Wednesday, 17 July 1991
Seanad Éireann Debate
Mr. Staunton: This is a very simple Bill  which has been put before the House by the solicitor of Jeremy Altamont, Mr. Michael Egan of Egan and Company, Solicitors, Castlebar, County Mayo. It deals with a succession issue which is explained in the Explanatory Memorandum which has been circulated to Members.
There is an anomaly in this situation. In October 1963, Jeremy Altamont entered into a family settlement. As was customary at that time, it contained a provision that his eldest sons would succeed to the Sligo Estate of which Westport House forms part. The problem is that this man has a wife and five daughters but no son. Because of this settlement he is not in a position to make provision for them during his lifetime.
Similar anomalies arose across the water and these were dealt with some years ago in an Act entitled the Variation of Trusts Act which gave powers to settlers to set aside, if necessary, the terms of such trusts. Unfortunately, in this country there is no similar legislation. Having regard to natural justice, the man in question wanted to make reasonable contemporary provision for his wife and daughters and found that there were two ways of doing this; the first would be to seek to have a Bill introduced in Ireland, but given the unusual circumstances and that it would apply to so few people he was advised by the Attorney General's Office that it was extremely unlikely that the State would agree to the introduction of general legislation. At that stage his solicitor, Michael Egan in Castlebar, having looked at the Standing Orders of the Dáil and Seanad Relative to Private Business, took the view that a private Bill could be promoted. That is what this matter is all about.
I will not go into the intricacies of the Bill. Our function is a simple one. If we agreed in broad outline to the Bill on Second Stage, it would need the approval of the Dáil and if the Dáil approved, a Joint Committee of the Dáil and Seanad would be established to look at the intricacies of the matter.
I live in Westport and I am a close neighbour of Jeremy Altamont. He  comes from a family who have made a very substantial contribution to the development of Westport, especially in the tourism sector. I can tell the House, as his solicitor has done in the documentation circulated, that about 60,000 day visitors go to Westport House every year and up to 20,000 people stay on the property annually. A major factor in the tourism development in Westport in recent years has been the building of an 18-hole championship golf course promoted by the Westport Golf Club and Bord Fáilte. The family of Jeremy Altamont, who have always been very interested in local affairs, made available about 230 acres of land for the sum of about £17,000 in 1973. They are held in very high regard in my area.
One might ask why there should be a private Bill for this individual. Under our Constitution any citizen has the right to seek redress through a private Bill. I do not know that he would be seeking to have this Bill passed but for the advice of his solicitor. He finds himself in an unusual legal situation and cannot get redress in any other manner. For that reason I have pleasure in supporting this Bill and recommending it to my colleagues on all sides of this House.
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