CEISTEANNA—QUESTIONS. [ ORAL ANSWERS. ] - ARRESTS AT HILL OF DOWN

(County Meath).

asked the Minister for Defence to state the reason for the arrest by troops of James Keegan, Newtown, Hill of Down, Co. Meath, and other men, in the same neighbourhood, on June 7th; whether any charge has been preferred against these men, and, if so, what charge; whether he is aware that Keegan and the others declared that they have taken no part in any illegal act; and whether, failing a trial of these men, he will have their release ordered immediately.

The men referred to were arrested on suspicion of breaking down walls and fences on Peppard's Estate. They have not been formally charged. Their cases are at present under consideration.

Is the Minister aware that these men, particularly Keegan, declared quite steadfastly that they had no part at all in any illegal act? Is he aware that they have declared they are quite innocent of these and other things, and that, as a matter of fact, they had been chevied all round the place by the Civic Guard and the Military before they were arrested at all?

They will have ample opportunities of making any statement or giving any undertakings that they are prepared to give.

When will they be brought to trial? When will these charges be investigated? They have been arrested for a considerable time.

Their cases are at present under consideration.

May I ask the Minister if he thinks this is really a job for the military at all, or is it a matter for the Civil Authorities. Are not the Civil Authorities functioning in the district?

We are doing quite an amount of work for the Civil Authorities, in view of the general situation and general circumstances of the country, and the undeveloped state of the administrative machinery of the Civil Authorities, which is not yet able to deal with all these matters.

Would the Minister say that the Civil Authorities in this district for some time past have not been competent to deal with any cases that have arisen?

Not specifically, but generally.