Dáil Éireann - Volume 69 - 10 December, 1937

Constitution (Consequential Provisions) Bill, 1937—Second Stage.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Ruttledge): I move that the Constitution (Consequential Provisions) Bill be now read a Second Time. As Deputies are aware, on the 29th of this month the present Constitution will have been repealed and the legislative, executive and judicial functions of the State will begin to be operated under the new Constitution. Article 50 of the Constitution provides fully for the continuance of all laws at present in force, so far as they are not inconsistent with the present Constitution. It is necessary, however, to have some adaptation of existing enactments so as to ensure that the change in the constitutional position will take effect as smoothly as possible.

In future, the legislative, executive and judicial authorities of the State will be those established by or functioning under the new Constitution, not those established by or functioning under the Constitution of Saorstát Eireann. The Central Fund and the Exchequer will be the Central Fund and Exchequer of Ireland and no longer the Central Funa and Exchequer of Saorstát Eireann. The object of this Bill is to link up the new Governmental authorities and the new Central Fund and Exchequer with those at present existing and to make or provide for the making of such adaptations as may be necessary for that purpose.

A somewhat similar situation arose on the setting up of the Free State [2219] in 1922 and at that time an Adaptation of Enactments Act was passed to deal with the situation. Section 11 of that Act of 1922 provided for a general adaptation of references to Government Departments, and Section 12 gave power to the Executive Council to make further general or specific adaptations of statutes. Similarly, Section 4 of the Bill now before the House provides for the general adaptation of references to officials and authorities, and Section 5 gives power to the Government to make special adaptations and modifications. I do not think that it is necessary for me at this stage to go beyond the general explanation I have given. Those are the main points of the Bill and its object is merely to bridge over the position and, as I have said, to provide for its smoother working. Any points that may arise in regard to the detailed provisions of the Bill can be dealt with more appropriately in the Committee Stage.

Professor O'Sullivan: This is a very technical Bill, as I think the Minister will acknowledge—not quite as technical, perhaps, as the Bill sponsored by the President the other day. I wonder is the Minister serious in suggesting that the House will be in a position to indulge or to take part in any useful discussion of this Bill on the Committee Stage without a fuller explanation of the Bill than the Minister has given the House. It will be difficult to approach this Bill without any more help than we have got from the Minister. There are a number of questions that I should like to raise. First of all, we have the objectionable phrase in the Bill “The Constitution of Ireland lately enacted by the people.” We can deal with that in Committee, of course. Then, in reading one portion of this Bill, one is under the impression that the unity of Ireland has been achieved, but then you come to another portion of the Bill, as the Minister knows, which tells us that nothing of the kind has been achieved, and you are left precisely as you were; and as between “Ireland” and “The Irish Free [2220] State” and “Eire”, what meaning is to be attached to these words at any particular instance is not quite clear. As I say, the mockery of the title “Ireland” is clearly indicated not merely in the Constitution itself, where I think that what was done was quite harmful, but here it is indicated in, I think, sub-section (2) of Section 2.

I am really now wanting information from the Minister so as to be in a better position to discuss this Bill on Committee Stage as the Minister says he is anxious to have us do. Perhaps the Minister will make clear to us what is meant by Section 4, sub-section (1) (b); but coming to sub-section (2) there seems to be an immense power, or what looks like power given into the hands, not of the Dáil or the Government, but into the hands of one man, namely, the Premier or Taoiseach. I wonder whether it is intended that he should have that particular power mentioned in sub-section (2) of Section 4? The courts, apparently, do not come in at all and no appeal to the courts is possible from one of these decisions by the Taoiseach. Then, with regard to how this and the subsequent section are to work or how these things are to be done, in one section an order is to be made by the Taoiseach, and in the next section by the Government. Is there any necessity to publish that?

Mr. Ruttledge: No. I shall deal with that point later.

Professor O'Sullivan: There is no reference to it here.

Mr. Ruttledge: No. I know that.

Professor O'Sullivan: Therefore, so far as we are concerned the whole thing takes place in private.

Mr. Ruttledge: It was due to an oversight in drafting.

Professor O'Sullivan: Oh, I see.

Mr. Ruttledge: I saw that point myself. The 1922 Act is followed in those matters, but it was provided in the 1922 Act that it should be laid on the Table of the House. That will be amended in Committee Stage.

[2221] Professor O'Sullivan: Is there any provision as to time?

Mr. Ruttledge: Yes, that will be provided for also.

Professor O'Sullivan: Well, let me take a concrete case which, perhaps, the Minister can answer. Take the case of a transferred civil servant, transferred from the British Service to the service of Saorstát Eireann. What is his position now? What is his position with regard to his rights under Article 10 of the Treaty? We were told that these rights would be guaranteed and preserved, but as far as I can see there is no provision for the transfer of such an officer to the service of Éire. There is a transfer of rights from the British service to the service of Saorstát Eireann, but I am not sure, if this is carried, when he ceases to be so and becomes a servant of Éire. The Minister had not the misfortune to be here when we were discussing the Seanad Bill. If he had been here, perhaps he would have explained Section 10 to us, because we were induced to pass an amendment to the Seanad Bill on the ground that it cleared up any difficulties we had, and when we asked for an explanation, we were told to wait until we came to the particular Bill we are now discussing. Now that we are at this Bill, I should be glad to hear from the Minister how it clears up our difficulties about the application of the Corrupt Practices Act. As the Minister had not the ill-fortune, if I might say so, to be here while the other Bill was being piloted through the House in the extraordinary way in which it was piloted, I want to tell him what the position was. We were told that if we had not this particular Section 10, the Corrupt Practices Act would not apply to the electoral college of the new Seanad. Perhaps the Minister will explain how that section makes applicable to the new electoral college the Corrupt Practices Act, which, without that particular section, would not be applicable to the new electoral college. No explanation was given at that time. On that occasion, I incidentally called attention to the unconscious humour on the part of the President in putting in this particular [2222] Section 10. I have no doubt that it is a further proof of his consistency, namely, that he repeals his abolishing Act. He more or less puts himself in sackcloth and ashes in this Bill, not in the Seanad Bill. He says that the repealing Act of 1936 is now itself repealed. For the ordinary man that would seem a retracing of his footsteps, but I understand that, from the President's point of view, it is only proof that he is marching still further in the same direction. The only other point I have to raise is on Section 13, which states that, except in capital cases, the Government may remit, modify or defer any punishment imposed by the Constitution (Special Powers) Tribunal. What are “capital” cases?

Mr. Ruttledge: Cases which involve capital punishment.

Professor O'Sullivan: If the Minister will look at that Article 2A he will see that there was a large number of offences besides that of killing which involve capital punishment. Are they “capital cases” under this?

Mr. Ruttledge: If the death sentence is imposed.

Professor O'Sullivan: That is the reason I said that it does not mean cases where the punishment may be capital punishment. It only means where the court actually imposes the death sentence?

Mr. Ruttledge: Yes.

Professor O'Sullivan: Why is the exception made? Does it mean that the Government cannot remit in these cases now,

Mr. Ruttledge: It is vested in the President now under the Constitution.

Professor O'Sullivan: Under the Constitution it is vested in the President?

Mr. Ruttledge: Until the President is elected it is vested in the Council of State.

Professor O'Sullivan: Until then it is vested in the Council of State?

Mr. Ruttledge: Yes.

[2223] Professor O'Sullivan: I think there is a committee of three.

Mr. Ruttledge: Yes.

Professor O'Sullivan: I want to know about that committee of three. That committee consists of the Chief Justice, the Chairman of the Dáil, and the Chairman of the Seanad.

Mr. Ruttledge: The President of the High Court.

Professor O'Sullivan: The President of the High Court, the Chairman of the Dáil, and the Chairman of the Seanad.

An Ceann Comhairle: It is not my function to intervene, but it is two judges and the Ceann Comhairle.

Mr. Ruttledge: Yes, two judges and the Ceann Comhairle.

Professor O'Sullivan: That is not the Council of State?

Mr. Ruttledge: I think it is called a commission.

Professor O'Sullivan: My point then does not arise, as I thought it was the Chairman of the Seanad.

Mr. Briscoe: Arising out of this Bill, might I ask the Minister if he is satisfied if all other Acts, such as those relating to agreements and contracts are covered? I read the Bill and I find it refers in detail to all kinds of Government acts and debts due to the State and so forth. I do not see any express reference to ordinary commercial transactions into which the Government may have entered in the past. I should like to ask if the Minister is satisfied that ordinary commercial transactions are covered?

Mr. Ruttledge: As regards Deputy Briscoe's point, the Government succeeds to all assets and they have all the liabilities, just the same as in the other provisions. As to the point raised by Deputy O'Sullivan regarding the Corrupt Practices Act, that was repealed and we are reviving it by this Section 10.

[2224] Professor O'Sullivan: The Corrupt Practices Act was repealed?

Mr. Ruttledge: The Corrupt Practices (Prevention) Act was repealed. Under this we are reviving it. It may seem a roundabout way.

Professor O'Sullivan: I understand the Minister to say the Corrupt Practices Act. A lot of people would be very disappointed if they did not know that. It is news to me that the Act has been repealed since 1936.

Mr. Ruttledge: That only arises as regards the Seanad. That is being revived in this, and the Deputy need hardly have any doubt about it. With regard to the civil servants transferred from the British service, they are provided for in Article 56, sub-section (4) of the Constitution.

Professor O'Sullivan: Are their rights?

Mr. Ruttledge: If there is any doubt about it, that question will be settled.

Professor O'Sullivan: It was their rights I was anxious about. We know they were transferred physically.

Mr. Ruttledge: That matter will be gone into and cleared up before the Committee Stage. If the Deputy wants an assurance, I will make it quite definite. The other matter referred to by the Deputy about the adaptations or amendments which might be made, and the method of publication, that seems to have been an oversight. I mentioned it to the draftsman, and that will be provided for in Committee. I do not know what the publication might be, whether it should be laid on the Table of the Dáil or otherwise, but in any case such a provision should be made.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee Stage to be taken on Wednesday next.

The Dáil adjourned at 2.40 p.m. until Tuesday, December 14th, at 3 p.m.