Thursday, 21 June 2012
Statute Law Revision Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second and Subsequent Stages
Seán Kyne (Galway West, Fine Gael)
We will worry about our own areas.
More than a dozen Acts directly relating to Galway have been deemed to have outlived their usefulness and will be repealed with the passing of this Bill. However, more than a dozen more are being retained because future plans are dependent on them.
The Bill specifically retains Acts on which future legislation or proposals will be built or on which legal rulings have relied. For example, the retention of the Galway, Oughterard and Clifden Railway Acts 1872 and 1875 is necessary because of the planned greenway along the now disused railway. The original legislation contains legal points on land ownership and rights of way which will be vital to the successful implementation of the new greenway.
In hindsight, the decision to close this railway was most regrettable. It would be one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world if operating today. Going through the heart of beautiful Connemara, it would have been a godsend for tourism and especially for the town of Clifden. However, the tourism potential can be realised by the construction of the greenway along the old railway line put in place by the Acts, which we are retaining in this Bill. A 2.5 m wide tarmacadam surfaced walking and cycling route from Oughterard to Clifden is with An Bord Pleanála under strategic infrastructure planning. The plans will be decided by An Bord Pleanála from mid-October to early November. The construction will result in a tourist route similar to the Westport to Mulranny line which has brought huge numbers of cycling tourists to Mayo. The plans for that will extend from Galway city to Oughterard and through my own area of Moycullen. It is interesting that these plans relate to Acts dating back to 1875 and the construction of the railway line.
Other relevant Acts relating to Galway which are being retained include the Athenry and Tuam Railway Acts 1858 to 1865. These Acts will be relevant to the plans to proceed with the re-establishment of a western rail corridor, the first phase of which has been implemented from Limerick to Athenry. Also being retained is legislation pertaining to Galway harbour and port, the Galway commissioners waterworks and the Corrib river among others.
There are great plans for the development of a new port in Galway city. The Volvo Ocean Race, which will be held from the end of June to early July, will be a huge boost to tourism in Galway city and county, although I hope the weather will improve. There is a large energetic team behind this project. A container ship arrived in Galway docks during the week with the tented village which will be erected to house the dignitaries and everybody else who will come along to the festivities.
The major plans for the development of a new port in Galway city, which will go to An Bord Pleanála during the year, will allow cruise liners and large ships to come into the heart of Galway city. The docks in Galway city are in the heart of the city, unlike those in other cities. It is interesting to see the related Acts being retained under this Bill.
A further examination of the Bill reveals how our legislative system has changed. Legislation being repealed includes Acts of Parliament passed to facilitate divorces, which were always sought by men as divorce law was heavily skewed in their favour, to confer citizenship, to change names and to sort matters concerning wills, estates and debts. It is clear that parliamentary Acts and the legislative process was once the preserve of the wealthy and well-connected and used for the most personal and individual of reasons but it has gradually transformed into a process for the benefit of all citizens. That the Statute Law Revision Bill is repealing narrow, individualistic Acts but retaining those of benefit to communities, towns and cities confirms this.
The Bill and the legislation being repealed provide a historical perspective on the nature of laws in the past. For example, narrowly focused laws were enacted for individuals, most likely the privileged and wealthy. Nowadays law should be for the common and greater good rather than for individuals. The Bill is an exercise in ensuring laws are up to date and I welcome its publication.