is to get moderate opinion on the side of good government in Ireland. He has frequently said that he makes no general charge against the Irish people, and that he regards them as being as desirous as we are that law should be maintained in that country. We are entitled to ask what has been the effect actually of the right hon. Gentleman's administration and the administration of the Prime Minister and the Government in that island? I have mentioned the case of Sir Henry Lawson, an independent observer, 605 a general with distinguished service, who went over to Ireland in order to report on the statement of affairs, as he found them. He reported:They (the Government) have done more than has happened for centuries to increase the numbers who dislike English rule.The second witness I will cite is the widow of a distinguished Member of the House, Lady Sykes, who has recently returned from a visit to Ireland, and has had personal experience of many of these cases. She says:My impression is that the spirit of the Irish people is quite unbroken. They are absolutely determined to go on.4.0 P.M.
I can cite the case of the Bishop of Cork, an ecclesiastic who has taken a very courageous course, especially in that part of Ireland, of denouncing crime. He has denounced all crime. He is opposed to the Sinn Fein demand for a Republic. The Bishop of Cork says, when he is offered a message of sympathy for the murder of Canon Magner a few weeks ago, that he will accept no message of sympathy from the men "who are murdering my people, and have burned my city." In the "Times," of Saturday, there was a letter from Lord Denbigh, who charged the agents of the Government with robbery, arson, assault and murder of innocent people. This evidence I produce by way of showing that the Government is failing to ally with its administration, the moderate opinion on which it professes to depend, and on which, it is quite clear, it must depend, if the state of Ireland is to be altered. I only ask, in passing, what is going to be the off ret upon the next generation of Irishmen, because in the course of 20 or 30 years, and sooner if the right hon. Gentle man has his way, the present generation of Irishmen will have disappeared. What hope is there of peace in Ireland when the whole of Ireland is in this condition and every child goes to bed at night in terror, hearing shots and seeing murders. These ineffaceable and indelible memories will make them enemies of our country for the whole of their lives.
I do not want to dwell at too great a length on what people abroad think of the conduct of the Government in Ireland. The case of America is so well known that I shall not trouble the House with it, except to point out that one-tenth of 606 the people of America are of Irish extraction and that in America to-day people are talking of war with this country, not as a nightmare but as an actual reality, and are discussing what places would be bombarded were a clash of arms to take place. In France the newspapers are full of Ireland. I could quote statements of newspapers of very different opinions all condemning the Irish administration. In Italy every paper is full of news from Ireland, with pictures of the happenings there, and accounts of the anarchy and disorder. What is far more important to us is the opinion in our own Dominions. Our case is that this policy, if persisted in, will disrupt the Empire. Take the case of Australia. Archbishop Clune returned to Australia recently and made a speech on the state of affairs. He said:The sample of the armed forces that he saw operating in Ireland had not fought honourably. They seemed to have made no distinction between the innocent and guilty. They attacked old and young and destroyed the homes of the innocent as well as those suspected of being guilty.That is the statement of a distinguished archbishop. Take Canada, where three out of seven people are Roman Catholics. There was a singularly moderate statement made by the Bishop of the Diocese of London, Ontario, Mgr. Fallon. He spoke first of his desire, which we all share, for the continued strength and unity of the British Empire, and he then said:He was bound to deplore the murders and the policies pursued by the Sinn Feiners and the Republicans, but he was forced with equal vehemence to denounce the murders and wanton destruction of property apparently sanctioned and made effective in Ireland under the guise of law and order through the power held by a few political leaders in the English Government.General Smuts, who stands as the champion of the greatest triumph of self-government, and whose recent victory is the greatest tribute to the sagacity of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, said:Unless the Irish question is settled on the great principles which form the basis of this Empire, this Empire must cease to exist.What does he mean by "the great principles which form the basis of this Empire"?The Dominions' vote registered in the independence of nationhood.607 In face of that evidence, I think it is not going too far to say that the policy of the British Government in Ireland is doing much to threaten the security and the adherence of the British Empire. I wish now to turn to the alleged success of the right hon. Gentleman and of the Government. In the year 1917–18 one policeman was killed in Ireland. Throughout the present year things have been bad, but the note of optimism has been consistently sounded by the right Hon. Gentleman. I am going to examine how far that optimism is justified, and, what is far more important, how far the House of Commons is justified in placing confidence in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. I will read, first of all, the general order issued by General Brind, of the Irish Headquarters Staff, on 23rd September, 1920:If pressure is maintained and certain other measures—I do not know what those other measures were—
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Colonel Sir Hamar Greenwood)
§ Captain BENN
Are not general orders published? Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that I have stolen it?
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
I do not for a moment reflect on the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but there has been a great number of thefts of orders, and, personally, I do not think that it is becoming to read such orders in the House of Commons.
§ Captain BENN
I desire to avoid the language of controversy. It would be very easy to turn the Debate very soon into a fierce struggle, but it is far better, if I may respectfully suggest it, that we should examine the facts in as calm an 608 atmosphere as we can. I am referring to the general order issued to the troops by General Brind:If pressure is maintained and certain other measures which they have in view are successful a great improvement in the situation may take place within the next two months.I do not know what the certain other measures were, but I remark, in passing, that the order was issued two days after the sacking of Balbriggan. The right hon. Gentleman, on 20th October, said:The policy of the Government has succeeded and succeeded rapidly. The total number of outrages has rapidly decreased.The night that he was speaking the Lexnaw Creamery was burnt down, two nights afterwards the Ballintrillick Creamery was burnt down, three days afterwards the Littleton Creamery was destroyed, and since that statement thirteen other creameries in Ireland have been destroyed. The allegations in most of these cases was that they were burnt down by the agents of the right hon. Gentleman. On 9th November, at the Lord Mayor's Banquet, the Prime Minister said:We have murder by the throat.Three weeks later an aged ecclesiastic was murdered in the street in the presence of 12 armed agents of law and order, who did not interfere to save him. On 18th November the Prime Minister said:I think they are getting very much better.I think it was on 21st November that 17 British officers were foully murdered in their beds in Dublin. On 4th November the right hon. Gentleman said:The general condition of Ireland, in my opinion, is improving.His own official statistics are as follows:—"For the whole of the year 1919 the outrages committed by Sinn Feiners numbered 599; for the year 1920, which, in his opinion, was improving, the outrages committed numbered 9,171." I am not discussing anything except the actual policy which the right hon. Gentleman assures us has succeeded in Ireland If we come to recent times we find that for the week ending 31st January—I am taking the official figures of agents of the Crown—the soldiers and policemen killed number 13. For the week ending 5th February they numbered 21; and for the week ending 12th February they also numbered 21. The week we have just 609 passed through has been the most savage and violent in the whole history of Ireland. I call special attention to an article which appeared in the "Observer" yesterday, which spoke of it as the worst week of crime, and which had a very ominous paragraph in which it was said:Worse is yet to come. There is every reason to believe that on a far more extensive scale than yet attempted or carried out by the Sinn Fein extremists is developing. There has been a forerunner of this in the South, where the trenching of roads, the cutting of telegraph, telephone, and destruction of bridges over rail and river have been proceeding on an organised plan.That was most rapidly corroborated by the news in the papers this morning in which a light near Midleton, County Cork, is described between the 2nd Battalion. Hampshire Regiment, and a body of armed civilians in which the Sinn Fein casualties were 13, and in which, I am informed, eight soldiers were killed. The right hon. Gentleman says that is not true. I have had a telegram handed to me, and I shall ask him to investigate and let us know the facts. That is the record of the Administration which is having so much success. Let me come to the actual administration, and show what sort of government it is in Ireland. I will just consider the right hon. Gentleman's geography. General Macready had to make an affidavit in the case of John Allen, and he said:His Majesty's mails have been continual ally raided, trains have been repeatedly held up, and Government offices have been attacked throughout the country.The right hon. Gentleman says that in two-thirds or nearly three-quarters of Ireland there is as great peace as there is in the county of Kent. He says that so far as murder is concerned, it is narrowed down to a few counties in the West of Ireland and the city of Dublin. This is the list of occurrences for one week alone between 28th January and 3rd February:Police fired at in Cavan; police fired at in Meath; commandant of special constabulary fired at in Londonderry; police lorries ruined in Longford; labourer shot dead in Queen's County; police barracks attacked in Antrim and Roscommon; roads trenched in Leitrim and Longford; trenches cut in West Meath, Monaghan and Tip-perary; telephone and telegraph wires cut near Belfast; and Mr. Marmion, son of Waterford J.P., shot dead in Waterford; Thomas Moore, West Meath, wounded; man wounded in Waterford; shop burned in 610 Longford; two farmhouses destroyed in Longford; faction fights in Londonderry and Belfast; man wounded at Dundalk, Louth; Robert Dixon, J.P., shot dead in Wicklow; James Tonan wounded at Armagh.This is the country which is as peaceful as the county of Kent. I pass from the question of the success of the administration to some charges. I shall pause instantly if hon. Members wish to challenge any statement which is made. I shall give them the evidence which I have collected —it has not been with very much appetite I assure hon. Members—and I shall be only too glad to learn that the evidence is false. Of course, if the right hon. Gentleman will inquire, we hope that some of our doubts will be set at rest. The first charge is one of pillage and looting by the right hon. Gentleman's agents. The Hague Conference says that pillage is expressly forbidden. I bring two cases to the notice of the House. The first case is that of Mrs. Lysaght, the widow of the famous head of the Lysaght Steel Works. Clothes and money were stolen, and the officers insisted on the maidservant bringing them a corkscrew so that they could get at a bottle of brandy. The second case is that of Nurse Dowling, who was present at the time of the Bally-mcelligott fight. Nurse Dowling served in the War as a nurse. Her box was broken open and all her little trinkets were taken. The only thing left by the right hon. Gentleman's agents was the certificate of nursing service in the War, so that the men who broke open and stole the goods of this nurse must have been aware of the person from whom they were thieving. Then this women's brother is arrested—this is the sworn statement of the nurse, and therefore primâ facie must be accepted as that of a credible witness— the brother was taken in charge. She said to one of the officers, "Where is my brother?" and the reply was, "You will never see him again." I do not know what happened to the brother, but that is the statement made by the nurse. Some persons in uniform then came to her and said, "We will liberate your brother if you will give us the names of five Sinn Feiners." This was said, mind, to a woman who had been nursing the sick, the wounded, and the dying in the creamery. She was told, in this agony of mind, by agents of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that her brother would be liberated and his life spared—as was 611 thought at the time—if she would give the names of five persons.
Let us take the second charge in the Amendment, that the right hon. Gentleman has created new offences. I would like to read two passages from speeches he has made in the House by way of showing the attitude of mind which he adopts towards these things. He was speaking in connection with the death of District Inspector Brady, and he said:I am convinced that every one of these persons had condoned the murder"—so that the idea of the right hon. Gentleman is that anyone who condones murder shall have his house burned down and his property destroyed. The right hon. Gentleman appears to dissent, but what other inference can we draw from his speech? It is not a very pleasant point to bring out, but that is absolutely the only conclusion that we can draw and which shows the mind of the right hon. Gentleman upon the matter. Take this statement. "Those men who acquiesce in murder have no right to complain of reprisals." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Does any hon. Member really suggest that people who acquiesce, that is to say people who have no responsibility, and thus acquiesce, have no right to complain if their houses are burnt to the ground? Take the actual events upon which the right hon. Gentleman appears to have based his opinion of what is right and what is wrong. Take this:Aims, powder, and dynamite must be handed over under penalty of being shot.That is the order of the right hon. Gentleman. As I understand it—he will correct me if I am wrong—I suppose it is his order?
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD assented.
§ Captain BENN
"Arms, powder and dynamite must be handed over." That is the policy of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
I have explained that was under the Proclamation setting up martial law in the province of Munster; that on a certain date—after martial law had been proclaimed—all those who illegally held arms and explosives and those who harboured notorious murderers would be liable to the capital penalty—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—after trial by court-martial.
§ Captain BENN
My contention is that it is not in the power of the right hon. Gentleman to define a new capital offence and execute people without the assent of this House. He said in the House: "I am pressed every day to ask the House to pass a law to enable the police or the military to shoot on arrest anyone found with arms in his possession." The Prime Minister said:Severe punishment can be inflicted, but the death penalty cannot be inflicted without some special legislation.I should have thought that, in view of the extended powers which the Executive now enjoys, that no one in this House would permit a new capital offence to be created without at any rate the right hon. Gentleman coming to this House. Yet we know perfectly well that the right hon. Gentleman has not only created offences, but he has executed people under his own administration, and as a matter of fact has in this House invaded the rights and privileges not only of Irishmen, but of Englishmen in a way of which notice ought to be taken. I come to the next portion of the indictment. The administration of the right hon. Gentleman has used hostages as fire screens for the defence of his agents. Let me read first what Lord Bryce's Commission said about this practice following the investigation of German conduct in Belgium:Hostage-taking is opposed both to the rules of war and to every principle of justice and humanity.Hostages were carried on military lorries at Longford, and here are the names of the prominent persons who were carried as hostages. There is the case of Mr. Wm. Sears, a member of Dail Eireinn. He was driven as a hostage in a lorry through Dublin early in the present month. More serious still—perhaps not more serious, but more noticeable—was the case of Colonel Moore, a distinguished officer who has served His Majesty. He was seized and carried through Dublin on a lorry as a hostage and firescreen. I will not comment on these cases, but simply read the facts, and if the right hon. Gentleman can deny them I shall be very glad.
§ Captain BENN
I come to the next charge against the right hon. Gentle- 613 man, and that is that there is systematic terrorism of the population for the purpose of attempting to restore order, His policy might be, defined as this:True strategy consists in hitting your enemy and hitting him hard. Above all you must inflict on the inhabitants of invaded towns the maximum of suffering so that they may become sick of the struggle and bring pressure to bear upon the rebel government to discontinue it.That is a fair definition of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman. I will give evidence, such evidence as I can give. First, there is a case reported to the Labour Commission. A man who served in the late War, a rebel, I think —I should say on the evidence that the man was probably engaged in the rebel army—that appears to me to be the inference from the evidence—still I will read it and ask the House to say whether, even in the case of this rebel, such conduct is justifiable. This man had served in the late War as company sergeant-major, and had 14 years' service in an Irish regiment. In his evidence he says:They (the police) accused me of teaching Sinn Feiners the use of machine guns. This I at once denied, and said: 'You should arrest me and put me on trial if you make such a serious charge against me.' One of the police—But. I will not go into the language alleged to be used.I was compelled at rifle point to kneel in the mud, and on threat of death to take an oath that I was not a Sinn Feiner. I was shown a framed photograph of De Valera by one of the policemen, and was ordered to spit on it three times or to be shot. I was struck and kicked. I was ordered to get up and clear out. I did so, but was followed by about 12 policemen, who again set on me and very severely beat me with rifles, fists and feet. I was knocked to the ground and kicked while there. Then one man said: 'Let him go, he has had enough,' but when I got up this man felled me again.Then there is a statement of Lady Sykes to this effect:I saw a boy in the infirmary of a military prison who had been arrested 10 days before. There was no charge against him. His face was covered with deep scars, the back of his head was bandaged. He told me he had been beaten until he was unconscious. He was to be released as soon as he was fit. The boy was a medical student, 18 years of ago.Other cases were related to the Labour Commission. There was the case of an employé of the City Council. This man said:The men who arrested me asked mo if I was the man employed at the City Hall? I 614 said 'yes.' … He took a revolver out of his pocket and placed it on my right temple, and asked me to tell him where Donal O'Callaghan, the deputy, sleeps at night. I said I did not know. He called me a liar, and said that I did know, and that I knew everything going on at the City Hall. He then opened the button of my shirt, and placed the muzzle of the revolver against my heart, telling me he would give me five minutes to divulge the information. While the revolver was at my heart an officer near discharged a shot from a revolver. It may or may not have been a blank cartridge. There was a hearty laugh from the officers and soldiers around at this. It was done presumably to frighten me.I would like to ask the right hon Gentleman if the Strickland Report contained any reference to these cases? Is there any rebutting evidence? Can he enlighten us on the matter? Here is another boy of 18 who had a postcard photograph of the late. Lord Mayor of Cork in his possession:The men in charge told me to go down on my knees. I did not. They made him kneel and spit three times on the portrait of De Valera. Then I had to say three times, 'God bless the R.I.Cwhich no doubt he did with a full heart. Take another small matter, but which is a very good indication of the tone which has been produced in these affairs amongst some members of the force—I would not say the whole force, because I do not think it would be true of the whole force, but in some members of the force— by the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman. Here is a statement by Mr. Stephen Gwynn, an ex-Member of this House. No one is less likely to be sympathetic with the outrages of the Sinn Fein party than he. He gives the case of a judge of the Irish High Court, who was in a train which was stopped. Mr. Gwynn's statement, no doubt given to him by the judge, is as follows:The Judge of the Irish High Court was, it seems, addressed in these words: 'Come down, you Irish bastard, put up your hands.'That is a statement of an ex-Member of this House, presumably, as I say, given to him by the judge who suffered this indignity. Here is another case, relating to an old widow whose house had been twice raided:One of the party went upstairs and sat on the bed and pointed a revolver at the daughter, who was ill in bed, and demanded to know the whereabouts of her brothers. She could not tell him. Downstairs the man roughly handled the old widow.… 615 She pleaded for mercy, and the men left the house swearing there was no bloody God.This statement was made to the Labour Commission, and is given as evidence of the conduct of the agents of the right hon. Gentleman.
Let us come to the case of Balbriggan. The Hague Convention says, in Article 50:No collective penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, shall be inflicted upon the population on account of acts of individuals for which it cannot be regarded as collectively responsible.Yet 150 of the right hon. Gentleman's servants went to Balbriggan and burnt down the town and the factory without justification even from the right hon. Gentleman himself. Here is the statement in the Labour Commission's Report on this matter:The people fled in tenor to the field. Men, women, and children spent the night out of doors. In addition to two civilians who were killed, two women died from the effects of the exposure, two women had miscarriages as a result of the night's events, and four babies suffering from measles were taken out into the fields, and died as a consequence.The Prime Minister says:I am firmly convinced from inquiries made that the men who are suffering in Ireland are the men engaged in a murderous conspiracy.I pass from terrorism to the matter of arson. Up to 27th November, 42 creameries had been destroyed in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman says there is no indiscriminate destruction of creameries. On 28th October he told a deputation that he would give all the protection he could. Since that date 13 creameries have been destroyed. On 18th November he made a statement to this House, repeating his promise of protection to the creameries. The same night that he spoke five were destroyed. He may say that he does not know who did it, but the Prime Minister says it is impossible to have an official inquiry. We find that when the Newport Society claimed compensation they made this statement:General Rycroft was informed that the claim was to be considered by the County Court Judge, and the military authorities were asked to give evidence. They did not summon any witnesses. They did not employ counsel to cross-examine the Society's witnesses.616 As regards the Ballymacelligott creamery they say:The inhabitants of the town made a treacherous surprise attack upon our troops. With my consent the general officer commanding has burned the whole neighbourhood.That is textually the defence of General von Bulow taken from the Liege Proclamation. Take the burnings at Cork. But let me first read Article 56 from the Hague Convention which is as follows:The property of local authorities, as well as that of institutions dedicated to public worship, charity, education and to science and art, even when State property shall be treated as private property. Any seizure or destruction of or wilful damage to institutions of this character is forbidden and shall be made the subject of legal proceedings.That is the Hague Convention dealing with town property. The right hon. Gentleman's agents burned the City Hall in Cork. The real view of English justice was given by Mr. Justice Lush when he sentenced three men to long terms of imprisonment for the same conduct. He said:If wrongs have been done there is a legitimate way of calling attention to them. and there is a criminal way.… It is quite impossible for you to suggest that as an excuse for what you have done.Passing from the creameries, let me take the vengeance work, the burning of private houses and farms as reprisals for acts alleged to have been done. I wish to call attention to the right hon. Gentleman's frame of mind. He does not allege that the people whose houses are burned are rebels or that they have committed a crime, and the most he will say is thatthey were considered to be occupied or owned by notorious Sinn Feiners.It is a queer sort of justice that burns down a house because someone considers it to be occupied or owned by notorious Sinn Feiners. The Hague Convention further says:It is particularly forbidden to destroy or seize enemy property unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war.That is what the Hague Convention says. See what happened in this case, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot challenge this evidence, because it was given at an open court in County Clare, where the Crown was represented by counsel, and where they were at liberty to disprove if they could any of the evidence 617 presented. I will read from the evidence of the learned judge of the Court, who said:Military officers attended in court and proved that the houses, etc., had been burned by the military. … There was no evidence or suggestion that any of the occupants of the houses or the owners of the property had been guilty of any offence.That statement was made after a judicial inquiry which, despite the right hon. Gentleman, does take place in the County Court in Ireland to-day. I will take one other case from the same report which occurred in County Clare, in which Judge Bodkin says:There were in all 139 cakes in which it was proved that the criminal injuries were committed by the armed forces of the Government, and only in five cases already mentioned were any witnesses examined to justify, deny or explain. In no case was there any evidence to suggest that the victims had been guilty of any offence.That is the result of a judicial inquiry into the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman's agents. Perhaps I may give one other case under this heading. An aged and bedridden woman of 75 was dragged out of her house which was occupied by two daughters of the old lady and a boy eight years old. The house was burned down, and the right hon. Gentleman's servants put their finishing touch to their work of art by sprinkling petrol on the pigs and poultry, which were also destroyed.
I pass from that to the question of murder. Take the case of Canon Magner. He was murdered by a cadet who was insane; but who sent this madman out in charge of a party of armed men? Why did the armed agents of law and order see a madman commit two murders successively one after the other. Let me read by way of illustration a statement from the "Irish Times," which throws a very interesting light on this case. We are frequently told that these men are shot whilst attempting to escape. That is an explanation which is often given from the Front Bench. This case happened to be one in which the resident magistrate was present, at great risk to his own life, but he was able to give evidence. The earlier report of the case in the papers said:The auxiliary policemen were trying to effect the arrest of two men when Canon Magner got between the police and the men and was unfortunately shot.618 That was in the earlier report. Suppose that the resident magistrate had not been there, or that anybody had not found the bodies which were thrown into the ditch, is it not possible the explanation might have been given that the unfortunate Canon was shot coming between the shots of those who were attempting to arrest two men who were trying to escape? I seldom quote with approval what the Chief Secretary says, but I will quote one sentence. He said:To tolerate a compaign of murder is to abdicate the first principle of civilised government.I will only give three other instances of the kind of murder alleged to be committed by the armed forces of Ireland. I will take the case of James Tooley and Laurence Tooley. He was arrested at his house and he was taken to prison. His father was summoned three days later and saw his son lying dead, shot through the head and wrist. He had been arrested by men in civilian clothes. There is no question about this, because they took the man to the police barracks. Is it not a striking thing that the servants of the Crown should go out to arrest men dressed in civilian clothes, and does that not throw a light on the frequent explanation of the right hon. Gentleman that these outrages are probably done by extreme Sinn Feiners? This man was arrested by men in civilian clothes, taken to prison, and the next thing is that the father sees the dead body of his boy. The other brother is also arrested by men in civilian clothes. He is taken into the yard and shot. Here is evidence that the right hon. Gentleman's men, not wearing the uniform of the Crown can go about doing his work in Ireland in civilian clothes. Is there going to be any trial? Was James Tooley tried, and what was his sentence? These are questions which the House is entitled to ask. I take the case of James Murphy which happened last week. He was rounded up in Dublin on Tuesday or Wednesday last week. He was arrested with a number of other men and taken to the Castle. He was discharged by the Castle authorities at ten o'clock at night. There is a statement made by James Murphy in his last hours which was given by his brother Joseph. Joseph Murphy says that his brother James told him before he died thatNothing of a compromising character was found on him, he had no weapons and 619 no documents of any kind. He assured me that when he was interrogated at the Castle his examination was perfectly satisfactory, and he was released and told he must go home, and directions were given by an officer that he should be sent home on a motor lorry; it being after Curfew hour.Instead of this, they put him up against a wall and shot him. Will the right hon. Gentleman have a public inquiry into this charge? Here is a statement of Judge Bodkin of cases that came to his notice which have been examined judicially with the Crown representative present at liberty to rebut any evidence if they had any evidence of a rebutting kind. Speaking of the attack:A young man named Connole was seized in the street by a party of men under the command of an officer. His wife, who was with him, pleaded on her knees with the officer for the life of her husband, but he was taken away a short distance and shot, and his chaired remains were found next morning in his own house, which had been burned.That is not from a tainted source, but it is a judgment given in an open Court after a judicial inquiry. That man and another was shot.
An old woman named Lynch proved that during the course of this raid, just before the burning of her house, her husband, an old man of 75, whilst standing opposite her at their own doorway, was shot dead by a soldier in uniform distant about ten yards.I wish to add that in this case some of the military and police endeavoured to extinguish the flames. If the right hon. Gentleman has got any answer to that case, I hope he will give it. We are not anxious to attack the nerve-racked creatures he has sent to Ireland. He is the man we ought to attack. He is responsible, and the Prime Minister and his agant, the Chief Secretary, are responsible. These men in Ireland come to him for their pay and food, and in order to replenish their bandoliers, and they come to him for another tin of petrol, and he is the man who is responsible. The right hon. Gentleman should answer these charges here, as he will have to answer them one day at the Throne of Justice.
§ Mr. INSKIP
The hon. and gallant Gentleman, in the course of his speech, has produced a catalogue which, if the House had not already been informed of 620 the facts, would have shocked it. But he has not put the blame on the right spot. He knows perfectly well that he and hon. Members on the benches behind him are not the only Members of this House who share the hatred of such crimes, such acts and such offences as he has described this afternoon. It is a common suggestion which is made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman and those associated with him that we tolerate the crimes he has described, and that the Chief Secretary for Ireland has indeed passively, if not expressly, tolerated them. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman quoted my right hon. Friend as saying that to tolerate murder was to abrogate the first principles of government, there was an underlying suggestion that my right hon. friend had departed in his government from the spirit of that utterance and that he had in some way tolerated murder. I desire to say at the outset I do not think my right hon. Friend deserves that an accusation of this sort should be levelled against him, however much the hon. and gallant Gentleman may differ from him as to the methods of his administration. Other and equally reprehensible charges have been made outside as well as inside this House against my right hon. Friend, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman took upon himself to say that nobody now paid any attention to the assertions of my right hon. Friend. Do hon. Members by their cheers mean to associate themselves with these charges against a Minister of the Crown? I do not agree with everything that the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) has said in the country about Ireland. I do not agree with everything which Mr. Hugh Martin has said in his recently published book and narration of facts, but I should regard myself as guilty of an intolerable outrage against public decency if I asserted that men who hold high public positions are not to be believed in the statements they make either in public or in this House. That is not the spirit in which this matter can be settled. It is not the spirit in which the troubles in Ireland can be solved.
It seems to me that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has, like many of those associated with him, placed the emphasis on the wrong spot this afternoon. If I had his industry I could match his catalogue of crime with another list equally horrible and detestable. It is not a recital of crimes of this sort that is likely to settle this question, 621 and if each side this afternoon contents itself with producing a catalogue of crimes one against the other, we shall not be brought a single step nearer the desired settlement. The hon. and gallant Member appears singularly at fault when he prays in aid The Hague Convention and its ordinances with regard to the usages of war between civilised States. I could produce cases from my own know ledge, and not from the newspapers, which are equally outrages against The Hague Convention. I heard of a case quite a short time ago—one which must be familiar to everyone in this House— of an old man in Tiperary whom I used to know, helpless from infirmity, who at two o'clock in the morning was taken from his house and shot in cold blood, apparently because he was associated with a Protestant Unionist employer. Outrages, of course, against anything in the nature of The Hague Convention are equally outrages when committed by Sinn Fein, or by the Irish Republican Army, and it is useless to pray in aid The Hague Convention or its ordinances unless they are observed by both sides. I may suggest to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that, after the close study he has made of The Hague Convention and its ordinances, he might send them to the proper quarter and ask for insistance on the observance of the regulations by those from whom he has obtained the in formation he has given us this afternoon. I venture to say he has placed the emphasis on the wrong spot. The right hon. Member for Paisley was to raise the fiery torch and carry it through the land—
§ Mr. INSKIP
But it has proved more like smoking flax; not that the right hon. Gentleman is lacking in eloquence, earnestness, or material, but because the public instinct has appreciated the facts and has realised the false emphasis in the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman. It has realised that there is something else to be said before denouncing those who imperfectly, and wrongly, perhaps, are attempting to restore law and order in Ireland. Public instinct holds that Sinn Fein must come before this House or the nation with clean hands, and before the Irish Republican army can demand the treatment which the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggests, they must accept the 622 orders of the Hague Convention, and must come to the House as suppliants with clean hands, which at present they have not. Some people denounce my right hon. Friend; other people denounce this House of Commons as guilty of these offences in Ireland. All these denunciations are beside the mark. Still other people denounce the nation as if the English nation were guilty of these offences, whereas never in the whole 700 or 800 years of Irish misery has this nation, or the Unionist party, been prepared to make such concessions as are offered at the present time in the way of giving Ireland whatever she may rightly claim. Never in the history of Ireland has this nation— denounced as it has been as if it had done some discreditable thing in regard to Ireland—been prepared to go so far to meet Irish claims. Comparisons have been drawn between occurrences in Ireland and the acts committed by the Germans at Namur and Liege, and it has been suggested that we have been guilty of the same crimes as horrified the world at the outbreak of the War. Hon. Gentlemen opposite cheer that, as if the crimes in Belgium were unprovoked and were crimes committed without any provocation by the population or by the armed agents of the population. I am not defending crime—if there be crime by those described as the Black and Tans—but I say no service is done to this nation, no assistance is given to this House in the solution of the Irish problem, by the denunciation by one side of crime which in truth and in fact is only the result of crimes previously committed by those to whom we are holding out the right hand of friendship and goodwill.
§ Mr. INSKIP
The fact is but for the crimes committed by Sinn Fein the crimes said to have been committed by the Black and Tans would not have been possible. The hon. and gallant Gentleman started his catalogue with the murder of a policeman in 1918. Why did he not start it in 1916, when first the determination was come to to put deliberate murder upon the programme of the Sinn Fein party? He cannot treat the 1916 rebellion as if it were an isolated incident from the spirit of which the Irish nation departed, and if what Lady Sykes states in the Times to-day is correct, then the acts of 623 which Sinn Fein is guilty are not the acts of a minority, but are the acts of 80 per cent, of the population. It is impossible to isolate therefore such an incident as the Rebellion of 1916. The fact is that until that campaign of murder, deliberately adopted by the Sinn Fein party in Ireland, is abandoned there will be no hope for that unhappy country. If hon. Members opposite will only assist the right hon. Gentleman in the government of Ireland, and will put the blame upon those who first took up the sword, then and then only shall we be nearer the solution of this question. We have been told that those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. That is a simple statement in human nature. Who destroyed the Royal Irish Constabulary, a body which earned the respect of the nation by the way in which it has behaved until the last few years? Who destroyed the Royal Irish Constabulary? It was this foul campaign of murder and outrage, and if in the place of the Royal Irish Constabulary men have to be obtained who are not only bold and reckless, but are likely to be wild and undisciplined, who is guilty? Those who, by assassination, outrage and calumny, have made it difficult if not impossible for the Royal Irish Constabulary to carry out their task in their accustomed way. I do not want to over-emphasise this point, but I do want to say, with all respect, that I think until real emphasis is placed by everybody upon the proper shoulders we shall never make any progress.
I have something more to say, and I am encouraged to say it by the statement of my right hon. Friend the Member far Derby (Mr. Thomas) on the first day of this Session, when he asserted that he had, at a meeting in Dublin, told 2,000 men that, until murder had stopped, he would not do anything to get the forces of the Crown shifted from Ireland. I honour him for that statement. I want to say, and I say it with all humility as a private Member, that if murder can be stopped, and we are told that the Sinn Fein movement authorises and directs these murders at the present time—if murder is stopped, the Unionists themselves are prepared to go any length [...] giving Ireland that Government which she may demand from this House or from this nation. I believe that the interests of Ireland will be better served by con- 624 tinuing in the Union in the spirit in which Scotland, Wales and England has entered it, but if Ireland thinks otherwise she must come with clean hands If she does that, if she comes with a right heart and accepts the hand we hold out, then I and my fellow[...]Unionists will be prepared to go great lengths. What moves me to an indignation that I am incapable of expressing is that when we know the horrors that are going on in Ireland that were first committed by those who are responsible for the whole situation, it is possible for hon. Members opposite both here and in the country to suggest that the real criminals are the Black and Tan forces. I do not know what my right hon. Friend may say in reply to some of the facts that have been suggested this afternoon, but I am going to suggest that if he succeeds in getting the assistance of hon. Members opposite in stopping murder we shall have taken a step forward in this difficult situation.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
I am sure we all welcome, back to the House of Commons the hon. and gallant Member who moved this Motion. I congratulate him, and I suppose I should appreciate his semi-episcopal benediction upon my head. I shall try to answer him in exactly the same tone and temper. I shall then deal with the Irish situation as it is, and not take up isolated instances of the most troublesome kind in Irish history. He quotes various people who went to Ireland under the auspices of the Peace Committee. I cannot accept their information as informative let alone conclusive. He quotes the Bishop of Cork. I wish he would emphasise the merits of the situation with the same strenuous emphasis as the Bishop of Cork does. He is a belated supporter of the Irish Government in putting down murder. I give him credit for being the most courageous Bishop in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. This is what he said: