A Flood of Light?: Comments on the Interpretation Act 2005
Judicial Studies Institute Journal, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 92-139, 2006
48 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2007
The Interpretation Act 2005 consolidates previous legislation and contains some new provisions inspired by a Law Reform Commission report. These may bring about a subtle but significant change in the methods of statutory interpretation. However, the Act is silent on the permissibility of extrinsic aids in interpretation, particularly parliamentary debates, traditionally prohibited by the exclusionary rule. This should indicate that the prohibition continues but an examination of the debates on the 2005 Act shows that the Oireachtas does not have a clear understanding of practice in the courts.
This article considers the impact of the Act, tracing the development of the traditional and modern approaches to interpretation. Placing these issues in a comparative context, it pays particular attention to the use of parliamentary history in light of English developments, European trends and recent Irish case law. It concludes that the Act requires the courts to take a more purposive approach to the interpretation of legislation but that in this instance, because the Oireachtas misunderstood practice, their desire to permit use of parliamentary debates is not reflected in the language of the Act.
Keywords: statutory interpretation, separation of powers, judiciary, legislature, legislation, exclusionary rule, parliamentary history
JEL Classification: K40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation