THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Wild scenes in Parliament and shouts of ‘kill him, kill him’ uttered

From the News Letter, November 23, 1920

By Darryl Armitage
Monday, 23rd November 2020, 6:00 am
Westminster Bridge pictured here in 1928, it extends from the Houses of Parliament on the North side of the River to St. Thomas's Hospital on the Surrey side, and was built in 1869 at an approximate cost of £1,000,000. Picture: Wikimedia Commons
Westminster Bridge pictured here in 1928, it extends from the Houses of Parliament on the North side of the River to St. Thomas's Hospital on the Surrey side, and was built in 1869 at an approximate cost of £1,000,000. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Extraordinary scenes of violence were witnessed during question time in the House of Commons the previous afternoon, reported the News Letter on this day in 1920.

The events in the Commons came with the backdrop of an an orgy of violence in Dublin the previous weekend which had led to the city being isolated from the rest of the country and “City Hall and some hotels. . .occupied by troops, and auxiliary police stationed in the Mansion House, the Lord Mayor having sought protection”. Violence which had seen dozens killed by both the IRA and British troops.

Of the happenings in the House of Commons the News Letter noted: “Practically the whole body of members, aroused to fury by the reading of the official account of the Sinn Fein orgy of crime Dublin, resented the intrusion of Mr [Joseph] Devlin, who had demanded to know why the Chief Secretary had not told the House what occurred at Croke Park.

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“There were loud cries of “Sit down”, but the member for Falls stood his ground, despite the continuance of angry ejaculations from all sides. Mr Devlin, in the midst of the confusion, bent forward to Major John Molson, a Unionist member sitting below him, and said something to him. Immediately a violent scuffle was in progress, blows being exchanged to the accompaniment of shouts of ‘Kill him, kill him’.

“The combatants were separated, and the Speaker suspended the sitting.”

On the resumption, some 15 minutes later, Major Molson rose and apologised to the honourable member, to the Speaker, and the House, an apology which Mr Devlin accepted.

Major Molson said: “Mr Speaker, I wish to apologise to the honourable member, to you, and the House. I afraid allowed myself be provoked.”

Mr Devlin, the Irish Parliamentary Party member for the Falls constituency, then took to his feet and said: “I would like to accept the apology offered the honourable gentleman. I can assure him in in this or any matters that affect me in this House I have not the slightest, personal feeling, nor do I propose have any personal feeling in regard to this incident, but will do my best to forget it. My complaint is not against the honourable gentleman, but against what I think is the growing practice House of honourable members taking out your hands, Mr Speaker, the question of order in relation questions and supplementary questions.

“You are not only Speaker of the House, but custodian of the right of minorities in the this House, and we are minority entitled to protection from attempts made to howl us down when we ask legitimate questions.”