Written Answers. - Civil Liability Act.

479.

asked the Minister for Justice if the relatives of the victims of the Bundoran fire tragedy at the Central Hotel in August 1980 could be brought under the amended Civil Liability Act, 1961, as is the case with the Stardust victims, so as to provide them with a more reasonable level of compensation.

Limerick East): I assume that what the Deputy has in mind is the level of compensation that may be claimed for mental distress, the figure for which was increased by the Courts Act, 1981, with effect from 15 October 1980, the date of publication of the Act as a Bill. The 1981 Act made no change in the law as regards other amounts that may be awarded in fatal injury cases such as for loss of pecuniary benefit, medical or funeral expenses etc.

It will be appreciated that what is involved here is legislation giving rights to some members of the public against others and there are strong objections of principle to making such legislation retrospective though obviously it was considered by the Oireachtas to be permissible to make the change effective from the date of publication of the Bill rather than the date of its enactment. I am not aware of any defensible grounds for choosing any particular earlier date and, if any such date were selected, it seems clear that other people could with equal validity claim to have a still earlier date fixed and, apart from anything else, a serious issue of discrimination would arise.