Government For The Benefit Of The Orange Order
" D. was arrested following a raid on his house. He was later charged with being in possession of an Easter lily, purchased in Belfast, and sentenced to two months' imprisonment."
" A Catholic student of Queen's University was arrested on the occasion of a search of his father's house. He was detained for some weeks without charge. As his university degree examination was approaching the academic authorities offered to permit armed police to sit in the room with the student if he were permitted to sit for his examinations. The Home Minister refused this offer, and the student was therefore unable to sit for his examinations. Subsequently he was charged with an offence relating to the keeping of firearms or explosives. The charge was summarily dismissed and the student set free.'
" Late at night, or in the early hours of the morning, armed police in protected lorries swoop upon a selected district, and there proceed to enter and search houses without a warrant, rousing the inhabitants of the area and frequently accompanying their search with, brutality and damage to property. At the same time the occupants of the houses are interrogated, and if their replies fail to satisfy are haled off to police barracks for further questioning.
" Usually such searches, said to be for arms,' and interrogations are equally barren of results. But often the object of the raid is not to search for arms but to collect suspects.' On such occasions as many as fifty and more men and youths have been carried off in lorries, without warrant, for detention at the pleasure of the Civil Authority, for a longer or shorter period."
IT HAPPENS UNDER BRITISH RULE
All these things and many others are being done in a district subject to the legislative control of the British Parliament. For the quotations are not taken from an account of Nazi Germany but from the Report on the workings of the Special Powers Acts in Northern Ireland to which the Catholic Herald has more than once drawn attention.
Lord Craigavon's government has asserted that the Commissioners were incompetent and that their Report contains inaccuracies.
As to the Commissioners, three were lawyers well acquainted with the sifting of evidence and with political and administrative experience also. The fourth (Miss Margery Fry, J.P.) was successively Hon. Secretary of the Penal Reform League, Principal of Somerville College, Oxford, and member of a number of government departmental committees.
As for the Report, even Lord Craigavon's government has not attempted to deny its fundamental charges.
THE PRINCIPAL CHARGES
Here are some of them: The Special Powers Act, introduced fourteen years ago on the grounds that an emergency existed, has now been made the permanent law of the land without any attempt to plead emergency.
Under this Act the Home Minister may make new Regulations against which there is no lippeal.
Under the Act any suspect is deemed guilty until he is proved innocent and all facilities for defending himself may be withheld from him. It is also an offence to refuse to answer questions though an answer might incriminate.
A suspect may be deemed guilty of an offence against the Act even though his alleged offence is not mentioned hi the Act or in the Regulations made under it!
There is no appeal to the Courts of Law against imprisonment or detention under the Act.
Judicial authority under the Act is handed over to the Resident Magistrates, who need have no legal qualifications, and among whom is only one Catholic out of eleven. (Rather more than a third of the population of the Six Counties are Catholics.) Police-work under the Act is largely in the hands of the B Specials, membership of which is in practice confined to members of the Orange Order.
Government by and for Orange men
The impression given by the Report is that the relation between the Orange Order and the Government is in many respects similar to that between Freemasonry and the atheist governments of France and Spain and pre-Fascist Italy. The government exists to serve the ends of the Order, and the Special Powers Act is its instrument.
It is seldom Used, according to the Report, to suppress sectarian strife but, on the contrary, to embitter it. Attacks on Catholic processions are left unpunished but when a ban is placed on religious processions and the Orangemen announce that they will defy it, it is lifted for them.
Closely bound up with this is the motive of maintaining the economic supremacy of the linen and shipping magnates of Belfast. The organisations of the unemployed and the poorest industrial districts are specially singled out for attacks and raids under the Act.
Undoubtedly the enemies of the government have at times resorted to ugly and criminal methods, especially the Irish Republican Army, who are a menace to orderly government in the Free State also.
But it has to be remembered that the partition of Ireland was itself an outrage to the feelrrigs of every Irishman not interested in maintaining Orange supremacy in the Six Counties.
Moreover, the subsequent abolition of proportional representation, and the deliberate alteration of the boundaries of constituencies so as to give Catholics disproportionately small representation on local bodies and it, Parliament, have driven many to despair of constitutional methods. And the minority have none of the opportunities to hold office under the State which the Protestants have in the Free State (as a Protestant Bishop testified recently).
Lord Craigavon's Minister for Agriculture said two years ago that Roman Catholics " are 99 per cent disloyal."
If there is any truth in that, will he tell us why? They are not in England, nor even in brazi Germany,