To ask the President if his attention has been drawn to the case of three prisoners, named McKinstry, Kearney and Laverty, now lying in Derry Jail under sentence of ten years' penal servitude; if it is not a fact that these men were arrested on the 10th October, 1921, during a state of Truce; if they were taken in possession of arms while actually on police duty in the Antrim Road, Belfast; if they were detailed for that duty under the authority of the Ministry of the Second Dáil; and if while acting in this capacity, they did so with the cognisance of, and in conjunction with Belfast City authorities, for the protection of the Catholic employees of the Belfast Corporation who were engaged on the repair of that city's tram track? To ask if an assurance were given by the present Minister for Home Affairs, or by any other Minister, that these were cases that would be covered by the Amnesty; and if they are not, in fact, cases over which the Amnesty should extend, seeing that these men were acting, not in any criminal fashion, but in pursuance of the authority of the de jure Government of Ireland of that time, in all good faith and for the public protection? To ask if he is aware that one of these prisoners, McKinstry, lately learned that his father had died, and that his mother and her five children were, and are, in a state of absolute destitution, and if, in view of these circumstances, and having regard to the conditions under which and the time when these men were arrested, he will now undertake to make the most urgent representation to the British Government to have these men released, and inform this Dáil of the answer made by that Government to such representations?
- PRISONERS IN DERRY GAOL.
From a letter received by the Government on behalf of these prisoners it would appear that the circumstances under which they were arrested, as set out in the first part of the question, are correctly stated. McKinstry, however, appears to have been sentenced to ten years' penal servitude (three years remitted), and the other two to five years' penal servitude each.
These prisoners are classified as political prisoners, and were on the list of such sent to London last April for the Collins-Craig Conference. The Irish Government at the time actually pushed for the release of all these political prisoners. and it was understood that as the result of the London Conference this would be effected. Sir James Craig, however, asserted that there was a misunderstanding at London, and that it would be possible to include in an Amnesty only those persons who had committed technical offences owing to their political views.
The Government has not neglected any opportunity to urge the release of political prisoners since 6th December, 1921.
May I ask if it would be advisable in the President's judgment to have this and other similar cases raised again in the immediate future, as between this Government and the British Government or between this Government and the Belfast Government?
We are neglecting no opportunity of urging the release, as I stated in answer to the question, and I take it that that clearly indicates we do not intend to neglect any opportunity.