In regard to that matter, now that the Dáil is in Committee I owe an apology to you, Sir, and the Dáil, which I now deliver, because yesterday, when the Dáil was in Committee, an amendment stood in my name, and owing to circumstances which I endeavoured to control, but was not able to do, I was not here. I spoke to you last night, Sir, about this matter, and you suggested that the particular amendment might arise among the schedules. I ask you now whether it is practical to move it before the schedule is considered or afterwards, or to take it as a final schedule.
DAIL IN COMMITTEE. - ELECTORAL BILL.
I think at the end, subject to alteration as to where we put it.
On that point perhaps it would meet the convenience of the Dáil if this matter were decided before we get into the schedules. If it is generally accepted it will mean an alteration of the schedules. You have notice of it now, and, as Deputy Figgis is here, and he might not be here next time, I think it would be convenient to discuss it now.
Deputy Figgis gave notice of a motion for a particular day, and it was put on the Order Paper to meet the Deputy's convenience, but he did not move it. If it is the desire of the Dáil to take it now that can be done by leave of the Dáil.
I have already said that I deserve every rebuke you have given.
I have not given any rebuke, and I do not think the word should be used. If Deputy Figgis moves for leave to discuss it we could do so if leave is given.
I formally ask for such leave.
Deputy Figgis applies for leave to move his amendment.
I beg to move the following amendment:—
To add new Section after Section 57 as follows:—
(1) An officer styled "The Electoral Officer of Saorstát Eireann" shall be appointed. Such Electoral Officer shall be responsible directly to the Oireachtas for all matters in connection with registration, elections, whether of the Dáil or of the Seanad, or of bodies of local government, the holding of referenda and all matters connected therewith, and he shall report directly to the Oireachtas whenever instructed or ordered to do so.
(2) The remuneration of no Electoral Officer may be diminished during his continuance in office. Such Electoral Officer shall not be a member of the Oireachtas, nor shall he hold any other office or position of emolument. He shall not be removed except for stated misbehaviour or incapacity, on resolutions passed by Dáil Eireann and Seanad Eireann. The provisions of the Superannuation Acts 1834 to 1909 shall apply to such Electoral Officer.
(3) There shall be, and hereby are, transferred to the aforesaid Electoral Officer:—
(a) The functions of the Local Government Board under the Representation of the People Acts in regard to Registration.
(b) The supervision and entire control of Parliamentary and Local Government elections.
(c) The function of the Local Government Board in regard to local elections.
(d) The making of rules under Schedule 1 of the Representation of the People Act, 1918, for submission to the Dáil.
(e) The conduct of elections to the Seanad.
(f) The taking of a Referendum.
(4) Each Returning Officer, whether at Parliamentary or Local Government elections, and each Registration Officer shall be appointed by the Electoral Officer, and the said Returning Officer and Registration Officer shall carry out any general or special directions to the Electoral Officer in regard to the conduct of every election and the compiling of every register.
(5) The certificates of the Electoral Officer as to the result of an election to Dáil Eireann, and to Seanad Eireann, and to any local governing body, and of a Referendum, shall be a good and sufficient certificate for all purposes of any election or Referendum.
(6) It shall be the duty of the Electoral Officer to examine and report to the Oireachtas as to whether Initiative Demands, presented to the Oireachtas in accordance with the Constitution, comply in all respects with the law and regulations relating thereto. The Electoral Officer shall have power to make regulations, subject to the approval of the Oireachtas, prescribing the time, place, manner and conditions at and in accordance with which Initiative Demands may be presented.
In moving this amendment, which practically embodies a new section dealing with the appointment of a Special Officer, I would like to state that we would all be in agreement, whether we approved or not of such a proposal that it is a matter of very considerable importance. I venture to say, whether it be wise or not according to the decision of the Dáil to accept such a proposal now, an Officer of this kind will ultimately become necessary in Ireland. He has proved necessary elsewhere. In Australia and Canada, and also Switzerland, it is already the practice to have a Parliamentary independent officer, who should not be a member of the Ministry, in charge of all elections. I would like very shortly to state exactly how this necessity arises, because it is a necessity that will grow up in this country, and will have to be met in somewhat the same manner, as we have provision in our Constitution—the same as Canada, Australia and other countries have. I refer to the provisions for a referendum. In Australia it happened that referenda were taken on a measure proposed by the Ministry. The Ministry was one only of a group of several parties present in the Parliament. It brought in a certain Bill; that Bill was challenged and was put to the referendum of the people. It so happened that the very party that introduced the Bill was in charge of conducting the referendum concerning that Bill, and it further happened that even though it was most scrupulously fair in conducting such referendum it was still possible for its opponents to allege that that fairness had not been carefully observed. The consequence was that a great deal of dissatisfaction arose, and finally it became necessary for the Government to introduce a Bill, which is now incorporated in the Commonwealth Electoral Act, a copy of which I have in my hand, and which gives the best provision that I think is to be found in any Act dealing with such a matter, by taking the charge of elections out of the hands of a political Executive of the day and putting it into the hands of a Parliamentary officer who occupies the same position of detachment as, for example, the Comptroller and Auditor-General. He returns his reports on elections to the House, and certificates with regard to initiative and referenda, such as we have provided for under the Constitution. He is not the head of a political party. Governments inevitably consist of the chiefs of one political party, and it is the desire that as elections are common to all political parties, in which they all contest together, they should be conducted by a Department that no one of those parties should control to the disadvantage of the other. That is the general argument, as I have said, which grew out of the practice of the referendum, out of the practice of the initiative, and it was finally adopted for all elections, and I believe it will be adopted in this country in the future, where we will have inevitably a number of parties coming into the Dáil, one of whom, or a group of two of whom, will create the Ministry of the day. The election and referendum and all matters attaching thereto should be conducted, as it is provided in this amendment that they will be conducted, right from the moment of registration to the last certificated return, by the person who should be styled the Electoral Officer of Saorstát Eireann, and this officer, according to the provisions of this amendment I have set down has put into his charge the following six functions:—
1. The functions of the Local Government Board under the Representation of the People Act in regard to registration.
2. Supervision and entire control of Parliamentary and Local Government elections.
3. Functions of the Local Government Board in regard to local elections.
4. Making of rules under Schedule 1 of the Representation of the People Act, 1918.
5. The conduct of elections to the Seanad.
6. The taking of a Referendum.
And finally it appears that this officer, if he be appointed, and when appointed, will have the entire control of all Initiative, and it will be on his certificate that these Initiatives will be decided. Now, I ask the Dáil to consider exactly what would be the procedure in the future if such an officer be not appointed. On a given date a Bill is brought into the Dáil Eireann of that day. That Bill passes by a small majority and proceeds to the Seanad. The Seanad is opposed to it, and the Seanad demands that it be put to a referendum by the requisite majority of three-fifths. Then that Bill is put to the referendum by the Ministry responsible to the Dáil, and the return of that referendum will be made in the Dáil by one of the very parties concerned in the decisions to be taken. It will be their certificates that will be the ultimate certificates, and, that being so, that in itself will suggest the desirability of putting elections outside the control of the Government of the day, whatever that Government may happen to be. There is one further and final reason I would like to put before this Dáil. It has proved in these other countries, where such an officer has been appointed, and has given his whole time and care to elections, without being bothered with the ordinary executive and political work of the country, that he has been able to elaborate methods for improving and refining the machinery of elections. It is actually the case to-day in some American States, where they have brought in special machinery for voting and counting, that elections have actually proceeded, and to-day may even be proceeding, where the polling starts at 8 o'clock in the morning and proceeds until 7 o'clock in the evening; a half an hour after the polling has closed the results are ready, simply because there have been people in charge of the electoral machinery doing nothing but election work, who have been able to take the machinery—I now refer to the actual mechanical machinery available for commercial totting and counting —and able to apply and invent processes by which that can be done; between election and election the electoral officer comes entirely into control of elections, by which the actual results are returned. In between these elections he has been all the time improving his machinery in order to make it more and more efficient for each election. I move the amendment, and I urge that it be very carefully considered by this Dáil.
Deputy Figgis's argument is very largely that in the future this officer may be wanted, and I do not think that he has really brought forward any arguments of any weight in favour of the appointment of such an officer at the present stage. One of the advantages, as far as I can find out, that we would derive from appointing such an officer now is that he would so improve or refine the electoral machinery that before long we would not be able to get on without him. Now, take the question of registration. Registration, as the law has been heretofore, and as we have proposed to continue it, will be carried through by statutory officers. Special men will not be appointed here and there by way of patronage by the Minister to carry through work of registration. There will be statutory officers who will remain and will not change with the Government, but will remain during whatever their own term of office is, who are independent of the Government, and who, taking the country broadly, for the present will be the Clerks of the Crown and Peace. I would hope that later on we will be able to make secretaries of County Councils and clerks of Borough Councils do the work—at any rate that is a matter that will have to be considered later—but they are local officers who are independent of the Government, who will carry through their duties as impartially as any Electoral Officer. The only way in which the Electoral Officer could come in would be if you intended to do away with statutory appointments, to make them patronage appointments, and allow the Electoral Officers to exercise patronage. I think that, so far as registration is concerned, there is no need for an Electoral Officer, who would be in a position analogous to that of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. Then, take the question of Party, the Electoral Officer will be put in by a Party, and he would not have the same sort of functions, mathematical functions, with very little discretion in them, that the Comptroller and Auditor-General would have, and probably if there was any room for favouritism he would be able to show favouritism towards the Party to which he belonged and who had put him in. As far as local elections are concerned, there is no reason at all for suggesting, for instance, that the department of the Ministry, which is responsible for things of far greater moment in connection with the local administration, should not be able to do any supervision that is necessary for the conduct of local elections. As regards the making of rules, it is most desirable that any person who has to make rules that are to be laid before the Dáil should be a person who can come into the Dáil and defend the rules. I think it would be a very awkward position indeed if rules were submitted by a person who was not here to defend these rules when, through some misunderstanding, their purpose was not sufficiently clear, rules which might be wrongly annulled and cut up by the Dáil through the absence of the person who was responsible for the carrying out of this work. When provision is made for the Initiative by this Dáil, the Dáil can consider what additional machinery may be necessary for the purpose of carrying out the law that it will make in regard to Initiatives, but it is certainly going too far ahead to make a provision yet. In regard to the referenda, the counting of votes and the casting of votes will be carried out under the supervision of statutory officers appointed through the country, who will not be the partisans of any particular Party; who will hold their offices independently of the coming into office or the going out of office of the Government, and I think that, with the type of election machinery we have, and the way in which we propose to use it for the purpose of carrying out referenda, there is no danger at all that the business will not be properly done, and there is no reason at all for the appointment of an Electoral Officer. I have not myself gone into the question of what will be necessary when we come to have an Initiative, but I do say at the present time that the appointment of such a person as an Electoral Officer would simply be the creation of an unnecessary post.
I understand from the Minister that he is opposed to my amendment, and therefore the matter is automatically in the minority of the Dáil. In that case it would be merely wasting time to propose it, but I do say this, that I am convinced, having read the experience that other people have had in these matters, that such an officer will become necessary. As a general principle, I think it is a sound principle, whenever certain action becomes necessary, then the sooner it is taken the better. I withdraw the amendment.
I simply wish to register a protest against Deputy Figgis's remark that, as he is opposed by the Minister, he is automatically placed in a minority of the Dáil. That is not so. If Deputy Figgis could present a reasonable case I think that there is sufficient public spirit in the Dáil, utterly regardless of party lines, to support his amendment. Deputy Figgis has a habit of coming here and assuring us that, in addition to his own wisdom and profound knowledge, he has been in touch with people that other members of the Dáil could not possibly be in touch with, and whose wisdom far exceeds the collective wisdom of the Dáil. He therefore puts forward that kind of case as a reason why his particular amendments or suggestions should be swallowed whole. If they are not swallowed whole he says, "Because I am opposed by the Ministry I am automatically in the minority."
There is another matter for protest. It seems that the amendment is taken out of its order and then calmly withdrawn.
Put it on its merits.
Does the Dáil give leave that this amendment be withdrawn?
I will put the amendment.
Surely it was a question worth ventilating and discussing. There is no need to be ribald about it, and, though it may have come out of its order, it is better to discuss it even out of order now than out of order at a later stage.
I do not know whether the Dáil should be used as a place where matters should be merely put up for discussion and then simply not pursued to a vote. I think if that were adopted as a general principle it would have a very serious effect on our proceedings—that we should simply ventilate matters and then say there is no more about them.
My only purpose in withdrawing it was that when I found I would be in a minority of the Dáil I did not wish to delay the Dáil in taking a vote on a matter that was a foregone conclusion. That was solely my reason for doing so. In reference to the remarks by the Minister for Home Affairs, I do not know exactly what he is referring to. I have said nothing here to-day about having brought matters forward after consultation with others. He is imagining; I think, and not imagining too well.
I protest against Deputy Figgis's remarks. I think there is a good deal of the time of the Dáil wasted on these irrevelant matters. Everything put here stands on its own merits. The Government does not control us, or several other members of this Dáil. It is a waste of time listening to a good deal of the stuff here, and the records of the Dáil are wasteful.
For once I agree with some of the things that Deputy Gorey has said, and with his contention that the proposal should be taken on its merits and voted upon. Personally, I think there is a good deal in the proposal, and I think the Dáil should have the opportunity of voting on it.
I only suggested the withdrawal of the Amendment merely because it is my desire not to waste the time of the Dáil. If it is the desire of the Dáil that it should be voted on, I am quite content.
I think the matter is withdrawn by leave of the Dáil.
The First Schedule is a matter of procedure. Rules will have to be moved one by one.
I direct the attention of the Dáil to a number of amendments received to-day. It will be necessary to get the leave of the Dáil to move them. The Amendments are by Deputy Thrift. Notice of them has not been given, and it would be necessary at a later stage to ask the leave of the Dáil that they be moved.
I move Rule 1— Schedule 1.
I move Rule 2.
I beg to move the amendments standing in my name:—
"(a) Line 17, to insert the word `or' before the word `senatorial,' and to delete the words `or Local Government electors.'
"(b) Line 21, to delete from the word `where' to the word `register' in line 28."
I move Rules 3 and 4.
I move Rule 5.
I move a Consequential Amendment:—To delete from the words "and the registers" in line 48 to the words "for that area" in line 51.
I move Rule 6.
I move an amendment:—"Line 57, to add the word `or' before the word `Senatorial,' and to delete in lines 57 and 58 the words `or Local Government.' "
So that it will read "to be entitled to be registered as Parliamentary or Senatorial electors in the Register of electors," and so on.
I would like to raise a question on Rule 7. I have sent a question to the Minister in connection with a Rate Collector who has left no notices and no registration forms in the different houses in his area. I want to know would the Minister take any action to get this man to go round to every house in his area and leave the forms there. Sub-section 8(a) of Rule 7 says, “any person holding the office of collector of poor rate may be required to make a house to house or other sufficient inquiry directed by these rules, and to furnish sufficient information to enable the electors to be prepared and to furnish any further information required.” In Sub-section (d) it says, “It shall be the duty of the persons specified in Sub-sections (a) (b) and (c) of this rule to perform any duties which may be required of them respectively under this rule, and if such person refuses, neglects or fails, without reasonable cause, to perform any such duty in connection with registration he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds.” I think that it is necessary that this should be known by those rate collectors throughout the country who for various reasons refuse to do their duty. In the particular case that I mentioned I have knowledge that the man has been a slacker in doing his duty in collecting the rates for the County Council. Therefore I would urge on the Minister to see that these men do their duty and not have this a sham register like the last.
I will be obliged if the Deputy will give me details as to that collector. There have been a few collectors who have not done their duty. I know in one or two cases it was difficult to take action because intimidation was alleged, and there was certain evidence of actual intimidation which made it difficult for us to take as stringent a line as we might have. If there is none of that intimidation there will of course be no excuse for mere slacking on the part of the rate collector. I know that the work is not being as well done as it might be. It is just the same as all other sorts of work going on in the country at the present time.
I have sent in a question to the Minister to-day on the matter, and I would strongly urge that these men would be made do their duty.
I wish to move as an amendment to Rule 9 to add the word "or" before the word "senatorial" and to delete the words "or Local Government." The rule would then read "Any person who claims to be entitled to be registered as a Parliamentary or Senatorial elector," and so on.
Motion made and question put: "That Rule 9, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
I beg to move as an amendment to Rule 10 to substitute for the words in line 51 "Irish Free State" the words "Saorstát Eireann"; to insert before the words in line 53 "A senatorial" the word "or," and in line 53 to delete from the words "A Local Government Elector" to the word "Elections" in line 55. These are consequential amendments on the amendments already made on the Bill.
Now, the next in order would be the amendments by Deputy Thrift which Deputies have before them. The question is to be decided as to whether these amendments can be taken now. I understand there are special references to University voters.
Will the Deputy tell us whether there is any question of principle raised?
I would like to thank the Dáil for leave to introduce these amendments and to apologise for the delay in putting them forward. The amendments largely deal with practical matters and rules for the better framing and keeping up-to-date of the register in the Universities. The particular one that is down in this schedule would not appear perhaps at first sight to have that connotation, but I think I can show the Dáil that it has. There is no principle involved at all. I believe it is the wish of the Government and of the Dáil that the one principle on which they lay stress should be brought into effect, namely, that no person shall succeed in having his name on two registers. This amendment would require the claimant to make a statement to that effect in the statement of claim, that he is not already registered on the register for another constituency. Therefore I take it that it is quite in line with the wish of the Minister and of the Dáil. The particular reason why I wish to put it forward here is not alone on account of that general principle which I am prepared to adopt, but because of its particular reference to the case of the Universities. I think the scheme outlined by the Ministry in the Rules they have put forward will be found in practice to have a very bad effect upon the register, and I hope to show them when we come to the Rules that the object which the Ministry wish to obtain can be secured by better practical means, provided that there is some such proviso as I am now putting forward requiring a claimant to assert that he is not already on the register of another constituency and, perhaps, it might be convenient to add also that he is not making any claim to be put on such register. I think because the principle of this particular amendment is admitted it is not necessary to say more at this stage, but I desire that it should be accepted for the reason that I have stated.
I take it that the Deputy has leave to introduce the amendments?
I would like to move:
Line 57, page 31—To insert after word "sent" the words "and a statement that the claimant is not already on the register in any other constituency in Saorstát Eireann."
I think the amendment would be a desirable one, but I think it would be more desirable if it were amended to include the statement that a claim has not been made in any other constituency. I do not quite know how the phrasing would go but perhaps it could read "And a statement that the claimant is not already on the register of any other constituency in Saorstát Eireann or has not made a claim to be registered in any other constituency."
I quite approve of that; in fact I suggested it in the remarks I made.
I think this amendment is quite unobjectionable. I am also in agreement with the purpose of the other amendments to which this is a prelude. I am not quite sure that, perhaps, some better method of achieving what Deputy Thrift desires to achieve might not be devised. I am sorry that I had not an opportunity of discussing that with him but, in any case, as the object is one about which there can be no dispute, and as this particular amendment in itself is a good one, I accept it.
Is this the form of the amendment:
To insert after the word "sent" the words "and a statement that the claimant is not already on the register of any other constituency in Saorstát Eireann, and has not laid claim to be placed on the register of any other constituency"?
Would not it meet the case if you made it "is not already and has not claimed to be placed"?
"And a statement that the claimant is not already, and has not claimed to be placed, on the register of any other constituency," Perhaps the Dáil will give leave that the draughtsman put that in proper form.
I think it is better to accept the principle.
If the Dáil accepts the amendment in that form it can be properly drafted.
I beg to move:
Line 63, to add at the end of the Rule, the words "And unless it is proved to his satisfaction that the person on whose behalf the claim is made was unable by reason of bodily or mental infirmity to make the claim on his own behalf."
The amendment I am moving would propose to place the onus of making a claim upon the person himself or herself while the rule as drafted would leave it open to the agent to make the claim. My amendment would make it imperative that persons should make the claims themselves unless there is good cause—such as bodily or mental infirmity.
This is not an amendment which we are disposed to accept. I would like to have heard Deputy O'Brien put forward his arguments in support of his amendment. It seemed to us that while the use of Party organisations and Party agents may lead to abuses it often is of real service in connection with making out the Register. The actual putting in of claims by agents and the lodging of objections to some extent is good. It supplements the official machinery, which is often deficient, as the officials often are not as zealous and alert as they might be. For many reasons a person might happen to get left off, and we have not so far taken up the point of view that a person must make a fight in all cases to get on. We have tried to compile a complete register of persons entitled to be registered, and we have not demanded that they shall make any great effort on their own part to be so registered. So long as we take that point of view I do not think it is desirable to place any obstacles, or create any difficulties, in the way of having every person entitled to be registered so registered. It may happen that a person who is left off the register accidentally will take no steps to ascertain whether or not he is on the register, and even if he discovers he is not on the first list he may not take any steps to have his name placed on the list, and he may not move in the matter, although he would probably vote with as much intelligence as people more alert about the matter. For that reason it seems to us that it is better to leave matters as they stand, and on the whole leaving the law as it stands will cause a more complete register to be made. Our point is that the desirable thing is to have a complete register of all citizens entitled to be registered, and it will not depend to any appreciable extent on a person's own efforts or interests, whether or not he or she, when it comes to an election, will find himself or herself on the register and able to vote.
The point of this amendment lies here. In the first instance the onus of placing names upon the register is placed upon the civil officer appointed for the purpose—the Registration Officer. If that officer knows that there are Party organizations prepared to cover up his default he is not going to be so keen about his work. The intention of the amendment is, at least, to bring it home to the applicant that he is taking some action in the matter of claiming a vote. There are certain people in the country who do not want to be bothered, and they are only bothered on the election day. I do not think that is a very happy state of mind for a citizen who claims the right of citizenship on polling day, but takes no other steps. But that aside, the practice has been for the party agent to do all the work that the Registration agent has failed to do, and that the voters or the citizens are negligent about doing. If this amendment is carried the onus would be upon the Registration agent or the party agent, before he could make good the claim, to acquaint the applicant and get his signature. At least he would have to get a signature from the applicant, rather than do all the work for him without acquainting him of the fact that he is making a claim. As a matter of fact what happens is that names are either forged, or a man claims the right to put in an application on behalf of another, which right he has not got. The effect of this amendment would be to ensure that the applicant would at least sign a form of claim.
I hope Deputy O'Brien will not press this amendment. Many mistakes occur; there are printers' errors, and dozens of names are left off the original list. If, for instance, you are going to await the signature of a claimant, he may be at work and you cannot find him. If you press this amendment you can make no claim for him. We ought to endeavour to have every person entitled to be on the register placed there, and by pressing this amendment you are reducing the number of electors.
In view of what has been said I wish to withdraw the amendment.
I move the following consequential amendments to Rule 12:—
Lines 69 and 70, to delete the words "or Local Government electoral area."
Lines 71 and 72, to delete the words "or that Local Government electoral area as the case may be."
I beg to move the following amendment:—
Line 78, to delete the sentence beginning "An objection" in line 78, p. 31, and ending "such objection" in line 1, p.32, and to substitute the sentence:—"The registration officer shall, as soon as practicable after receiving any notice of objection, send a copy of the notice to the person in respect of whose registration the notice of objection is given."
This proposes to throw the onus of sending the form of objection on the Registration Officer rather than leave it to the person who objects to the claimant's vote. I think it is an important matter and it would be an altogether wrong procedure to allow the objector to send out the objection rather than the proper Registration Officer. It is the existing law and it ought to be retained.
I had some experience of registration work some years ago, and the position I take up with regard to it is that a person having the right to be registered ought to have every possible precaution and safeguard with regard to that right. A person in respect of whom an objection should be made ought easily be objected to, and we ought to aim at a time when no person's name will appear in respect of whom an electioneering or registration agent would have to enter an objection. That is that the machinery we would devise would be such that very few instances would occur of persons having their names on a list or register of electors that were not really entitled. In my experience it came to this, that if 4,000 objections were lodged against persons in any constituency, at least 2,000 of those objections would stand. That is to say, about 2,000 persons, or 50 per cent., would probably take sufficient interest to attend at court and make their claim and the names would be retained on the list. In the case of the other 2,000 persons that right would lapse either from non-attendance or from some difficulty of attending court or something of that sort. There have been cases of persons who through absence from home or other causes were knocked off, and in certain constituencies that is more pronounced than in other constituencies. I need scarcely mention them now, but we know that such constituencies do exist. I do not know if they do exist in the area of our jurisdiction. If my interpretation of this amendment is correct, one brings in a Registration Officer to some extent on the side of the objector and I think that is bad, because in my recollection it was an organisation which always urged objections—in a great many cases frivolous objections—and in few cases did the person standing the test appear before the Revising Barrister and ensure that the name was afterwards in the list and so got the right to have the name retained in the list. Now, substituting the Registration Officer for the work of party agent for a purpose such as this is, to my mind, not an improvement. I always had an inherent objection to persons objecting to names appearing on the list. All sorts of objections were made. You had cases in which a person, through a technicality of the law, was disqualified; that is to say, that he moved out on the 16th of November and put down the 15th, or that a person through some cause or other had to get Poor Law Relief. We had other cases of that sort, of which I am sure Deputy O'Brien knows as well as I do. The Registration Agent in the past took advantage of every possible technicality of the law with a view to knocking off the Register persons who would be likely not to vote for his candidate. If the effect of the amendment is to facilitate objections, I am sure Deputy O'Brien has not that in his mind. It appears to me that where an objection is lodged, and that the person making it fails to make it good or valid, that person should be liable for the cost of such proceedings and he or his organisation should bear the cost of such objection. On the whole, I do not think there is a good case for the amendment unless some other arguments than those brought forward are urged.
I am afraid the President must not have read the rules in my amendment, because I am in agreement with almost everything he has said. My amendment simply seeks that when an objection is lodged to a claim it is the Registration Officer should send notice of the objection to the person objected to, rather than the person making the objection. That helps the person whose name is on the Register rather than the objector.
The law, as I understood it, was that a registered intimation by post should reach the person claiming to be inserted on the Register from the person making the objection.
Is it not a better guarantee that the objection reaches the person objected to if sent by a Registration Officer rather than by some party agent?
I do not think so. In the first place the objector is put to some expense before he sets out on his work, and secondly before the list is published intimation is given of the fact that some such objection is lodged. There is a list with the names of all such persons published; there used to be at all events. In addition, unless it can be proved that the particular objection was served on the person or some other body who signed for the receipt of that objection it was not good; and I think at least that those safeguards in these times when possibly an official communication might not be allowed to reach its destination ought to be afforded to prospective aspirants for registration in the list.
I think the law as it stands at present and is being re-enacted in the Schedule was altered from the form in which it was in 1918, because in certain constituencies absolutely wholesale objections were being made. Part of the purpose of that, at any rate, was to make it to some degree expensive to lodge objections, so that no party would go and take the whole list and object to all the people on it not of their own party, that is to say, to object to half the list on purely frivolous grounds. But that may not be so much an evil in the future. The particular constituencies in which that evil was rampant are not within our jurisdiction. I think it is a good thing that objectors should be penalised for making frivolous objections, and it seems to me that if the clause were not retained as it is in the Schedule that the best alternative would be to have a stamp put on every objection form and remit the amount so paid in cases where the registration officer ruled that there had been grounds for making an objection and forfeited where he ruled it was frivolous. I would say if the Dáil were not disposed to retain the clause as it stands that that would be the rational alternative.
Let us assume that so many anti-Labour people were to send out a large number of objections to every one who voted for Labour the result would be that 50 per cent. would not turn up and you would lose your votes. What ought to be done is where an official objection has been lodged by the officer he should notify the claimant. You must put some penalty on the registration agent; otherwise there would be wholesale objections lodged and half those objected to would not turn up.
The object sought to be attained by the President and Deputy McCarthy can be better attained if you make provision that any objection lodged shall be accompanied by a 6d. stamp or 1s. stamp, and that even there should be expenses awarded as to the claimants if the objection is looked upon as frivolous, but there is this consideration that the form of objection sent down by a party agent, especially if it is done wholesale, may be done in a slipshod manner and is rushed through by the thousand and is practically indecipherable. I want to throw upon the registration officer a certain responsibility to ensure that the applicant knows the ground of the objection and the name of the objector. Deputy O'Brien wants to do the same thing as the President and Deputy McCarthy desire to do, to restrict the number of objections to those which are genuine. The existing law is that which is suggested by the amendment—the registration officer shall as soon as practicable after receiving notice of objections send a copy of the notice to the person in respect of whom the objection is taken. I think I am right in saying that is an amendment in the present law to which the President has referred. The present law up to date is that the registration officer shall send out the notice of objection.
I think it is the act of 1919 changed in the form of a schedule.
May I suggest to the Minister an amendment to meet quite possibly the views of both Deputy McCarthy and Deputy Johnson. If you prescribe in line 77 "where objection can be taken to the registration of any person whose name is included in the electors' lists for that constituency by sending notice of objection in the prescribed form to the registration officer.... not later than the 21st day of October," and then go on with the provision that the notice of objection shall be accompanied by a prepaid envelope with a stamp of whatever value you like to put on it containing a copy of such notice of objection which would be forwarded by the registration officer to the candidate. You then meet the possibility of frivolous objections. You are getting absolute proof through the registration officer that the registered letter was posted at the proper time, and therefore there may be no case made by the person objected to. By prescribing a stamp to be paid on the envelope you can fix whatever penalty you think fit on an objector who chooses to send in frivolous objections. I have not given notice of this amendment. If the Ministry could see their way to consider some amendment on those lines before the next stage of the Bill is reached, I have no doubt but that it would meet all the objections brought forward against this clause.
I think that is a good idea and that the Minister should accept it. If it be that the registration officer should act as a sort of agent to send out objections I think you are placing a very large burden on the registration officer without affecting any particularly useful purpose. As things stand there were three parts to an objection form. The first part was sent registered to the person whose name was objected to. The second was a notice to the registration officer that such an objection was taken, and the third was a copy of each. Furthermore I think that if damages were given against the agent in respect of some case that went against him, and flagrantly against him, his case would be scouted out of court by reason of the fact that he did not pay up, but only in that case was there any hope of bringing him to his senses. I know one case where a man was under examination for three quarters of an hour, and he got no damages.
If the Minister considers Deputy Fitzgibbon's suggestion I will withdraw my amendment.
I beg to move an amendment to Rule 16—lines 21 and 22, to delete the words "to be registered as a Parliamentary or Senatorial elector," and insert the words "vote by post."
I beg to move as an amendment to Rule 22—To delete from the words "or is registered" in line 8, to the words "Act, 1919," in line 12. It is merely a consequential amendment.
I beg to move Rule 26, which deals with the publication of the Register.
I beg to move as an amendment to substitute the word "April" for the word "October."
Rule 26, as amended, put and agreed to.
I beg to move the remaining Rules of the Schedule, that is, No. 27 to No. 40 inclusive.