Seanad Éireann - Volume 55 - 14 November, 1962

Statute Law Revision (Pre-Union Irish Statutes) Bill, 1962—Second and Subsequent Stages.

[1395] Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Minister for Justice (Mr. Haughey): This Bill sets out in the Schedule some 170 enactments which it is proposed to repeal either in part or totally. These Acts, or the words in them which it is proposed to repeal, are in fact dead or obsolete already. The present Bill deals only with Pre-Union Irish statutes, that is, Acts passed by a Parliament sitting in Ireland at any time before the Union of 1800, but further statute law revision Bills, dealing with obsolete English and British enactments still applying in the State, are in course of preparation.

When this mass of dead wood has been cleared away it will be possible to produce a comprehensive Chronological Table and Index to the whole of the statute law in force in the State. It will also make possible the publication of a series of volumes containing the whole body of the living statute law.

The last Statute Law Revision Acts dealing with Pre-Union Irish statutes were enacted by the British Parliament in 1878 and 1879, following which a revised edition of the Irish Statutes in one volume was prepared by William F. Cullinan of the Irish Office, Westminster, and published in 1885. This volume, commonly known as Cullinan's Edition, contains the enactments then surviving, together with a chronological table of all the statutes. All the enactments which it is now proposed to repeal are in that Edition.

I think that at this stage it might be useful to Senators to know why the various classes of enactments in the Bill are considered appropriate for repeal. In the first place a number of the statutes reprinted in Cullinan's Edition were even then clearly obsolete, but were reproduced in that Edition because they had been left untouched by the Statute Law Revision Acts. For example, statutes relating to ecclesiastical courts and ecclesiastical law ceased to be in force on the coming [1396] into operation of the Irish Church Act, 1869, by which the Church of Ireland was disestablished. Again, the various Acts relating to the settlement of Ireland, and others of a similar character, which, having long since served their purpose, would be regarded as spent were left untouched by those Acts and are included in Cullinan's Edition.

Statutes relating to the Pre-Union Irish Parliament, so far as they may have survived the Act of Union by which that Parliament was abolished, are inoperative since the establishment of the Oireachtas of Saorstát Éireann. The most notorious statute in this category is, of course, the Act of Union itself; it appears on the last page of the Schedule. Senators will appreciate that the Act of Union was already repealed in substance when the Oireachtas was established (Article 73 of the Constitution of Saorstát Éireann), and all we are doing now is to remove it formally from the Statute Book.

Statutes relating to the style or title of the Crown, or succession to or demise of the Crown, so far as they survived the Constitution (Amendment No. 27) Act, 1936, and the Executive Authority (External Relations) Act, 1936, were impliedly repealed by the Republic of Ireland Act, 1948.

Enactments relating to practice and procedure in the superior courts have been superseded by the Supreme Court of Judicature (Ireland) Act, 1877, by Rules of Court made under that Act or under the Courts of Justice Acts, 1924 to 1961, and by the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act, 1961.

These are the main types of enactments which are being repealed by virtue of Section 1 of the Bill. The Schedule, to which the section refers, also provides for the repeal of enactments which are otherwise obsolete or spent. Senators will notice that in certain cases only a few obsolete words are being repealed.

Perhaps I might also draw attention to the italicised notes after each enactment in the second column of the Schedule. These are intended purely as an explanation of why the statute or the relevant words in it (as indicated in the third column) are being repealed. [1397] The notes are by way of assistance to those who may wish to study the Bill in detail and, as is usual in statute law revision measures, they will not appear in the final print. Strictly speaking they are not part of the Bill at all.

Section 2 of the Bill sets out the usual saving provisions. These are in addition to the general saving provisions applying in the case of repeals contained in Section 21 of the Interpretation Act, 1937.

One of the first practical benefits which should flow from the enactment of the Bill will be the publication in due course of a revised edition of the pre-Union Irish Statutes—what one might call an up-to-date version of Cullinan's edition. Because of the extent of the repeals now being provided for it will be a rather slim volume. It will make a good start to the job of publishing a complete edition of the Statutes Revised. It will also be of considerable assistance to the various Departments by enabling them to examine the particular enactments with which they are concerned with a view to their modernisation.

I hope that the Seanad will agree to give this purely technical Bill a Second Reading. Indeed, having regard to the courtesy and good treatment which I always receive from this House, I might even get all Stages.

Mr. Fitzpatrick: As far as this Party is concerned, we certainly will give the Minister a Second Reading of this Bill and I do not think there is any real necessity for a Committee Stage unless we have some volunteers who would be prepared to study the various Acts. I see one particular Act here entitled “An Act for the Amendment of the Law in relation to Popish Solicitors; and for remedying other Mischiefs in relation to Practitioners in several Courts of Law and Equity.”

Mr. Haughey: The Senator is probably arguing his personal point of view now.

Mr. Fitzpatrick: It is perhaps no harm to get rid of that Act. I do not know what is in it. But, in case the Minister might start using it, it might be better to see it at an end.

[1398] Mr. Haughey: Retrospectively.

Mr. Fitzpatrick: Joking apart, I am in favour of the Minister's programme of law reform provided always he sticks to reform and that in the process of reform he does not get any bright ideas which might be regarded as totally against reformation.

Question put and agreed to.

Agreed to take remaining stages today.

Bill put through Committee, reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.

Mr. Haughey: I am indebted to the House.