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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 5 Mar 1924

Vol. 6 No. 22


It might be necessary, by way of explanation of this measure, to survey briefly the substance of the existing law in the matters dealt with by the Bill. The substance of the existing law on the matters dealt with by the Bill is this, that the duty of preparing printed lists of all persons who are qualified to be jurors is imposed by Statute (Juries (Ireland) Act, 1871, Section 8) on the local authorities in each county who, in turn, are set in motion by a demand, called a Precept, which is issued by the local Clerk of the Crown and Peace. The routine runs as follows: ... within one week after the first day of July in each year the Clerk of the Crown and Peace issues his precept, formerly to the Clerk of each Poor Law Union, but now to the Secretary of the County Council, requiring him to submit to him, not later than the first of August, alphabetical lists of the jurors in each barony in the county. By the first day of August, therefore, the Clerk of the Crown and Peace receives from the Clerks of the Unions, or the County Secretary, lists of persons qualified and liable to serve as jurors, a separate list for each barony, and each list in alphabetical order of surnames.

From these general lists the Clerk of the Crown and Peace picks out the Special Jurors and makes separate lists of Special Jurors, each barony being still kept in a separate list. This is required by Statute to be done not later than 15th August.

The next step is the revision of these lists. This is done by the County Court Judge, save in Dublin County and Dublin City, where (by way of relieving the Recorder) it is done by Revising Barristers—one for the City and one for the County. This revision takes place between the eighth of September and the twenty-fifth of October. The rate collectors are required to attend: there is generally no argument or discussion: the judge is told that A.B., whose name appears on the list, is dead or deaf or seventy years old, he immediately strikes off the name. In the County Dublin revision, names are struck off at the rate of about five hundred per day, or about one hundred per hour, which shows the mechanical nature of the work.

The next step is that in each county the several revised lists for the baronies are consolidated by the Clerk of the Crown and Peace into one alphabetical list for the county: this is "the general jurors book" for the county: it has to be handed by the Clerk of the Crown and Peace to the Under-Sheriff not later than the first day of January, and is the source from which the Under-Sheriff obtains all jury panels during the following year. A separate book of Special Jurors is also prepared in the same way and handed to the Under-Sheriff.

The law for all this will be found in the Juries (Ireland) Act, 1871.

Summarising the procedure, for ready reference, the "calendar" runs as follows:—

1st July.—Clerk of the Crown and Peace issues Precept.

1st July to 1st August.—The rate collectors and County Council Secretaries prepare alphabetical lists of jurors for each barony.

1st August.—Said lists (alphabetical per barony) are delivered to the Clerk of the Crown and Peace.

1st August to 15th August.—Clerk of the Crown and Peace prepares lists of Special Jurors (alphabetical, per barony).

8th September to 25th October.—Revision of lists by County Court Judges.

25th October to 1st January.—The Clerk of the Crown and Peace prepares the two Jury Books, General and Special, from the revised lists and hands the books to Under-Sheriff.

The entire expenses of all this procedure, including the printing, are defrayed by the local authorities, out of rates.

The above system, that is, the existing system, is in itself satisfactory, and there would be no reason to interfere with it but for the fact that it is running side by side with another system, viz., the preparation of lists of electors, and that it is desirable to amalgamate the two systems, so far as possible, in the interests of efficiency and economy. The point is that the Electors' Lists and the Jurors' Lists are to a great extent lists of the same persons, or, to be more precise, the Electors' Lists include the name of almost every juror.

It, therefore, occurred to the Ministries concerned: "Why not have only one list—the Electors' List—distinguishing the jurors by some special mark?" It happened at the time when this proposal was being considered (Autumn, 1923), that printing tenders were being invited by the Stationery Office, for Electors' Lists, to cover a period of five years. It was, therefore, necessary either to take a decision immediately or to postpone the reform, and the consequent economy, for five years. The former alternative was adopted—that is, it was assumed that the present Bill would be enacted within a few months, and the printing work was ordered on the more economical basis of a single consolidated list of voters and jurors.

By departmental action, therefore, taken in anticipation of legislation the necessary information has already been obtained for the current year by the more economical method of adding to the Electors Lists a Jurors Column showing whether each elector was an ordinary Juror, a Special Juror, or not a Juror at all, and in the Electoral Lists now just completed the Jurors Column has been added and filled in.

The present Bill was therefore initiated as a very short Bill, the only object of which was to give retrospective sanction to the consolidation of the Jurors Lists with the Electors Lists. While the Bill was being drafted, however, representations were made to me that much more extensive changes were desirable in the jury system and a conference took place in January last, at which the whole jury system was discussed, and subsequently the Executive Council came to the following conclusions—

Will the Minister say what kind of a conference it was?


The Conference in January last consisted of the Draftsman, the Under-Sheriff for the City of Dublin, a representative of the Ministry of Local Government and myself. As a result of that conference certain general conclusions were reached.

The Jurors were not represented at the conference?


No. There was no representative of the Jurors. Following that conference certain general conclusions were arrived at as follows:

(a) That the introduction of a Bill reforming the Jury System generally was necessary, but might, and should, stand over for at least some months, and must certainly await the enactment of the Courts of Justice Bill.

(b) That the present Bill should be introduced immediately and should in general be limited to the change in method as regards the preparation of Jurors' Lists but with the following additions:

(c) That a few points not necessarily arising out of the change in method mentioned at (b) above were of such urgency and importance that they should be included in the present Bill by way of anticipation of the future general reform. These points were, mainly, exemption of women jurors on application, abolition of the revision by County Courts in favour of revision by the Clerk of the Crown and Peace (with an appeal to the District Justice) and some other matters which will be made clear in explanations which I propose to give of the various Sections.

Section 1 of the Bill directs that the Register of Electors shall also show whether each Elector is a Special Juror, an ordinary Juror, or not a Juror at all. This is done in practice by means of the "Jurors' Column," to which I have referred.

Section 1 (2) imposes specifically upon the registration officer (who is the Clerk of the Crown and Peace) the duty of seeing that the Electors' Lists distinguish between ordinary jurors, special jurors, and persons who are not jurors.

Section 1 (3) directs that the law as regards entering claims and objections in the electors lists shall apply also to the jurors column of the list ... e.g., if A.B's. name appears in the Electors' Lists marked "juror" and if he is not in fact entitled to be a juror, the objection is to be made in the same way as an objection to his being registered as an elector.

Section 1 (4) directs that in the lists of objections, etc., to voters, it shall appear which of the said voters are also jurors.

Section 1 (5) provides that jurors shall not be marked in university electoral lists. This follows from the fact that neither residence nor ownership of premises is necessary for University voting qualification. If University voters are jurors, as they frequently are, they are jurors, not in the University but in some County and in virtue of premises in such County.

Section 2.—This Section is inserted to meet the case of a man who has more than one property qualification. Suppose that A.B. has two houses in two different parts of the County Dublin, and that the rateable value of the first house is over, but the rateable value of the second house is under, the rateable value necessary for a juryman. From the electoral point of view it is immaterial to A.B. whether he is registered in respect of the first house or in respect of the second house, but from the jury point of view it is vital, because if he is registered in respect of the second house only, then he will escape jury service altogether. This section makes that impossible, and the result of the section may be expressed more simply, if somewhat less accurately, thus: "A man shall be registered as an elector, in the place where he has jury qualifications rather than in any other place."

Section 3.—This section has been inserted in order to get rid of the unwilling woman juror. In this country the number of women who desire to serve on juries is very small, and in practice the insertion of women's names in the Jury Book leads to nothing but trouble; the women do not turn up, or they get themselves excused, or they are objected to. The meaning of sub-section (1) is that any woman who does not want to serve may get her name struck off the Lists on application, so that the name will not go into the Jury Book at all. Sub-section (2) was added in order to prevent an improper use being made of the privilege granted by sub-section (1). What was feared was that a man would have his premises rated in his wife's name; he would then not be liable for jury service, and she, although liable, would get her name struck off under sub-section (1). Sub-section (2), however, makes one of the pair liable.

Section 4 declares that no person shall be a juror who is not an elector. No case is actually known where a person who is a juror is not an elector, because if a person has a juror's property qualification he is almost of necessity a Local Government elector, but it was thought better to have a definite provision if the case should arise. It will be seen that in the new system the list is primarily an electors' list, the electors who are also jurors being specially marked. If, by any chance, somebody who was not registered as an elector should claim to be a juror, and prove his claim and insist on it, the registration officer would be rather embarrassed but for the present section.

Section 5, sub-section (1).—This is to the effect that if a person disagrees with the registration officer's views as to his jury liability, he may appeal to the District Justice (not to the County Court Judge). Moreover, he may appeal to the District Justice without going to the registration officer at all (as the last three lines of the sub-section will show). Thus if a man who lives within a few yards of Swords Courthouse has been wrongly registered as a juryman he need not come to Dublin for relief; he can go into the District Court and get his name struck off there.

Section 5, sub-section (2) fixes a time for appeals to the District Court. The date (26th April) is fixed, as being a month later than the last date (26th March), on which objections to claimants may be sent to the registration officer under the Electoral Act, 1923, First Schedule.

Section 5, sub-section (3) and sub-section (4) require no explanation.

Section 6 makes the necessary changes as regards the time at which and the form and manner in which the Jurors' Lists are to be requisitioned and supplied in future. It amounts, in the result, to this, that the "Jurors' Precept" will direct that the Electors' Lists shall indicate also the position, as regards jury service liability of each elector.

Section 7 alters the date on which the Jury Book is prepared and comes into force. The point is that the Jury Book should be as fresh as possible: the materials for its compilation will now be ready in mid-summer, and there is no reason to delay its coming into force until the 1st January following (which was the old date).

Section 8, sub-section (1) charges the expenses of the execution of this Act upon the Poor Rate of the county. This gets rid of an anomaly arising out of a judicial interpretation of the existing law, which set up an unreasonable incidence of those charges as between the county and urban districts within the county. The result of this sub-section, taken together with sub-section 12 of the Electoral Act, is to make the whole expense of the joint register payable primarily as a county-at-large charge. Section 8, sub-section (2) is a Local Government reform. In future, the salaries of the officials in question will be fixed as inclusive salaries.

Section 9 is a somewhat technical section dealing with the necessary readjustment as between the State Exchequer and the Local Authority arising out of the fact that the separate Jurors' Lists (now the combined Lists) are slightly increased.

The object of the section is to secure that the State shall have a share of the resulting economy, and the fractions have been carefully computed to that end.

I think that it would be a difficult task to go into the fractions here by way of verbal explanation. If I am pressed on the matter I would circulate something to Deputies between this stage and the Committee stage.

Section 10 provides for speedy solution of any unexpected administrative difficulties. The sub-section refers to the like provision in the Electoral Act, 1923.

I think the remaining Sections scarcely call for any detailed comment

On Wednesday, 27th February, the First Reading of this Bill was agreed to, on the strength of certain promises made by the Minister that it was an economy measure really and was intended to deal to some extent with matters that had been already dealt with in anticipation by departmental action. Some other matters of minor importance were also to be dealt with in the Bill. Now we learn, having received the Bill, and having heard the explanation given, that it is really a comprehensive reform Bill. On the strength of the statement on the First Reading, I confess that I did not take particular notice of this Bill. I noted this morning that Section 3 tries to undo what a generation of agitation accomplished only within the last three or four years. It is rather surprising that we should have this in a formal Bill which is just intended to effect certain economies. It seems to me, from the cursory reading which I have been able to give it, confirmed by the statement of the Minister, that the Bill is designed to allow any person who cares too little for his responsibilities as a citizen——


Her responsibilities.

His or her responsibilities as a citizen—to evade them, because I gather that any person who can find a way of being objected to has his or her name deleted from the Register and will also be free from responsibility to serve as a juror. Whether that is the intention or not in regard to men, it is quite definitely, and, shall I say of malice aforethought, provided for in the case of women. I am rather expecting that there will be quite a vigorous agitation in the country. in view of the attempt to release women from their responsibilities as citizens.

Some of us have participated in demands that women should be given rights on the same terms as they have been given to men, in regard to citizenship generally, and those rights have been embodied in our Constitution. But there is a corollary; those rights involve responsibilities, and I am not going at this early stage in the history of the new State, to say that having got rights we are going to release citizens from their responsibilities. I submit that if women are going to claim, and do claim, the right to participate in Government, through elections, they have also the right to bear some of the responsibility and should not be allowed, except in clearly defined circumstances, to evade their responsibilities as jurors.

I should be very much surprised if the women themselves who have actively promoted agitation for rights as citizens will not equally vehemently oppose any suggestion that they should be released of their responsibilities. But one of the consequences, I think, of Section 3, will be that a married woman who has home responsibility, but whose husband does not wish to be on the Register, will be obliged to attend as a juror, whereas the woman of means, with a certain amount of freedom and, perhaps, a better knowledge of the world, one part of the world, at any rate, will quite easily be allowed to evade any responsibilities at all. I object to this kind of sex disqualification. I will ask the Dáil, if it intends to agree to this proposition, to say that similar privileges should be allowed to men, and I claim equal rights for men and women in this matter. I am not going to agree to this method of giving special privileges to one sex, especially to the sex which has only recently achieved rights, of which these responsibilities are the counter-part. It seems to me that the provision regarding University representation, or rather the University Electors' List, again invite the University voter to find a way of evading his responsibility as a juror, simply by arranging that his name shall not be placed upon the voters' lists. We may as well recognise the fact, that a very great number of citizens would be very glad to exchange their rights as electors for their responsibilities as jurors. If they can buy off their responsibilities as jurors by getting their names struck off the electors' lists, they will think it is very cheap indeed. I certainly do not think that the Bill is justified in the present state without a very great deal of consideration. It goes very much further than the promise on the First Reading. I suggest that it is really a Bill that ought not to pass until the Courts of Justice Bill has become law.

I would like to say a few words with regard to Clause 3. During the last Dáil, and during the last year, I had a considerable number of petitions sent forward to me from various nursing institutions throughout the country. In the end I brought all these together, and placed them in the hands of the Attorney-General, with a promise from him that when the Jurors' Bill would come to be dealt with, that he would endeavour to carry out, as far as he could, the wishes of these nurses. Perhaps I am going farther than what the Attorney-General said on that occasion. At all events, he promised he would look into the matter very carefully. Those resolutions were apparently unanimously in favour of the exclusion of nurses from these duties. Everyone will see that it would be impossible for nurses engaged in their avocations to take up duty as jurors. I see by Section 3, that the nurses can be relieved of these duties by sending a demand or a letter asking that their names be removed from the Jurors' list. What I had hoped would be done, was that the nurses would be dealt with in the same way as the other professions that are not asked to serve as jurors. I should have preferred that they should have been excluded as nurses, rather than that they should have the trouble of writing individually, asking to be excluded. Deputy Johnson has raised another point or two, and in these I could not agree with him at all. I am perfectly satisfied, as far as women are concerned, that it is only fair to give them the chance of not serving if they do not wish to serve as jurors. I have supported, as strongly as he has, the claims of women for equal treatment with men. But when it comes to a question of this kind, I would be in favour of letting the women have a say in this matter.

We regard to the University electors, I would say that I am sure that no University elector wishes to evade the duty placed upon him as a citizen to serve as a juror. If there is anything in the clause that Deputy Johnson has referred to that would give a University elector an opportunity of evading his or her duty as a citizen I think that should be amended. At all events we have not considered the matter fully yet. I do not know whether it will be necessary for me to bring forward an amendment in the Committee Stage with regard to the exclusion of nurses. Perhaps the Minister for Home Affairs will give it his attention in the meantime. From the documents that I have received it seems to be the unanimous wish of the nurses to escape this service.

I think that Deputy Johnson, in his criticism of Clause 3, raises a very important matter for consideration. I think that Clause 3 will stand. While Deputy Johnson rightly says that we have recently given rights to women beyond what they experienced before, I think it is rather a terrifying thing to saddle them as a whole class with responsibilities in this matter of juries, which possibly at a later stage they would be prepared to face better than they are at present, but which, we must recognise to-day, is rather a dreadful ordeal for women as a whole. To be called upon to go to a court crowded with men of all sorts, and to sit on a jury, must be a very trying ordeal to women as we know them. I hope Deputy Johnson will consider that giving them rights which they have acquired, and which they can properly exercise in voting for the various services of the State, will be rights which, if we saddle them with the responsibility of sitting on juries, will take away to a large extent what they have already gained, by saddling them with something that most average women think a very repugnant duty. There are plenty of women who will not mind serving on juries, and possibly would resent being taken off the jury list. In this particular case it is only allowing a loop-hole for rather timid women to evade an obligation which I do not think it is for the good of the State to call upon them to perform, nor is it good that they should be subjected to a very unpleasant task of this nature.

I would like, if I may, to draw attention to Article 3 of the Constitution: "Any person, without distinction of sex, shall be a citizen and shall, within the limits of the jurisdiction, enjoy the privileges and be subject to the obligations of such citizenship."

Quite right; but do not carry it too far.


Deputy Johnson suggested that it would be open under the Bill to both men and women to evade jury service. I would like to be shown where the loop-hole is through which men can escape, and I will undertake to lock it. University electors do not escape jury service, because in general they will have a Local Government vote, which will bring them in as jurors under the provisions of the Bill. There remains then this controversial question, which the Deputy has raised, as to whether or not women ought to be enabled to secure exemption from jury service if they wish. We are not depriving any woman of her rights. We are not depriving any woman of her responsibility. What we are doing is, we are enabling women who feel such a positive dislike to serving in that capacity, to secure exemption. We are putting on them the positive act of applying for such exemption. We think that the exemption should be granted to women who feel that particular service distasteful, and it can well be understood that many women would likely feel jury service distasteful.

And many men.

All men.


I think we could go on arguing this matter at some length and get very little further. If the Deputy will put down an amendment embodying his point of view we could get the feeling of the Dáil on the matter at the Committee Stage. I think the arguments for and against the proposal are probably perfectly obvious to every Deputy. With regard to the point raised by Deputy Sir James Craig, that is a matter that could be dealt with under a later and more comprehensive measure which it is proposed to introduce after the passing of the Courts of Justice Bill. This Bill was largely confined simply to the machinery of the jury service. I think the provisions contained in Section 3 ought to be sufficient, for the present at any rate, to meet the object desired.

Question—"That the Juries (Amendment) Bill, 1924, be read a second time"—put and declared carried.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, March 12th.