I wish to support these amendments. The Minister has announced an intention to repeal the Acts. If this is his intention and if it is desirable to repeal the Acts, it seems to me that the Bill which is before the House is the appropriate place to find this repeal.
I assume from the Minister's speech that the amendment does not fully achieve in his view the extent of repeal required. This legislation is the only legislation applicable to forcible entry and occupation. The Minister has, in the course of the debate in this House, spoken on this subject from time to time in a contradictory—perhaps, even confused—way. He seems to take the view that the Acts are unenforceable in Irish conditions. In my Second Reading speech I expressed agreement with him that these Acts would not be easy to enforce and one did not even need to know that Professor McGilligan expressed this view 16 years ago to see the difficulties in enforcing in the district court Acts of Richard II.
The Minister has also seemed to suggest that there is some doubt as to the applicability of these Acts, as to whether they are in force. You cannot repeal what is not in force. You cannot repeal what is not the law but the Minister has announced his intention to repeal. By suggesting in this House that there is doubt in regard to the applicability of the Acts he has deteriorated from the quite clear position that he took up in another place when he said that the Attorney General accepted what had been said in that place to be a theoretically correct statement of the law, that it did exist, was applicable, was in force but was not enforceable.
A particular Deputy—brother of the Leader of my party in this House— correctly says that that antique legislation is the law but I think says incorrectly could be enforced as the law. Could we get clarity on this point? The Minister was entirely correct in what he said in that other place. He was entirely right in agreeing to the proposition that was presented to him by a learned member of the Bar that these were laws applicable in Ireland.
From the learned contributions made in the course of this debate by our colleague, Senator Robinson, who has given many illustrations of how these Acts are regarded as being in force in England for which they were first devised, it is quite clear that the common view of lawyers in England and Ireland is that these are the law and were made such by Poynings Law here with regard to the first three of the proposed repeals.
I am not going to turn to any learned treatise to support the proposition that they are the law but, perhaps, I would be permitted to say—in this I believe I am speaking also for those who carried the burden of the heat of the day here on my left, Senators Kelly and O'Higgins—that the House is indebted to Senator Robinson for her erudite contributions which have added very significantly to the stature of this Assembly. To my surprise, Senator Cranitch, a respected Senator, referred to the differences between tweedledum and tweedledee. That was a Philistine remark from one who would not accept the difference as one between tweedledum and tweedledee if a pupil of his ignored some grammatical correction.
The distinctions which Senator Robinson made here were relevant, precise and expert. Just as we would listen to Senator Cranitch speaking with learning, expertise and skill on his subject and respect him when doing so, he should respect Senator Robinson and those others—excluding myself—who have such learning and expertise on another subject. There is a difference between tweedledum and tweedledee if tweedledum puts you in jail and tweedledee keeps you out. This is precisely what we are doing here. We are enacting legislation which will have this effect according to the language we use. I am not going to depend upon the kind of learning which has been dispensed here for the benefit of the country and the people.
Looking at a very simple textbook, a book which the ordinary solicitor would look at to see if there is anything in the Minister's suggestion which has been made from time to time since he came into this House, and which he did not make in the other, that these laws are not applicable, I quote from O'Connor's Justice of the Peace:
Forcible entry or forcible detainer of lands is an indictable misdemeanour in common law and under various statutes...
He then names the first three contained here:
——and a felony under an Irish statute...
and he then names the fourth of the proposed three to be repealed. I do not think that there is any more than a school debating point involved in the Minister's question that since Senator Robinson thought these Acts were so good, why did she want to repeal them. Our position on that is quite clear. This Bill is to be enacted. It is a bad Bill. It will have to be amended to make it a good Bill, but there is no point at all in leaving the confused situation that you will have if you have any doubt as to whether these old Acts have been impliedly repealed. It is clear that it is not the intention of the legislature that they should continue to be the law; it is clear that they are the law until this Bill is enacted, and it is clear that we should replace them by what the majorities in this Parliament want and at least prevent long, tedious and expensive days in court, which will arise if there is any scope left to anybody to argue that rights are conferred on them by virtue of the provisions of these Acts, of which they have not been deprived by this.
We should at least take up Senator Nash's point about having the ordinary people being in the position of being able to understand what the law is, by letting the ordinary people look at at least one Act, to find out what the law is with regard to forcible entry. They are going to have their difficulties; we have had our difficulties. However, the logic of the whole position is is that these Acts should be repealed. The Minister wants to repeal them anyway. This is the place to repeal them and he is left finally with having to admit, I think rather shamefully, that he is in the position that he cannot listen to views expressed in this House, even if he is convinced that they are right; that he cannot amend a Bill which has come to this House, which is constituted by the Constitution, and which has cast upon it the duty of considering legislation; that he cannot, even if he agrees with something in any one of the many different points that have been made here, do anything about it, or to be more correct, that he will not do anything about it. It is not a question of eight or ten weeks. There are no howling mobs in the street. There are no howling mobs about to go into the streets to do other things, in which we should all like to support him in combating but the mischief designed to be dealt with by this Bill is not a mischief which is going to require the attention of this House, or require legislation to be enacted today, tomorrow or next week. It is quite clear that the reason is that the Minister does not want to go back to the Dáil. That is no reason for rejecting the operations and the deliberations of this House. The burden of his position as Minister should enable him to be prepared courageously to face Dáil Éireann again, if there is anything worthwhile said here which convinces him that he should amend the Bill. He has indicated that there has been at least one thing which has convinced him; he has indicated that there is a second thing which has convinced him, and that is that these Acts should be repealed. He will not repeal them in this Bill because he would have to go back to the Dáil to do so. He should run the gauntlet on that. It is his duty to do so. At any rate I support amendments Nos. 7 and 21, which have been taken together.