An Oireachtas Committee is examining potential legal requirements to deal with abandoned vaults in banks this morning.
Currently, the Dormant Accounts Act 2001 allows bank accounts that have been idle for 15 years to be handed over to the State for good causes.
However, there is no such law for artefacts found in safety deposit boxes, some of which date back over 200 years.
Valuables such as artwork and gold have accumulated in banks over decades, with some safety deposits dating back to the 19th century.
Officials from the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Department of Finance are attending today's meeting, as is Jim Connolly, an advocate for identifying what artefacts and treasures may exist inside abandoned safekeeping boxes.
"The Committee will consider the merits of potential legislative and regulatory remedies to balance the interests of consumer protection, the right to private property, the common good and other relevant issues that arise,” said Committee Chairman Joe Carey TD earlier this week.
“The Dormant Accounts Act 2001 allows long-unclaimed funds to be transferred to the NTMA-managed Dormant Accounts Fund for investment in social supports by the Department of Rural and Community Development,” he said.
“But this arrangement applies only for cash on deposit and life insurance policies.
Crucially, in the event that a rightful owner of that cash is later identified, even decades later, they can apply for reimbursement.
“No such straightforward recuperation would exist in the case of many contents of safety deposit boxes and envelopes that, once opened and inspected, could potentially face transfer to State ownership or sale at auction,” he said.
“The Committee hopes its work will inspire the drafting of a Bill proposing new legal requirements on how banks and the State manage these deposits.”