Might I ask if the President has had an opportunity of examining this Bill so that he can explain it more accurately than he did on the last occasion?
PUBLIC BUSINESS. - CONSTITUTION (AMENDMENT No. 13) BILL, 1928—THIRD STAGE.
If I have left any doubts in the Deputy's mind in regard to any part of the Bill, and if he puts these doubts before me, I will endeavour to resolve them for him.
We are opposed to this Bill in toto, and intend to vote against the section.
- Ernest Henry Alton.
- James Walter Beckett.
- George Cecil Bennett.
- Ernest Blythe.
- John Joseph Byrne.
- Mrs. Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll.
- Martin Conlan.
- Michael P. Connolly.
- Brvan Ricco Cooper.
- William T. Cosgrave.
- Sir James Craig.
- Eugene Doherty.
- James N. Dolan.
- Edmund John Duggan.
- Osmond Thomas Grattan Esmonde.
- Desmond Fitzgerald.
- James Fitzgerald-Kenney.
- Denis J. Gorey.
- Michael Joseph Hennessy.
- Thomas Hennessy.
- Richard Holohan.
- Michael Jordan.
- Patrick Michael Kelly.
- Finian Lynch.
- Arthur Patrick Mathews.
- Patrick McGilligan.
- Richard Mulcahy.
- James E. Murphy.
- John Thomas Nolan.
- Timothy Joseph O'Donovan.
- Daniel O'Leary.
- John Marcus O'Sullivan.
- Martin Roddy.
- William Edward Thrift.
- Daniel Vaughan.
- George Wolfe.
- Frank Aiken.
- Denis Allen.
- Richard Anthony.
- Gerald Boland.
- Seán Brady.
- Daniel Buckley.
- Frank Carney.
- Michael Clery.
- Thomas Derrig.
- Eamon de Valera.
- Frank Fahy.
- Patrick J. Gorry.
- John Goulding.
- Seán F. Lemass.
- Patrick John Little.
- Séamus Moore.
- Daniel Morrissey.
- Matthew O'Reilly.
- Thomas O'Reilly.
- James Ryan.
- Martin Sexton.
"In page 3, line 2, to delete the word `eighteen' and substitute the word `four.' "
The object of this Bill was explained, I think, when it was being introduced as being to give to the members of the Seanad additional powers as compensation for some of the powers it was proposed to take away from them. As I indicated, speaking on that occasion, the powers it was proposed to take away from the Seanad were powers that were more apparent than real. It had the power of Referendum, but being the body it is, it was very unlikely that it would dare put any question to the people that had been passed by a majority of the representatives of the people—most unlikely— and, therefore, it cannot be said that they really possessed that power at all, that is to say, that it was a power they could effectively make use of. Now it is proposed to give them in compensation power which is a real power, that of thwarting the purpose of the majority of the elected representatives by holding up measures they might consider vital for a period of twenty months at the very least. In the Article of the Constitution which was just deleted they could hold up a measure only for nine months—270 days— while now the period they can hold up a Bill and thwart the Executive is increased to twenty months. Giving compensation in that sense at all to the Seanad, in our opinion, is wrong, and particularly is it wrong when there is no question whatever of giving compensating powers to the people from whom is taken away the right of ultimately deciding whether a certain law should be passed or not. The power of Referendum is taken away from the people, and in addition the power of initiating laws is taken away from the people. There is no question of giving compensation to them, but the Seanad is so important from the point of view of the Executive, that is, dependent largely on the section they represent, and which has the power of reproducing itself if this series of Bills goes through, that they must be compensated, and they must get the power of holding up Bills for a period of twenty months.
Looking at the Report, it will be obvious to anybody that this Bill does not, in fact, carry out the suggestion as it was intended to do. I was a member of that Committee, and I know that the period of suspension that was in the minds of the members—certainly it was in my mind—was a period from the day on which the Bill came back, that is, there was to be a suspension when the Bill had come back from the Seanad. If it was rejected, or if there were amendments which were not agreed to, there was to be a period of suspension. I certainly thought that a Bill that would give effect to these recommendations would not have a single period running from the day on, which the Bill was first sent to the Seanad until the day on which the period would end, but that it would be divided into two parts, one in which the Seanad would have to have reported within a comparatively short period, and, after that, if there was to be suspension, a period of suspension. A little care in the drafting would have made that possible.
I would like the Deputy to develop that point about the difference in the time.
Yes, I intend to develop it. There are two periods that would naturally suggest themselves to anybody considering this question of the powers of the Seanad and the machinery by which ultimately the Dáil would have its way. There is, first, a period in which the Seanad would have to take action. That period might be such as would give reasonable time to the Seanad, if they were in earnest about a Bill, to consider it carefully, prepare amendments, and send it back. Then the Dáil would consider the amendments to the Bill, and make up its mind as to whether it was going to accept them or insist on the Bill going through in spite of any objections which the Seanad might have. That is the first part of the period. Then a period might elapse in which there would be, if you like, negotiations between the two Houses, or between representatives of the two Houses, attempts to fix up the difference, a period in which public opinion could be canvassed in the matter or in which steps might be taken by those supporting or by those opposing the Bill to inform the public so that they might be acquainted with the matters in dispute between the two Houses. That period would be, to my mind, the period of suspension.
After the lapse of a certain time the Dáil would be empowered to take action and send back the Bill with the right to pass it over the head of the Seanad. These two periods are run into one in this Bill. Remember that what I say is quite consistent with stating that the total period should be counted from the day on which the Bill comes to the Dáil. It is a question of separating a certain period into two parts, making provision that the Seanad should report at a certain stage and allowing the second part to be the period of suspension in the sense used in the report. As I say, these two periods are run into one. There is no attempt to run the periods into two parts, and indicate that the Seanad must take action within a shorter period than eighteen months. The Seanad can practically postpone dealing with a Bill until eighteen months have elapsed. It need not touch it, and those responsible for the Bill would not be aware until the end of that period what action the Seanad proposed to take. Therefore, it means that a much longer period would have to elapse if the Executive Council wished to inform public opinion. They would have to exhaust a lot of that year in which they should take action. That, in practice, means that the Seanad would have power to give a Bill a much longer period than 18 months before the Dáil would be in a position to send it back. As a member of the Committee, and as one who was present and listened carefully to the discussion, I say that that Bill does not really give effect to the ideas that were behind the proposals.
It is unfair to allow the Seanad eighteen months in which they could leave a Bill suspended absolutely in mid-air without indicating what action they may take. This House should know what action the Seanad propose to take within a period not longer than three or four months. My amendment does not break up the period into two parts. If I thought that there was any chance of getting this House to agree to anything, getting the majority to agree to anything, I would have put down two amendments. It would have meant a good deal of redrafting, but the first amendment would deal with the period within which the Seanad would have to report, and the other would deal with the suspension period. Since the President, however, put down his motion declaring that the immediate passage of these Bills is necessary to the preservation of the public peace and safety, it seems to me that he thinks himself strong enough to get members of the Dáil to subscribe to an obvious lie. As long as that is the situation nobody can take part in the proceedings with any feeling except that it does not matter what arguments may be adduced from this side of the House against a measure, as the Executive Council feel strong enough with their present majority to pass it, whether it is good or bad, right or wrong. Consequently I was not disposed to go to the trouble of redrafting all this Bill to make it read in two periods when the conditions are as they are. I have contented myself with giving a generous limit to the period within which the Seanad should report, namely, four months.
If we met, say, early in February it should be necessary for the work of this Dáil, in the case of Bills sent to the Seanad, say, on the 1st February, that a period including February, March, April, and May should be sufficiently long to allow the Seanad to consider them properly and report back here in time so that the matters could be dealt with in the Spring Session, at least. This means that, for example, if we send a Bill to the Seanad in February it is away until the coming year and need not appear back until June of that year. Suppose it is an important Bill and that the majority party consider that it is a matter that requires a good deal of despatch and that it should be dealt with within a reasonable time, yet the Seanad, by this Bill, is empowered not to look at it. They can say that they have this, that, and the other work to do and that they had not time to deal with it. There is no question of the Seanad reporting on that Bill for a full year and a half. Suppose the majority party say: "Very well. This is an important Bill. We do not agree with the amendments of the Seanad and we have to take action." Meantime they would probably feel that it is necessary that the position of the majority party should be explained to the country, that the matter in dispute should be thoroughly understood by the community, and a certain time would necessarily elapse before they would be prepared to take the drastic step of forcing the measure through in spite of the Seanad.
Consequently another six months would elapse. That is, you would have two years, half the life of a Parliament. Let us suppose that that was to happen about the middle of a term. You can take four years as the average life of Parliament under the present system. It means that any measures that would be introduced by an Executive about the middle of their term would be held up until after the elections. When an Executive has passed over the middle of its period, it may make up its mind, if there is a hostile Seanad, that every one of its measures may be held up, that it will be prevented from putting a single one through, and that it has to face an election on the most important measures that are being considered. I certainly think that any Executive that realised its responsibility at all would be very slow indeed to allow a House, even though the Executive has been its creator, to have that power. It is too great a power to give to any Seanad, and even though the period may be longer than I would wish for, I think you should divide the period definitely into two parts, and say at one stage that the Seanad should report back to this House, and that the period should not be longer than three months. If I thought there was any reason on the other side, or that any argument would appeal to them, I would have tried to put an amendment into the Bill which would have worked out in two parts, Instead of that I have tried to remedy the matter in a way in which it could be remedied—by the simple substitution of four months instead of eighteen. If the Seanad had four months to consider a Bill, the operation of that Bill would be suspended during that period. The Bill will of necessity, if there is a division between the two Houses, require time for negotiations between the two Houses or for informing public opinion as to the merits of the controversy. That will carry on the period for probably six months more. It may not take six months, but suppose it takes another four months; that is, eight months. A further two months will have to elapse after the resolution is passed, and that gives you ten months. In my opinion, ten months' delay is all the delay that should be necessary in order to get over any difficulty.
We listened to the Minister for Finance yesterday talking about the uselessness of Constitutions and the uselessness of checks, except in so far as these checks might be useful in considering a matter more carefully in the second instance than in the first. So far as the present Executive is concerned, I am inclined to agree. They did not allow Constitutions in the past to stand in their way, and they are not allowing this Constitution to stand in their way either. That is if they think they have a majority, their will is law. They have shown no respect whatever for any fundamental laws. The laws are the laws that seem expedient to themselves at the moment. However, there was a grain of truth in what the Minister for Finance said, even about an Executive other than the present Executive, and it is that if they feel that they are the representatives of the people, and that there is a certain programme which they are pledged to carry out for the benefit of the people as they conceive it, that Executive is not going to allow the Seanad to thwart it in that particular way, and they are going to have their way in the long run. What does it lead to? It leads to what is happening recently. It leads to a general disregard for law altogether. It leads to absolutely arbitrary action on the part of the Executive, and the feeling in the country that there is nothing stable, nothing solid, that the whole thing is changing from day to day. Consequently, the result of the passing of this Bill will be that on the first occasion on which there is a clash the Seanad goes, and I will not be sorry for it.
There are a number of things passing here, and as I said in the Committee, if my idea were, by some trick or other, to get rid of the Seanad by putting it in a position in which it was finally going to be swept away, these are proposals which would do it admirably, but I do not believe myself in that line of action at all. I believe if you want to do these things they should be done in a straightforward way. We have never made any secret whatever of our desire to get rid of the Seanad as it is at present composed, anyhow. As I said, we are not speaking in a doctrinaire way on the question of whether we should have one-chamber government or two. We are simply taking the position in which we now are, the type of Seanad which we now have, the purpose for which it was originally instituted, and all our present circumstances into account, and in all these circumstances we are against the existence of a second House as formed at present. We make no secret of the fact that we shall do our utmost to get the people to stand for a programme of abolishing that Seanad, but if it is done in one way, it will lead to very little trouble. If it is done in another way it may lead to a great deal of trouble, and the value of the fundamental law that has been so disregarded in the considerations of the Minister for Finance yesterday, is this: that in one case you are making for revolutionary changes. If you want that, very well. In the other case you are making for the right kind of change, namely, a constitutional change.
Since the present Executive five or six years ago—all the present members were not in the Executive Council then —first got power every action of theirs has been action which would be consistent only with actions of those who had no regard whatever for constitutional change, and who wish only for revolutionary change. If you are going to say that all fundamental laws are to be swept away, once you get a majority, that is one thing, but if at the same time you say that you prevent people from effectively changing their minds, or giving effect to a change of mind easily, then they have got to do it by methods which are not constitutional. It seems to me that the natural deduction from the statements made by the Minister for Finance yesterday was that the people are to be blocked from changing in the ordinary way. Every possible barrier is to be put up, and therefore if you are going to deal with an unscrupulous Executive, the only way is to deal with it by arms or force of some kind or another. An unscrupulous Executive cannot be dealt with under any fundamental law or Constitution. The only hope of redress held out to those who object to being governed by an unscrupulous Executive is to take arms against it. Such a position was forced before, and it is quite consistent for the present Executive to face a similar situation again.
I am not surprised that they are doing it. I do not want, however, to get away from the actual matter in hand, and the question here is whether this period of eighteen months should be given. I hold it should not, because it means that the Seanad will start in the middle of a period of office of an Executive and say, "We are going to hold up all the Bills that are necessary to show the people, for example, that you have been faithful to the pledges that you gave them at the election." A new Executive coming in will take a certain time naturally to take over the machinery of Government. A certain amount of time is necessary to make investigations as to the staffing of Departments and other things, about which information cannot be got from outside. The whole question of redundancy of staffs and other questions are matters which would naturally occupy any Executive for a certain period after coming into office. They will also require to make investigations of various kinds, and get their experts to give them detailed information about matters that they may have been considering as well as they could when out of office. Then the most effective part of their term of office, the second period, is just the period in which the Seanad comes in, and is in a position to prevent them from carrying out any of their programme.
The present Executive probably feel that they are quite safe in this. They feel that the Seanad is going to be one of their creations, as it will be composed of sixty members, thirty of whom they have nominated, the remainder being elected by their own particular group. They therefore feel that they have a vote of sixty to add at any time to such vote as they may have in the House here. Therefore, they feel they are in a very strong position, particularly as they have arranged that there is to be no disturbance for twelve years, for instance, of those who were elected at the last election—that they are to run their whole period of office. The Senators who were nominated for a period of twelve years shall run out their whole period, and the Executive feel that there is no danger. But if there was a normal position, I hold that no normal Executive elected would stand for that arrangement, and I am quite certain that if any other Executive gets into office, no matter what Party it is—any other Executive that will at all represent the national viewpoint—they will not stand that arrangement of giving the Seanad power to keep a Bill in the air for eighteen months, and compelling the Executive to go without giving effect to their programme in the last two years of office. Therefore I propose that, instead of a period of eighteen months, a period of four mounths should be given.
I have indicated that a period of four months will in practice amount to six at the minimum, and more likely to ten months. That gives you very nearly the old period which has just been deleted. Nine months was the period of delay that was given already, and even that period was too long. A shorter period would appear to most people to be quite sufficient. The period of delay that I propose will mean about ten months, instead of a period of well over two years. As I say, I think that anybody really interested in fixing in a reasonable way the relations between the two Houses, giving to the Seanad reasonable power, would not object to that amendment, and that it is only those who are taking quite an unreasonable attitude who would even suggest that this preliminary period of eighteen months should be given, which in practice would work out as a period of over two years.
The speech to which we have just listened postulates several things which neither I, nor the majority of the people of the country, nor in fact many people in the country, would agree with at all. It starts out with the assumption that there is bound to be a dispute between the Dáil and the Seanad. It goes on to assume that in any change which takes place as a result of further general elections the Party which is responsible for the election of the President and Executive is bound to come into conflict with the Seanad; that there is nothing but conflict possible all along the line; that you are dealing with an unscrupulous Executive, and that you must always frame any of your regulations and any of your safeguards with that in mind. These are not the circumstances of the time. The Seanad happens to be composed of persons just as anxious for the advancement and progress of the country as the Deputy's conception of his own wishes in that respect, if we are to take his public statements or his statements here as his conception of what is necessary for the advancement of the country. Eighteen months, with an addition of two months, is the period for which the Seanad can hold up a measure. It is most unlikely that a measure will be held up for that or for a long period. It ought to be borne in mind in connection with the holding up of legislation passed by the Dáil that if there be no accommodation found between the two Houses the Bill as passed by the Dáil, subject to whatever amendments are necessary in accordance with the change in time, is going to be law eventually. The Seanad will have that in mind, and with that in mind there will be a disposition towards accommodation. The last word in wisdom is not always with one of any two Houses in any part of the world, and a conflict such as the Deputy invites the House to consider, a conflict upon national lines, is a conflict which has never taken place between the two Houses and which is most unlikely to take place in future.
Two Bills have been held up in over five years. With the provisions enshrined in this particular amendment to the Constitution it is possible, in fact it is more than likely, that accommodation would have been found, that they would have been law with very few minor alterations during the period. They became law after nine months, and, as I say, with this new amendment, accommodation is much more likely to be found, and the disputes which the Deputy seems to envisage are not disputes which have arisen or are likely to arise in the future. He envisages the possibility of a new Executive being returned. To put it in a nutshell, what he imagines is that he is going to be here after the next general election and is going to take two years to make up his mind about introducing any legislation. It is going to be two years before he consults his experts and gets a majority decision from his Party, and the Seanad is there then to watch and hinder and hamper all his legislation. It takes him two years to make up his mind as to what he is going to introduce. He then enters into the consideration of presenting all these legislative proposals to the Dáil. All the time he has the fear of the Seanad, which is not a fear that a man should have who is proud of his position in the country or confident in his capacity to carry whatever he proposes. The Seanad, I am sure, after being given a rest of two years, will give due consideration to whatever proposals he puts before them. It is not, to my mind, a very remarkable indication of the great forward policy about which we have heard so much that we are going to have two years of breathing space before anything is introduced.
Even suppose the Deputy ever does get a majority in this country, and gets here and takes two years to put his proposals through this House, within four months he is safe, even against a hostile Seanad, perfectly safe. And let us suppose for a moment that he takes another year before he introduces his proposals, and that he is still dealing with the hostile Seanad, he has a great advantage, because with a dissolution the time is short.
Now, in considering these matters, we ought to give a little consideration to other people being just as anxious for advancement and progress and fair consideration, on their merits, of every proposal that comes from one House to another. It may be a disease of the mind or intellect that people enter into the consideration of legislative proposals with the idea that those opposed to them are always wrong. That has not been our experience here during the past four or five years but rather that proposals put from any side of the House got fair consideration. They were all considered in that light. This is a proposal for bringing about more workable accommodation between the two Houses. At any period during the eighteen months amendments from the Seanad can be considered here. Their amendments have not always been accepted here. There has been occasionally accommodation found on amendments that come from the Seanad. There have been very sensible and useful amendments put in by the Seanad. As I said before, the last word in wisdom is not with one House in any part of the world The fact that a Bill is going to be made law in the form in which it left the Dáil in the first instance will always be before the mind of the Seanad, and the only thing that can be done by them is to effect delay. It would be in the interest of both Parties if the measure was a useful one to pass it. I hesitate to think that in this country it would be possible to find a House of 60 members with a majority against a useful measure. That is what the Deputy opposite is inviting this House to consider in this case. He has made a poor case for his four months amendment.
I do not know whether we are to take this Bill as representing another attempt to reap the wild oats sown in the reckless youth of the Executive or what apology they have to offer for it. We were told yesterday that Articles 47 and 48 of the Constitution which were being deleted were inserted in consequence of the inexperience and youth of the Government. This Bill we shall have to assume has been introduced in consequence of their senile decay, because I do not think that any Government still in the possession of all its faculties would introduce this Bill into this House. Either that is the explanation or there is a much more serious explanation. I am going to give the Government the benefit of the doubt when I say that this Bill is the product of senile decay. If it is not the product of senile decay it is the product of a deliberate design against the people, to lessen the powers the people have to make laws on their own behalf.
The purpose of this Bill is to increase the power of the Seanad. Not all the speeches that came from the Government Benches, not all the fine arguments that could be advanced would serve to cloak the fact that the design that the Executive hopes to carry out as a result of this Bill is to double the power which the nominated House holds to interfere with and to veto legislation enacted by this body. Deputy de Valera pointed out that the period during which the Seanad may suspend a Bill or allow to elapse before it proceeds to discuss a Bill is not divided in any way. The President, of course, said it was most unlikely that a Bill would be held up for eighteen months. Is it desirable that a Bill should be held up for eighteen months? Are we to give to that House powers that they do not now exercise because the President is of opinion that it is most unlikely that these powers will be exercised? Why give these powers if it is most unlikely that they will be exercised? Do we not provide checks in the Constitution for the purpose of dealing with abnormal situations such as would be created by the coming into office of an unscrupulous Executive? Of course I am prepared to admit that the coming into office of a scrupulous Executive would be a perfectly abnormal situation in this country, and people would regard it as such. But we are discussing constitutional theory now, and we must talk as if the normal condition of the country was to have a scrupulous Executive in office. The President is reckoning on the fact that a Bill sent to the Seanad and held up by the Seanad will finally become law, to influence the Seanad to arrive at the accommodation. He is gambling upon the chance that the Executive will be prepared to facilitate them, and he does that with the knowledge that the Executive that exists, and will exist for many years, will always be prepared to facilitate them.
Of course there has been no dispute between the Seanad and the Dáil on national issues. There never was any reason for a dispute between the Dáil and the Seanad on national issues. The majority of the Seanad and the majority of this House hold the same views on national issues. What is to happen when an Executive comes into office whose views on national matters are completely opposed to the views the majority of the Seanad hold, and will hold, after that Executive has been elected? There will inevitably be a clash, and when it comes that Executive will have no alternative but to take drastic and, if necessary, unconstitutional action, to suppress the Seanad. The giving of powers of this kind to a nominated House, composed in the majority of people who are, and always have been, in the opposite camp to the Irish people, will inevitably lead to some unconstitutional action being taken. I do not mean necessarily forcible action, but some Executive with a big national reform to carry out, faced with a national crisis, will be compelled ultimately to put that Seanad where it belongs without the formality of introducing a Bill at all, because the only authority the Seanad has for its existence, and the only authority it can quote, the Constitution, has been admitted by both parties in this House to be something of no importance and that can be ignored as occasion requires.
The proposal embodied in this Bill is, in our opinion, a very serious one. No matter what the President may think to be likely or unlikely, it is, in fact, intended to give to the Seanad the power to suspend the Acts of this House for a minimum period of twenty months, a minimum period of over one and a half years. You can easily imagine a number of Bills of considerable urgency, a number of Bills designed to improve the economic conditions of the country, which would not recommend themselves to the Seanad as constituted at present, representing, as it does, a number of vested interests in this country. Is it proposed to give that nominated body the power to prevent necessary legislation, urgent legislation, and legislation required to prevent poverty or unemployment existing among our people—to prevent such legislation coming into operation for a period of two years? That is what it is proposed to do.
That is the effect this Bill will have when it is passed. The President may not consider it likely that the Seanad will exercise its powers in full to delay the passage of Bills into it from this House. This House will have to be satisfied on other grounds besides the President's opinion. Before this House gives powers of this nature to the Seanad it should think twice and not be satisfied with a mere expression of opinion as to whether or not it is likely the powers will be exercised. I hope— it is too much to hope, of course—that the Government may get a lucid interval and realise exactly where they are going, and, even at this stage, withdraw the Bill for the purpose of reconsidering the situation which they are attempting to create. The President seems to think that he has scored a point against Deputy de Valera by referring to what the Deputy had said concerning a new Executive coming into office and taking two years before it would be in a position to carry out its full legislative programme. Is the President serious? Does he really contend that a new Executive coming into office would be in a position to carry out all of its programme within two years? Has the Government found that they can prepare for presentation to the House important enactments in less than two years? I wonder how long it is since the report of the Committee on Evil Literature was published?
About eighteen months ago, and the Bill is not here yet. How long is it since the report of the Greater Dublin Commission was published?
A longer time— October, 1926.
Yes, October, 1926. and the Bill is not here yet. The report of the Workmen's Compensation Departmental Committee was presented. I think, three years ago, in 1925, and the Bill has not been introduced yet. The report on Insurance Societies and Insurance was presented in 1924. No legislation has been brought in yet. All these important reports were presented by the Government to the Dáil, but Bills dealing with them have not been presented yet. The Bills have not been prepared.
Do not blame the Government.
I do not propose to blame the Government for those things.
Senile decay, it is now evident, has been gradually developing, and their power to act rapidly and decisively is diminishing.
Do not be too sure of that.
It could not develop any further.
They can only act rapidly in one direction.
The fact is that the Government finds it necessary to take longer than two years to prepare for presentation to this House important Bills, Bills that have not been prepared yet. I have been told that the Evil Literature Bill is to be introduced before the end of the present session. There is no sign of its coming. I hope that the Government promises in this matter will not evaporate into thin air. It will certainly not be passed before the end of this session, unless the Government is prepared to co-operate with the Fianna Fáil Party in order to give it a swift passage. The amendment which Deputy de Valera has moved is designed to reduce the period of eighteen months in the Bill to four months. Even a period of four months is long, because, as Deputy de Valera pointed out, it will ultimately mean that the Seanad will exercise its powers in full to hold up a Bill for eight or ten months. The view of this Party, of course, on the matter is that the Seanad should not be there at all, but if it is, it should not have powers to hold up legislation, and if it is to have powers these powers should be such as not to give it the right to interfere unreasonably with the actions and decisions of the people's representatives. If the people are sovereign, if the people are the ultimate authority in the country, then this House should have the right to take action, and speedy action, on behalf of the people, where such action is necessary, without any other authority not representative of the people having the right to hold them up and put on the brake.
The Seanad, we must remember, has not been effective in preventing hasty and panicky legislation in the past, although it did possess the powers heretofore to hold up unwise and unnecessary Bills for nine months. They never attempted to do so in the case of Bills which were obviously the result of panic and the result of immature thought on the part of the Government. In fact, they showed themselves more liable to be influenced by panic than did the Government. They were always prepared to come to heel when the Cumann na nGaedheal whip was cracked in the matter of the Public Safety Bill, the Treason Bill, or any other Bill designed to give the Government power to suppress all Nationalist opinion that may have remained in the country. The President seems to be of opinion that it is impossible to find a House of sixty members prepared to interfere unreasonably with necessary legislation. It is not at all impossible, and the President knows that it is not at all impossible. I could find such a House of sixty members in a few moments. In fact, with a few slight alterations the existing Seanad could fill the bill very nicely. I could find a Seanad prepared to interfere unreasonably with certain legislation if that legislation was of a Nationalist tendency and not merely of the county council variety.
The proposal, we are also informed by the President, is designed to secure a more workable arrangement between the two Houses. The President can always contrive to advance fine arguments, as I said yesterday, in defence of a bad case. We are taking out Articles from the Constitution in order to implement the Constitution, and we are proposing to surrender a considerable part of our power to the Seanad in order to find a more workable arrangement between the two Houses. Why not abolish the Dáil? There would then be no clash between the Dáil and the Seanad. The will of the Seanad in all these matters would be paramount.
Why give the Dáil power to legislate at all? We could devise a system, I have no doubt, by which Bills could be sent to the Seanad for final consideration. We could, in fact, reverse the position of the two Houses and let the Seanad be the operative part of the Oireachtas and the Dáil the mere delaying part. A much more workable arrangement even than this could be found. I do not think that is the explanation, and I do not think the explanation given by the President is likely to deceive anybody. It is quite obvious it has not deceived even himself.
Before concluding, I would like to ask what was the mysterious purpose the Government had in presenting an amendment of the Constitution in this elaborate form? The section which it is proposed to insert in the Constitution is one that only the President could understand, and he could only understand it after giving it many days attention and many sleepless nights. He will remember that when he started to explain it on this day week he found he was off on the wrong track. It is obvious he has given it very close attention since. If it was the purpose of the Government merely to alter the Constitution to ensure that the power of the Seanad to suspend a Bill would be increased from nine to eighteen months, could they not insert in the Constitution an amendment to that effect? You have taken out of the Constitution the section which says that "a Bill passed by Dáil Eireann and considered by Seanad Eireann shall, not later than two hundred and seventy days after it shall have been first sent to Seanad Eireann, or such longer period as may be agreed upon by the two Houses, be deemed to be passed by both Houses, in the form in which it was last passed by Dáil Eireann ..." Why not change the two hundred and seventy days to eighteen months? A much less elaborate amendment would then be necessary. Certainly the amendment which appears here gives to me the impression that it was deliberately designed to prevent it being understood by anybody not versed in the reading of Bills. I would like to bet, if betting is still legal, that one-half the Deputies in this House have not gone to the trouble of reading Section 2 of that Bill. The first few lines would frighten any of them off. Only a few of us whose duty it was to find out what sense there was in it, if any, had the courage to wade through it. The remainder, and I challenge contradiction, have not gone through the section and could not give a concise account of what it means.
May I send the Deputy a copy of my notes in regard to any parts of the Bill that he might not have understood?
Deputy Lemass has spoken about the great national issues and the great national matters on which disputes might arise between this House and the Seanad. They were so great, as a matter of fact, that the Deputy mentioned that drastic and unconstitutional action would have to be taken——
——might have to be taken by his Party, if in power, in order to suppress the Seanad. But he does not give us the slightest details of what any one of such national matters or national issues might be.
Would the Ceann Comhairle have allowed me to do so?
In fairness to the discussion here, and in fairness to the Deputy himself, he might be allowed to give us some details of those matters.
The Ceann Comhairle might be prepared to allow an illustration, but not an argument upon the merits of the illustration—merely the illustration.
We have Article 17 instanced, and the Deputy says very definitely that is the effect the Bill will have if passed. That statement suggesting to us that he has now explained the thing absolutely in clear detail follows along the line of nebulous talk about national issues and national matters, and then comes a period of transition and we have the Deputy saying that legislation might be introduced in this House to improve the economic conditions of the people here, and that such legislation would be very definitely turned aside by the Seanad because of the type of House it is, the type of vested interests that there are there, and there is no suggestion of any kind as to any one particular matter affecting the economic condition of the people here that might be turned down in that very drastic way by the Seanad. The position simply is that the Deputy considers that there are certain constitutional maladies that this country suffers from and that, in so far as he or his Party are concerned, they could think of no other way of doctoring this constitutional malady or these maladies, which they have not very clearly defined for us, than by a stimulant of one kind or another.
We, on our side, think that any constitutional malady that the country suffers from cannot be assisted in any way by a stimulant of any kind; that you have to get down to the economic, social and industrial conditions of our people and build them up. When we approach the question of the purpose of the two Houses, we approach it not with any great complex with regard to constitutional difficulties. There has been other legislation referred to here that Deputies of the other side consider would have been useful for constitutional matters but not for ordinary legislation. In the same way they refer to the relations between the two Houses in constitutional terms and not in terms of legislation. We are thinking of the other House in terms of legislation and the work that can be done to build up the country industrially and economically.
If we take the period of time here we can have some interesting examples to work upon. Let us take the Arterial Drainage Bill, which was before this House, and which left this House on the 30th March last. It is going to be discussed back from the Seanad on to-morrow, the 28th June; that is, three months have passed as between the sending of that matter to the Seanad and its return. Now, the matters that had to be dealt with in the Seanad, and that will have to be dealt with between ourselves and the Seanad, are not matters of very great intricacy or with any great possibility of any long drawn-out disputes. Let us take it that they were matters of some intricacy. We might easily spend a fortnight, a month or two months here between our ordinary matters and else considering this Arterial Drainage Bill. Let us take it that it was a subject around which a very considerable amount of public heat of one kind or another had been developed in the course of the discussion, in working up towards its introduction in the Dáil, and in the discussion going on between ourselves and the Seanad. There is no possibility, under the periods of time suggested by Deputy de Valera, of the matter being brought to a decision with any period of rest in between in the matter of its public discussion. In that connection one must take into consideration the discussions in the Dáil, the subsequent discussions in the Seanad, and the disputes between the Dáil and the Seanad until the matter would finally come to a decision.
What is here provided for is that a matter that had been discussed in the Dáil for a particular period and passed on to the Seanad, then having been discussed in the Seanad, and then having been in dispute perhaps between the Dáil and the Seanad, would have a period of rest free from discussions in either of these Houses. That is a period during which any public agitation of any particular kind that might have been stirred up would have, in so far as it was spurious or exciting, subsided, and the representatives in both Houses, as well as responsible people in the country, could have a chance of looking at the matter in a clear, calm and unagitated light. The matter comes again to the Dáil for decision in eighteen months. Let us say that six months of the eighteen months are, in the case of a disputed Bill, taken up with discussions in the Seanad and with disputes between the two Houses. Assuming that the period is six months, that gives you a period of twelve months for the calming down of minds on the matter. But at the end of that twelve months—that is, at the end of the entire eighteen months—the matter comes for clear decision by the Dáil. If the Dáil is clear in its mind as to what position it wants to take, then there is no reason at all for the period subsequent to eighteen months extending beyond the sixty days.
Would the Minister allow me to submit that the argument he is putting up would be an excellent argument to apply to all the Bills, that the amount of delay and the amount of consideration given to these constitutional amendments would be very valuable indeed?
The Deputy is entitled to his opinion——
I am suggesting it to you for examination.
——but this is the decision that is proposed in this Dáil, and any person who does not obscure his mind by the kind of suggestions that have been made, both with regard to the Seanad and with regard to the dominant Party in this House at present, ought to be able to see a very good case for allowing such a period for rest in the case of a matter that would arise as one of clear dispute between the two Houses.
I mean that we want to get a close issue in this matter. Let the Minister direct his mind——
The Deputy has made no attempt, in discussing these matters, to get to a close issue.
We want to get to a close issue.
"The Deputy has made no attempt, in discussing these matters, to get to a close issue." When the logic of the Minister was put to him in reference to the very close issues that were before the House the Minister did not face them.
He ran away.
He sat down. If he really believed in his arguments about the necessity for delaying legislation he would insist that his Government would apply them and would preach by example. It is all very well to bring in legislation for things that are going to happen, but what faith can anybody have in people who are so hasty in their legislative methods that they contradict everything that comes from their mouths? As a matter of fact, the example taken by the Minister presents a certain ludicrous aspect because, suppose this Arterial Drainage Bill was held up for two months, that holding up would not only give time for feeling—supposing that there was feeling in the matter—to subside, but it would also give time for the floods to subside, give time to the farmers to subside, give time for anything to happen which would spoil largely the effect of the Bill. Suppose, for instance, when the Fianna Fáil Party comes into power that it finds that certain measures are necessary to stop immediately unemployment and emigration, are we to be in the position of having to wait two years until the rest of the people have gone out of the country, simply because these measures do not please the Seanad as then constituted?
Those measures that you will see when the time comes. If you will look at our programme you will notice that there are a number of things in it which the Seanad would not like, and which are not relevant to the discussion upon this measure. But they are there; I have them in my mind. I can see the conflict that is going to arise, and it is exactly the elements that are represented in the Seanad that we are up against that will make all the difficulties possible. If you were to examine the way in which your own difficulties had to be faced, if you were sincerely and frankly to tell the House the difficulties that you had in dealing with certain elements in this country, elements referred to in uncomplimentary language by the President himself, elements that the Minister for Finance found it difficult to deal with, you would see what the position would be. The people who make the difficulties are the people who have the power in the Seanad, and if they made difficulties for you, you are creating machinery so that when you go out of office they will be able to make ten times as much difficulty for anybody who stands for national principles or for the small farmers and the unemployed.
The President started off by charging Deputy de Valera with assuming that there was going to be conflict between the two Houses. The only reason for the existence of Section 2 is the possibility of an element of conflict. The argument is so cheap that really I cannot understand the President using it. It is a mere jibe at an individual, when the real matter lies in the Clause. If there was no assumption of a conflict there would be no reason for the existence of Clause 2 at all. The example taken by the Minister for Local Government in reference to the Arterial Drainage Bill was an excellent one as bearing out the contention of Deputy de Valera, because he showed in that case that three months was the period which was taken to deal with the matter over its various stages up to the time it comes back from the Seanad. It happened that on that Bill there were people in the Seanad who were experts and who gave considerable assistance in dealing with the matter. You have it within three months, but this amendment proposed by Deputy de Valera allows a month over and above that. So that that is a close issue, a concrete example of the value of this amendment, and still it would leave time over, supposing, as the Minister supposed, it were a matter where there was a certain amount of contention; according to the amendment there would be still four or five months to feel public opinion on the matter and to see whether it was in accordance with the interests and the wishes of the people generally, that is to say, if the Seanad had decided for suspension.
Another of the Presidential jibes was that we were assuming that we would be in power after the next election, and then a picture was drawn of what we were going to do—we were going to sit down for two years and do nothing. That is, of course, a cheap jibe; I cannot really describe it as anything else, because it implies that after two years there is not to be any more legislation. That is what is suggested by it, if anything. Even as it stands that is the way it works out, because the words in the last paragraph of Section 2 are: "The said stated period is the period commencing on the day on which the said Bill is first sent by Dáil Eireann to Seanad Eireann and ending at whichever of the following times is the earlier, that is to say, the expiration of eighteen months from the commencement of the said period or the date of the re-assembly of the Oireachtas after a dissolution occurring after the commencement of such period." Now, suppose an Act comes into force at the end of the dissolution, what happens? The next Government coming into power can repeal that Act and render it nugatory. The carrying out of the Act is the most important part of it, and if a Government delays up to the very last minute in enforcing an Act which should properly have been enacted two years earlier, and then that Government goes out of office, of course it has not the power to carry the Act through. Suppose, for instance, that a central bank were established by an Act within two years. The Act would not come into force within that two years, a dissolution would take place and, I suppose, President Cosgrave then would anticipate that he might come back into power and render the legislation as useless as it was intended to be useful, to subserve the interests which have prevented him from dealing with matters like that in the past, so that that particular measure of legislation would be of no value to the country.
Would the Deputy explain how, under this Bill, the Seanad would be enabled to hold up a Bill which provided for the establishment of a central bank, for example?
I do not think that the Deputy was in the House when it was being explained how the matter would work out.
I want the Deputy to explain, with special reference to a Bill for the establishment of a central bank, how it could be held up by the Seanad on account of this Bill?
Are you contending that a Central Bank Bill would be a Money Bill?
Are you contending that a Central Bank Bill would be the most important item in a legislative programme?
The Deputies must use the third person.
First of all the Deputy set out with the assumption that a Bill establishing a central bank would be a Money Bill, which, of course, is not so. I think that disposes of the matter, because it is ordinary legislation. Of course these changes in the Constitution only bear out the original contentions of a very distinguished lawyer in this country who is now dead—I refer to Judge Stephen Ronan—who, in his decisions, regarded the establishment of the Constitution as ordinary legislation, and changes of the Constitution as ordinary legislation. That is not the view held by other judges, and obviously it is not the view held by the Government, but, as a matter of fact, from beginning to end, from our point of view, the Constitution is only ordinary legislation, and no matter what rush tactics are adopted now there is nothing sacred about it. In fact it is less sacred on account of the rush, and when the time comes it will be subject to change by ordinary legislation.
I see in the proceedings of the Joint Committee in connection with the Constitution of the Seanad:
"That the Joint Committee recommends, if the foregoing recommendation of the Joint Committee with respect to Article 38 of the Constitution be accepted, that Article 47 of the Constitution be amended so as to remove from the Seanad the power to demand a referendum save in the case of a Bill to amend the Constitution."
So that, as far as I can make out, the proceedings of the Joint Committee and the decisions they arrived at were not so much determined by points of constitutional development or matters as to what was the best way to provide us with a Seanad, but were dictated, as this resolution plainly indicated, by the fact that the Seanad felt itself to be in a certain bargaining position. The whole question, therefore, is not a question of ordinary constitutional usage and practice, but a question whether the House is going to accept the decisions of a Committee whose decisions have been prejudiced in this way. I think the Seanad might have done its work a little better; it might, at least, have concealed its hand. It might have failed to show the country quite so clearly as it has done that this is merely a question of a bargain between the Government Party and the Seanad, that on the strength of that bargain, and on the strength of the demand of the Seanad that there would be a quid pro quo, that for something they were asked to give up, something else should be taken away, and that in order to make up for the taking away of the power of the Referendum from them they should be given this additional power. I think that the House should take the whole position into consideration, and ask themselves whether at this hour of the day, after the experiences and struggles of the past five years and the changes that have recently taken place, this position, this foundation, this extraordinary bargain is the best way in which to approach this whole question of the Seanad. I cannot believe that, and I am more than surprised at the attitude of Deputy Tierney. He recognised clearly, apparently, that this is a question far beyond Party matters, which may, as other Deputies have pointed out, lead to conflict in the future, and is a question which, in any case, is definitely changing the balance of power between these two Houses as we knew them in the past, into something entirely different. But I am surprised to see that Deputy Tierney allowed that change to go, and that the only Deputy, in spite of the fact that the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, the Labour Party, as well as the Fianna Fáil Party and Senators themselves were represented, dissenting from this bargain, which was proposed by a Senator, apparently at direct dictation from the Seanad itself—was Deputy de Valera. The Minister for Agriculture endeavoured to develop a point of view yesterday, but did not succeed in developing it, because I think he found himself in the position that he could not very well go forward and, perhaps, had not the courtesy to go back.
He did not find himself in the position of developing his argument about the will of the people and all that. I hope that he will show, now that he is here, how he proposes to defend his doctrine that the will of the people is being safeguarded in this matter. He said yesterday, of course, that the position is entirely changed. During the past four or five years the country was in the position that it had a constitutional dictatorship inside, although it was not called that, and a military dictatorship outside. If they did not do what they were told inside, and if the Seanad did not prove sufficiently accommodating to allow the legislation of the past few years to be rushed through, the people would have been faced with the lawful alternative of military dictatorship outside. Now the Minister for Agriculture wants to make us believe that the military dictatorship, or some other form of dictatorship, is here on these benches. I should like to hear the Minister developing that point. In my opinion the element of dictatorship is lurking at present in these proposals, and if a dictatorship or a centre of resistance, as an English philosopher calls it, is going to be instituted in this Constitution and in this Assembly against the mandate of the people, and against the will of the people, that centre of resistance is being made in the Upper House, and the Government Party themselves are plainly making it.
The President made a few jokes, as usual, about the fact that certain things were most unlikely. He made no attempt whatever, I think, to reply to the clear statement of Deputy de Valera, which has been amplified by other Deputies, that if these proposals take shape it will mean that unless a new Executive proceeds to rush all its legislation through immediately it comes into power, and if there is delay, as there must necessarily be delay if you have a change of Government, before the Government can get all its legislation into ship-shape—we know how slow the draftsmen have been in the Government Party in preparing schemes on which nearly all Parties were agreed—the position will be that if legislation should come up about the middle of the term of office of the future Executive, the Seanad will be in power to negative that legislation. The mandate on which the Executive may have been returned will have been thrown away, the time of the House will have been spent, and the conflict can only have one ending, which will mean the possible disappearance of the Upper House. At any rate it will mean victory for the Lower House. Such a conflict will undoubtedly be precipitated, and, as I said last week, is it worth it to plunge the country into another struggle simply because you want to take away from your present Opposition the powers that they had under the Constitution and believed they had when they came into this House? Without lessening in any way the powers of the Seanad, you propose actually to increase their powers and place them in a stronger position than they are in at present.
Now, even if we had not the element of bargain there in the report of the Joint Committee, and if we did not know that this was simply a quid pro quo between the Government Party and the Seanad, I submit to Deputies that even if that were not so we should still be careful of taking this Bill in a rushed manner, and of assuming that this particular piece of legislation is so necessary and so urgent that it should be thrown at our heads at this time. Whatever justification there may be for the introduction of the other measures, even for the measures dealing with the abolition of the Initiative and the Referendum I say that there is no justification whatever for bringing this Bill forward now and rushing it, a Bill that is clearly and distinctly quite separate in principle from the other measures. As I suggested before, the proper way to have dealt with it would be to have taken the other parties in the House into your confidence and to have got your constitutional lawyers to examine the whole question from every angle, and after you had done that, if you were quite satisfied that it was for your own good, not alone for the good of the Executive and the good of this House, but for the good of the people at large, that the powers of the Seanad should be extended, then by all means extend them.
Had this Committee any single case put before it, and to what extent did it examine the history of this Assembly for the past five or six years to enable it to come to this decision? As far as I know, the Seanad, during the past few years—I hope that in the future it will be equally so—proved itself admirably accommodating. It never went out of its way in the slightest particular to interfere with the Government, even though it knew that a solid body representing one-third of the citizens of the country, if they could have secured representation here upon certain terms, would have fought to the last inch certain measures that were being passed. That body had so little regard for these people, for its own real position and for its future, that it made no effort whatever to combat these pieces of legislation. On a certain occasion, when they had the audacity in the Upper Chamber to introduce a trivial amendment into a certain Bill which had nothing whatever to do with politics, and which the Speaker of this House declared was merely a matter of electoral machinery, specifying that a person, in order to be on the register, should have his rates paid, the amendment was ruled out by this House. The President and the Minister for Local Government at the time, and in fact the whole Ministry, got quite excited at this extraordinary development whereby this accommodating Seanad had the impudence to bring in an amendment which they themselves—and there are some good lawyers in the Seanad—believed was an amendment in keeping with the principle of the Bill, but which the Ministry in their anxiety to rush through legislation, did not or could not accept, and which they ruled was not in accordance with the principle in the Bill. Therefore, on that slight occasion, when the Seanad on a small matter showed a certain amount of independence, the present Ministry, who tell us now that we have nothing to fear, that it is quite unlikely that any serious situation will arise in connection with this matter, told us at that time that it was the height of impudence on the part of the Seanad to do that, and that a piece of non-contentious legislation had been changed into a contentious one, and that the whole principle of the Bill had been changed, that it was quite unfair to the Dáil, and so on. But now they have entirely changed their tune.
What were the circumstances at that time? They were that although you had not the closure and had not these resolutions so frequently proposed of declaring certain measures to be necessary for the immediate preservation of the peace and safety of the population, although you had not these arms which the Executive has now taken to itself, you had here a large majority and a small Opposition, and you were able to get your Bills through in a fairly rapid time. On the particular day when this matter happened in the Seanad, there were about eight Bills, I think, introduced. Not alone did the Seanad propose to give all of them a Second Reading, but some of them suggested, or I think it was suggested to them by the Ministry, that they might actually let these eight measures, or some of them, go through for Report Stage. That is an indication of the extent to which the Seanad had been a check. It was no check whatever. It made certain amendments, but never attempted to interfere with the principle of legislation. It never attempted to give voice to the ordinary opposition in the country that was against these measures, and there is nothing whatever in the report of the Joint Committee to show that this matter was considered in that way: to what extent this check which the Seanad was supposed to be in the past has been for the good of the country, and to what extent legislation had benefited by the work that the Seanad had done in connection with other measures.
What really happened during the last few years was that you had a strong Government Party and this weak Opposition, and no matter what was said or done everything was secure and serene when a Bill had passed through this House. The Seanad was not regarded seriously by the present Executive. Let them not attempt to make us believe now that they regarded the Seanad as something valuable and worthy, and something which really contributed to legislation. They never regarded it seriously for a minute. They rushed through their legislation, and if the Seanad had attempted to hold up a finger against the Public Safety Act, for example, they would have fallen under the anathemas and objurgations of the Executive and of the President and his Ministers.
We are in the position at present that we have an Opposition. Let the Minister for Agriculture, with all his knowledge, tell us what check is better for democracy than a large Opposition Party on certain defined principles.
The whole argument made by Deputy Tierney and others that the Seanad cannot possibly be a replica of this House is a false one. It is an argument that democracy is unsound, that while it may be good enough for this Chamber we cannot trust it in the Seanad, and that our endeavour must be to baulk and cut out democracy and to institute some undemocratic power as far as lies in our power. We have an Opposition here, and that is the best check, an Opposition that, as the Minister for Agriculture said yesterday, has to fight its way in the country. It has plenty of difficulties in its way, I can assure you. You have adult suffrage behind it, you have a fairly well-educated population with, I hope, a growing feeling, of what the Executive often say they are so anxious for, of civic responsibility and with an interest in public affairs. In addition, you have every Party represented in this House. Whatever argument might be put forward for the maintenance of the Seanad, if you had merely a two-party system, if you had not proportional representation, and if you had fear of that Party coming back with a large majority that might be out of all proportion to its real strength in the country—whatever arguments you might have for the maintenance of the Seanad and the existence of its powers under that system, I hold you have no argument for its maintenance under the present circumstances.
Every class in the community is represented in this House, whether they are represented by a large or small body of Deputies. In certain constituencies you have nine Deputies. You have, perhaps, a 50 per cent. poll, and you can calculate from that that only a very small interest in a particular constituency can get representation here, and that the proportional representation system is the best and real safeguard. While you have it there, and while you have now the position that every Party except one is represented here, you have a far better check than the check you seek to give to the Seanad by enabling it to hold up legislation for a longer period. And as well as that you have the Constitution. Are you afraid that the future Executive is going to treat the Constitution in the way you have done: that it is going to tear out Articles here and there to suit its purposes? Have you any belief in this structure you have set up that you do not think your Seanad, as at present constituted, with the various interests you have built up behind you, your own Party, the Press, the Constitution and the Treaty, that all these things put together are not sufficiently strong to meet what the President terms the extraordinary conceptions of Deputy de Valera? Surely they ought to be strong enough to meet poor Deputy de Valera. Surely no extraordinary revolution is going to happen in the country. Surely the Press is not going to change its tune. Surely the people are not going to become alive to the facts of the situation, in the way that they will return a large majority for Deputy de Valera at the next election. I think that the Ministry know the Irish people better than that, having treated them so well, and having understood them so well, and having been able, like the Minister for Agriculture, to tell them that you are the will of the people. You stood for the will and sovereignty of the people, and at the same time worked that will of the people not in the way the people wanted it, but in the way the Maxwells, the Cromwells and the landlords did.
AN LEAS CHEANN-COMHAIRLE
I suggest the Deputy is wandering somewhat from the amendment.
I want to indicate to the House that the interpretation the Minister for Agriculture gives to the doctrine of the will of the people is not the interpretation by which it is known in the country, and the Minister knows that.
That was on another Bill.
The will of the people, I submit, comes into all these Bills. We cannot get away from it. If we got the Minister for Agriculture out of the House we might be able to get away from it, and we might be able to get back to the question of the dictatorship which would enter into the lives of the people, but we cannot do that while the ultra-Constitutional Minister for Agriculture is here. He told the people a lot of things that he has not told them in this debate.
I knew that Deputy MacEntee would not forget that.
I submit that whether the other Parties can agree with Deputy de Valera's amendment or not they at any rate should not accept the principle laid down in this Bill by which the power of holding up legislation in two different periods will be increased to eighteen months, and that will mean the particular circumstances and atmosphere and the particular influences that have given rise to and grown up around the introduction and passing of legislation in this House will have completely disappeared. You cannot hold up the business of the country, and that is what I believe it will mean, if you have important measures which are passed through this House after being discussed in all their stages held up for eighteen months. You are adding to the insecurity you want to get rid of, and creating the position Deputy de Valera spoke of, that the people do not know whether or not there are other changes in the offing. If there is to be a struggle why not let it come off as soon as possible, and shorten the period to a reasonable limit so that within twelve months the country would know where it stands? If there is to be a conflict between the two Houses, if you cannot accept an amendment to shorten the period to four months and you keep this eighteen months, that would be out of all proportion and no precedent has been mentioned to show that anything like it exists in any other country. No argument has been adduced to show that good will be rendered to legislation. No one doubts the growing incapacity and lesser influence the Seanad will have because of the growing time devoted to legislation here, and if you are going to make them a tool in this way they will take advantage of certain particular enactments to hold them up, and they will hold up the business of the country in that way.
I ask you not to give them that power. It means that not alone on national questions the way to achieving the full national aspirations of the people will not be left open to the people, but it means that certain matters which affect particular interests in this country will be held up. You say the Seanad will not be a replica of this House. It will not, but it will be a replica of the interests that feel they cannot get themselves sufficiently strongly represented under adult suffrage and proportional representation, and they will want additional representation. You must give them that no matter what panel you adopt, because the whole thing is wrong from the democratic point of view. Notwithstanding that, you propose to give them this power which will enable them to interfere with the many measures which we all foresee would be for the uplifting of the common people, but would not please the interests that have entrenched themselves here during the British times and, I am sorry to say, also during the past five or six years.
It seems to me, from what I have heard of these debates, that we are really in need of a few definitions of political terms in this country. Great use has been made of the word "democracy." The suggestion is being constantly put forward from the Opposition Benches that you cannot have democracy unless every single matter is decided by direct election. The argument is put forward that this Seanad which it is proposed to set up will not be a democratic Seanad, and therefore should not be given any powers at all. One would imagine, from some of the statements made from the Opposition Benches, that this was the first time in the history of the world in which the happy idea of inventing a Senate and giving it powers had occurred to any legislature. One would imagine that there was no such thing as a Senate with specific powers in any State; that we had suddenly conceived the idea for the first time; that we were doing something altogether unprecedented and unheard of in the whole history of democracy. I do not know what exactly the Opposition Deputies mean by their use of the word "democracy." I would like to know whether they mean that you must have a system under which every single action taken by the State would be taken by means of direct election, or whether they would go as far as Deputy de Valera seemed inclined to go, when he talked about bringing back the system of ancient democracy, and introduce selection by lot into the country. In ancient times, when democracy was first invented, nobody thought democracy was perfect unless most matters were decided by lot. If we are to have this system of democracy, I would suggest to the Fianna Fáil Deputies that they should put forward this idea of selection by lot for all offices and for the election of the Seanad as well as the Dáil.
This Bill gives the Seanad a certain extended power to hold up Bills passed by the Dáil, but that power is not really so wide or so far-reaching as speakers on the Opposition Benches seem to imply. In the first place, it does not apply to Money Bills. When Deputy Little talks about a Bill to deal with the unemployment situation being held up by the Seanad, he overlooks the fact that it would be very difficult for any Government to frame a Bill of any value to deal with the unemployment situation which would not, in some way or other, come under the definition of a Money Bill, and which, therefore, could not be held up by the Seanad. Of course, speaking frankly, I should contemplate with equanimity any Bill which would prevent Deputy Little taking heroic measures in connection with unemployment, both for the sake of the unemployed and for the sake of the country as a whole. But I would point out to him that this Bill would not prevent him from taking heroic measures—at least, measures which are to have any effect—when his Party come into power, if it does come into power.
In the second place, what this Bill really does give to the Seanad is power to compel the Government of the day to go to the people with any piece of legislation which the Seanad deems to be sufficiently contentious to hold up for eighteen months. If Deputy de Valera and his Party, for example, do come into power, and if any highly-popular piece of legislation of theirs is held up by the Seanad, then they have always by this Bill the option of putting that piece of legislation before the people at a general election, and if it is so popular, and so badly needed, surely they will be able to get a mandate from the people at the general election which will enable them to put their Bill through without any delay afterwards. What Deputy Little and other members of his Party seem to be really afraid of—I would not be surprised if there was some reason for their fear—is that if the Fianna Fáil Party come into power, some Bill, passed by the Dáil, will be held up by the Seanad, and that, at the general election, the country will immediately take the first opportunity of putting them out of office, their piece of valuable legislation being lost as a result. That is what Deputy Little seems to be really afraid of, and I agree that there are some grounds for that fear. However, the remedy for that situation really lies within the power of the Fianna Fáil Party itself.
Great play has been made with the statement that the Seanad, as contemplated by this Bill, will be a nominated body. An attempt is made to obscure the fact that, in a comparatively short time, the Seanad will be a body selected very largely by this House and, as time goes on, selected in increasing measure by this House. Ultimately, the time will come when every member of the Seanad will have been selected at some stage or other by this House and the nominated element will have disappeared. There is no reason whatever to assume that the Seanad will be the last refuge of any class or section of the community which is filled with deadly hatred of Deputy Lemass and everything that Deputy Lemass stands for. Speaking for myself, I am getting somewhat tired of Deputy Lemass on these questions. He talked about the Government reaping the wild oats it had sown in its boyhood. I am afraid the Deputy is treating us to the spectacle of himself actually sowing his wild oats. He never opens his mouth but he smells the blood of an Englishman. Even if he does not smell the blood of an Englishman, he cries, "Fee, faw, fum." Every speech he makes is a threat that at some future period he will be forced to take some unconstitutional action. Deputy Lemass and his Party took unconstitutional action before and this country survived it. If they are so anxious to take unconstitutional action again, they might shout less about it. They might wait until the time came and take their unconstitutional action. As it is, the edge will be worn off our expectation.
You would not be a dangerous man to take unconstitutional action against.
I have had to sit here for long periods and listen to those wild threats from Deputy Lemass. We have had this "Fee, faw, fum"——
You can do the "Fee, faw, fum" as well as anybody.
I cannot see where the justification is for all the strong language about this Bill and the denunciation of oligarchy and of the undemocratic action of the Government. I do not see the justification for all the fear that the Seanad may be able to hold up some highly-popular and badly-needed piece of legislation. This Bill is not only a substitute for Article 38 of the Constitution, but it is also a substitute for Article 47. While giving the Seanad extended power in one direction, it takes away from that body extended power in another direction. It takes away from the Seanad a power which was dangerous and— partly because it was dangerous— largely unworkable. It was a power which I, personally, believe the Seanad should never have had. It gives the Seanad a power which is workable and which does not allow them to interfere too much with the wishes of the Dáil. It always provides that any Government whatever which finds its work being held up by the Seanad can put that work through easily after a General Election. I do not see that there is any real reason for opposing this Bill on any democratic grounds at all. I believe the opposition which has been offered to it is not inspired by any real feelings on this Bill, but by the general state of mind of the Opposition in regard to the Bill to delete Article 48.
I fail to see the necessity for extending the present period of time to eighteen months. I cannot find anything in the report of the Committee to justify that action. The Seanad seems to have been very loath in the past to have taken the course of even holding up a measure for nine months, and it certainly will be a great deal more loath to hold one up for eighteen months. With all respect to the proposers of this amendment, I do not see how in any way the proposed amendment is going to facilitate either the business of Parliament or be of any advantage to the electors of the country. Nine months is a considerable time to give to a second Chamber the right of delaying the passage of a Bill passed by the other Chamber, and until I am shown some tangible reason why this period should be extended I, for one, will vote against it. I do not say that a period of four months would be quite sufficient, but I see nothing particularly wrong in the present period of nine months, and until I am shown to the contrary I will be prepared to leave things as they are. The Seanad, undoubtedly, will even be less democratic than it is now when the new system of election comes into force. It will not be elected directly by the people in this country. It will be elected, I suppose it might be said, indirectly by representatives of the Dáil and those who are in the Seanad, and in that sense it will not be an entirely nominated body. If nine months were a sufficient period to give to a body which ultimately would have been directly elected by the people of this country for the holding up of measures passed by the Dáil, I certainly see no reason for giving eighteen months to a Chamber which shall not be so elected, and which shall be formed by a process in which the electors of Saorstát Eireann will have no direct concern. Therefore I think that the proposal is unnecessary, that it is going too far, and that nine months would be quite sufficient to give to the other Chamber, elected as it will be upon an entirely different basis from the present one, to delay the passage of measures passed by this House.
I find myself largely in agreement with Deputy Redmond in this matter. First of all, I cannot understand why the Government introduced this Bill, having regard to the fact that the Constitution (Amendment No. 6) Bill, which leaves the Seanad without any responsibility to the people, has been already practically passed. It has been said on both sides—I do not know which side wants to make the argument in its favour— that up to the present the Seanad has not interfered with or held up legislation—in other words, that it has not used the powers it has under Article 38. What is the justification for introducing a measure to give them more extended powers when they have not already used the powers that are there? I can find one reason, and one reason only. Up to the introduction of these Bills the Seanad had a certain responsibility to the people, because at some time they had to go before them for election. Hence the holding up of legislation passed by this House, which is directly representative of the people, would have been a dangerous policy for the Seanad to adopt. What is going to happen now? In these circumstances the Seanad did not hold up legislation, but now we have a Bill practically passed—its passage was made easy—by which the Seanad is going to be elected by the Senators themselves and this House. If you give people, under those circumstances, extended powers, is it not likely that they will use them to the fullest and the time will come when they will hold up this legislation for eighteen months simply because they are not accountable to the people? For that reason alone there is a sufficient argument for not supporting this Bill.
I admit that if the Seanad is going to be useful at all it must have certain powers of restriction, but those powers are amply covered by Article 38. If Deputy de Valera had adopted the period in Article 38, or had satisfied himself with moving the rejection of this Bill, he could have made a case. I can see his difficulty. The period had to be a little different from what was in the Constitution before, and at the same time he had to see that the Seanad was not getting too much power. I would prefer to vote for Deputy de Valera's four months than for the Government's eighteen months, but I think that Article 38 does not require a comma removed, and in my opinion this Bill is altogether unnecessary.
There is another aspect. It is an extraordinary fact—I pointed it out in a lesser degree before—that not one of the Senators missed a meeting of this Joint Committee. All this new legislation is practically legislation suggested by the Seanad itself. This Bill is a suggestion of the Seanad itself. This Bill is a child of the Seanad, and the Government are adopting that child and want us to give the Seanad more extended powers.
Was this House not represented there?
It was not.
Not represented on the Joint Committee?
Not as it should be. Many of the members elected, as I pointed out before, did not attend. The representation on this Committee was five from the Seanad and five from this House. One member of the Seanad was equal to two and a half members of the Dáil in this division. There are sixty members in the Seanad and 153 members in the Dáil, so one Senator is equal to two and a half Deputies. If the proportion on the Committee was properly arranged, we would have fifteen on that Committee instead of five. That is an answer to Deputy Byrne.
All this legislation has been suggested by the Seanad. The Seanad as represented on that Committee has entrenched itself, and the Government have adopted the idea, so that the Seanad is going to be a stronger body than the elected representatives of the people, if this Bill passes. With reference to the power the Seanad is to be given under this Bill, I for one will not allow popular election to be wiped out on the one hand, and these people, to be nominated by this House or any other, given larger powers than the people's House have to-day.
If this Constitution (Amendment) Bill is passed—I presume the Government feel certain it will pass—the people will have at least one consolation as a result of the discussion here. The President has clearly indicated that he realises the truth of what Deputy Flinn said yesterday, that the writing was on the wall.
The writing is on the wall. This Government is on its last legs. It is to go at the next election. Consequently it finds it necessary to set up some barrier to prevent progress by its successors in the hope, I presume, that those barriers will be sufficiently strong to drive the new Executive to the country, and in the hope also that Cumann na nGaedheal may again wangle back into power. The Minister for Local Government has asked what national matters might give rise to a clash between the Seanad and the Government. No doubt it must be very difficult for a Minister who has been in the position which that Minister has occupied, or rather in the varied positions which he has occupied in the last few years, to visualise any issue on which the Government could clash with the Seanad. I would, however, like to submit that the Government which we visualise in the future will be a very different Government in national matters and in national outlook to that which we have known for the last five years. As to what matters might give rise to a clash, I do not think that it requires a great stretch of imagination to visualise some of them, particularly economic matters.
We might have, for instance, on a clear mandate from the people, a Bill brought in to nationalise railways. Is it assumed that we would not find in the Seanad people who for certain reasons would oppose such a Bill tooth and nail? We might find, and we might secure, a mandate for various economic reforms, and I submit that the personnel of the Seanad is such, and is likely to be such during its term of office, that any economic reforms brought forward here for the specific purpose of uplifting the masses of the people would undoubtedly find a united opposition in the Upper House or, at least, an opposition by a majority of the members there. That Upper House was put there, not for the purpose of helping national legislation, not for the purpose of helping this country to progress towards national or economic freedom, but was put there as a definite barrier to the realisation of these ideals. It will be only serving its purpose by continuing to oppose any such measures. Yesterday the Minister for Defence impressed on us, in discussing another Constitution (Amendment) Bill, the necessity for government. Above all things, he said, we must have government, and the majority Party, or the Party which goes to the country, submits a coherent programme to the people and obtains a mandate, is entitled to come back and put that programme into effect. Is this proposal not aimed at destroying that authority or, at least, at hindering its progress? At least, one could agree that the Party which obtains a mandate is entitled to give effect to that programme.
Why then come along the following day and take away from a Government the right to give effect to that programme? This Bill, as some other Deputy has said, aims at giving more power to the Seanad. Those of us who have known the record of that Seanad since its inception can quite understand why that power is being given. It is being given because this Government sees that its term of office is nearing an end, and that it has got to hand over all the powers it possibly can confer on its allies in the ring. The relationship between the two Houses since this Government came into existence has always been harmonious, and if on any occasion there was an attempt at independent criticism on the part of Senators, we know how it was treated by Ministers. President Cosgrave attempted to lead us to believe that this Bill is introduced because he recognises that the last word in intelligence and judgment does not rest with one House in any country, but it is not for that reason that we are extending the powers of the Seanad, it is not with a view to soliciting their judgment and opinion on any matter. Deputy Tierney referred to a statement alleged to have been made by Deputy de Valera when he advocated selection by lot. I do not know exactly what he means, but, at any rate, I am sure that it would be preferable to the present method of selection to the Seanad, namely, selection by lodges and Chambers of Commerce and all the other various interests operating in this country against the common people. These are the interests represented there, and these are the circles from which Senators have been drawn to serve the imperial idea.
There is nothing in this Bill about selection at all.
I am replying to the statement made by Deputy Tierney. If the Government were sincere in this matter, if they were sincere when they say that it is with a view to preventing hasty legislation and with a view to ascertaining whether the Government are acting in the interests of the people and with a mandate from the people, they have had ample opportunity here during the last few weeks of proving their sincerity in that matter. They failed to practise what they preached. They have rushed through Bills and, not alone have they rushed Bills through, but they are putting down a motion for to-morrow, I think, to prevent the Seanad from holding up those measures, even for the limited period in which they are entitled to do so at present. That proves the extent of the sincerity of the Government in that matter. I was glad to hear Deputy O'Hanlon opposing this Bill, and I hope to have the pleasure of hearing Deputy Alfred Byrne supporting him in that opposition.
What a hope!
I am sure that Deputy Alfred Byrne will recognise the truth of what Deputy O'Hanlon has said, and the very fact that Independent Deputies were not consulted and were not represented on this Committee which brought in these proposals, in itself should be sufficient to justify Deputy Alfred Byrne joining forces with us in opposing this Bill. This is the product of the representation of the Seanad on that Committee. I do not know exactly whether it is their proposal or not but, at any rate, the Report indicates that they never missed having their full forces present at every one of these Committee meetings and they were, as has been pointed out, in the majority. I think that the Independent Deputies should assert their rights to representation on the Committee which was considering such important matters as these. I trust that with the aid of Deputy Alfred Byrne, Deputy O'Hanlon, and all other Deputies who care to exercise their intelligence on this matter, we will be able to defeat the Government.
The one great improvement that has been made in these discussions since we started them is that that atmosphere of contempt and contumely for their own off-spring, contempt and contumely which no doubt that off-spring deserves, the attitude of contempt and contumely, with which the Government treated its own Constitution Amendment Bills, 13, 14, 15, 8, 7, and 6, has been amended. Instead of Ministers getting up mumbling two or three words which none of us could hear—the fact that we could not hear them was their best recommendation— we now have Ministers actually put up to defend these Bills, but having regard to the actual calibre and to the actual merit and nature of the speeches which have been delivered yesterday and to-day in defence of these Bills, by the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Local Government, I am doubtful whether they were more greatly insulting their legislative off-spring by leaving them unannounced than by announcing and defending them. Of course it is impossible for me to obtain at this early stage the ipsissima verba of the speech delivered by the Minister for Local Government, but if I could get the ipsissima verba of that great utterance, the best speech I could make against this Bill would be to deliver that speech word for word in relation to the Bill itself. You have the extraordinary position that the exact and detailed arguments put up for the provisions of this Bill by the Minister for Local Government are an exact and detailed argument against the Bill itself.
"Delay," he said. Delay! Delay is the one wonderful solvent of all difficulties. Delay is the thing which enables us to come together. Delay is the thing which enables us to understand one another—gaps and intervals in which we can go back and let our passions die down and our prejudices disappear. That is what is wanted in relation to ordinary legislation. People do things hastily. They do things without consideration. They are influenced by the passion and the heat and the Party interest for the moment, but wiser counsels will prevail. "There cometh wisdom in the sleep of many months." That is for ordinary legislation. Delay gives the people time to think, gives the separate interests which have been antagonised and said hard things about one another, and used prejudiced and interested arguments, time to pool their experience in the wisdom of their constituents. With the passing of time all will be well. Am I misrepresenting in any way—no doubt I am saying it a great deal better——
——am I misrepresenting in any way the spirit, the purpose and the purport of the speech of the Minister for Local Government who introduced a Bill to create delay under the closure, to hurry up the process of delay? We gave him a fair chance. There is no man in this House less willing than I am to deal in generalities, if he could come close to the issue. We gave him an opportunity of coming close to the issue. We said: "Apply the principles of your speech to the actual measure which you are introducing, to all those measures." Why, therefore, put this great, wonderful, amazing and alleviating virtue in delay, in relation to ordinary legislation, and none of it in relation to a serious matter of Constitutional changes, in relation to a whole series of Constitutional changes, in relation to the most vital matters of Constitutional change? Why should ordinary legislation be passed in an atmosphere of peace, consideration, carefully long-drawn out, slow delayed consideration, and why, on the contrary, should Constitutional amendments be rushed through here under the closure in the middle of the night, at an abnormal time, at the cost of interfering with the course of ordinary legislation, at the cost of transferring the Estimates to the next session? Why? We are entitled to know. If the argument of the Minister for Local Government is good that delay is good, why is not delay good in relation to these matters? We are not evading the issue. We are not talking generalities. We are coming dead close to the clean, hard issue. Why should his principles only be applied when they suit him? No answer. There will not be any answer except Peadar Doyle. That is the only argument, the only answer. We have three men, who on a change over on a division would throw us out, but we have got these three men. As long as we have not these three men, who on a division make six, we have a mandate of the people to pick, choose and select how we shall apply principles.
We only apply first principles in such a manner that they will never interfere with our interests. It is not in principle they apply; it is in interest, self-interest. The principle of delay is magnificent, but it must not be applied when it does not suit them. The principle of calm consideration of legislative enactment, waiting for the time for passions to die down—Oh no! Excellent principles; but they must not apply to interests. That is the argument Ministers have got to meet or to run away from and sit back, broken, in their seats, incapable of answering —the inferiority complex made manifest and made flesh in the person and presence of the Minister for Local Government. You saw it; you saw the whole argument; you saw the clean issue put to him, and you saw him stumble and mumble and sit down unable to meet the issue he had raised. We, who are supposed to deal with generalities and to be afraid to come to close issues——
Is it in order for the Deputy to laugh at himself?
No, but it is a great relief.
Perhaps the Deputy will now come to the Bill and the amendment.
Frankly I think that is unfair. I am speaking now seriously, and I think that is unfair. I have been dealing exactly with the arguments given by the Minister.
I do not wish to be unfair to the Deputy but he has spent thirteen or fourteen minutes without saying one word on the amendment or the Bill.
I was dealing entirely and distinctly and rigorously in an orderly manner with the speech of the Minister in defence of his position.
I did not say the Deputy was disorderly, but I said that I would like the Deputy to come to the Bill.
If you are suggesting that throughout the whole length of the speech of the Minister for Local Government he never got near the Bill, I am prepared to agree with you, but why did you not hold him up? Behind this there is a perfectly simple proposition. The President, who probably is the most useful man in the House to his opponents, let the cat out of the bag. It was not Deputy Little's cat this time. It was his own. He said this was done as a consideration—a legal term. A consideration for what? A consideration to whom? And under what circumstances? A consideration to the semi-nominated, semi-elected, semi-co-opted, self-renewing body of the Seanad; a consideration to them for a vested interest which was being interfered with; a vested interest under the Constitution by which they had these amazing and alleviating powers of delay to the extent of nine months, plus the fact that under Article 47, they had power, if they dared—and it is a pity that on one occasion they did not dare to send back to the people legislation which came from here and which they regarded as undesirable. That further power of holding up legislation was to be taken away from them, and in consideration of that they were to be given other powers instead. Voluntarily given as between a willing buyer and a willing seller? No. As between someone who had the grip complete, due to the laziness, the idleness, the ignorance or the connivance of the Front Bench opposite. You are not free to say whether you can give the Seanad this consideration or not. They can enforce it. You cannot take from them the power of 47 or 48; you have no power whatever to do it. You have to buy it from them and buy it at their price, and they are no fools in bargaining, judging by 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 Constitution Amendment Bills we have here. They can exact their price, and this is part of the price and it is a downright good price when you consider that it is only part of the price.
What was the position? The Seanad election was due at the end of this year. At that Seanad election if they went to the people quite a number of the key men, who fit into the conspiracy between the Front Bench and those who are blackmailing them at present, would have disappeared. They do not want that. It was necessary to set up some machinery by which they could be saved. It paid the Front Bench opposite to keep these key men in existence. They could not go on with the old thing, because if they did they would disappear. So they had a conference. The wolf lay down with the lamb, and they formed a beautiful and now quite indistinguishable combination. "If you do not give us something better than we have," say the Seanad, "we can keep what we have." Under these circumstances, what sort of a bargaining position do you think the Government and the Dáil were in, even if they had twenty representatives of the Independents for Deputy O'Hanlon.
I think Deputy Flinn forgets that his Party agreed that election by the people was undesirable.
Yes, but I am not hiding the point.
The bargain was made.
I am not hiding in the slightest. Again you get back to our friend Alice. You do not want to marry Alice, therefore you vote for putting off marrying Alice, and then, when the question comes up whether you will marry Alice, you vote that you will not, and that is the whole proposition. The point we want to get back to is that we are not free agents in the matter. The Seanad holds the position. The time at which it is necessary to hold the election will legally evaporate before you can enforce upon the Seanad anything you pass now. They are in a position to blackmail you, and they have blackmailed you all along the line. Assume for a moment that you send to the Seanad something that the Seanad does not like. Even now they can put 47 and 48 in operation for what provisions they like, and then they can pass the Bill abolishing 47 or 48 for the things they do not like, and there is no means whatever in this House to stop it. A beautiful position! It does not raise one's respect for the intelligence of this House, but that is it— a bargain with a man who has absolute control of the position—and that is the price that is paid to a nominated, self-renewing, irresponsible, undemocratic body for the vested interest it now has in holding up the legislation and activities of the democratic and the elected body. That is the price and that is the issue. There is not the slightest use getting away from it. That is a price and a consideration for a vested interest in anti-democracy.
It has been suggested by my friend Deputy Derrig that in doing this something else is done. The balance of power, as between the Upper and the Lower House, the House of the proletariat and the House of something else, is disturbed against the democratic House. Perfectly true, but why do it? Why not delay a long time? Why not have months of delay? Why not ask the people about it in the interval? On the passing of these Bills, by a Party majority in this House, depends the existence of this Government. Their Party majority is operative within the Constitution to keep them a Government at present, because if they do not use their Party majority to interfere with the discretion of the people under these Bills they would disappear. They could no more go to the country, they could no more let go to the country the suggestion of destroying Articles 47 and 48 on a Referendum by the machinery provided by itself and hope to survive than they could fly. Three members! That is their mandate to tear up the Constitution. That is their mandate to give power to the Seanad to put snags on the wheels, to screw down the safety valve. Three members! And they do not dare test the opinions of the people under the Referendum. If they did they would disappear at once. It would hurry on the process a little.
Now, I do think, getting back to the speech delivered in favour of the provisions of this Bill by the Minister for Local Government, that we ought to be treated seriously, that a man ought not to be put up on the Government Benches to argue a special case which is against the principle upon which the special case is founded. In religion "What damned error, but some sober brow will bless it and approve it with text." That is exactly it. Their own principle destroys their own arguments, and when they are asked to come close to the issue and to meet that they mumble, and sputter and fall back.
The Deputy said that before.
Yes, I did. I want that picture of a responsible Minister faced by a clean issue, and the result of being asked to face that clean issue, to remain in the minds of the House, because it is typical of everything and of the whole position of the Government now. These things are just oxygen poured into the dying patient just to keep him alive a little longer, to give him a kick so that he can make a will in favour of someone in whose favour he ought not to make it. Their political shrouds are already woven, and the graves in which their political reputation will rot are already dug. They dare not face the people; they do not dare to come before them with the Referendum; they do not dare to ask their opinion under democratic conditions. Footling and fooling, playing round behind the scenes with little small devices to drag out their lives for a little time and to insure, if that is humanly possible, a succession of power which is worse even than themselves. Democrats! They do not dare to come to the people; they do not dare face any issue, because not all their little footling ways and special arguments and special pleadings will hold them in the face of the people long. These things are just part of a series; this is not the biggest of them. It is one portion of the price of the blackmailer who has held them up, and into whose hands they are playing. This House should not consent to pay the blackmail price or the consideration by the Seanad for the vested interest it has, and the power they now possess to hold up the legislation of this Dáil.
Fearing that anybody would be so disposed as to believe what Deputy Flinn has said, I looked up the proceedings of the Joint Committee which presented the report, one of the recommendations of which is embodied in this Bill. I find there were present five Senators at the Joint Committee, and on the 9th May, on which this recommendation was made, there were present the Ceann Comhairle (in the Chair), the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad; Deputies de Valera, Morrissey and Tierney; Senators Bennett, Douglas, O'Farrell, Jameson and O'Hanlon. I find of that number two were nominated Senators by me in 1922. One was elected by the Dáil— that method of election to the Seanad which appeals, I expect, to Deputy Flinn and his confreres—and the other three Senators were elected by a much larger number of voters than Deputy Flinn was, and the remainder are members of the Dáil. There was one dissentient.
That one dissentient was Deputy de Valera.
I rise to point out, in connection with the section of the Bill which we are discussing, that the Constitution under which we are working, and under which some of our friends seem to be suffering, when it was originally passed some years ago, was very similar to a large number of Constitutions which have recently come into being in Central and North Central Europe. In the course of the last few years very many of these Constitutions, similar to ours, have shown certain defects and the countries concerned have had to take steps in order to remedy those defects. The principal defects have been that in these hastily arranged Constitutions there were not sufficient checks put upon the main popular Chamber, which resulted in a certain difficulty in the carrying on of parliamentary government. The solution which has been found in most countries has been to increase the powers of the head of the State. That has been the case in Poland, and in many of the Northern and Central Republics. I think that solution in this country would be very undesirable. I think all Parties will agree that it would be undesirable to place on the Governor-General any more responsibility than he already possesses under the Constitution. In the first place, the heads of the States in these Republics are for the most part elected by the two Chambers sitting together, whereas the Governor-General of this country is nominated on the advice of the Executive Council, which is responsible to the Dáil alone. It is proposed in this Bill to grant that power of check and delay to the Seanad, which is to be elected in a similar manner as the Presidents of Republics in these States are elected; that is to say, by the two Houses sitting together. I think that body so elected is a more desirable body to exercise this power of delay than the head of the State, who is nominated on the advice of the Executive Council.
I would appeal most earnestly to the members of the Fianna Fáil Party to support this section in the Bill in the interests of their own Party and its future. I think their opposition to it is entirely mistaken and is due to some misunderstanding. As Deputy Tierney pointed out to Deputy Little, they will be enabled, if they come into power, to put into operation practically the whole of their economic programme. I cannot think, in fact, of any measure dealing with the economic life of the country which could not take the form of a Money Bill. Even their policy of the prohibition of exports could be made a Money Bill by the imposition of a prohibitive export tax. So far as I know, all the main items of their economic policy could be carried through in the form of Money Bills, which can only be held up by the Seanad for a period of 21 days. Similarly, their fears that the Seanad would make it impossible for them to carry out the constitutional changes which they propose are, I think, groundless. This Bill is designed to facilitate the Fianna Fáil Party in carrying out its policy.
I will not say that it is solely designed for that object, but that was kept in mind, I daresay, when it was being introduced. They will have an opportunity, although apparently the Opposition is a bit doubtful that it can be done, of immediately, on obtaining a majority, introducing two Bills, the two Bills that I understand they are mainly interested in introducing. The first will be to amend the Constitution Act by removing Section 2. They will not have to wait two years for that, because it could easily be done. That is the first measure they could introduce—to amend the Constitution Act. Then they have only to introduce Constitution (Amendment No. 16) Bill to remove the empty formula as they describe it. Assuming— and it is by no means certain—that the Seanad were to hold up those two measures for periods of eighteen months, it is only right to the country, if the Fianna Fáil Party felt that this issue of breaking the Treaty had not really been put before the people, that they should immediately proceed to another general election, and automatically those two Bills would come into force. Otherwise, if they are specially confident in their majority, they could wait for the specified period to elapse and then the Bills could be made operative in that way. I think it is unfair to them that, by the method of the Initiative, the people should introduce this legislation, and then that this Government should get all the glory of carrying through this magnificent and patriotic work, which glory should rightly go to the members of the Fianna Fáil Party. I think they are not doing themselves justice in the whole attitude they have adopted towards these Bills. Under this particular Bill, when the time comes, they will be in a position to take responsibility for such Acts as they propose to introduce, and I do not think they really should expect this Party and the Government to take responsibility for their policy. For that reason I appeal to them, in the interests of their own Party and the future effectiveness of their own Party, to vote most enthusiastically in favour of this section.
Táim i n-aghaidh an Bhille seo. Sílim nach ceart an comhacht seo do thabhairt don tSeanad. Nuair a bhí an t-Uachtarán os cionn Roinn an Rialtais Aitiúla agus nuair a bhí sé ag iarraidh congnamh d'fháil, do chuidigh na comhairlí contae leis. Rinneadar a ndícheall ar son na tíre ar iarratas an Uachtaráin. Bhí na comhairlí contae i gcontabhairt agus bhí droch-cháil ortha mar gheall ar na rudaí a rinneadar—rudaí a rinneadar ar ordú an fhir chéana. Agus anois, nuair atá an obair críochnuithe aige, tá sé ag baint de na comhairlí contae gach comhacht a bhí acu agus tá sé a tabhairt comhachta nach raibh acu ariamh don tSeanad agus don dream seo a bhí ag obair an t-am san i n-aghaidh an Uachtaráin. Tá a lán cainnte ar fud na tíre mar gheall ar sin agus mar gheall ar an droch-mheas agus an droch-mhasla atá dá thabhairt ar na daoine atá ar na comhairlí contae agus an t-ómós agus an comhacht atá dá thabhairt don dream nua so. Sé sin an sórt buaidheachais atá ag teacht do na daoine a rinne an obair agus a sheas ar son na tíre nuair a bhí siad ag teastail ón Uachtarán. "An té atá thuas óltar deoch air agus an té atá shíos buailtear cos air." Ní ceart comhacht mar seo do thabhairt don tSeanad—don dream nár thug aon chongnamh don tír na don Uachtarán nuair a bhí sé os cionn Roinn an Rialtais Aitiúla.
When the President was Minister for Local Government he looked for help and support from the county councils, and that was at a time when it was very hard for the people on the county councils to help him. The people remember that they did the work when it was necessary. Nowadays the councils are looked upon as corrupt bodies, incapable of appointing even a sub-sanitary officer, and the power which was good enough for them at that time is not good enough now that their duty is done. The President has got the help that he required from them and the people who gave him very little help are now to be given the power to hold up legislation in this country.
When the President was talking a few days ago he referred to the Fianna Fáil Party as some sort of mythical old maid who was angling after the support of Deputy O'Connell, and he pictured this old maid in a condition of spiritual exaltation. I do not know whether Deputy O'Connell cares for old maids in a state of spiritual exaltation or not. I know, however, that the President reminded me very forcibly of an old maid himself, of a famous old lady known as Sairey Gamp. Sairey Gamp was well known with her friend, Mrs. Harris, for septic work. I think the nine Bills that are now brought in here for strengthening and improving, or disimproving, the Seanad are very septic Bills as regards the Constitution.
As a matter of fact, there are ten.
Ten or eleven, I do not know which. It only increases the dose, which will be very small in a septic case like that. I am sorry that Deputy Sir James Craig or Deputy Thrift is not here. Deputy Craig would understand that by small doses of sepsis it may lead to a condition of hypersensitiveness, and if you touch the constitution of any state or individual by a small diluted dose, then the next dose will probably smash up the constitution. The left boots of Deputy Craig and Deputy Thrift would require soleing from the numerous turns to the left that they have made. They should know, on a question like this, that if the Constitution survives the initial dose it will get into a state of anaphylaxis, and the next dose will probably mean that the Constitution will be finished. I am sure that Deputies Craig and Thrift would not like that. But you cannot have your bread buttered on both sides. The point that I see is that by any of these Bills it is shown that the Constitution can be amended into such an unrecognisable thing that Deputy Craig and Deputy Thrift will realise that when we come into power we can abolish it.
Progress ordered to be reported.
in the Chair.