When an amendment is tabled to the motion for the Second Reading of a Bill, the practice is that the motion and the amendment are debated together. The mover of the original motion concludes the debate. Two divisions, of course, may be claimed. But there is only one debate.
In Committee on Finance. - Electoral (Revision of Constituencies) Bill, 1934—Second Stage.
That the Electoral (Revision of Constituencies) Bill be now read a Second Time.
The two Articles of the Constitution which specially relate to the composition of the Dáil are Articles 26 and 27. The first of these Articles fixes the total membership, exclusive of university representatives, at not less than one member for each 30,000 of the population, nor more than one member for each 20,000. The second Article entitles each university to be represented by three Deputies. Under Article 26 the number of Deputies is to be fixed from time to time by law— the Oireachtas is to revise the constituencies—the proportion between the number of members to be elected for each constituency and the population of each constituency as ascertained at the last preceding census is, so far as possible, to be identical throughout the country—and the election is to be according to the principles of proportional representation.
The presumption from the Article of the Constitution is that there are, in fact, to be local constituencies, and that it is the Government's duty to submit to the Oireachtas from time to time such proposals for revision of the constituencies as may appear desirable or necessary following ascertainment at census of population. The first Schedule to the present Bill sets out the proposed readjustments.
The census figures disclosed that, to comply with the requirements of the Constitution, considerable changes would have to be made in the existing scheme of representation. On the basis of the 1926 figures, in no fewer than 13 constituencies out of the 28 was the population per Deputy less than 20,000, and in five of these the figure was less than 19,000.
Since the present Government came into power the question of revision has been under consideration in so far as time would permit. Owing to the calls of other business as well as the difficulties met with in evolving a scheme which would comply with the Constitution and at the same time be workable, it was not possible until now to introduce this measure.
This Bill provides for the election of 136 Deputies to Dáil Eireann for borough and county constituencies. A proposal to reduce the number to 100 was rejected after full and serious consideration. It was clear that having regard to the volume of work performed by the Deputies, their various commitments, the amount of their correspondence and the time spent in travelling, such reduction in membership was not feasible, and with a view of securing that the reduction we have made should not press too heavily on Deputies, it was also considered advisable to reduce the size of the constituencies. This arrangement will, it is felt, enable Deputies to keep more in personal contact with their constituents and has been achieved by sub-dividing the larger counties and leaving smaller counties, wherever possible, intact.
In the constituency Schedule the administrative county has been taken as the foundation. The sub-division of the larger counties is in accordance with the practice which has been noticed heretofore in larger constituencies of voluntary allotment of particular areas as between Deputies. When counties have a population between 50,000 and 60,000 there would proportionately be under-representation with two members and over-representation with three members, and there was really no alternative to making such additions or divisions as appeared to commend themselves so as to secure compliance with the requirements of the Constitution.
Out of the 31 administrative county areas in An Saorstát—27 counties and four county boroughs—19 such administrative areas have been kept intact, viz.:—County Boroughs: Cork, Limerick and Waterford. Counties: Dublin, Louth, Meath, Longford, Monaghan, Cavan, Leitrim, Clare, Tipperary (North Riding), Leix, Offaly, Kildare, Kilkenny, Wicklow, Wexford and Waterford.
The following counties, which have been sub-divided for the reasons stated, have kept their outside boundaries intact: Mayo, Donegal and Kerry. In the case of nine administrative county areas it was necessary to add portions thereof to adjoining areas in the process of framing an equitable scheme of representation in accordance with the Constitution. These county areas are: Carlow, Cork, Westmeath, Roscommon, Sligo, Galway, Limerick, Tipperary, Dublin County Borough.
And here I take the opportunity of referring to the amendment which Deputy MacDermot has tabled, in which he alleges that the Bill, by gratuitously mutilating county units, violates both administrative convenience and historical sentiment.
It does not appear that administrative convenience is violated. Quite the contrary. The provisions for the appointment of returning officers and assistant returning officers set out in the Second Schedule of the Bill, coupled with the establishment of smaller constituencies, are calculated to ensure much greater administrative convenience than obtained heretofore. Furthermore, the local registers of electors are so framed that no difficulty on that head can arise in the case of divided counties. In no case outside Dublin has a district electoral division been divided, and in Dublin no difficulty is anticipated in so far as the register is concerned.
As regards the Deputy's contention that the scheme violates historical sentiment, I assume that he means by the term "historical sentiment" that feeling which arises in all societies from a community of interests over a certain more or less prolonged period. I would not disagree with the Deputy on the point that a certain community of interest and tradition exists in our modern counties, but I think it would be overstating the case to say that we have in our counties that recognised corporate personality which we find in many of our boroughs. But, however that may be, it would not be possible in framing our schemes of representation, having regard to the exigencies of the Constitution, to take cognisance in every instance of such local circumstances as might be held to generate historical sentiment.
I might in this connection suggest to the Deputy that if we were to follow logically on the lines of historical sentiment we might find reason for departing from the county basis to a much greater extent than we have done. The division of this country into counties has no roots in native organisation, being undertaken by the Norman and later invaders as a gradual process for the breaking up of national polity and the substitution of English methods of organisation, and in this light it might be held that the historical sentiment attaching to county areas is not so evident or so universal as the Deputy, in his solicitude therefor, appears to think. If we were to allow historical sentiment to be our infallible guide in carving out constituencies, we might seek to go back to the old divisions which obtained here before, let us say, the Battle of Kinsale.
We have not, however, been altogether unmindful of such historical sentiment or communal political personality as may be said to attach to county areas—and this appears more evident in some areas than in others— and in framing our scheme to meet the Constitutional requirements we do not think we have been guilty of any such violation as the Deputy alleges in his amendment. As I have already said, we have followed the existing county area wherever practicable, and Deputy MacDermot, in suggesting that the county units have been gratuitously mutilated shows, to say the least, that he has not a deep knowledge of the complexity of the subject. I move the Second Reading.
I beg to move the amendment standing in my name:—
To delete all words the after word "That" and substitute the words "the Dáil declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which by gratuitously mutilating county units violates both administrative convenience and historical sentiment."
A few minutes ago the Minister for Agriculture alleged that he was struck by the number of members of the Opposition who were coming round to approve of Fianna Fáil policies, and I could not help wondering whether he was referring to Fianna Fáil policies as they existed before the general election or to Fianna Fáil policies as they exist to-day. This Bill is a case in point. Until they came into power the Fianna Fáil Party were very free with their promises about saving money on the Oireachtas, and they urged that the Dáil could very suitably be composed of 100 members and no more. The first thing, therefore, by which one is struck in relation to this Bill, is not what is in it, but rather the fact that the Fianna Fáil Party have made no attempt to implement their policy in that respect. Their conduct in that matter is analogous to their conduct in the matter of the Seanad. We used to hear of the great saving that was to be made for the country by the abolition of the Seanad, and they departed from the policy of abolishing the Seanad in favour of a policy by which the expense remains the same, but by which the Seanad is deprived of effective powers. So, here, also, in connection with the Dáil, they have no intention whatever, apparently, of diminishing the country's expenses or of reducing the number of political vocations open to supporters of their Party. As far as I can make out, they have reduced, in fact, the Dáil, under this Bill, not an inch further than they were absolutely compelled to reduce it by the Constitution.
I find that, in a way, I am an especially appropriate person to be leading the opposition to this Bill, because of all the provinces in Ireland the one that it is most unfair to is Connaught, and of all the counties in Ireland the one that it is most unfair to is the county that I have the honour to represent, Roscommon. One bit of Connaught has been handed over to Munster and another bit of Connaught has been handed over to Leinster. The representation of Connaught is being reduced from 29 Deputies to 24, and, whereas hitherto there has been one Deputy per 21,000 persons in Connaught, henceforth there is to be only one Deputy per 23,000 persons in Connaught. Of all the counties in Ireland, Roscommon is to be the one where there is to be the smallest amount of representation per person. It is going to take 23,782 persons in County Roscommon to furnish one Deputy, whereas in County Wexford it is only going to take 20,358 persons to provide one Deputy. I cannot help inquiring the reason for the implied insult to the intelligence of County Roscommon and to the value of County Roscommon voters' opinions.
The Minister alleges that it is quite superficial to imagine that there is no necessity for the kind of mutilation that is proposed. Now, in County Roscommon there is a population, according to the 1926 census, of 83,500 persons. What is wrong with that? Why cannot the county stand as it is? It can perfectly well furnish four members as at present without any violation of the provisions in the Constitution to which the Minister has referred. Instead of leaving us alone, however, we are to have a section taken away and handed over to the new Athlone-Longford combination, and about 12,000 of our people are to be taken away from the county.
Pardon me interrupting. I should like to know is the Deputy quite right in the figure he quoted for the population of Roscommon?
I think so.
Yes, the Deputy is quite right.
I have the figures of the census here before me, and the population is given as 83,556. Sligo, I admit, is a more difficult problem. The figure does not fit in so well for Sligo to stand by itself. However, while I quite admit that in some cases two counties may have to be thrown together, or even three counties may have to be thrown together, I think that that is a matter that is altogether different in principle from slicing up a county and destroying the county unity. The most extreme case of destroying the county unity is that of Carlow, which is chopped up into small pieces and distributed all round; but all the cases under this Bill seem to me to be objectionable. I object to a bit of Galway being handed over to Clare, and a bit of Sligo being handed over to Leitrim, and I object to the town of Youghal being handed over to County Waterford. The Minister has not condescended to give the House any information that would tend to convince us that these peculiar dispositions were justified. The Minister speaks of there being no administrative inconvenience, but the only administrative convenience or inconvenience that he has dealt with has been in relation to the actual conduct of elections. That is not what is in my mind. What is in my mind is that counties have got county interests, and that you will have in future, if this Bill goes through, counties divided against themselves. You will have county councillors, say, belonging to the Roscommon County Council, who, for the purposes of the Dáil election, belong to Athlone-Longford, and the people of each county will not have what they are entitled to expect, and that is a harmonious machinery in existence, alike in the county council and in their representation in the Dáil, for seeing that the county gets a fair deal in any matters that may crop up.
The Minister makes light of county boundaries and says that they are not very deeply rooted in the past. The historical sentiment we have to deal with is that which actually operates in the mind of our people, and there is no doubt, I think—certainly, in my experience, I have always found it to be so—that there is a very strong county feeling among the people. In fact, it may be almost too strong. I think that the people of one county are very apt to blaze up in jealousy over this, that, or the other matter against the people of another county. None the less, it is a respectable sentiment, founded in a sufficiently long historical tradition, and I can see no reason why that sentiment should be derided. I am quite sure that the people of the counties affected resent the proposed changes. I know that, at any rate, two of them—the Roscommon County Council and, I think, the Youghal Urban Council—have passed strong resolutions to that effect. I do not know about the others, but it would not surprise me to hear that some of the others have protested also. I think that what the Minister should do is to withdraw this Bill until he has had time to study it with a great deal more care than he, evidently, has studied it up to the present, and that he should consider whether it might not be possible to comply with the Constitution by throwing together such counties as have to be thrown together, but not by cutting up any county—that he should leave each county its individuality. I urge that on general principles. I urge it also, in particular, as a Connaught man, as Deputy for County Roscommon, and as one bred in County Sligo; so that I feel my sentiments especially assailed by the principles of this Bill. I say "principles" of this Bill, but really I have some difficulty in discovering what is the principle of this Bill.
The Government, I understand, are in favour of proportional representation. All experts and enthusiasts on proportional representation agree that for the proportional representation system to work in the way it is intended to work, constituencies must be large, returning, each constituency, a considerable number of members. I do not propose to weary the House or to confuse myself with arithmetical demonstrations of that, but I state it quite confidently, as something on which the proportional representation experts are agreed, that for minorities to have a good chance of representation, for it to be possible for individuals to break through the meshes of the big party machines and to get elected, large constituencies, returning a considerable number of members, are desirable. Therefore, if the Government is honestly in favour of proportional representation I submit that it is acting wrongly in making smaller constituencies than we have at the present time; that, on the contrary, it should have gone in the direction of enlarging the constituencies. It would, of course, as I pointed out, be quite possible to enlarge constituencies by throwing several counties together without cutting up any one county. Alternatively, if the Government is not really in favour of proportional representation, and it wants to get back to something more like what existed before, it might have created single-member constituencies. I rather feel that single-member constituencies give as good an opportunity as anything else for an individual to break in, in spite of the party machine.
I myself deplore the fact that politics tend to get more and more in the grip of party machines, and I should like to feel that it was possible for a man through local popularity, local influence, and the knowledge his neighbours have of him, to be able to take an independent line and to get into the Dáil from time to time in spite of the big parties. My feeling is that that could, perhaps, be accomplished under proportional representation, carried out to its logical conclusion, with large constituencies, or also that it could be achieved by single member constituencies, where in a small area a man could get very well known and highly esteemed. I feel that the scheme which the Government is adopting falls between two stools. I do not know whether it is what they intend, but I am afraid that it will have the effect of making the tyranny of the big party machines more all-embracing than ever.
It is a little, perhaps, outside the scope of this Bill, but not I think so far outside as to be against the rules of order, to remark that in the working of proportional representation I should like to see it forbidden for the party machines to instruct people in a constituency that in this section of it they are to place a party's candidates in one order and in another section to place them in another order. That appears to me to be a mechanisation of politics which is really against the spirit of proportional representation itself.
I do not think that this is a Bill which ought to meet with the approval of the House. I do not think it ought to meet, especially, with the approval of small parties like the Labour Party. I do not think it ought to meet with the approval of Independent members, or of anybody who, like myself, once was in the enviable position of being an Independent member.
You would like to get back again to it.
As I say, I cannot discover on just what principle the Bill has been built up and, in the absence of a clear principle, I am afraid that, human nature being suspicious, one is tempted to think that the Bill has been constructed with a view to the probable electoral results and that the constituencies are being arranged in the hope that the new arrangement will furnish a larger proportion of Fianna Fáil representatives in the Dáil than any other arrangement. In other words one is inclined to feel that this Bill is a bit of what is called gerrymandering.
Perhaps it is not amiss to remind the House of the history of the gentleman who gave his name to that process— Mr. Elbridge Gerry. Mr. Elbridge Gerry was a democratic politician in America in the years immediately succeeding the revolutionary war. Immediately after the American revolution, power was in the hands of Washington and Alexander Hamilton, who, of course, had distinguished themselves tremendously in the revolutionary war and were very able statesmen. But, in spite of the enthusiasm of victory, American politics became almost immediately exceedingly bitter, and Washington and Alexander Hamilton were frequently attacked for being bad Americans and next door to traitors, especially on the ground that they had not kept up sufficient quarrels with England and, above all, on the ground that they were so unpatriotic as to wish to adhere to the financial arrangements which had been embodied in the Anglo-American Treaty.
History repeating itself.
Are you Washington or Hamilton?
Mr. Elbridge Gerry was one of the patriots who regarded George Washington and Alexander Hamilton as little better than traitors. Mr. Elbridge Gerry, when he became Governor of New York, or something or other in New York State, devised a new arrangement of constituencies. It was after the Democrats got into power and Alexander Hamilton and Washington, I think, were both dead. He devised a new arrangement of constituencies which was designed to perpetuate the power of the Democrats. A map or sketch of one of the more eccentric of these constituencies was hanging up in the office of one of Mr. Gerry's opponents as an exhibit. The well-known American artist, Gilbert Stuart, walked into the office, saw this thing hanging there, and said: "What in Heaven's name is that? It looks like a salamander," to which the owner of the office replied: "No, it is not a salamander, it is a gerrymander." That is the origin of the word "gerrymander." Looking at the eccentric constituency of Longford-Athlone, which twists round at the bottom and takes in a bit of Westmeath, twists up and captures a bit of my constituency of Roscommon, I think that the remark applied to Mr. Elbridge Gerry's constituency might be applied to it.
I am 100 per cent. a parliamentarian and a democrat. I have no sympathy with the language used by some of our eager young men, which seems to suggest that democracy and parliamentarianism are played out and that we are to substitute some entity called a corporative state or what not. I believe in parliamentarianism and, as a believer in parliamentarianism, I am very jealous of anything being done which tends to undermine the authority of parliament and the respect of the people for parliament. I think that having established an electoral scheme the less one interferes with it the better, because, otherwise, it may become the practice of contending parties to seize every opportunity to revise the scheme in the interests of their own party. It may be that we have reached a stage when we ought seriously to consider whether or not proportional representation is something that ought to be a part of our permanent constitution. That is another question. For the moment we are supposed to be carrying on with proportional representation. If that is so, I think that this Bill should have been arranged on a different basis; that constituencies should have been enlarged rather than diminished, and that nothing should have been done— nothing need have been done, and I think nothing should have been done— to cut up the historical county units to which a great deal of genuine and quite reasonable and respectable sentiment does attach. Accordingly, I move the amendment standing in my name, and I hope that before our debate is closed the Government may go the length of undertaking to withdraw the Bill, and reconsider the question in the light of the suggestions I have just made.
I beg to support the amendment proposed by Deputy MacDermot. Like him, I have been wondering what the principle is at the back of the Bill which advocates the mutilation of county units. There is no other Minister in the Government who so insists upon the working of the county unit as the Minister for Local Government himself. He understands how necessary it is for practically all rating purposes that the county should be worked as one unit. Consequently I think that a departure from this in the case of parliamentary representation is a very bad mistake. We have the county council working for the whole administrative county; the county board of health, the county committee of agriculture, and the county vocational education committee. All those local authorities are in some way or another connected. You have Government grants coming to them, and very often certain representations have to be made at the office by the Deputies for the county with regard to those grants. In that respect the mutilation of the county, unless it was an absolute necessity, ought not to have been ventured upon.
I have been wondering if some mistake has not been made in the Local Government Department with regard to the mutilation of the County Roscommon, particularly since the Minister for Local Government questioned the figures of Deputy MacDermot. The figures as supplied by the last census were 83,556 for Roscommon. Roscommon County Council passed a resolution on this matter. That county council is not by any means onesided politically. Notwithstanding that, it passed a resolution very strongly condemning the mutilation of the county. I was amazed—when that resolution was sent to the four Deputies for Roscommon, asking them to use their influence to see that the county was not mutilated—to see the reply that came from the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. It again, I think, proves that there must have been some mistake about the figures. The figures for Roscommon, according to the last census, were 83,556.
That is right.
With four representatives that was one Deputy for each 20,889 of the population. The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, in his reply, said that the population was too high for three and too low for four. As a matter of fact, he is wrong in both cases. We are quite prepared to do with three Deputies in Roscommon, or with two Deputies in Roscommon, but we ought to be left Roscommon. The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, wherever he got his information, was absolutely wrong. Not being over 90,000 the framers of the Bill could have made us do with three, but being over 80,000 we were entitled to four; so he was wrong in both. Further to those figures, under the new arrangement the portion of Roscommon which remains will have 23,782 people for each Deputy. Under the old arrangement it had 20,889. Wexford, under the new arrangement, will have one Deputy for every 20,358, which is a lesser number than Roscommon had under the old arrangement. In Roscommon four Deputies would be representing a greater number than in Wexford under the new arrangement.
There is a group of counties which we must take and consider under the new Bill—Roscommon, Westmeath, Longford and Meath. That is a group which has, under the new arrangement, got mixed up. Taking the whole group together, under the old arrangement as existing to-day, they sent back 12 Deputies to this House. The new arrangement provides that they will send back one less, that is 11. The obvious place to find that one less was in Longford-Westmeath constituency, which returns five. It had one Deputy to every 19,333 of the population, which it was not entitled to have under the Act. That was the obvious thing to do. Instead of doing that a slice has been taken out of Roscommon and a slice out of Westmeath and added into Longford. Instead of leaving Meath to itself with its three members, they have a piece of Westmeath thrown in and get five. That reduces the number to 11. The same 11 could have been got in the way I suggested, which was the obvious thing to do.
Speaking about this matter to a colleague of mine from Roscommon some time ago—Deputy O'Dowd—he said that a representation of four or a grouping of four seats did not give any fair result of proportional representation. It does not give as good a result, I admit, as five or probably a larger number, but it certainly gives a very much better result than three. The Minister for Industry and Commerce does not seem to agree with me. In Roscommon last year Deputy O'Dowd pointed out that a representation of two for each Party was not warranted on the voting. The following was the voting: There were 23,000 odd against 17,000 odd. That gave two each. That was allowing for 40,000 or 41,000 people voting. There are some six or seven thousand votes being taken off us. Suppose the voting in Roscommon is 34,001 next time, and of that 34,001 you have 17,001 voting on one side and 17,000 voting on the other side. The 17,001 would get 100 per cent. greater representation in a three seat constituency than the 17,000. In other words, where you have a three seat constituency the Party that has one of a majority will get two seats against one seat to the other Party. That is as near as you can possibly get to defeating proportional representation. This new constituency which is suggested in Roscommon starts at the boundary in Ballinasloe, within, I think, some thirty odd miles of Galway Harbour, and extends to the borders of Ulster and Cavan. There are 12,200 odd of the population of Roscommon being transferred to that new constituency. The boundary between Roscommon and Leinster all along there is not an imaginary boundary at all. It is the boundary of the Shannon, and there is absolutely no communication whatever between those 12,200 in Roscommon and the people in Leinster except one bridge 20 feet wide in Athlone. The boundaries that exist in most counties where there is no river dividing them are, to a very large extent, imaginary boundaries, if you like. The roads intersect and the people mix together at the fairs and markets, but I do not think you could get—I do not think you could dream of—a more aggravated case than the case of Roscommon, where you take 12,000 people and put them into a constituency with which, if you like, they have nothing in common. They do not know the people; they do not mix with the people; they do not attend the same fairs or markets, and their interests, as a matter of fact, are entirely different. If the Minister for Local Government and the present Government are anxious to retain Parliamentary systems as they exist to-day. I think that even they will admit that, for the sake of political parties, no matter who they are, the county unit is the best. Take, for instance, this new constituency to which I have referred. If you want a register of voters you will have to go to Roscommon for a portion of it, to Mullingar for another portion, and to Longford for a third portion. That is the position.
I think that in relation to this grouping of counties Roscommon, Westmeath, Longford and Meath, when it can be solved so simply and the same result achieved as the Minister proposes to achieve by this Bill, the Minister ought to reconsider the whole Bill. I think he ought to agree to Deputy MacDermot's suggestion, and withdraw the Bill for further consideration, because county boundaries are important. We have had the Government quite recently reviving old territorial boundaries for the purposes of the new Army. We have the Oriel regiment, the Breffni regiment, the Desmond regiment, the Ossory regiment and the Thomond regiment, and mind you, the outlines of these boundaries do not matter one hoot to the people, but the county boundary does matter a whole lot for administrative purposes. I am sure that nobody knows better than the Minister that the county unit is as important as it is. He has quite recently, I understand, circularised our county with regard to the wiping out of district charges and stating that they must all be made county at large charges. I agree with him, but I think he ought to go a step further in regard to this Bill, and that in the light of these figures he should withdraw the Bill and come back with other proposals preserving county boundaries, so far as he possibly can. As Deputy MacDermot pointed out, there is not really very much, or any, injury being done where two counties, or three, if necessary, are thrown together, so long as you do not mutilate the county, but where you have to take a piece out of a county—like the case of Roscommon which I have mentioned, where you take a piece of Connaught and throw it into Leinster with a boundary like the Shannon between them—I think it is an outrage on the people, and the Minister would be very well advised at this stage in withdrawing the Bill and bringing back something on which we could all agree.
After all, this matter of representation is not, or, at least, ought not, to be a Party matter, and if any attempt has been made at gerrymandering, I think it would be a very difficult thing to do, because even Deputies like Deputy Corry and myself do not know how soon our constituents may turn against us. What we think would be quite a good thing to do to-day might be a bad thing politically to-morrow, so far as the revision of constituencies is concerned. I think the Minister ought to try to bring in an agreed measure. We are all quite agreeable to reduce the membership of this House in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, but some of us certainly protest very strongly against the mutilation of counties. I make a personal protest against the manner in which the county which I have the honour to represent is mutilated. Under this new arrangement, the population of Roscommon per Deputy will be the highest of any constituency in the whole Saorstát, notwithstanding the fact that it was entitled to have its four Deputies as it stood. On the whole, I think we have a very genuine grievance in our county, and I should like to hear from the Minister his decision to reconsider the whole matter and submit it to the House again in the form of an agreed measure.
In view of the Constitutional requirement that there should be a revision of constituencies, in order to conform to the Constitution, the Labour Party would be prepared to vote for a Bill having for its object compliance with the Constitution, but, with Deputy MacDermot, I have some considerable misgivings about this Bill. We have had declarations from the Party opposite from time to time which suggest opposition to the principle of proportional representation. We have even had threats to abolish the principle of proportional representation.
That is absolutely not so.
I am glad that Deputy Fitzgerald has got that repudiation from Deputy Mulcahy.
And Senator Blythe.
And Senator Blythe. In any case, while the Party opposite indicates that it does not like proportional representation, and even indicates that it desires to abolish it— if one is to rely on the statements of prominent members of the Party—this Party is actually doing it.
Hear, hear! Now we are coming to some kind of agreement.
Because that is what is going to happen, in fact, in respect of some of these particular constituencies. Every effort to tear down constituencies in order to ensure that they will elect three or four members is an attempt to restrict the principle of proportional representation. If we believe in proportional representation —and we have had declarations from the Government Benches that they do believe in proportional representation; the present Minister for Industry and Commerce told us not so very long ago about the virtues of that system, and I agree that there are very many more virtues in it than in the principle of the single direct vote method of electing Deputies—and if that principle is to be maintained, the aim ought to be to create fairly large constituencies, so as to make it possible for constituents to give effect in an adequate manner to the principle of proportional representation, from the standpoint of electing, in proportion to their strength in the community, those elements which seek the suffrages of the electorate on polling day.
It seems to me that under this Bill an unnecessary amount of carving and paring has been done, and I cannot understand it even from the point of view of administrative convenience or even from the point of view of any factor which should weigh in the creation of constituencies. We have got, for instance, the case of the County Limerick. The County Limerick would be entitled to retain its seven Deputies if it were retained as the County Limerick. Instead it is cut into two. Though it has a population sufficient to justify the election of seven Deputies it is cut into two constituencies of three each. It is proposed to allow the whole County Limerick to be divided into two sections to elect three Deputies for one section and three Deputies for the other. What case has been made for doing that?
Deputy Bourke or Deputy O'Brien will explain that.
I cannot see any good reason for doing that. I can only see one reason, and that is that while pretending to give lip service to the principle of proportional representation the Government is, in fact, doing everything possible to limit the operation of the principle of proportional representation and get back to the principle of two big Parties. Will somebody tell us if that is the object of this Bill? Nobody is prepared to say that. Somebody might tell us that the object of this Bill is to create two big Parties, and to cut out all minorities so that the people must all line up either on one side or another, though they know that both sides have not the kind of policies that the minorities want. Then we will understand what is behind it. If the purport of this Bill is to shepherd the electorate into either the Fianna Fáil or the Fine Gael camp I could understand it. But I am greatly afraid that that is the object of the Bill. Judging it by the amount of unnecessary carving that is being done that seems to be the motive force behind the Bill.
Take the case of Donegal, another constituency cut in two merely for the sake of electing three Deputies for one part and four for another. Then we have got the County Galway cut in two for the purpose of electing three Deputies for one portion of the county and four for the other constituency. We have Tipperary cut in two for the purpose of electing three Deputies for one constituency and three for the other. We have got Kerry cut in two for the purpose of electing three members for each constituency. When we come to Dublin we have North Dublin and South Dublin and both these constituencies have been cut in two. It seems to me that somebody had a knife when they were considering this Bill and that somebody feared that it would be a shame if he did not use that knife. And so he used it. The use of the knife cannot be explained by the Minister except on the basis of putting the electorate of the country into one political party or another. What is the case for cutting up the County Limerick into two parts? The county is being cut into two, is being deprived of its right to elect seven Deputies, and is being confined to six. We have got the same position in the County Tipperary which is also cut into two and the people denied an opportunity of returning seven Deputies.
Is the plea made that these constituencies are big and that they must be cut in two? If that is so I do not see why a constituency like Clare is allowed to stand as it is and continue to return five Deputies; nor why a constituency like West Cork, 120 miles in length is allowed to remain as one. It is much more difficult to travel in West Cork or Clare than it is in Limerick or Tipperary. Limerick and Tipperary are very much better served in the matter of transport than West Cork or Clare. I cannot understand the Bill from the standpoint of travelling or locomotion. And on what ground is it sought to leave West Cork and Clare as they are and to cut up Limerick and Tipperary? Travelling is much easier in Tipperary and Limerick than in either Clare or West Cork.
What case can be advanced for cutting up Dublin North and South? You can travel all over the whole of North Dublin for 3d. or 4d. in a tram or bus. A sum of 3d. or 4d. will take you around the whole of South Dublin, or you can see the whole of each constituency by getting up on top of a high building. No adequate plea can be advanced for carving up North Dublin or South Dublin merely on the score that it is a big administrative unit. You can go around either of these constituencies in a tram or bus or even walk round them in a couple of hours. I can only suggest that if North City and South City are being cut up it is in order to do away with the spirit of proportional representation and to shepherd into one or other of the two big Parties the electors of the State. I think it is unfair if the Government still believe in the desirability of maintaining proportional representation that they should do this thing. I think they should preserve intact electoral units such as Donegal, Galway, Limerick, Tipperary, Kerry. North Dublin might be allowed to continue as one constituency and so should South Dublin because even as one constituency North Dublin will only return eight Deputies and South Dublin seven Deputies. In any case the maintenance of the unit which will elect seven members is very much preferable from the point of view of giving fair play through the principle of proportional representation, to cutting it up into two and in effect doing away with the principle of proportional representation.
We are prepared to support the general principle of revising constituencies. Any vote we give for the Second Reading of this Bill is being given conditional upon the Bill being amended in Committee so as to pre serve the principle of electoral units and preserve the principle of proportional representation. If that is done the Labour Party is prepared to support the Bill. But if it is proposed to carve constituencies then the Labour Party cannot see its way to give endorsement to that principle if the Minister wants to enshrine it in the Bill. I again repeat that there is no case for carving up constituencies like Clare, Donegal, Cork, Galway or North or South Dublin. There is no difficulty in maintaining them as single constituencies. I doubt if the Minister, before this Bill was thought of by the Government or by himself, had a single request from his own constituency to carve it up. I do not know whether Deputy Traynor made any request asking that North Dublin should be cut up in two or whether the Minister himself, Deputy O'Kelly, made any representation to himself as Minister for Local Government and Public Health that he would like to see North Dublin cut up in two. The Minister knows he got no such request, and everybody knows that no such request has come from the public or even from the Fianna Fáil Party itself. This Bill is simply carving for the mere sake of carving and limiting the operations of the principle of proportional representation. If the Ministry still believe in that principle they ought to give evidence of the fact that they believe in it by leaving the larger electoral units as they are. It would be possible for them to make a revision of the constituencies, to keep in mind the principle of proportional representation, and let its operation operate in that provision.
It is quite clear that any Bill introduced here revising the constituencies is going to get exactly the same reception as this Bill is receiving.
It is not quite clear.
Deputy Brennan spoke about an agreed measure for this purpose. You could not get an agreed measure, and that applies not merely to this Dáil but to any Dáil. Members of the Dáil have been elected under a certain set of circumstances. Some of them will consider that their chances of being elected again will depend upon the maintenance unchanged of the constituencies which elected them. It might be possible to get three or four Party organisers, not themselves members of the Dáil, to agree upon a Bill, but to expect that the individual members of each Party, some of whom are bound to be affected in their electoral prospects by any changes made in the constituencies, can reach agreement is asking too much. There is only one wise course to take, and that is to fix the principles and to prepare the measure on those principles, leaving out of account, altogether, personal or Party considerations. It is desirable that the membership should be reduced. It is necessary under the Constitution to reduce the membership, in any case. It is desirable so far as possible to preserve county boundaries. It is desirable to have the constituencies reasonably small in size, and it is desirable not to have too many constituencies electing an even number of Deputies.
Let us take these matters in order. Deputy MacDermot argued that this Bill represented in some way a departure from Fianna Fáil's original policy. We contended in the past that 100 members would be quite adequate to do the work of the Dáil. We still contend that, but having regard to the provisions of the Constitution and having regard to the diversity of interests in different counties and having regard to administrative difficulties, it is not at the moment practicable to get down to a membership of 100. We are, however, moving in that direction, and a number of the changes which are being criticised here are changes which permit of reductions in the total number that might not otherwise be possible. We have tried to preserve the county boundaries. Applying the principles which I have enunciated, we have in all cases endeavoured to preserve the county boundaries.
Not in our case.
We have succeeded remarkably well. Let other Deputies applying these principles get a map of Ireland, and see if they can work out a better scheme and maintain the county boundaries. It is easy enough to maintain county boundaries by taking two counties, adding them together, noting the population and deciding on a definite number of Deputies to be elected irrespective of other considerations. But there are other considerations that must apply and, if these are applied, then it will be found impossible to preserve county boundaries to any greater extent than we have preserved them. Deputy MacDermot starts with Roscommon. He says we should preserve Roscommon, and Deputy Brennan says the same thing. I invite either of these Deputies to start out from Roscommon, taking it that the first principle they want to apply is to preserve that county, unchanged, and I ask them to try to draw up a better scheme on the basis of the principles that I have enunciated.
Did I not outline how that might have been done in the group of four counties interested there?
But the Deputy was working on different principles.
The Deputy operated on the principle that the larger the constituency the better, and he is perfectly indifferent as to whether the number of candidates to be elected is an odd or an even number. Those are considerations that have to be taken into account.
In the Minister's mind only.
It is perfectly true in theory that the larger the constituency the better the chance you give to the small minority group to get a representative elected, or an individual candidate to become a member of the Dáil. If the sole concern that is to operate in the minds of Deputies is to secure adequate representation for minorities or independents, it might be argued that the larger the constituency the better. I contend, the main consideration should be to ensure that the majority gets adequate representation. At the last election one Party got a majority, and, of course, we have our own ideas of what will be the condition of things at the next election. Irrespective, however, of what we think of Party prospects, I think it is desirable to ensure that the majority gets adequate representation. If you unduly enlarge constituencies, you may jeopardise that prospect.
If the main concern were to ensure representation for small interests or individuals, you could abolish constituencies altogether and institute for the Dáil the same method of election as once operated in relation to the Seanad. The Seanad was elected by the largest possible constituency we could have. The whole country as one constituency voted for it and the election was a farce. I think any Deputies here who had experience of that election will admit it was completely farcical in every respect. There was a huge list of candidates between whom the individual voter had to choose. It was absolutely impossible for an individual elector to find out anything about the personal characters or even the political opinions of a number of those seeking his votes, and the result was that only 26 per cent. of the electorate went to the poll. The result of the election was very largely a matter of luck; in one or two cases it was a matter of skill, but luck mainly operated. That was the reductio ad absurdum in regard to large constituencies. Any attempt unduly to enlarge constituencies produces the same evils, even though in lesser degree. It is not merely the size of the constituency, the number of miles between one side and another, or how long it will take to travel across it. There is the consideration of the number of candidates.
The system of election by proportional representation is a complicated system. Even in constituencies where one would expect a very high average standard of education, such as the National University constituency, a substantial number of the papers returned were spoiled because the electors were not able to understand fully the method of election. The larger the constituency, the greater the number of candidates, the greater the difference between the economic interests of one part of the constituency and another, the more certain it is that the result will be either a matter of luck or a matter of very effective Party organisation. In theory it might be argued that the individual has a better chance in a large constituency. In theory it might be argued that the minority Party has a better chance of getting representation in the larger constituency. It has not worked out that way in practice. The Party getting the better representation had the better Party organisation, because under these circumstances an efficient Party organisation was essential.
Deputy Norton can examine the electoral history of his own Party and he will find they have been able to achieve, on the whole, more satisfactory results in constituencies electing three or five members than in any constituency larger than five. If one looks over the records of the various elections one finds that applies all round, that in the very large constituencies it required really efficient party organisation in order to secure a large number of votes over widely scattered areas with diversified interests. That consideration operated in the minds of the framers of this Bill, and because it operated we designed the measure on the principle that the largest constituency would elect five members. That does not operate to prevent the minority group getting representation. That is a matter of arithmetic. One can sit down with a piece of paper and calculate the percentage of the total votes cast that are required to elect a Deputy in a three or five member or a seven member constituency and, in fact, any group large enough to secure representation in this House in elections held in the whole of the Free State as one constituency can still in practice secure the same representation here under the system of election contemplated in this Bill, unless the individual members of the group are so widely scattered throughout the country that their effective voting power cannot be brought to bear in any constituency, and that is a most unusual situation and one not worth legislating for.
Deputy Norton asked about Limerick. The effect of the change in Limerick is that the number of Deputies is reduced by one. The same applies in Tipperary and in Donegal. We could have maintained these constituencies with their old representation without violating the provisions of the Constitution. I think I could argue that it would suit the Government Party to leave them in that position.
But you would not like to.
It does not act detrimentally to the Deputy's Party either. They succeeded in getting two seats in Limerick in the last election—I do not suppose they will succeed in doing it again—but they can still succeed in getting two seats if they get the same number of votes again, but it will be two seats out of six instead of two seats out of seven. The Deputy forgot that.
I was thinking of other things.
However, they will not be able to get that many seats under either scheme.
Is that a promise or a statement?
It is an intelligent anticipation. In the case of Clare, the number of seats was five. We decided that five was a reasonable size for a constituency, and in preference to reducing Clare to four and making it a constituency electing an even number of Deputies, it was decided to add a portion of Galway that had economic and other interests closely associated with Clare, in order to maintain five representatives. In the case of West Cork, five representatives were always elected, and five representatives will still be elected, but the geographical outline of the constituency is being changed, and I think that most West Cork Deputies will agree that the change is for the better. I say that it is not desirable that there should be a large number of constituencies having an even number of Deputies. It is true that in any scheme we prepare there must be some such constituencies. They cannot be avoided, but if there were a large number of them it is quite possible, under proportional representation, that the Party that got the majority of the votes would only get a minority of the representation. Deputy Brennan instanced the case of Roscommon. In principle, the Party that gets the majority of the votes should get the largest number of seats. In the case of Roscommon the Party that got the majority of votes did not get the largest number of seats; it got the same number of seats as the Party that got the minority of votes. That was contrary to our interests, but in other circumstances it would also be contrary to Cumann na nGaedheal interests.
I do not think the Minister is correct in what he stated about Roscommon. Is he referring to the last election and the election before? Fianna Fáil got two members and the Cumann na nGaedheal Party got one member.
Again, there was intelligent anticipation. We did not distinguish between the fine points of difference between Deputy Brennan and Deputy MacDermot. I take it now that there is no difference except that Deputy Brennan may have some idea about the corporative State that Deputy MacDermot might not agree with. The fact remains that this is obviously the best method of division. The result of the election in constituencies electing an even number of Deputies was such as to indicate that proportional representation had been defeated, and it must be so, so long as that method remains. If there are four members to be elected, that Party will get two seats that succeeds in getting two votes out of five, and the Party that gets three votes out of five, as against another Party that gets two votes out of five, should get the majority of the representation. I feel sure that if Deputies opposite thought that at any time they could get a majority of the votes they would fight strongly for that principle. As I say, some constituencies of that kind cannot be avoided, no matter what scheme you propose, unless you are prepared to abolish county boundaries altogether. If you are anxious to preserve county boundaries it will be necessary to have some constituencies of that kind, but the fewer there are the better, because the more there are the more chances there will be of the whole purpose of the electoral scheme not being fulfilled. I have stated that the principles on which the Bill is founded are: (1) the reduction of the number of Deputies; (2) the preservation of county boundaries; (3) the abolition of unduly large constituencies.
Except in Clare.
No, I consider that a constituency electing five members is the best size to have, and Clare has five. The fourth principle on which the Bill is founded is the desirability of not having any large number of constituencies electing other than an odd number of Deputies. On these principles the Schedule was prepared, and I defy any Deputy to get a map of the country before him and, starting from any point he wishes, to apply these principles and produce a better result. That result was produced after many months of experimentation by officers of the Department of Local Government and it represents the best attempt that could be made to apply these principles and, at the same time, to secure the preservation of county boundaries in the number of cases in which they have been preserved.
In conclusion, I want to advise Deputies opposite to stop talking about gerrymandering. We know why they are talking about gerrymandering. They are starting now to explain in advance the reason they are going to lose the next election. If, after the result of the next election is known, they cannot blame Fianna Fáil propaganda or Fianna Fáil promises or something of that kind, they will always be able to fall back on the Electoral Bill. They will say that they were gerrymandered. Everybody knows what is in their minds. If they had the slightest hope that the next election would give them a majority they would not attempt to make that argument, because it is obviously going to discourage their supporters. They are throwing up their cards and pretending that the pack is stacked against them. It is not possible to gerrymander in this country. One reason is because proportional representation operates, and if proportional representation operates, then you have got the certainty that as a result of the election the representation of different Parties in the Dáil is going to be in almost exact proportion to the votes cast for each Party. It has always worked out that way, and it will work out that way in the future.
May I interrupt the Minister for a moment? Is the Minister confident that it will work out that way when you have a large number of three-member constituencies?
I suggest that a large number of three-member constituencies will defeat the intent behind proportional representation.
No; in a three-member constituency any Party that cannot get one vote out of four cannot get a seat. They must get one vote out of four in order to get a seat. I know that Deputy MacDermot has very little hope of getting very many seats on that calculation; but the question is whether a Party that cannot get one vote in four should be entitled to get any special advantages here. I do not say that there are not cases where Parties of even smaller size than that should not and would not get representation. They will get it, because, in practice, the supporters of a particular Party are usually grouped in areas and are not scattered about all over the population, and they will always be able to get one vote in four in a small constituency.
I say it is not possible to gerrymander constituencies here, because of the existence of the proportional representation system of election. There is another reason, a good practicable reason, that Deputies opposite, I am sure, bore in mind when they themselves were trying to prepare their particular Bill. Deputy Mulcahy spent a long time trying to prepare a Bill of this kind and he did not succeed in producing it to the Dáil. It was because he found out this—that you could not get reliable information as to the political opinions prevailing in any district which would permit of gerrymandering. In the old days, when there were single-member constituencies you were able to tell to a nicety how the supporters of a political party were distributed. There were small areas in respect of which majorities, one way or the other, had been recorded on a number of occasions and you could reckon on one constituency as your stronghold or as a place where you were certain to be defeated. Consequently the redistribution of seats was based on the knowledge of election results. In the case of Northern Ireland, where political opinions went very largely with religious opinions, where census returns had given an exact picture of the distribution of persons holding different religious views in every part of the area, it was, of course, child's play to gerrymander the constituencies. But, in the Free State, where single-member constituencies have not existed since either of the two main political Parties came into existence, since all the main questions that divide us have arisen, since modern political thought was formed, there does not exist in any part the information which would permit of a political organiser, or a member of the Dáil, saying that in such-and-such a townland or electoral district the votes went one way and in other townlands they went in the contrary way.
It is true that occasionally candidates at an election, in contravention of the regulations, have succeeded in getting that information concerning certain districts, but the information they get is usually so scattered and unreliable that it cannot be properly applied and all the information made available to the candidates at the count, has all indicated that in every constituency the support of each political Party is evenly distributed in the main over the whole of the constituency. That, therefore, substantiates the contention that the support of each of the Parties is evenly distributed over the whole country. Therefore, so long as you have the principle of proportional representation, it does not matter how you divide the country, or on what basis you prepare the constituency, the result will be the same—gerrymandering is not possible. Deputy Mulcahy found that out. We found that out, and so we prepared this Bill upon the principles I have enunciated without regard to Party considerations.
Despite what the Minister said about gerrymandering, they cannot deny the fact that they have endeavoured to gerrymander the situation. I think I can give proof of that as a result of what has occurred in the West Cork constituency. I have not population details of that constituency with me at present, but we have had five representatives. On the basis of population, I think that West Cork would still be entitled to five representatives. The situation is that there are six electoral divisions in the Kinsale rural district taken from West Cork and thrown into East Cork, but we have 30 electoral divisions from North Cork thrown into West Cork. I think, on the present population, together with the 30 electoral divisions thrown in from West Cork, on a population basis we should have six representatives, but we are only getting five. If that is not gerrymandering the situation, I do not know what is. They are depriving West Cork of a representative and the Minister knows well that that representative would not be one of his supporters.
He would be. Look at the result of the last election.
He would not; I am supporting the amendment to this Bill. We have to deal with this Bill as it affects our own constituencies. The Minister says that the Government are aiming at reasonably small constituencies. West Cork is one of the most unwieldy constituencies in the Free State. It is 120 miles by 30 or 35 miles in extent. We have a big portion of North Cork thrown into that constituency and we have a tremendous line of seaboard. Deputy Norton dealt with the question of locomotion. It is very difficult to handle an election in West Cork. Members of all Parties know that. Locomotion is almost impossible. We have peninsula after peninsula extending out. You go 30 or 35 miles down one peninsula and then you have to come back and go 55 or 60 miles down another peninsula. That is the unwieldiness that the Minister is trying to avoid by reasonably small constituencies. Then the Government are including this big portion of North Cork which carries us to the borders of Limerick and nearly to the Kerry border. It is an impossible constituency to work.
The Minister says that they could not avoid the splitting of areas. They reduced the representation of East Cork from five to three. They have taken six electoral divisions from Kinsale rural district and they have thrown them into East Cork, with Cork harbour intervening. I think that is most uncalled for. I suppose that must be one of the divisions that the Minister for Local Government said was there before the Battle of Kinsale, to which he did not go back. It is the division of Kinsale in any case now. We are, of course, all prepared to agree to the reduction of members. Long before Fianna Fáil came into this House that was recognised and we will support that. But I think it is most unfair that this mutilation of constituencies should be carried out. I appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment and to give further consideration to this, particularly to unwieldy constituencies like West Cork. On a population basis he should give us our five members and not be trying to steal from us the representation that we should get by throwing in a big area of North Cork.
I should like to support the principle of the Bill as introduced and to speak of my own constituency of County Galway. Heretofore that county returned nine Deputies. From the east to the west the county was some 120 miles and from north to south it was close on 100 miles. It was impossible to work that county as one constituency, and I think there is a great advantage in at least dividing the county into two divisions.
I object to that part of the Bill. I object to people in County Galway being transferred to County Clare.
That is why I say three divisions.
I would ask the Minister to reconsider the grounds on which he proposes to transfer part of Galway to Clare. County Galway, as I say, has nine Deputies. Under this Bill we are going to have only seven. The people of the county object to making a sacrifice so great as the sacrifice of two of their representatives. We are, I think, the only county in Ireland which is asked to sacrifice two of its members. We are quite willing to sacrifice one, because on the basis of the population we should sacrifice one of those Deputies. I have not the figures before me, but I think the population of County Galway according to the 1926 census is 169,366. With a population of 169,366 Galway undivided or divided into two divisions would be entitled to eight Deputies; each Deputy would be representing 21,170 of the population. For that reason, I say it is very unfair that Galway should be deprived of two of its Deputies. In the part of Galway which is to be put in with Clare there are 21 electoral areas. In these 21 areas I think the population is something like 12,473. When that 12,473 of the population from Galway is added to the Clare constituency Clare will return five Deputies to Dáil Eireann. The population of Clare as it stands is 95,064. That 95,064 plus 12,000 from County Galway will give Clare one Deputy for about every 21,500 of the population.
It has been said here that a slice of Galway with a common economic interest had been thrown in with Clare. I think the Minister who made that statement was misled. If you look at the map of the West you will find that between Galway and Clare you have a continuous mountain range from the shores of Galway Bay to the Shannon. Across that mountain barrier there is but one or at most two passes. There is no connection or communication between the two counties. County Clare, as far as I understand, is a dairying and pasture county, while the County Galway on the other side is a tillage county. Therefore, there is little communication between the two counties nor have they anything economically in common. When speaking against this mutilation I am speaking of the real objection of the people of South Galway to transfer to Clare. I may mention that at their last meeting the Galway County Council—a council composed of representatives of varied political Parties—were unanimous in protesting against the transfer of part of the county to Clare. What I propose is that County Galway be made into two divisions. If it is against the principle of the Bill to have constituencies returning an even number of representatives, if Galway is divided into two parts you can maintain three representatives for West Galway and five for East Galway.
As I say, the population of County Galway entitles us to eight members there. If that does not commend itself to the Minister I would suggest to him that he take the two counties, Galway and Clare, with four and eight representatives. The two counties would be entitled to 12 representatives in An Dáil. If the two counties are taken and divided into four, the divisions returning three each, you will have constituencies that will be better suited to the West of Ireland than the larger constituency of four or of five. We have a rather sparse population in the eastern parts of Galway as compared with other parts of the county, and the smaller the constituency the easier it would be for the Deputies working that constituency, and the easier it would be for them to keep in touch with the people they represent in the Dáil. Those are the suggestions I would make. Either of those two suggestions will satisfy the people who are objecting to the principle contained in that part of the Bill. As I have said, I support the Bill on the main principle. I support it on the principle of reducing the size of the constituencies. I think I would go further and hold that the single-seat constituency would be better suited to the conditions which prevail in Ireland to-day than this system of proportional representation. We first got proportional representation under, I think, the 1920 Act. The object of proportional representation was to give minorities a representation in the National Parliament. If times were normal, if this country were not engaged in the disputes and conflicts that it has with an outside country, proportional representation is a system which I would undoubtedly stand over, but proportional representation to-day is hampering the desires and the advance of the majority of the people. Had it not been for proportional representation the members on the Opposition Benches would be very few to-day. You would be very few at the last election had it not been for proportional representation, and whatever you may think the majority of the people of this State believe that you are hampering the State in its national advance. They believe that you are hampering them in making that advance which they desire, and in order to get rid of you this State would be glad to see the single-member constituency coming back again.
I do not know whether Deputy Keely's proposal is a proposal which is going to be tried as another shot in the good old western way of getting the accursed crowd out of the Government's way. At any rate, the Minister is to some extent trying to provide for that, because what Deputy Norton said is quite true —that you are almost getting back to a single member constituency when you get back to the three member constituency. However, the Minister for Local Government has presented us with a Bill, and at a suitable distance removed from that the Minister for Industry and Commerce presents us with a set of the principles, and asks us not to talk any more about gerrymandering. I agree that we probably will not. There was a temptation to talk, at the beginning of this debate, of Kellymandering. I think we will now have Kelly-mastering, whatever the outcome of that may be, because it is very interesting to take the principle expounded by the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Bill as put before us by the Minister for Local Government and see where they link up. There certainly does seem to have been something going on behind the scenes that brought this Bill and the set of principles which we have heard together, because the connection between them is not obvious on the face of it. The Minister for Industry and Commerce tells us that they tried to preserve county boundaries, but the Minister for Local Government goes back into history to suggest that, after all, county boundaries are not really the things that some of us think they are. There is almost a touch of anti-Republicanism in saying "Up, Kerry" or "Up, Tipperary," or even "Up, Limerick." Nevertheless, I think that the Tipperary feeling is strong enough and that even County Limerick feeling is strong enough to make me ask Deputy Breen, from Tipperary, or Deputy O Briain, from County Limerick, what is wrong with Tipperary and what is wrong with Limerick? Like the County Kerry, they have a certain population. At the present time we have seven Deputies representing Tipperary, seven Deputies representing Limerick and seven representing Kerry and without in any way infringing the Constitution, which Deputies now regard as so sacred, they could still retain the seven members for Tipperary, the seven members for Limerick and the seven members for Kerry, because giving Kerry seven members under the new system would give them a member for every 21,310 of the population; giving Limerick seven members, a member for every 20,049 of the population, and giving Tipperary seven members, a member for every 20,145 of the population—not a very great disparity. Yet Tipperary is to lose a member and Limerick is to lose a member and Kerry is to remain where Kerry is—with seven members.
It does not appear, when we consider the principle the Minister speaks about, that there is anything wrong in leaving Tipperary with seven and Limerick with seven, and it is certainly impossible to understand why Tipperary should be cut down to six and why Limerick should be cut down to six, so that the Deputies from these counties have, I think, something to explain. They may or may not have been present at the discussions that went on in regard to the preparation of this measure—discussions, apparently, as a result of which the divisions were made of the counties which the Minister for Local Government explained to us were made. They arose out of the instinct to have voluntary allotment of particular districts as between Deputies. The Minister for Local Government brought us back to the battle of Kinsale. Many a fellow, no doubt, got smashed up at the battle of Kinsale, but I do not think that, since the days when people could be hanged, drawn and quartered, anything happened to anyone in this country like what is happening under the Minister's Bill to the County of Carlow. If I had to express it bilingually, I should have to fall back on Canon O'Leary's description of what he did to Irish words when he began to spell them in a simpler way. "Do thosnuigheas ar a gcinn do bhaint díobh agus a n-earbaill do bhaint díobh agus annsan, a mboilge do bhaint asta." He found that the lettering was all wrong and he said: "I began to cut the heads off them and the tails off them and then to cut the bellies out of them." That is what happened to my poor Carlow in spite of the great principle of preserving county boundaries.
I should like the Minister to talk to us about the Carlow situation. Assuming that you can take an area like Carlow and divide it up like that, and assuming that you can take an area like the west of Westmeath and the south of Roscommon and hash it up like this is hashed up, would the Minister tell us why you cannot take the whole country and spot it down in five-member constituencies about which the Minister for Industry and Commerce thinks so much? I agree with the Minister that the five-member constituency does give you a decent chance of having a proportional representation system, but why not have a few more of them, if the place can be hashed up like Carlow or even Galway, that Deputy Keely speaks of, or Roscommon or Westmeath, not to talk of Sligo? The treatment of Tipperary and Limerick and places like Carlow is an astounding reflection on the Bill. The Minister for Industry and Commerce tells us that the first principle in the Bill is to reduce. I am glad that, while he accepts the principle of reduction, the Minister for Industry and Commerce accepts a principle that is forced on him, and he does not accept it any more than it is forced upon him, because I do not think that the Dáil should be reduced beyond what is proposed in this measure. Deputy Norton has his own ideas about who are the dictators in this country, but, speaking as one of Deputy Norton's would-be dictators in this country——
——I stand for a big Dáil. I congratulate the Minister for Industry and Commerce on the very gentle way in which he subscribes to the reduction principle. With regard to the second principle, of the preservation of county boundaries, I subscribe entirely to what Deputy Keely says about County Galway. I think it is utterly absurd to take the southern portion of Galway and, as it were, throw it across a ridge of mountains into Clare, at the same time as you are following out number three principle. You are taking County Limerick, which is probably smaller in area than Clare, and dividing it up in two. I should like to hear the Minister for Local Government attempting to square what is happening in Clare with the idea of small constituencies and what is happening in Limerick with the preservation of county boundaries. The Minister for Industry and Commerce talks of how necessary it is to avoid even-numbered constituencies. He has the idea that I looked over a few schemes of this particular kind. If he has, he will at least realise that there is a scheme that will completely preserve the present county boundaries and leave the constituencies exactly as they were, except that Wicklow would be thrown in with Kildare as it was formerly; will leave Tipperary with its seven members and Limerick with its seven members and give you a Dáil of 136, or, if a little more justice was done to Mayo, a Dáil of 137 members, and would not give you any greater number of even constituencies than the plan the Minister has put before us.
Whereas the Minister's plan offers us 20 three-member constituencies, nine four-member constituencies and eight five-member constituencies, the Minister can have a plan on the lines I speak of, with not more than nine four-member constituencies, one six-member constituency and two eight-member constituencies, but the objection to the eight-member constituency is nothing like the objection to the four-member constituency from the point of view of what the Minister for Industry and Commerce speaks of. Instead of giving 20 three-member constituencies, it will give you six three-member constituencies so that the Minister can put a scheme before the House which will preserve all the county boundaries, which will give you the constituencies that are there at the present time and which will give, as I say, more satisfaction to counties like Tipperary and Limerick and will not make the awful hash that is being made of Carlow; will not give you more four-member constituencies than the Minister's scheme is going to give you; and will give you six three-member constituencies instead of 20.
I would like to express complete agreement with what Deputy Norton says with regard to the large member constituencies. I think that everything he said about this Bill being a scheme to wipe out proportional representation is absolutely borne out by what is in the Bill itself. The principle enunciated by the Minister for Industry and Commerce is a principle to which I will subscribe. But he reduces it to the extent he has reduced it. The second of the principles of the Minister for Industry and Commerce is the preservation of the county boundaries. I subscribe entirely to that. The Minister for Local Government and Public Health does not in presenting his Bill to us subscribe to that. With regard to small constituencies I do not subscribe to small constituencies if they mean a larger number of constituencies. I would be prepared to listen to it being argued that you could take the country and gird it with five-member constituencies. I would be prepared to listen to that being argued. But as far as the fourth principle is concerned, to avoid even-member constituencies, that is the principle to which I subscribe wholeheartedly, particularly when it is a question of four-member constituencies. But the Minister has gone out of his way to provide us with as many four-member constituencies as he possibly could get without turning them into three-member constituencies. I am entirely opposed to the scheme that the Minister for Local Government has put before us and to the very strange principles—at least which the Minister for Industry and Commerce worked into it.
I expect that Deputy Donnelly and I are some of the few Deputies who have no grievances whatsoever with regard to this particular Bill. We belong to one of the very few constituencies that remain untouched by this Bill. I expect that we are living in times when we have got to be thankful for small mercies and every one of us feels grateful that we are not attracting any Government attention. When the Minister was introducing this Bill on the Second Reading Stage he told us quite a lot about what was in the Bill. He told us quite a lot about what we could read ourselves, but he told us remarkably little as to the principles or the reasons for this particular type of electoral planning. The Minister for Industry and Commerce on the other hand did indulge fairly freely in an attempt to give us reasons. The only thing that struck me about the reasons of the Minister for Industry and Commerce was that the reasons given by him were certainly very definitely violated in the Bill. I would like to know just to what extent he was talking the Government mind and to what extent this Bill is a blunder or a misrepresentation of the Government mind.
I would call the Minister's attention to one of two reasons given by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. He said the principles which guided the framers of this particular Bill were first, the reduction of the numbers in Dáil Eireann. If that were quite the principle I think everyone in the House will agree that the Bill is scarcely in accordance with that guiding principle of reducing the number only to the minimum demanded not by the Government but by the Constitution. I am not arguing for a larger Dáil or for a drastically reduced Dáil. I am merely pointing out that that principle advanced by the Minister for Industry and Commerce is not borne out in the Bill before us. He told us that the second principle which guided the framers of this Bill was the preservation of county boundaries. In the State to which this Bill applies there are only 26 counties. None of these 26 counties was previously mutilated by any Electoral Bill. We had partition only on the frontier of this State but we had no partition inside the State which we ourselves governed. We had no mutilation of counties. We had the absolute preservation of county boundaries before this Bill was introduced. Under this Bill nine of the 26 counties are mutilated. Nine counties suffer mutilation of their boundaries under this Bill. Yet, we are told by the Minister for Industry and Commerce that the second guiding principle was the preservation of county boundaries.
I make no apology to anybody for referring to that kind of debate as humbug. Whatever reasons—they may have been good, bad or middling—that guided the framers of this Bill they were neither the reduction of the members of the Dáil nor the preservation of county boundaries. I am able to speak in a detached way because I represent one of those constituencies absolutely untouched by this Bill. But if I belonged to Galway, Westmeath and more particularly to Carlow I would certainly ask the Minister standing for this Bill how does he reconcile it with the Government policy not to mutilate county frontiers and preserve county boundaries? If the Minister for Industry and Commerce was in fact enunciating both these policies then the Bill is trampling into the dirt these two principles. I do not belong to Carlow. I do not represent Carlow but my native home is only within a couple of miles of the Carlow boundary and I know people there. I do not know what justification can be advanced for driving not one line through Carlow but four lines and chucking portion of the people of Carlow into Wexford and another lump into Wicklow and another lump of the county into Kildare. If there is any regard for origins, for local sentiment, even for local administration, people should be safeguarded from that kind of happy-go-lucky chucking them about as if they were so many unimportant units.
There must be the nearest correspondence between central government lines and local government lines and there must, in addition, be some regard for, shall we say, athletic development in the country or political development. This kind of reckless mutilation, reckless interfering, this throwing together of different areas in different counties in such a manner as needlessly to overlap is most unfair and in the long run it will mean that the people will not know to what county they belong. For instance, the people in one section of Carlow will belong, from the point of view of central government, to Kildare. Their next door neighbours on one side will belong to Wicklow and their next door neighbours on the other side will belong to Wexford. I regard that as an idle, reckless action that is very unfair to the people and shows very little consideration for the people. There are Deputies opposite and if that happened in their native constituencies they would resent it.
Every man has a right to be proud of his religion, proud of his country. In order to be proud of his country he has to be proud of his county and if his county is to be broken up like an egg for breakfast it will be impossible to develop any kind of local or county pride. The Minister for Industry and Commerce even went further. I do not know if he read the Bill before he rose to speak. He said the ideal to be aimed at was five-member constituencies. We have some 47 constituencies under this Bill and eight of the 47 are five-member constituencies.
Where did the Deputy get 47 constituencies?
Is the number 37? My arithmetic is nearly as bad as that of the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
Answer for yourself; he will answer for his figures.
Eight out of 37 constituencies are five-member constituencies and we are told that the thing to be aimed at and desired is the five-member constituency. We must take it then that the thing to be most desired is the thing the people of this country are going to get least of. I am not particularly wedded to five-member constituencies, but I think the minute you go below five-member constituencies you get further and further from the fair application of the principle of proportional representation. I agree absolutely with Deputy Norton's observation. The lower you get below five the more you drift apart from the principle of proportional representation. I do not blame anybody who happens to be against proportional representation. It is merely one system that may be approved of by an individual or disapproved of. As one Deputy, conscious of the history of this country and anxious for representation for minorities in order to bring them in close contact with majorities and in order to get the majority to understand the mind of the minority and the minority to understand the mind of the majority, I am very strongly in favour of proportional representation.
One of the reasons why I object to this Bill as it appears at the moment is that it is an attempt to override the fair application of the principle of proportional representation. The four-member constituency is about the most unsuitable constituency to give a fair hunt to the proportional representation system. Even the Minister for Industry and Commerce says that. And yet we have nine constituencies here with a membership of four. In order to manufacture this type of constituency which, according to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, is not the most suitable type, and in order to make the minimum number of the type of constituency which he tells us is the most suitable, we have mutilation of eight counties. We have, for instance, the important town and district of Youghal pitchforked into a county with which it has not, and never did have, any close association.
That is not so.
I venture to say I know Youghal as well as the Minister does.
I would not say better.
The Deputy is wrong in saying that Youghal never had any association with Waterford.
I stand corrected. I will say, however, that the town and district of Youghal had more close and continuous association with the County of Cork than with Waterford. Why it should be deliberately taken out of Cork and put into Waterford, I do not know. I am not standing up to suggest that these things are done without any purpose. I am standing up to resent the fact that we are asked to discuss the Second Reading of this Bill and as regards these points that stick out and hit one in the face, these particular acts of county mutilation, these reckless acts of transference of communities, pitchforking them into some other counties, we are not given a word of explanation or justification. I am not suggesting there is not some good reason for doing this. There is some good reason behind most things; but it is unfair to put the Dáil in the position of adopting this important measure without any attempt being made to explain or justify what appears to be a haphazard, reckless chucking about of the people. Before this debate concludes, before the last speakers opposed to the Government have made their contributions, or are prohibited from speaking a second time, I would like some authorised member of the Government Party to take the eight mutilated counties and give us a good, valid reason for the mutilation of the frontiers and the transference of the populations in those particular counties.
The Minister for Local Government outlined the reasons for this Bill. He stated the first reason was the necessity for a reduction in the membership of this Parliament. If the reduction was even more acute some of us might see our way to support it. The second point was that it did not conflict with historical boundaries. In the constituency which I have the honour to represent this measure is looked upon as an outrage and is resented by all who take an active interest in political or administrative affairs. I was surprised a moment ago, when Deputy O'Higgins was speaking, at the Minister's intervention with respect to the historical associations of Youghal. The Deputy pointed out that it had no association, politically or administratively, with County Waterford, and the Minister questioned that. Admittedly we live on terms of the closest association and great personal friendship, if you like, and, of course, we have business relations, but I am not aware, nor have I yet heard, that there have been any political or administrative associations and I would like the Minister, if he can, to inform me to the contrary.
There have been.
I am aware of the fact that under the Local Government Act of 1898 a portion of Waterford was administered in County Cork in the Youghal (No. 2) Rural District. There is a case which proves my point more than the contrary one, because it proves that a portion of County Waterford was absorbed in County Cork, which is exactly the point I intended to make. If you examine the figures which you have put up both for the portion of Cork constituency, as you contemplate it, and the combined Waterford City and County, you will find that, leaving Youghal where it is you have approximately 80,000 and 70,000 for Waterford City and County. But you take a portion that was always administered in Cork—their seat of administration was in Youghal—and you transfer it to Waterford. If you wish to maintain the spirit which the Minister for Industry and Commerce states is the object of the Bill and to retain historical associations, the line of least resistance would be to re-create what was always associated there, thereby giving you even more than the necessary numbers for your electoral representation.
I readily admit to the Minister that there was an intimate and close association between Waterford and Cork, or between a portion of Waterford and Cork. That association, however, bears on the point I am making, that Waterford was administered in Cork and not that Cork was administered in Waterford. Apart from that, we have other historical associations. That town always had representation. It had representation over 130 years ago in the Irish Parliament, when it had two representatives, and it had representatives in the British Imperial Parliament. To-day, you are taking up that, with all its historical associations and with its business and administrative connections, and transferring it across a mile of the Blackwater into County Waterford. If that is not an outrage on the spirit of the Bill, as it has been enunciated by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, I do not know what it is. Before passing from that I might say that, after all, every local authority in Cork resents the tearing up of the constituency, both from an administrative as well as from a legislative point of view. Administratively, Cork City has always been our Mecca. All our hopes and ambitions centred around Cork City. You are now changing all that, you are now turning a complete volte face. I have already said, as we have heard stated here to-night, that there is hostility and jealousy sometimes between different towns and constituencies and different sections of the community, but I can say emphatically that as far as Waterford and Cork are concerned no such hostility exists. The closest friendship and business associations exist there, but there has never been any administrative or political association except in so far as Waterford was absorbed in Cork—not that Cork was absorbed in Waterford.
With regard to proportional representation, in my view the cutting down of constituencies to three-member constituencies goes as far as you can to deprive the electorate of the spirit of proportional representation. By doing so, you go as far as possible to negative the effects of proportional representation; and no better proof can be given of that than the answer of the Minister for Industry and Commerce when he says:
"After all, is it not more essential to get a majority for the big Parties than to get representation for the small ones?"
If that is not proof that the whole attempt that is being made here—I am not going to use the work "gerrymandering"—is to have as many three-member constituencies as possible with a view to carrying out what the Minister for Industry and Commerce states to be the avowed object, that is, to get a big majority for the big Party rather than to get representation for the small Party, I do not know what to call it. However, I will let the small Parties decide that for themselves.
Take the way this Bill has been received by the House. It has been received by all sides of the House not from any Party point of view but purely from the point of view of the merits of the Bill alone. Those who are opposing the measure are opposing it, not from a Party point of view, but because certain fundamental rights, such as the right of proportional representation, and certain historical associations are being interfered with. It is on these lines and not on Party lines that we support this amendment. You have had opposition to the Bill from Deputies on your bench. I think I might claim that on all sides you have nothing at all like agreement. I am quite satisfied that the members of your own Party will be compelled only under the ægis of the Party Whip to vote for what they speak against. Admittedly, a reduction of the numbers is necessary. I am informed, and, I am sure, correctly informed, that the usual procedure in all cases of this kind, where no Party interests are involved, and where merely constitutional interests are concerned, is that a committee of the whole House is called in to collaborate on it. I suggest that course to the Minister in all earnestness. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has asked how are we to get agreement. Surely, the commonsense of the House will support the decision of the majority on such a committee. I would suggest that the Minister should agree to withdraw his Bill on these considerations and that he would consider calling in a committee representative of all sections of the House to examine this Bill. I sincerely hope that in the consideration of this matter by such a committee, other bigger and more vital issues will be considered, and, I hope, amicably settled.
Undoubtedly, we are bound to get complaints, particularly in a Bill of this nature, where representation is being cut down. There are some complaints, however, that should not be made. In the first place, I should like to say this much, that no accusation of gerrymandering can stand. I will take Cork County. In North Cork, at the last general election, we got two representatives out of three. A large portion—I might say, the Republican portion—of my constituency is now being added to that in order to make four seats, which will still leave the representation of the North Cork portion of Cork County two and two. I do not believe we could get another one, even as it stands. On the other hand, however, I must thank the Minister for his ideas of my ability when he has thrown over six of the Blue Shirt areas out of Deputy Donovan's constituency to my constituency to be converted, together with the unrepresented portion of the Cork City constituency, which, unfortunately, has remained unrepresented during the last ten years. When I say unrepresented I mean it. I say that it was a scandal to have a rural electorate of 27,000 people remaining there for the past ten years represented by Cork City representatives who knew nothing whatsoever of their wants and could not speak for their wants. I know what the burden was, and perhaps other representatives from my constituency know what it was also. The greater portion of the rural work of the Cork City representation had to be done by me. What do the Cork City representatives know about the roads problems or about any one of the Land Acts or about anything else that concerns rural needs? They knew nothing about them and they could not pretend to know anything about them. Accordingly, I must thank the Minister for providing for that portion of Cork City constituency. As far as the division of my constituency, which concerns Youghal, is concerned, I certainly must agree with Deputy Broderick. I do not know why there should be this desperate set that all sides of the House seem to be making on Cork. I object to it. There are 5,245 voters being taken out of Cork County and added to County Waterford.
I am afraid your figures are not correct. These are the figures —Youghal urban, 2,931; Youghal rural, 260; Kilmacdon, 560; Killeagh, 443; Clonpriest, 552; Ardagh, 362; Kilcronat, 147.
Youghal rural district is 3,842 and Youghal urban, 5,339.
You are taking population and I am taking voters who are the people who count. Taking either figure, the point remains that the new East Cork constituency, with the Youghal area included, has a population of a couple of thousand more than the County Waterford. Why starve the larger one to help the smaller one? The proper thing would be to take a portion of County Waterford and put it under the control of Cork. In the past that particular portion of County Waterford could never be governed except by Cork men. I maintain that it should be handed over again to the control of Cork and should be put into East Cork. Why take a large portion of Cork County in order to provide a four-member constituency in County Waterford when by taking a portion out of County Waterford you can provide a four-member constituency in East Cork? As far as I am concerned, I do not care. I will guarantee to convert any constituency, no matter how bad, in a very short time. I will guarantee that even in Kilkenny. I was not long enough there the last time to make the required impression, but I was greener then than I am now. Viewing it from any viewpoint, I cannot see any justification for the removal of portion of Cork County into Waterford. If, for the purpose of representation according to the Constitution, there must be a division, then they should take portion of County Waterford and put it into County Cork, rather than take a far larger portion of Cork and put it into Waterford. There is no justification for the present division. On the Committee Stage of the Bill an opportunity should be given for remedying mistakes of that kind. Undoubtedly a very grave mistake has been made there, for which I can see no justification. I agree with Deputy Broderick because, after all, I have done a large amount of missionary work in Youghal during the last few years.
That is not historical.
I think that my converts there should not be handed over——
To Deputy Little.
——to the tender mercies of any other Deputy who cannot know their opinions as well as I do. The mistake which has been made as between Cork County and Waterford County should be rectified in Committee. If there is any justification for the change I should like to hear it. After all, as Deputy Broderick says, whatever association there was between the two counties in the past was an association between the two rural district councils under which a portion of Waterford was ruled by Cork. I hold that that should continue, instead of having a portion of Cork attempted to be ruled by Waterford which would be absolutely impossible. I remember a story that Deputy Broderick told me some time ago. He was inquiring for a certain farmer when travelling around.
I think you might leave those private conversations out of it.
He went to a County Waterford man and when he had explained the matter the person said: "Is that the fellow who is married to the Corkonian?" In view of that I honestly think that, whatever reasons there may be for a division of the county, that division should be made by handing over portion of County Waterford to County Cork, and not portion of County Cork to County Waterford.
Quite obviously, this Bill gives as little satisfaction to certain members of the Fianna Fáil Party as it gives to members of this Party. When Deputy Corry has criticised the Bill in one respect so severely, it is quite natural to believe that there are other members of his Party who are just as dissatisfied with it as he himself, because Deputy Corry on every occasion in this Dáil is prepared to get up and defend Government policy, no matter how absurd it may be. In comparing the populations of Sligo and Roscommon I was immediately struck by one of the peculiar anomalies of the Bill. The present population of Sligo is 71,388. The electorate of Roscommon, assuming that this new Bill becomes law, will be 71,344, a difference of 44. Roscommon, with 71,344 electors, is to have three members. It is proposed under the Bill to take away about 5,000 voters from Sligo and transfer them across the Arigna Mountains to the County Leitrim. That, on the face of it, would be a very absurd procedure. I am perfectly certain that if the proposal with regard to changes in a number of counties had been carefully examined by the Minister beforehand, he would certainly not have agreed to some of them because, on the face of it, they are quite obviously absurd and quite contrary in every respect to adminitrative convenience; and not alone to administrative convenience, but even from the standpoint of elections. That will cause a great deal of inconvenience to the returning officers in charge of those particular areas.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce boasted, as he has been reminded by previous speakers, that one of the principles underlying the preparation of this Bill was an attempt to preserve the county unit. Surely to goodness Sligo is one county at all events where it is quite easy to preserve the county unit, because Sligo is surrounded by a chain of mountains from one end of it to the other, and, strictly speaking, it has no historical associations with any of the surrounding counties. In a county like that it was quite an easy matter for the Minister to so adjust matters as to preserve the county unit, and allow the county to remain under this Bill as one electoral unit. Instead, he starts at one end of the county and lops off three electoral divisions, transferring them bodily to County Leitrim. He then proceeds along the mountains for some distance, and again begins the process of transferring other electoral divisions across the Arigna Mountains into County Leitrim. The Arigna Mountains form a natural barrier between the two counties. The people living on the Sligo side of the Arigna Mountains have no sentimental affiliations, or any other sort of affiliations, with the people in County Leitrim. The only reason for that, and probably it will be the reason advanced by the Minister, is that Sligo was linked up with Leitrim in the past and that they formed one constituency. Surely the Minister, in the special circumstances peculiar to Leitrim, might have forgotten some of the principles which, according to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, guided him in the preparation of this Bill; he might have allowed both Sligo County and Leitrim County to remain intact and given them six members. I do not see how that would in any way cut across the principles which guided the Minister in the formation of this Bill. Neither would it have in any way cut across the principle of proportional representation. In fact, if he had done that it would be one very clear and definite indication that he meant to preserve the principle of proportional representation. As I say, if anything should have rendered Sligo County impregnable to the assaults which the Minister proposes to make on it under this Bill it is the fact that it is surrounded by a chain of mountains.
The fact that Sligo County is to be dismembered in this fashion, and that between 5,000 and 6,000 voters are to be transferred across the mountains into County Leitrim, is going to give rise—no matter what the Minister may say to the contrary—to all sorts of administrative inconvenience. Not alone will it give rise to administrative inconveniences from the point of view of purely local administration, but also from the standpoint of administering it even for the purposes of a general election. The Minister himself knows from his experience of local government that, after all, local affairs impinge very frequently on national affairs. In so far as they impinge on national affairs it is absolutely essential for the smooth working of things that there should be a certain harmony between local representation and national representation. In so far as you separate local administration from national administration so far are you going to give rise to a certain amount of trouble as well. The people who are to be taken out of Sligo and transferred to Leitrim will look to Sligo as their centre for the purpose of local representation. I do not know what part of Leitrim they will look to as their centre for the purpose of political representation. There are many matters affecting local administration which will also affect political administration; for instance you have the question of drainage and housing. It is necessary that there should be a certain unity and a certain point of contact between local and political representatives on matters of that kind; and there are other matters as well.
The whole principle underlying this Bill has been laboured by other speakers and I do not wish to prolong the discussion. I consider that the Bill was rather hastily prepared. The Minister probably felt that he was pressed for time, and that he was in duty bound to produce a Bill of this character. He merely got certain drafts prepared, presumably, by a number of his officials, without having an opportunity himself of examining those drafts carefully, or at least of understanding what effect the sections of the Bill would have not alone on the local administration of the country but on the political administration as well. It does, as other speakers pointed out, cut across in a rather drastic way the whole principle of proportional representation. To me, at all events, that appears the most significant and the most dangerous thing in the Bill. Ministers may have their own peculiar views about how proportional representation should work out in the country, but it seems to me that the fact that this is a small country is all the more reason why every section of the people should get an opportunity of representation in the Parliament of the country. By reducing the constituencies to three, four, or at the very outside five-seat constituencies, you are to a certain extent—in fact in some cases, I hold, to a very large extent— depriving at least one section of the people from the chance of getting representation in this Dáil. In so far as this Bill will do that it is, to my mind, a real source of danger. Apart from the other peculiar anomalies in the Bill that fact in itself would justify me in supporting the amendment moved by Deputy MacDermot.
My intervention at this stage will be very brief. I have not the complaints to make that some other Deputies had of interference with the county boundary, but I have to complain, and complain seriously, of the fact that the constituency which I have the honour to represent is being mutilated in a most absurd fashion. East Mayo and North Mayo constituted one constituency in the past—what used to be known as East Mayo and North Mayo —that was when you had one representative for each constituency. That has been altered now, and altered in a most peculiar manner, for reasons which I do not like to suggest, simply because it might be imagined that I had some personal feeling in making the suggestion. But those who run may read. We had four representatives in North Mayo and five in South Mayo. I could see quite reasonable grounds for having transferred some of the electorate from South Mayo to North Mayo to enable North Mayo to retain its four representatives, and at the same time to leave South Mayo its representatives. Portion of what was North Mayo is now being transferred to South Mayo, and portion of what was South Mayo is being transferred to North Mayo in a most absurd fashion. If the Minister himself would only take a glance at the map he would see that what I say is fully substantiated. The thing is done in the most roundabout fashion, for reasons which are obvious to anybody who has an eye not only to the political situation but to what might be a redistribution or revision of seats. I fear there is little hope of anything that I may say having any weight— I will not say with the Minister personally—as regards the Minister's decision. There is another fact which I should like to advert to, and it is that promises were made by many speakers from the Opposition Benches when they were seeking office, and when they were seeking the confidence of the people, that this House had too many representatives altogether and that the number would be reduced. In that I thoroughly agree and it is not the first occasion on which I said it. As far as I am personally concerned if, as they then promised, the number of Deputies in this House were to be reduced to 100, I am one of those who would very willingly support that proposition. I think 100 members would be quite sufficient, in fact in a sense more than sufficient.
If the constituencies were properly allocated—I might say, properly represented—and if political ideas or political outlook were not allowed to enter into the manner in which they were treated we would get fair representation. I suggest that that has happened as between South and North Mayo and on these grounds, I strongly protest. I feel that it is a very grave injustice to the southern portion of North Mayo to treat it as it is proposed to treat it in this Bill. In North Mayo, the area stood with the whole barony of Erris in the Bill. What is being added to North Mayo at present? There are three areas being added which were in South Mayo and in that respect, I feel that it is not treating North Mayo in a just manner. On the other hand, the portion that did belong to North Mayo, and which formerly belonged to East Mayo, is being taken away and given over to South Mayo. The Minister, of course, will reply— and I am sure would be justified in replying—that it is, at all events, a matter within the county and that the county border has not been interfered with. That I willingly acknowledge, but I feel that the constituency of North Mayo, which I have the honour to represent and the responsibility of representing in this House, is not being fairly treated. It is on that ground that I make my protest and I hope the Minister will see his way to alter his decision in the matter.
I stand in a different position from that of most of the Deputies who have taken part in the debate, because the constituency I represent is not affected by this Bill. The Minister proposes to deal with it in a much more drastic manner than even he has dealt with County Carlow, to which reference was made a few minutes ago. My interest in the Bill is mainly because of its effect on the principle of proportional representation. This House is based on the principle of proportional representation. That is embedded in our Constitution and must have captured the mind, the intellect and the judgment of those who framed our Constitution and no suggestion has been made here to-day that there is anything fallacious or untrustworthy in the principle of proportional representation on which to base election to a chamber such as this. If that principle is threatened, if it is questioned by any Government, whether the Government in power at the moment or some other Government, it should be questioned on its merits and the principle itself should be examined and if found to be untrustworthy or likely to lead to evils greater than some other principle would lead to, it should be abandoned, but I do not think that, while it is the foundation of the representation of this House, that foundation should be rendered insecure by any tampering with it. It is admitted by the members of the Government who have spoken that in so far as constituencies become smaller, through the smaller number of members, the principle of proportional representation is interfered with.
It must be clear that when we drop down from a five-member constituency to a three-member constituency, we are doing away with a great deal of what is intended by proportional representation—that minorities, and not contemptible minorities, but minorities still relatively small, should have a possibility of gaining representation in the House. With a three-member constituency, that possibility is diminished, so that the condition becomes almost nugatory from that point of view. The Minister for Industry and Commerce said, and I would be inclined to agree with him, that he thought five the most suitable number of members for a constituency to elect, but under this Bill the smallest number of constituencies are to elect five. No less than 20 are to have three, a number which admittedly interferes with the value of proportional representation; four constituencies are to have nine and five constituencies are to have eight, that is to say, that the Government, in its desire to base its representation on five-member constituencies, has been able to do it only in eight of the 37 constituencies into which the country is to be divided. I was interested to hear the views on proportional representation of the Deputy representing County Galway. He had no quarrel with the principle of proportional representation and he thought that it might have been allowed to persist in this country until there happened to be returned, through that principle, a larger number of Deputies holding views opposite to his than he wished to see returned. The whole merit of proportional representation consists in making sure, so far as is practicable, that minorities will be represented according to their numerical strength in the country.
The Deputy thought it was undesirable that those who happened to be in a minority in the country at a particular moment should have representation approaching their numerical strength in the country, because when they came here they gave expression to views which differed from his. He does not openly question the principle of proportional representation but he is against it as soon as it brings in members who differ from him. That is the only criticism of the principle of proportional representation we have had to-day from any of those who supported the Bill, either in whole or in part. It is because I believe that the basis of the democratic constitution rests on proportional representation that I object to the Bill in so far as it interferes with proportional representation. I am not competent to express any views on the mutilation of various county areas. From the sentimental and historical point of view, I think that everyone would prefer that the county areas would remain undisturbed and I think that local knowledge will show—the local knowledge I have of some of the areas mentioned and the local knowledge of many other Deputies—that great inconvenience may result from undue interference with those county areas. I would ask the Government seriously to consider the suggestion made by Deputy Brodrick that the Bill should be dealt with by a committee representative of all Parties in the House, at which it is possible that an agreed measure, that is, agreement on several principles of the Bill, might result.
Like Deputy Rowlette, my chief objection to this Bill is that it interferes with the principles of proportional representation. I think that every Deputy will agree that proportional representation has hitherto provided for a number of Parties and for minorities fair representation in this Dáil. If one analyses the results of the elections in any county one will find pretty accurately that the Parties have got representation in proportion to the number of votes they got. I am not at all satisfied that even a constituency of five members is the best constituency to provide a true index of the results of proportional representation. I believe that large constituencies would provide better results. Outside proportional representation there are other difficulties in this particular Bill.
Without making any charges of gerrymandering—and I do not propose to make any charges of gerrymandering—I should say that the distribution of seats in the proposed Bill is not equitable. Various Deputies have spoken with regard to the different counties. I should like to take a short analysis of two southern counties. The Minister said that there were 13 constituencies with a population of less than 20,000 per Deputy returning Deputies here. That is to say there are 13 constituencies with a population of less than 20,000 for each Deputy. The full reduction in the number of seats is only 11 so that these figures do not seem to work out right. We have it as a fact that several constituencies returning Deputies with a population of more than 20,000 for each Deputy are cut down or partitioned. Limerick has a population of 140,000 odd on the 1926 census basis. That represents seven Deputies. We may assume that the population has increased since 1926. Everybody must assume that it has, for it is natural that a county like Limerick with a large city will increase in greater proportion than the increase in counties that have not a large urban population. But Limerick is being cut one member.
I should make no case on that if the object of the Bill was to provide setting this House on an equitable basis. No one would grumble about that. I would not grumble if this House were cut down to a representation of 100. But the comparison between Limerick and Clare is particularly illuminating. Limerick is being cut down though it has a population of 140,000 and was represented by seven Deputies. Limerick has probably increased very much more in population since 1926 than Clare. Clare failed by a few thousand to provide the 20,000 basis of population for its five members. But to preserve the intergrity of Clare as a five-member constituency unit the framers of the Bill resorted to the expedient of putting in a little bit of Galway so that Clare would exceed somewhat the proportion of 20,000 per Deputy. The population of Clare is 95,000 on the 1926 basis. Obviously under the circumstances it would be impossible within the Constitution to keep five Deputies in Clare. Either Clare had to be reduced to four Deputies, or in order to keep on the fifth a little section of another county had to be added. The framers of the Bill chose the later alternative and they made it a five-Deputy constituency.
Like most Deputies on this side of the House I am totally opposed to the dismemberment of counties. If there was to be any dismemberment of counties, a dismemberment that would not have the disadvantage of creating local dissatisfaction, there might have been a small dismemberment of Clare. We might have gone back to the old days when Limerick City had representation on its own. That might have been the best way of settling that difficulty—to take a section of Clare contiguous to Limerick, that part of Clare which has business connections with the City and which is affiliated in many ways with Limerick. That part of Clare might have been included in Limerick City. A portion of Clare might have been brought into Limerick in this way to make the city in itself sufficient to return three Deputies. I am only making this suggestion to the Minister. That would be one possible way of doing it, and leaving the rest of Limerick alone.
As I have already said Limerick on the 1926 census basis has a population of 140,000. I believe that the population has grown more in the City of Limerick than in Clare. By taking into Limerick City part of the old Limerick No. 2 Rural District, a three-member constituency could be provided for the City of Limerick. If it were necessary to divide the County Limerick for the sake of convenience it might have been divided in a convenient manner and not as it is under the Bill. If one divides a square one divides it down the middle of the rectangle. One does not divide a square diagonally. If Limerick County were cut down the middle you would have provided two constituencies more easily worked.
How about the population?
I will come to that. The only object of cutting the constituency would be to make it more convenient for the Deputies to canvass. I will say that the larger area is the better way. I am not speaking now in any biased way for I am talking on behalf of the smaller Parties, the Independents and the Labour Parties, for instance. The division of Limerick is obviously unfair to Labour. If there is definitely any section in this House that should be opposed to this Bill in its general character it is the Labour Party. The division of Limerick is obviously unfair to the Labour Party. Limerick is cut diagonally leaving the constituency quite as long as at present. The distance from Kilbeheny near Mitchelstown to Tarbert is somewhere about 75 miles. Surely that does not make the constituency of West Limerick very convenient to work from the point of view of the Deputies who have to canvass it. It does not make it any easier than it was when the whole county was together. A man would have to travel from Kilbeheny to Tarbert under the conditions in the Bill but he would not have to travel any bit longer under existing conditions so that there is no interest served and there is no saving in that way in the Bill. There may be something in the population basis as the Minister says.
If I were to draw up a Bill myself I would give Limerick City three members, leaving the county as a whole for another division. There is enough in Limerick to entitle the county and city to seven Deputies. There would be a much greater argument for making Limerick a unit in itself, and leaving Clare as it was without dismembering Galway. The small section of Clare which had previously been included in the Limerick constituency could be added on to Limerick City and the two pnrely agricultural communities might be left. Something might be said for that arrangement. If the Ministry did not see their way to do that I do not see that they have any right to cut down the number of Deputies in Limerick unless they proceed on an equitable basis in reducing members in every constituency. There are some constituencies with the same ratio of population to Deputies that have not been reduced, and that is unfair. If you are going to make a proper reduction in representation you cannot discriminate unfairly. And there is unfair discrimination in this Bill in regard to the counties. I have not got the list before me, but the mere statement of the Minister that there are 13 constituencies providing Deputies with a population of less than 20,000 for each Deputy and then the fact that there is only 11 of a reduction in the constituencies is an obvious proof that there are still some left.
Where did the Deputy get that figure?
I took down the words the Minister said. He said there are 13 constituencies providing for a representation for less than 20,000.
In this Bill?
I do not know what you said as regards the Bill.
There could not be according to the Constitution.
The Minister's statement was that there- are 13 constituencies with less than 20,000. Perhaps he unintentionally made the mistake, but he said that there were 13 constituencies with a population of less than 20,000 and five with a population of less than 19,000. At any rate, on that argument there is no case made for a reduction in the case of Limerick, which exceeds the 20,000 basis. Unless there is a proper system worked out which will give a fair representation to all parts of the country, it is obviously unfair to discriminate as between one county and another. There has been discrimination in the case of Limerick and Tipperary with regard to contiguous counties. The Clare case is an obvious one where the representation fell a little short of the 20,000 and the expedient was resorted to of adding a piece of Galway. Limerick could have been left alone without any violation of the Constitution or existing conditions.
This unquestionably interferes with proportional representation. I hold that large constituencies provide the best possible way of getting fair representation for the big and small Parties and the Independents. I have no objection to a fair Independent representation. The Independent representatives we have had since the inauguration of the Dáil have been a great help in the preparation of legislation and otherwise; undoubtedly they have been a credit and any legislation that provides for a reduction of their numbers is not to be recommended. That is my principal objection. My second point is that if there is to be a reduction—and if there were a far greater reduction one might not object—it should be made on a fair basis and there should be no discrimination between one county and another.
The Minister to conclude.
Does the mover of the amendment not get an opportunity to speak again?
No. That was made quite clear to the House when the discussion opened.
A good many Deputies talked against the Bill on the ground that it was interfering with the principle of proportional representation. The Bill was deliberately framed to preserve that principle and it does so. There is, of course, a difference of opinion between people as to what is the ideal form of proportional representation. Some would like to see the whole of Ireland, that portion of it that this House for the time being controls, as one constituency.
There is a limit to most things.
That is quite true, there is a limit to most things. But the fact remains that there are some people who would regard the whole of the Free State as an ideal constituency. There are many ideas as to what is the best form of proportional representation and the best area to select as a constituency. I have taken a great interest in proportional representation. I was a member of a proportional representation society in this country long before the idea was definitely adopted as a guiding principle in elections. I still stand for proportional representation. I believe in this country it is suited to the needs of the people and I would vote against any Bill that proposed to abolish the system. There are, of course, different schemes of proportional representation and I believe the one proposed in this Bill, the modified form that is adopted in the Bill, is the one that will give a fair opportunity to every Party that would be entitled to be heard in a deliberative assembly such as this. I believe every such Party will get fair representation under this Bill. I take full responsibility for the Bill, for whatever defects and merits it may possess. I think it was Deputy Broderick who talked about officials of the Department getting instructions and drawing up a Bill without taking particular care as to different localities.
I do not think I was responsible for that.
I am not quite certain who was responsible. I withdraw my remark as regards the Deputy. Perhaps it was Deputy Roddy who said it. However, the fact is that the officials act on instructions and I do not want anybody to think that the officials are responsible for what is in the Bill. I am the person primarily responsible and I take that responsibility. The officials in all Departments act on their instructions and advise, to the best of their ability, every Minister who asks their advice and guidance. The Minister lays down the lines and the principles which he wishes them to follow and they act on instructions. I am satisfied that the principle of proportional representation has been preserved in a form that will give opportunities for representation to such minorities as would be likely to get a hearing in this House.
Another charge made was that there was a change of policy on the part of members of Fianna Fáil as regards what was spoken of before we took charge as a Ministry here. Undoubtedly, speakers on Fianna Fáil platforms did, I am sure, say on many occasions that the numbers in this House ought to be reduced. Some went so far as to suggest 100 as being the number that would be suitable for this House. I agree that the number of Deputies, if they are to be adequately representative of the country, ought not to be reduced to 100. When I say that I am not thinking alone of population; I am thinking of the very wide area some members in the House have to cover in their constituencies. This applies to members of our Party and of other Parties equally in the House. When Deputies attend in the House, during the week-ends they have to visit their constituencies and they cover large areas so as to meet people and hear their grievances. They are driving about and they never spend any time at home. Some constituencies are very difficult to cover. Looking at it from a practical point of view, and considering the amount of travelling and correspondence the average Deputy has to do, I think it would not be practicable to reduce the numbers in the House to anything below the figure I have suggested in the Bill. I consider that Deputies, especially in the rural areas, have a very difficult task. In the cities it is easy enough, because people come to our homes, but in the country where a constituency might be 70 miles in extent—and there are some constituencies considerably longer than that—Deputies have a really difficult time and if the numbers were reduced to 100 or 110 it would make the job practically impossible in many constituencies. The people would not have the touch with the Deputies that they would desire and there would be a loss of touch between members and their constituencies and, therefore, between the constituencies and this Assembly. I think, therefore, that while there might be a few more lopped off here and there—it is possible perhaps that there might be a few lopped off—some even think that we have gone too far and that we should add a few more. I am not absolutely tied down to 136 but I think it as near as we ought to go in reducing the number of members of the House. Another point that we should bear in mind is this: According to the Constitution, we are bound to draw up our Bill on the last census. The last census was taken a good many years ago—in 1926—and as a result of the non-emigration from the country, in the last three or four years in particular, the population has been growing, but we are not allowed by the Constitution to take note of any other figures than the figures of the last census.
It is a pity, from that point of view, at any rate, that the Bill, that it was necessary to bring in according to the Constitution, was not brought in at a time nearer to the date of the census so that it would be a better reflex, not alone then but in future years, of the actual state of the population as soon as possible after the census had been taken. It may mean, perhaps, that the Government may have to bring in another Bill after the figures of the next census are available. I think it would be wise—and that was evidently the intention of those who drew up the Constitution—to have the membership of the House, within limits, as nearly representative as possible of the number of the population taken at the time of the census.
So far, of course, we have to admit that there were certainly a number of Deputies, especially on our side of the House, who did suggest that we ought to try to get down to the number of 100. I say now that I am not adopting the view they put forward, because I thought, on examination, that it was not practicable or wise, and, if you like, I convinced my colleagues of that. Some of them took a good deal of convincing.
Not the Minister for Industry and Commerce?
Yes, I convinced him.
Well, he must have changed his mind again.
He has not. You will see that he will vote very willingly for this Bill.
He is still under the spell.
Judging by practically all the speeches made, with the exception of the speech of the Minister for Industry and Commerce and my own, they were all criticisms of the Bill; but I expected that. I did not expect anything else, because in a Bill of this kind, no matter who brings it in he is bound to hurt somebody's political and constituency susceptibilities. That is almost certain, and therefore everybody who is touched in any way or who is likely to be touched, or who thinks he is going to be injured in any way, or who thinks that it will make it a little more difficult for him to get in and to secure the number of votes, that he thinks he would require, is bound to protest.
I think that is what most of the Deputies who spoke against the Bill to-day—perhaps not all of them—were thinking of; or if they were not thinking of themselves they were thinking of some of their friends who were likely to be adversely affected as a result of the changes. I know that applies to my own Party, and I should like to say that, outside the members of the Executive, not one member of our Party ever saw this Bill until it was published. When it was published and brought to their notice I had many protests from members of my own Party, and they protested just as members of the Opposition did to-day. I assure the House that the Bill was not prepared in any Party sense or that I had the interests of any Party in mind. The members of my own Party certainly were not consulted and their protests in regard to individual constituencies were not listened to. I had some fairly warm protests from some of my own colleagues who thought that their interests were not being looked after as they expected they would be, or as they thought they should be. The Bill was not drawn up in that sense. We tried to get a Bill that would meet the exigencies of the situation and that also would reflect the country's mind and the country's view. The principles that I enunciated in the Second Reading speech and that were emphasised by the Minister for Industry and Commerce were the principles that we went on in drawing up the Bill. We did try to preserve the county boundaries, and we have succeeded to a better extent than I anticipated. There are some counties where the boundaries have been preserved but where constituencies have been divided. I do not agree that when the county boundaries have been preserved and the constituency has been divided in two that that is destroying the county boundary. It is not. The county is still preserved as a whole. We have not been able to do it everywhere. For instance, in the cases referred to to-day by Deputy Brennan and Deputy MacDermot we have not been able to do it.
Would the Minister please explain why not? Why was it necessary to interfere with a county that had a population of 83,500 and was perfectly entitled to four members?
It was obvious that we had to interfere with some counties. I think that I had—I will not say a dozen—but I would say that I had ten different schemes and in every case I found that it was impossible to draw up a scheme on the lines that had been laid down without infringing the boundary lines of some counties.
The Minister does not grasp my point. I can understand if a county had not got a population which fitted in with the idea that each Deputy would represent, roughly, 20,000 to 22,000 of the population, that there it was necessary to do something—either to throw two counties together or even to infringe on the county boundary—although I cannot say that I would agree with the latter —but where you have a county that is self sufficient and has got exactly the right population for the existing representation in the Dáil, what justification can there be for cutting up that?
Some counties had to be interfered with and it happened that, when considering the position of the surrounding counties, some county had to give way somewhere in order to give extra population to another county that was being reduced in numbers. What I was anxious to do was, as far as possible, to get small numbers—three or five, and get uneven numbers. It is also done to an extent in County Cork. Youghal had administrative associations with Waterford. Deputy Corry said to-day Cork ruled part of Waterford. I do not agree with him in that. It might be just as true to say that Waterford ruled in Youghal. A joint committee met there for administrative purposes, but there was a long and intimate association between Youghal and Waterford.
Between Waterford and Youghal.
The office happened to be in Youghal.
You said the association was with Waterford, but I say the association was with Cork.
I say the association was between Waterford and Cork.
The meetings were held in Youghal and the whole association was a Waterford association with Cork, not a Cork association with Waterford.
I will leave the distinction to the Deputy. There was an association.
Cad mar gheall ar na Déisibh?
I do not understand what the Deputy said. Would he mind explaining?
Níl aon Bhéarla aige sin.
Ceanntar na nDéise. Abair ceanntar na nDéise tá sé sin níos sia.
Deputy Bennett in discussing County Limerick did not say much on the question of the reduction of members. Some of his Party, however, wanted a reduction of members and rather chided us that we had not reduced the number still further. In a scheme of this kind some counties have to be hit. For my own part, I was not anxious, and should not be anxious, if I judged from a purely Party point of view, to reduce the number either in Tipperary or Limerick, but these were two of the counties selected for reduction.
Why select any county? It certainly could not be claimed that it was done for Party purposes, because Fianna Fáil is strong in both of those counties, and we could have selected counties where we were much less likely to get the strong support that we get in those counties. Deputy Bennett complained of the way in which County Limerick was divided and of how the line was drawn. That had to be done from the point of view of population. The heavy end of the population is in and around the city with the result that in Limerick one constituency is almost three times the size of the other constituency, if we take the area into account, but if you have to get a population, you cannot do it in any other way. What I said in regard to Limerick and Tipperary applies equally to Kerry and Donegal, which have also been divided into two constituencies. I do not think it applies to Mayo to the same extent. Mayo for a long time, at any rate, has been divided into two constituencies.
Kerry is not reduced in numbers.
Kerry is divided. The population has not decreased in Kerry as it has in Limerick. Deputy Norton asked if representations were made to me to carve up constituencies. Representations of that kind or any other kind were not made to me until the Bill was introduced and then I had representations of all kinds from all places. The Bill, as I said, was not prepared in consultation with the Party. To go back to the question of proportional representation, if the constituencies are large under proportional representation, as some of them now are, some people, as I said, would like to have them still larger. The larger the constituency the more necessary it is to have a powerful and wealthy organisation. In very large constituencies minorities have a very poor chance of election unless they have a very powerful political machine behind them with plenty of money. A moderately small constituency gives a better chance to a minority. That has been our experience, at any rate. The larger a constituency the more it throws the electorate into the hands of the big and powerful and wealthy Party. Within limits, a small constituency gives a better chance to the independent man, to the man who is standing on his own and who wants to get elected. It gives him a vastly better chance than a very large constituency.
What would the limits be?
That is a matter that people will divide upon. You will get very wide differences of opinion as to what the limits of a constituency ought to be. For my part, I would prefer the number that I have put into this Bill, that is, three. As to the suggestion of gerrymandering— the charge was not definitely made; even Deputy MacDermot, I think, did not commit himself to that—but even if that charge were made, I say this, that I believe that opinion in this country in the last few years has been very fluid. We are told by Deputies opposite that they have the backing of the vast majority of the people of the country to-day. If that be so, it does not matter what the constituency is, or how one might attempt to gerrymander it. If there is a big backing for any one Party in the country, no matter how you try to carve up the country or cut up constituencies or enlarge them, their view-point will get representation to the full extent to which it is entitled. It would, therefore, be futile for any Minister or Government to try to gerrymander. I believe that political notions and ideas are fluid enough to-day. There have been very considerable changes in the last few years. It is quite possible that people who have changed in the last few years may change again. No amount of gerrymandering will stop that.
So that gerrymandering will not save any Party. It would be foolish to try, and we are not trying it. I think it was Deputy Mulcahy suggested taking the country as a whole and dividing it up into five-member constituencies. What would become of the county boundaries if that principle were adopted? We would have some other charge levelled against us if we tried that. The county boundaries would no longer be sacrosanct then.
Deputy Mulcahy made it plain that he was making that suggestion on the supposition that we decided to waive the county boundaries. If we were not bothering about the county boundaries that is what he would suggest.
You cannot have it both ways.
No, but we can ask you to have it one way.
Deputy O'Higgins talked about the terrible thing it was to have County Carlow cut up. I do not like to cut up County Carlow any more than I like to cut up any other county. My own—I cannot call it county—City of Dublin is being cut up, and it is done for the purpose of getting smaller constituencies. Deputy O'Higgins talked about one neighbour being in Carlow and the other in Kildare. That obtains at present. There are people living side by side who are in different administrative areas, and in different counties. I do not see what great difference it can make to them. I do not say that the Bill is ideal. I do not think that any Bill of the kind which could be introduced by anybody would be ideal. Nothing in this life reaches the ideal of most of us, because those things are done by human beings and, therefore, they cannot reach perfection. I do believe, however, that by the adoption of this Bill you will get fair representation of the views of the country. You will the better get that representation by having a big number of small constituencies than a smaller number of large constituencies.
Again, I say it is better for the small organisation, for the independent man, and for the minority. Another thing it will do—and if Deputy MacDermot ever thinks of being able to form a Government he should bear this in mind—is that it will have the effect of giving to whoever is elected a better chance of having a stable Government, and that is important. If there is one thing which has caused a good deal of trouble in those countries which have proportional representation in Europe to-day it is the want of stability as a result of that proportional representation. I think that this form—this modified form, if you like—of proportional representation will give a chance, whatever group is elected in sufficient majority to have a Government, to have more stability than has existed since the Free State was established. I think that is an important principle, and I think it will work out that way. I think it will serve the country and serve any Party elected to take control. I believe that the lines on which I have gone in drafting this Bill will result in getting a House that will be truly representative of the people. I believe that it will give a full opportunity to small as well as to big Parties to get their full measure of representation. It will, as I have said, mean stability as well. In all those circumstances I think it will be for the good of the country to adopt the measure which I had the pleasure of proposing.
I want to ask the Minister a question. I want to ask him has he considered, as an alternative to his present scheme as outlined in the Bill, a scheme which would aim at the reduction of the personnel of the Dáil to 100, whilst at the same time preserving the representation of the universities to some extent, and if so to what extent?
We will, of course, discuss the question of university representation at a later date. I certainly did consider that matter. I was asked by the President, and others on the Executive Council, to draft a Bill to reduce the number of members to 100. I refused to do it.
I do not think you ought to refuse it.
I said it was not practicable, considering the work which Deputies have to do. I was pressed to do it, and I said that I thought it was not wise. I argued with my colleagues and convinced them, on the figures and other data which I put before them, that it would not be wise to reduce the number of members to 100.
I think we would be unanimous about that if you introduced it.
You are unanimous about nothing.
- Aiken, Frank.
- Bartley, Gerald.
- Beegan, Patrick.
- Boland, Gerald.
- Boland, Patrick.
- Brady, Brian.
- Brady, Seán.
- Breathnach, Cormac.
- Breen, Daniel.
- Briscoe, Robert.
- Browne, William Frazer.
- Carty, Frank.
- Concannon, Helena.
- Goulding, John.
- Hales, Thomas.
- Harris, Thomas.
- Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
- Houlihan, Patrick.
- Jordan, Stephen.
- Keely, Séamus P.
- Kehoe, Patrick.
- Kelly, James Patrick.
- Kelly, Thomas.
- Keyes, Michael.
- Killilea, Mark.
- Kilroy, Michael.
- Kissane, Eamonn.
- Lemass, Seán F.
- Little, Patrick John.
- MacEntee, Seán.
- Maguire, Ben.
- Maguire, Conor Alexander.
- Moane, Edward.
- Moore, Séamus.
- Corish, Richard.
- Corry, Martin John.
- Crowley, Fred. Hugh.
- Crowley, Timothy.
- Derrig, Thomas.
- De Valera, Eamon.
- Donnelly, Eamon.
- Everett, James.
- Flinn, Hugo V.
- Flynn, Stephen.
- Fogarty, Andrew.
- Geoghegan, James.
- Gibbons, Seán.
- Moylan, Seán.
- Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
- Norton, William.
- O'Briain, Donnchadh.
- O'Doherty, Joseph.
- O'Grady, Seán.
- O'Kelly, Seán Thomas.
- O'Reilly, Matthew.
- Pattison, James P.
- Rice, Edward.
- Ruttledge, Patrick Joseph.
- Ryan, James.
- Ryan, Martin.
- Ryan, Robert.
- Sheridan, Michael.
- Smith, Patrick.
- Traynor, Oscar.
- Victory, James.
- Walsh, Richard.
- Ward, Francis C. (Dr.).
- Alton, Ernest Henry.
- Anthony, Richard.
- Beckett, James Walter.
- Belton, Patrick.
- Bennett, George Cecil.
- Bourke, Séamus.
- Brennan, Michael.
- Broderick, William Joseph.
- Brodrick, Seán.
- Costello, John Aloysius.
- Curran, Richard.
- Daly, Patrick.
- Davis, Michael.
- Davitt, Robert Emmet.
- Dillon, James M.
- Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
- Dolan, James Nicholas.
- Doyle, Peadar S.
- Esmonde, Osmond Grattan.
- Finlay, John.
- Fitzgerald, Desmond.
- Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
- Good, John.
- Haslett, Alexander.
- Holohan, Richard.
- Keating, John.
- Lynch, Finian.
- MacDermot, Frank.
- McFadden, Michael Og.
- McGilligan, Patrick.
- McMenamin, Daniel.
- Minch, Sydney B.
- Morrisroe, James.
- Mulcahy, Richard.
- Murphy, James Edward.
- Nally, Martin.
- O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.
- O'Higgins, Thomas Francis.
- O'Leary, Daniel.
- O'Mahony, The.
- O'Neill, Eamonn.
- O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
- Redmond, Bridget Mary.
- Rice, Vincent.
- Roddy, Martin.
- Rogers, Patrick James.
- Rowlette, Robert James.
- Thrift, William Edward.
- Wall, Nicholas.
I would suggest that the Minister should give us a little more time than that. Some complicated amendments may have to be worked out.
It can be put down for that date and if the Deputy wants more time, it need not be taken until the week after. We can put it down provisionally for April 11th.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce will not have time to revise his principles by then.
Or rather to apply them.
They are all defined.
It is quite certain that it would be more convenient to take the Bill the following week, if the Minister will fix that now.
Very well; April 18th.
An extra week will not change my principles.
It will not even give you any.