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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 4 Dec 1924

Vol. 9 No. 21


No 1 on the Order Paper is a Private Member's Bill, and we have been notified that the Government time has been given for it. The title which appears in print contains some errors and the revised title has, I understand, been circulated.

I ask the leave of the House to introduce this measure, which is—

Bille chun socrú speisialta do dhéanamh i dtaobh an dáta ar a gceapfar athscrúdóir i gcóir na liostaí de thoghthóirí na mball iontoghth de Bhord Port agus Duganna Bhaile Atha Cliath sa Bhliain 1924, agus i dtaobh an dáta ar a suidhfidh an t-athscrúdóir sin chun na liostaí roimhráite d'athscrúdú agus ar a gcríochnófar an t-athscrúdú san, agus chun an t-am ar a n-imeoidh baill áirithe den Bhord san as oifig agus ar a dtoghfar baill den Bhord ina n-ionad san do chur ar athló, agus chun an Dublin Port and Docks Act, 1898, do leasú chun na gcrícheanna san agus chun crícheanna eile.

A Bill to make special provision for the date of appointment of a revisor of the lists of electors of elective members of the Dublin Port and Docks Board in the year 1924 and for the date of the holding of sittings by such revisor for the revision of the lists aforesaid and of the completion of such revision and to post pone for a limited period the retirement of certain members of the said Board and the election of members of the Board to supply their places, and for those and other purposes to amend the Dublin Port and Docks Act, 1898.

I think it is necessary to give some little explanation of the need for this procedure, and to apologise for troubling the Dáil with a matter which is really one of urgency, as far as the Port Board is concerned. My apology to the Dáil is that in so far as anything could have been done by the Port Board to avoid troubling the Dáil with this matter that has been done, and the reason it has to come up in this way is that the Port Board, acting under their Private Act of 1898, which lays down certain procedure to be adopted in connection with the election of members of the Board, found, in the first instance, that in the Act of 1898 the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland was named as the person who was to nominate the revisor for the revision of the voters' list. As the Dáil is aware, the position of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland has terminated. Consequent on that, there was a delay in getting that particular matter put right, and consequent on that delay the dates which are set down in our Act for the revision of the voters' list, and subsequently for holding an election, got out of gear, with the result that the Port Board is faced with the position that the seven members who are due to retire at the beginning of 1925 cannot be co-opted, nor is there any machinery for carrying out an election unless the Dáil will recognise that this is an urgent matter, really domestic, and, I hope, a matter which will not lead to any controversy.

If the Dáil will facilitate the passing of this Private Bill it will put the Port Board in the position of holding elections a little later than they would be otherwise entitled to by their own Act of Parliament. It is purely, in the first instance, proposing putting into this Bill the Chief Justice of the Saorstát in the place of the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, and to make an alteration in the dates which will enable the revision to take place, and the election to be held in due course, but at a later date than is set down in the Private Act. I ask for the assistance of the Dáil, as a whole, in this matter, to get over this little difficulty. I must say that the Government have recognised the desirability of putting the matter right, and have in this way given assistance by giving the Government time for bringing forward the measure. I ask the Dáil to receive this Bill for First Reading.

I second the motion.

Would the Deputy tell us what will be the consequence if this Bill is not passed?

The consequence of this Bill not being passed would be to put the Board in this position. At the present time we are short of the members nominated by the Corporation of Dublin as members of the Board. The passing of this Bill would make the three shipping members and the four trade members who retire in the beginning of January eligible to be re-elected or else to have somebody else elected in their places, so that the personnel of the Board would not be further reduced by these seven members to a very small number of the remaining members to carry on the work.

The Deputy has stated that the effect of not passing this Bill, at the present in these extraordinary circumstances, would be to leave the management of the Port and Docks Board in the hands of, say, 14 members. That number would be seven or five less than the normal membership of the Board. I wonder would he argue that that is too small a number. I think he will probably admit that a constituency which elects those that would be left would be of a wider character than a constituency that will elect the men who have to be elected if this Bill passes. To acquiesce in the passing of this Bill is to ask the House to acquiesce, by implication, in a system of election by a very small and select constituency which carries out its elections very largely by proxy. We have, for instance, a representative in one of the constituencies elected by one man carrying thirteen hundred votes. He comes down on the day of the election and says: "Here are my votes, I hand them in." These are proxy votes, not votes given to a man in the proportion of one, two, three, four, five, six, or seven, or ten, but according to the amount paid in valuation or duties.

The whole system is one that would require a great deal of examination. It is objectionable from many points of view, and for the Dáil to pass this Bill, is for the Dáil to agree with, at least, one more election under an antiquated and unsatisfactory system. If there was going to be any calamity arising from the non-passing of this Bill, there might be some case for urgency, but if there are fourteen people still remaining to carry on the business of the Board, who have been elected by the ordinary electors, then I submit it is quite unnecessary to have this special Bill. New conditions might be made when we have more time and opportunity to consider the constitution of the Board, the method of election, and generally to reconsider the position of the Port and Docks Board and its membership. I think there is need for that. It would be a pity to acquiesce, by the passing of this Bill, in the continuance, without any promise regarding the future, without any assurance that the Docks Board is willing to revise its electorate and method of election, and I think we ought not to pass this Bill.

We are not asked to pass this Bill so far as I know. We are asked to allow it to be introduced, which is rather a different thing. As I read the title it is a Bill for this and other purposes: "to amend the Dublin Port and Docks Act, 1898," and I think Deputy Johnson should welcome the Bill, because it will give him an opportunity of bringing forward amendments as to the method of election. The "other purpose" are wide enough to cover, I think, all that. I think Deputy Hewat was ill-advised in making the title so wide, for, as it is, it gives an opportunity for introducing a great many amendments. I deprecate Second Reading speeches on the introduction of Bills.

They might save printing charges.

Yes, they might, but they never do. I should like to ask a question of Deputy Hewat: whether the Dublin Port and Docks Act, 1898, was introduced as a private or a public Bill. If it was introduced as a private Bill it should not be amended by a public Bill, and I think that is a tendency which should be watched. I do not know whether the Port and Docks Board promoted their own Bill or whether it was a Bill brought in by the then Chief Secretary for Ireland. If it was the former, I think you, a Chinn Comhairle, should exercise your powers under the Standing Orders and send it to the Examiner of Private Bills in order to have a report.

That would only arise after Second Reading.

The only thing I would like to say in connection with what Deputy Johnson said is, that this Bill only operates for a year. It is not giving any special powers to the Board and so far as the methods of election are concerned the Corporation representatives take in the whole city, and I suggest though there is criticism and probably always has been, as to the method of electing members to the Port and Docks Board, it does not arise really on this Bill, for all this Bill asks is to let our Act of 1898 be operative for the coming elections, in the month of January, and not to deprive us of the service of those members who are going out, if they seek re-election, or somebody else in their places.

Question—"That leave be given to introduce the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Leave given; Bill read the First Time.

What day does the Deputy wish to take the Second Reading?

May I ask that it be as early as possible?

Has the Bill been circulated?

The Bill will be circulated to-morrow.

Does Tuesday next allow of the ordinary notice?

It is not sufficient. I am giving notice to Deputies that the Bill will be circulated to-morrow, and I am asking if there is agreement that the Second Reading be taken on Tuesday.

I demand the ordinary notice required by the Standing Orders.

Then the Second Reading will be taken on Wednesday, 10th December.