October 29th, 1912

Mon, Oct 29, 2012, 00:00

FROM THE ARCHIVES:The 1912 Home Rule Bill proposed to hand over control of the RIC to the Irish Parliament only after six years, a proposal The Irish Times believed further exposed the ridiculousness of the Bill. – JOE JOYCE

YESTERDAY THE House of Commons, pursuing its headlong gallop through the Committee stage of the Home Rule Bill, reached the clause which deals with the future of the Royal Irish Constabulary. It is one of the most important clauses in the Bill.

“The Force,” as most Irishmen call it, is one of the strongest justifications of the Act of Union. In its militant capacity it is a splendid body of fighting men – brave, honest and intelligent – the embodiment of those three words which mean so much to Ireland, “law and order.” But it has taken upon its broad back other and innumerable duties.

No Irish department could dispense with its services. [...] The Force is a wonderful combination of discipline and elasticity. Drawn from the peasantry of Ireland, it is absolutely loyal; active in the discharge of stern duties, it is almost universally popular. The great engine of peace and justice is a tribute to the efficiency of the Imperial administration which created and maintains it.

Now we have a Home Rule Bill which proposes, for all save financial purposes, to abolish Imperial administration in Ireland. What fate does the Bill ordain for the Royal Irish Constabulary? One of the authors of the delightful “Recollections of an Irish R.M.” tells somewhere of a lady who presented a gaudy tie to a young man. The young man did not want to offend the lady, but wanted still less to wear the tie; so he “gradually threw it away.”

The Royal Irish Constabulary is to be “gradually thrown away” by the Government which it has served so well. For six years after the Irish Parliament is set up the Force is to remain under Imperial control. At the end of that time it is to be handed over to the Irish Parliament. Its cost at the moment of hand over is to be discharged in perpetuo by the British taxpayer. If Ireland is to govern herself, why should she not control her own police force from the outset? If there must be a period of delay, why this particular period of six years?

Neither Mr. Birrell [chief secretary for Ireland] nor the Postmaster-General [Herbert Samuel] could find any plausible answer to these question. The Constabulary, says Mr. Birrell, is to be reserved for six years because it is “a marvellously organised service,” “a splendid monarchy of men.” It would be “cruel, unfair and rash” to expect an Irish Parliament to be able immediately to reconstitute this admirable machine. After six years the Irish Parliament will find itself in a position to do what would have been impossible before. Mr. Birrell’s pessimism is justified; there is absolutely no ground for his optimism.

He is reserving the control of the Constabulary for six years because he knows very well the fate which is in store for it from an Irish Parliament. [...] The Government must trust Mr. Redmond not at all, or all in all.