The Minister for Home Affairs has hinted at the real matter that is raised on this amendment, and I think we may as well face it. That is, whether the Executive for the time being—and essentially and necessarily a political Executive— should have the right to review, on their own initiative, the decisions of the Courts. I think that is really the issue that is being raised by the second amendment sent down from the Seanad. I find myself torn between two or three conflicting principles. One is a very earnest desire to protect the Courts from interference by the Executive, and to prevent the risk of the Executive, at any time, unduly interfering with the decisions of the courts. Now I see that while claiming that that is the purpose of the Seanad in sending down this amendment a second time, there is something more involved, and I am going to take the risk of saying that they want to raise the position of the Governor-General to that of an Officer of State who has in his keeping the prerogative of mercy. Well, I am not going to do anything to enhance that Officer's position, and in the circumstances of the country and the time, and in view of the general constitutional position that we have attained, and are hoping to attain, I prefer we should clearly recognise that that prerogative is exercised by the Executive for the time being, and that in so far as any other Officer of State nominally exercises that prerogative, it is done on the advice of the Executive Council. If in this Bill, read in conjunction with previous enactments, the Minister for the time being has that prerogative, then I am prepared to take the risk and leave it with him rather than enhance the position, in the State, of the Governor-General.
But the amendment in itself raises the question—and the Attorney-General touched upon it—of the folly of imposing upon magistrates and justices the obligation to impose a minimum sentence. The Seanad, while readily and enthusiastically endorsing that proposal, desires to suggest that any recommendation for the remission of the sentence, which they have been obliged to impose, shall be made at the same time as the penalty is imposed. I have never been able to understand the course of justice when reading reports of Excise cases and smuggling cases, in which I read that a fine of £100 is imposed and remitted to 15s., and a fine of £200 imposed, of which £199 is remitted, and similar follies. Apparently, that view of legal procedure commended itself to the Dáil when they sent this Bill forward to the Seanad, and it also commended itself to the Seanad. But having approved of that method of imposing penalties, they desire to insert an amendment which suggests that recommendations for the reduction of the penalty must be made at the time the sentence is imposed. I am not going to insist in maintaining such a foolish statute, or in re-enacting such a statute, especially when we are led to understand that any value that was expected to be obtained from the passing of this Bill has been lost. We were told on the introduction of the Bill that it was preliminary to a recasting of the code in respect of fishery laws, and that it was required to meet the then existing spawning season, and must be made law before January was out. Well, we are in March now, and I take it that the value of the Bill, such as it was, is passed, and, therefore, not much will be lost by returning the Bill to the Seanad with the intimation that we do not agree with their amendment. Under the circumstances I intend to support the motion of the Minister for Fisheries.