A review of obsolete laws, some dating back to the time of William the Conqueror is being taken by the Department of the Taoiseach.

Centuries ago the laws governing Irish society were very different. An eleventh century act for example forbids the death sentence for criminal behaviour but does provide an alternative for a person to be punished by having their eyes pulled out, or to be castrated.

Other laws were not of such a grisly nature however, like one which provided the residents of Bellewstown County Meath with a tax break for six years.

The statutory Law Revision Unit in the Office of the Attorney General is at present examining laws up to the year 1800, explains Dr Shane Kilcummins from the Faculty of Law at UCC (University College Cork). They will decide which laws remain relevant today, and which will eventually be removed from the statute books.

Dr Kevin Costello of the UCD (University College Dublin) School of Law believes that there are items of historical interest currently on the Statue Books, such as the definition of the Pale.

A writ from 1360 outlawing any association with the Irish, or using their language, or sending children to be nursed by them, is one of a number brought in by English parliaments to exclude Catholics and women, and Irish people in general, and these need to go, says Taoiseach Bertie Ahern,

It is time for us to have...the biggest review of our statute law.

It is in effect a sanitising of Ireland's laws, which may be seen as controversial by some, says Dr Kevin Costello, as it severs the link between the pre-Independence constitutional arrangement of the previous regime in this country and

Might appear offensive to persons less hostile politically to the previous constitution.

With the review of the Statue Books up to 1800 complete, the team now turns its attention to the period from the Act of Union to 1922.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 2 May 2006. The reporter is Deirdre MacCarthy.