CEISTEANNA—QUESTIONS. - REFUGEES FROM SIX COUNTIES.

To ask the President if, in view of the fact that the Provisional Government has accepted responsibility for compensation in respect of refugees from the Twenty-six Counties, he will, without further delay, approach the Premier of the Parliament of the Six Counties respecting compensation for refugees from the Six Counties, inasmuch as many of these refugees are now in straitened circumstances, as a result of the destruction of their property and means of sustenance in the North of Ireland.

The question of compensation for refugees driven from the Six Counties can only be considered as part of the general settlement with the Belfast Authorities. It is plain that the time is not yet opportune to open up such negotiations with North-East Government. Before we go to a conference on these matters order and settled conditions must be restored in those parts of Ireland, where they are at present absent. Obviously this is the first condition precedent to such a conference. With normal conditions restored over our entire jurisdiction we shall be in a strong position to negotiate satisfactory terms of settlement with North-East Government, in which, of course, this matter of compensation will be one of the most important items. Apart from this there is another reason why this question must be postponed for a little. It would be plainly quite impossible for us at present when we are engaged upon the formidable task of suppressing disorder in our midst to undertake a big inquiry as to the bona fide nature of the many claims and in general to collect the necessary data for urging our case with the North. In the meantime I may say that temporary provision has been made for relieving the distress of the destitute and helpless amongst the refugees. I should say we have something like fifteen hundred of those at present receiving this assistance. A very large proportion of the refugees, I am sorry to say, have been able-bodied young men, and a considerable number of these have joined the gangs of Irregulars and freebooters who are at present disturbing the people's peace.

And the National Army as well.

I think not so many by any means. I can give the Honourable Deputy some information about that. We have never encouraged these young men to fly from their responsibilities in the Six Counties. Hence we have not offered them any special terms. I should mention that this particular aspect of the Northern situation has been by no means lost sight of or neglected. Both my predecessor and myself, in correspondence and personally, have on several occasions taken up the matter strongly with the British Ministers.

Arising out of that answer, and appreciating the difficulties to which the President has referred, I should like to ask if it is not a fact that the present Provisional Government accepted responsibility for compensation in spite of the disturbed conditions here, in the Twenty-six Counties, and whether, in those circumstances, they would not have very good grounds for approaching the Government of the Six Counties, in spite of the disturbed conditions there, for a similar recognition. In putting that supplementary question, I would like to draw the President's attention to the fact that I had in my mind three or four cases of those who have considerable claims made out and ready to lodge in respect of property that has been destroyed.

With the safeness that distinguishes a business man, examining this problem from the point of view of liability and asset, the liability is against us, and consequently I am not in a position to press for an immediate settlement, in view of the facts that our commitments would be much greater than what would be accruing to us, and we are not in a position to do our part as far as those other people who are driven out of the Six Counties are concerned.