The immediate purpose of the Bill is to assign short titles to certain statutes so as to facilitate their citation. The statutes affected are those of pre-Union Irish parliaments and pre-Union English statutes applied to Ireland. These are, in effect, the only statutes applying here which have not already got short titles. Short titles are provided for in all Acts of the Oireachtas and in British Acts passed since the 1880s. Short Title Acts of 1892 and 1896 assigned such titles to earlier British statutes.
The Bill is also intended as a first step in the process of statute law revision. The purpose of such revision is, first, the publication of a Chronological Table of all the statutes which affect or have in the past affected the territory which is now the State as well as a Comprehensive Index of all the statutes now in force, and, secondly, the ultimate publication of a modern edition of the entire body of statute law such as was published in the Six Counties in 1956. The most recent edition of the pre-Union Irish statutes is that prepared by William F. Cullinan, Irish office, Westminster, and published in 1885. The body of statute law in Cullinan has, of course, been reduced. Many statutes have been repealed in whole or in part by subsequent legislation. Many of them are long since spent. Many were already clearly obsolete when that edition was being prepared. Others were repealed by implication as being inconsistent with the Constitution or have been superseded by our own Acts. There remains, however, a body of statute law which, though in some respect archaic, is, nevertheless, regarded as being in force; and it is clear that its publication in an up-to-date revised edition is a matter of considerable importance. This Bill, by providing a convenient guide to the extant pre-1800 statute law and to the condition in which it stands today on the Statute Book is, as I have already said, a first step in that direction.
In this Bill, statutes that have been repealed are naturally not included. Statutes which, although not expressly repealed, are clearly obsolete or which are repealed by implication (as being inconsistent with the Constitution) are not included either. Where, however, there appears to be any doubt as to whether a statute is obsolete or not it has been listed. The assignment of a short title to any particular statute should not, therefore, be taken as implying that it is still operative. If, having regard to subsequent legislation or to the Constitution or for any other reason, the particular statute is no longer alive, its inclusion in this Bill will not operate to revive it. Conversely, the omission of a particular statute will not affect the question as to whether or not it is still in force. Local and personal Acts are not included. A further Bill providing for the repeal of such obsolete or unnecessary pre-Union Irish statutes or parts of such statutes has been prepared in the Statute Law Reform and Consolidation Office, and I hope to be in a position to introduce it later this year.
The statutes to which short titles are being assigned by the present Bill are set out in three Schedules. The First Schedule contains the pre-Union Irish statutes, i.e. Acts passed by a parliament sitting in Ireland at any time before the coming into force of the Union with Ireland Act, 1800. With one exception I do not propose to comment on the individual statutes which are given short titles; there are 132 of them in all. The exception is the statute to which we are giving the short title Poynings' Act, 1495. That statute is Chapter 22 of 10, Henry the Seventh, which provided for the application to Ireland of all English statutes "concerning or belonging to the common and publique weal". The statute in question is not, however, the Poynings' Law of our history books. Poynings' Law is an entirely different statute, namely, Chapter 4 of 10, Henry the Seventh, which, Senators will recall, provided that no Irish Parliament could be held until the legislation proposed to be enacted by that Parliament had been sent to the English Council and returned under the English great seal. This statute was repealed by the Statute Law Revision (Ireland) Act, 1878 and so, while its place in the history books is secure, it no longer has a place on the Statute Book. It does not fall to be given a short title in this Bill. The terms Poynings' Law and Poynings' Act have, in the past, been employed ambiguously both by historians and lawyers, but by assigning the short title Poynings' Act, 1495, to Chapter 22 of 10, Henry the Seventh, this Bill should put an end to the ambiguity so far as legal usage is concerned.
The statutes which are regarded as having been applied to Ireland by Poynings' Act, 1495, are set out in the Second Schedule to the Bill and they are classified into those dealing with distress (that is the taking, without legal process, of a personal chattel of a wrongdoer by the person aggrieved as a pledge, such as seizure of cattle for non-payment of rent), administration of estates of deceased persons, infants' land, forcible entry on lands, and fisheries.
The Third Schedule to the Bill lists the English statutes applied to Ireland by an Act of 1634, now to be cited as the Maintenance and Embracery Act, 1634. All the statutes in this Schedule deal with maintenance, champerty and embracery. Maintenance has been defined as "an officious intermeddling in a suit which no way belongs to one by maintaining or assisting either party with money, or otherwise to prosecute or defend it". Champerty is maintenance in consideration of an interest in the subject matter of the action. Embracery consists in attempting, by bribes or other corrupt means, to influence a juror.
I should like to draw particular attention to subsection (2) of Section 1 of the Bill, which provides that column 2 of each Schedule will not form part of the proposed Act. Instead of setting out the long title of each statute, we have given the subject matter of the statute as unrepealed, indicating specifically those section of the statute still on the Statute Book. This is for information only and will, I trust, be of assistance to practitioners and students. In many cases the long title would, indeed, be misleading, as will readily be seen by reference to Cullinan's Edition.
The task of revising and clarifying our statutes is an important one and it will be greatly faciliated by the enactment of this Bill. I look forward to submitting in due course to the Oireachtas the further measures necessary to complete the work.