To ask the Minister for Home Affairs—(a) Whether and under what conditions political prisoners are allowed to see their solicitors; and, if visits by solicitors to their clients in prison are not allowed, under what authority the Minister claims to be acting; (b) whether he is aware that Dr. Bastable, of Glasgow, was arrested on the 8th instant and imprisoned in Wellington Barracks; by whose authority, for what reason, and on what charge Dr. Bastable has been arrested; and whether the application of his solicitor Mr. John Cusack, to visit him on professional business will be acceded to.
CEISTEANNA—QUESTIONS. - MILITARY PRISONERS.
The use of the words "political prisoner" is scarcely active in this connection. The prisoners concerning whose rights the Deputy is solicitous are more properly to be described as military prisoners. They consist of men who have been in arms against the Government and Parliament of the people, or who have given active assistance to those who, are so in arms. Prisoners arrested in an area in which hostilities are not definitely ended must be regarded as military prisoners in the war zone, and the question of concessions which can be extended to them is one concerning which the Government is bound to give very great consideration to the views of its military advisers. I may say that members of the Government have personal experience of the danger of allowing visits of that kind. The Minister for Defence has admitted to me rather reluctantly that he himself, as a solicitor, visited Mr. Robert Barton in Mountjoy at one time, and handed him a hack-saw. He might Just as well have handed him a bomb. Therefore the Ministry is impressed with the importance of not allowing persons who are now military custody, and who must be regarded as dangerous persons, access to the outside public. The military authorities, by permission of the Government, have released from their custody prisoners who gave an undertaking not to take arms against the Government and Parliament, and not to interfere unlawfully with the personal property of their fellow-citizens. Because of the number of cases in which this undertaking was broken, it has been found, necessary to make the holes of the sieve somewhat smaller, and a recommendation from the Army Intelligence Department is now awaited in each case, after which each petition gets prompt attention. In view of the fact that prisoners who give this undertaking, and of whose good faith the Government and the military authorities are satisfied, are released with the minimum delay, and in view of the danger to the State and to the public of allowing visits to persons in military custody, it is felt that there is no particular hardship in expecting such persons to communicate in writing with their solicitors.
What about the second part of the question?
With regard to the second part of that question, I have at preset absolutely, no information as to the arrest of Dr. Bastable of Glasgow, and I am not in position to speak with any authority on the question which I think should and would with greater propriety have been addressed to the Minister for Defence.
Arising out of that reply, I want to ask the Minister a supplementary question. I should be very reluctant indeed to attack my former colleagues, but this is the kind of thing which is driving some of us into opposition. Do I understand that people who are political prisoners properly so called, and who have not been taken in arms, are denied the right to see their, legal adviser? Is that the policy of, the Government?
As to people who have not been taken in arms, people are arrested who are known to have been in arms, and people are also arrested who are known to have actively assisted those who have been in arms.
May I press the Minister for an answer to my question? In the case of persons who are arrested, on suspicion—political prisoners properly so called—do I understand it is the considered policy of the Ministry to refuse to the people the right universally admitted of seeing their legal advisers?
The considered policy of the Ministry was, I think, sufficiently explained. The considered policy of the Ministry is— that persons who are in military custody must not be allowed facilities of communication with the outside public, because to allow them these facilities it is contrary to the advice of the military expert at the Government's disposal.
Is there any time limit to that detention?
Order. Only the Deputy asking a question can raise a further question.
I will raise the matter formally.