DISTRICT JUSTICES (TEMPORARY PROVISIONS) BILL. - SECOND STAGE.

Motion made, and question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a second time."

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

At present to keep ourselves in order we will take up the Second Stage of the District Justices (Temporary Provisions) Bill, and the motion before the Seanad is that the Bill be now read a second time.

Before you put the motion, of course it is quite obvious that my hon. friend is quite right in raising a question on a point of order. We cannot conduct our business with any sort of satisfaction if the procedure under which we have been conducting the work is persisted in. Now, we are supposed to exercise some sort of intelligent criticism on the various measures sent up to us. Some of us received some time ago an Agenda setting out that certain measures would be laid before us to-day. At the last minute we find that this has been changed, through no fault of our executive official, and the result is that we are in a condition of some confusion. I hope that in future we will have order and regularity in our proceedings, so that Senators, who have other engagements and various other matters to arrange, may have some idea as to what claims are likely to be made on their time here. I think to-day that we are to discuss the Second Reading of this Temporary Provisions Bill, to which there are some amendments. I do not know if we are going to take up the Local Government Bill.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

We can safely read that a second time.

With regard to the Electoral Bill, we cannot possibly deal with that to-day.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Except we give it a Second Reading.

With regard to the Bill to make provision for the late President Griffith's family on the Order Paper, that Bill ought to be passed through all its stages. That is the least tribute we can pay to the memory of a very great man. Regarding the National Holiday Bill, that can be introduced. I think it is only right, having regard to our own position, that we should insist that some kind of order and regularity should be observed in connection with our proceedings if we are to perform our functions with any degree of intelligence.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

The motion is: That the District Justices (Temporary Provisions) Bill be read a second time.

I desire to refer——

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Senator Moore's amendments will not, of course, come on now. They will come on when we are dealing with them in Committee. At present we are dealing with a motion that the Bill be read a second time. Unless Senator Moore is moving the rejection of the Bill he is not in order; he cannot move amendments now.

I would not be in order in moving amendments, but I suppose I can advocate the passing of the Bill.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Certainly. I thought that you thought that this was the time for moving amendments.

I would like to ask the Minister, who is here, if all the offices of the Clerks of Petty Sessions are abolished, and if they are getting any compensation, or if they are entitled to any pension. I think it would help us in discussing the matter if the Minister would tell us how they stand. I believe there are some two hundred of these people, or, rather, there were before this present state of affairs came about. Their number will be reduced to some thirty or forty owing to the services of the others having been dispensed with. Therefore, there will be about one hundred and fifty of these people all over Ireland out of employment.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

That is where the difficulty comes in in assuming that these things will occur in regard to a temporary measure of this sort. In so far as we have considered this matter in the Judiciary Committee, it is by no means certain—in fact, it is highly improbable—that the result the Senator anticipates will flow. At present you must remember that the number of District Justices that have been appointed is very small—quite inadequate, in fact, to what will be required if the system is to be adopted generally throughout the Free State. The existing number are only such as have been appointed to carry out the temporary duties in districts in which it is possible to do so. If it becomes an accepted part of our judicial system the number required will be greatly in excess of our present number, and, consequently, those officials Senator Moore is interested in may not be dispensed with at all. That will depend, of course, upon the extent to which the Judiciary Committee may make recommendations and the extent to which those recommendations may be approved in this or the other House.

That clears the matter to a certain extent, but meanwhile those people have received notices of dismissal, and some of them are in very bad financial condition. Some of them have written to me saying they are starving, and do not see any way out, and do not know what their position is. I dare say the matter can be quite easily explained. If the Minister would give us some idea as to what is the state of affairs in connection with these people it would help us very much in considering the Bill.

I got notice of two questions from Senator Colonel Moore on this matter, and I will answer them now. The first question is: "Would the Minister state the number of Court Districts in County Mayo, and have the District Court Clerks for that county been already appointed?" The number of Court Districts in County Mayo may be expected to be about twenty. The precise number cannot be stated until the scheme of Court Districts required by the Bill to be made has been completed. Up to the present the old Petty Sessions Districts have only been tentatively grouped. The second question: "Were there some two hundred Petty Sessions Clerks, and have they all been dismissed by one sweeping order, with the result that some are in great destitution, and will any compensation be granted them?" Answer: All the disbanded Petty Sessions Clerks are entitled to compensation under the Treaty, and these pensions are in course of calculation by the Ministry of Finance, which is the Ministry responsible for this matter. The Petty Sessions Clerks' office was abolished, but the Petty Sessions Clerk is not ineligible for appointment to the position of Clerk to the District Sessions Court.

I think the question raised has reference to a different matter. I gather from the remarks made by you (Cathaoirleach) that you assume that Senator Colonel Moore was interested in Justices.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Oh, no, certainly not. I quite understood what Senator Colonel Moore meant. What I meant to point out to Senator Colonel Moore is this—it is quite possible, and I would go so far as to say probable, that a great many of these Petty Sessions Clerks will be continued in the position of Clerks to the new Justices if the scheme of appointing District Justices is developed and extended. At present it is only in an experimental stage. I may mention that none of the Justices holding office has any tenure at all. They have been appointed purely provisionally and temporarily.

I am not referring to the appointment of Justices, but to the question of Petty Sessions Clerks that Senator Colonel Moore raised. I think on the whole this is a good measure, and I am inclined to support it. But the administration of this Bill will very largely depend upon the people who hold the position of Clerks, or whatever you like to call them, in these new Courts. What I would submit is that, whether the present occupants have pensions or not—I take it that some of them are pensionable, probably a number of them are pensionable, and a number of them are not pensionable on account of their period of service and so forth—I think it important for the administration of law in this country that you should have people who to some extent are conversant with the routine. Anybody who has attended Courts under the old regime will know how much depends upon the efficient carrying out of routine matters. I hope that the Government will not be in too great a hurry to dispense with the services of trained men, men who can give great assistance in the matter of the application of the law—I am not saying of the administration of the law. That is a matter for the Justices, but in the details as to precedent and in finding references to the statutes and so forth, in the old days some Petty Sessions Clerks—at all events, those certainly with whom I have been in contact—were very efficient. The Seanad will, I am sure, agree with me that a great deal depends upon the knowledgeable exercise of the functions of those Courts, and I therefore hope that the Government will not be in too great a hurry to dispense with the practical experience of trained men. The appointment of District Justices is a good proposal, and their duties must be defined. The rearrangement of the country into Petty Sessions Districts is a matter that may usefully be taken in hands, and that must be done to suit the convenience of the various localities as far as possible and to suit their facilities for communication so as to bring these Courts within easy reach of the greatest possible number of those who are likely to use them. I have already referred to Section 5. Of course, we know the Civic Guard must act in the place of the Royal Irish Constabulary. As to the matter of the increase of Petty Sessions fees, I would say that if people are foolish enough to go to law there is no reason why the State should not benefit to some extent, and I see no reason why the State should not get a little more money out of them. Obviously Clause 8 is necessary. You must have the acts that have been done, the decisions that have been reached, during the period of this practical interregnum confirmed. You must have some stability somewhere. Therefore Clause 8 is useful. The Adaptation of Enactments and so forth are obviously necessary. I think this is a useful Bill. The only point I would like to make is that I hope that experience in the administration of this Bill will not be lost sight of, and will be utilised as far as it can legitimately be utilised.

Question, "That the Bill be read a Second Time," put and agreed to.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Is it the wish of the Seanad, in view of the fact that this Bill has been in their hands for some time, that we should proceed with the Committee Stage?

Agreed.