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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 1 Mar 1951

Vol. 124 No. 6

Committee on Finance. - Court Officers Bill, 1950— Committee (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That Section 3, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

When I moved to report progress on the last occasion I was directing the attention of the Minister to the position of certain officers whom a predecessor of his during the discussion on the 1923 Act described as the pioneers of the District Courts. I should like to urge upon him, that, where these people are involved, he should deem what has been termed their part-time service prior to 1926 as full-time service for the purpose of assessing what pension they would be entitled to. It is not a very excessive demand on either the Minister's sympathy or, ultimately, on the Exchequer that these pioneers of this new type of court should get the fullest recognition possible of their services.

The amendments which were put down to this section were, as many of us anticipated, ruled out of order. The Chair, however, has been good enough to let us discuss the purport of these amendments on the section. The first matter I should like to refer to is that a distinction is created for the purposes of this Bill between part-time and whole-time officials. In order to qualify for whole time service I believe that a District Court clerk must be responsible for putting through his hands or his files 1,700 cases per year. Any clerk who has not that number of cases on his books in a year is called a part-time official and therefore cannot qualify for establishment under the Bill. I should like the Minister to consider the part-time men who are being left outside the provisions of the Bill. When 1,700 cases per year are mentioned, no regard is had for the fact that a clerk who has less than 1,700 may have a number of cases that have been adjourned again and again, with the result that if the actual number of appearances in his court register had been taken into account, that man would have far in excess of the requisite 1,700 cases. I have not so much sympathy for the part-time official who is enterprising enough, or fortunate enough, to be able to undertake some other occupation. But I know at least one District Court clerk—I think there are many such District Court clerks—who, because he cannot reach 1,700 cases a year, is left outside the provisions of this Bill and who has no other occupation. This man has been in the service since the establishment of the District Courts. He was unfortunate enough to be assigned to an area in which the number of cases did not exceed 1,700. He was also unfortunate enough not to be able to undertake any other occupation, not through lack of initiative on his part, but largely because the areas which he serves are so diverse and so far apart that they practically require his whole-time service. I ask the Minister to consider the case of this man favourably when dealing with the Bill on the Report Stage.

There is another type of clerk which the Minister has not taken into consideration at all in this Section 3 and that is the assistant in a District Court office. As the Minister is aware, there are several offices throughout the country where more than one clerk is required. I do not think it would be true to say that these men have served for as long a period as the man to whom I have referred, but at least their services as assistant clerks will not be taken into account under the provisions of this Bill. Therefore, men who have in the normal course, procured promotion in their posts, can only rely on the years of service in which they actually served as District Court clerks, even though as assistant clerks they have been giving almost as good service to the State as they are now giving in their present capacity.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.