Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 6 May 1969

Vol. 240 No. 4

Committee on Finance. - Curragh of Kildare Bill, 1968: Committee and Final Stages.

Sections 1 to 5, inclusive, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete the words "twenty pounds" where they occur and substitute where they first occur "one pound per day for each sheep" and where they secondly occur to substitute "one pound per sheep".

The purpose of this amendment is to make it quite clear that a person who brings sheep illegally on to the Curragh will do so in such a way that it will be quite certain he will not gain a benefit from it. Twenty pounds for three or four months for 100 sheep or so would be the cheapest possible grazing. There is in the section provision for a continuing offence but I think that is a continuing offence after the conviction. If it meant that on the consideration of any prosecution it could be considered as a continuing offence before the conviction, I would not have the same objection.

I object to the amendment because, if it were accepted, it would mean that one would have to be sure of the exact number of sheep involved. That would mean having to count the number of sheep on the Curragh. If there were 6,000 sheep there it would be practically impossible to be sure how many trespassers there were. If somebody was taken to court for having ten sheep trespassing and he could prove that there were nine or 11 it could possibly mean that the case would be thrown out. Anybody who deals with sheep knows that it is hard to be accurate. This would involve a lot of extra work. It would mean taking all the sheep through the pens and counting them.

It is £20 for 500 or £20 for two. There is some logic in the amendment, is there not? I am sorry, Deputy.

As I understand the amendment, it is for each sheep trespassing on the Curragh. In the Bill, whether a person has one sheep or 500 sheep, it is the same. It may seem unfair but one must look at the practical end of it, at how the regulation is to be implemented. If it is not as it is set out in the Bill I feel it would cause a good deal of trouble because it is very hard to be definite where numbers of sheep are concerned.

On the Second Stage of this Bill we had a long discussion on this and it was alleged, and was not contradicted, that up to 3,000 sheep had been illegally put on the Curragh. It struck me when Deputy Sweetman put down this amendment that if they were to be fined £1 per day per sheep for 2,000 or 3,000 sheep it would be £2,000 or £3,000 per day, a pretty hefty fine. I would not go along with Deputy Crinion's argument at all because as Deputy Corish interjected, this simply means that if a man is going to break the law at all he will break it in a big way. There is no point in putting in a couple of dozen sheep if you can put in 2,000 or 3,000 for the same fine. As far as the question of having to take them through the pens in order to count them is concerned, Deputy Crinion knows there is an easier way of counting sheep than that and I think the short cut would be taken in a case like this.

Deputy Crinion's objection is that he would fall asleep over it.

I forgot that. It is not a question of how many sheep there are. The deterrent is what counts and I think the ultimate deterrent is making the fine big enough to frighten people who apparently have been bullying their way on to the Curragh for free grazing while others have been paying their way.

I do not think that would be a deterrent. We must remember there are four people on the Curragh—the maor and his three assistants.

If the Minister for Local Government hears about that he will do away with him too.

I know that this leaves it open and that a person can be fined the same amount for having 1,000 sheep trespassing as a person who has ten or 20, but we must look at it this way. The Act was contravened on a technicality three or four years ago. I would say that there would be a grave danger that we could not get a prosecution through if we did not have the exact number of sheep.

Deputy Crinion would be wise not to rely on his interpretation of the law in the hope of avoiding a conviction. Of course, it is quite clear that when the maor or the deputy maor brings up the person concerned, he will have to prove that there were at least so many sheep belonging to that person. At present a man out of a cottage who put a couple of sheep on the Curragh would be penalised in exactly the same amount as a person who put 300, 400 or 500 sheep on the Curragh, and that is bad legislation.

Much would depend on how the district justice would deal with the case of a man with three sheep as distinct from someone with 1,000 sheep. The penalties proposed in section 6 of the Bill, as introduced, are maximum penalties and if the district justice would, on conviction, impose the maximum penalties specified, I think that would suffice.

I think that would be a sufficient deterrent to illegal graziers. They would also have to pay costs.

I appreciate that a Meath man understands cattle and not sheep.

I have more sheep than the Deputy ever had.

How does the Deputy know?

I am unable to accept the proposed amendment and I move that the section stand part of the Bill. If it should transpire that the deterrent is not sufficient I will have the matter looked at again.

Does it not make £20 the maximum deterrent on any prosecution?

The Deputy's amendment is to make it £1 per day for each sheep. If a person had 1,000 sheep grazing illegally on the Curragh that would mean a fine of £1,000 per day. My advice is that such a fine would be in danger of being held to be un-constiutional for a summary offence.

Fair enough.

That is the position as it has been indicated to me. I am proposing that the section as drafted stand part of the Bill.

Does the Minister agree that £20 is the maximum fine as it is at present?

That is correct—for a single offence.

No matter how many days the sheep are there?

No, there is provision for a continuing offence.

After conviction or before?

Before, as I understand it.

It could be £20 for each day the sheep are there?

For each offence.

If it is for each day I am not so fussed.

It is for each day.

We will see how it goes.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 6 agreed to.
Sections 7 to 9, inclusive, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.

I should be glad to have it now if there is no objection.

I have no objection. I thought the Minister would like to introduce amendments as a result of the deputation he met today.

No. They did not ask for any. They were quite satisfied with their reception.

Deputy Crinion was trying to score off Deputy Boylan.

They had no faith in Deputy Sweetman after his Second Reading speech.

On the contrary. I met them this morning. I did not wait until the afternoon.

Bill received for final consideration and passed.

The Dáil adjourned at 10 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 7th May, 1969.