I move: "That the Legal Practitioners (Qualification) Bill, 1928" do now pass. In doing so, I wish to make one or two remarks. When this Bill was introduced it was stated that I was guilty of discourtesy in not consulting with the legal profession. I referred to that matter on the Second Reading of the Bill, but I would like to refer to it again. I stated then that I submitted I had no right to go to the legal profession in connection with this matter until the question had been decided by the House. If I went as an ordinary Deputy I would have had no locus standi, and consequently I was awaiting the Second Reading of the Bill. During the course of the Second Reading I had a discussion with the then President of the Incorporated Law Society and with the Secretary. Then, after the Bill had gone through the Committee Stage, I wrote a letter to the new President of the Incorporated Law Society, sending a copy of the Bill and explaining what changes had been made in it in Committee Stage. In that letter I also stated:
Whilst I believe that the promoters have gone as far as could have been reasonably expected to meet the wishes of all concerned, yet, if you desire to make any representations on the subject matter of the Bill I would be glad to make arrangements for a discussion between representatives of your body and some of the promoters of the measure with a view to securing full co-operation in putting the terms of the Bill into effect when it becomes law.
Subsequently I had an interview with the President of the Incorporated Law Society, and I understand that he brought the matter before the Council of the Society. Evidently the Council of the Society decided that the subject was of great importance, and they called a general meeting of that body. The decision arrived at was read on the last occasion by Deputy Hennessy, when he read the resolution which was passed at that meeting. Since then I understand that every member of the House has been provided with a copy of a statement by the Society.
I should like to refer to the subject matter of that circular. It states that the Incorporated Law Society considered the question of supreme importance. I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Bill was introduced originally on 12th October, and that nothing definite was done by the Incorporated Law Society in connection with it until 8th February, four months afterwards, when a meeting was called by the Society. The circular states that meeting of the Society was representative of the profession in all parts of the Free State. I should like to say that we are not in a position to check that statement. So far as I am aware the names of those present at the meeting were not published. Therefore, one is not able to say whether the attendance was as representative as it is stated to have been. Notwithstanding that, we get a good deal of useful information from the meeting and from the circular. We are told that the total number of practising solicitors in the Saorstát is 977, and that of that number those who are members of the Incorporated Law Society total 646. The circular does not state the number that attended this special meeting. Evidently that information was left out so as to convey the idea that it was a very representative meeting. We are fortunate in the fact, however, that Deputy Dr. Hennessy let the cat out of the bag when he told us the last day that the total number present at the meeting was 118. That means that of the members of the Incorporated Law Society 528 did not attend, as well, of course, as the 331 solicitors who are not members of the Society. Therefore, the number of those who had nothing to do with the meeting and who, we may assume, approve the terms of this Bill, or in any case were not sufficiently opposed to it to take any definite action, amounts to 859.