Thursday, 21 June 2012
Statute Law Revision Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second and Subsequent Stages
Noel Harrington (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
I very much welcome this Bill and the Minister of State. As Deputy Kyne mentioned, the way laws were enacted in the past is interesting. This is the third in a series of Bills following a comprehensive review of legislation enacted by the House of Commons between 1750 and 6 December 1922. I noted the Minister of State's opening comments regarding retrieving the original documents. It is a pity that such a major act of vandalism, namely, the occupation of the Four Courts complex, caused so much damage to our public records. Unfortunately, records were lost which is a great pity. The destruction of Acts or genealogical records was a personal and historical tragedy. We, and future generations, will have to live with that loss and shame.
There is a wealth of our history in this legislation, which we should put on the record. Much of this Bill has to with the repeal of Acts dealing with the local, personal and private Acts of Parliament dealing with naturalisation, dissolution of marriage and dissolution of trusts. The local Acts mainly concern railway orders, harbour orders, the creation of townships, patents and railway orders. A few of these Acts caught my attention and intrigued me as a legislator and I wish to highlight some of them.
The Munster Bank (Limited) Liquidation Act 1887, which is it proposed to repeal, involved the liquidation of the Munster Bank. On researching this, I came across an exchange in Hansard involving a question asked by Mr. Parnell:
MR. PARNELL asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of the monetary situation created in Ireland by suspension of payment on the part of the Munster Bank, and considering that the Bank of Ireland enjoys special facilities under the Law, and exceptional advantages from the Government, and has at its disposal unused note-issue power to the extent of above a million sterling, whether the Government will use its influence to cause the Bank of Ireland to assist the Munster Bank to recover its position, and thus avoid liquidation, if the different classes of persons interested in this Bank as depositors and shareholders should undertake to do their part, and the affairs of the Bank should be found in a condition to warrant assistance from the Bank of Ireland?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer replied:
The hon. Member has asked me a Question to which I could not give an affirmative reply without the risk of raising hopes which, so far as I see, could not be realized; but I may say that, in my opinion, the exceptional position of the Bank of Ireland entails upon it at times such as these special duties, and I have good reason to believe that this is recognized by the Directors of the Bank, and that they are ready to help in promoting the very desirable object referred to by the hon. Member, so far as may be possible consistently with due regard to the safety of the Bank.
With regard to what taxed or influenced the Members in the House of Commons in 1887, it is a case of Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
Another Act of note was the Edward, Pamela and Lucy Fitzgerald (children of Lord Edward Fitzgerald): restoration of blood Act. It was intriguing. The next that caught my attention was the Archbishop of Dublin's estate: enabling the demise of the mansion house of Tallaght (Dublin) Act. The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Euseby Cleaver, was, prior to his death in December 1819, found to be of unsound mind and his functions were discharged by the Archbishop of Cashel. I must assume the Act was to tidy up matters relating to his will and affairs. These examples show the way legislation and methods of legislation have evolved. There used to be very personal and narrow Acts involving families and individuals and now the focus is on the common good. It demonstrates how politics may have changed and how the greater good and common good must be privileged over clientelism in decision making.
The Bill is an interesting and timely document to clean up the Statute Book. It is no harm reminding people how legislation was pursued over the past 200 or 300 years in the House of Commons, the Grattan Parliament and in this country up to 1922. I welcome the tidying up of the statutes and discussing them in the Chamber.