Mr. J. H. THOMAS

Unfortunately I am unable to follow the line of my right hon. Friend, inasmuch as it will be necessary even at this stage of the Session to be somewhat controversial. I associate myself whole-heartedly with the compliment paid to the Mover and Seconder of the Address. They have performed their very difficult task with skill, tact, and ability which have commended themselves to Members in all parts of the House.

I have observed that in the Gracious Speech from the Throne there is a phrase with regard to expenditure which may be used by all Members in all parts of the House, and a, different construction could be placed upon it by each section. The phrase is that it is the Government's intention to reduce expenditure to the lowest level consistent with the well-being of the Empire. That is a phrase that any hon. Member can adopt with perfect security. But, so far as the Members of the Labour party are concerned, while we realise the urgent necessity of a curtailment of expenditure, while we realise the serious financial position, we submit that the real and most effective means whereby economy can be established is not in curtailing a few thousands on social reform or education, but rather in tackling the millions which are being wasted on armaments and on our expeditions in Mesopotamia and other places. We welcome the reference to unemployment, but I am sorry to disagree with the Mover of the Address when he says he sees no need to despair. If he or I were one of the 1,250,000 out of work at this moment, including 300,000 or 400,000 ex-Service men who only a few years ago were told the country would never forget their obligations, who realise at this moment that they are not only out of work, but many of them and their families starving, we at least would sec need of despair. In the Gracious Speech from the Throne there is a statement that unemployment is consequent upon the world-wide restriction of trade. I agree entirely. That phrase can be justified. But I submit that the problem of unemployment is not local, is not national, but is international, and cannot be separated from the foreign policy of the Government. We submit that the first and real step towards the cure of unemployment is to heal the wounds of the late War, and frankly to recognise that however much we may talk about punishment of our late enemies, every time we hit them we are hitting ourselves. In other words, the high cost of living and the problem of finding employment cannot be re-established until trade and commerce are set going the world over. It cannot be set in motion until we frankly realise that our first duty is to forget the events of 1914 to 1918.

I rose primarily to draw attention to the serious situation in Ireland. Whilst mention is made of criminal violence in Ireland, there is no word of Government reprisals. In all parts of the world we as a nation are suffering in consequence of what is taking place in Ireland. We are causing bitterness and hatred between the English and Irish people which, unless checked, will in my judgment be a real danger to the Empire. Reference has been made to the Cork Report. We were told when the House was last in Session that immediately it was issued the public would be informed. My right hon. Friend, in answer to a question from the Irish Benches two days before the Session ended, did not hesitate to say that he was then awaiting a Report from Cork. Every hon. Member expected that when the inquiry was promised and when we were told that it was taking place under a General whose name is respected by every Member of the House, the Report would immediately be made public. But from that day to this, except for vague Press reports, we have heard nothing about it. I now come to the latest and, in my judgment, the most barbarous incident that has happened in Ireland among the many outrages which have taken place. On 29th January Captain King and his wife were shot at near Mallow Station. The wife, in her anxiety to save her husband, rushed in front of him, with the result that she was shot and died the next morning, and I understand Captain King was severely wounded. Whoever was guilty of the crime, there is no punishment too severe for him. We need not mince words about sympathy of any sort or kind, because I have no sympathy for anyone, Irish or English, who would cruelly murder a woman as this woman was murdered. I dissociate myself, and every Member of our party, entirely from sympathy with this outrage. Those are the facts of the case. What follows? In Ireland at present, wherever the curfew is in existence, any employé or employer who is called upon to work in curfew hours is subject to punishment as if he was trespassing. Supposing an engine driver runs into Mallow Station and arrives at 8.10 at night. He has brought his passengers safe into the station, the engine is taken to the shed and he gets to the shed at 8.30. That man must stay on the premises all night because he dare not go home owing to the curfew. If a signalman finishes at 8.10 at night, which is ten minutes after curfew, he must stop in his signal-box because he dare not go home. I want the House to get that fact clearly in mind, because it is the basis of everything that has taken place at Mallow.

The day after Mrs. King was shot a signalman named Thomas Moylan finished work at 8.30, half-an-hour after curfew. He was unable to go home and must remain in the signal-box. He was in the signal-box at 10.20 p.m., when he heard shots fired. A few minutes later some policemen came to the signal-box door and demanded it to be opened. Upon entering the box they ordered Moylan and the others to put up their hands and searched them. They were then ordered to go to the platform of the station and to stand with their backs to the wall and with their hands up while the police levelled their rifles at them. The police then said that a woman had been shot, that they had done it, and that if she died 15 railwaymen would be shot for it. At eleven o'clock the police marched the men to the barracks, with their hand above their heads. Let it be remembered that these were railwaymen on duty, railwaymen taken from their posts while discharging their duty. Amongst the six men were Moylan, Gyves, and Signalman Hayes. They were searched five times in two different cells. Between three and four o'clock in the morning the occupants of Moylan's cell were taken out to a military motor, and after being beaten by the police with fists, revolvers, and rifles, they were told to go and carry the dead body of a woman to a lower cell. On returning they were again, beaten by rifles and revolvers, and detained in the cells till 9.45. They were then told to run, and while running they were shot at. Three were shot dead when running. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] That is not all.

Let me here say how we have obtained these statements, in order that there may be no talk about the tainted source of the information. These men were members of my organisation. In order to ascertain the facts we did not even depend upon our Irish secretary, but sent over from this country one of our organisers. We sent him to Mallow to see the men, and to obtain all information, and every quotation that I make is from his report and not from any tainted source. The question arises, what was the state of mind of soldiers or policemen who could have done this? I will show that they did worse. The lady in charge of the refreshment room stated that the police and soldiers broke into the station refreshment room, took every scrap of food and spirits in the refreshment room and started firing in the refreshment room. The bullet marks in the refreshment room were seen last night at 8 o'clock, when I had the last report. This is something that cannot be merely contradicted; it can be proved. Here is a definite statement, first in regard to the men and then in regard to the refreshment room.

The next case is that of Michael Mahoney, one of our members. On the night in question he went on duty at 8 o'clock. Everything went on as usual until 10.30, when he heard rifle shots from the direction of the platform. He was in the locomotive yard attending to an engine, but on hearing a couple, of shots from the goods yard, immediately opposite the locomotive yard, he thought it was getting a bit dangerous, so he went into the driver' waiting room in the shed, where he found five or six other men. He had only been in the room about five minutes when the door was opened by a man in khaki, who shouted, "Hands up." This man was accompanied by another in police uniform. After asking the men where they had been that night he ordered them to walk to the platform with their hands above their heads. As they passed the north signal box the policeman, who was behind, fired several shots above their heads. On arrival at the platform they were confronted by two men in civilian clothes, one of whom Mahoney recognised as the head constable. These men asked how they could account for being out at that time of night, to which the reply was that they were railwaymen on duty. What is the state of a policeman or soldier who marches men out from a signal box or from an engine shed, where they are working, and then asks them what they are doing out at that time of night? I ask the House to draw their own conclusions. The men were then ordered to walk to the police barracks, with their hands above their heads. On going out of the station another man in khaki ordered them to "halt," then ordered them to "double" and afterwards to "run." Immediately they started to run, but before they had got 12 yards away a volley was fired into them. Three men fell in front of Mahoney. One was Dennis Bennett, a cleaner, another was Paddy Howe, a driver, but the third man was not recognised. Mahoney was shot in the hands and the right knee. The police did not follow them, but persisted in firing whilst they were injured and stumbling along as best they could. Mahoney eventually sought shelter in a garden, where he remained for over an hour. He then made an effort to get home, but his right leg was so painful that he had to move along on his back. His home was only a quarter of a mile away, and he crossed some gardens and a lawn. It took over six hours to get there. The bullet passed right through his knee. He is still in hospital. The others are dead. Here are these railwaymen taken from their place of duty and marched to the station with their hands up. In one case they were told, "Go and carry that dead body." They were told to run, and when they started to run away a volley was fired into them; three were killed and others injured. One died last night. That is the statement of Mahoney.

Here is the statement of another man, Morrissey. He states that he was in the north signal cabin with signalman Greenwood and a porter named Devitt. Here again the men had to remain because of the curfew. The police went to the box and demanded admission. Morrissey opened the door and the police then gave the order "Hands up." The men were next ordered out of the box and Greenwood, who is 70 years of age, was thrown down the steps. When he got up again he protested that he was on duty. That is to say, that he was the signalman responsible for the lives of the travelling public. After throwing him down the steps the police said: "How did he get here," and he said: "I am on duty." After he had protested, the police said: "Damn the signal box. Damn the railwaymen and damn you." Greenwood, however, was ordered back to the box, but Devitt and Morrissey were marched, with hands up, to the platform. A policeman kicked Devitt and told him to put his hands up higher. He then said to Morrissey: "I suppose you have a gun hidden." Morrissey said that he never had one and he would not know how to use it if he had. The policeman said: "I suppose you belong to the organisation. Anyway, you belong to the railway, and that is enough for us." One of the policemen had a bottle of whisky and he asked the soldier to have a drink, which he refused. The men were then ordered to run, but Morrisey got a bullet immediately he started. He was shot in the right elbow and in a finger. He hid in the ruins of an old creamery and remained there until 4 a.m. He states that he will refuse to resume duty even when discharged from hospital until he can get some guarantee for his personal safety. He knew nothing about the woman having been shot, until he got to Cork hospital at 7 o'clock next morning. The next case is that of Driver Maher. Here is a man who is now in Cork hospital, badly wounded, and who arrived in Mallow at 9.20 p.m. on the day following the murder, and who knew nothing of any murder having taken place at Mallow. He brought his train there from another place. It is like an engine driver starting from Paddington to run to Cardiff. Someone is killed at Cardiff prior to his arrival in Cardiff, but when he arrives he is immediately shot down because he is supposed to be connected with the murder that happens at Cardiff. That is the position of this particular man. In these cases the facts are from the sworn statement of live men. One poor fellow who died yesterday leaves a widow and seven children and another child is expected.

The Government may say that their evidence is contrary to ours. I expect the Government to say that they deplore the facts, if they are as I allege. I want them equally to say that there is justification for an impartial inquiry. If they are going to say that their information is contrary to ours and that all the information at their disposal disproves the horrible statements which I have been compelled to make, I submit that there is only one way to test it, that there is only one way to vindicate not their position but, what is more important, the name of this country, and that is by a free impartial and independent inquiry. An inquiry was taking place yesterday, and there was also an inquiry last week. The law in Ireland and England enables a trade union, in the event of the death of a member, to attend the inquest to protect the interest of its men. That is something with which every Member of this House would agree. Immediately our first man was killed we gave instructions that a solicitor was to be employed to attend the inquest, but we were told that this was a martial law district, and that there was to be a military inquiry. The solicitor asked to be allowed to attend the military inquiry and he was refused. Then, in order that there should be no more lying in the case—because, unfortunately, that is what is taking place—the organiser in this case was instructed by me, before he left for Ireland, to claim the right to attend the inquiry himself. He presented himself yesterday to the military authority, and was refused.

I submit that this is a case that not only calls for an immediate public inquiry but calls for an inquiry that will sift the whole evidence. I am not going to say that the Prime Minister or Chief Secretary would defend any of the conduct that I have mentioned. Of course they would not. But if what I have said is true and if a public inquiry proves it then it is their duty rigidly to apply the law and punish those responsible. Who is it that is suffering more than anybody else at this moment. It is the honest soldier who loves his job but detests doing anything mean or unworthy. Those soldiers have to bear the stigma of the conduct of other people. The Mover (Mr. Davidson) concluded his speech by saying that these are difficult times. But if there is one thing more than another that should be kept in mind it is that nothing should be done that would bring Parliament into disrepute. I submit that that test rests on that Bench to-day. There is nothing that will bring Parliament into disrepute more than a refusal of this House of Commons to demand an open public inquiry into these occurrences. If you are going to maintain the prestige of Parliament, if the House of Commons is going to represent truly the will of the people and to remain jealous of its reputation for justice and equity it cannot refuse an inquiry into these cases. I do not ask an inquiry merely on the grounds that these are railwaymen or because they are members of my organisation. A railwayman has no more right of protection than anyone else. But I ask on the ground that they are Irishmen and citizens entitled to the protection of the law of the land and the impartial and judicial consideration of the House of Commons