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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 1 May 1980

Vol. 320 No. 3

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Civil Legal Aid Scheme.


asked the Minister for Justice if cases brought under the Family Home Protection Act, 1976, will be excluded under the new civil legal aid scheme.

The intention, speaking in general terms, is that cases under the Family Home Protection Act, 1976, should be eligible for consideration under the civil legal aid scheme on the same basis as other cases. If what the Deputy is referring to is the exclusion from the scheme of disputes concerning rights and interests over land, I can say that the exclusion was not intended to relate to family home cases and if the Legal Aid Board are in any difficulty on that score, which I have no reason to anticipate, the matter can be cleared up readily and without difficulty.

This does not mean that every possible type of action that could arise under the 1976 Act must qualify. It may be, for instance, that an application to a court for permission to sell a house without the consent of a spouse would be considered by the Board to be a type of action that is excluded under the scheme as a conveyancing matter. Until such time as the board have fully considered such a case, I would not wish to express any view beyond saying that I am not at present satisfied that any change should be made to provide that it is covered. On the other hand, there should be no question about the right of the spouse whose interests are being challenged by such an application to be given legal aid, if otherwise eligible.

In brief, therefore, cases under the Act will, generally speaking, be covered but there may be some that will not or ought not to be. If it transpires that there are some marginal type cases that ought to be covered, and which the board decide are not covered by the scheme as it stands, the board will no doubt bring the matter to my attention.

In view of the fairly widespread reservations which have already been expressed about some exclusions from this scheme, surely the least that could be expected now is that the general applicability of the scheme to the Family Home Protection Act, 1976, would be supported by clear criteria as to what would be appropriate and what would not be appropriate for civil legal aid. In other words, rather than waiting to see how it works—which is what I assume the Minister's reply intended—would the Minister state, not necessarily today or now but for the benefit of everybody, precisely what kind of actions would be entitled to such legal aid, instead of expressing a general hope that most actions would be?

As I have already said, the board will be in a position to advise in this regard.

Is it not the job of the board to implement the scheme primarily and, in the course of that, to advise? How can the Minister expect the board to implement the scheme satisfactorily if part of the implementation of that scheme is dependent on advice which the Minister of State will get from the board at some future date?

I am sure the operations of the board will bring certain aspects to light which are not envisaged now. In these circumstances it is an advantage that the board are operational and will be in a position to decide on matters which may not have been anticipated to date.

Does the Minister accept that the logic of that appears to be that we would be better off if we had no written scheme and simply asked the board to administer a scheme and then they could advise us on the whole thing? Surely the Minister must accept——

The Deputy is making a statement now.

"Surely" is an interrogative word. I am asking the Minister does he accept——

The Deputy may not follow that up with a statement. Just ask the question.

It is strange that my statements did not cause any difficulty with the Chair for the past hour.

No aspersions should be cast on the Chair or on any other occupant of the Chair.

I am sorry about that. Would it not be reasonable for the Minister—I do not wish to draw him out on it today—to have a look at this and see if we can get a specific approach to legal actions which will be enabled to have civil legal aid?

All aspects of the operation of the scheme will be looked at.