Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Outdated laws set for scrapheap

Legislation to stop Catholics carrying guns is one of a number of laws due to be struck out
Legislation to stop Catholics carrying guns is one of a number of laws due to be struck out

Centuries-old laws to stop Catholics carrying guns and rewards to catch bogus slave traders are among ancient and outdated laws being struck out next year.

A review of archaic and obsolete legislation in the latest repeal work has uncovered a string of bizarre regulations designed to keep order.

One is a 1739 order of the Lord Lieutenant, William Cavendish, the Third Duke of Devonshire, which demanded that arms, armour and ammunition be seized by force from "any Papist (or) reputed Papist".

It also states that the order was made to preserve "the public peace and tranquillity of this Kingdom".

Among the 11 laws, orders and regulations so far identified for the scrapheap in the middle of next year is one from King George III who demanded everyone across Britain and Ireland pay respects to the coming Union of 1801.

The masses, or subjects as the regulation states, were ordered to observe "a general fast and humiliation" to avoid "(God's) wrath and indignation" for their sins.

Another is a £200 reward for someone to catch the owners of the Galway-based ship the Charming Sally, who were accused of bringing convicts bound for America to Europe and selling them into foreign armies.

Some others were less clear in their instructions.

One royal order from 1801 demands all Irish ships fly the Red Ensign but it includes a black-and-white diagram of the flag's supposed red, white and blue colour scheme.

The latest work on repealing defunct laws by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform follows the publication of laws being wiped out from pre-independence primary legislation in 2012.

"To date, the programme and its predecessor projects have produced the Statute Law Revision Acts 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2012. These Acts are the culmination of the most extensive statute law revision programme ever undertaken anywhere in the world and the most extensive set of repealing measures in the history of the state," a spokesman for the department said.

Other obsolete laws already identified include a 300-year-old proclamation offering a £500 reward to find the writer of a book of "treasonable libels" against Queen Anne called Honest Resolves which was left in a coffee house in Dublin.

There was also £20 being offered to find "some idle and disorderly persons" who sneaked into the Phoenix Park after dark and killed one of the "King's deer".

Begging was an issue centuries ago, with a Lord Mayor stating beggars should be brought to workhouses and made to do hard labour, while the penalty for unlicensed begging in Dublin was to be "tied to the end of a cart and whipped till his body be bloody".

Others included a crackdown on swearing, gambling and the sale of commodities on the Sabbath and a 1764 proclamation in the manhunt for a Kilkenny-based gang known as the "White Boys".

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