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Wednesday, 23 November 1960

Mr MINOGUE (West Sydney) .- I desire to bring before the House and eventually, I hope, before the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his capacity as Minister for External Affairs, a matter which is of great concern to a constituent of mine. It is the case of an ex-serviceman who left this country three or four months ago. Prior to leaving Australia he visited the Australian Capital Territory and received a letter from the Prime Minister of Australia. I think everybody who receives that type of letter believes that he will at least receive fair treatment when he goes overseas.

I think the best way to put this matter before the House is to read a quotation from the " Irish Weekly and Ulster Examiner ", which is published in Belfast. The article, under the heading " Priest taken to Police Barracks ", reads -

Mr. CahirHealy (Nat.) asked the Minister for Home Affairs in the Stormont Commons if he could state the reason for the arrest recently, in Armagh, of Monsignor William Fahy, a distinguished ex-serviceman, while on a visit from Australia, and what redress it was proposed to offer to this distinguished prelate.

Incidentally, I hope that nobody will confuse this matter with the many requests I have made in respect of Australia's diplomatic representation in the Republic of Ireland. This incident relates to Northern Ireland which is classed as a British possession. The article continues -

The Minister, Mr. Faulkner, said the gentleman referred to had been observed taking photographs of the external security measures at a police station and was asked to explain his reasons for so doing. On the conclusion of the interview he expressed himself as being in no way perturbed by the incident, recognising as he did, having served with the armed forces, that the police had a duty to perform.

Mr. Healyasked if the incident did not confirm the idea that this was a Police State? Did the Minister know of any other place where a gentleman in clerical garb, taking a picture of what must have been to him a strange sight, would have been placed under arrest? Did the Minister not consider that the police act was a very bad advertisement for the tourist traffic in this country? Would it not give a very unfavourable impression of the friendly, hospitable Ulster people?

The Minister said he was satisfied that the way the question and the supplementaries had been put, they were asked for political purposes. He did not believe that the gentleman concerned had any desire to make publicity out of the incident Mr. E. Richardson (Nationalist) asked the Minister if he could state the exact nature of the offence committed by a person seeking to take a photograph of public buildings in Northern Ireland, and the authority for so stating? Would the Minister have prepared and issued to the general public a detailed list of all buildings, public or otherwise, the photographing of which was prohibited by his officials or was made the occasion of a summary arrest and detention of persons taking such photographs?

The Minister stated that as in the ordinary way no offence arose from the taking of a photograph of a public building in Northern Ireland the various points raised in Mr. Richardson's question did not arise.

Mr. Diamondsaid while on a recent visit, a cross-channel press photographer was dissuaded from taking photographs of the Alcatraz on the Crumlin-road. Mr. Healy asked did the Minister not realize that the taking of a photograph in time of peace was no danger to the State at all. Every one in Ireland and England knew that the Police Barracks were barricaded. Only strangers arriving here would be interested in the matter at all.

The part of the article which I want to emphasize is as follows: -

In a statement this week, Monsignor Fahy, who is a former Australian Army Chaplain and a native of Ballindooley, County Galway, at present on holidays in Ireland, said, " I was wondering what official face-saving explanation would come from officialdom in the Six Counties. My reference to my ex-serviceman's interest in the sand bags and barricades was conveniently misinterpreted. The crux of the situation was evaded, namely, what justification was there in the discourteous, trigger-happy manner in which I was ordered to the police station. " The remarks attributed to a Unionist member of the House that the police were quite right only serves to make more clear that Gestapo police methods have approval within the Six County Government. The Minister of Home Affairs is right in saying that I do not wish to make publicity of it, but I am equally determined that such blatant interference with the freedom to which Commonwealth visitors are entitled does not go unchallenged or without satisfactory explanation. " So far I am unable to say whether or not the film in my camera was interfered with. This matter is now in the hands of the Australian Ambassador in London."

I ask the Prime Minister, in his capacity as Minister for External Affairs, to have inquiries made, not at the Embassy in Ireland, which does not exist, but in London. If the Prime Minister of this country can go abroad to settle the Suez Canal trouble, the Congo trouble and troubles all over the world, surely he should be able to settle this trouble. The Prime Minister's good lady was over in Northern Ireland recently. Surely the Prime Minister has some influence, and I assure him that this matter reflects not on a foreign country but on a country that is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Something should be done about it.

Two years ago I had the same sort of experience when crossing from Dublin to Northern Ireland. 1 had been in South America and many other countries but that was the only occasion on which my bag was examined. The officers found only some clothes that had not been sent to the laundry, and they were very disappointed. This is supposed to be British justice. AH jokes aside, I hope that the Prime Minister will have something to say about this matter. He has made trips abroad trying to settle the troubles of the world but he has failed up to date.

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