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Tithes, penal law and Famine in scope of statutory revision
Part of the famine sculpture at IFSC in Dublin 1 by sculptor Rowan Gillespie PIc: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

09 Mar 2022 / LRC Print

Tithe, penal, and famine law in scope of statute revision

The Law Reform Commission has launched its public consultation on statutory and prerogative instruments made between 1821 and 1860. 

The initiative comes through the LRC’s Statute Law Revision Programme (SLRP), which is the national programme to identify and remove obsolete and spent primary and secondary legislation from Ireland’s legislative stock.

Since its establishment in 2005, the SLRP has produced six Statute Law Revision Acts

Following SLRP research, the LRC is recommending the removal of over 3,000 statutory and prerogative instruments that have ceased to have effect or have become unnecessary.

River Shannon boundaries

Just two instruments from this period need to be kept on the statute book, which relate to boundaries on the river Shannon, and remain valid.

The LRC believes that, as well as contributing to legislative clarity in Ireland, the instruments will be a useful resource for historians – both amateur and professional.

The period of review spans the Tithe War, Catholic Emancipation, and the Great Famine.

The SLRP has concluded its consultation with Government departments and other key stakeholders, and now invites the public and interested parties for any views they may have on the proposals.

The public consultation runs until  5 April.

‘Modern statute book’

Michael McGrath (Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform), who will sponsor the bill through the Oireachtas, said: “I welcome the next phase in the Statute Law Revision Programme, which will ensure a modern and accessible statute book in Ireland.

“Since it began its work in 2005, the programme has repealed the vast majority of primary legislation made before the foundation of the State.

“I encourage all interested stakeholders to engage in this public consultation process, which is a key element in developing the latest Statute Law Revision Bill, which will repeal instruments made between 1821 and 1860. This is also an invaluable resource for historians and contributes to our knowledge of our own history and development.”

Revocation recommendations

  • Instruments recommended for revocation include:
  • Proclamation prohibiting Daniel O’Connell’s monster meeting in Clontarf,
  • Orders for prayers and fasts for the abatement of cholera, relief from crop failure and to give thanks for abundant harvests,
  • Orders promoting piety and virtue,
  • Orders imposing quarantine on cholera-afflicted ships,
  • Regulations establishing a Board of Health,
  • Proclamations giving currency to new coinage,
  • Warrants appointing certain places of confinement for transportation,
  • Warrants regulating postage duties, and
  • Orders amending county boundaries.

Rewards for suspected criminals

Of particular interest to local and family historians will be the 2,503 proclamations offering rewards for apprehending suspected criminals around the island of Ireland. To optimise local research, the SLRP has categorised these by county. The county with by far the most recorded proclamations is Tipperary, with 426.

The county with the fewest is Kerry, with 15. The county of Dublin had 71 proclamations. 

The proclamations relate to all forms of criminal activity such as: 

  • Waylaying, robbing, attacking, wounding, and murder,
  • Severe, inhumane and unmerciful beatings,
  • Causing death by throwing stones or with blows to the head with a pitchfork,
  • Setting fire to houses, out-houses, cow-houses, hayricks, barns, and oat-mills,
  • Breaking eggs, posting threatening notices regarding land, voting and potatoes, and
  • Beatings with sticks and stones and nettles.

Centenary celebrations

The results of the public consultation process will be considered before the final version of a new Statute Law Revision Bill is published. It is hoped to enact the bill this year, the centenary of the foundation of the State.

Further work will be required to complete the review of statutory instruments from 1861 to 1922.

Project manager Fiona Carroll (small picture) said: “This has been a large undertaking, and follows three years of intensive research completed by talented and dedicated full-time researchers. 

“We are very pleased to bring this project to the public-consultation stage. Following completion of the consultation, we look forward to the progress of the Statute Law Revision Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas.”

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