Maynooth College, Trustees of v Commissioner of Valuation

CourtHigh Court
Judgment Date31 July 1958
Date31 July 1958

High Court.

Maynooth College v. Commissioner of Valuation
THE COMMISSIONER OF VALUATION,Respondent, And in the Matter of the Valuation of the Rateable Hereditaments

Rates - Rating - Charitable purposes - St. Patrick's College, Maynooth - National Seminary of Ireland - Freedom from external control - Rateability - Whether lands and buildings dedicated to or used for public purposes - Whether buildings used exclusively for charitable purposes - Poor Relief (Ir.) Act, 1838 (1 & 2 Vict. c. 56), s. 63 - Valuation (Ir.) Act, 1852 (15 & 16 Vict., c. 63), s. 16 - Valuation (Ir.) Act, 1854 (17 & 18 Vict., c. 8), s. 2.

Case Stated.

The material facts as they appear from the Case Stated are as follows:—

From its establishment in 1795 to the present date, except for a short period of years from 1800 to 1817, when a Lay School was specially set up and separately housed and maintained, Maynooth College has catered exclusively for clerical students. It was and is impressed with an exclusively Church character.

From its establishment in 1795 down to 1870 it was not an independent institution. The State, through the Lord Lieutenant, appointed its Trustees, Visitors and Auditors and all its statutes had to have his approval, directly or negatively, before being brought into effect. It received annual grants of varying amounts of money from the Treasury, and the Commissioners of Public Works planned, built and repaired its building, etc. Its revenue and expenditure was subject to Government audit.

By virtue of the Act of 26th June, 1869, all State supervision of its affairs and accounts ceased, and the College thereupon became an independent educational institution. Under the same Act it was paid by the State a capital sum representing fourteen years' purchase of the annual parliamentary grants then being received by its Trustees for College purposes. Since that date no grants of money from either the United Kingdom or Saorstat Eireann or Irish Republic Parliaments have been made to it. It is now, and has been since 1870, free from all external control as regards its government, teaching and finance. One of the first steps taken by the Trustees after the passage into law of the recited Act was to require payment of the full pension from all of the students entering the College after July, 1869.

The College is confined to male students only—lady students are not acceptable or accepted.

Only male candidates professing the Catholic religion are eligible and accepted as students of the College.

Only male candidates studying for ordination as priests of the Catholic Church in Ireland are acceptable and accepted.

Only male candidates possessing nominations from one of the Irish Catholic Archbishops or Bishops are eligible and accepted as students.

No person has a legal right to claim or to be entitled to admission as a student of the College. Its lectures are not open to the public.

Its Trustees today are the Catholic Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland. No State or lay representative has a seat on the governing body.

Since 1910 it is a recognised College of the National University of Ireland, and as such shares since 1950 to the extent of £15,000 in the annual Parliamentary grant for the National University of Ireland. Such recognition is confined to it in respect of those of its students in its Faculties of Arts, Philosophy, Celtic Studies and Science, who are qualifying to receive Degrees in those Faculties from the National University of Ireland. The recognition does not extend to its Theological Faculty or to Faculties other than those mentioned. This recognition is limited to terms of four years' duration and may be withdrawn at any time by the Senate of the National University of Ireland.

Its accounts disclose that the College is sound financially.

It prepares its students for ordination as priests of the Catholic Church in Ireland and for no other calling or purpose. Its ordained students have power to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass. The Catholic Church in Ireland is a voluntary Church, not established by or connected with the State. The Constitution of the State enacted and adopted by the people of the State sets out, however, in Article 44 (2) that: "The State recognises the special position of the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church as the guardian of the Faith professed by the great majority of the citizens," and in Article 44 (3) the State also recognises the other Christian Churches therein named as well as the Jewish Congregations and the other religious denominations existing in Ireland at the date of the coming into operation of the Constitution.

Maynooth College is not maintained or used exclusively for the education of the poor, nor even for the education of the poor professing the Catholic Faith. It was intended and is used for and by a particular class of male students; it is not used by or for the public at large.

The College is not a "Charity School"; its students have to pay or cause to be paid fees annually to the College Bursar during their stay at the College. They are not the objects of the "charity"; they are and must be at the time of their admission as students professing members of the Roman Catholic Church.

The students ordained in the Maynooth College do not comprise the entire body of ordained priests ministering in Catholic parishes and Roman Catholic teaching institutions throughout Ireland.

The Chapels which form part of the buildings of the College are not public Churches or semi-public Oratories. The evidence as to their user was to the effect that they are used by the professors, students and College servants exclusively. There was no evidence produced to show that Diocesan permission has been sought or obtained for their user by the public of Maynooth village or surrounding areas, nor that public user had been obtained by prescriptive right. Those members of the public who on occasions use the Chapels of the College do so as a concession, but have no canonical or diocesan right so to use them.

St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, was established following the passing in the Irish Parliament on the 5th June, 1759, of an Act entitled "An Act for the better education of persons professing the Popish or Roman Catholic Religion." This Act appointed trustees for the purpose of establishing, endowing and maintaining an academy for the education of persons professing the Roman Catholic religion. The trustees in pursuance of the Act purchased lands and premises in the town of Maynooth and established what later became known as the Royal College of Maynooth. The trustees were subsequently in the year 1845 constituted "The Trustees of the College of Maynooth."

From its foundation the College was subject to Government control in all material aspects of its administration, which continued till the year 1870. From the coming into force of the Church Disestablishment Act, 1869, the constitution of the College changed. Government control ceased and the College became a self-governing institution. In the year 1910, it became a recognised college of National University of Ireland.

The College is the National Seminary. It prepares its students solely for ordination as priests of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. It is confined to male students professing the Roman Catholic religion. No persons are entitled to admission as students as of right, nor are its lectures open to the public.

The lands and premises constituting the College were included upon the Valuation Lists for the County of Kildare for the first time for the year 1954. The Trustees appealed to the Circuit Court against such inclusion. The Circuit Court Judge held that the College was properly rated.

On appeal to the High Court (Davitt P., Budd and Murnaghan JJ.) by way of Case Stated,

Held, affirming the Circuit Court Judge, (1) The College was not used for public purposes within the meaning of the proviso to section 63 of the Poor Law (Ireland) Act, 1838;

(2) The buildings of the College were not used for the advancement of religion within the meaning of the same proviso. Elliott v. Commissioner of Valuation, [1935] I. R. 607, followed.

(3) The buildings were not used for charitable purposes as being for the general benefit of the community as their user by the staff and students, being a private use by persons other than the objects of the charity prevented them from being exclusively so used. Commissioner of Valuation v.O'Connell, [1906] 2 I. R. 479, followed.

Cur. adv. vult.

Davitt P.:—

In making out the list of valuations for the year 1954 the Commissioner of Valuation placed a valuation of £3,000 on the buildings, and £146 on the lands, constituting the premises known as St. Patrick's College, Maynooth. The Trustees of the College appealed to the Judge of the Eastern Circuit against these valuations on the grounds:—

(a) that he should have, pursuant to the provisions of the Valuation (Ireland) Act, 1854, s. 2., distinguished the premises, or portions of them, as being of a public nature, or used for charitable purposes; and alternatively, (b) that the valuations were excessive. The Circuit Judge dismissed the appeal in so far as it was based upon ground (a); and, the appellants and the Commissioner being agreed as to the figures, allowed the appeal, in so far as it rested on ground (b), to the extent of reducing the valuation on the buildings to £1,500. At the request of the appellants he has stated this case for the opinion of this Court as to whether he was correct in law in dismissing the appeal in so far as it rested upon ground (a).

In the case he has dealt with the history of the College since its foundation, has incorporated a number of documents, and has found certain facts specifically. It will be sufficient for the purposes of this judgment to refer to certain of these facts in the course of dealing with the law...

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