By late 1920, the rules of war had broken down on both sides as the increasingly vicious Irish War of Independence gained momentum. Both sides were guilty of atrocities some of which did provoke public comments. Hansard reports the following exchange in the English House of Commons about the shooting of ‘escaping’ Irish prisoners:
Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY: asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland how many prisoners in Ireland have been shot dead while trying to escape, according to police reports, up to the end of November of this year and during the present year; how many have been wounded; and how many of these were handcuffed at the time of their death or wounding?
Mr. GALBRAITH: asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland what is the total number of persons who have been shot at in Ireland when attempting to escape from custody; and how many of such persons have been wounded and killed, respectively?
Mr. HENRY: According to the police reports the number of prisoners fired at while attempting to escape from custody within the period from 1st January to 30th November 1920 is 11. Of these nine were killed and two wounded. One of the prisoners killed and one of those wounded are stated to have been handcuffed while attempting to escape.
Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY: Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that when the bodies have been given to the relatives that in many cases those men have been found to be riddled with bullets through the head: how does he think that men can try to escape from police lorries; and can he inform me if all these cases have been investigated by a court of inquiry?
Mr. HENRY: I must have notice of that question.
Mr. MacVEAGH: Can the Attorney-General say whether the figure he has quoted includes those shot dead on the allegation that they were attempting to resist arrest?
Mr. HENRY: The question put to me was as to the number of men shot whilst attempting to escape from custody.
Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY: Surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman can say whether there has been an inquiry into these cases, in view of the very serious allegations made and reported in the newspapers throughout the country?
Mr. SPEAKER We are getting a long way from the question on the Paper.
Photo: An ignoble Black and Tan – impiously he stands gazing into the distance with machine gun at hand, as the sweet aromatic smoke from his smouldering cigarette defiles his wicked lungs. Photo credit: 1916 Easter Revolution in Colour
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