22 APRIL 1882, Page 5


THE debate of Thursday on the conduct of the Irish Police will do more to weaken public confidence in the present method of administering Ireland, than anything which has yet occurred. It showed almost conclusively that the organi- sation is of a kind under which acts amounting to acts of war, acts utterly indefensible under any theory which even assumes the dominance of law, can be done, not on the responsibility of a Minister, or even of the permanent Admini- stration, but without their knowledge. Mr. Clifford Lloyd is one of the ablest of the new Irish Prefects, the Stipendiaries in charge of great districts, and is dreaded and hated by the agitators more than any man in Ireland. He has, Mr. Forster says, saved hundreds from murder or outrage inflicted for the payment of rent. He is consequently a mark for all assassins, and the Chief Secretary says a " price has been put upon his head." It is, therefore, the duty of the police to protect his life, and they do it with an energy which, as Sir Stafford Northcote said, in a speech which will greatly help to redeem his character as a statesman with all sensible men, deserves, and will receive, full English support. Un- happily, the energy of a half-military body, exasperated by the popular hatred, and by the knowledge that whenever they are murdered, juries will acquit, needs the most strenuous restraint to prevent it from degenerating into private war; and this, under the Irish system, it does not receive. Some officer, supposed, but not proved, to be the Police Inspector of Clare, issued a circular to 'his subordinates, directing that, "Men proceeding on Mr. Lloyd's escort should be men of great determination, as well as steadiness ; and even on suspi- cion of an attempt, should at once use their firearms, to prevent the bare possibility of an attack on that gentleman's life. If men should accidentally commit an error in shooting any per- son, I shall exonerate them, by coming forward and producing this document." There is great doubt as to the responsibility for the circular, but there is none as to its issue, for Mr. Shaw, who is not a Parnellite, read it three weeks ago, and whatever the motive of the writer, over-zeal, fury, or a determination to overcome the police fear of re- sponsibility, it is entirely past defence. It is an order to kill • on suspicion, and if issued in Berlin, to guard the Emperor's life, would be received with a cry of indignation from the civilised world. It is not an order, be it observed, to fire if a suspected man will not surrender on chal- lenge, but to fire at once • and if obeyed, would leave the man who fired liable to trial for his life. Such an order is utterly

illegal, and, indeed, goes beyond any principle of self-defence upon which, even in disturbed times, a law could be made to rest. Even in time of war, soldiers not actually engaged do not fire at sight. It is calculated to drive disaffected Irishmen frantic, as well as to justify disaffection ; yet not only was it issued without superior sanction, but its issue was never made known to the Castle at all. An order hopelessly outside the law, and covering a whole county, is issued, without its authors even informing the only authority capable of stepping outside law on any pretence whatever. This is not legal administration, or despotic administration, or any administration at all, and would excite, if it had happened in Berlin, as much indignation among the great German officials as it does in England. If it were upheld, it would imply a total negation of law in Ireland • and, of course, it will not be upheld ; but then, what must Le the condition of tension between police and people under which such an order could even have been thought of ? Of course, the Parnellites, having a good case, threw it

away. They all hastened at once to glut their hatred of Mr. Forster, and indulge in bursts of half-crazy personalities, which at last brought the Speaker to his feet, and caused the suspension of Mr. Redmond. But the anger caused by their conduct ought not to blind us to the fact, that for once they had hit a blot, and that the method of administration under which such an incident could happen is, of itself, by that inci- dent alone, proved to be bad. If Ireland is to be governed by laws, the laws were set aside. If it is to be governed, as in part it must be governed, by police decrees, the decrees were not previously submitted to the authority responsible to Parliament for their issue. A despotic authority may yet become necessary, but in that case it must be entrusted to soldiers, and worked by known rules, not left to unknown subordinates, who do not even report their strongest proceed- ings to the responsible chiefs. Police Inspectors are not re- sponsible officers, and in Ireland especially, where a chronic war rages between them and the people, utterly fatal to calm judgment, they cannot be trusted, except under the supervision

of minds less liable to be thrown off their balance. A veiled condition of war may exist, but the conduct of the war must be reserved to the Generals, not allowed to fall into the hands of every subordinate who thinks terror a good instrument. We do not write in any blindness to the condition of affairs in Ireland. We acknowledge heartily and fully that while the servants of the State are liable, because they are its servants, to be shot from behind hedges, and while assassins are sure of impunity, the strongest efforts must be made to protect them. Men like Mr. Clifford Lloyd must have guards, and if he is attacked or threatened by armed men, those guards must fire as they would if civil war were raging. But there are limits to the precautions which any man is justified in taking for himself, or any Government for its servants, and certainly the first of those limits is that there shall be evid- ence of attack, that men who may be unarmed shall not be shot on suspicion entertained by men who, from the very nature of their duties, are bound to suspect, more or less, every man they meet. That is not a suspension of law, but of justice ; and at the price of a suspension of justice in matters of life and death, Ireland is not worth keeping.

It is a miserable position for the Administration. If they do not support the police, they will, when crime has been committed, have no agents for its repression ; and yet, if they do support them, the police, threatened, assaulted, and assassinated, are tempted to defend themselves as if they were in a hostile country, or by acts which are as much outside any idea of justice as they are outside law. They are the more tempted, because in Ireland they are, in all but name, soldiers, yet must be entrusted with a discretion never allowed to soldiers anywhere. There is but one way out of such a situation, and that is to fall back on the broad, general principle that the duty of an Administration is to enforce law, with soldiers, if needful, but still law. If juries will not convict, let court-martials take their place, and let assassins taken red-handed be hanged within the hour. But at least let every innocent man know that while inno- cent he cannot be shot, even if he is in a position in which he might shoot Mr.. Lloyd, and if a policeman does suspect him. It is by punishment, not private war, that assassination must be put down ; and it is private war which a circular like this authorises, or will be held to authorise, when read by men justly but fearfully exasperated by assassins.