Government’s world record . . . for abolishing obsolete laws

Overhaul of archaic legislation to be paused to progress other priorities, says Minister

The 2015 Statute Law Revision Act expunged 6,000 obsolete laws proclamations, directions and orders made in the 800 years before 1821. File photograph: David Sleator

The 2015 Statute Law Revision Act expunged 6,000 obsolete laws proclamations, directions and orders made in the 800 years before 1821. File photograph: David Sleator

 

When it comes to at least one area of reform, the Government has had remarkable success. In fact, it has claimed to have achieved a world record – in conjunction with previous governments – for its ability to rid the statute book of obsolete laws.

More than 60,000 pieces of legislation “have been either expressly or implicitly repealed” in a reform programme which started in 2003, according to Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe

“Collectively this is the most extensive set of repealing measures in the history of the State and the most extensive set of statute law revision measures ever enacted anywhere in the world,” he said.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan had asked the Minister in a written parliamentary question if he would keep funding the overhaul of obsolete laws after the sixth and latest piece of revision legislation is passed.

The Minister declined his request because he plans to pause the programme in light of the progress made, “in order that my Department can progress other priorities”.

The latest Statute Law Revision Bill is currently going through the Oireachtas. It was agreed by the previous government just before February’s general election and will expunge almost 300 Bills enacted between 1922 and 1950 and now deemed out of date or irrelevant.

They include the repeal of the 1923 Public Safety (Emergency Powers) Act from the Irish Civil War which imposed the death penalty or penal servitude for anyone found guilty of an armed revolt against the government of Saorstát Éireann.

The Griffith Settlement Act of the same year granted pensions to members of Sinn Féin founder Arthur Griffith’s immediate family after he died.

Declaring their faithfulness

Ten years later there was the Constitution (Removal of Oath) Act, which repealed Article 22 of the Free State Constitution requiring TDs and Senators to swear an oath “declaring their faithfulness to His Majesty King George V and his heirs and successors”.

The 2015 Statute Law Revision Act expunged 6,000 obsolete laws proclamations, directions and orders made in the 800 years before 1821.

Among those was a 1533 proclamation prohibiting criticism of the marriage of Henry VIII to his second wife, Anne Boleyn, after he divorced Catherine of Aragon.

The 2015 legislation also revoked an 1817 proclamation that the consumption of potatoes and oatmeal should be kept for the “lower orders”.

And it did away with a 1618 proclamation ordering the Irish to depart with all their belongings from lands given to planters during the Plantation of Ulster.

Mr O’Callaghan also asked if the Minister believed it was important in light of Brexit that Ireland continue to delete archaic and unnecessary laws as it “may be the only remaining common law country in the EU”.

Mr Donohoe said, however, that common law would continue to be the basis of the legal system of Ireland and neither the programme to revise laws nor Brexit had any bearing on this.

“Ireland has functioned successfully as a common law country within the EU since it joined in 1973 and I see no reason why this should not continue.”