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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 11 Mar 1943

Vol. 89 No. 10

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Sequel to Emly House Burning.

asked the Minister for Justice if he will state (a) the number of men detained on or about the 13th February in connection with the burning of a house near Emly, County Tipperary; (b) the number charged with any offence; (c) the number released without any charge being preferred; (d) if he is aware that these men were detained for ten days without charge, refused permission to see a solicitor, were not allowed to attend Mass on Sunday, and were kept in cells continually without any provision for sanitation being made; and (e) what measures the Minister intends to take as regards those responsible for these detentions.

Mr. Boland

(a) Seven men were arrested on the 12th and 13th of February in connection with the burning of a house on the Land Commission estate at Ballyholohan, Emly, County Tipperary. The burning of this house was part of a campaign of intimidation and violence which has been carried on for over 12 months against the division of the Ballyholohan estate. Twenty-seven crimes have already been committed in this campaign, including ten cases in which shots were fired at houses of men who have been allotted land on the estate and at workmen employed on the estate.

(b) Three of these men have been charged.

(c) The remaining four men were released without being charged.

(d) The seven men were detained by the Gárda Síochána for ten days under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act, 1939. They did not ask to see a solicitor during that period. Two of them, who were detained in Clonmel and Cashel Gárda Stations, were allowed to attend Mass in the local churches on Sunday the 14th of February, and Sunday the 21st of February. The remaining five men, who were detained in the Gárda stations at Tipperary, Dundrum, Golden and Cappawhite in the neighbourhood of Emly, were not permitted to leave the stations to attend Mass as the Gárda Síochána feared that attempts might be made to rescue them. Three of these men were removed to Mountjoy on the 20th of February and did not miss Mass on Sunday the 21st. The Gárdaí informed the men, however, that if they so desired, facilities would be given for the celebration of Mass in the stations, and they offered to get in touch with any priests whom the men might nominate. The men did not avail of that offer. The men were not kept continually in the cells in the Gárda stations. They were allowed facilities for exercise on each day of their detention.

(e) I do not intent to take any action against the members of the Gárda Síochána who were responsible for the detention of these men. The conspiracy in the Emly area is a serious matter and the Gárda Síochána are bound to use every legitimate means in their power to end it.

The information that I have received from these men is that, even when prisoners in Mountjoy, they would not be allowed to see a solicitor. Some of them, while in Tipperary, were kept in an ordinary police cell, in which the Guards throw the refuse of the country after fairs and markets, for four days. There was no sanitary accommodation, and the men only got some exercise. The Tipperary Police Barracks is only a couple of hundred yards from the chapel. Golden Police Barracks is in much the same position. Surely there were enough Guards to bring those people to Mass. It is fictitious to say that the Guards offered to bring in a priest to say Mass for one prisoner. I would not encourage the burning of houses or disorder of any kind, but this treatment of prisoners ought not, I think, be permitted in future.

The Deputy is replying at length; not asking a question.

I want to know whether the Minister is going to allow this sort of thing to be carried on in the future.

Mr. Boland

All that I have to say is, that the Guards will have to do whatever they can legitimately do to put down outrages of this kind. If we allowed that sort of thing to succeed, the Deputy knows as well as I do what the result would be.

While entirely agreeing with the Minister that everything possible must be done to put down outrages, I want to ask him if he thinks it right that four men, who were subsequently released without any charge being brought against them, should be detained for ten days in a police station without being brought before a peace commissioner, a district justice or any judicial person to determine whether there was a prima facie case against them to justify their detention.

Mr. Boland

I want to say that, generally speaking, it would not be justified and would not be done. There were peculiar circumstances in this case which had to be inquired into. The Guards were acting under the Offences Against the State Act. I am advised that they were quite entitled to act under it. I think it was a pity that they had to be kept in the barracks, but in the peculiar circumstances of the case I am satisfied that nothing else could be done.

Will the Minister not agree that it is a matter of vital importance, when immense powers are placed in his hands under legislation of an emergency nature, passed for the protection of the State, that a clear distinction should be drawn between persons suspected of treasonable activities designed to destroy the State, and persons suspected of ordinary civil or criminal offences which are endemic to the country, and have no relation to the fundamental safety of the State.

Mr. Boland

I would draw the Deputy's attention to the fact we were not acting under emergency legislation but under the Offences Against the State Act. I agree with what the Deputy has said, and want to assure him that I am very careful in this matter to see that none of these emergency powers are used to deal with ordinary crime. I keep that constantly in mind.

That is the point.

Mr. Boland

I admit there is the inclination to take the easiest course, but I keep a watch on that.

Will the Minister see that in future nobody is detained for a long period of time in a police cell into which the Guards throw the refuse of the country after fairs and markets? I hope that in future persons will not be detained in such a place, no matter what offences they may be suspected of. They ought to be detained in some place where they can get food and sleep.

Mr. Boland

As far as possible, that will be avoided, but circumstances may arise in which it may be necessary to detain them as at present. Where it is a case of detecting crime, and there is no other way of doing that except by keeping people in those barracks, I am not going to interfere with the Guards in the legitimate discharge of their duty. If they go outside the law themselves they can be dealt with. As long, however, as the Guards act within the law while engaged in dealing with a conspiracy of this kind, I would be very reluctant indeed to interfere with them.

If people are to be detained then it ought to be in some place other than a police cell into which tramps are put in the night and thrown out in the morning.

asked the Minister for Justice if he is aware that Miss Peggy Burke, Brouncomogee, Emly, was interrogated by Gárdaí for nearly three hours at her house on the 19th February, in connection with the burning of a house near Emly, in the presence of her invalid mother; and that on February 20th she was arrested and taken to Oola barracks and detained for a period of over three hours; and if he is aware that the interrogation on both occasions was very severe, particularly having regard to the fact that this girl is not twenty years of age.

Mr. Boland

I have caused inquiries to be made into this matter and from the reports which I have received the following appear to be the facts of the case.

On the night of the 18th February, revolver shots were fired into the dwellinghouse of Michael Hughes of Monard, Oola, County Tipperary, and 13 rifle shots were discharged in the vicinity of Mr. Hughes's house. Mr. Hughes is one of the persons to whom the Land Commission have allotted parcels of land on the Ballyholohan estate at Emly.

On the 19th February Mr. Hughes received a threatening letter by post and the post-mark indicated that the letter had been posted at Emly on the 17th February.

In the course of their investigations of these crimes the Gárda Síochána searched the house of Miss Peggy Burke of Drumcumogue, Emly, on the 19th February, and they questioned Miss Burke for a few minutes about the threatening letter. On the following day the Gárdaí again called to Miss Burke's home and asked her to come to Oola Gárda Station. They informed her that she was free to refuse if she so desired. Miss Burke consented to go to Oola and was conveyed there by car in the company of a neighbour. She arrived at Oola Gárda Station about 2 p.m. Specimens of her writing were taken and compared with the threatening letter and some further questions were put to her. These proceedings lasted for about one hour. She would have been conveyed to her home at 3 p.m. if transport had been available, but the car in which she had travelled from her home to Oola was then engaged on other duty and was not available until about 5.20 p.m. As soon as the car was available Miss Burke was conveyed home.

From the inquiries which I have made I am satisfied that the interrogation of Miss Burke was not of a severe nature.

I am informed that the entire interrogation of this young lady was of a most heartless, severe nature, and that it was carried on in the house in the presence of her invalid mother, her father having been at the time arrested. From what I have been told I am convinced——

The Deputy is now answering the Minister. At Question Time, Ministers' statements may not be replied to. Further supplementary questions may be asked to elucidate matters.

In view of the fact that a neighbour accompanied Miss Burke to the station, could the Minister state whether the neighbour was a woman and if so, was the neighbouring woman allowed to remain in Miss Burke's company during the interrogation or was there any lady present during the interrogation?

Mr. Boland

I cannot answer the Deputy definitely on that point. I am almost certain the neighbour was a woman, but I am not quite sure.

Am I interpreting the Minister's view correctly in stating that it would be desirable that, when a lady is being interrogated in circumstances such as these, another lady should be present with her?

Mr. Boland

I believe there was a lady present but I could not say definitely. Miss Burke did not complain of her treatment. On the contrary, she actually shook hands with the Guards on leaving.

Would the Minister agree with me that as a general principle it would be well that some senior woman should be present when a young lady is being interrogated by the Guards?

Mr. Boland

Yes, I believe that is what happened in this case but I cannot positively say so.