14 FEBRUARY 1941, Page 16


SIR,—" When I use a word," said Humpty-Dumpty, " it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less. . . ." "Partisan!" says the Northern Ireland Minister for Public Security, invoking " those with a knowledge of Irish affairs " (although Stormont Castle is the last place to find any with a knowledge of Irish, as distinct from Ulster, affairs). I prefer to invoke those with a knowledge of the English language and to leave my article to speak for itself. By his strange linguistic convention the Minister doubtless hoped to discredit the main theme of my article on the U.D.F. This was an enquiry into the wisdom and legality of using the Police Forces of Northern Ireland as a Defence Force ; but the Minister has carefully avoided all reference to this aspect of the matter. I challenge him to disprove my thesis that his Government's action is illegal and unconstitutional.

My article is dubbed " partisan" because I said that " all who desired the Union of Ireland in opposition to the Northern Govern- ment were branded as potential Fifth Columnists." But a statement of fact cannot so easily be set aside. Will Mr. MacDermott deny that this was the clear meaning behind the late Lord Craigavon's state- ment of May 22nd?

As I was at some pains to explain, the fears and suspicions which I dealt with are not confined to any one political party or section of the community, but are found even in the ranks of the U.D.F. itself. Will Mr. MacDermott tell us why the widespread demand among the Defence Volunteers to be taken over by the military has not been met? If, as he seems to imply, the British military authori- ties have refused to take over control, that still does not legalise his Government's action. His letter, if anything, confirms my suspicion that the legal and constitutional issues have never been referred to the competent authority in London.

Having ignored my main points, Mr. MacDermott concentrates his attack on the suggestion that the Northern Ireland Government took advantage of the invasion threat to add to the strength of its own forces. His contention fails because it is an undeniable fact that his Government did expand its Special Constabulary under the threat of invasion—with what ulterior motive, if any, is beside the point.

Mr. MacDermott says " it is impossible to raise an effective armed force quickly without an administrative basis to work upon," and goes on to say that the Territorial Army Associations provided that basis in Great Britain, but that Northern Ireland, lacking such an organisa- tion, was forced to use the U.S.C. as the only alternative. The excuse is palpably specious, for the very good reason that the T.A. Associations were not used to raise the L.D.V. in Britain and only came into the picture some time after its inception. The initial enrolment and organisation of the L.D.V. proved that, in Britain, it was possible to raise an armed force without any existing administra- tive basis to work upon. That the Stormont Government deemed it impossible in Northern Ireland is eloquent of the dangerous lack of sympathy between that Government and the people they rule.

For the rest, Mr. MacDermott's letter amounts to little more than an endorsement of my statement that, in practice, the U.D.F. is training and working with the Army rather than the Police. His silence on the larger issues is significant.—Yours faithfully,