Dáil Éireann - Volume 81 - 05 February, 1941

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Bombing of Motor Vessel.

Mr. O'Neill asked the Minister for External Affairs if he is aware that the motor vessel “Lock Ryan” (registered at Skibbereen) was bombed and machine-gunned off the Irish coast when engaged in bringing a cargo of an essential raw material for an Irish industry and suffered damage to the extent of £1,700; whether representation was made to the German Government for compensation, and if the reply was to the effect that the German Government would accept no responsibility for Irish ships in waters designated by them as a blockaded area; whether any further correspondence was entered into asking the German Government what were the limits of the waters so designated by them and with what result; whether, also, the Irish Government has made, or will make, any provision for payment of compensation to Irish vessels that may meet the same fate as the “Lock Ryan”.

[1742] Minister for External Affairs (The Taoiseach): My information, which is based on a statement by the Master of the vessel, is that the attack on the “Lock Ryan” took place not off the Irish coast, but at a point 40 miles north-west by north of Land's End in Cornwall.

The matter was taken up with the German Government, and in December a reply was received to the effect that, as the “Lock Ryan” was not in Irish territorial waters but in the blockade area, and as no guarantees had been given to any country as regards shipping in this area, the German Government could not accept responsibility.

With regard to insurance, that is a matter for the owner. It would appear that in this case the precautions taken by the owner in regard to insurance were not adequate.

Mr. Dillon: Arising out of the Minister's reply, do we admit the right of foreign Governments to open fire upon our ships and our nationals, and does our failure to make any rejoinder to that reply by the Government of the German Reich imply our consent to the outrageous proposal that the German Government or any other Government can open fire on peaceful merchant ships and destroy them on the high seas?

The Taoiseach: My statement does not imply anything. I have given the facts.

Mr. Dillon: No, but I am asking the Minister does his failure to make any rejoinder to the German Government's refusal to accept liability for this murderous attack on a ship on the high seas imply that our Government thinks no protest is proper against attack upon a peaceful Irish merchant-ship and its crew, sailing the high seas, by the armed forces of the German Government?

The Taoiseach: There were no implications in my reply. I have stated the facts.

[1743] Mr. Dillon: Does the Minister assert the right of our mercantile marine to sail the high seas unhindered by murderous attacks of this kind?

The Taoiseach: Yes, but other neutral states have not been able to get their views accepted either.

Mr. Dillon: But we assert that view?

The Taoiseach: Yes, we assert all that we are able to assert.

Mr. O'Neill: Perhaps I might be permitted to put a supplementary to my own question. The last part of the question raises the matter of the general provision of compensation in such cases. Can the Minister add anything to that?

The Taoiseach: I have nothing to add to the statement I have given.

Mr. O'Neill: Am I right in saying that this is a matter which is under investigation and that it will be considered?

The Taoiseach: The whole question with regard to shipping has been fully considered.