I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.
The objects for which the trust of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham was founded gradually diminished and ultimately became extinct in consequence of the change of Government in 1922. The purpose of this Bill is to provide for the discharge of the liabilities of the trust and also for the utilisation of the remaining property of the trust, comprising the buildings, lands and chattels of the hospital, together with some trust funds.
The history of this old trust goes back to 1679 when Charles II directed that a hospital should be built at Kilmainham to accommodate old and in-firm soldiers of the English Army in Ireland. The hospital building was completed in 1684, and was endowed under Royal Charter with 64 acres, plantation measure, out of the Crown lands at Kilmainham. In 1922, there were 126 pensioners resident in the hospital. From then onwards, no new pensioners were received and the surviving pensioners gradually died out. In 1926, some of the surviving pensioners were transferred to the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, and in 1929, the remaining pensioners, about 50 in number, were given the option of transferring to Chelsea or becoming outpensioners. With the death of the last surviving pensioner at Chelsea in September, 1952, the objects for which the hospital was established, as a charitable trust, finally became extinct, and it was necessary to make other arrangements for the utilisation of the property.
During the years 1922 to 1933, the buildings, lands and chattels of the hospital gradually ceased to be used for the purposes of the trust and passed, by agreement, into the occupation of the Irish administration. Under Sections 2 and 3 of the Bill, the legal title to all this property passes to the Minister for Finance.
The hospital building itself is of architectural interest as one of our oldest public buildings. As might be expected it has been affected by age and wear and the Government was advised, some years ago, that extensive works, including the renewal of a considerable part of the roof, would be required to preserve the hospital. It was considered desirable to commence the works as soon as possible without waiting for this Bill and operations have now been in progress at the hospital for about three years. This type of work is necessarily slow and, accordingly, it will take some years more to complete operations. When the works have been completed, the hospital will be ready for a new lease of life as part of the National Museum and in this new function, it will be preserved in a worthy manner for the use and enjoyment of the public.
The remaining property of the hospital consists of the trust funds, particulars of which will be found in the Schedule to the Bill. Up to 1922, the income from these funds was paid to the Governors of the hospital who administered the hospital as trustees. The Governors expended the income from the trust funds on the hospital and its pensioners. Most of the governorships lapsed in 1922 with the disappearance of the British civil and military offices to which they attachedex officio. Only two governors were left, and as this number was insufficient to form a quorum they could not exercise any functions in relation to the trust funds. These remaining governors were dissolved in 1955, and there is now no person competent to exercise any functions in relation to the trust funds. Section 5 of the Bill constitutes the Attorney General the sole trustee of the funds as from the 6th April, 1962, to act until a new scheme for the utilisation of the funds has been settled by the High Court under Section 4 of the Bill. This will enable the Attorney General to deal with any matters in connection with the funds which may require action by a trustee during the interim period.
Section 4 of the Bill empowers the High Court to dispose of the trust funds. When the Governors of the hospital ceased to function after 1922, it was not possible to determine with certainty who, if anybody, was legally entitled to receive the income from the trust funds. Because of this difficulty no payments out of the income could be made to meet part of the cost of maintaining the Kilmainham pensioners, and the income has been allowed to accumulate. The British authorities who defrayed the cost of maintaining the pensioners after 1922 have, therefore, a claim for the payments that would have been made towards the support of the pensioners out of the income of the trust funds if the trust had been functioning normally. Under Section 4 (a) of the Bill, the High Court is empowered to discharge this liability by making an order, on the application of the Attorney General, for the payment of certain sums to the Commissioners of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. The payments comprise, firstly, a lump sum of £2,440 7s. 4d. in respect of accumulated interest on the trust funds; secondly, the proceeds of the sale of a holding of £1,096 7s. 5d. in 3½ per cent Exchequer Bonds representing interest on the trust funds which was re-invested, and thirdly, the interest received on the re-investment up to the date on which the Exchequer Bonds are sold, which will, it is estimated, amount to approximately £1,400. These payments have been agreed with the British authorities and represent a final discharge of all liabilities as between the two Governments in respect of the Hospital. The payments cover only part of the cost of maintaining the surviving Kilmainham pensioners, and no payment is being made out of the interest accrued on the trust funds after 17th September, 1952, when the last pensioner died.
Under Section 4 (b) of the Bill, the High Court is further empowered, on the application of the Attorney General, to dispose of the capital of the trust funds, together with the accumulated interest remaining after the payments to Chelsea have been made, by making a new scheme for the management and application of these moneys for the benefit of serving or retired members of the Defence Forces. With the making of the new scheme the old Royal Hospital trust will then pass into history, and may rest with the veterans of the Williamite Wars who overflowed the newly built hospital in the years after the Boyne and Limerick.
I recommend the Bill to the House for its approval.