Dáil Éireann - Volume 85 - 19 November, 1941

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Attack on Irish Ship.

Mr. Dillon asked the Minister for External Affairs whether it is a fact that German aeroplanes bombed and machine-gunned the Irish ship, S.S. Glencree, bound for Éire with a cargo of coal, whether the ship was clearly marked as an Irish ship and what those markings were, and whether he will now direct the arming of Irish ships in order to prevent such attacks being made on undefended crews in the future.

Minister for External Affairs (The Taoiseach): At 6.30 p.m. on the 5th November, the Glencree was subjected to machine-gun and cannon fire from a German aircraft at a point about ten miles off the English coast. Three bombs fell between the Glencree and another vessel which was sailing with her.

The Glencree bore clear nationality markings consisting of the national colours and the name “Éire” on her sides, and the national colours in two places on her deck. The chargé d'affaires in Berlin has been instructed to protest to the German Government.

In the present circumstances, I am not prepared to alter the decision against arming our ships. The matter has been carefully considered, and I am satisfied that the decision we have taken is still the one best calculated to reduce the risks to which our crews are exposed.

[698] Mr. Dillon: In view of the fact that the reason he gives for declining to arm these ships is that he desires to minimise the risk to seamen, has the Minister for External Affairs consulted with the representatives of the seamen as to whether, in their judgment as experienced mariners, his view with regard to this matter is the correct one or not?

The Taoiseach: I have not myself seen the representatives of the seamen, but I know that the Department concerned has examined this matter very carefully.

Mr. Dillon: Has anybody seen the representatives of the seamen, or have the seamen been given any opportunity of communicating to the Government their views?

The Taoiseach: I am perfectly certain that the views of the seamen in connection with this matter would be represented to the Department. I have no definite knowledge that they have been, but I will make further inquiries, if the Deputy considers that necessary.

Mr. Dillon: Inasmuch as this is the third time that I have raised this matter, might not the Minister for External Affairs have taken the trouble to inquire from those responsible as to whether they have taken the precaution of consulting with the seamen in connection with it?

The Taoiseach: I am perfectly certain that they have done so, it was such an obvious thing.

Mr. Dillon: I am perfectly certain that they have not.

The Taoiseach: The Deputy is often “perfectly certain” in regard to things that he knows nothing about.

Mr. Dillon: The Minister for External Affairs certainly seems to know very little about this. What I want to know is, will steps be taken forthwith to discuss with the representatives of the Irish sailors whether, in their judgment, their safety is best ensured by leaving them open to murderous attacks by all and sundry on the high seas?

[699] The Taoiseach: I believe that all appropriate steps in that direction have been taken. If I find that any steps which should have been taken have not been taken, I will at once deal with the matter.

General Mulcahy: Has any explanation of the attack been received from the German Government?

The Taoiseach: No.

Mr. Dillon: And there never will be, because there is not any.