§ MR. SHEEHAN (Cork County, Mid)
To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that at the recent hearing, at Macroom petty sessions, of some cases of alleged assault against a number of young girls from Ballingeary, the presiding magistrate was Mr. O'Hara, resident magistrate; will he say if Mr. O'Hara was formally moved to the chair by his brother magistrates, or if he took it as if it were a right appertaining to his position as resident magistrate; does any such right exist; and, if not, will an instruction be issued to Irish resident magistrates that they should not take the chair at petty sessions unless they are moved to it by their brother magistrates in the usual course.
(Answered by Mr. Birrell.) I am informed that there was no formal moving to the chair on the occasion mentioned, but Mr. O'Hara was asked to take it by the majority of the magistrates present at the opening of the court. A resident magistrate is not chairman of petty sessions by virtue of his office. It rests with the magistrates present at each court of petty sessions to select one of their number as chairman, but whether by a formal vote or by general concurrence is a matter entirely for themselves. Mr. O'Hara informs me that he has never assumed a right to take the chair, and I have no information that any other resident magistrate has claimed such a right. In the circumstances there does not appear to be any reason for issuing instructions in the matter.