Crazy Irish Laws past and present

Posted: by July 27th, 2009

Buying or selling a new home can be a legal minefield, not made any easier by some of the madness proposed by the government. We’ve collected a few of the craziest and funniest laws in the Republic and  Northern Ireland.  Most of these have been repealed – but a couple of the more recent ones still exist!

Egg Checkpoints


The Marketing of Eggs Act. (Northern Ireland)  (active)

The marketing of Eggs Act -1957 states that an “officer of the Ministry, duly authorised by the Ministry in that behalf either generally or in respect of a particular occasion, shall have power to examine eggs in transit. ”

Turns out that even before the Troubles kicked off, the average Joe still couldn’t get from A to B without being stopped at a checkpoint.  Quite right we say – how else would we keep those egg-toting maniacs in check?!

Stop that Spud!


The Marketing of Potatoes Act. (Northern Ireland)  1964 (active)

In Ireland when it comes to potatoes it’s a case of once bitten, twice shy.  Last time there was a shortage of spuds half the country upped sticks and headed Stateside so it’s no real surprise the Northern Ireland government is keen to keep those ‘balls of flour’ under close scrutiny!

The Marketing of Potatoes Act states that “A constable may seize and may detain in custody any potatoes which are being or which are suspected by such an officer or constable of being, sent out of Northern Ireland…and have been presented to an authorised officer for inspection at such convenient place and at such convenient time as the Ministry may from time to time appoint;”

Small wonder our prisons are bursting at the seams; they’re all full of runaway potatoes caught trying to make a break for it…

Cinema Screams.


The Cinemas (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 (active)

Even those of us old enough to remember the days when shopping centres didn’t open on a Sunday might be surprised to hear that it is technically illegal to go to the cinema on a Sunday in Northern Ireland!

Exodus 20, verse 8; “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”, forms the background of the Sunday Observance Act (Ireland) 1695 whose long title describes it as being “an Act for the better observation of and keeping holy the Lord’s day commonly called Sunday”.  The 1695 Act remains in force in Northern Ireland, unlike the equivalent 1677 statute in England and Wales which has since been repealed.  The Sunday observation act is used in several places within the Cinemas (Northern Ireland) Order 1991.

It contains gems such as:

“…and for the better preventing persons assembling on the Lord’s Day for such irreligious purposes ….tickets sold for money, and any person printing or publishing any such advertisement, shall respectively forfeit the sum of fifty pounds for every such offence to any person who will sue for the same.”

No more Sunday trips to the local Omniplex for us.

“Jaysus, Mary and Dermot!”


The Defamation Act 2009 (active)

In an interesting return to the Middle Ages, Irish president Mary McAleese recently signed into law the Irish Defamation Act 2009, including clauses that make it illegal to say anything “that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion; and he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage”.

Outraged human rights activists and atheists vowed to test the law by deliberately releasing blasphemous statements and even set up a Facebook group to garner support for their mission.

The rest of us, meanwhile, should be pleased to hear that in an act of selfless generosity, TD Dermot Ahern did cut the fine for blasphemy from €100,000 to a measly €25,000.  Jaysus, sure isn’t that a bargain!

Cappuccino, anyone?


Adulteration Of Coffee Act 1718. (repealed)

Next time you sit down to enjoy a steaming cup of freshly-brewed Nescafe, make sure you’ve got your olfactory wits about you.

Considering some of the useless and utterly outdated laws that the Government has failed to repeal over the years, it seems incredible that they did see fit to scrap the Adulteration of Coffee Act.  The Act issued a penalty of 20 pounds “against divers evil-disposed persons who at the time or soon after roasting of coffee, make use of water, grease, butter, or such like material whereby the same is made unwholesome and greatly increased in weight, to the prejudice of His Majesty’s Revenue, the health of his subjects, and to the loss of all fair and honest dealers.”

It also famously made it illegal to debase coffee for profit or adulterate it with things such as sheep dung. The Act was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1958. So next time your coffee tastes a bit funny, you know why.

Free booze for life.


The Tippling Act 1735 (repealed)
The Tippling Act 1735 prohibited a publican from pursuing a customer for money owed for any drink given on credit.

The law was aimed at stopping landlords demanding ale money owed to them by servants who in turn resorted to robbing their masters to pay their debts.  Presumably those same landlords eventually made the Government realise that this basically gave peasants a licence to drink for free, at which point the law was repealed.  Which, unless you’re the owner of a pub, is a damn shame.

Jackass no more.


The Dangerous Performances Act (1897) (repealed)

This repeal of this act put an unfortunate end to the Victorian equivalent of Jackass. The new statute put a damper on feckless showmen staging acts such as live tiger wrestling – or human bear hugging Performances which sometimes ended up in the ringside punters getting eaten. Entertainment will never be the same.



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