http://theirishwar.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/irish-war-logo1.png 0 0 admin http://theirishwar.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/irish-war-logo1.png admin2011-04-04 16:51:062011-04-04 16:51:06British Military Operations in Ireland-House of Commons Debate June 1921
1 June 1921 → Commons Sitting → ORDERS OF THE DAY.
MILITARY OPERATIONS, IRELAND.
HC Deb 01 June 1921 vol 142 cc1153-98 1153
Major-General SEELY I beg to move, “That this House do now adjourn.”
I move the Adjournment of the House to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the failure of His Majesty’s Government to issue orders prohibiting the destruction of houses or buildings in Ireland except where necessary on purely military grounds, and the urgent necessity for putting a stop to such actions as the burning of Tincurry House, County Tipperary, on 15th May, The issue which I put to the House to-night is quite clear and definite, and has not been discussed by the House before. As will be seen, we raise here no question of the conduct of troops. There is no allegation here that the Regular troops, Auxiliaries or police have acted with lack of discipline. On the contrary, as will be seen from the concrete case which I shall put before the House, the troops throughout acted strictly in accordance with orders, and if I may use the phrase of so lamentable an occurrence, in an entirely proper manner. We raise two issues to-night. I can conceive that when the case is put, the great majority will support the view we express. We say, first, that His Majesty’s 1154 Government have failed to issue orders in accordance with the general principles laid down by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary in various answers to questions and various speeches in this House, namely, that there shall be no destruction of the homes of the people except on purely military grounds—that is to say, either when a house is used as cover for an ambush, or when the residents of the house may reasonably be supposed to be participators in the outrages which we so much deplore. Although that is the policy of my right hon. Friend, he does not see his way to issue definite orders to that effect, and one can gather from certain answers he has given that the view taken is that this must be left to the military authorities in a martial law area. That is the first point we definitely challenge. On a matter of high policy—there can be no higher policy than this—the Chief Secretary must be supreme, and so long as this House supports him his will in matters of high policy like this must be law.
The second point we challenge is the actual method adopted, namely, the destruction of people’s homes, presumably by way of reprisal, but in the absence of the incriminating reasons to which I have referred. As to the responsibility of the Chief Secretary to this House and his bounden duty to see that his policy and not the policy of anyone else is carried out, everyone here who cares for our method of constitutional government will 1155 be disposed to agree that the last word must rest with the Chief Secretary responsible to this House. He cannot shelter himself, and I trust he will not shelter himself, behind the supposed necessity of listening to the advice of anyone, whether soldier, policeman, or civilian in Ireland, who wishes to pursue a different policy. The second point is that we challenge the policy of the burning of people’s homes except for purely military necessities. The phrase I have used is, I think, a fair transcript of the policy of my right hon. Friend, as I understand it. It means that homes are to be destroyed only where a house is used as cover for an ambush or where the residents may reasonably be supposed to be parties to an outrage. The hon. and gallant Member opposite (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness), who, I under-stand, will second this Motion, holds the view that instead of “or” we should say “and” in the Motion. It will no doubt be urged that constantly the houses of loyalists will be destroyed because they will be deliberately used by our enemies as fortresses from which to fire, with a view to the houses being burnt down. My hon. and gallant Friend will develop that case. I will come to the concrete case on which I rest this Motion.
There is resident in Derbyshire a man whom I know very well and whom everyone knows, a Dr. Tobin, who has been a magistrate for about 20 years, who is universally respected, and who, for more years than I care to count, has been the foremost medical man in the central part of Derbyshire. I say all this to show that such a man may be reasonably supposed, and certainly supposed, to tell one nothing but the truth. I will read to the House his account of what took place, and as will be seen it is only one of many similar occurrences on the same day. I know the House will be shocked. This Dr. Tobin is the brother of a man who lived in Tincurry House. His brother is now dead and there remain the widow and a young daughter of 13 years. There were two nephews living there before the War. They both joined up as loyal subjects soon after the outbreak of war. One, a lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps, was shot down in an aerial combat at Ypres; the other, an officer in the Royal Navy, was drowned in the operations at Gallipoli, while serving with His Majesty’s Ship “Triumph.” There were in the 1156 house at the time of the occurrence I shall describe, only Dr. Tobin’s sister-in-law and her little daughter. Two other children were at school. This is what happened. Dr. Tobin writes: Our old house and home in Ireland was blown up by the military on Saturday last, the 14th May, 1921—Tincurry House, Cahir, Co. Tipperary. It was an old country house, pre-Cromwellian, with additions and alterations from time to time. You can see it marked on any of the old ordnance maps. It was in occupation of my brother’s widow and her youngest daughter, 13 years of age. My brother died about 3 years ago. My brother’s two other children, 15 and 16½ years of age respectively, are away at school, one, a girl, in England, and the boy, 15 years of age, in Dublin. They, of course, go to the old home for school holidays only. No occupants of the house except the widow, Mrs. Marion Tobin, and her daughter, Eva, 13 years of age, and the servants. The widow writes me that on Saturday last the military arrived and gave her an hour’s notice to clear out her family, that the house was to be demolished. No furniture to be removed, only sufficient clothing, etc. No reasons given—nothing incriminating found, nor ever had been, though the house and plate had been searched and raided a dozen times or more night and day during the last 12 months or so. Before placing the bombs the house and all its rooms were thoroughly searched, and every article of furniture was smashed with picks and hatchets. The beds and bedroom furniture, as well as all the old mahogany chests, were all broken into matchwood. The new bathroom and bath and its basins, etc., were broken to bits. In fact, everything in the house upstairs and down was broken with picks and hatchets, so that nothing could possibly be saved or restored. Having thoroughly completed this wreckage, then the bombs were placed in the principal rooms and fired, and the dear old house and home blown to the four winds of heaven. Meanwhile, the widow and her little daughter, Eva Tobin, stood on the lawn as grim witnesses, carefully surrounded by the armed forces of the Crown. Incidentally this was also the home of my two nephews, who were killed in France and Gallipoli during the Great War. It seems that on the same day, 14th May, 11 other houses were demolished in the same beautiful valley of the Galtees, but none of them was as old or as big as Tincurry House—not that such a comparison is of the least consequence. In fact, it only goes to show how cruelly impartial and haphazard military reprisals are in Ireland. Then he proceeds to refer to the demeanour of the troops. He says they said it was a shame to treat the widow and the child in such a manner, and he goes on to say that when the deed was done the soldiers were exhausted for want of food and begged the widow to give them some, which she did. She and her 1157 servants made tea for them in the kitchen, and gave them a good feed. The house of this poor lady and her little daughter was deprived of its furniture and its contents, these were smashed and it was then blown up. It cannot be alleged that this lady or her daughter were participants in any outrage. It would seem unlikely that the home of two officers who fell fighting for us in the Great War would be the home of participants in outrages. It could not be used for the purposes of an ambush on the roadside, because I understand it is not on the road. What reason can be given for this action I do not know, but whatever reason may be given, I ask this House to say that such proceedings as these are wrong.
On the general question of these formal reprisals, I do ask the House to say that they wish to put an end definitely to this kind of thing. Whatever anybody else may say, this House should say: “This thing must stop,” and for more than one reason. The first reason, and the lower reason, is that it is so idle and inexpedient. It is very obvious that those on what may be called the loyal side of this matter, offer an incomparably bigger target. From the lower point of view it is foolish to take such steps as this, because brutal crimes have been committed, when the other side can burn down houses which are of so much more value—except, of course, from the sentimental point of view, to those immediately concerned. It is foolish for another and more important reason. Everybody must have been shocked this morning—and as one occupying an official position in Hampshire and having a close association with Hampshire, I was particularly shocked—at the news of the frightful crime by which the Hampshire Regiment, marching peace-fully along the road with its band, was blown up, and unfortunate bandsmen, some of them only little boys, blown to bits and many wounded. These are dreadful crimes which we reprobate, and to stop which we will help in every possible way. But are these crimes not made easier, instead of more difficult, by this kind of thing? In the first place, you must set more and more of the in-habitants against you by such procedure. The people, in what is here called the beautiful valley of the Galtees—and it 1158 is a most beautiful valley—may not have been all of one political view, but the great majority must have been on our side in reprobating murder. One can well imagine the bitterness of seeing one’s home destroyed, and by doing such acts you turn many of these people from being supporters of law and order, whatever their political views may be, towards the other side. Furthermore, and this is a view that will be shared in by many experienced soldiers, while troops are engaged on acts of this kind, they are necessarily withdrawn from their real duty, which should be to try to track down the assassin by every means known to the skilful and resourceful soldier. There is another aspect of this. Who is it orders these reprisals?
Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS Not this House, anyway.
Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK Who ordered the torture of the prisoners the other day?
Major-General SEELY I should be glad if hon. Members would stick to this one point of who orders such reprisals as this. Other questions are contentious. I have taken the opposite side to many of my hon. Friends on the question of the behaviour of the troops, but this particular question I believe is one on which Members of the House on both sides will be of one mind. I repeat the question: Who orders these reprisals? There are two authorities and I know they do not pursue identical policies. I know in matters of this kind one favours one way and the other favours another. One commands the troops and the other commands the police. There is no proper co-ordination between them. Unless my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary boldly says what is the policy to be carried out, he shall merely be regarded as the servant of both of these in carrying out this detestable policy at the behest of one of them or some other policy at the behest of the other. We want this question of authority made defintely plain if we are to avoid disastrous effects. We want one supreme civilian head, responsible to this House, and under him we want a man who will loyally obey his orders and who will be himself supreme over others. We want to know by whom different policies are authorised in the same area with these deplorable consequences. It may be said 1159 by somebody that while the destruction of property is very sad, it is nothing compared with the destruction of life. That is not quite true. It is a strange thing, but it is true that there are many people who love their homes even better than their lives, and when you seek to destroy people’s homes you cut deep down into vital things in human thought with consequences more far-reaching than you can deal with. I can prove this to the House from my own experience. This same policy was adopted for a brief period during the South African War. I happened to be there at the time when the farm-burning policy began. It lasted a very short time, for the almost unanimous opinion of all thoughtful soldiers, and certainly of the soldiers at the front condemned it, and it was abandoned.
§Colonel P. WILLIAMS And the present Prime Minister helped to kill it.
Major-General SEELY While it was going on, I happened to be there and with many others of the officers and men protested against it. We were more anxious than anybody to defeat our enemies if only for the sordid reason of getting home. But when in the course of an attack on a commando we burned down a house, and it was supposed that we were burning down the house of the man we were attacking, he, as a matter of fact, was very likely some determined free-booter from Cape Colony and probably nobody laughed more then he did when he saw the house go up to the sky, well knowing that probably it belonged to a sympathiser with our cause. The same thing is happening in Ireland. Do you suppose these brutal assassins who blew up the Hampshire Regiment cared one scrap for the burning of Tincurry House, the residence of these two officers who were killed on our side in the War? No; but I am quite sure they will go to Mrs. Tobin. I have no doubt they have gone to her and said to her, “You see what comes of being on the English side. You allowed your men protectors to go off to the War. You are proud that one should be an officer in the British Navy and the other an officer in the British Flying Corps, and they both get killed in fighting for their cause. What do you get for it? They come and burn your house down and blow your 400-years-old house to smithereens.” It is a foolish policy. The 1160 soldiers in South Africa protested against such a policy, but when that war was over, and when the task of reconciliation began, when all those who had been most bitter against each other were trying to come to an agreement, when great men like General Botha and Lord Milner were trying to repair the ravages of the war and bring back the South African Dutch to friendship with us, and to form, as we ultimately did, a South African Union under the British flag, what was the principal difficulty? General Botha told me himself, in the presence of my Liberal colleague of that day—and I have no doubt he must have told Conservative ex-Cabinet Ministers; in fact, I know he did—he said to me, “My chief difficulty in bringing about reconciliation, the difficulty that met me at every turn, the difficulty that at all stages and even at the very last nearly wrecked the scheme, was the bitterness of the men whose houses had been burned.”
Is not that a lesson for us here? Ought we not now at once to say from this House that this foolish and wrong policy of destroying people’s homes that they love for any reason short of the direst necessity shall be put a stop to? We hear a great deal of the hostility even now to an approach to better things in Ireland. I know there are forces at work, unexpected forces, which may bring about a reconciliation between what are after all two very brave and determined nations. Surely the first and the best step we can take, if there be any chance of reconciliation, is to say now, as from this House of Commons, and with the support of my right hon. Friend, “We will take charge of this; whatever else may be done, whatever it may be necessary to do, to track down assassins and prevent brutal murders and outrages which we all deplore, we will respect the homes of the Irish people and thus give an earnest of our intentions, that one day we may be reconciled with Ireland.”
Lieut.-Colonel W. GUINNESS I beg to second the Motion. I think everyone who has the interests of Ireland at heart must be grateful to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for having brought this matter forward in the very temperate speech to which we have just listened, and if as a result of this Debate he can get some improvement in the military administration and greater wisdom in the 1161 action that the military authorities are now taking, I think he will be able to congratulate himself on having done work of enormous benefit to both countries. My hon. Friends and I have long urged that the suicidal contest of authority in Ireland between the civil and military powers should come to an end, and I listened to no part of the right hon. Gentleman’s speech with greater pleasure than to the words which he said on that matter and in favour of the whole of the responsibility for operations against the rebels in Ireland being put under one military guidance, but I am not going to elaborate that question now, because our views are very well known already. I want rather to deal with the smaller question of the burnings which have been taking place all over Ireland, and for which both sides are responsible. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that burnings might be right during military operations and where the owner or the occupant of the house might be reasonably suspected of being in sympathy with Sinn Fein—I am not quite sure of his exact words.
§Major-General SEELY Participators in outrages.
Lieut. – Colonel GUINNESS While there is no doubt that if a house is being occupied by people ambushing the troops of the Crown, the troops must be allowed to destroy that house if necessary during the action, I do not agree with the view that once the action is over the troops should be allowed to destroy even a house from which they have been fired at. If the action is finished there is no reason to have recourse to these violent methods. If there is just suspicion against the owner or occupier of the house, why not bring him before a court-martial and deal with him after hearing his case? If you do not discourage the troops from burning down houses after an action is over, you play into the hands of the Sinn Fein habit of selecting loyalist houses, the houses of men whom they are fighting, taking them aside and threatening them with violence if they make the slightest attempt to communicate with the Crown forces, knowing that by choosing such a house they are going a good way to work to get it destroyed by the friends of those who own it. I cannot give chapter and verse for that kind of case, but I can 1162 say that I have been told by officers in the Auxiliary Division that that is what happens, and they themselves, though they admit that in some cases it is necessary to destroy a house during the fighting, do not agree with the policy of burning a house down afterwards as a lesson to the population.
Now I come to the other case, where the right hon. Gentleman had, I think, the whole House with him, and that is where the house is burned down on the orders of the competent military authority in vengeance for some outrage upon the Crown forces. I think that is not only unjust, but most ineffective. It is absolutely repugnant, to anyone who is familiar with the conditions of British justice, that anyone should be punished unheard. The burning of property in this way is a very serious penalty, and, however anxious those who advise the competent military authority may be to select the right houses, it is inevitable that there must be mistakes. There is so much terrorism in Ireland to-day that I defy anybody to know which way the man who does not take an active part in politics on one side or the other really sympathises with. He dare not express his opinions, and how are the police, or whoever advise the competent military authority as to which houses are suitable to be burned down, to gauge the criminality of the owner? Of course, the military authorities probably take the line that this is a sound military method. I do not believe it is. As any soldier knew in the last War, it needs no military knowledge to inflict damage on the enemy if you do not care about the cost. A soldier must count the cost of his operation, and this particular government in Ireland is costing far more to your friends than it is to your enemies, and for that reason it seems to me absolutely suicidal. I do not think I can do better than read a letter which I got from a very well-known loyalist in the County of Cork: Can you do nothing to get the authorised military reprisals stopped? They are doing no good, and an infinity of harm; e.g., last Saturday night ‘Convamore,’ Lord Listowel’s house; ‘Ballywalter,’ Mr. Penrose Welsted’s, and ‘Rockmills,’ Mr. C. D. Oliver’s, all within a few miles of Castletownroche, in the Fermoy Military District, were burnt, I understand, as a counter-reprisal to the burning by the military of Sinn Fein houses in the neighbourhood. The Sinn Feiners have said so. The soldiers burn a cottage worth, perhaps, £300, and the Sinn 1163 Feiners retaliate by burning a house worth £50,000. I do not think £100,000 would pay for ‘Convamore’ and its contents. If the military reprisals go on, there will soon be no loyalists’ house left. The authorities do not appear to understand the state of the country even now. Soldiers expect country people to help them to bring criminals to justice. Under present conditions, this is too stupid. Everyone is terrorised. The Government can protect no one. If a man is even suspected of having given any information to the police, he is shot by the Sinn Feiners and labelled ‘spy.’ He adds as a postscript: I see that Listowel has applied for £150,000 compensation, and that a military proclamation has been posted about Fermoy that if the burning of loyalists’ houses is repeated, more than two Sinn Feiners’ houses for each will be destroyed. What is the good of destroying two houses, worth £300 apiece, which perhaps belong to a loyalist landlord, as vengeance for burning down a house worth £100,000? My friend adds: This will be regarded as mere bluff, which it is, and do more harm than good. I think it is mere bluff, because the other side in this matter hold the bigger cards. They can burn down houses which this House has to pay for, or else see the owner put to permanent loss, and the burning down of Sinn Feiners’ houses really inflicts no proportionate penalty upon the other side. There is another case which happened last week. Mr. Ebenezer Pike, of Kilcrenagh, County Cork, was on Thursday midnight awakened by people knocking up the house, and men came in and said he could have a quarter of an hour to clear out and take anything he liked. He is an old man. He was living with his daughter, and was so bewildered that, even if he had had more time, I do not suppose he could have taken all the valuable things away with him. Anyhow he lost both his house and all the valuables which it contained. He asked them why they were burning his house, as he had taken no part one way or the other, and he was told his house was to be burnt down as a reprisal for houses burnt down by the troops. He was then locked in the stable with his daughter, and when let out his house was in ruins. The competent military authority can do nothing to prevent such cases. It is they who order these reprisals, and I submit it is absolutely monstrous to go on with this policy, unless you are prepared to secure that it does not 1164 do more harm to your friends than it does to those against whom it is directed.
I say the competent military authority cannot protect loyalists’ houses, judging by their extraordinary performance last week in Dublin. They were not able to protect even the Customs House. I believe the competent military authority only a short time ago removed the guard from the Customs House, and it has not yet been explained in this House what induced them to pursue that fatuous policy. There had been a long controversy about that guard. They tried, I believe, to get the Auxiliaries to do it, but naturally the Auxiliaries are not a suitable kind of force to undertake work of that kind, and, finally, the military did find a small guard. They then proceeded to withdraw this guard altogether, with the result that the most important building, from the point of view of Government records, was burnt down in broad daylight. I agree it is a building which cannot be replaced. We have heard a lot about that, but we have not heard about the almost more valuable records and papers which perished in that building. If that happens in Dublin, where there are troops, and where there is a competent military authority on the spot, what must happen in the country districts to which I have referred? The competent military authority, who orders this kind of proceeding, perhaps bases his action on psychological grounds. If so, it shows a singular ignorance of Irish mentality.
This policy is driving the few friends this country had in Ireland into the arms of Sinn Fein. It is causing intense bitterness in the eyes of every man who has kept neutral, and it is causing disgust and fear among your friends. During the present nightmare everybody feels that whichever side he takes he has got an equal chance of having his house burnt down, but he knows that when this nightmare comes to an end, if he takes part against Sinn Fein, then when that party comes to govern the country, he is more likely to suffer. Therefore, it is only human nature if these unprotected men go over day by day and join the ranks of Sinn Fein. I say it is absolutely unfair to put this work upon your troops. My Noble Friend (Earl Winterton) was present when Auxiliary officers in Dublin in high command told us they detested this policy, that there was nothing their men 1165 disliked more than to get orders from the competent military authority to burn, in cold blood, houses, and turn out their occupants. I have given the right hon. Gentleman the reasons—one on the high ground of principle, and the other on the lower ground of expediency—why this policy should be stopped, and I hope he will choose either or both of them. I believe the right hon. Gentleman cannot know really what is going on.
Mr. MOSLEY Oh, yes he does!
Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS I believe these orders must come on the decision of soldiers, who are guided only by the military expediency of the moment, and are thinking only in terms of force. They seem to forget that the country has got to be lived in after the Government has pacified it. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to bring this policy to an end, and while punishing murder to cease to inflict these penalties which, apart from causing senseless loss to the community, are stirring up bitterness in Ireland which will not die out in our lifetime.
Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK The speeches which have just been made are a remarkable testimony to the blundering and brutality of the Government’s rule in Ireland. The speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Major-General Seely), gives a very good instance of the crowning folly of the Government. Though I am deeply and bitterly opposed to the policy of His Majesty’s Government, I do not wish to approach this subject to-night in a violent or controversial spirit. I rise merely for the few moments I desire to address the House to beg the House and the Government to reflect whether there is any good to be obtained by the pursuance of a policy which has been pursued for the last two years. Take this question of burnings. What good really does the right hon. Gentleman think he is doing by burning the houses of people who, for all he knows, are perfectly innocent? Does he really think he is discouraging the rebels? Does he think he is detaching one single rebel from the Irish Republican Army? Does he think he is cowing the Irish people into submission? Is he not rather encouraging the rebels? Is he not rather adding to their ranks, and increasing the disgust and terror with which his rule is regarded in Ireland? As my hon. and 1166 gallant Friend opposite has said, the people in Ireland are not under the slightest delusion on this head. I was talking only the other day with a distinguished soldier who lives in Ireland, and he told me that for every cabin the right hon. Gentleman burns down the rebels burn down either a country house, or a mansion, or a castle. The only result of the right hon. Gentleman’s competition in arson is that he gets scored off in the end. After all, the burning down of the Dublin Customs House is only the logical outcome of his own competition. May I in all humility ask the House, and the Government, to take stock of where we are, and what we have achieved by our policy? We have got an army in Ireland of over 60,000 men, costing anything from £1,250,000 to £1,500,000. We have a body of police which, I believe, are costing £7,000,000. Property has been destroyed, I believe, to the amount of £5,000,000. You have lives lost to the number of 700 since 1st January. What have you got to show for it all? The right hon. Gentleman himself has confessed that the thing is a failure. The Prime Minister has also confessed that the right hon. Gentleman is a failure. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that a commanding officer, when he is a failure, has to be removed to some other sphere of activity, and somebody else is put in his place. I submit it is high time that that which is a sound rule in military matters should be applied to the office of the right hon. Gentleman. The Prime Minister has announced that he is going to increase the number of soldiers in Ireland. What good is it going to do to increase the number of soldiers? What good has the army of 60,000 done? What has it done for peace?
§ 9.0 P.M.
§Mr. SPEAKER The Noble Lord forgets that in the Motion for the Adjournment of the House we are confined to the definite, urgent, and particular matter raised in it. The Debate was opened by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Ilkeston Division (Major-General Seely), but the Noble Lord must not review the whole field of Irish affairs; he must keep to the question—that of the burnings as set forth in the Motion.
Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK I am sorry I have strayed from the point. What I desire to say is that you are never going to get peace in Ireland by pursuing a policy of arson. The only way to get 1167 peace in Ireland is to do as in this country—to get the goodwill of the people. You will never get the goodwill of the people except you rely upon those principles upon which, at all events before the War, we relied in this country: that is to maintain the majesty of the law, and to promote the happiness and contentment of the people. You will only get peace in Ireland if you rely on those principles which underlie our religion and our great and glorious Empire. You are only going to get peace in Ireland when you have faith in the goodness of humanity and the efficiency and virtues of the principle of self-government. You are only going to get peace in Ireland when you cease your burning down of Irish houses, cease from bullying and knocking the people about, treat the Irish people as human beings, and leave liberty and self-government to do the rest.
The tragic part of the whole of this deplorable situation in Ireland is that the Irish people are asking for nothing more than that which I believe the British people are prepared to give them. They ask for nothing more than we have given the South Africans, the Canadians, and the Australians—that is, to make them a free country and a free people in the British Empire. I agree with the remarkably interesting article written by a very well-known gentleman in the “Round Table” the other day, that the only solution of this problem is to give the Irish people fiscal autonomy. There are, of course, risks in that policy. There are risks in any policy. The risk of the policy you are pursuing is that you have more and more added to the disgrace and dishonour of this country, and to the confusion and anarchy in Ireland. I do beg the Government to pursue a policy which is consistent with the traditions of this great and glorious Empire, and by which we can turn the Irish people, if we like, from rebels into happy and contented members of the British community.
Colonel ASHLEY I am sure the whole House was deeply impressed by the very excellent and moderate speech made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Major-General Seely). Above all they welcomed his speech because he very carefully kept it free from any extravagant utterances and any suspicion of party bias, which, Heaven knows, has been the ruin of Ire- 1168 land. He put before us what I am sure everybody in their heart of hearts agrees with, namely, that we wish to treat our Irish fellow-subjects in the same way, if possible, as people are treated here in England. He also bore truthful witness to the most excellent discipline maintained by the British forces in Ireland. Our soldiers have carried on under tremendous provocation. They have seen their fellow-men shot down from behind hedges, and they have seen them mutilated, and yet with very few exceptions thy have maintained a discipline which has always been characteristic of a British Tommy in all parts of the world. I hope the Chief Secretary will realise that in criticising this aspect of his administration we are not criticising the individual soldier who carries out his orders, but we are criticising simply the fact that such orders are given to him.
Let us be fair to the Chief Secretary and let us put ourselves in his position. The right hon. Gentleman was called to his task at a time when British authority was practically non-existent in Ireland. He had to reconstruct the Royal Irish Constabulary and strongly reinforce the Army. He had to deal with county councils and borough councils who had defied the British Crown, and, indeed, he had in a sense to reconquer Ireland for the British Crown and the British nation. Let us recognise, in justice to the right hon. Gentleman, the very grave difficulties which he has had to face, and also the large measure of success he has met with in his attempts to restore law and order. He has reconstituted the Royal Irish Constabulary, and there are few people who criticise that Constabulary now. Most of the county councils have agreed to acknowledge their authority, and outside the martial law area, generally speaking, in a very large measure law and order has been restored. Let us give credit where credit is due.
May I state why, in my humble opinion, the Chief Secretary and His Majesty’s Government have not more largely succeeded in bringing about a better state of affairs in Ireland? It is because of this policy of reprisals with official sanction. I understand that outside the martial law area reprisals have been abandoned. What is the root trouble of these reprisals in the martial law area? It is that we have not a civilian responsible to this House to direct policy, but 1169 that His Majesty’s Government have deliberately handed over in the martial law area not only executive action, but policy, to soldiers. I do not wish to criticise a distinguished general, but he is trained to do a certain thing in order to win battles, destroy the enemy and the armed forces of his enemy. He has not to consider the consequences of those actions. It may be right to do these things in a foreign country, but it is all wrong to do them in our own country where the people have to live together. This policy of reprisals which is being permitted by the Government to be carried out by the competent military authority is, in my opinion, the reason why my right hon. Friend’s policy has not been more successful, although I know he has worked very hard. As a humble Back Bench Member, may I urge the Government at once to take steps to bring their policy in the martial law area into line with their policy outside, which is that these official reprisals, except under the circumstances named by my right hon. Friend, shall cease at once and cease altogether.
With regard to Ireland, I have connections out there, and I do feel most deeply that we should do all we can to bring about reconciliation in Ireland, and these reprisals are an absolute bar to any idea of reconciliation. They are against all the laws taught us in the Bible; they are against the laws of God and all the laws we have held sacred in this country in the past; they are against all our constitutional practice which has made this country great and has made up our Empire. They have proved themselves to be actually ineffectual, and if a thing is ineffectual you had better scrap it. Last but not least, this policy has given our enemies in foreign countries occasion to say very unpleasant things about this country which certainly have a very sound substratum of truth. After all, this House claims, and always has claimed, to be the controlling authority in this country. I am sure anybody listening to the cheers of hon. Members when they hear these sound principles being laid down must realise that every-body here is unanimous that these things are wrong and must cease. If that is so, may I ask the Chief Secretary to at once see that the competent military authorities in martial law areas shall cease these official reprisals, and if any more 1170 take place let him see that the military authorities in those areas shall at once be removed.
§Earl WINTERTON I am aware that on this question I have very strong feelings, which are not shared by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I do not wish to travel outside the limits which have been set by the right hon. Gentleman in the persuasive speech with which he opened this Debate. May I state here that I regret I was led to use some disorderly expression a short time ago when we were discussing another aspect of this question. The only quarrel I have on this occasion is that the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) introduced matter which seemed to me to be somewhat extraneous to this Resolution. I do not know that my views upon the action of the Government in Ireland are of much interest to the House, but I have always been in favour of taking the strongest military action, because the situation is at such a pitch in Ireland that it can only be settled by force of arms. That is my private view. I have always taken the view, and it requires some boldness to put it forward, that certain issues in Ireland can only be decided by force of arms. I do not mean the whole issue as between the Irish people and this country. I am referring to the issue as between those who commit assassination and the armed forces of the Crown. Clearly an immense number of the people of this country agree that the Government have to take military action, but I cannot conceive anything more serious than to have to take military action against any portion of the inhabitants of the United Kingdom.
What is inconceivable to me with my knowledge of the state of affairs is that there should be so much apathy and indifference on the part of this House in the treatment of this question. We have neither the Leader of the House nor the Prime Minister here. It is inconceivable that the Front Bench should be occupied as it is at this moment. Every Member of the Government ought to be present. It is all very well for the Home Secretary to smile. I can assure him that nobody in Ireland smiles at the situation or at the action which the Government has taken there. All over Ireland it will be mentioned that, on the occasion of a 1171 Debate in which there is a remarkable unanimity of opinion on a particular question, neither the Leader of the House nor the Prime Minister attended, and the only contribution made by the Home Secretary was a feeble smile. Those who hold the views I do will agree that if military action is taken it should be sharp, short, and effective. It is intolerable that you should continue to carry on a dragging guerilla warfare. If the right hon. Gentleman’s Chief Secretaryship does not succeed he should give way and make room for someone else, and so, too, should Sir Nevil Macready. How long has this guerilla warfare been going on, and how many more years will it continue before it is brought to an end? So much for the general aspect of the policy.
On the particular question of the burnings I repeat that anyone holding the views I do will demand that military action shall be sharp and effective. Can the right hon. Gentleman maintain for one moment that the burning of Condamore, the property of a family whose loyalty nobody questions, is going to have the slightest effect in stopping assassination? Of course, it will not. I cannot conceive why such action has been taken at all, except on the ground that the military policy of the Government in the South of Ireland has largely failed up to the present. It has failed because we have not sufficiently good leaders. Look at the kind of gentlemen who are supposed to be competent military authorities in the South of Ireland. Some of them would certainly never have commanded a brigade in the War. Some who did so were sent home. Surely the right hon. Gentleman should select for the difficult and delicate task which the troops in Ireland have to undertake the very best men available. There are men like the gallant and distinguished officer in command of the Archangel Expedition. There are men who in the War did difficult and delicate work, quite as difficult and as delicate as anything requiring to be done in Ireland, who might have been chosen. It was absurd to choose such men as have been selected for the work. I know what the usual line of defence of the right hon. Gentleman is, but I want to see our gallant soldiers led by competent leaders and not by men who would be better if sent back 1172 to their comrades at the War Office. You want for this kind of work the very best men possible, and I am sure if you had such men in charge they would not for one moment be in favour of the policy which is being pursued, or, at any rate, they would not carry it out without making strong recommendations to the contrary.
I want to put three questions to the Government. In the first place who gives the orders for individual reprisal burnings? Who, for instance, gave it in the case of the house to which reference has been made this evening? Was it General Strickland? Was it a brigade commander? Was it the colonel in charge of the battalion? Or who was it? It is not necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to mention the actual name of the officer, but we want to know what is the rank of the officer who is responsible for giving the orders.
§Lieut. – Commander KENWORTHY And to what branch of the Service he belongs.
§Earl WINTERTON I do not think that that is important. We know the policy is carried out by the military. I have always refrained from asking questions which, I think, might be mischievous, but I feel it is desirable, in view of what is gong on in the South of Ireland, that we should know exactly under what law or regulation these burnings are carried out. Are they carried out under martial law, or are they carried out under civil law? Is there any process by which the person who owns the property—it is only by the mercy of the Almighty that I own none in the South of Ireland—can protect himself or by which he can claim compensation if he thinks his horse has been improperly burned? Is there any channel through which he can make an appeal? Even in the case of an enemy country, say in the occupied districts of Germany, persons thinking themselves aggrieved by any action of the Allied troops have the fullest opportunity for appeal to some tribunal. Finally, I would like to know, is the right hon. Gentleman in a position to review in any way these burnings after they have been carried out and to consider the effect of them and the reason for them? A most serious charge was made by the last speaker. He said, and it was news to me, 1173 that the Chief Secretary has no control or power over what is done by the constituted military authorities. If that is so, I say frankly it alters my view of the whole subject. I am inclined to think that a larger portion of Ireland may have to be brought under martial law than is at present the case, and if the military authorities are to be made entirely responsible there ought to be some channel by which the Government in this country can be made fully aware of all the circumstances under which reprisals are carried out. That is to say, where there is a case—and I think the House will assent to this—in which there is a question whether there was any reason why a burning should have taken place as, for example, the case mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman who initiated the Debate—the Chief Secretary should have the fullest opportunity at the earliest possible moment of deciding whether the action of the Crown forces in Ireland was justified or not. Seeing that that is not so, he is placed in a very unfortunate position. At Question Time to-day he was subjected by hon. Gentlemen opposite to an attack upon him personally for his administration in Ireland. Quite obviously, if he is not responsible for that administration, it is unfair to attack him, but somebody must be responsible. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will answer that question, and will give us an assurance that in the last resort and quickly, he is responsible, and is in full possession of the facts. I am bound to confess that, if he is fully responsible I think it will require very great parliamentary dexterity on his part, which I know he possesses, to make out a good case for such burnings as those mentioned in the course of this Debate, and for the continuation of those burnings, whether on a smaller or a larger scale, in the South of Ireland.
§Mr. MOSLEY I fear that the Noble Lord was rather more than half way on the road to Damascus before he saw the great light. Things being as they are, however, may I hope that in the near future those of us who have wandered forth into the desert on this subject may have the opportunity of offering him a respectful welcome. A pang of regret inspired me to-night in listening to some of the speeches of hon. Members opposite. I wish we could have commanded such support in October last, when we ven 1174 tured to protest against the sacking of Balbriggan when a whole community was destroyed by the agents of the right hon. Gentleman in the middle of the night, without even the warning that is extended under the system of official reprisals; against a reprisal that resulted in two women in child-birth and four little children suffering from measles perishing in the cold of the fields. I wish that, on that occasion, when we ventured to protest against a policy which far transcends anything mentioned in this Motion, we could have commanded the support of hon. Members. I quite realise, however, that it is inexpedient on this occasion that I should wander into the wider issues raised by such considerations. The right hon. Gentleman will certainly answer one day at the bar of history for these proceedings. I trust he may one day answer before a tribunal of his fellow-countrymen, but I have no wish to raise any controversy beyond the Motion advanced by my right hon. Friend this evening.
Unofficial reprisals, privately inspired and subsequently condoned, we are told, are at an end. To-day we find ourselves in the era of official reprisals. They began, as far as I understand, on the 27th April last, when, in Listowel, a proclamation was posted by the military stating that in future reprisals for any outbreak against the lives and property of officials would be taken against the property of selected persons without proof of their implication in the outrage. That, I understand, is in direct contravention of the right hon. Gentleman’s previous assurances in this House that, in all cases of official reprisals where houses were burned down, there should be at least very good grounds of suspicion that the inhabitants of those houses were actually implicated in the outrages which instituted the reprisals. We now find the right hon. Gentleman quite frankly moulding his policy on the Prussian model. This policy is copied and taken en bloc from the doctrines of the German military writers which were closely pursued by that nation throughout the War. It is the old, well-known system, outlined in the doctrines of Clauswitz and others, of collective punishment. The principle is that if an outrage is committed in the neighbourhood where the troops of a hostile country are billeted, and the inhabitants of that 1175 neighbourhood support and sympathise with the assassins, and consequently information cannot be obtained, an indiscriminate vengeance should be wreaked on the locality and that the sins of the guilty should fall on the innocent in the hope that a blind shot would catch the guilty party and thus discourage potential assassins in the future.
In Belgium, during the War, that system worked. I am dealing with it purely pragmatically; it is no use to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman on any other ground. That system worked in Germany because the Germans were efficient. The right hon. Gentleman is not efficient. If it did not carry such a ghastly tragedy in its wake his administration in Ireland would be the joke of history. The Prussians in Belgium were able to prevent the people travelling from one village to another. The people were segregated, the men were forced to remain in the villages in which they were born, and under the military system of Germany they could not wander about the country. Consequently, if a village were sacked when outrages took place against the Germans, and the outrages had been committed by a Belgian, then that Belgian knew that his own native community would be destroyed, and that probably his own mother, sisters, wife or children would have their house burned over their heads. Consequently he was deterred from committing what were crimes in the eyes of the Germans. Those conditions do not prevail at all in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman is entirely incompetent to prevent Irish assassins travelling from one end of the country to another. They do it at will, as he has assured us over and over again in this House. They are not living in the villages, but on the bogs and in the hills, on the run, and his administration can never get them.
Therefore, what conceivable object is there in this inefficient reproduction of Prussianism? The only effect it can have is once more to give Sinn Fein the propaganda that it needs in America. The news of these acts are cabled to the United States and more money pours into the coffers of Sinn Fein. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who moved this Motion that, so far from being deterred by these outrages, the active, militant band of Sinn Fein are delighted 1176 when they see the houses of innocent people burned down. The right hon. Gentleman is merely visiting the spleen of his inefficiency, because he cannot catch the guilty, upon the heads of the innocent. That is the system which the right hon. Gentleman is constituting in Ireland. It is not even an efficient Prussianism. That is the system which has to-day evoked against this country a howl of indignation all over the world, our own Colonies included—a howl of indignation which eclipses the indignation felt against the Germans in regard to their action in Belgium. The right hon. Gentleman has attempted a task which has defeated infinitely greater men than himself. Napoleon attempted a system not nearly so onerous as the right hon. Gentleman’s in Ireland, not nearly so repressive, but the same kind of thing—visiting the sins of the guilty upon the innocent, collective punishment, militarist repression. He tried that in Germany and in Spain, and the national sentiment which he conjured up in those countries was responsible for his downfall in 1814. It broke Napoleon, and it has broken already the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The same system was employed by the Austrians in Italy, and it was entirely responsible for the creation of Italian nationality. Indeed, the only way of creating nationality, in these days of economic internationalism, is by political repression of this sort. The right hon. Gentleman is perpetuating that disastrous, exaggerated, egotistical nationalism in Ireland which is responsible for all our difficulties there to-day. He cannot claim that his administration has been a success. He cannot claim at the best that it is anything but a feeble imitation of his Prussian model. He cannot claim that he has not brought upon the name of this country abroad an execration which will live throughout this generation. He cannot even have the courage to submit the whole question to an impartial tribunal of his fellow-countrymen.
§Mr. CLYNES All of the speeches to which the House has listened in this short Debate have been very brief, and in that I propose to imitate them, but I cannot hope to imitate them in their fervour and in the qualities of eloquent appeal which have distinguished them among most of the speeches that we have heard for a very long time on Irish questions. I cannot 1177 hope, either, that we shall have any proof to-night that the Chief Secretary will have learned anything from the lessons of history. Indeed, had this country been capable of learning anything from the lessons of history in relation to Irish government, we should not now be debating this aspect of the Irish Question which my right hon. Friend has brought before us. I rise mainly to suggest to the Chief Secretary that he should keep faith in his answer to-night with the definite assurance, which he has often repeated, with regard to the discharge of his duties. He has assured the House that he would continue to discharge his duty, as he saw that duty, so long as he should have the support of the House of Commons. There have been some half-dozen speeches since this Debate began, and each one of them has been an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman at least to depart from or reverse one part of his settled military policy in the martial law area. Not a single hon. Member has said a word in support of that policy. On the contrary, every hon. Member who has so far addressed the House has reflected what I am certain is the view of every man who hears this case stated. We put to the right hon. Gentleman the view that this line of trying to govern Ireland is not supported by the House of Commons, and is not in keeping with the collective will of the Members of this House of all parties. It is clear that no one, unless it be, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman himself, will rise in defence of what is now being done.
If we cannot say anything whatever for a particular line of military action or civil government in Ireland, we ought, at least, to be able to claim for it that it has the support of the majority of this House. Apparently, this particular part or feature of Irish policy has no support here whatever, and I claim that on that ground the Chief Secretary is no longer entitled to continue this method of governing Ireland in the martial law area. There is, perhaps, a stronger reason why it should be discontinued. I can only reinforce the reason which has been so eloquently expressed by the two or three hon. Gentlemen who have preceded me. It is futile and wicked to inflict such severe physical privation and loss upon innocent people. You could, perhaps, justify the wickedness and wrong on the ground that the 1178 end justifies the means, if it could be shown that this plan had been a success. It has not, and, for my part, I hope it will not. But I cannot conceive of any line upon which conduct of this kind on the part of a civilised Government can be excused or defended. Some of us who have expressed ourselves strongly on some features of Irish government have been reproached on occasion with the statement that what we say is an encouragement to the commission of crime and to wrongdoing in Ireland. On the contrary, I believe that the continuance of the methods to which we are now objecting is the most express and assured encouragement that could be given to those who find the justification for their acts in the very act of the Government itself.
Nothing will please the extremists, the rebels, the physical force element in Ireland more than to know that this particular line of Irish policy is to be continued by the British Government. That will strengthen any act of rebellion or reprisal that they may be disposed to take. It is, therefore, not only wrong and unjust to the innocent sufferers, but it strengthens the hands of the rebels who, on the other hand, are being pursued by the right hon. Gentleman with a view to their destruction. I have only risen to associate myself and those for whom I can speak with the expressions of opinion which have been couched in such terms of melancholy with regard to the outlook in Ireland. We are possessed by a feeling of the greatest dejection and bewilderment as to where we are being led. I can recall when, 12 months ago, the right hon. Gentleman joyously expected that after a few months, by a show of military strength or increased police forces, he would be able to claim a success for his policy. He has recently confessed that it is a failure—at least that it is a failure up to a point of time within which he concluded that he would meet with success. Whatever he thinks he may have in store for the broad lines of his policy, he surely cannot hope for any elements of success whatever from the particular line against which this Motion is directed. I ask his attention to the fact that this line of policy is unanimously reprobated and condemned by Members of this House attached to all parties, and, in keeping with his own declarations in his previous speeches, his announcement to the House ought to be that of a depar- 1179 ture from a policy which has been ruinous so far as it has been tried.
§Mr. LANE-MITCHELL I have a feeling that it is imprudent for a new Member who has never before spoken on the Irish Question to intervene in a discussion of this kind, because we have been accustomed so often to hear the same men repeat the same speech that we do not take it seriously. We send a soldier over to Ireland to do our job. I want to know how we are supporting him in doing it. If I had charge of a job of this kind I should select the best man I could get and give him all the force he wanted to do it, and give him all the backing he wanted, and if he did not do it I would clear him out and get someone else. I want the job done. What do I mean by the job? It is not the kind of Parliament Ireland is going to get. It is not a question of self-government. That is not what is before you now. What is before you is that ever since this Parliament came into being you have had rebellion in Ireland, and you have been tinkering with it from one time to another, and every time any force has been sent to put it down you start to weaken the hand that is doing it and do all you can to stop it being brought about.
Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS We want troops to put down murder.
§Mr. LANE-MITCHELL You have all criticised the Government.
§Earl WINTERTON Will the hon. Member allow me to interrupt?
§Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope) The Noble Lord has already spoken. Now we are getting another view.
§Mr. LANE-MITCHELL I am in absolute agreement with the Noble Lord that we have to get on with it and get it done somehow or another. It has been established in the discussion that in the military area the competent military authority is supreme, and he acts on his own authority, independent of the Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman (Major-General Seely) asked definitely whether a specific order was given for a reprisal by the Chief Secretary. I have gathered that the Chief Secretary never gives an order for reprisals. It comes from the com- 1180 petent military authority, the man who was sent there to do the job, who in the exercise of his judgment does it in a particular way. Outside the military area the Chief Secretary has been ruthlessly putting down any attempt at reprisals. If that is the position what more do you want? The House has a right to say that until we get law and order restored in Ireland every man of right mind ought to support the military authority over there in getting the job done.
§Lord EUSTACE PERCy In rising to address the House for the first time I should, perhaps, apologise for intervening in a Debate on so serious a question, but after the speech to which we have just listened I feel especially that some reply is needed and that perhaps a reply will come not unfittingly from someone who has just had to fight an election and has been elected as a supporter of the Government. In my election address I strongly supported the necessity of holding up the hands of the Government in enforcing the authority of the Crown in Ireland, and I am perfectly prepared to trust the man chosen by this House to enforce law and order in Ireland. But I also said in my election address that it was absolutely necessary to have unity of command. I do not understand how the right of this House to inquire into the facts, which we are now doing, can be put off by a kind of House-that-Jack-Built policy, that because the Chief Secretary has appointed some-one else who has appointed someone else to be responsible for a particular area, therefore we must not ask the Chief Secretary for an explanation or hold him responsible for what occurs in that area. If I may give my impression of what the actual feeling in this country is at present about the situation in Ireland, a very humble impression gathered only from a somewhat recent experience, I have always found very little support in the country for the extreme view of the moral obliquity of the Government. Still less have I found any support for the view of their moral obliquity and indiscipline of the soldiers of the Crown. The position of the Government in regard to this question would have been very much less strong than it is to-day if some of its opponents had not so constantly delivered these extreme attacks upon them.
1181 What I did find was a strong feeling that the administrative system of restoring order in Ireland has been incoherent, and therefore weak. It is because 1, and I believe all those who sit near me, are anxious to strengthen the hands of the Government that we ask whether the present system of a divided command in Ireland, as manifested in these reprisals, these burnings of homes, is a system to which the Government can point as a coherent system adapted to the restoration of order, nay, I would put it even as implying a coherent system adapted to bring pressure upon those upon whom you wish to bring pressure. The whole point of repression must always be that it shall proceed with the greatest possible precision, and that therefore those at whom you strike shall know for what offence you have struck and why it is they who are struck and not someone else. If there be anything incoherent or hap-hazard or indiscriminate in the action of a repressive authority, it will not repress, and it is from that point of view that I have intervened to say that if the right hon. Gentleman can convince this House that the system of administration is so conducted, under such centralised control, under such a tight rein, that it can be directed to certain definite ends of repression, then I shall be prepared to support the Government. If, as I fear, it is a question of incoherence of administration, resulting in indiscriminateness of repression, then I think there is only one course before anyone who gave the election pledges which I gave, on the one hand to support the Government in suppressing disorder, and on the other hand to see that the administration for that purpose reaches the highest possible level of efficiency.
§The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Colonel Sir Hamar Greenwood) I congratulate the Noble Lord who has just spoken on his success at the poll, and on taking part in our Debate on a very vital issue such as that raised to-night. I appreciate very much what he has said, and in principle I am absolutely in agreement with him. I appreciate the temperate and effective speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Resolution (Major-General Seely). There is nothing in this Resolution, in substance, which I have not already acted upon, or could not accept. Before I deal with the Resolution, however, may I refer 1182 to those hon. Gentlemen who spoke of officers, I think most unfairly. I must make a protest against calling the Competent Military Authority of Dublin an incompetent military authority, and against the suggestion that certain competent officers in the martial law area are not fit for their command. Those officers cannot answer except through me. If they are incompetent they must be removed; but to make an accusation of incompetence, without any proof whatever—
Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS The right hon. Gentleman says that I made an accusation of incompetence without proof. If he can explain why the military guard was withdrawn from the Customs House after many representations and many negotiations had gone on I will gladly withdraw my expression.
§Earl WINTERTON If the right hon. Gentleman will undertake to find out who is responsible for the situation by which a band was blown up in the South of Ireland, and no precaution taken to send an advance guard to look at the road beforehand, I will withdraw my accusation against the competent military authority in the South of Ireland.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§Sir H. GREENWOOD I think these two questions are quite irrelevant to the Resolution, but I will deal with them The Customs House in Dublin had no special guard except the ordinary military and police patrol, for various reasons. In the first place the number of troops in Ireland is so short of requirements that it is impossible to provide guards for all public buildings. That is a military consideration. In the second place it was not considered credible that even the extremist Sinn Feiner would burn this great national possession, namely, the Customs House. They have burned it, and the loss will fall on Ireland and nowhere else. I do not consider in these circumstances that the competent military officer in Dublin can be accused of incompetence. I still say that it is a most unfair slur on an officer who can only speak through me. I am satisfied that he is one of the ablest officers in the British Army. Although there have been many brutal murders in Dublin, including the murder of 12 officers one morning, on November 21st last, so great was the control of that officer over the soldiers and the police under him that 1183 there has never been a reprisal of any shape or kind.
§Lieut. – Commander KENWORTHY Croke Park!
§Sir H. GREENWOOD As to the question of the blowing up of the band and some soldiers of the gallant Hampshire Regiment at Youghal, I can assure the Noble Lord that if it is a test of the competency of the commander at Cork I have no doubt that every precaution was made to find out whether the way was clear for the advance of the battalion that was marching towards the rifle butts, and I do not think it is a sign of incompetency in a General Officer if a concealed mine is exploded by an electric wire, running from a battery 60 or 70 yards away from the road. I do not think that is a sign of an incompetent officer.
§Earl WINTERTON Was there an advanced guard?
§Major-General Sir NEWTON MOORE They would not have found it if there had been.
§Sir H. GREENWOOD I have no doubt that the regiment was marching according to rule in an area such as Youghal. I have no evidence to the contrary. With reference to the officers of the police and the military, I am responsible for them and their conduct, and I am sure the House will agree with me that if things are wrong I must take the blame, which I do cheerfully, and I am proud of it. [HON. MEMBERS: “Oh!”] Yes, and on balance the record of these men in Ireland will shine brightly in the history of this country. That brings me to a very important point of principle raised by the right hon. Gentleman, namely: “Is the Chief Secretary responsible for everything that goes on in Ireland?” He is. Let there be no doubt about that. I am responsible. In the normal way when a part of a country is under martial law the officer commanding is the sole authority and is responsible to the Secretary of State for War, but in this case I am responsible. Let there be no doubt about that. Therefore, if any military or other officer is incompetent it is my business to dismiss him, and if the House feels strongly that anyone is not competent and is not dismissed they must vent their displeasure on me. I think that is the 1184 proper constitutional position. It adds to my difficulties, but it is essential that the Chief Secretary should speak for the whole of Ireland, of which he is the representative in this House.
On the point of unity of command in the martial law area there is absolute unity of command under the senior officer, General Sir Peter Strickland. He has absolute command over civilians, police, and military. There is no question about that. He can deal with them exactly as he likes, under the proclamation agreed to by the Commander-in-Chief and myself. Of course, all proclamations issued by the Commander-in-Chief are issued in agreement with myself. As to unity of command in the rest of the country that is only possible under martial law. The question of the extension of martial law is frequently before the Government. It may be necessary to extend the martial law area. It may not be necessary. We have had two Parliaments elected in Ireland since we last had an Irish Debate. That is an historical constitutional event. The authority given under the Government of Ireland Act will soon, I hope, pass to the two Parliaments in Ireland. The Ulster Parliament has been elected, and will be constituted in a very short time and will operate. It would be impossible to extend martial law to that area without the consent of that Parliament. I still hope that the Southern Parliament will meet and operate. At any rate, it is our business to give them the opportunity to do so. If they fail to take advantage of that opportunity and assume responsibility for the good government of Ireland, a new set of circumstances arise, and the Government must simply in these circumstances apply all the remedies in their possession. So when we are pressed for unity of command and drastic measures, while I appreciate the feelings of hon. and right hon. Members they must remember that we have the political remedy in Ireland and we must give that remedy an opportunity to operate.
§Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK There is nothing to prevent you stopping burning down houses.
§Sir H. GREENWOOD The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) asked who gives the order for official reprisals in the martial law area. 1185 The answer is no officer below the rank of Brigade Commander.
§Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY On whose advice?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD He acts on the advice of those serving under him.
§Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY Is not the actual advice as to whose houses are to be burned given by the Intelligence Department? Is that a military department or a civil department?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD He must get his advice where he can, and will only act On it when he is convinced that it is good. Every military area has its Intelligence staff, but who are the particular person or persons on whose advice the Brigade Commander will act it is impossible to say. The second question is—is there any review of the what are called official reprisals by the Commander-in-Chief and by myself? There is a review of them. They are treated as most serious and abnormal acts, and I must say here if there is any case where innocent persons have suffered by reason of the orders given by a Brigade Commander I certainly would consider that that was a case for compensation out of the Exchequer.
§Captain W. BENN For loss of life?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD As far as you can compensate for that by money. That is the one irrevocable thing; but the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that life is not involved in what we are considering to-night. The report goes at once from the Brigade Commander to the Divisional Commander in Cork. From that commander it is sent on to General Head-quarters in Dublin, to the General Officer Commanding in Dublin, General Sir Nevil Macready. He and I are in daily contact when we are in Ireland together, and we are in constant contact when I am here and he is in Ireland.
§Earl WINTERTON Are these reprisals taken under martial law or under the ordinary law—the Restoration of Order Act?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD I will develop that as I go on. I am dealing with reprisals in the martial law area. The Resolution before the House is to move the adjournment to call attention to a, definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the failure of the military 1186 authorities to issue orders prohibiting the destruction of houses and buildings by Crown forces in Ireland, except where necessary on purely military grounds. There is nothing in the substance of that which I do not accept. Orders have been issued to servants of the Crown and I shall read an Order which was issued to the police and agreed to by myself not recently but on 4th December last year: There have been recently large numbers of reports of arson. While it is by no means clear that this is done by forces of the Crown I wish again to impress on all members of the police force the absolute necessity for stopping burnings, whatever the provocation. The only profitable burnings are the destruction of buildings which have been used to shelter ambushers or from which fire is opened on forces of the Crown. The burning of houses or buildings not directly connected with assassination or attempted assassination is indefensible. I appeal to the police of all ranks to repress all destruction of property in Ireland, even of notorious Sinn Feiners. The force will now fully recognise that the Government is giving them strong support, and I feel sure that they will not wish to embarrass the Government in their very difficult task. I can assure them that incendiarism tends to alienate sympathy of many right thinking and law abiding citizens of the Empire, and does harm to the cause of right for which we are fighting.
§Colonel ASHLEY Does that apply to the martial law area?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD To all Ireland.
§Mr. LUNN How far is that efficacious? Is it not the fact that Cork City was burned down six days after the issue of the Proclamation?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD It is very easy when a country is in a state of rebellion to find exceptions to every rule. I am dealing with the question in the Resolution about the Government failing to issue Orders prohibiting the destruction of houses or buildings. This Order was issued to the police on 4th December last year for the whole of Ireland.
§Major-General SEELY In order that we may not proceed on different lines of thought, does the right hon. Gentleman mean to explain whether this Order of 4th December applies to the martial law area under General Strickland?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD I will deal with that. This Order shows that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is in error when he says that the Government has not issued any Order. The Government has. I have said at this Box time and again, in reference to reprisals, that no 1187 one has tried more strenuously than I have to put them down, and I think that I have succeeded in doing so. [HON. MEMBERS: “Resign!”]
Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS rose—
§Mr. SPEAKER We have had no fewer than eight speeches in criticism of the Government, and it is only fair that the Government should be allowed to put its case without interruption.
Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS May I ask whether this Order did not deal merely with unofficial reprisals, as to which we all recognise the strong action which the right hon. Gentleman has taken, while we are now dealing with official reprisals by order of the competent military authority.
§Mr. SPEAKER Hon. Members should give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity to develop a continuous argument. They all seem to want to get their points in. He should have a chance.
§Sir H. GREENWOOD The Irish Secretary is accustomed to be shot at. I quite understand the keenness with which everybody is using this question, but I am developing it and I will cover all the points that have been raised. I have to repeat that the right hon. Gentleman is wrong in his first hypothesis, namely, that the Government has not dealt with this question by order. This was issued on 4th December of last year. Martial law was imposed upon four counties, I think, on 10th December of last year, and on four further counties in January of this year. In the non-martial law area, which comprises the greater part of Ireland, there have never been official reprisals. Reprisals have never been encouraged or condoned, but have always been condemned, and many people have been severely disciplined because of unofficial reprisals, although the provocation has been almost superhuman. In spite of that—I think I shall carry the whole House with me—reprisals are rare, unofficial reprisals are now rare. Indeed, so rare are they that we may say they never occur in Ireland. If they did occur there would be questions on the Paper every day.
In addition to the Orders, I have myself on more than one occasion summoned all the senior police officers to Dublin 1188 and told each one in turn that I would hold him personally responsible for re-prisals in his particular police area. Splendidly have these gallant men—they are not all there now whom I addressed in this matter, because some of them have been murdered—gallantly have they held their men in check, in spite of murders so awful that no one in this House, to my mind, would face them with the same self-control and discipline, or, rather, I should say with greater self-control and discipline. Martial law was imposed subsequent to this Order because the martial law area was considered, and rightly considered, the most disturbed and rebellious area in Ireland. As soon as you impose martial law you hand over to the Commander-in-Chief absolute control of everybody in that particular area. He and his commanders dislike any form of reprisal as much as the most severe critic of the Government dislikes it, but they have laid down certain rules, military grounds I call them, within which they believe that in certain specified cases and under certain circumstances—there are not many such cases—the destruction of property is justifiable. These are the grounds: In every case where the official punishment is the destruction of a building, that building itself has been used in connection with rebel action, for instance, as the basis from which an ambush was prepared, or the owners have aided and abetted rebels in their campaign of outrage and murder. Those are the grounds drawn up by military men to be applied in these limited and clearly defined cases. It is true, and it must at times happen, that when the local military commander has the best reason for thinking that the occupants of any given house come within these rules, he may be mistaken. Innocent people may suffer and the houses of innocent people may be destroyed. I admit it at once. In a state of rebellion the greatest tragedy of all is that the innocent do suffer. I have told the House I shall try to meet these cases as far as I can. I will go further and say it is open to question whether reprisals generally in a martial law or other area are ever satisfactory in the long run. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has had experience in South Africa, where that policy was tried. I have heard some people say it was successful and I have heard him say it was not. It is open to doubt, but as far as his Motion is con- 1189 cerned, what I have read shows that when reprisals are taken they are taken on necessary and purely military grounds, so that anyone who supports the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will support the policy of the Commander-in-Chief in the martial-law area, who only agrees to reprisals on military grounds.
§Mr. T. P. O’CONNOR Is that the explanation of the burning of Cork?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD No, it is not the explanation.
§Mr. MOSLEY I am very sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. [HON. MEMBERS: “Order, order!”]
§Mr. SPEAKER The right hon. Gentleman should be allowed to proceed with his speech.
§Mr. MOSLEY I want to challenge him on this point—
§Mr. SPEAKER The hon. Member has spoken already.
§Sir H. GREENWOOD Yes, the hon Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley) has made a speech. He wished to commit a reprisal on me of the most violent kind by handing me down as standing at the bar of history. But I am now at the bar of the House of Commons, and that is sufficient for the day. I say it is open to question whether reprisals under the strictly limited rule laid down by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Motion are successful or not. On that point let me say this: I am prepared to discuss the question with the Commander-in-Chief and to bring before him what has been said on the subject by undoubted supporters of the Government and of the soldiers and police in their endeavour to put down crime in Ireland, and to go into conference with him on this question. That being so, I am going further than the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. I hope he accepts that on the general principle of reprisals. Let me give the House an idea of what causes these reprisals. They are not done in an indiscriminate and promiscuous way. British generals, colonels, majors, and soldiers do not wander about Ireland like bandits let loose. They are under the strictest discipline. They suffer untold agonies owing to provocative and brutal murders, and a reprisal is only taken in the martial-law area, when no 1190 other remedy seems possible and when the commander of the area thinks it is necessary to meet the ends of justice.
§Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK Why not try Liberal principles for a change? [An HON. MEMBER: “What do you know about them? “]
§Sir H. GREENWOOD This is a most serious matter, and I wish the House to realise what leads up to the few reprisals, under carefully defined military conditions, in the martial-law area. I am going to read one letter, and one letter only, from a very gallant officer, murdered under the most distressing circumstances, and if this document does not touch the heart of everyone here, I am surprised. It is a letter that speaks for itself. It is, from a D.S.O. of the British Army, a man mentioned six times in despatches, murdered at the age of 52, leaving a wife and a little girl, aged three. It is from near Limerick, where he was in the custody of Sinn Feiners who kidnapped him: My own darling little wife,—I am to be shot in an hour’s time. Dearest, your hubby will die with your name on his lips, your face before his eyes, and he will die like an Englishman and a soldier. I cannot tell you, sweetheart, how much it is to me to leave you alone, nor how little to me personally to die. I have no fear, only the utmost, greatest, and tenderest love to you, and my sweet little Anne. I leave my cigarette case to the Regiment, my miniature medals to my father, whom I have implored to befriend you in everything, and my watch to the officer who is executing me, because I believe him to be a gentleman, to mark the fact that I bear him no malice for carrying out what he sincerely believes to be his duty. Good-bye, my darling, my own. Choose from among my things some object which you would particularly keep in memory of me. I believe that my spirit will be in it to love and comfort you. Tender, tender farewells and kisses.—Your own, Geof. That was Major Compton Smith, D.S.O., of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, of Limerick. He is dead, done to death by Sinn Fein murderers. What would we do if we were in his regiment? This is the kind of case that leads to an official reprisal. I want to bring home to the House the difficulties that have to be faced. Here is a regiment on edge; it has seen his letter in the Press or it the regimental headquarters. The brigade commander must say to himself: “How can I show these men that we are trying to track down the assassins of their gallant commander?” In a case of this kind he takes certain houses which come 1191 within the category of reprisals that the Commander-in-Chief has laid down, namely, that they were used as a basis for which an ambush had been prepared or the owners of which had aided and abetted the rebels in their campaign of outrage and murder. In such a case, certain houses are taken. I want the House to understand that that is the kind of case that leads to a reprisal. Whether they are right or not is open to question. The point to remember is, do not judge the conduct of these soldiers in the martial law area from the cool, un-impassioned atmosphere of this House, but judge it by the conflict, the murder, and the mutilations that go on in certain parts of the martial law area. I come to the particular case raised by the right hon. Gentleman who opened this Debate, namely, that of Tincurry House, in Tipperary. He said himself that he supported a reprisal if there were reasonable grounds for thinking the occupants were consorting with the rebels.
§Major-General SEELY The words I used were, that the residents were participating in outrages and murder.
§Sir H. GREENWOOD I misunderstood what the right hon. Gentleman said. He read a letter from Dr. Tobin about the burning of the house. It of course made a great impression upon anyone, but you cannot deal with a case of burning, or any other action of that kind in Ireland as an isolated instance in a law-abiding community. Tipperary, where this burning took place, is one of the most disturbed areas in Ireland, and always has been. It is a common Irish saying that the Tipperary people are descended from Cromwell’s Ironsides, who were disbanded, and married Irish girls, and the descendants are the wild men.
§Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK They were peaceable enough before you came.
§Mr. SPEAKER The Noble Lord has had a full opportunity.
§Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK The right hon. Gentleman has no right — [HON. MEMBERS: “Order!”]
§Mr. SPEAKER Unless the Noble Lord listens as well as speaks he ought not to sit in this House.
§Sir H. GREENWOOD I was not saying anything to cause an interruption.
§Lieut. – Commander KENWORTHY The usual tactless speech.
§Sir H. GREENWOOD I am sorry I have not the tact of the hon. and gallant Member. However, in Tipperary there have been 40 police and soldiers murdered in the last two years, and some six law-abiding citizens have been assassinated. It is a very mountainous part, and it lends itself, therefore, to the peculiar kind of guerilla warfare followed by the Irish Republican Army. That is Tipperary generally. When the right hon. Gentleman referred to the case of Tincurry House, I am bound to say he made, as he always does, a great impression upon me, and I dealt with it at once, through the Commander-in-Chief, who sent a special messenger to Tipperary from Dublin to inquire into the facts. The first letter was so remarkable that I asked for further facts, and I am compelled now to read the official reply I have received from the Commander-in-Chief in reference to Tincurry: I have discovered already that the house is marked ‘Divisional Headquarters, I.R.A.,’ on one of their own maps, and that they have an eye on the butts of the rifle ranges nearby. Tincurry House was destroyed on 14th May, together with several others as punishment for the murder of District Inspector Potter. It was very similar to that of Major Compton-Smith.
Sir T. POLSON May I say that officer was my first cousin?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD The letter goes on to say that they had a strong suspicion that Mrs. Tobin, who had strong Republican sympathies, was suspected of having harboured rebels. That is the official reply of the Commander-in-Chief. His opinion may be wrong. I do not think it is, but it may be. It only shows that in dealing with these Irish questions and disturbed areas like Tipperary, or any military-law area, it is extremely difficult to take the first statement of facts as absolutely correct. It may be that a great blunder has occurred here. It may be, and I promise the right hon. Gentleman that if there has been I will do my best to take into my most sympathetic consideration the question of compensating any innocent sufferer. I cannot do more. I will, however, put it to the House that there was a justifiable suspicion, from what I have read, on which the brigade commander—presum- 1193 ing the official reprisals were right—could fairly act. That is the view of the Commander-in-Chief. It was carried out. The destruction was regrettable, distressing, deplorable, I agree. But it was carried out under discipline. No one was insulted. I am bound to say that the scene described by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman of the hostess entertaining on the lawn the destroyers of her household was a thing that could only happen in Ireland.
§Major-General SEELY The destruction of the house where two lads laid down their lives for us during the War!
§Sir H. GREENWOOD That adds to the tragedy of it. But had the destruction anything to do with the sacrifice of gallant officers! I am giving the House the exact facts as they came to me. I think I have dealt with the various questions that have been raised in the Debate. My submission is that I can accept in substance the Resolution of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, namely, that reprisals should not be carried out except on purely military grounds. I go further, and say that they are not carried out in any form except in the martial-law area, and in that area never carried out except on military grounds. I think I have shown that orders have been issued in reference to reprisals, and have been successful. Let us face realities. Hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway have criticised me very severely, and they are perfectly entitled to do so. One must do the best one can having regard to the political remedy of this House which is applied to Ireland in the face of rebellion in a considerable part of the country. We are faced with that re-bellion. The military have been criticised—I think very unfairly. The police of the Auxiliary Division come in very often for a very great deal of criticism—again, I think, unfairly. What are the facts? Within a few miles of this House there is a sinister and highly-paid rebellion going on, carried on with the object of separating for ever Ireland from the United Kingdom. That object is being carried out by the Irish Republican Army, as it is called. It consists of men who wear no uniform and no distinctive mark; they generally carry concealed weapons as civilians one minute, and they are murderers the next, 1194 contrary to all the laws of civilised warfare. The object of this Irish Republican Army—which is a negligible minority of the Irish people, who would be grateful to the Government if they could rid the country of this terror—is to intimidate this House and the British people into a surrender to Irish independence. I shall never consent to that. The Government will never consent to even argue it. The hope of Ireland, to my mind, is first of all to defeat this Irish Republican Army, and then encourage the coming together of the North and South, which has happily commenced, and leave Ireland to the Irish leaders themselves to settle within the limits defined by the Government. In that way only will you, bring peace to that distracted country and enable the vast majority of the people there to become happy and contented partners with us in the United Kingdom.
§Captain W. BENN I propose to confine myself quite narrowly to the terms of the Adjournment Motion without dealing with the wider issues which the Chief Secretary has opened. I should like to respond to the appeal made by earlier speakers to confine this Debate to a discussion of the policy of burning and reprisals and leave alone the wider issues, upon which I should only excite controversy in the minds of hon. Members. The question is, first, Is the burning of houses a policy which should be pursued by the Government, and is it likely to be successful? The Chief Secretary has told us that he accepts the sub-stance of the Motion which has been moved by the right hon. and gallant Member for Ilkeston (Major-General Seely). It lays down, that reprisals can only be justified on the ground of military necessity.
The Chief Secretary says that is, in effect, the policy which the Government are adopting in Ireland. That is the impression which he is giving us here in the House of Commons, but it is a totally different policy from the one he is pursuing in Ireland and it does not correspond in the least with the policy being carried out in Ireland under his administration. Take quite a recent case a few days ago. There was a Proclamation issued officially by the military in Cork. The Chief Secretary says that the policy of reprisals 1195 is merely the burning of houses as a military operation. This is the Proclamation in Cork: Owing to the burning of the houses of two loyalist farmers, three farm houses of active Sinn Feiners were burned as a military operation. That is not a military operation. [An HON. MEMBER: “Why not?”] Because these houses are not shown to be houses in which military offences were committed. They were not centres of attack. It is simply vengeance. Then the Proclamation goes on: It is intended to carry out further reprisals in that proportion, or if that proportion does not have the desired effect in a greater proportion. Hon. Gentleman cheer that. Exactly. It is to say that if they continue to burn two houses we will burn three, and if that does not stop them we will probably burn six. That is the Proclamation of the military in Cork. The Chief Secretary tells us that the burning of houses is merely to be carried on as a military operation in cases of military necessity. The two statements are in flat contradiction. The Chief Secretary says the reprisals are only carried out as a military necessity. What does he think of this Tralee Proclamation, which states that as a result of the murder of a sergeant certain houses, of which a list is given, were destroyed, and nine houses were bombed. Does this Proclamation square with what the Chief Secretary has told us to-night? The document gives a long list of houses and stores damaged, and it tells further how a woman and her child had a marvellous escape from a bomb which destroyed the piano and ceiling in a room in which they were. I do not desire to read touching instances. Heaven knows there are such instances on both sides. The Chief Secretary has read one of the most touching documents I ever heard in my life. That is the tragedy of it. The policy of the Chief Secretary produces heroes on both sides. [HON. MEMBERS: “No, no!”] The right hon. Gentleman is exciting feeling in this country by reading that letter, but other people in Ireland are exciting feelings of the people there and we are getting no nearer a solution of the problem. [An HON. MEMBER: “They should stop the murders!”] The right hon. Gentleman says that reprisals can only be justified by success. But 1196 he does not pretend that his policy is a success: he has just told us he is unable to carry it out with success because he has not troops enough to do it. The Chief Secretary has led the House to believe that a policy is being carried out in Ireland which, in fact, is not being carried out, and therefore I shall vote for my right hon. Friend’s motion.
§Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question with regard to the burning of the house and grocer’s shop of Mr. Honan, the Chairman of the Ennis Urban Council, as to which we have his own admission. It has been impossible [HON. MEMBERS: “Divide, divide!”]
§Mr. SPEAKER I am afraid the hon. and gallant Member’s habit of interruption makes it difficult for him to obtain a hearing. Might I appeal to hon. Members to allow him to deliver his speech. Perhaps that will teach him to extend the same forbearance to other hon. Members.
§Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY I make no complaint, Sir. I am much obliged for your protection. This man Honan had been in hospital for three weeks—that is the right hon. Gentleman’s own admission. He was a widower, with six children, the eldest of whom was his daughter, aged 13. This man’s shop was blown to atoms as a reprisal by the military authorities, for an ambush and for the very dastardly assassination, which I condemn as heartily as the right hon. Gentleman or any of his supporters, of Sergeant Rew, of the Royal Scots Regiment. I deplore these murders; they make our task increasingly difficult. This man Honan had been in hospital for three weeks before that time, and was in hospital in bed at the time of the blowing up of his shop. His motherless children were in the house. They were bundled out, and the right hon. Gentleman gives, as an excuse, that Mr. Honan was one of the people known as the chief organisers of rebel activities. Yet he was in hospital for three weeks before the ambush. Is there any hon. Gentleman who can justify that? Can the right hon. Gentleman himself justify it? That is my first question.
My second question is in regard to the burnings of the farmhouse of Miss Fitzgerald. Her son served right through the 1197 War. It is in a lonely mountainous district. She protested to the Military Governor that she had no means of preventing an ambush some miles from her farmhouse, but the house of this lonely woman was burned down in revenge for the ambush. The third question is: what justification was there for the destruction of the house belonging to Madge O’Daly? She had gone to Dublin—that is admitted by the military authorities—to visit her doctor, and was far away from the premises when the ambush occurred. In spite of protests, her house was destroyed for military necessities. If that is the policy that the Government have adopted in Ireland, I consider they are damned before the civilised world. We have heard nothing worse than this in the trials of the German War criminals at Leipzig. If hon. Members are prepared to justify war on women and children and widows—[HON. MEMBERS: “Oh, oh!”]—and the destruction of their houses, if they are prepared to encourage the Government then let them vote for the Government. I only hope, however, that Members who were loud in condemning very similar occurrences in Belgium, committed by our enemies during the War, will attempt to make one protest to-night, when the opportunity occurs, against this inhuman and uncivilised action.
§Major-General SEELY I am placed in some difficulty in regard to one thing that has happened during this Debate. My right hon. Friend has said that he accepts the substance of my Motion, which has been almost unanimously supported in this House in the form in which I moved it. Then there is a point with which I was fully conversant before. The right hon. Gentleman’s Order has been quoted in an exactly contrary sense, namely, where two houses will not do, burn four, and where four will not do, burn six. I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he disavows what has been done. No man in his position could do that. But I want to know whether what he has said amounts to a direct condemnation of an Order of that kind, which means indiscriminate reprisal in order to try to stop murder by burning houses. That is a perfectly clear question, and one to which we are entitled to an answer in order to guide us as to how we should vote.
§Sir H. GREENWOOD I should be only too glad to guide my right hon. Friend as to how he should vote. Of course, I condemn indiscriminate burning. I do not believe that it brings to an end this campaign of assassination against the forces of the Crown and law-abiding citizens. I cannot deal across the Table with any particular case that has been raised in Debate, because I shall have to communicate with the military authorities on the spot to get their point of view. My right hon. Friend himself is an ex-Cabinet Minister, and knows that one can only speak with the knowledge supplied by those responsible for carrying out the orders of the Government. But I condemn, and have at this Box again and again condemned, any form of indiscriminate reprisal against houses or any other form of reprisal. The Motion states that reprisals in Ireland should be carried out only in the martial law area under an officer of not lower rank than a brigade commander, on military grounds, and within a certain limited period. That is why I said that I accepted the substance of that part of the Motion of my right hon. Friend.
§Major-General SEELY Could the right hon. Gentleman cancel any Order which appears to conflict with what he has said to-night?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD Of course I could.
§ Question, “That this House do now adjourn,” put, and negatived.
§ 11.0 P.M.
§Mr. T. P. O’CONNOR (seated and covered): On a point of Order. Did not the Chief Secretary declare that he was ready to accept the Motion? Why therefore does he now demand a Division?
§Mr. SPEAKER There is not a Division.
§The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
ADJOURNMENT. 17 words
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