Public Business. - Constitution (Amendment No.24) Bill, 1934—Committee (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following amendment:—
In Part II, in the second column relating to Article 41, to insert after the word "Eireann" the words "the insertion after the words ‘Executive Council shall present' of the words ‘not earlier than three clear days after the passage of any Bill'". (William T. Cosgrave, John A. Costello).

I have really nothing to say beyond what I said on this amendment last night. I think it is recognised clearly in this part of the House that the proper method of revision is through a Second Chamber, that the experience of various democracies and various Parliamentary-ruled countries is altogether in favour of it and I hold to that particular line of thought. No case has been put up why that system should not have been kept here. This amendment that seeks to put a check on the mad rush of an Executive for the moment in control of the one House that will now remain of the Oireachtas, is the second best line. I do not think that for efficient working or for smoothness of working it could compare with the institutions we have at present. Cases were put up last evening in which it was pointed out that quick legislation had been passed even with the present institutions. The answer to that is clear. Occasions may arise when such quickness of action may be necessary, when the very safety of the country may require it. I hold that no responsible Second Chamber will stand in the way of such legislation. In the instances brought forward in reply to our arguments, two exceedingly strong case were put up. I do not think you will find that, as a rule, Second Houses, especially Second Houses which do not profess to be theoretically perfect, will stand in the way of the expressed wish of the people or prevent measures that are necessary for the salvation of the State.

I hold, therefore, that undoubtedly the present existing system is the better way and that experience—I am afraid sad experience on our part— will show that it is probably the only safe way: that any other method, even such as we are adopting, is, as I say, at the very best only a second best, a poor second best at that; but as the Government have, practically speaking, allowed us no other alternative we have to try to put in some kind of safeguards in order to protect the liberties, the rights and the very livelihood of the citizens of this State.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce when speaking here yesterday attempted to make very big capital indeed out of the fact that a previous Government had introduced an amendment to the Constitution known as Constitution (Amendment No. 17) Bill, commonly known as the Public Safety Act. The Minister has a wonderful knack or habit of working himself almost into a frenzy in the usual soap-box orator style, the kind of style and the kind of oratory that put the Minister for Industry and Commerce where he sits now.

And carried the country.

That is not indeed a very great tribute to our people, but it certainly is a wonderful tribute to the antics of the Minister for Industry and Commerce who constantly appeals to the very worst instincts in our people and who, because of his success in that particular regard, occupies the position that he does to-day as Minister for Industry and Commerce. In my view the title of his office is almost a misnomer, for there is very little industry and very little commerce left in the country. The Minister in his speech resisting this amendment pointed out that there were many flaws—that I think was the phrase he used—in Constitution (Amendment No. 17) Act, but he forgot to remind the House of the fact, until he was reminded of it, I think, by Deputy McGilligan, that there was an urgent and vital national necessity for introducing into this House and ultimately passing into law Constitution (Amendment No. 17) Bill. The Minister must remember that at that time it was absolutely essential to the life of this country and to the continuance of parliamentary or constitutional Government here that that Bill should be passed into law.

On a point of order. Is this relevant to the amendment before the House?

Detailed discussion of the conditions existing in the country when a particular Act was passed is not relevant, but the Deputy is in order in referring to the arguments used by the Minister. The state of the country four or five years ago is not a relevant matter.

I think I am entitled to suggest that at the time Constitution (Amendment No. 17) Bill was introduced and passed into law it was a matter of urgent national importance. A state of emergency existed then, and perhaps I would not be too far wrong if I were to say that a state of emergency exists now. I am not finding fault with the present Government for continuing that particular measure in operation. The fact that they are doing so is, in my view, a tribute to the foresight of the last Government, namely, the Cumann na nGaedheal Government. It is a very big tribute indeed from the present Government that they have seen fit to continue that Act in operation. I do not mean to convey for a moment that they are wise in directing it against persons who openly proclaim that they do not want to take up arms against this State, or to upset the State in any way.

And which has nothing to do with this amendment.

I am trying to point out that a state of emergency existed when Constitution (Amendment No. 17) Bill was passed into law and endeavouring, if possible, to show that the Minister for Industry and Commerce was quite dishonest—I am using the word "dishonest" in the Parliamentary sense—in his speech yesterday evening in what he intended to convey by his omissions. He altogether forgot to tell the House and that section of the public which he represents, as well as the considerable section represented by the Government and his Party, that at that particular period murders were being committed, that a Superintendent of the Civic Guards was shot dead and that a peasant boy in the hills of Tipperary was shot at with no protest, of course, from the representatives of Labour, two of whom are present on the benches to-day when a very important measure of this kind is being discussed.

The Deputy might now discuss the amendment.

Yesterday, Deputy Mulcahy related two incidents that occurred in this country. He gave in detail a thing that took place in the City of Dublin. It revealed a most extraordinary state of affairs in any country professing to have any regard for Christian principles about which we hear so much, particularly from the Government Benches and from Government spokesmen. I do not know if, outside the realms of Gilbert and Sullivan, would there be found any case in which a police force——

The Deputy is apparently under the impression that the Committee is debating the Vote for the office of the Minister for Justice on which Deputy Mulcahy spoke yesterday. The matter under discussion is an amendment to Constitution (Amendment No. 24) Bill.

Does the Deputy know what the amendment is about?

I do, just as well as the Minister.

What is it about?

I will tell the Minister all about that. If there is to be any safeguard for life in this country in present circumstances it is in a revising Chamber of some sort. This amendment seeks only to delay any legislation that may be passed by this House: to delay it for a period in order to give that extra consideration to Bills which we know, from our experience here, is so requisite. Does that satisfy the Minister for Industry and Commerce?

Not at all.

The Minister is very difficult to satisfy. I feel, as a representative of democracy, returned by a city which has only on one previous occasion returned a Labour member, that I have behind me in the City of Cork the best type of working-class person.

The character of the Deputy's constituents is not relevant to this amendment and if the Deputy cannot get down to the amendment he will have to resume his seat.

I merely want to point out that that is the opinion expressed by most of the people who are democrats in the properly accepted sense of the term. Those people believe that a Second Chamber is necessary and, if and when this Government abolishes the Second Chamber, they still believe that some method should be adopted, especially as regards Bills such as are contemplated in the amendment, to have a delay for eight days, even for six or seven days, in order to give a chance of revising or considering the Bills which have passed through this House.

What Bills are contemplated in the amendment?

The President says it would give an opportunity to the Opposition to work up opinion in the country against the Government.

Factious opposition.

Yes, to work up factious opposition, and then get an opportunity of carrying on a campaign against the Government. But surely any Government with any sense of responsibility would not look askance at a proposition of that kind. If they still have got the confidence of the people and have the mandate they say they have, they should have no hesitation in going to the country and explaining the position. I support the amendment.

I would like to support this amendment, too. If there is any use in appealing to the reason of the President, I would put it to him that he should accept this amendment. The amendment does not seek to prevent the abolition of the Seanad, nor does it prevent the Ministry wreaking their vengeance on the Seanad. As a matter of fact, they have done that as far as they possibly could.

Deputy Anthony referred to the Minister for Industry and Commerce as launching out thunder at us here, smiting us like an angry Samson smiting the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. The poor Seanad has been smitten very badly. It has been annihilated almost by the Minister. The President in principle has admitted that he is in favour of some sort of check, some sort of examination of legislation, before it passes into final form after leaving the Single Chamber, the Dáil. Having admitted that, I do not think he can object to a reasonable amendment like this, which asks for only three days. The idea is to prevent what I will call mad dog legislation. When Party passions are aroused it would be very easy to pass drastic legislation here in a short time. The President apparently looks on this as a reflection upon himself. He considers that while he is in office there is no danger of anything like that happening. Possibly we may all agree on that point, but it must be remembered that there may be changes. We all should look at the probability of a change; we must not regard conditions as permanently fixed. The President admitted certain financial crises might arise. It is quite possible such crises might arise as a result of mad dog legislation. These possibilities should be guarded against. Every safeguard should be brought in to prevent such an occurrence while, at the same time, not hitting the main principle of the Bill. If the President is reasonable he ought to accept this amendment.

It has been pointed out here, in the course of several speeches, that if this Bill becomes law in its present form it will be possible for an Executive Council, commanding even a small majority, within the space of a few hours, to enact any legislation it pleases. The amendment is opposed by the Government largely on the grounds that no such idea will enter the heads of the present Government or any succeeding Government. If that be the case, if it be not the intention of this Executive Council if they remain in office after this Bill becomes law, and if they are in office when there is no Seanad to check their career, what objection can they have to putting in the safeguard we suggest? I believe it is their intention to act in the fashion which we say an Executive could act in and that seems to be demonstrated by the fact that they are refusing to accept this amendment. Suppose it is the intention of the Executive Council to legislate in a reasonable manner after due discussion and due consideration of every important measure they bring into the House, why do they object to a three days stay? Is it on the ground that legislation will be so urgent that the moment it passes this House it will have to receive the Governor-General's signature?

This State has managed to carry on for a considerable time with a Seanad. Everybody knows that a Bill could not go through the Seanad without a considerable amount of delay and could not receive the Governor-General's signature without some delay. That is precisely what has happened. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, by an extraordinarily bad bit of reasoning, takes a very exceptional measure and puts that down as being a normal measure. His reasoning amounts to this, that because one measure was rushed through this House and the Seanad, that therefore every measure has been similarly rushed. That has not been the normal procedure at all. One particular measure was rushed through this House and through the Seanad; but what was the reason? The reason was that the lives of Senators and Deputies who were supporting that measure were known to be in danger and every Deputy and Senator during the week when that Bill was under consideration—everybody who was known to support it— was under adequate police protection. It was a very abnormal, a very exceptional time. It was a very exceptional measure. Even that measure, on the time table which the Minister read out yesterday, took a much longer time to make law than would a Bill which the Government could introduce and pass after this measure to abolish the Seanad becomes the law. Once this Bill is made law any measure could be run through the Dáil in one day and could receive the assent of the Governor-General that same evening.

Just consider what the effect of this will be. Any Government, including the present Government, can bring a Bill into this House creating an entirely new offence. They have done so already, creating as an offence against the written law of the State that which is not an offence at all. They can bring in a Bill of that kind and force it through all Stages in the one day. They can, if they like, at midnight, get the signature of the Governor-General and before the country knows that this Bill has even been introduced, the Government can direct the Guards to arrest and try persons who are offenders under that Bill, the terms of which the persons arrested never even heard of.

Suppose you have a Bill creating an entirely new offence—and we had one in this House this very month. Is it not fair to the public that the public should know, before that Bill becomes law, what the law is? Is it not fair that they should have some slight opportunity of knowing what the law is? Every citizen is supposed to know the law. It is never an answer in any court to say: "I do not know the law." Here, however, you can rush through your penal legislation and you can arrest persons and charge them with offences, and it would be no answer for them to say: "We do not know what the law is," or to say: "We had no opportunity even of learning what the law would be." Unless there is some sinister purpose behind the minds of the Executive Council, why are they opposing this amendment? If it is anything financial that they want, they can always get it by a Financial Resolution, as is usually the case in this House. If it is something in the way of special duties or tariffs that they want, they have the same power to get it existing —by Financial Resolution. What is the objection, if you want legislation to go on at an ordinary pace, to having a very short stay for the purpose of letting the public know what has been done and giving the public, through the newspapers or otherwise, some slight idea of what the penal legislation is that they are bound to obey?

Here, however, we find the Ministers clinging on to the opinion that they have a right, within one moment of the passage of this Bill, to bring it or any Bill to the Governor-General and have it signed. Why do they want to cling on to that strange and unnecessary right unless they wish to use it for some improper purpose? If they do not want it for some such purpose, if they wish that legislation should be duly considered in this House, and if they wish that the ordinary man in the street, the ordinary citizen of the State, should have some little opportunity of knowing what the law is that he is bound to obey, they would accept this amendment.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce in his second or third contribution to this amendment last night worked himself up, as he usually does when he has a bad case, or pretended to work himself up, into a sort of frenzy about the Constitution (Amendment No. 17) Act and the way it was rushed through the House. I am quite prepared to agree with the Minister to this extent—that there were amendments to the Constitution which were carried through this House much more rapidly than I would have desired; but it must be remembered that there was always a check in the Second House. The Minister, however, forgot one thing in the time-table he read out last night. First of all, he forgot the circumstances under which amendment No. 17 of the Constitution was produced. He forgot the position that then obtained in the country, and he forgot, if I might say so, the fact that he— and, I think, the President himself— described it then as the greatest bit of coercion since Cromwell's time. Two years afterwards, however, the President and the Minister went much further than Cromwell, and it took less time for the present Government to reintroduce the Bill and put it into operation than it took to pass it when it was first brought before the House.

The Minister went on and talked about the President's, or rather his version of the President's, famous statement, that the majority had no right to do wrong—that the people had no right to do wrong.

I wish the Deputy would find out when that was said.

I take it that it is correct in view of the fact that the President did not ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce to quote what he said.

I did not attribute the statement to the President.

You took good care to revise it.

To alter and amend it.

The President always puts the blame on the particular Deputy and asks him to quote.

Do you agree with him?

There were several other statements, such as the statements about the people being a flock of sheep.

I did not make it.

Would the Deputy please relate his argument to this amendment?

I submit, Sir, that I am relating it to what the Minister for Industry and Commerce said last night.

In relation to something said by the President on another occasion?

It is very hard to be relevant, Sir, if one is going to follow the speeches of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, particularly when he works himself up into a frenzy. Let us take the further point, that a short time ago the President was prepared to give the Seanad a delaying power of three months. The President was prepared to give delaying powers for three months instead of 18 months. Does he deny that?

It is not worth denying.

The President is the best example of "safety first" that I know of in this country, and while we know how many photographs and sketches there are of the President, I suggest that instead of that famous one which we have of looking both ways, we might get a photograph of the President with "safety first." The fact is that in the past couple of months they were prepared to concede a delaying power of three months instead of 18 months. What has happened in the meantime? It boils down to the fact that the President wants to get power, if possible, to-morrow, to smash the Blue Shirts within 24 hours and to get through several other Bills that he wants to get through. He is now attempting to oppose this amendment which, as far as I am concerned, does not mean very much, because it does not go far enough and it is not useful enough. The President, however, will not give us three days in which the people could wake up.

We have heard plenty of talk from the front benchers and the backbenchers opposite about dictatorship. We all know who is aiming for the dictatorship and we all know who is the actual dictator. We know it quite well. Even to-day—and the front benchers and the back benchers opposite know it quite well—the opinion of the country is definitely against them. That is the fact—notwithstanding the three big meetings the President has held in the country.

What about Clonmel?

I agree with the Deputy that the President had a big meeting in Clonmel.

That is the difference between the Government and ourselves. We are prepared to admit facts. The President had a big meeting in Clonmel, and I am not concerned about where the personnel of that meeting came from—whether they came from two, three or six counties—nor do I care where the money was found to get the free trains and the free buses.

Surely the Deputy does not contend that the size of a meeting in Clonmel has any bearing on the question of three days' delaying power on Bills.

I am replying, Sir, to the interruptions of my friend Deputy Donnelly. I am admitting that the President had a big meeting in Clonmel.

That is not in order.

I was going to say that I would address the members of the Labour Party, but unfortunately they are not here. When amendment No. 17 of the Constitution was going through, we were told by the then leader of the Labour Party—Deputy Norton was not in that position then— that we were trampling on the Constitution and that we were trampling on the rights of the people. If there is a greater trampling on the Constitution and the rights of the people than the present Bill, at which this amendment is aimed with the object of trying to soften the blow, I should like to see it. When we have the Minister for Industry and Commerce talking about Amendment 17 of the Constitution, I am surprised that any member of the Fianna Fáil Party, or any member of the Labour Party—even the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who has, perhaps, to put it in a country way, more cheek than any other member in this House—I am surprised at any of them getting up and talking about Amendment 17 of the Constitution, when they re-introduced it at a time when, as the President told us yesterday in his famous speech before the Tourist Association, the country was never more peaceful and prosperous. That was the very period when the Public Safety Act was introduced.

I am sure I did not say what the Deputy is suggesting, either.

Does the President repudiate the report in all the papers, that the country was never more peaceful or prosperous and that we had a most peaceful and prosperous country at that period?

That is a very different thing. Even professors of English might point out the difference.

The President did not say that we were prosperous and happy, but he said that a number of travellers from other countries had said that we were. He would not say it himself, of course, because he might be held up about it afterwards. I see the Ceann Comhairle looking at me, but I may say, Sir, that I think I am quite relevant, because I am arguing on the speech made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Amendment No. 17 was re-introduced at the time when the President tells us either that the country was never more peaceful and prosperous or that it was more peaceful and more prosperous than any other country in the world—I will leave it to the President himself to choose the phrase. The Minister absolutely went against that last night. The Minister took a different line. And they had to introduce this piece of frightful coercion— the greatest piece of coercion since Cromwell's time—at a time when the President himself, only yesterday, admitted that we were a peaceful country. If that is true, I think the Ministry ought to go further and ought to get far more stringent powers to keep the country peaceful in view of some of the things that have been happening recently—in view of what happened in Roscrea.

The Deputy must know that what happened in Roscrea is not relevant.

I am suggesting that this Bill is aimed at the suppression of certain associations in this country.

The Deputy's line of argument might be relevant to the Second Stage of this Bill, but this is a Committee Stage, dealing with a specific amendment.

I am not proposing to discuss general conditions, but I am suggesting——

The Deputy has devoted some six minutes to that point.

I submit, Sir, with all respect, that I have not been speaking for six minutes on any point. I was making a point and I think I did it very clearly.

The Deputy has been speaking for 12 minutes.

Am I to take it, Sir, that I have not touched on the amendment? I am suggesting that the object of this amendment is to delay the Government in putting a Bill into effect immediately, and I am suggesting that unless there is this period of delay the first action taken by the Government under this Bill will be to suppress a certain association. Surely that is relevant. With all respect, Sir, I am suggesting that it is much more relevant than many of the speeches from the Government Benches last night.

The Deputy should not reflect on the ruling of the Chair even by inference. What the Chair rules out of order is suggested by the Deputy to be more in order than the speeches already allowed. The Deputy has now come to the amendment and is in order. He understands that a discussion of all possible future legislation might lead to an interminable debate.

I am referring, Sir, to Bills passed through this House and held up at the moment, and I am suggesting that it is because this Bill should give the people an opportunity of considering the matter that there should be some delay. I am entitled, I think, to suggest that my speech is much more relevant—and that is no reflection on the Chair—than many of the speeches made by the Government in this debate. I am suggesting that, so far as one can see, the Government's intention is to wipe out, so far as they can, any opposition to themselves, and I would say this, that I would have much more respect for the Government if they had the courage to go the whole way and wipe out, not only the Seanad, but the Opposition, in so far as they can.

Would the Deputy suggest that he is not now making a Second Reading speech?

I suggest, Sir, with all respect, that I am keeping as close to the amendment as is possible, in view of the fact that I am entitled, I think, to refer to the speeches made last night. We had a statement from the Minister for Industry and Commerce last night that if there was a Fianna Fáil majority in the Seanad the Opposition on this side would be all in favour of this Bill. I want to suggest against that that if there were a Fianna Fáil majority in the Seanad we would never see this Bill at all. The real trouble is not on the merits of the Bills, but on the fact that they have not a majority, and because every member of the Seanad will not do what is required and will not follow the dictum that if the President says a thing should be done it must be done.

There are one or two matters to which I should like to refer again. This amendment provides for holding up a measure for three days before it is presented for signature. I am not personally concerned with when the three days' delay takes place. I would be prepared to accept the assurance from the President that he intends to introduce on the Report Stage an amendment stipulating that three days should elapse. I suggest, however, that it was obvious that the Ministry had not considered this at all before it was introduced. It is a question of elimination, pure and and simple and it proves, pretty conclusively, that that was the real question.

Reference has been made to the rapidity with which a particular amendment of the Constitution passed through both Houses of the Oireachtas. I do not know whether it was intended by the Minister who made that statement to criticise the rapidity, or whether it was that he was in agreement with its having been passed through both Houses so rapidly, or whether it was that he disagreed with even that measure taking five days in its passage through both Houses. If he criticises it from the point of view of being too rapid, we are now in the position of getting a Bill through in six hours, or perhaps less. If he takes it that that is too long we are not asking for so much, so that in either case he has not a leg to stand upon with regard to the introduction of that particular case. In only one case, as I have pointed out, did a measure pass through this House in a single day. I explained the circumstances in connection with that. I think Deputies opposite have forgotten all about it. I think some of them stated that somebody was executed in connection with that Act. That is not true.

I did not say that.

That is like more of the nonsense we hear. That was a declaratory Act to supply a point in the Constitution in which the Constitution was weak. The courts were perfectly entitled to find that a week should elapse. Deputy Donnelly is nothing the worse of that particular Act. I am sure he enjoyed himself during the whole time.

It upset a decision of the courts. I am very much the worse of it.

There were a number of points raised by speakers that were really Second Reading points and, possibly, we shall have another debate on these on the Final Stage. It will be time enough then to refer to the points in reference to the value of the Second Chamber itself. Coming to the amendment, I indicated last night that in my view the point at which the delay was suggested was the worst possible one from the point of view of time. I think that when a measure has finally passed the House or Houses, as the case may be, of the Legislature the formal act of signature ought to follow immediately. If there is to be delay, it ought to be delay between the time the Act becomes law and the period of its enforcement, which is one system to which there are several objections, or that it should be interposed during the discussion of the Bill itself in the Dáil. Personally, I am in favour, if there is to be delay, of having the delay after the Committee Stage. If there were a period of delay, a specified time within which a Bill could not be enacted, starting with the day of introduction of the Bill—a period of three days that would have to elapse from the point of introduction—that would be one way. I think that would not be satisfactory as amendments might be introduced which would change the character of the Bill and its effect on interested citizens.

We are not unreasonable in this, and I said I was quite prepared to consider a period of delay. The difficulty I have is largely one of providing for exceptional coses which must be provided for. I think ex-Ministers will agree that there are times when exceptional circumstances may demand rapid action on the part of the Legislature and of the Executive. These must be provided for. It is very difficult to provide for them in any way which will not leave discretion so much in the hands of the Assembly that the mere legal provision will be ineffective. In fact, we cannot get out of the position that the ultimate reliance must be upon the good sense of the elected representatives of the people. There is no way of getting behind it. No series of checks, which will not be dangerous in themselves and have dangerous implications, can be adopted. Unless we are to run the risk of these dangers, no set of checks can be adopted which will be really effective. That is the difficulty.

I am not at all of the opinion of those who think that there is any special virtue or special quality in the members of a Second Chamber which would make them more reliable than the representatives of the people. They have not got the same responsibility, for example, as the Executive will have and, ordinarily at any rate, responsibility means care and close attention to the possible consequences. There are numbers of things that could be done by our majority here if we wanted to. We could have shortened the time for the discussion of this Bill or could have done a number of other things. Why are they not done? It was in the power of the majority and they did not do it. Why? The reason is that there would be consequences which no responsible set of people would face. The same thing is true of those measures which it is suggested that a majority would bring in—measures for despoiling citizens and all that.

We are going to oppose this amendment, but I intend on the Report Stage to consider the possibility of giving a period of delay providing if possible for exceptions, and I see no way of providing for the exceptions except by leaving it to the vote of the House to determine whether the exceptions should be made or not. Of course, the Opposition will say that that is spoiling the whole thing; that that ends the whole thing; that it is of no value. That is the difficulty. There is no way out of it. This amendment would do the same thing in a very objectionable way. There is no provision here by which a Bill could be rapidly passed if there were a condition of public emergency which demanded the rapid passage of a Bill. Consequently, there is a difficulty there. If there were a satisfactory way of meeting it, I would have done it already. But I am prepared to meet the case, in so far as it can be met, made by the Opposition by saying that, on the Report Stage, I will try to introduce an amendment which will give a short period of delay—I do not think it should be very long—between the Report Stage and the final passage of the Bill. In that amendment there will have to be provision for exceptional cases and I see no way of making that provision except by leaving it to the vote of the Dáil to determine whether such an emergency existed or not. It is the old question of guarding the guardians. We regard the elected representatives of the people, the nation in miniature through its representatives assembled here, as the ultimate guardians until you go to the people themselves. There is no other way. We do not think a Second House is in any way a safeguard.

It is quite clear that the President sees that there will be difficulties. That is the point I was urging last night—that there are difficulties in any provision of the present kind. In anything that is what I might call rigid and mathematical you are bound to have difficulties. It is exceedingly difficult, I grant the President, to meet a case of that kind. I think the burden of what I said was that there are exceptional cases where the safety of the country may require extremely quick action on the part of the Legislature and of the Executive. I can see the President's difficulty in getting out of it, but he has put himself and the country in the difficulty by destroying the Second House, which is the normal way of dealing with a situation of that kind. No Second House will deliberately——

Why will the First House deliberately?

No Second House will deliberately stand in the way of the elected representatives of the people or the Executive responsible to them if there is a real case put up.

This House does not matter at all.

They do matter. The President has not been listening. He is making extraordinarily foreign gestures at me. Will he just listen for a moment? This House is undoubtedly directly responsible to the people, or it ought to be. The Executive is directly responsible to this House. This House has, to a large extent, proved that it is ready to follow the will of the Executive in every respect. There were only one or two cases in which a Fianna Fáil Deputy did not vote for the Government. The teachers' pensions case was the only case in point that I remember. Nobody can suggest that there is a check on the Executive by this House at present. If the Executive, having the full responsibility on them, have a case to put up to this House, it will be accepted by their majority. They need not be afraid of that. If they have a decent case to put up to any decent Second Chamber it will be accepted. No Second Chamber will stand in the way of the safety of the country if the Executive puts up a case, but the case must be put up.

I suggest that it is quite clear that anything in the nature of a rigid provision cannot avoid creating such difficulties as the President referred to. What is the good of introducing an amendment saying that normally a Bill will take three days in its passage when it normally takes three weeks? It is no safeguard. I am sorry; I am imitating the President. The imitative faculties of us people of the South are remarkable.

Good influence has its effect at times.

It has. It is precisely in exceptional cases that the attempt will be made to rush legislation and, therefore an amendment of the kind adumbrated by the President —I do not know whether we could say it was promised by the President; adumbrated, I think, would be the proper word—is no good so far as meeting the case put forward is concerned. I admit the President's difficulty, but it is a difficulty which he has deliberately created, in running, I believe, counter to the best experience of democratic countries. That is the difficulty. The Seanad will not stand in the way of what is necessary for the country. It may prevent hasty and rushed legislation but if the country requires it, if the Executive can put up a case to the Seanad, the Seanad will not stand in their way. We have no command, and never had, over the Seanad. There were Bills that we might have thought of introducing here and even if we had got them through this House, we could not have got them through the Seanad. A Second House of that non-rigid character is the only method that will not create more difficulties than it will get rid of.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 40; Níl, 65.

  • Anthony, Richard.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Bourke, Séamus.
  • Broderick, William Joseph.
  • Brodrick, Seán.
  • Burke, Patrick.
  • Byrne, Alfred.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Curran, Richard.
  • Daly, Patrick.
  • Davis, Michael.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Fitzgerald, Desmond.
  • Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
  • Good, John.
  • Holohan, Richard.
  • Keating, John.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • MacDermot, Frank.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • McGovern, Patrick.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Minch, Sydney B.
  • Morrisroe, James.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Myles, James Sproule.
  • Nally, Martin.
  • O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas Francis.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Mahony, The.
  • O'Neill, Eamonn.
  • O'Reilly, John Joseph.
  • O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
  • Roddy, Martin.
  • Rogers, Patrick James.
  • Rowlette, Robert James.
  • Wall, Nicholas.

Níl

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Blaney, Neal.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Boland, Patrick.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Carty, Frank.
  • Cleary, Mícheál.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Corry, Martin John.
  • Jordan, Stephen.
  • Keely, Séamus P.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • Kelly, James Patrick.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Kennedy, Michael Joseph.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Kissane, Eamonn.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick John.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Maguire, Conor Alexander.
  • Moane, Edward.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
  • Murphy, Timothy Joseph.
  • Norton, William.
  • Crowley, Timothy.
  • Daly, Denis.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Doherty, Hugh.
  • Donnelly, Eamon.
  • Everett, James.
  • Gibbons, Seán.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Hales, Thomas.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
  • Houlihan, Patrick.
  • O'Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O'Doherty, Joseph.
  • O'Dowd, Patrick.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Kelly, Seán Thomas.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Pearse, Margaret Mary.
  • Rice, Edward.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick Joseph.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Martin.
  • Ryan Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Francis C.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Doyle and Bennett; Níl: Deputies Little and Traynor.
Question declared lost.

I move amendment No. 3:—

In Part II, in the second column relating to Article 50, to add the following words: "The addition at the end of the Article of the words ‘provided that such ordinary legislation shall not come into force until a general election shall have been held and a resolution shall have been passed by Dáil Eireann authorising its presentation to the Governor-General for signature'".

This amendment is one in which there is a principle enshrined, rather than expressed in the exact terms that are employed in the amendment itself. I am moving it in much the same spirit as I moved the previous one. When this Bill becomes law—if it becomes law—the position will be that the Constitution can be amended in the same number of hours as any measure could pass through this House. I do not want to score any debating points, or political points or anything of the kind, but one Bill was introduced here quite recently, and I pointed to an imperfection which I thought was in it. The Minister introduced an amendment, which was before the House to-day. I drew attention to an imperfection in that, and he withdrew it. With six hours to run the Constitution is really not a Constitution at all. It is simply an Act of Parliament, in the sense in which we accept ordinary Acts of Parliament, to be amended, altered or repealed whenever it suits Parliament. I understand, and I believe it is the impression of quite a number of people, that a Constitution should have something more lasting in it; that it should be something which would not be lightly altered; that it should be within the consideration of everybody that the Constitution is something which should not be liable to alteration merely at the whim of a Parliamentary majority. If the instrument, as it is, does not meet with universal approval; if it can be amended; if there are alterations that ought to be made in it, other than the eliminations and other loppings that have taken place since the Government commenced to alter it, well then, let us settle it and have done with it; let it be an instrument that is not going to be interrupted once or twice in the year, or according as some incident occurs to arouse the anger of the Ministry, such as the recent refusal of the Seanad to pass a Bill which they had introduced. In Spain, I understand that when an amendment to the Constitution takes place it automatically provides a dissolution. In England they have no Constitution at all. In America, after 100 years, I think they have scarcely got as many amendments as we have here. One of those that were introduced at a hysterical period has been amended or repealed quite recently.

This amendment, as I say, does not satisfy myself very particularly in regard to its terms, but it does provide a safeguard. It ensures that the Constitution as such is something much more difficult for the Parliament to change than an ordinary law of the country, and it should be so. Now, after two years changing—seven changes, I think, in two years; possibly eight changes in three years—I do not know that there is in print at the present moment an exact copy of the Constitution. There are printed documents in which there are various words scored out, other words added in, and so on. After 12 years' experience we ought to make up our minds definitely as to what lines our Constitution should run upon, fix them and leave them so that they cannot be lightly interrupted. I accordingly move this amendment.

I suppose it is only right that I should indicate our attitude before any other speakers rise on the opposite benches. I agree fundamentally with some of the remarks that have been made by the leader of the Opposition. I think that normally, at any rate, the Constitution ought to be of a more stable character and be more difficult to change than an ordinary Act of Parliament. I agree with that. But very wisely, in my opinion, when the leader of the Opposition and his colleagues were on these benches, they adopted in regard to this particular Constitution a different attitude. They understood the circumstances under which the Constitution was enacted. They took into account the fact that it did not represent, in any way, what might be regarded as the free opinion of the people of this country and they decided not to interpose any unnecessary barriers to its alteration. We had a discussion here on this point when we were in opposition a few years ago and the period within which the Constitution could be altered by simple legislation was extended. There are three or four years to run and I think we would be very unwise to change that because, although there has been a certain change, we have not yet, in my opinion, got to anything like stable conditions fundamentally. It is very wise that it should not be made too difficult to alter this Constitution.

There is another way of approaching the matter which I suggest for the consideration of the Opposition. Countries have been able to get on without any written constitution. They have been able to evolve by practice. We are following a sort of intermediary process here. From time to time, as experience dictates, we may change it, but I do not think that the time has arrived when it would be wise to interpose any barriers—leaving out of consideration the question of the Second House, which would be naturally adverted to —in the way of Parliament changing the Constitution as it would change an ordinary Act. There is this difference: Deputies know that these Bills are brought in as Constitution (Amendment) Bills. There is probably more consideration of them, of their ultimate effect, and of the principles behind them than there is in the case of ordinary measures. But the point I want really to make is that the method we are pursuing here—the changing of the Constitution as we think it possible and when experience dictates the wisdom of that course—is fundamentally a good method. If there were to be a check and if we had reached stable conditions, I, for one, would not be satisfied with the supposed check of a Second Chamber. If there is one question more than another that ought to be put directly to the people it is this question, but it should not be put by way of a general election. That method is unsatisfactory inasmuch as everybody knows that no single question is at issue in a general election. A number of considerations are before the voters' minds at a general election and, in a matter of this kind, the ideal check is that of the Referendum. I do not say that I should agree exactly with the terms of the Referendum as they appeared in this Constitution. I think that a simple majority ought to be sufficient in a case like that and that there ought to be every inducement to vote. Leaving that aside, I think that reference to the people in the case of a change in the fundamental law is a wise check where there is a written Constitution.

I am opposing this amendment on two grounds. The first ground is that a general election is an unsatisfactory method of obtaining a decision, that other questions than that of the constitutional change would arise at a general election, and that, on this question of the Constitution, the obtaining of a majority at a general election would not be conclusive. Secondly, I think that the idea of gradually evolving our Constitution as circumstances permit and as experience teaches is a wise one. I, for one, am prepared to depend on the good sense of the representatives of the people in this matter, as in others, until the period indicated here shall have elapsed or conditions are such that we can feel that we have reached something like bedrock and that a final Constitution, so far as anything human can be final, can be enacted.

The President has said that some countries have succeeded in getting along without any constitution. We are not in the position of such countries. We are not in a position in which our institutions have evolved gradually and slowly or in which a large volume of precedent has been built up which would enable us to get along without a constitution. There is not the slightest doubt that, in this country, a constitution is of the greatest value.

The Constitution contains a number of Articles which differ very considerably in importance. Such Articles as Article VI, which deals with the liberty of the person; Article VII, which refers to the inviolability of a man's house; Article VIII, which has regard to freedom of conscience, and Article IX, which guarantees free expression of opinion, are, however, of the greatest importance and should be embedded in a written constitution from which they could not be easily removed. At the moment, we are not concerned with the ultimate Constitution of this country or the ultimate state of things that will prevail here. We are concerned with the state of things that will face us as a result of the passage of this Bill.

Rightly or wrongly, we feel that some of the most fundamental matters in the Constitution are put in jeopardy by the passage of this Bill. Take, for instance, the Article which deals with the free expression of opinion. I know that the President and, I presume, the remaining members of the Front Bench opposite are in favour of the free expression of opinion. I know equally well that a large number of their followers are not, that they have only assented to the maintenance of such freedom very much against their wills. Moreover, outside that Party there is a noisy Party—I do not know how large it is—which preaches, day by day and week by week, that free expression of opinion ought not to be allowed. Let us assume that such a Party, or such a combination of Parties, secures a majority of one in this House. We may find freedom of expression of opinion swept away in a day and this country reduced to a state unworthy of the name of civilisation or decency.

As Deputy Cosgrave has said, none of us is particularly in love with the actual terms of this amendment but we are concerned with the state of things created by this Bill.

In my view, the proper answer the Government ought to make to the amendment, and to the other points raised on the Committee Stage of the Bill, is to hold up the entire Bill, and to go back to the alternative procedure of calling a committee to examine into all the aspects of this question, into the desirability of a Second Chamber, and into the constitutional and other results which will follow from the mere sweeping away of the Second Chamber, with a view to remedying any dangers that may attend those results. When we were debating the Bill for reducing the delaying powers of the Seanad to three months, I was one of those who opposed that Bill, and who called upon the Government to formulate their entire policy with regard to the Seanad, and not to be approaching the subject in a piecemeal way. The President in reply to that said that Deputies who proposed to delay this Bill should realise that delaying action in this matter might mean the rushing of the general question. I suggest that from that day to this, the question has not been further considered. It is quite apparent the Bill brought in to abolish the Seanad was not brought in as a result of any hard thinking that has been done in the interval. It was brought in because as the President said in column 2312 of the Official Debates:

"I brought in this Bill to show the country the extent to which opposition to the elected Government of the country can be carried on in playing this game."

In other words, he brought in the Bill because he wanted to chastise the Seanad, and above all, because he wanted to be seen to be chastising the Seanad. That is not in accordance with the implied pledge which the President gave at the time the House passed the Bill reducing the delaying powers of the Seanad to three months. Certainly, he then implied a pledge that steps would be taken to give the most deliberate and impartial consideration to the general question of a Second Chamber before anything more was done.

I do not like to interrupt the Deputy, but the House on the Second Reading agreed to the principle of the abolition of the Seanad. The Deputy is actually quoting from a Second Reading speech and resuming a Second Reading debate.

I appreciate the force of your objection, and I shall not continue to develop my argument along those lines. These matters were brought specially into my mind by the terms of this amendment, which raises a question of great constitutional importance. I will say nothing more on that particular point in Committee, except this, which I think you will not object to my mentioning, that the President's excuse for not dealing with the matter along these lines the other day was that experience taught him that when committees are formed amongst politicians they tended to consider these matters from the narrow Party and political point of view. When he said that he really gave away a large part of his general argument, because if that is true, when considering such a matter as the constitutional powers of the Seanad, is it not true about one hundred and one other matters? Should he not take that into account before he puts the Constitution of this State, in every particular, at the mercy of a majority, perhaps of one, in this House?

The President's speech was quite an interesting illustration of the habit of the Government in giving expression to quite lofty sentiments, and then proceeding to trample on them in practice. He was in real fundamental agreement with the mover of the amendment. He might be even in agreement with the purpose the amendment was meant to serve; the means, he would object to, but the purpose of the amendment fundamentally he would agree with. Having said that, he then began to point out that fundamentally he was going to trample upon it, and that he paid no respect whatever to it. In fact, when he started off by saying that fundamentally on principle he was completely opposed to the amendment, and everything it stood for, his conclusion could not have been a bit different. He would have arrived at the same conclusion, namely, rejection of the amendment, with the inevitable consequence that the most fundamental Articles in our Constitution can be changed, if he wills. Fundamentally, of course, he would be opposed to any such procedure but, in practice, he is going to make the way easy for such procedure. Yet it must go on record that fundamentally he would be opposed to anything of the kind. Fundamentally most reasonable; in practice, prepared to sponsor a measure which is calculated to do precisely the opposite to its fundamental principles; opposite to what fundamentally he is in agreement with, but opposed to the general purpose of an amendment meant to secure the carrying out of what he says are his fundamental ideas in this respect.

The Constitution, he admits, ought to be on a different footing from other kinds of laws. Is not that sufficiently guaranteed already, by putting at the head of each Bill, Constitution (Amendment No. So and So) Bill? Is not that a sufficient guarantee? What does any other reasonable man want? The sensible sound sense of this House and of the Executive Council, that marvellous reasoning of theirs, which sees into all things, will be sufficient guarantee.

I think it will be admitted that we have, both in his speech and in his attitude towards this amendment, further evidence of the extreme haste with which this whole Bill was conceived, how there was failure to examine into and to prevent quick changes of the Constitution—even irresponsible changes of the Constitution. It is quite true that the President may make a case that a general election is not a satisfactory way of settling an issue. That is the statement of the President, that on a big issue of this kind a general election is not a satisfactory way to settle it. That is quite a new principle. I do not say that there may not be a lot to be said in favour of it. I have no doubt he will defend it by saying that he is in agreement with what he said last night. A general election could then settle everything, and a body of people returned at a general election could settle everything.

Perhaps the general election is not the best way, but if there had been any consideration of these important issues that are involved in this Bill why did not the President bring forward the other method, the one that appeals more to his heart, more to his reason and everything—the method of the Referendum? Why did he not put that down? He referred to it. Was there any reason, if there had been any consideration given to this Bill, why he should not have made it the purpose of this amendment when the Bill was being drafted? Is it not quite obvious that this most important matter we are now considering was not given a moment's consideration? The President quite in hot haste from the Seanad came into the Executive Council and his "abolish the Seanad" was greeted with loud ejaculations of "hear, hear." Then they begin to wonder what does it all mean. We have this Bill without the necessary safeguards.

There is a good deal of lip service from the President to the effect that the Constitution ought to get more consideration than it could get at a general election. Here is his actual practice as shown in the Bill which he introduces. That runs quite contrary to his lip service to the Constitution. It is quite obvious that he did not consider this Bill in this respect or in respect of the amendment we are now considering or indeed in any other aspect. He spoke of a general election as not being a satisfactory method of settling the fundamental matter of the Seanad. But apparently a general election can settle the existence of the Seanad. Did he not get a mandate? What is the force of his argument that a general election is unsatisfactory? That from the very man who is acting on a majority that he got on altogether different issues! What is the force of that objection? Is the President really serious in putting forward an argument of that kind to cut the ground from under the Bill?

The foundations and the justification that he gave for this Bill is that he had a mandate for abolishing the Seanad. But now, apparently, because Deputy Cosgrave tries to save some wreck of the remains of the Constitution and brings forward an amendment for that purpose, the President's metaphysical mind gets going and he says that quite clearly a general election is not a satisfactory means of settling this. It is quite obvious that it is not, but he had a mandate for abolishing the Seanad, he tells us. His justification for the Bill is because he had such a mandate. How does he try to fulfil it? There is a Bill before the Seanad to hold up the powers of the Seanad. And then next we have this Bill. For which of them did he get a mandate—for the diminution or the holding up the power of the Seanad or for the abolition of the Seanad? He would have no difficulty in proving that he had both. They are in conflict, but does that matter? A man who gets a majority at a general election for a year or two can do what he likes. He is the spokesman of the people.

When the President wants to make arguments against an amendment of this kind he has no difficulty in showing that at a general election there are so many issues that you cannot definitely say that the people decided on any of these. Take your general election and it gives you a mandate. That is all right from the President's practice. But that he should come in now and nakedly acknowledge it is almost indecent, especially in the case of this man who has been so keen in telling us of the almost absolutely final character of any vote at an ordinary general election.

Deputy MacDermot has referred to a couple of matters which I think, especially as regards this amendment, require very serious consideration. He referred particularly to the Articles that are grouped here as the rights of the citizen. He enumerated them. He indicated what they were. I do not intend to repeat what he said, but I will just read out one particular Article:

"The right of free expression of opinion as well as the right to assemble peacefully and without arms and to form associations and unions is guaranteed for purposes not opposed to public morality."

That Article can be wiped out in six hours. If you wipe out that let us give up talking of democracy. Democracy is an absolute snare and a delusion of the worst kind if these rights are not guaranteed. Democracy and these rights must go hand in hand. I do not say that that is an absolute right of nature. But democracy has no meaning without that particular right. We heard a great deal about democracy last night on these amendments. Yet we are now having resistance to an amendment that at last tries to allow the people to decide whether or not they want their fundamental rights filched from them. This is not a bugbear that we are raising, I am putting up no imaginary cases. In the course of the last month we have been given evidence of the things that the Government intend doing. We have here before us the Bill that is the cause of the trouble—the thing that caused the President's anger to boil over and nearly put out the Government fire on the occasion. We have here the whole Clause 8 which can only be interpreted in one fashion that it gives power to the Gárda, practically speaking, to put an end to a number of meetings. If there are a number of people present, whether connected with the meeting or not, it does not matter: if they are opposed to the meeting it does not matter. If a number of people come to the meeting, if there is any threat to public order that in any sense can be described as inimical to public authority the mere fiat of a Gárda officer is enough to enable him to suppress that meeting. That is what the House is voting for. I am not saying that the amendment will determine that because the majority of the people may decide that the right of free meetings should be taken away from them. But it is some guarantee at all events. The thing is of great seriousness. We know the origin of this Bill, the cause of it and why it was substituted for the one actually in existence, the one that is held up by the Seanad. I have no doubt that we will have a very elaborate explanation. But the obvious explanation is not a true one. No person is better qualified than the President for giving an explanation which is quite contrary to what everybody knows is the case. We have one Bill held up by the other House and now we have this Bill before us.

It would be supreme folly not to realise not merely that there is danger that the fundamental rights of the people will be taken from them in six hours. But there is a certainty that the Executive Council with a sense of responsibility or without a sense of responsibility will tell the people "we cannot allow our opponents to meet." The Fianna Fáil Party will gaily turn out as everybody knows and support that. I wonder whether they will get the full support or not of the Party to whom they are accustomed to look for support in this House. But the danger is extreme and it is certain. Nobody need be under a delusion that if this Bill becomes law it is going to be used to the utmost to suppress in this country all public opinion that is hostile to the Government. No doubt about that. And that will be done with a cry of "we are defending the fundamental rights of democracy." There will be no difficulty so far as an announcement of principle is concerned. Democracy will be trampled under foot with the shouts of "up democracy." If that is the line, if that is the conduct, and if that is the situation we have to face, then, why should the President not buy the safety with which I think he was in agreement. He does not like a general election. Why not a referendum? Rather amusing coming from a man who objects to scare conditions in the country instead of having things stable and normal. We have not reached a normal stage. Yesterday evening he got into a scare about conditions. On Thursday he tells the country, so far as he knows, and so far as it is reported abroad, that we are in normal conditions. The House, if it has anything like one-tenth of the responsibility that the President is continually attributing to it, certainly ought to insist in putting in the necessary safeguards for that democracy that he honours so much in words, and suppresses so much in practice. There is no good pretending that he is not going to take away the rights conferred by Article IX. We see now that such attempts have been made. It is because such attempts were made and held up that this Bill is introduced. Therefore, let us not be in any doubt. The reason why this Bill was introduced was because of the rejection of the other Bill in the Seanad; and that is why things are not normal; and that is why this Bill was introduced as the solution to which the President referred.

Why introduce a Bill like this in the most peaceful country in the world? Whatever the President says, I think these are the words he would like to substitute instead of the others. He corrected Deputy Morrissey when the Deputy said that the President stated the country was never so peaceful and prosperous. There was an indication that what the President wanted to say was that the country was the most peaceful country in the world. The conception of the President and the Executive Council as to how a country should be normally governed is to be found in the Bill which the Seanad rejected and in consequence of which this Bill is introduced. Still we are asked to shut our eyes and assume that these immense powers will not be greatly abused. The Government asks us to do a lot of ridiculous things. To many of us the intentions of the Government are expressed not through their peculiar generalities, but through their concrete acts.

I should like the President to make it perfectly clear what his real views are, namely, that these Houses of the Oireachtas are merely makeshift institutions and that the Constitution is so much redundant philosophy in the surroundings. It would be better for the President to declare that he looked upon this House and the Seanad as simply a glorified general council of county councils, and that it would be far better for the State, and that he intended to take that step, to have the particular kind of Assembly and Constitution that he intended it should have.

When I consider this Bill as a whole, and especially the amendment now before the House, I am forced to wish again what I wished on many previous occasions, that the President and the Executive Council would remember that this country has got a future as well as a past. They should think, for a moment, that as well as there being a Party in this country, there is the country itself to be considered. Instead of living as they are at present from hand to mouth, instead of legislating according to every passing whim that comes to their minds, they should consider that there is a certain duty and obligation upon them to put the interests of this country before the interests of their own little Party at the present time. They should consider the future of this State, and they should consider what bearing their legislation will have upon the future of the State before they urge the passing of legislation of this kind, and before they oppose an amendment of the sort now before the House.

This is an amendment which says that, without the consent of the people, the Constitution cannot be altered. President de Valera remarked that with the Constitution normal and stable, more consideration was given to Constitutional Bills than other Bills. Normally the Constitution should be stable. Yet the President being, evidently, an abnormal statesman, proceeds to shake the Constitution here as far as he can and to introduce into it that element of instability which he is doing. More consideration should be given to Constitution Amendment Bills than to other Bills, we are told, yet we have the most hastily conceived measure that ever came before this House brought in without the slightest regard for the Constitution. We have, what I would prefer to describe as a Constitution Destroying Bill, rather than a Constitution Amending Bill, brought in, without any consideration at all, in a mere fit of pique. That is where the President says that more consideration is given to Constitution Bills than other Bills. And there is a third argument he put forward and that, I think, furnished the sum total of his argument. He said other countries have got along without a written constitution. There is one country that has got on without a written constitution and that has a constitution which has grown up entirely by custom. I do not think there is anybody who studied, in any way, political philosophy or read anything of the production of the minds of the greatest men who turned their attention to the study of that subject, who would not agree that all history has shown that custom is stronger than any legislation. And because the particular country which has no written constitution has got a custom grown up for many generations, the constitution of that country is probably the most rigid constitution in the world. Custom is the foundation of all principles which the people in this State now enjoy. We have taken over a system which was built up entirely on custom.

If you take the liberty of the subject, you will find that it is not based upon legislation. It is based upon custom, becausehabeas corpus, the real foundation of the liberty of the subject, was merely declaratory of the old common law, but here we have nothing of the kind. We have no such custom growing up or grown up. We have no such custom restraining our legislation. We are starting anew and, like every other single State that has started anew, we have found the necessity for a written Constitution. Every other new State in the world has got its written constitution, but here we are going to have a state of affairs under which you will have unrestrained power in the Dáil. And since the President seems to be complete master of the Executive Council, and since the majority in the Dáil does precisely what they are told by the Executive Council and the President, you are going to have no check or restraint at all unless this amendment is accepted. You can sweep away everything.

What are the safeguards against an Executive that wants to be tyrannical? There is custom in countries where custom has grown up, but in a country like this which has not a long tradition behind it and in which there is no custom, there can be only one safeguard. That safeguard is the written Constitution administered by impartial judges. The question of the judges I shall not deal with now, because that is the matter of the next amendment, but the written Constitution is of vital importance and you are sweeping away the written Constitution if you refuse to accept this amendment.

The President says that a general election is a bad way to settle a question of this kind—a general election to see whether it shall be within the power of an Executive Council with a majority in this House to do what they wish, to sweep away every single safeguard for the liberty of the subject. If they are to have a power of that nature without any check, the people should be given a chance of thinking. The President says a general election is a bad way, that a Referendum is the better way. I differ from him on the question as to whether a Referendum is the better way, but whether it is or is not a better way, it is not the question before the House. The question before the House is a general election or nothing—unrestrained power in the Executive Council or a general election. I say a Referendum would be a bad way, for the simple reason that the electorate would not know the issue very clearly before a Referendum. It would not be so well explained to the electorate as in the case of a general election. When a general election is held there is a great deal of propaganda. Views are put forward, a great number of speeches are made, and all Parties put their views before the public. That would not take place if there were a Referendum, and the ordinary man in the street would probably not know the real issue. The ordinary man in the street would probably not vote at all. For that reason, I do not think a Referendum would be a success in this State. As far as I have been able to gather, a Referendum has been a success nowhere except in Switzerland, and in Switzerland it has been a matter of gradual growth. I pass away from that.

If this amendment is not accepted the Constitution ceases to be a Constitution; it will be nothing but a scrap of paper which this House could simply do away with at any moment it liked without any check. We have no constitutional safeguards of any kind, either written or unwritten, unless the amendment is accepted. I cannot quote the exact words, but when I heard the President speak, a passage of Gibbon came back to my mind. The passage was to the effect that the most irretrievable blow which can be dealt to liberty is when the Executive nominates the Legislature. Of course, Gibbon was speaking as a result of historical studies. That is precisely the position which you will get here. You will have an Executive, without the slightest control of any kind for practical purposes, nominating what legislation is to be. You will have the Executive and the Legislature so completely fused that the Legislature will cease to be a legislative body and will do nothing more than register the decrees, the unchecked decrees, of the Executive Council. You cannot dispute that. What check can there be? A constitutional check? You have swept that away. A check by custom? Not strong enough to restrain. It has not grown up in this State.

Consider for a moment what is going to be the future of this State, how this is going to make for the future advantage of the State, for the future good government of the State, and tear yourself away from the consideration as to whether it is going to make for the quick passage of one particular Bill upon which you have set your heart. If the Constitution can be altered and changed by the Executive Council by its mere whim, then you have placed the liberties of the people of this State completely in the hands of the Executive Council of the day. You may say that the people choose their Executive Council, but even if the people chose their Executive Council can people never make a mistake in choosing their Executive Council? Will you put that forward as an argument? If the people ever do make a mistake in the choice of their Executive Council, then the people will have given a completely uncontrolled power to that Executive and will have placed their entire rights and their entire liberties in the hands of an Executive Council that they have, from the very statement of the case, made a mistake in choosing.

When I hear talk of democracy from the benches opposite and when I discover an amendment which is a safeguard, a necessary safeguard for democracy in this State, opposed from the Government Benches and no alternative put forward, and when I hear Deputies opposite describe themselves as democrats, it seems to me that it shows on their part a cynical disregard for facts which it requires some courage, even for them, to show. Speech was given to us, as a cynical French thinker said, to conceal our thoughts, and the Executive Council use speech to conceal their thoughts extremely well. They use speech to proclaim themselves democrats while they are thinking more undemocratically than any other Government in existence. The House has its choice and the Executive Council have their choice. Are they going to ask that the Executive Council should have the complete control over the Constitution that it will have unless this amendment is accepted? If they are, I dare say they will carry it through this House, but if they do they will have done a very bad day's work for democracy in this State having regard to the effects which legislation of this kind must have upon the future of the State.

I do not think there is need for me to say anything further on this amendment. The two or three speeches that I have listened to were simply misrepresentations of my arguments. The arguments themselves were not dealt with. A portion of what I said has been taken up without any regard for the rest of it, and, of course, when that is done you are simply making a mere debating society of the Dáil instead of a place where serious business is to be done. Every time that Deputy O'Sullivan stands up—I mention him as one—he deals with every question in such a way that you wonder whether you are simply in a debating society or listening to people who want to do serious work. He deals with every question in that particular way. What I said was this: I cannot repeat the exact words but I will give the sense. I said that, in general, I concurred in the view that a Constitution, a fundamental law, ought to be more difficult to change than an ordinary Act by way of amendment. That is the position I hold. I said, however, that we here were in a different position: that we had not really got to bed-rock as far as our Constitution was concerned. That was recognised by our predecessors when they were in office. That view is enshrined in the Constitution as it exists, because if we had arrived at bed-rock why should it be permissible to change this fundamental law by a piece of ordinary legislation without any check whatever on it other than there is upon the passing of an ordinary law?

It is quite clear that this Constitution that we are dealing with has not been recognised by our predecessors as a fundamental law in the sense in which we speak of Constitutions. From their own mouths and acts we have it that we are dealing here, not with a Constitution as it is understood in most countries, but with a Constitution in a particular state of flux. This Constitution itself sets as the end of that period of flux a date which, I think, is about four years from now. A few years ago it stood, I think, at eight years from the time of the passing of the Constitution. That was further extended by another eight until it meant 16 years. That is my recollection, so that there is a further period of four years allowed by the Constitution itself during which the Constitution can only be regarded as a special type of Act and not a fundamental law in the proper sense at all. In this so-called Constitution that we are amending, there is a provision that, when this transitional period is ended, then changes cannot be made in it in the way that ordinary Acts are changed: they can only be made when the people have given their assent after special reference to them.

As it is, I think the conditions here are over-rigid. If we had come to the end of this transitional period and were considering a fundamental law, I would suggest that changes should be made not so difficult as is provided for in this amendment. I commended the wisdom of our predecessors of the Dáil and of the Seanad even in recognising that there were conditions here which made it wise not to regard our Constitution in the rigid way in which Constitutions are regarded in other countries. I commended their wisdom and said that we ought not to be unwise now and make the Constitution so rigid that it could not be changed by ordinary legislation. That is why I am resisting the amendment because it would mean that the changes which experience or necessity from day to day may suggest could not be made as they could have been in the past. In other words, I do not think the time has arrived when we can solidify, so to speak, this Constitution. I think it would be a mistake to do it. I do not think there is any good reason for doing it.

Speakers on the other side have threatened members of the Dáil and threatened the country with all sorts of danger if it can any longer be possible to change the Constitution by ordinary legislation. The safeguard they put forward for that was the Seanad. I said that the Seanad would not have safeguarded the people if the members on the opposite benches came in here and wanted to establish a dictatorship—not a bit of it. We all know that the only safeguard is the safeguard of the representatives of the people, the good sense of the people themselves and their determination that democracy shall work in this country. There is no other safeguard. It is also useful to see how some of the members opposite have learned something, and have changed their attitude with regard to Constitutions and these fundamental powers, but when they were on these benches some of those fundamental Articles which they were so proud of when the Constitution was first framed were regarded by them only as embroidery. There was a recognition of the people as the ultimate authority in certain Articles which they took good care to delete, and there are Articles here which on occasion they have been able to set aside. There is no use in a general principle if it is in the discretion of the Dáil, ultimately, to decide whether the general principle is to apply or not, and when they claimed that the public safety of the community demanded it they did not hesitate to set aside these principles and not to act upon them. They gave as their justification that the safety of the people was the supreme law. Anybody who thinks on this subject will have to admit that there are occasions in which the safety of the people is so important that the setting aside for a time of such principles has to be provided for.

There is no Constitution in the world which is allowed to stand up against the need for safeguarding a community in circumstances like that. To devise a statement of these principles which will generally apply and will not cease to apply except on certain occasions, and so to define these occasions that they will not be abused, and to define them definitely, is the great difficulty in Constitution making.

I can only say to the Deputies on the opposite benches that, as far as this Executive is concerned, there is no intention whatever of interfering with any democratic right.

There has been no evidence of any such intention. We never stood up for anything other than the right of the people to elect their representatives freely. Every part of our policy has been aimed at securing that every section of the people will be free to return their representatives, and that there will be no barrier, such as the Oath was, to a certain section of the people coming forward and having their representatives in this House. Every effort of ours has been to try to provide for the country a truly representative form of government. I believe you can have it in this House. I believe that if you examine other legislatures you will probably find that there is not—and I am not trying to exaggerate—one more representative of the people than is this legislature. At the moment, on account of the Oath which was there at the time of the last election, there is a certain section of the people who have been excluded by the existence of that Oath. They felt that in conscience they could not take it or subscribe to it—you may apply any other term you like to apply. They are not, however, represented here. It was our aim to make it possible for them to be represented here.

We have here the nation in miniature and, when we decide by a majority here during the period between elections, we have to take it that the vote is representative, for the time being, of the people's will. If it should not prove to be so, then the time for reckoning will come at an election. Referenda between elections, if they could be easily got, and if they were not so costly, would be valuable. There are many times when it would be very valuable if the people could be directly referred to; but there are difficulties. You would have, for instance, instability and other things that might possibly be created, and that is an argument against any such course. We have here a transitional period. I do not want to see anything happen that will make it more difficult than it has been to change the Constitution. This amendment, for example, would make it much more difficult. There are amendments with which the Seanad might concur, if it were there. The suggestion is that when it has gone we shall have to wait for a general election. I leave the two Deputies to settle their differences as to whether an election or a referendum is the better method.

If we are, as the President says, in a transitional period as regards the Constitution, surely that does not dispense us from the duty of preserving, as faithfully as we can, what is of fundamental value in the Constitution that we have at the present moment. The President says this House is the nation in miniature. Even assuming that we are so, I would not agree that that disposes of the question of the desirability of having another Chamber, though I might go a long way with the President as regards the unsuitability of the present arrangement of the Second Chamber. In point of fact, I cannot admit this House really is the nation in miniature, because it differs from the nation in one respect, a very important respect, and that is that during the lifetime of a Government, and as various pieces of legislation are produced, people in the country change their minds; they change their Party allegiance. Here we do not. It is no good our patting ourselves on the back beyond what reason would allow us to do. We have to admit that we have here a rigidity of Party discipline which makes us not a true miniature of the nation at any given time. I must say that with me, at any rate, the factor that moves me most to desire a Second Chamber is just that I feel a Second Chamber, to be of permanent value, should be something where that rigidity of Party discipline does not exist. Is that impossible?

I think so.

I think it is not impossible.

There is where we differ.

It is, perhaps, impossible if they have to appeal to the electors with promises and pledges. It is, perhaps, impossible if the people who form the Second Chamber are people who have to struggle to get there. I would rather see a Second Chamber composed of people who have no particular desire to be there. I would almost rather have them chosen by lot, just as the Athenians of old, who were not such bad judges of matters intellectual or political, very often chose by lot the people they required for various positions. I would prefer to have Senators chosen by lot, rather than have them elected by a political Party who are seeking to be represented there. Perhaps this is going a little wide of the terms of the amendment proposed, but I suggested before that if the Seanad were to all intents and purposes an unpaid body which received nothing except reasonable expenses for the time the individuals spent in the session of the Seanad, that in itself would change the character of the body enormously. At least there would not be the same rush to get there as there is likely to be under present circumstances, and consequently people there would approach the political problems presented to them in a more detached spirit.

I go back to what I said when I spoke previously on this amendment. To my mind the proper answer to it on the part of the Government would be to return to the procedure which the President gave us to understand a few months ago would be followed. Instead of rushing this Bill through, as a sort of slap in the face to the Seanad, we should go back to the plan the President promised us of co-operating together in thinking out what kind of Second Chamber would suit this country best or whether it is necessary to dispense with the Second Chamber altogether. Let us, for heaven's sake, make an attempt to consider the matter in a spirit of co-operation and impartiality. The President says that cannot be done unless he gets people from outside. That seems to be in extraordinary contrast with the desire expressed elsewhere in his speeches, to concentrate everything in the hands of the Legislature. If it is desired to get assistance from outside, a Parliamentary committee would be capable of doing it and could call evidence of value whenever it needed it. I appeal to the President once again to go back to his earlier and better thoughts on this subject. Let us try sincerely to produce a Second House that will be satisfactory to everybody, and that will be some kind of check against the abuses that necessarily flow, not only in this country, but in every country, from a system of electoral representation, when people are forced or hurried into making promises to the electorate, into competing with each other in bribing the electorate. The present dangers to democracy all over the world have not arisen from the opposition of a privileged class or a Second Chamber. They have arisen from the doings of demagogues and the reckless way in which political parties were prepared to compete against each other in mass bribery of the electorate.

The President is occasionally a humorist. Imagine the President twitting anybody in any part of the House about debating society methods. Why his whole mentality runs in that direction. That has always been our objection to him. We have stated that objection again and again —that he will not come down to realities; that he is incapable of coming down to realities; coming down to concrete facts. There are other members of the Government who suffer from the same thing. Last night I was afraid the Minister for Industry and Commerce was going to be infected through his close association with the President. He, at all events, was generally concrete. But we had something of that particular schoolboy effort last night in his little cross-examinations, which were very much of that type.

I wish the President could realise for the moment the seriousness of the situation. I suppose it is impossible to get him to do so. More than once I have expressed in this House my own experience, and I think it is the experience of everybody within and without the House, that nobody has ever yet convinced the President of anything of which he was not already convinced. If a million or two million people in this country said one thing, and he held the other, that was no proof that they were right or that he was wrong. For most people, however, it might be a reason for suggesting an examination to know whether they were right or wrong. He spoke of misrepresentation. There was no misrepresentation whatever of what he said. He spoke of statements of his in that very short speech being taken out of their context. No statement that he made was given any other meaning except the one possible meaning that it is capable of bearing as far as I can interpret. As to putting things into their context, I wish the President realised that there is so much explaining away of the text to be done that there is no context to put them into where he is concerned. If one statement after another has to be explained away the context that is to explain them vanishes. I wish the President would realise that little habit he has apparently of issuing or making statements that either he does not mean or that must be explained in the opposite sense to that in which he meant them.

One of the things he told us was that he was strongly in favour of democracy. He said that this country was threatened with the things that might happen if this Bill became law. Yet there is this Bill that went before the Seanad which is an absolute destruction of the fundamental rights of the people guaranteed by the Constitution. The right of public meetings in practice disappears. I am not interested in the theory of it, I am interested in the practice as to whether or not, when you take Section 8 and the other sections in that Bill, there is any right to free meetings so far as the ordinary citizen is concerned. There is not. The Executive and their friends and supporters can ensure the suppression of any public meetings, if they wish, under the powers given in this section, and I have not the slightest doubt that they will do it. The President and others spoke of the desire of the Government for free speech. Let us realise that a great deal of the interruption in that respect is due to the incitement of the President and his Ministers. They are now singing a somewhat different tune. There was a great deal of incitement in that respect. Again, of course, as with everything the President says, he will ask us to parse it and to prove that it is legally bound to have that meaning, when the meaning was quite well understand by many of the followers of the President in the country.

The President speaks of this Dáil being an assembly of representatives of the people and if they do anything wrong there can be an appeal to the people; that the people at the next election can reverse the verdict. There is no good, however, in pretending that the people have that right if there is not the right of free meetings, and this Constitution, as it will be left now, gives the President and his Executive the right to suppress these meetings.

What is the good of saying that the people have the right to reserve a previous decision and to elect a different Dáil if the fundamental provision that will make democracy a reality, namely, the possibility of everybody putting his views before the people and trying to get their support, is not honoured, not merely in name, but in practice? We have too much evidence in practice of what the Government may do and what the Government are determined to do. We see their intentions day by day. Even the very phrases to which I called attention last night showed already that the President had his excuses for trampling on the Opposition. There, apparently, is the good Opposition that will allow his measures to go through without serious criticism, but there is also the factious Opposition. I know of no tyrant that ever existed who was not in favour of liberty so long as it did not degenerate into licence. They always had saving clauses and the President also has the saving clauses. He will find good cause and good reason, when he has untrammelled control, to suppress the fundamental rights of the people.

There is no good prating about democracy. Theoretically—and this, of course, will satisfy him and the Government—theoretically the people may still have the right to vote, but practically the different policies cannot be put before them. That very Bill, which as I said is responsible directly for this particular piece of rushed legislation—rushed in a sense of making up his mind on the part of the President—is sufficient evidence of what the Government intend to do. Mandates from the people! Will they save the people? Did they ever get any clearer mandate than to repeal the Public Safety Act? Were there ever more definite promises? Yet they put it into operation again in the most peaceful country in the world. What will happen if there is any trouble in the country—that is what I should like the people to ask; it is a very practical question—or if the President thinks that there is any trouble in the country or if he thinks that, at some future date, there may be trouble in the country, because being a far-sighted man he would look into the future and try to safeguard it against trouble as well as the present?

Is there a single Article in that Constitution that is safe? You abolish the Seanad. Why not abolish the Dáil? Is it necessary to have it? After all, let us get down to brass tacks and see what the people voted for. They voted for that Executive—the President can undoubtedly make out an excellent case for that—and they voted a number of people into this House to support that Executive, but, fundamentally, it was for the Executive and the Executive's policy they voted. What is the good of having a Dáil then? Why not abolish it? Would not the plea of saving expense, which was one of the pleas he put forward with regard to the Seanad, do? I do not say that there is quite as much danger of that as of the other possibility I referred to, because I do not think it will be necessary for his purpose to abolish the Dáil. I can, however, easily imagine this sort of thing happening, and it has happened before, and when people drawing up a Constitution were warned against it, they replied: "Absurd; it will not happen." What is extending their power?—refusing to go to the people. Mind you, it will not be a bit less constitutional to extend the life of the Dáil for ten years then it will be to do what the President is now doing, and I have not the slightest doubt that, when the time comes, he will find excellent reasons for doing it.

He spoke at one period of countries which have written Constitutions, and of those that get on without written Constitutions, and he said that we were between the two. We are not, when this Bill passes. Let there be no mistake about that. We are not between the two. We are very far beyond, and at the extreme limit of one side. There is nothing at all fundamental which is worth more than six hours' purchase in that particular Constitution. There are no fundamental rights of the people left which are worth more than six hours' purchase in that Constitution when this Bill goes through. As I said, we are not committed either to a general election or a referendum. Personally, I express no preference for one or the other. It was the President who introduced the idea of the referendum, and I understood that he preferred that method to a general election.

It was originally in the Constitution.

We are dealing, strange to say, with the future. I am dealing with the statement by the President that he preferred that method. Why did he not introduce it? If he does prefer it, let him introduce it so far as changes in the Constitution are concerned. "This Constitution is in a state of flux"—I should say it is, and very much in a state of flux.

You put a good hole in it.

I have no doubt that the Deputy could tell the President how to conduct the debate. It might be a good thing, so far as actualities are concerned, if the Deputy joined in the debate. I think we would be more able to see what we are facing if the Deputy joined in instead of leaving it all to the President. We would not, at all events, be too much wrapped up in abstractions and we would get down to real concrete facts, and he and others may share the sentiments, as they did last night, that there was the mangled corpse of this Constitution here. That seemed to give great satisfaction. The Deputy was not here, but there were others who got great satisfaction out of it.

It is not the first Constitution that was mangled.

These are not imaginary fears that we are conjuring up. We have, unfortunately, in the conduct of the Executive, as an Executive, in the last nine months, in their conduct as leaders of this House and in introducing legislation and carrying it through this House with their cast-iron majority, too many examples and too much proof of what the Executive are prepared to do. As I said already, it would be deliberate blindness on the part of anybody, either in this House or in the country, to be under any delusion as to what the present Government intends. The setting aside of any principle of the Constitution, apparently, must be provided for. No matter what the principle of the Constitution is the business of the Constitution is to provide for its setting aside. We know perfectly well the readiness and the eagerness with which the President will set aside fundamental provisions of the Constitution and yet he will object to people saying things here that are not perfect. He will hold that this is the most peaceful country in the world and yet he brought the Public Safety Act into operation again—in the most peaceful country in the world.

We have this Bill as his contribution to Irish freedom in the last 12 months. These are his contributions to democracy and to Irish freedom in the last 12 months. The revival of the Public Safety Act in perfectly peaceful conditions in the country and the introduction of the Wearing of Uniform (Restrictions) Bill—these are the President's concrete contributions to democracy. I have no doubt that he will be quite willing to argue in his own inimitable style that only thus can the freedom of the people be preserved and that only thus can the people be given a chance of voicing their views, because, as he knows, the people must be given a chance of voicing their views, so that if they are dissatisfied with legislation, that dissatisfaction can be expressed in the proper way. "A law is passed and it must be obeyed; if the people wish to change it, let them express an opinion." Much chance of expressing an opinion they will have if the President's Bill is made operative. We can see what the will is; we need not indugle in prophecies. We can judge from his actions in the past 12 months and, as I say, we can see his great contributions to the principle which he honours so much in the breach.

We heard a statement from the President to the effect that, generally, he concurred in the view that a Constitution or fundamental law ought to be more difficult to change than an ordinary law. Having made that pious pronouncement, he goes on to explain all the reasons why he will not adopt that view. So far as the Constitution and fundamental law are concerned, they are the property of more than Parties. That is a consideration which is the possession of the people of the country. The mere delegation of authority from the people to representatives is not authority to enter into possession of their liberties, or to do what they please with them. A refusal to accept this amendment is a refusal to recognise and to confirm those liberties and rights of the people here. All this talk and play-acting about referenda or general elections is simply trying to divert the people's minds from the issue. You can argue about the merits of the one method—a general election— or the demerits of the other, but in practice you do not want to give them either. That is just what is in the Government's mind regarding this particular amendment, or as regards the rights of the people under the Constitution which is now being changed. Removing the Seanad out of the Constitution is not merely what the Ministry has explained it is. It is much more. Right down through the whole of the Constitution there is a sort of contract with the people, which is merely one of their safeguards and any conjuring with criticisms of the personnel of that body is beside the point. The real issue is whether or not some of the rights and privileges of the people are being taken from them. This amendment, although we are not aware of the exact method of doing it, is designed to ensure that there will be some security left to the people— security extending over the ordinary number of hours of the week, without taking off the 15½ hours during which the Dáil meets. The days of the meetings of the Dáil, and the hours the Dáil is going to meet, will be the insecure time for the people in the future. The more secure time for the people is when the Dáil is not meeting, because then they will know that for that period at any rate there is no danger.

We are told that the Government stand for certain rights. We are told that they stand for democratic rights. They stand for democratic rights when they have the ordering or manipulation of them, or the regulation of the people's lives, or the people's property, or their income, or their taxation, or the way in which they are going to allow them to express their views according to their interpretation of what are democratic rights, but in so far as the real conception of democratic rights is concerned we have not heard it yet, and I do not suppose they have learned it. Article VII of the Constitution lays it down that "the dwelling of such citizen is inviolable and shall not be forcibly entered except in accordance with law." A very simple amendment to that particular clause in the Constitution might be laid down in No. 63 or No. 65, or any number you like, of 1934. You might there have enshrined—in the same way as the Executive Council took power under this Wearing of Uniform (Restriction) Bill—"that it shall be lawful for the Executive Council by order to declare" that any residence which they please can be entered by any officer, any policeman, or any person they may direct to do so. I have had experience myself—I have detailed it before in this House—of meetings in my own constituency, with police officers present, where there was not the right of freedom of expression of opinion. It was denied to me, and by reason of that an organisation was established here in this country which kept that right for the people in spite of the Ministry.

It is a pity we did not have it at the time of the meeting in Ennis, County Clare, which was broken up——

The Ennis meeting does not come into this.

So far as the Ennis meeting is concerned the people gave their answer to that all over the country. They settled that question, and, furthermore, settled this, that the empty benches which were here for a long time were filled up.

And they are in the majority now.

Oh, yes, that is the point—the majority! No matter how it is got, no matter what immorality is committed in its getting; no matter what corruption is indulged in; no matter what slander is indulged in, as long as you have a majority! That is not public morality. In my own experience of this Ministry I have been under police surveillance for four or five weeks. They call it protection. I am provided with an escort, but it is for the purpose of espionage, and they call that protection. If that is the treatment that is meted out to a citizen of my standing in this State, what rights has the ordinary person who has no expression of opinion here, and has no opportunity of expressing what he is subjected to? The people who are responsible for that are the people who are standing against this amendment, which would seek to enshrine for the people the rights that have been won for them in spite of the Party opposite and in spite of that Ministry. We have heard high-sounding phrases, and high-sounding sentiments as regards their agreement with the fundamental proposition of preserving the Constitution as the prime law, or the foundation of law, and in practice every possible attempt has been made to prevent that happening. For four or five weeks I have been followed about to every part of this country except when I have given them the slip. I have given it to them many times, and propose to give it to them again. They will report on more hours when they have not seen me than when they have seen me, both in the past and in the future. That is liberty, if you please; that is protection, if you please. If the people in this country or if I want any protection in this State of any sort or kind, it is against the occupants of the Front Bench over there, and any attempt upon my life or liberty that I look for in this country it is from there I expect it.

That is a most dastardly speech that Deputy Cosgrave has just made. The Government which is in power here has been protecting him not for the last six weeks, but since they took over office. When they took over, one of the first orders that were given by the President to me, as Minister for Defence, was to make certain that the guards that were on the ex-Ministers were strong enough to carry out their duty of protection. Deputy Cosgrave is trying to give the impression that within the last six weeks a guard was put on him for the purpose of espionage.

I affirm that.

Deputy Cosgrave knows that is a lie.

I affirm that.

A Deputy

Chair!

It is only the Minister for Defence. Let him alone.

I am responsible for order, no matter what a Deputy says, and the rules of this House must be preserved. Any Deputy is not entitled to tell another that what he says is a lie.

I want to put this——

There will be no putting. The Minister must withdraw it.

I will withdraw it. I want Deputy Cosgrave to withdraw the statement that a certain number of Guards were put on him by the Government for the purpose of espionage.

That is not for me. That is my understanding of a political charge. Political charges of one aggravated kind or another are bandied across this floor on all occasions. Perhaps it would be better if they were not bandied in the same expressions as they are being bandied, but, anyway, they are political charges as far as I understand them.

I will be very glad to withdraw that statement when the Guards, or police, or whatever they are, are withdrawn.

Deputy Cosgrave said that those Guards were put on him for the purpose of espionage. I know that is not true.

Very good; take them off. I do not want them.

The Government will put Guards on whatever citizens it likes when it thinks it is necessary to do it. The Government's job is to protect the lives and property of the people of this country, and they are going to take whatever steps are necessary in order to see that that duty is carried out. Deputy Cosgrave should be the last man to deny the right of the Government to carry out that duty. He took much more forcible steps than the protection of citizens in order to carry that duty out. We brought in certain amendments to the Constitution, and, recognising that the Constitution, even though it can be amended by a majority here, should be treated in some way differently from the ordinary law, we took the trouble of stating in black and white the particular Articles of the Constitution which we propose to change. We introduced this Bill some weeks ago, and it has now been debated for three or four days. It will be debated during the next six months, both here and in the Seanad. When Deputy Cosgrave brought in an amendment of the Constitution, he did not even take the trouble to tell the people what Articles in the Constitution were being abrogated. He quoted Article LXIII, regarding the inviolability of the houses of citizens. He did not tell the House that that Article was already over-ruled by Article No. II (a) which he introduced to the House. He did not tell the members of this House or the people what Articles of the Constitution were changed by that Article II (a). One of the clauses in Article II (a) provided that anything contrary to the provisions of that Article in other sections should go by the board. That amendment of the Constitution, which abrogated all the safeguards citizens had against the violation of their premises or the ill-treatment of their persons, was passed through this House inside a week. The Seanad, which is supposed to be the great safeguard, passed that measure inside three hours without even asking Deputy Cosgrave what Articles of the Constitution were affected by it. We should like Deputy Cosgrave to tell us even now what clauses, other than Article II (a) are effective in the Constitution.

The High Court will tell the Minister that.

I am asking Deputy Cosgrave to tell me now, three years after he introduced that amendment, what Articles in the Constitution are effective other than Article II(a). He did not tell the House when he was introducing it. He did not tell the people at any time since and he does not even know now. I think it is about time that he found out that the Article he has quoted about the inviolability of the houses of citizens is null and void and of no effect because of Article II (a). Article II (a) was pushed through this House and passed by the "check" the Deputy is always talking about— the Seanad—within three hours without even knowing what its effect was.

Deputy O'Sullivan takes one form of exercise—mental gymnastics. It would be a good thing if he took some other form of exercise for a change. He talked about fundamentals and about practice. Fundamentally, he may be a man of common sense but, in practice, he does not show it. This country is not in a normal state. This Constitution is not a normal Constitution. Deputy Cosgrave himself recognised that it was not a normal Constitution by continuing in it the clause which gives the Oireachtas the right to change it by a simple majority vote any time it so desires. The country is not normal. Otherwise, we should not have people like Deputy O'Sullivan calling themselves youths, dressing themselves in blue shirts and going around the country. When we come back to normality and when people like Deputy O'Sullivan behave themselves, there will be no necessity for the Bill which he was waving at us, dealing with Leagues of Youth and matters of that kind. Deputy Cosgrave said that this Bill was removing the rights and privileges of the people. This Bill is designed to establish the rights and privileges of the people and to abolish certain privileges that a minority always had, which privileges were continued by Deputy Cosgrave when he nominated half the membership of the Seanad.

As the President pointed out, this clause is necessary at present. It would be foolish to accept an amendment like this, as Deputy Cosgrave himself admitted, when he continued the clause in the original Constitution making it possible for the Oireachtas to change the Constitution by a majority vote. The eight years during which Deputy Cosgrave said these powers should be available are not yet up. When the country is really normal, when the Constitution represents the real will of the people—I do not refer to the will of the people in times of excitement or times of stress, but to the common denominator of the will over a number of years—then it will be time enough to introduce the checks on the Dáil of referenda or general elections against rapid or hasty changes in the Constitution. That time has not been reached and, until such time as the Constitution is a real, normal Constitution representing the normal will of the people, it is only right that the Dáil should have power to change it if it thinks fit.

In the course of the lucid speech to which we have just listened, the Minister put me a question as to what security there was for the inviolability of the dwelling of a person after Article II (a) of the Constitution had been passed. I take it that that is the question the Minister put.

That is one of the questions.

It is the main one. My answer is: exactly the same security as he had before it became law.

That is not much.

Not a scintilla more and not a scintilla less. That was the statement made by me in introducing that amendment of the Constitution when I was in office. That has been the experience of the Ministry during the last six months. When they attempted to abuse that Act, when they attempted to put into practice what they had uttered in criticism here, they were held up by the courts and told that that Act did not lessen, destroy, or take away in any way the liberty or rights of any person who acted within the law. The Attorney-General can correct me if I have made a single statement that is not a fact. That is not the case I made. The case I made was that this Article of the Constitution can be amended by a single amending Act; that it can either set out an Act which is law, regarding the inviolability of a dwelling, or can take out that Act altogether. I have told the Dáil that for five or six weeks I have been subject to police surveillance, and I have told officers of State that I would not allow a single one of these police officers into my office, into my house, or into the grounds of my house. The Ministry can come along and pass an Act taking power upon themselves and insisting upon my housing their police if they so desire. I am against that. I am taking precautions in this amendment to ensure that that will not happen to any citizen. It is because the Ministry seems to attempt to prevent that, by trying to seize and to exercise despotic and wrongful power, and to misuse it in the name of democracy, that I am proposing this amendment.

I want to say a few words on this, which are not exactly repetition as some of the speeches were, the same arguments being used over and over again. One question I think, was not touched upon, and that was the question of haste. It has been suggested that the Bill was brought in without consideration and in haste. I tried to get Deputies to understand that that is not so; that the principles and ideas behind this Bill were indicated by me four or five years ago, when the question of changing the powers of the Seanad and its Constitution was being discussed in the Dáil. Therefore, these principles have been in my mind. I think the leader of the Opposition will admit that. I was on a committee dealing with this matter and was considering it for a very long time. As regards the immediate bringing in of the Bill, or any suggested inconsistency between this Bill and the Bill that sought to restrict the delaying powers of the Seanad to a period of three months, or to a really effective period of five months, there is no inconsistency. I pointed out when bringing in the Bill to restrict the delaying powers of the Seanad that that was consistent with any action we cared to take with regard to the Second Chamber. We had made it quite clear at the election and also in the manifesto, or whatever it was called, that we issued to the electors at that time, that the question of a Second Chamber was one which was to be decided; whether there should be a Second Chamber or not would be decided later.

I can honestly say to every Deputy that I approached this whole question of a Second Chamber rather from the conservative point of view. For years I have read a certain amount on the question of Second Chambers, and I came ultimately to the conclusion that no really good case could be made, that it was not what it was expected to be, an effective check. What Deputy MacDermot had in mind was an ideal. This is not even approximating to that, because if you take the names of people who served the country well, put them into a hat and pick out a restricted number—and suppose that they were not people of strong political views—put them into that Chamber to discuss Bills from day to day, where their actions are political in character, and they will divide themselves according to the main lines of political policy before the people. Therefore, you cannot get a Second Chamber that will be of the character we would like, purely ideal. That is not obtainable. I gave some names on the Second Reading of people who had discussed this matter and their views upon it. It was suggested that some of them were Radicals. Well, for the most part Constitutions, as a rule, are made after some form of revolution. It is rare to have constitutional advance continuous over a long period, and where there is the positive work of Constitution making, as a rule, it occurs after revolution. That occurred in France where you had people considering the question of democratic government. You had thinkers, whatever their private lives may have been, who admittedly on this question thought fairly profoundly. You had the Abbé Sieyés, Condorcet. I mentioned conservative thinkers who followed the same line. No one will accuse John Stuart Mill of being a wild Radical or anything of that sort. In the middle of the last century he came to the conclusion that there was too much time wasted in dealing with the question whether there should be two Chambers or not.

Consequently, I have paid a considerable amount of attention to the whole question, and I found myself being driven by sheer logic and by practical experience to the conclusion that the Second Chamber, as a safeguard, is a fraud: that really it is a fraud, and that it is deceiving to say that it is any real check at all. If it contains a majority of the same political views as the main House, in that case it will pass practically anything the majority in the other Chamber wants. If it is against that House it acts as a political Opposition to try, as was suggested as a motto by the Opposition, to put the Government on the rocks. That being the case, we cannot get a solution of our difficulties in that method. I agree that a good point was made by Deputy O'Sullivan when he said that we have no alternative to that, no rigid safeguard, such as providing that no Act would become law, except after a certain period had elapsed. When that becomes too rigid it does not meet the pressing needs at the time. There has to be some form of release from the rigidity, and that can only be in the discretion of the individuals composing the legislature at the time. This Bill has not been sent here in haste. The immediate reason for bringing it in has been explained, but it was the intention for a very long time.

Deputies on the opposite benches who know the length of time it takes to draft a Bill and get it printed will understand that it would be quite impossible to produce this Bill, even the Short Title and the Long Title of the Bill, if this matter had not been for a considerable time under consideration. It had, in fact, been under consideration. It was kept, if you like, more or less in cold storage. It did not matter a great deal what particular time it was brought in. The Bill would get into law sometime. There was no hurry then, and no hurry up to the present, and we thought it was a suitable time to bring it in.

I have already dealt with the other matters that have been referred to. The position is that we have here a Constitution in a state of flux. I would remind Deputies who now see something sacred in this Constitution that they did not regard it as sacred when they were in office themselves. They brought in 17 amendments to that Constitution. There was no reason why it should be called "the people's Constitution" at all. It was first published on the day of the poll in 1922. There was not much regard for it as fundamental law, judging by the way in which it was brought in under circumstances of that sort. The Constitution as a Constitution has never really been submitted to the people. That there are valuable principles in it I admit, and I admit that these valuable principles should not be changed if we are going really to have representative government. Certainly, as far as we are concerned, there is no intention of changing them.

If we accept the amendment that is put forward, we are binding ourselves by barriers that have not been placed already against the change of other Articles of the Constitution which are not nearly as fundamental so far as the rights and liberties of the individual are concerned. There is no such thing as putting down our heads and not looking, and there is no stubbornness on our part in regard to this matter at all. I have listened to every argument put forward by the other side, hoping to find in them some help to get out of the difficulties, difficulties that have not been solved so far by anybody or by any nation. I cannot accept the present amendment.

There is just one point to which I want to refer. Statements have been made that this Constitution was originally introduced on the polling day in June, 1922. The President said that is so. Yes; but let him go on and give all the facts and circumstances——

I am not going into——

That is what the President charged. He is trying to keep the people's mind as far off from the real position as possible, as if the circumstances of 1922 were normal.

There is no use in continuing an argument on a misunderstanding. The only point I claimed about it was that having been introduced under these circumstances—I grant they were abnormal—it cannot be regarded as having the sanctity of a Constitution that is given to the people. That is not a matter for discussion.

I want to say——

(Interruptions.)

Back-benchers ought to behave themselves in a case of that sort. I want to say that it is not going to go out to the people that this Constitution which we have before us here is the Constitution that was introduced in 1922. In 1922 there was a Provisional Government. It had to take over all the Departments of State from the British. It had to build up a new State and to regulate the functions of the State Departments. In June of that year it published a Constitution, which then went before the Constituent Parliament. No oath was taken by the members of that Parliament in order to come in here. It was here in this House that that Constitution was considered on that basis. It was amended very considerably. There was a general election the following year. The Constitution was not in issue at the general election.

It is nonsense to say that the Constitution has been materially altered by the 17 amendments passed, the principal one, if I may say so, being the last one passed in 1931. Having regard to what was said by the other side on the last amendment inserted in 1931, their criticism of it and all their horror of it, we have still the fact that that amendment of the Constitution was the first thing they charged for when they feared they were going to lose their present political predominance in the country. Then they cried: "Wolf, wolf!"

If the President wished to make a speech showing how improper was the production of this Bill and how improper is his resistance to this amendment, he could not have made a more effective speech than the one he made a few moments ago. Let Deputies take that speech and analyse it. The present Seanad is not perfect and, therefore, because it is not perfect we are not to have any Seanad at all. You are not to have a Second Chamber unless your Second Chamber is ideal, a Second Chamber such as human ingenuity cannot devise. Because the Seanad is imperfect it is to be swept away. Where are you going to get perfection in this world? If you get a good working principle going, keep that going. Improve it, help it and oil the wheels if you like, but do not blow up the entire engine. That is what the President wants to do. "I am not satisfied that this Seanad is an ideal Seanad, scrap it, away with it."

Now we come to the President's next point, and how very ingenious! The Seanad is of the same political complexion as the Party in power. Well, then it will do practically anything the Government wants. I notice that even President de Valera was driven to put in that word "practically." That word "practically" is in that context a word of tremendous significance. It will do practically anything, but not everything that the Government wants. It is perfectly obvious there is a very big distinction between the Seanad, even with its political complexion, even though its political complexion may be the same as the political complexion of the Government at the time. The followers of the Government in this House and everybody else know that.

The followers of the Government in this House are bound by Party ties. They have to do precisely what their Party tells them. They have no security of tenure at all. It is different in the Seanad. Even assuming that the Party of the Seanad were all supporters in every way of the Administration in power, yet there never could be in the Seanad, as constituted at the present moment, the same rigidity of Party influence and Party discipline as there is in this House. Yet the Seanad is to be entirely swept away. "It cannot have been a sudden decision on the part of the Executive Council," said President de Valera. He wishes us to assume it was a mere coincidence that this Bill was introduced following on the rejection of the tyrannical measure which the Seanad rejected. As an illustration of that he says: "Oh, here is a Bill, and the Deputies opposite know how long it takes to draft a Bill with a Long Title and a Short Title, and this whole Bill itself could not have been drafted and be ready for presentation a couple of days after the introduction of this measure unless it had been fully thought out before." How long would it take to draft that Bill? Suppose the President sent word to the Parliamentary draftsman: "I want within three hours a Bill abolishing the Seanad," he would in three hours have that Bill from the Parliamentary draftsman. There could not be any single thing simpler. The Title! There need be no difficulty about that. Then there are really one or two short sections and the Schedule, which is a mere clerical matter of going through the Constitution as it stands. To say that it would take the Parliamentary draftsman weeks and weeks to draft this Bill is absolutely absurd. The President's case—and that was really the most interesting part of his speech—was that the Executive Council was in a state of complete bankruptcy as to ideas. The definite admission by the President was that he was completely bankrupt of ideas and that the Executive Council was bankrupt of ideas. He says: "We have the Seanad, which we think is not a perfect Seanad. We have thought over the matter for months and months, and we are so completely bankrupt of ideas that it is impossible for us to amend the Seanad or to offer any alternative." Completely bankrupt of ideas I have always known the President to be, and completely bankrupt of ideas the Executive Council have, also, shown themselves to be. A body more bankrupt of ideas it is impossible to imagine, but the important thing is to have that admission from President de Valera. Experience is teaching him. It is very interesting to find that after his time in this House President de Valera has discovered he is not the superman he used to pose as. He is very different to-day from the superman that he was some time ago. If there is a simple problem before him now he throws up his hands in despair and says: "There is no possible suggestion that I can make." Here is an affirmative suggestion before the House, but there is nothing but bankruptcy of ideas in connection with it to be found in the Executive Council. If there is necessity, as it is admitted there would be, for a check upon a Single Chamber, if it is admitted that a uni-cameral Chamber is not desirable, and if the Executive Council have entertained that doubt for months and months, what is the alternative?

The President has admitted that there are good things, and valuable principles, in the Constitution that ought not to be changed. If he thinks so, and if the Executive Council think so, how is it when there is not a single valuable Article in the Constitution but is to be changed that no suggestions are put forward here? Why is there not a single safeguard put forward for one single Article of the Constitution contained in this Bill? There are valuable principles, we are told, that ought not to be changed, and that ought not to be endangered. Where, then, I ask, are your safeguards? If they are available, what are the safeguards that are to be applied? How is the express will of the people to be obtained upon a matter that should not be changed? Have you any safeguards for the valuable principles which you say are contained here? The safeguards that we put forward from this side of the House for these valuable principles you simply brush aside, but you put forward no alternative of your own.

Take this Bill. What is the effect of it? The Constitution goes. After this Bill the Constitution is not worth the paper it is written on. It can be altered, or it can be completely swept away, at any time, by any chance majority in this country. There is no constitution or safeguard for liberty in this country. To say that democracy requires no safeguards in its institutions is absolutely absurd. Democracy wants more safeguards, and customary safeguards, than any other form of government. The Government here wish to sweep away every possible form of safeguard, and they want to put democracy completely at the mercy of whatever Executive happens to be in power without any single check of any kind. That is the Fianna Fáil Party's idea about democracy. Surely if they want to make the path to chaos in this country smooth and easy for the Executive Council to tread, what can they do more than act as agents in bringing in and pressing through this House a measure such as this? The present Executive are doing everything they could to do away with respect for the Constitution. They are doing everything they could to do away with respect for order and settled government in this country, and they are opening up as wide as they can the flood-gates of anarchy which may be found in full flow in a short time. That is what they are doing. Not a single safeguard will they leave. They even say: "We have not the intelligence to devise any safeguard." And they say to the Opposition: "If you devise a safeguard we will reject yours and offer nothing in its place." That is what President de Valera is asking us to do now, and I sincerely hope the House will refuse to accept his directions.

There was an ancient saying by one of the Greek philosophers that "man is the measure of all things." We have got from President de Valera a twist of that doctrine; that there is a kind of grand magic pint pot into which there may be filled, from time to time, what he tells people to provide. There are two ways of making the pot full. He may either constrict or enlarge its capacity. He can cut down the standard measure to what his idea is of what he thinks the people want. In introducing this Bill the President said the elected representatives of the people ought to be the best judges of what it is the people want at the present moment. There were many discussions on mandates— and what mandate this Government got from the people has got a big extension—but he is against particular mandates. Becoming the elected of the people is the particular issue, and then, according to the President, the elected representatives of the people ought to be the best judges of what the people will do at any particular moment.

The President is the particular measure of all this. The President made a claim here that he spoke for democracy. He pretended to speak for democracy, and his idea of representative government was so wide that in his declaiming about representative government he got back to the position of again instituting the doctrine of the divine right of kings, only now he is standing that principle on its head. That is what is happening.

That brings to my mind this other analogy. The idea is in "Alice in Wonderland," with the White Knight talking of the difficulties people sometimes encounter in crossing a gate. She says the main difficulty is in regard to getting your feet over the gate. Your head is generally over it. Here is a grand recipe which I think the President is following practically. You keep your head where it is and you raise your legs slowly in the air until you attain a certain posture. Of course, when the White Knight attempted to do that, he fell in the ditch, but when the White Knight was taken out of the ditch he said it did not really matter what his position was. He said that his mind worked much better when his head was in the ditch and his feet in the air. I can conceive many meetings of the Executive Council when the President solemnly gives the order to the members of the Executive Council: "Heads down; raise your legs in the air." The members of the Executive Council think much better in that position than they normally do, judging by the results. Surely it must have been in some such strange position that industrial alcohol was thought of or the bounty for slaughtered calves, or the Blue Shirt Bill. I can imagine, too, its being the painful duty of the Secretary of the Council to go around when he thinks that sufficient damage has been done by the members in that position and elevate them back to their normal position, a position in which, possibly, he thinks they will begin to think decently again.

We are told by the President that there are some valuable things in this Constitution of ours. We are told in the same context in which that phrase was used that this Bill had been well considered. May I ask one question: What were the instructions given to the Parliamentary draftsman? Had they as a preamble this: "Keep as close as you can to the thing for which I believe I got a mandate, namely, to abolish the Seanad as at present constituted" or were the instructions: "Abolish the Seanad as an institution"? Does the President think there is no difference between going to the people and saying: "We want to abolish the Seanad as at present constituted" and bringing in a Bill to destroy the institution altogether? What are the valuable things that were considered by the President? Remember the President's defence of this Bill when he was speaking on the Second Reading amounted in one phrase to this:

"I would present this if it were only from the mere point of view of expedition of public business and the saving of public funds."

Two legs—to expedite public business and the saving of public funds! Bear in mind there are some things valuable in the Constitution and they should be safeguarded. This Bill has been well considered, we are told. Where is this consideration that has been given to some of the valuable things in the Constitution? Deputy Cosgrave has referred to Article I which deals with the inviolability of the dwelling of each citizen and says that it cannot be forcibly entered except in accordance with law. Any safeguard for that hereafter? A majority vote, a vote of this House carried by a majority of one! That is, at any rate, one valuable thing that is in the Constitution. What about the judges? Was their position specially considered?

There is another amendment dealing with them.

I shall speak to that when it comes along. I am referring now to the general context in which the President spoke of the valuable things in the Constitution and said that this Bill was well considered. Was the position of the judges considered? Did the President think of any means of safeguarding them or the Comptroller and Auditor-General? There are other Articles to which I have referred on occasion—the Article, for instance, which prevents a thing being declared a crime which was not so at the date of its commission. At the moment it is impossible for this Oireachtas to declare acts to be an infringement of the law if they were not so at the date of their commission. Surely that is something that would be regarded as valuable. Where is the safeguard?

The President, apparently, has, in his mind, divided up the Articles of the Constitution into those which are valuable and those which are more or less useless. Are they not all to be treated in future more or less in the same way? The Seanad was a safeguard in so far as a measure had to run the gauntlet of so many stages in each House and there was a period of delay put upon the passage of any measure. Is there any distinction to be made between a piece of legislation to change one of the more or less useless Articles of the Constitution and a piece of legislation to wipe out one of the more valuable Articles? As far as the President's legislation is concerned, they are to be treated on the same basis.

If we are to take another guide to the future, remember what has been attempted in the past. Is it not clear to most people that the most valuable Articles of the Constitution are the ones which annoy the present Government most? Have they not tried, contrary to law, to encroach upon the people's liberty? Have they not tried, contrary to law, to suppress freedom of speech? Have they not tried, contrary to law, to make the right of assembly peaceably at public meetings, an outlawed thing? These are the things that have been attempted. These are the things that might have been achieved if it were not for the fact that there were judges, independent in their functions, set up to guard the law, step by step, and finding that the law had been encroached upon. If the Executive Council had their way would not there have been in fact, as we know now after the event, certain breaches of the law committed? Were not the breaches that were attempted ones that went against the most valuable Articles in the Constitution? I am sure the President would agree with me, if I were to ask him merely in the abstract, leaving this Bill aside, are not freedom of speech, liberty of the person and the right of assembly peaceably at public meetings, three things that are valuable and that should be preserved for the people of the country? Where does he safeguard them? As a matter of fact it may not be—the President tries to deny that it is—the reason but is it not at any rate a peculiar coincidence that the introduction of the measure to suppress the Seanad followed their refusal to allow the President to suppress certain public meetings? The President says it is not. It is only the occasion possibly; it is not the reason. That, I may say, is a part of the mentality that lies behind the introduction of the phrase that this Bill had been considered for a long period and carefully drafted. Where is the fruit of the careful consideration? The most ordinary piece of legislation that any Minister might bring in here can be put through all its stages in a day. There is no difference made between that type of measure and another Bill that may hereafter be brought in, to make a thing an infringement of the law which was not so at the date of its commission. We know that in fact the Executive Council have gone as nearly as the courts would allow them to breaking that particular Article. We know that in the minds of all decent citizens they are deemed to have broken that Article in their conduct towards Commandant Cronin. The President might give himself a respite and stop saying that no case has been put up for certain amendments. He might start again and tell us just exactly what were the instructions given to the Parliamentary draftsman. What were the clauses that the Executive Council in deliberation had decided were sacred and should be preserved and that, in a kind of way, they have marked out for safeguarding hereafter? They have certainly not marked them for safeguarding as far as this measure goes.

The President could give no better excuse for this Bill when introduced than the two phrases I have read. We have a mandate "to abolish the Seanad as at present constituted." He put in the safeguarding clause, from his own angle, a bit later and said that as to what the people desired at a particular moment the elected representatives of the people ought to be the best judges of that. That is, the autocrat. Coming down again to earth he said that if it were only from the mere point of view of expedition of public business and the saving of public funds, he would present this Bill. Now let him relate the expedition of public business and the saving of public funds to such an important matter as the independence of the judges and to an equally important matter, the independence of the Comptroller and Auditor-General in regard to those matters of finance on which he has the right to report. Let him deal with these two things: the expendition of public business and the saving of public funds, whatever be their importance in any poverty-stricken period that this country may have to go through when money will become tighter than ever, and relate them to such a thing as the liberty of the subject, the right to assemble peaceably, the right to preserve one's house inviolable and the impediment put in the way of the Executive to declare an act to be an infringement of the law when it was not so at the time of its commission. These things have not been thought of.

Certain amendments are here put up and arguments made for them. The President assumes that just because this Bill passed Second Reading he has nothing to do except wait until, affirmatively, a case has been made for the amendments. The President has got to consider them in relation to the whole scheme, and the scheme was that there was a Seanad and nobody dared to go out and say that they wanted to abolish, as an institution, the Seanad and have only single-Chamber Government. The Seanad had certain powers and it certainly was one safeguard in relation to such matters as the independence of the judges, the right of free speech and so forth. The President has made no case for taking away those safeguards. These amendments are nothing more than an attempt to put a very inferior type of safeguard in relation to these important things. It is not a fair presentation of the case for the President to say that, affirmatively, argument must overwhelmingly be in support of the amendments before they can be accepted and allow something more rigid than what was the old state of things.

He said this had passed the test of an election, but nobody had dared to go out and say that it was a plank in the programme of the Party to get the Seanad done away with as an institution. There was the usual stuff that we are accustomed to from the men who had abused individual Senators about their national record, and so on. There was the usual type of talk, the smoke-screen that had to be trailed, but did the members of the Executive Council parade themselves before the people as folk who had the intention of abolishing the Seanad as a body and of getting back to single-Chamber government?

The Deputy knows that the House, by giving a Second Reading to this Bill, has approved of the principle of the abolition of the Seanad.

I have not denied that. The President told us to-day that this Bill in all its details had been well considered. I am assuming that does not mean that somebody cast his eye down the Constitution and said: "We have wiped out every Article in relation to the Seanad." I am assuming that what was meant was that the effect of removing certain Articles from the Constitution had been considered and that the resulting situation had been considered. I want to relate that to what was put forward on Second Reading: that there was a mandate for the abolition of the Seanad as at present constituted. We are now seeking to put back certain safeguards in relation to certain things. This amendment is one and it has been objected to. The last point the President made with regard to the Constitution as a whole was as to whether it had ever stood the test of a public examination—of being deliberately voted upon by the people in an election when the Constitution was before them. Of course, they did.

The Constitution was introduced at a particular time, and was passed through this House. It came through a House in relation to which nobody had an excuse, even on such matters as the Oath and the handicap to conscience that that Oath was. It was fought here and argued about. It was open for debate to the representatives of the people. The late Vice-President of the country made a general statement about it in these terms: that there was no Article of a Constitution sacred. There was no Article that the Dáil could not, by a majority, change if they liked at that time. He also said this: that the body of men who then stood as the Government in this country put certain things forward and said: "We will stand or fall by them. You can make us fall and get somebody else to make a Constitution." Was that a fair test? Was that putting the Constitution before the representatives of the people here? All that was reported in the Press at the time. In view of the fact that all that was done, how can the President say that the Constitution did not ever pass the test of public opinion? It was a prominent issue, if not the only issue, at a particular time. It would probably have been a more prominent issue if there had not been something that had to be elevated to a point of greater importance, namely, the attempt that was being made to suppress free opinion in this country by arms, and the President was responsible for that. He cannot, in the face of all the circumstances and the history of these things, which he knows so well, say, as if he believed it, that this Constitution did not pass the test of public opinion at several elections. It did.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 50; Níl, 69.

  • Alton, Ernest Henry.
  • Anthony, Richard.
  • Beckett, James Walter.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Bourke, Séamus.
  • Broderick, William Joseph.
  • Brodrick, Seán.
  • Davitt, Robert Emmet.
  • Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Fitzgerald, Desmond.
  • Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
  • Good, John.
  • Haslett, Alexander.
  • Holohan, Richard.
  • Keating, John.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • MacDermot, Frank.
  • McDonogh, Martin.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • McGilligan, Patrick.
  • McGovern, Patrick.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Burke, Patrick.
  • Byrne, Alfred.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Costello, John Aloysius.
  • Curran, Richard.
  • Daly, Patrick.
  • Davis, Michael.
  • Minch, Sydney B.
  • Morrisroe, James.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, James Edward.
  • Nally, Martin.
  • O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas Francis.
  • O'Neill, Eamonn.
  • O'Reilly, John Joseph.
  • O'Sullivan, Gearoid.
  • O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
  • Redmond, Bridget Mary.
  • Rice, Vincent.
  • Roddy, Martin.
  • Rogers, Patrick James.
  • Thrift, William Edward.
  • Wall, Nicholas.

Níl

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Blaney, Neal.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Boland, Patrick.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Browne, William Frazer.
  • Cleary, Mícheál.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Corkery, Daniel.
  • Corry, Martin John.
  • Crowley, Timothy.
  • Daly, Denis.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Doherty, Hugh.
  • Donnelly, Eamon.
  • Dowdall, Thomas P.
  • Everett, James.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Gibbons, Seán.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Hales, Thomas.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
  • Houlihan, Patrick.
  • Jordan, Stephen.
  • Keely, Séamus P.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • Kelly, James Patrick.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Kennedy, Michael Joseph.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Kissane, Eamonn.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick John.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Maguire, Conor Alexander.
  • Moane, Edward.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
  • Murphy, Timothy Joseph.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O'Doherty, Joseph.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Kelly, Seán Thomas.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Pearse, Margaret Mary.
  • Rice, Edward.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick Joseph.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Martin.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Francis C.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Doyle and Bennett; Níl: Deputies Little and Traynor.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 4:—

In Part II, in the second column relating to Article LXIII, to delete all words in that column and to insert in lieu thereof the words "the deletion of the words ‘on resolutions passed by Dáil Eireann and Seanad Eireann' and the substitution therefor of the words ‘on a resolution passed by Dáil Eireann and assented to by not less than three-fifths of the members of Dáil Eireann.'"

This amendment seeks to provide some security for the continuance in office of the State of an official of the Dáil. I am not in a position to say whether or not the Comptroller and Auditor-General is a civil servant. I rather think he is not. He is an officer of this House. He was appointed after a special Act of Parliament had been passed, and he is independent in the exercise of his functions and duties. As the law stands at the moment, a case must be made in both Houses of the Oireachtas against the Comptroller and Auditor-General for stated misbehaviour or incapacity, and, the case having been made, a vote is taken, and if the vote, bearing in mind what has transpired in the course of the case made against him, is that he should be removed, that officer is deprived of his office. The office is a very important office, which should not be held at the pleasure of the Executive Council. The Comptroller and Auditor-General reviews expenditure and reports to the Dáil, and it will be obvious, I think, even to members of the Executive Council, that it is an undesirable thing that an officer, who should be independent of them and who is an officer of Dáil Eireann, should hold his office at the will and pleasure of the Executive Council.

I am prepared to concede that it is not exactly on that case that the officer would hold office, even if this amendment were passed; but it amounts to that. A complaint of any sort or kind can be made and can be substantiated —that the officer is unreasonable, too meticulous, perhaps, about accounts, or unsparing in his criticisms of Ministries in connection with expenditure of money, and so on—and it is put to the House. Now, what is proposed to be effected by reason of the passing of this amendment is that no Party in the House, of itself or of its allies, will have sufficient voting strength to carry out the dismissal of this officer unless they are able to persuade other Parties in the House that the case has been made. If there is to be any usefulness in the services of this officer, he should be independent of changes of Government. It might so happen, when a Ministry would leave office here and a new Ministry came into office, that the new Ministry might say that this officer had not been sufficiently exacting in his criticisms or remarks upon the previous Administration, and so on. The whole purpose of this amendment is to secure and ensure the independence of this officer in the exercise of his functions, to ensure that he is not dependent upon a vote of the Dáil—a mere passing majority vote—that he will be able still to exercise those functions without any fear or apprehension on his part, and that he will be preserved in the same capacity as was intended when this Article of the Constitution was framed and when the Act, authorising his appointment, was passed. Accordingly, I beg to move this amendment.

In connection with this amendment I should like just to go into some detail as to the position as it is at the moment in relation to the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and, at any rate, as to what it may become hereafter if the Seanad disappears. The Comptroller and Auditor-General in this State is in a very privileged position, but that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should occupy a privileged position is not exceptional to this State. In most countries, in which there is representative government through Parliamentary institutions, men, on the whole, have come to regard it as an important thing that there should be an officer put in such a position that he can be independent in the exercise of his functions, and he is given independence in the exercise of his functions because the functions he has to exercise are regarded as very important.

As far as we are concerned—and in this we are not exceptional to many other countries—the Comptroller and Auditor-General has to control all disbursements and to audit all accounts of moneys administered by or under the authority of the Oireachtas, and to report to Dáil Eireann at stated periods to be determined by law. In most countries you have an individual discharging functions of this type, and because he has been given functions of this type to discharge he is put into a specially privileged position. In most countries the marks of the privilege are almost always the same—that he cannot be removed easily, that he can only be removed for stated reasons and on a charge openly made against him and on a resolution brought forward backing up the charge; that he is not subject to pressure by having his salary easily out, because financial pressure, in other circumstances, could be used easily to make a Comptroller and Auditor-General, discharging his functions in what he thought a proper way but not in the way the Government of the day wanted, come to heel. So, you generally have the position that in regard to a financial supervisor of this type his salary is not open to reduction annually.

In this country we have put the salary of the Comptroller and Auditor-General on the Central Fund. That means, in addition to other things, that ordinarily the question of his conduct cannot be raised on a Vote, because the Vote for his salary does not come before the House annually. That was all done deliberately, because it was thought a wise precaution, and a salutary thing to have an individual given independence and given charge of the public accounts in the limited way in which he is given charge here. As far as we are concerned, the special terms relating to him are that he shall not be removed except for stated misbehaviour or incapacity, on resolutions passed by Dáil Eireann and Seanad Eireann. There are other matters that follow, but let us deal with this. To remove him, there must be a resolution brought in. It must allege misbehaviour or incapacity. If it alleges misbehaviour, it must state a case of misbehaviour. If it alleges incapacity, it must give some indication of what the incapacity is. That resolution has then got to be passed both by this House and by the Seanad. In other words, Parliamentary government, as it is known here, means that people are subject to criticism, and when certain people are put into a privileged position we find that the privilege of criticism is somewhat limited and restricted, and that when it comes to criticism aimed at getting a man out of that office, it must be directed along either of two channels— to show misbehaviour or to show incapacity, and the arguments backing the resolutions alleging incapacity or misbehaviour must commend themselves to the majority in this House and in the Seanad. That is the situation here at present. That is the situation, with certain minor items changed, here and there, which holds in a great many countries. In addition, we have here that, subject to the provision about removal for stated reasons, the terms and conditions of the tenure of office of the Comptroller and Auditor-General shall be fixed by law; he shall not be a member of the Oireachtas, and he shall not hold any other office or position of emolument.

In these two rather brief Articles everything that was possible was done to secure independence for the Comptroller and Auditor-General, to preclude him from taking any other office or position of emolument, and the corollary of that was that he should be given such a salary as would satisfy a man of the attainments required. Given that salary, allowed to take no other office, he would then devote himself exclusively to the exercise of the functions detailed here. Only in the way I have described could there be any removal of him from office and, his salary being borne as I said, he was not subject to the financial pressure that can be put upon other people whose salaries are yearly, and at other times if the Ministry like it, at the mercy of this House. That is the position at present. It has commended itself to mankind generally that there should be such a position, and that the man holding it should be put above criticism, certainly put above financial pressure, and decidedly put above removal at the whim of a Ministry.

What is the new situation? Once this Bill goes through, it only requires a simple majority of this House to delete the words in Article LXIII that the Comptroller and Auditor-General shall not be removed except for stated misbehaviour or incapacity, and on a resolution passed, as it will be hereafter, by the Dáil. It would be possible to amend it further by a simple majority. It would be possible to have his salary borne upon some Vote, discussed annually, and subject to cuts. Let us think again of the circumstances in which this new procedure will operate. A Government commanding a majority can, for a reason which commends itself to them, remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General at once.

I have previously used the analogy of the Commissioner of the Gárda Síochána. No charge was made against General O'Duffy, the President said, when questioned on the matter. He was removed from office because, in the opinion of the Executive Council, a change of Commissioner was desirable in the public interest. If the Ministry think that is a sufficiently good reason they can, even, with Article LXIII remaining as it is, force a resolution through this House hereafter removing the Comptroller and Auditor-General. But, if they want to appear purists in their approach to this, they can introduce two measures—one to remove these words which might be some impediment to a conscientious man, and put in the simple phrase that, if it is desirable in the public interest, the Comptroller and Auditor-General may be removed from office by resolution passed by Dáil Eireann. Why was it desirable in the public interest to have General O'Duffy removed? The President gave testimony to that. He said: "Deputy Cosgrave asked me was there any characteristic in the quality of the new occupant of the office that the old occupant did not have," and the answer was, "I say yes, the one that he was not chief of police for ten years under the late Administration."

That test, which is alleged to have ruined General O'Duffy, can be used with equal force against the present Comptroller and Auditor-General. If that was an all-sufficing reason in the one case, how do we know it will not be regarded hereafter as a proper reason in the case of the Comptroller and Auditor-General? Do we want to get to the state in which a Government, because it commands a majority in this House, ought to be able to remove from office a man who may be disposed to criticise its actions? Is it not thought desirable that there should be somebody, not subject to the whims of the Government, not easily removable, to safeguard the finances of the State even in the limited way in which safeguarding is accomplished here—to control the disbursements, to audit the accounts, and to report to the Dáil at stated periods? Of course, a simple amendment carried by a majority to Article LXIII would take away the right and the obligation of the Comptroller and Auditor-General to report to the Dáil at stated intervals.

Away from the heat of Party conflict, views about the Seanad as at present constituted and the present Senators and their national outlook, is it desirable that there should be in the modern State somebody independent of the Government of the day to report to the House at stated periods as to the disbursement of public money and the appropriation of public money, and to see whether the moneys have gone to the people for whom they were voted, have got there by the regular process of law and in due course of administration? Is it desirable that there should be somebody to examine into that matter and report upon it, and to enable that man to pass a clear judgment, unafraid of financial pressure, and not subject to sudden removal if he does not obey the reigning Government? Is it a good thing to have a man who will report and comment upon what the Government is doing in relation to public money? If it is thought desirable, where is the safeguard we are going to have here? Was that one of the valuable things the President found in the Constitution? If so, should it be safeguarded? Where is the safeguard? I shall deal with the judges later on, although the judges, as an institution, and the Comptroller and Auditor-General as an institution, have very much the same arguments at the back of them.

I suppose that the money exacted by a Government from the citizens of any country and spent under their supervision, is about double what it used to be fifteen years ago. With this advance in the spending capacity of a Government, if these old safeguards were required previously, are they not required all the more now? Would not a Government really be well advised if there was no such safeguard as we have here now to put it in? Is it not something of a safeguard to a Government itself, viewing it from the entirely selfish viewpoint, to be able to point to somebody and say: "That man is independent; he can criticise us and hold us up to public scorn and odium for anything he finds out about us, and he can report, and must report, at stated intervals, to the Dáil, and if there is any lurking idea or suspicion in anybody's mind about what we are doing with the nation's finances, there is the guardian—and he is not removable by the majority which makes us a Government"? I think that if a Government came into being and found themselves without that safeguard, they would be well advised to get it at once, but, it being there, the present Government seek to remove it, and they certainly have not offered us anything in substitution.

It seems to me that this is possibly the most important amendment we have to this Bill, with the probable exception of the amendment dealing with the position of the judges. As Deputy McGilligan has just said, the position of the Comptroller and Auditor-General has been made almost similar to the position occupied by the judges. His salary comes from the Central Fund and does not come before the House in the form of an Estimate in the ordinary way. He cannot be removed by the Government in the ordinary course; he can only be removed for stated reasons by a majority vote of the Oireachtas. That is the position as laid down by the Constitution, but there is the further point that the function of the Comptroller and Auditor-General is to examine the accounts of all Departments of State and to ensure and to report to the House that the moneys entrusted by the House to each Department have been spent in accordance with the instructions of this House, and, apart from the statutory position, the practice has been that the Leader of the Opposition—not a member of the Government Party or any member of the Government at the time being— and if not the Leader of the Opposition, the nominee of that Leader, has been Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. There are many members of both sides of this House who have served on that Committee, and they know how interesting and how arduous that work is, and they know the considerable length of time it takes to examine into the accounts and into the reports made by the Comptroller and Auditor-General on the accounts of the different Departments.

I had the honour to be a member of the first Committee of Public Accounts ever set up by this State. Senator Johnson, who was then, and, for many years afterwards, Leader of the Labour Party in this House, was the first Chairman, and was Chairman of that Committee for many years subsequently. I can say from my own experience on that Committee, and I think it will be borne out by members from all sides who have served on the Committee, that the work performed by the Comptroller and Auditor-General is of the greatest public importance, not only to the Government of the day and to this Dáil, but to the country as a whole, and if the Comptroller and Auditor-General is to do his work, as he does it, in my opinion, and has done it, in a first-class way, he must tread on the corns of the Government of the day. I do not know that there have been any year's accounts since this State was set up in respect of which the Comptroller and Auditor-General has not had to report matters against different Departments and against different Ministers. I am not suggesting for a moment that the present Government is going to penalise in any way, either by way of a threat of removal from office or a reduction of salary, the Comptroller and Auditor-General, but the position is that the way will be open for them and the threat will be there and present to the mind of any person occupying that office.

I remember that when the present Government were in opposition they were very keen on this Department of the Comptroller and Auditor-General and on the work of the Public Accounts Committee, and some of the members of the present Government Party did very valuable work on that Committee, but I am quite satisfied that if the Comptroller and Auditor-General, after this Bill becomes an Act, if it does become an Act, were to report along the lines upon which he has reported on more than one occasion during the last 12 years, he would be in very great danger. I want to put it to the President, apart from what may become, as Deputy McGilligan said, of the Seanad, either as an institution or as at present constituted, that it is desirable for us to try to frame some safeguards for the position of Comptroller and Auditor-General. He is a person who, so to speak, stands for the people of the country, for the ordinary taxpayer, to see that the money which is collected in taxes is spent in the way it is supposed to be spent, and in the way it is authorised by the House to be spent, and unless the person who occupies that position can feel independent of the Government of the day, and is able to report on things as he finds them, without fear of being victimised in any way, there is no real safeguard so far as the expenditure of £25,000,000, £30,000,000 or £35,000,000 is concerned.

I do not want to repeat points already made, but I think that for the present Government or any succeeding Government, it is desirable more for their own sake than for the sake of the Opposition, that that position should be maintained. As one who served on the Public Accounts Committee, I feel that the position of independence for the Comptroller and Auditor-General and his staff should be maintained at all costs. Next to the judges, it is, in my opinion, about the most important office we have in the country, and it is more essential that independence in respect of that office should be maintained than perhaps in respect of any other office in the State.

The more this Bill is debated the more one realises its dangers. There may have been a mandate given to the Government to make some change in the personnel of the Seanad, or even, if you like, to abolish it and to substitute some other body, but the electorate certainly never envisaged the state of affairs that the debate on the Bill has revealed as possible. The electorate never envisaged the drastic powers that the abolition of the Seanad would place in the hands of the Ministry. The various amendments which have been debated here to-day are absolute proof of the dangers and difficulties that are possible, and perhaps the amendment we are now considering is, as Deputy Morrissey said, one of the most important amendments that have been brought forward on this Bill. The President will probably reply that safeguards in this particular matter are not necessary; that he cannot imagine either himself or any other Minister who followed him acting in the particular manner that has been debated in regard to the Comptroller and Auditor-General, but the framers of the original Constitution thought it necessary to insert that safeguard in the Constitution and to make other safeguards for the position of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. Practically, in every country where there is responsible government, there are safeguards for the person holding the equivalent position to our Comptroller and Auditor-General. Deputy Morrissey rightly referred to the position of the Comptroller and Auditor-General as he found it on the Public Accounts Committee. I think everybody who has been a member of the Public Accounts Committee realises what Deputy Morrissey pointed out, that if there is one person in the State who might, possibly, cut against the will or, if you like, the pride of an arrogant Government, it would be the Comptroller and Auditor-General. We have had in the last eight or ten years, as Deputy Morrissey again pointed out, several instances of the Comptroller and Auditor-General drawing attention to various actions of the different Departments and, indeed, of various Ministers, and it might possibly be that some future Executive, if not the present Executive, might resent such criticism on the part of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and take steps to remove him from office. That would be a contingency that would place the finances of the State at the absolute mercy of whatever set of Ministers was in power for the time being. The finance of the State is, after all, the chief business of the State, and anything that tends to protect the citizen in the expenditure of his money should be considered in every possible way.

The position of the Comptroller and Auditor-General as it is at present, independent of every Party and every individual in the State, with the occupant free to criticise, where criticism is necessary, the expenditure of Departments and Ministers, is a position that should not be made a plaything of the will of any Minister, or set of Ministers, that might possibly be in power in this country. It is beyond doubt that if this amendment is not accepted the present Government, or any other Government, have definitely power to remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General on very flimsy cause; perhaps, as Deputy McGilligan pointed out, on much the same grounds—the same stated grounds anyhow—as the removal of the head of the Civic Guard force a couple of years ago. Without any cause stated, except that the Ministry considered a change desirable, the Comptroller and Auditor-General could be removed from office, and perhaps a puppet who would bend to the will of any Minister put in his place. I do not say that those things are going to happen. Personally, I do not believe that the present occupant of the Presidential Bench would act in that manner, but the power is there for any President to so act if he desires. It is certainly a power which should not be left in the hands of any Minister, particularly in regard to the occupant of this position which, after all, is possibly the most important position held by any individual official of the State. It was originally thought necessary, both in this country and in other countries, to make the position of the Comptroller and Auditor-General secure, except in cases of stated fraud, or incapability, or some such charge; but in the ordinary performance of his duties he was to be absolutely free to criticise as he pleased, and he was to be irremovable at the will of any Minister, except on the grounds stated. I think this amendment ought to be accepted. Whatever arguments have been made against other amendments —to my mind there have not been very strong arguments made against any of them—there can be no possible argument that the officer for the time being Comptroller and Auditor-General of this State should not be set apart from any possibility of removal by any Minister, or set of Ministers, except on the stated grounds of fraud, or some other dereliction of duty.

I almost hesitate to get up to discuss this amendment because one can hardly imagine that the Government is not accepting it. I understand that, so far, the President has not indicated his attitude towards this amendment. One would assume that if he is—as one naturally expects —accepting it, he would have indicated that. Is it possible that his failure to give any such indication means that he is not going to accept it? The amendment is to a change to be made in Article LXIII of the Constitution. There is actually an Act called, I think, the Comptroller and Auditor-General Act, and one might wonder why it is, when there is a special Act dealing with this office, that reference to it should appear in the Constitution at all. If we read the Article of the Constitution, it says: "The Comptroller and Auditor-General shall not be removed except for stated misbehaviour or incapacity on resolutions passed by Dáil Eireann and Seanad Eireann. Subject to this provision the terms and conditions of his tenure of office shall be fixed by law. He shall not be a member of the Oireachtas nor shall he hold any other office or position of emolument." One might ask why there is a special clause put into the Constitution with regard to this office-holder, and why, when this Article states that his tenure of office shall be fixed by law, it still lays down certain things with regard to that tenure of office, not leaving it to legislation. The reason is that the Comptroller and Auditor-General has to have his position safeguarded and made independent, because he is actually what is called the watchdog for the public.

We have, at the moment, in this Dáil one Party which has a complete majority. The servile members of that Party, by a mere nod of the Minister, will vote as they are ordered to do, which means that if this amendment is not accepted the Comptroller and Auditor-General will be an ordinary servant of the Government, removable at any time that the Executive Council finds his operations are an inconvenience to them. It is said that money is the most important thing with which a Government deals. I do not agree with that myself, but we must recognise that the framers of the Constitution clearly felt that the holder of this office should be in a special position, and that that position required more than ordinary legislation to give it independence. That had to appear in the Constitution. What this amendment proposes is that for the removal of this officer a majority of three-fifths of this House shall be required. If that amendment is being opposed—the President has not given any indication on that point —what does it mean? It means that one of the purposes in the mind of the Government when it introduced this Bill for the setting up of a dictatorship was that they, with their servile Party, should have the Comptroller and Auditor-General completely in their power. There can be no other reason put forward for that. To resist this amendment is to say that this office-holder must be removable at the will of a mere majority in this House. That is undesirable, as we know. There is a majority in this House ready to obey any orders that come from the Executive Council. Previously it required a majority in Dáil Eireann and in Seanad Eireann to remove the Auditor-General. Independent of what I might call the blatancy and the shamelessness of opposing this amendment there is a certain futility in opposing it, because, as the last amendment was rejected, the one thing that was sought to be obtained by putting this Article into the Constitution is effectively negatived. This amendment is clearly not an attempt to get in a good condition but merely to save something from the wreckage, to give a measure of security, which is only negligibly greater, to the officeholder. I know that the Government if it finds it is necessary to carry out its policy must be able, at any time it likes, to abolish any part of the Constitution which exists, of course, for the safeguarding of the fundamental rights of the people.

This Article is actually designed to safeguard the fundamental rights of the people, because its purpose is to put a man in a position of independence so that he can check Government expenditure and see that public money is used for the purposes for which it was voted by the Dáil. It is inconceivable that the Government should propose to resist this amendment. Is it conceivable that the Government should demand that a mere majority of their Party in this House should be able to remove this man from his office? Is it conceivable that one of the conditions which they wanted to create by abolishing the Seanad was that in which they could put the Comptroller and Auditor-General in their pocket? Personally, I should like the amendment to have gone rather further. It would not have been in any way extraordinary if we had stated that there should be a majority of three-fourths before the Comptroller and Auditor-General could be removed. All that is asked in the amendment is three-fifths. If the Government proposes to reject this amendment, then they want a position created by the abolition of the Seanad by which they can, any time the holder of the office behaves in a manner inconvenient to them, without further ado get rid of him by arranging at their Party meeting that their followers will vote as ordered. It does seem to me that the President has failed completely to understand his duty. He should clearly have got up when this amendment was introduced and have indicated whether or not he proposes to accept it. If it is proposed to reject it, he should have made some show of giving reasons for the adoption of that course.

I was prepared to indicate, at any stage, our attitude to this amendment, but if Deputies opposite stand up, one after another, it does not afford an opportunity to do so. They have, of course, a right to speak and, possibly, it shortens the debate to have a number of speakers express their views in this way. When Deputy McGilligan had spoken, I was prepared to concede at once that the functions of the office, the position of privilege it occupied and the means of keeping that office in a position of independence should be very clearly stated. I do not think that anybody in the House will deny that it is advisable that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be in a position of independence. A certain position of independence is granted to him by the Constitution as it stands. As already explained by two or three Deputies, he can be removed only by a vote of each House on a resolution which states on its face that the case against him is one of misbehaviour or incapacity.

The difference between the attitude of the Ministry and the attitude of the Opposition in regard to the whole Bill is that they are suffering, apparently, from what was called by one author the "autocratic dread of the multitude," the fear that the representatives of the people here are going to be so blind to their obligations and to their duties as to do anything that an Opposition can conceive possible. That does not happen, in fact. In my opinion, if an Executive were capable of acting as has been suggested, the conditions stated in this amendment would be a very little safeguard. The whole Constitution, if there were people so disposed, would probably be set aside. These safeguards are only makeshifts. If this Bill were passed, what would the position be? A resolution would still have to be brought into this House and passed. It would have to be stated on its face why it was proposed to remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General. It would have to specify, as Deputy McGilligan has pointed out, what the misbehaviour was that was alleged. Proofs of it would have to be given before reasonable members of the House would be likely to vote for the resolution. Has anybody such contempt for the members of this House as to suggest that the person occupying that position would be removed unless it were absolutely necessary? It has been pointed out by the Opposition that the Government, in its own interests, would make clear that they were not removing a person who was charged with the duty of examining the expenditure of public moneys without having a case that they could stand over. My view, therefore, is that the position of the Comptroller and Auditor-General is sufficiently safeguarded and that the position—a privileged position—occupied by that office in the Constitution is not, comparatively at any rate, much weakened. The holder of the office would still, under this Bill, occupy a privileged position. His salary would still remain chargeable on the Central Fund. He could not be subject to criticism by members of this House. He could not be removed by the Dáil unless the majority of the elected representatives of the people voted on a resolution in which the case against him would have to be made. Does anybody suggest that we should make it impossible under any circumstances to remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General? Suppose he were clearly to suffer from incapacity, is it suggested that he should not be removed? If there were obvious misbehaviour, known to every member of the Dáil, is it suggested that he should not be removed? I am sure that nobody wants to bring about a situation like that.

When you take into account how the Dáil is constituted, and elected by proportional representation, it is almost impossible to get a majority of three-fifths. If an Executive were to act in the irresponsible manner that has been suggested on such a matter as this, that Executive must suffer in public opinion. If an Executive could be supposed to act in that manner, surely we would have a minority that would act in an equally irresponsible manner, because the minority would feel that they were much freer to act in that way than an Executive. I think a reasonable case can be made for this—that the Comptroller and Auditor-General, on account of his functions, should occupy a privileged position. When this Bill is passed he is still in a privileged position. It ought to be made difficult to remove him. I hold that it is very difficult to remove him. There is no comparison between the position of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, according to either the law or the Constitution, and the position of the chief of police. The difference was recognised both in the law and in the Constitution, when a very special position was given to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. It is idle to suggest a comparison. The Executive in the public interest, changed the Commissioner of Police, as it was entitled to do by law, without giving any cause whatever, stating any case, or being obliged to defend its action before the Dáil. The position, according to the Constitution, on account of the particular functions of the Comptroller and Auditor-General is, that they have to make a case.

I have considered what is reasonable in regard to this Bill. I want as nearly as I can to approximate to what would be reasonable. I hold that the proportion mentioned is impossible. We are the biggest Party that has so far been elected to the Dáil on proportional representation yet, as a Party, we have only a majority of one. Is it suggested that in a matter of that sort, if the Executive Council wanted to do something to get rid of the Comptroller and Auditor-General— unless the reason was such as would commend itself definitely — the Labour Party would be found voting with us? No one would suggest that that is possible. I think the Labour Party numbers seven and our Party seventy-seven, so that the total that could be got, even in a case like that, would be 84, if the two Parties worked together. Our Party was the biggest Party ever returned under proportional representation. Perhaps if I were to make a prediction it is one of the biggest Parties likely to be returned under proportional representation. What is asked here? That three-fifths of all the members of the Dáil would have to vote in its favour after a case has been made. Just as it is the duty of the Opposition to make sure that the law will not permit an Executive to have unrestrained powers, so it is also the duty of the Executive Council to safeguard the interests of the community, by seeing that a minority, by acting in a factious manner, cannot prevent a thing being done that it is considered desirable to do by the majority. Of course, the suggestion of three-fourths made by Deputy Fitzgerald would be ridiculous. The amendment says three-fifths. I say that three-fifths practically means that the Comptroller and Auditor-General could not be removed at all. A fair proportion would be, say, five-ninths.

That five-ninths could be changed by the majority again by a resolution of the House.

As far as that goes Deputy Fitzgerald says that you have no safeguard in this amendment.

I mean amendments Nos. 3 and 4 taken together.

Amendment, No. 3 has been dealt with, and we are dealing with amendment No. 4 at present.

What is the good of dealing with amendment No. 4 by itself, if there is to be no bar against making amendments in the Constitution? Whatever you put in can be changed by a simple majority.

The same bar is there that is operating at the moment. I admit there is a special case to be made here. There is an officer actually in office. He is doing certain work and at the earliest moment it is desirable to show that the security and the position of privilege which he occupied in the past is not going to be materially altered. I hold, if you insist that a majority of, say, five-ninths of all the members of the Dáil should be necessary to remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General—that should be sufficient. It is a fair number. It is not a number that the two Parties on this side of the House when combined at the present time could muster. If every member of both Parties were present and voted there would not be a five-ninths majority. It is not likely that you are going to have under proportional representation anything like a combination of Parties which could be got together for the corrupt purposes that have been suggested by the Opposition as a reason for this safeguard. I admit that there is a special position in regard to the Comptroller and Auditor-General, that that position of privilege should be preserved to him, as far as is reasonably possible, but that we ought not to go beyond the limit of what is reasonable or practical, into the limit where it becomes almost impossible to remove him. We have got to a fraction which I suggest is a most liberal one. As long as there is proportional representation that ought to be sufficient. That is my attitude towards it, that it is right to go as far as is reasonably possible to meet the case the Opposition have put forward.

What purpose does the President suppose an Opposition can hope to serve by objecting to the removal of a Comptroller and Auditor-General who had been proved guilty of incapacity or misconduct? No matter how factious an Opposition might be, I cannot imagine what they would have to gain by taking such a line as he suggests. Whereas, it is easy to see that a Government might be tempted to take the line of holding a Comptroller and Auditor-General to be incapable, when he really was not, because it resented criticism by him.

I am not saying this of this particular Government, but of any Government. The thing is quite conceivable. As regards the Opposition, I submit the motive does not exist for resisting the expulsion of an incapable or corrupt official.

I say that what we aim at is that an official of this particular kind cannot be removed by a Party vote; that the vote necessary to remove him should be something extending outside the particular Party or bloc. In view of the fact that the Opposition have no such temptation as the President suggests, I do not think the amendment is in any way unreasonable, seeing that the safeguard of a vote by two Houses has been swept away. I submit that we should have instead of that the safeguard that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should not be deprived of his office unless the vote against him should be something that goes beyond the vote of the Government Party.

I think if the President would reflect on that for just a few minutes he would see that it is reasonable and that the fear he has conjured up of a factious Opposition protecting a corrupt or incapable official is not worthy of consideration. I would appeal to the President to accept this amendment which has been put forward in a reasonable spirit and in the same spirit as the amendment which follows it. I quite appreciate that there still remains the possibility of altering the Constitution by a simple majority, but there does follow a moral effect from having such a provision as this in the Constitution. Then we have got to think of the psychology of the people holding these positions. I have not the slightest doubt that the official we are discussing would feel himself in a much more satisfactory position if the amendment were accepted.

The President's speech was a complete misrepresentation of the aims of the Opposition. I entirely agree with what Deputy MacDermot has said in this matter. The Dáil votes money to the Government for the Government to spend in certain ways that have been proposed by the Dáil and have been sanctioned by the Dáil. The Comptroller and Auditor-General exists to see that the Government spends that money according to law. The President says the Opposition may act in a Party way just as the Government may act in a Party way. He says that our proposal of a three-fifths majority is quite impossible because it is quite impossible under the conditions of proportional representation to get a three-fifths majority here for the Government Party and the Government's henchmen in the Labour Party. He says that the Government would not have a three-fifths majority.

What is the purpose behind this? The Comptroller and Auditor-General is there to see that the Government spends money as it was voted by this House. A Comptroller and Auditor-General who was the creature of the Government could say that the Government had misspent sums of money but that he did not need to call attention to it and that he could absolve the accounts. In such a case what would be the Opposition's line? Does the Opposition want incapacity or capacity in the Comptroller and Auditor-General? If this official suffers from incapacity and does not do his job properly what interest would the Opposition Party have in retaining him? Would the Opposition retain him in office in spite of its being really right to get rid of him?

But supposing that the Comptroller and Auditor-General reports that the Government was misspending the money when as a matter of fact it was spending the money properly? Is that conceivable? For instance if the Comptroller and Auditor-General came along and said that £2,000,000 voted last had been grossly and corruptly misspent the Government are in the position that they can challenge that and invite anyone to examine the accounts. They can prove that he is telling lies there. What is it that the Opposition wants? It wants that the Comptroller and Auditor-General will examine the accounts and see that the money voted by the Dáil is properly spent. It can conceivably want nothing else. It is only one Party who would want something else and that would be an incompetent or corrupt Government.

The President's argument was that it was too much to ask for a three-fifths majority because that would include people outside of the Government supporters in the House. It was unwise to argue that the Government's majority should be supreme in this. The getting rid of the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be a matter that should depend upon the minority. If a Government wants to spend money corruptly—I do not say this Government, but any Government wants to misspend money which has been voted by the Dáil—what can the Opposition do? The Opposition might be as much Party as the Government. It might be as corrupt as the Fianna Fáil Party, but what can it achieve? It has not got the spending of the money. If it could be arranged that the Opposition could get control of public finances to some extent then you could say there would be a clash of Party in this matter. But the President in arguing this thinks that a three-fifths majority is too much to ask for. He makes that argument because the directly interested Party is not capable of getting that number of votes in the House for the purpose of removing the Comptroller and Auditor-General. That is the most extraordinary case I have ever heard put forward. Surely the President must recognise that there is no conceivable probability that the Opposition would insist upon the Auditor-General being retained for Party purposes if he were incapable or if he were guilty of misbehaviour. There is no Party purpose to be gained by the Opposition.

There is a Party purpose in the possibility that the Government would want things concealed and that the Comptroller and Auditor-General would be practically the Government's creature. What we are asking in this case is that no matter what happens the Government and the Labour Party who might have a three-fifths majority in the House under proportional representation might not be able to dismiss the Comptroller and Auditor-General. Obviously and demonstrably the Government Party and their allies could have more than a three-fifths majority. If the Government combination were three-fourths of the Dáil personnel, then clearly it should require more than three-fourths of a majority to remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General. That is perfectly clear, and Article LXIII is in the Constitution because the Constitution makers in this country, as the law makers in every other country, have recognised that there is a possibility that a Government would want things concealed from the public.

But no conceivable Party interest can be served by the Opposition in having these finance matters concealed from the public. That is the whole point. The President has argued that as we might be moved by Party motives just as much as the Government it is too much to ask for a three-fifths majority and he suggests a five-ninths. I think it should be more than three-fifths because after the next election you might have a Government majority here of more than three-fifths. The majority should be more than the size of the Government majority, as it is the deciding factor. In order to get rid of the Comptroller and Auditor-General it should always require a number greater than the Government's majority. The President stressed very much that this official can only be removed for stated reasons, incapacity or misbehaviour. Now, the Government can come in and say "we want to get rid of the Comptroller and Auditor-General because he does not get up early enough in the morning." They have their Party majority and they can do what they please, even flagrantly, against the spirit of the Constitution, on the most frivolous statements as to misbehaviour or incapacity. With its Party majority, although it may be perfectly obvious to every Deputy here, and to every man in the street, that the case is quite bogus, still because the President says that the thing can only happen for stated reasons, he can for those stated reasons remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General. Perhaps the President does not like the way that he wears his tie. He does not like the angle at which he wears his hat. Suppose we wanted to go to the courts to test that action, what would happen? The President will resist our going to the courts. The Government can do with its majority the most flagrant things and there is no appeal. If the Comptroller and Auditor-General is to be removed it should require not merely a majority—a majority does not matter so much—but it should require the support of the minority.

I think all sides are in agreement in principle upon this; it is only a question between the President's five-ninths and the three-fifths asked for in this amendment. That being so there should easily be a settlement of the matter. The principle is accepted by the President, that it would be undesirable that a position such as that of the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be determined by a simple majority of this House. Is there any chance of a compromise? The difference is actually two-forty-fifths and that would amount to six and two-third members of the House.

Here is the question right away as to whether a principle against the removal of the Comptroller and Auditor-General is accepted. It is not. You are going to put into this Constitution a vote of five-ninths. For the sake of better balance and popularity why not say nine-tenths and hide that against the background that is always making itself felt that, the moment this officer becomes objectionable, a vote of the majority of the House can always change the figure, even if it were nine-tenths. What is the object of a majority if a majority vote would not remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General if the Party opposite wished to do so! I asked the President was he prepared to take amendment No. 3 and have it applied to this Article so as to establish something in the Constitution, and have that principal Article in relation to the Comptroller and Auditor-General so that it could not afterwards be changed by a simple majority. Of course, he would not accept that. He does not want any of his followers to think that majority rule shall not remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General. That would be the principle if five-ninths were accepted. Amendment No. 4 is utterly useless taken by itself. That is the first thing. If you are going to put anything into the Article under discussion, unless you tie it up in some other way, and have it agreed that the Article will stand about the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and that he cannot be changed unless the matter appears as an issue at a general election—unless that happens there will be no security. There will not be that amount of security which is required to be established at the present moment. You could put in a nine-tenths majority, but a week hence the nine-tenths could be removed. I have little belief in the moral effect of putting in as a sign or gesture some majority figure at the moment. But the President is not accepting the idea that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be in a privileged position. His first phrase was that the Opposition attitude showed their peculiar fear of the multitude. Then again, the President talked about a Party that got in by a majority being allowed to do anything, even to remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General. He then went on to make the amazing statement that these checks and balances that we have in the Constitution are mere makeshifts. If a man is determined to live in blinkers, and with his face turned away from what is happening round him, he can say that anything is a makeshift. Why describe a thing that has so much tradition behind it, and that has been found so valuable, that has found expression in so many countries that are convinced that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should not be removed except for stated reasons—why describe such a thing as a makeshift? If we have the principle running all over the world, and every country coming to the conclusion that an individual of that kind should be set up in a position of authority, and should not be removed except by a very definite and not easily obtainable process, if that is the situation, and if the general consensus of opinion amongst the nations of mankind is on these lines, why describe it as a makeshift?

What about the present constitutional safeguards?

They do not differ in principle from the safeguards surrounding the position of the Comptroller and Auditor-General in most countries. When the President decided to say of such institutions so placed, and so long placed, that they are merely a makeshift, he shows that he is not regarding the world position, or else the doctrine has gone to his head about the majority being able to do what it pleases at any moment. He does not allow himself to take a balanced view of and judgment upon what is happening elsewhere. Take his later argument. Everything else breeds Party inspiration. It is impossible, he tells us, with the composition of the Dáil and the Seanad, on proportional representation, to get a three-fifths majority. And when he talked of getting a three-fifths majority he discussed the matter in terms of Party. He also talked of an Opposition which could act in regard to the Comptroller and Auditor-General in a vicious manner. That is his talk all the time. His principle behind getting the Comptroller and Auditor-General into an impregnable position is that he intends to determine it in the course of a Party division; to leave the main thing subject to the whims of Party, or the operations of Parties. May I say that the President, again dealing with blinkered eyes, would have it as though some other Party, not the Government Party, might join in removing the Comptroller and Auditor-General on the ground of incapacity which could not be proved. If I think of the number of influences brought to bear on the Labour Party Deputies, in the last two years, and for very little return that could satisfy the people, I can find it easy to agree with the President as to the possibility of getting another Party to join. And such an atmosphere with a Party spirit breathing through it is the wrong one. I agree with Deputy Fitzgerald that it should be something in the nature of a three-fourths majority, and that no change should take place except in such almost impossible circumstances. That should be the position.

If I am asked why I say three-fourths, I say one has to get some-figure and I, too, take the big number for the reason—if we must discuss it in a Party way—that it is notorious that the narrower the majority a Party has, the tighter are the bonds of discipline. It is notorious that when you get a Party with a big majority, inside that Party the ties become loosened, and you can get reason brought to bear on any such thing as, say, whether the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be dismissed. If we are going to think of this in terms of Party, then we should only think of a Party with such a majority that on a matter of this sort there will not be a Party discussion, as that phrase is ordinarily used.

The President showed again his inability to appreciate tradition in respect to financial supervisors of this type. He asked: Should it be made impossible to remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General? Later he said that, of course, there was no comparison between the position of the Chief Commissioner of the Gárda and the position of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. I can see an argument proceeding, at some date hereafter, on similar lines to those used in the case of the Chief Commissioner. It was thought advisable to put in the measure which established the post of Chief Commissioner, a proviso to enable his removal. The President drew a number of deductions from that. The President thinks it should not be impossible to remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General. There must be some way of getting rid of him. There must be a reason for leaving it that way. On a later occasion it will be argued here, because that provision has been left there, that there are certain deductions to be drawn from it. Would the President, if he were pushed to it, say that the public interest should not be a sufficient reason for getting rid of the Comptroller and Auditor-General? Supposing he felt that he had been able to pin a thing down to incapacity, and it might be the greatest capacity; supposing he could pin a thing down to misbehaviour, and it might be behaviour quite in accordance with the terms and conditions of his office, the President, nevertheless, for Party reasons, may think that the actions of the Comptroller and Auditor-General are contrary to the public interest. Does he feel that he can hold himself back from getting rid of that man?

I go back to the test of the President's standard, as it will be imposed on the President's Party. The President's mind is revolving and must revolve inside Party circles. He cannot think of this thing in any other way. The moment you begin to think of the Comptroller and Auditor-General in relation to Parties, you can wipe out all provisions, because a man who thinks of the matter in that way will be bound to hold on to some weapon with which he can attack the Comptroller and Auditor-General if he wishes to do so. Really, as has been said by Deputy MacDermot and Deputy Fitzgerald, if the thing has got to be discussed in relation to Party at all, it should be from the point of view that the majority required to dismiss the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be such that it would involve, on every occasion that a man could think of, getting the votes of certain members of the Opposition, before the Comptroller and Auditor-General could be removed.

Another point has been gone into and I do not want to stress its importance. What Party advantage is there likely to be, still discussing it from the angle of Parties on which the President insists, or what Party advantage is there conceivable for an Opposition in relation to a Comptroller and Auditor-General whom it is desired to remove for stated reasons of misbehaviour and incapacity? Can anybody think of circumstances which would drive the Opposition to want an incapable Comptroller and Auditor-General? The Opposition know well that there is great Party capital to be made out of the misuse by a Government of funds appropriated by that Government for certain objects and not properly applied. They know that if the Comptroller and Auditor-General is revealed as incapable, his report is not going to carry any weight. It is a capable man they require if things are to be shown up. What circumstances are there imaginable from which an Opposition would get Party capital out of retaining an incapable Comptroller and Auditor-General?

Just imagine what a Comptroller and Auditor-General has go to do. He has got to give publicity to certain things. His functions are strictly limited. His duty is to see that money comes from the proper source and gets to the proper quarter. These two points almost bound his activities. What can he do in relation to moneys which he has to scrutinise from these two angles? He can report to the Dáil as to whether or not in his opinion these moneys have been disbursed in accordance with the law. If he is hampering the Government by reporting that certain appropriations are not in accordance with the law, the Government, by its majority, can change the law with regard to the appropriation of moneys. Take this, again, judged by the test of the expedition of public business. Can that argument have any weight here? If he hampers the Government the Government have the whip hand. He can say: "You are doing something that is wrong; you are not appropriating moneys in accordance with the law." The Government can say: "We do not think that is so," and they can come along and change the law. They would have an answer to reports of the Comptroller and Auditor-General.

What is there to be feared in relation to the Comptroller and Auditor-General? What powers has he that he should not have or that any Government should not really be glad to see him possessed of? Why should he not be in a position that is impregnable? Why should he not be safeguarded against Party attacks? Do not pretend that you are safeguarding him against Party attacks by putting in a majority in this amendment, for it is still open under the system that will develop to make a change in the Constitution, and to change it to a simple majority. Are you going to get a good man under these circumstances? Are you going to get a man of any capacity, of any conscience, to take up office knowing that, while in the minds of people who do not read too deeply, he is safeguarded by these provisions about a nine-tenths, a three-fourths or a five-ninths majority, he is always subject to the mercy of a single vote in the majority here? I do not think you are going to get a good man in such circumstances, and if you do get a good man, you are not going to get him to give good service, when he is in the position in which you are trying to put him.

I think this should be regarded as a non-Party amendment. The Comptroller and Auditor-General holds his position above Party and above the Government. He is the representative of the State and he should be absolutely independent of any Party, even the majority Party. He is not only a safeguard to the nation, he is a safeguard to the honour of the Government. If the Government, no matter what Government happens to be in power, has the right to remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General, what safeguard has that Government for its honour and against the imputation of corruption? Human nature being what it is, what will people say if the Government want to control the Comptroller and Auditor-General or any other independent person whose duty it is to go through the accounts and make an independent report to this House?

I believe that the President would be well advised to look at this from that point of view. He should remember, too, that the present Government will not always be in power, and that, however perfect it may be, some other Government may come in when it would be well to have the Comptroller and Auditor-General in a position to report independently on its administration. It is hard to follow the reasoning of the President. He says that because a Government is elected with a majority, however small, it can make no mistakes. How, then, does he make it out that a Party with a larger majority would not be less likely to make mistakes? The only inference to be drawn from that sort of reasoning is that the Opposition Party in this House would be incapable of co-operating with the Government in any circumstances, in a case even where it was proved that the Comptroller and Auditor-General was guilty of misconduct. The inference to be drawn from the President's statement is that the Opposition would not co-operate in such circumstances for the removal of a Comptroller and Auditor-General who was found to be incompetent or guilty of misconduct. I think it is not fair to charge any Opposition Party with that.

If the majority is always right, it does not follow that the minority is always wrong. I think it would be a safeguard if a three-fifths majority was necessary to remove a man in the position of Comptroller and Auditor-General. Like other Deputies who have spoken, I would much prefer to see the required majority increased to three-fourths. I would ask the President to consider this matter in a non-Party spirit. There are some matters, and this is one, in connection with which we should get away from the Party spirit. I think it would be a good thing for all Parties in the House.

This is one of those peculiar situations in which practically every argument that is used by one side can be used in the opposite direction by the other side. I find it difficult sometimes to know whether speakers on the opposite benches really believe their own arguments or not. I am going to take the arguments put forward by Deputy McGilligan as if he really meant them. Fundamentally there is this difference between the attitude of both sides of the House, a difference that is very natural between a Government Party and an Opposition. Each is conjuring up bogies with regard to the other. The Opposition say that the majority are going to act in an irresponsible and corrupt manner. We suggest that the minority are quite capable of doing the same thing.

Both together.

Now, with regard to Parties, my whole argument with regard to the majority was turned round by Deputy McGilligan and interpreted in quite a contrary way to the way in which I meant it, and in which it was obviously meant. I said that no Party is likely to get even five-ninths. To get five-ninths would require not merely a single Party but the concurrence of members of another Party in order to remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General. This is the suggestion: that you could have a corrupt Executive wanting to have concealed some malversation. They must get their whole Party to agree to that. I think I have shown that a five-ninths majority is most unlikely. Experience shows that no single Party under proportional representation is likely to reach it. Take the present situation? We would have to get the whole of our Party to concur, and then would have to go to the Labour Party—and Fianna Fáil, remember, is the biggest Party that has ever been returned under proportional representation—and get them to connive at this thing. We would have to come here in public, and with all our votes we would not then have reached the five-ninths. Therefore, in order to get it we would have, in addition, to get some members of some other Party to concur. We would then have to come here to the Dáil and state our case: state what was the incapacity and pass it through the Dáil.

I say that that is practically an impregnable position. We do not want to put any officer in such a situation that if he is incapable of doing his work or if he is guilty of misbehaviour, there is not a reasonable chance of his removal. That is the case I make: that there must be a reasonable chance of removal when misbehaviour is proved, and that has to be proved not merely before the Dáil but before the Press and the country as a whole. One would imagine that, in the present position as it stands, he is in this impregnable position that has been referred to, more impregnable than the one we are suggesting he should be in. Our acceptance of the five-ninths means that he is in a stronger position, putting aside the special argument of Deputy McGilligan. Leaving that aside, I say that the position he is going to be put into by this amendment, if we accept it, is a stronger position than the position he occupies at the moment, because with the present method of election to the Seanad there is no doubt that the Seanad will very rapidly have the political complexion, more or less, of the Parties here. Supposing the previous Executive were here in office by one single vote in this House and put forward a stated case of misbehaviour or incapacity, they could pass their resolution here, and if they had a Party, as they have a Party in the other House that consults the wishes of their leaders and acts more or less in co-operation with them, that same Party in the other House by a vote of one could concur in the resolution passed here and could remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General.

I say that the position he occupies at the present moment is, from the point of view of possible Party action and corrupt action on the part of an Executive here, a weaker position than the position he would be in, again making the exception that Deputy McGilligan made with regard to the possibility of coming back to the Dáil and changing this from the position of five-ninths to that of a simple majority. Leaving that aside, the Comptroller and Auditor-General if we talk in the terms of the possibility of corrupt political action, is not in as impregnable a position under the present circumstances as he will be when this amendment is passed. I am quite willing to go to the extent of a majority of five-ninths. It is more than the two combined Parties on this side can muster. Therefore, as far as this present Dáil is concerned it is quite impossible, without concurrence on the part of members of the Opposition, to remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General under the five-ninths proposal. So far as this Government is concerned, I am quite prepared to say that there is no such intention and that we would not introduce a Constitution amendment changing that into a simple majority, not, at any rate, during our lifetime here as a Government.

I have indicated in earlier statements with reference to this Bill and to the previous Bill that the position is one that is going to be fairly examinedde novo. I am quite prepared that there should be a commission, if you like, set up to examine whether there are not certain Articles of the Constitution which should be put in a privileged position at the present moment, those of a democratic character, without any further consideration except the consideration that is necessary to ensure, in cases of real urgency and real public emergency, that an Executive would not be prevented from taking the action that might be considered necessary to safeguard public interests. With that sole reservation I am prepared to say that these fundamental Articles guaranteeing the liberty of the individual and the inviolability of his home, except, of course, in accordance with the law and so on—that all these Articles will be preserved. What I do not want to have put outside the possibility of change are those Articles that were rendered necessary on account of the particular conditions under which the Constitution was originally framed. So far as this Government is concerned, there are certain fundamental things that we have committed ourselves not to do without consulting the people again. I do not want to go any further into our attitude in respect to those.

All I want to say on this amendment is that there is a reasonable safeguard that if you have an incapable—and you will have to have proof of the incapacity—Auditor-General, or an Auditor-General who is guilty of misbehaviour, the members of this House, considering that whole question as a court, could, by a reasonable majority, come to a judgment and be in a position to dismiss the officer if they felt the case was proved against him. The difference between us, the Opposition will say, is that we might have a corrupt five-ninths. We say it is equally possible to corrupt the Opposition and have them act in a factious manner, in a manner that might cause a derangement of the public services generally. We are asked what would be the motive that we would have, and to contrast it with their motive. That is a fair line of argument. We are asked what would be the motive on our side and what would be the incentive or the motive on theirs. On our side, the motive would be that something wrong had been done and we were anxious to get rid of the person exposing certain things, or else have him sufficiently under subjection by the threat of dismissal that he would not be likely to make any exposure.

I have shown that that argument does not hold, first of all, because there is no single Party likely to be elected with a majority of five-ninths. This Dáil has been some years in existence and, up to the present, under the principle of proportional representation, it has not been possible for any Party to get as big a majority as we have got, and we and the Labour Party do not reach the five-ninths, even if every single member of both Parties could be here at the time the vote would be taken. That is as regards the practicability of getting this corrupt majority. Remember that they would all have to concur. As regards the motive, it must be recognised that the Executive would have to make its case, and it would be open to criticism by the Opposition. There would be demands as to facts and so on. I, myself, can hardly imagine a proposition of that sort going through without an examination by a special committee of the House, an all-Party committee which would examine the case, go into all the facts and then present some report. I do not think the House would be satisfied with a report from the majority Party.

If such a proposition were put up from the other side I do not think any Government could stand over their action if they refused to let members of the Opposition know the facts, because they would be in the dock. Every member of the Government would feel that and every citizen in the State would know that and, consequently, I think the suggestion made that there would be any special motive or any incentive is not sound. Now, with regard to the Opposition, they vote as a Party, too. If they sent out a Whip that no member of their Party should vote for such a resolution, will not the Party Whip be obeyed? Parties have to be recognised as being in existence. They exist on the side of the Opposition just as much as on other sides. We have to see what is reasonable and fair, and I hold, in view of the fact that there is proportional representation here, that a majority of five-ninths, which is beyond anything that can be got by the two Parties on this side at the moment, is a reasonable majority.

Let us examine that statement first. According to Article XXII of the Constitution, all matters shall, "save as otherwise provided by this Constitution, be determined by a majority of the votes of the members present." Let me draw attention to those words "save as otherwise provided by this Constitution, be determined by a majority of the votes of the members present, other than the Chairman or presiding member, who shall have and exercise a casting vote in the case of an equality of votes." Now, let us have a look at the amendment, "on a resolution passed by Dáil Eireann and assented to by not less than three-fifths of the members of Dáil Eireann." Apparently, according to a layman's interpretation of that, it means that you want the assent of three-fifths of the members of Dáil Eireann and "save as otherwise provided by this Constitution" would eliminate the exclusion of the Chairman's vote. There are 76 members of that Party. The Ceann Comhairle was a member of that Party, and that makes 77. There are eight members of the Labour Party and that makes 85, which number happens to equate exactly the five-ninths. I would have much less suspicion of this proposal if these were not the circumstances. Mental arithmetic is not the strong suit over there. There are multiples of 17. I would much more reasonably consider this proposal if those were not the exact circumstances.

The whole consideration of this amendment is on the basis of Party; it is on the basis of control. It is really a resuscitation of the monarchical or kingly grip which it has always been the design of either monarchs or kings or despots or autocrats, and very often humbugs, to get control of in any country where they can possibly manage it. In considering the question of stated misbehaviour or incapacity of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, upon whom would the onus lie for making a case? On the Government? Certainly not. The more reasonable he would be with regard to passing accounts that the Government might want passed, the more friendly the manner in which the Minister may possibly be disposed to look upon him. If there is any case to be made in respect to incapacity or misbehaviour, it ought to come from the Public Accounts Committee. It would come most probably from those in Opposition. The Opposition would have to persuade the House and the Ministry would be bound to advert to the case that would be made and answer it, or else admit that it was part and parcel of the stated incapacity or misbehaviour.

Who is it that is most in touch, and who is it that examines most minutely and takes the greatest care to expose any possible weakness in the distribution of public moneys? Is it the members of the Government Party? I do not think so. During the four or five years that that Ministry was in Opposition here, and when the Labour Party was in Opposition also, in the earlier stages of the Dáil, it was almost dessert every day for both Parties to be able to hang on to something or other with the object of drawing public attention, or focussing public criticism in connection with public payments, and so on. Any possible criticism the Comptroller and Auditor-General would make was looked upon by them as good Party propaganda, and as something on which to hang criticism of the Government of the day. Now we have a different kind of orientation.

The Comptroller and Auditor-General was appointed under an Act of the Oireachtas, and under that Act and under the Oireachtas he held a certain position and status. That is now being altered. Has the Comptroller and Auditor-General acquiesced in that change? Is he going to be the public servant that he has been for the last ten or twelve years, or is he, in future, going to be simply an accommodating servant of the State? Is he going to be a civil servant—which he was not— or is he going to exercise the independence which was secured for him under that Act of the Oireachtas? This whole question of juggling of figures, giving us a point over the majority and all the rest of it, shows the weak mind in connection with this matter. It shows a disposition to get a grip of everybody in this State—the whole three services, if you like, the Parliament, the Judiciary and the Executive. The sooner the Government wakens up to the weakness of its position in that respect the better it will be for itself. Whose money is it that is being spent? Is it the Government's money or is it the people's money? He is the people's safeguard—that officer of the State—and any shaking of his position, any weakening of his authority or of his usefulness in the public service is going to react against the people. We know that Governments come and go, and our chief responsibility here is to ensure that the Constitution and all those safeguards which the people should have are maintained and retained for them, and that in connection with public servants who occupy independent positions those independent positions are preserved, not for them, but for the people, in accordance with the law of the State.

One does not expect the Leader of the Opposition to argue a matter out. It is characteristic of him to address himself to a proposition that was admitted already. Nobody, on this side of the House, suggests for one moment that the position of the Comptroller and Auditor - General should not be an independent position. The difficulty is to arrive at something that is reasonable, and the one person who made the best argument for the reasonableness of this position, if he only saw it, was the speaker who has just spoken. He says that this motion is going to come before the House, naturally, not from this side of the House, but from the opposite side of the House; that is, that the minority Party are likely to bring forward, through the Accounts Committee, a case for the removal of the Comptroller and Auditor-General if he should show incapacity. Now they want to make it impossible for a minority, under any circumstances, to come near the thing. There might be some possibility of detaching a number up to five-ninths, but they want to make it impossible under any circumstances for the Accounts Committee to bring it forward if there is to be a majority here in opposition against them.

Very often people try to be too clever, and in trying to do so they do themselves a considerable amount of harm. That was an aspect of this particular question to which I had not adverted. I did try, however, as a matter of fair play, for a majority that regarding this House, without considering Parties but considering the composition of the House, as brought in here by proportional representation and sitting as judges—I did try for what might be regarded as a fair majority in order to get a verdict, having in mind the fact that, when the decision was going to be taken, there was a possibility of Party Whips being put on. Now, on this point, I must confess that I did the Labour Party the injustice of thinking that they were one short of their actual numbers. I pay such little attention to these things that occupy the minds of those on the benches opposite that I made a mistake in their numbers, and counted the Labour Party as numbering seven instead of eight.

A Deputy

We are seven!

The President is more innocent than we thought.

Well, that is quite possible, too. I had said—because I had worked on the number seven instead of the number eight—that the present composition of the House, assuming that the Labour Party, which is an independent Party——

Deputies

Question?

The Labour Party is acting, completely and absolutely, in independence.

Deputies

Question?

Question? The Labour Party is supporting our policy because they believe in the policy.

What is the use of questioning what is demonstrably true?

They do not preach that down the country.

I do not read all the speeches made down the country. In fact, I read very few of the speeches I make myself, because once they are made I know they are there, and I know that any twisting of them that can be done will be done. I can assume, however, that any Labour Party, interested in the welfare of the plain people of the country, will support this policy, because I believe the policy of this Government is a policy which naturally appeals to the labouring section of the community and to the small farmers, and that was the basis of our policy. We are certainly the biggest Party so far elected in this House, and I am making this prediction that, taking proportional representation into consideration, and the character of our people and the present position generally, I think it is most unlikely that there will ever be in this House a single Party that would have nearly five-ninths of the votes, and, therefore, it would be necessary always to get some other body. I will put also to the leader of the Opposition the argument he himself put forward, that this motion to remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General for incapacity was much more likely to be brought forward, through the Public Accounts Committee, from the Opposition side of the House than from this side, because, as he says, the incapacity of the Comptroller and Auditor-General would be in our favour. His incapacity would be in favour of us at the moment, or of the Executive of the day. You can go too far east as well as west in this matter if you make it impossible, and I think that a majority that is not likely to be approached except under exceptional circumstances is much better than making it quite impossible.

I am willing to go further in order to meet the point that Deputy McGilligan has made. I am quite prepared to bring in, on the Report Stage of this Bill, an amendment which will guarantee, in so far as we can guarantee it, that this particular Article will not be changed except by the same majority as that by which the Comptroller and Auditor-General could be removed. I am willing to do that. What I want to see is that the Dáil does not put itself in an impossible position, create a position in which it would be desirable to remove a special officer but in which it would be practically impossible to do it. That is the position I want to arrive at. I am open to any reasonable argument on that head. The strongest argument put up to-day has been the argument put forward by the Leader of the Opposition for a different purpose.

We approach the consideration of this matter from two entirely different standpoints. From the point of view of the President it is approached in this way: "There is a man that I want to sack and I have to count heads to see how it is going to be done." In my case, I say: "There is a man in respect of whom a case must be made for his dismissal." I do not care if I have to get 140 votes or 152 or 153. It ought to be possible to get them if there is a case made against him. But I have the utmost possible suspicion. You may offer five-ninths, and I find it is the same total practically of every majority cast in this House for the last two years or twelve months.

I should like to ask the President, in view of the statement he has just made, why he has refused during his period of office to allow the Dáil to discuss the Report of the Public Accounts Committee dealing with the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. It was the practice during the period of office of his predecessor to have that Report discussed in this House.

Will the Deputy relate his remarks to the amendment that the House is discussing?

I was referring to the President's speech.

You can only discuss the President's speech in relation to the amendment before the House.

The President can make his speech, but we cannot answer it unless our answer is in order.

The President, with that pseudo-naïvete which is so characteristic of him, has done a wonderful little trick. He said that to ask for a majority of three-fifths was to ask something which was quite unreasonable, because the majority Party, the Government Party, might not be able to get that. It was pointed out that this would not be a Party matter; that when it is desirable that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be got rid of, the Opposition would support it. As Deputy Cosgrave said, it is the sort of thing that should come from the Opposition. The President then turns round and has it both ways. On the one hand, three-fifths is too much, because the Government might not be able to get that. Then he turns round and says: "Of course, it is quite natural that the Opposition should want to support the getting rid of an incompetent Comptroller and Auditor-General and it would be unfair to have to demand such a large number for their motion." He cannot have it both ways. On the one hand, it is too hard for the Government to get that number, and the Government should be able to control this matter. They would not be able to get it because the Opposition, filled with Party spirit and with no other concern but Party opposition, would oppose the motion. Then he says he recognises that the people who pre-eminently would be interested in getting rid of an incompetent Comptroller and Auditor-General would be the Opposition.

Your Leader says differently.

That only proves that if a right case is made for the removal of the Comptroller and Auditor-General the Opposition would automatically support it and the President, with his spurious story about the Opposition voting against it for Party purposes, was totally misrepresenting the case. The fact of the matter is that the Dáil votes money to the Government to spend, and an officer is appointed as a watch-dog over the Government to see that they spend money according to law. The President's whole argument has been that actually there should be no Comptroller and Auditor-General at all. He said that the office of Comptroller and Auditor-General was there for the sole reason that the Constitution recognises the possibility of a corrupt Government. If there is not, there should be no Comptroller and Auditor-General at all. What does that mean? That means that the Comptroller and Auditor-General must do his job properly or otherwise be got rid of, not that a proper watch may be kept on the Government's actions. As the whole purpose of the office of Comptroller and Auditor-General is to control and watch the Government, who is going to be interested pre-eminently to see that he does his job properly? The Opposition.

The President comes along then with his humbug of democracy and all the rest. He is afraid that when it is desirable that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be got rid of, the Opposition, in their position of defending the public with regard to the expenditure of money, would move a motion that a clearly incompetent misbehaving Comptroller and Auditor-General should be got rid of, and that it would be too difficult for this desirable thing to be brought about by the Opposition because the corrupt Party would not come along in sufficient numbers to give the number required. The Comptroller and Auditor-General cannot be got rid of without a vote of a substantial number of the Opposition members. That is the whole point. Why is that made? Because the Comptroller and Auditor-General exists for the purpose of keeping a watch over Government actions. He is put there because the Constitution recognises that it is desirable that Government action should be watched carefully, lest the Government should act illegally and against the public interest in relation to finance.

The President's whole argument is that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be removed by a vote of the Government Party or Parties. Who could desire the abolition of the office of Comptroller and Auditor-General for wrong reasons? Clearly and reasonably, only the Government Party, because he is doing his job too well, watching the way they are spending money and pointing out that they are spending it not according to law. Whatever Government is in power there is only one Party that can conceivably want to get rid of the Comptroller and Auditor-General for wrong reasons and that is the Government Party. Whether we are the Government, or whether Fianna Fáil are the Government, does not matter, because his existence is based upon the assumption of the possibility of the Government acting wrongly or corruptly. His function is directed against nobody but the Government. The one body that would want to get rid of the Comptroller and Auditor-General when he should not be got rid of but kept, is clearly the Government, and the President now proposes that the one Party that should have full power within itself to get rid of the Comptroller and Auditor-General is the Government and its servile allies. He has put up no argument whatever for this.

I understand that while I was out for a short time the President talked about being ready to consider what democratic provisions in the Constitution should be put on a more permanent basis. My obvious response to that would be—right, withdraw the Bill, put up that committee, let us consider what should be put on a more permanent basis. What is he asking us to do? He is asking us to make him a more absolute dictator than exists in Europe to-day and to trust to his beautiful democratic nature then to clip his own wings and to put restraint upon himself. If he wants to use, in this debate, the mere assertion that he is ready to form a committee to consider what Articles of the Constitution should be on a more permanent basis, the time to do that is now. There is, at the present moment, certain restraint but only with regard to a time limit, on the Government. It can, with its majority, pass any law it likes here, but it does, at present, have to face up to the fact that when, as happened recently, certain Bills are clearly directed against the people of this country, they will have to wait 18 months before these Bills become law. He now wants to be made an absolute dictator.

When we were discussing the Bill on Second Reading and we pointed out that he had brought in a Bill to give him power to get rid of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, whenever it suited his Party purposes to do so, he said that, of course, nothing like that was in his mind at all; when we pointed out that he was bringing in a Bill to abolish an independent judiciary because the courts had interpreted the law against his own personal wishes several times, during the last year, he said that it was scandalous to suggest that such a pure-minded man as he would have any such thought in his mind. I admit that this amendment does not amount to much because he has gripped power in this country and he is altering the law to make himself an absolute dictator and this is, therefore, a restraint that amounts almost to nothing, because he has already taken power, by refusing the previous amendment, to abolish the whole Constitution any time he wants to do it. Why is he resisting this?

Why was it moved?

It was moved for this reason. The Comptroller and Auditor-General serves a useful function. The Deputy is just like the President. The President says that all these restraints are only makeshifts. Of course, they are. It has been found necessary to invest some person, or persons, with power and authority. That is necessary for the running of a State and the maintenance of some sort of order. But, at the same time, all human experience has taught that when that supreme and sovereign power is put into the hands of human beings, there is a tendency for them to abuse that power. What can we expect from the present Front Bench when that is the teaching of human experience? We know something about them. Human ingenuity has, therefore, looked around to see how it could, on the one hand, have that sovereign power vested and, at the same time, put restraints, as far as possible, on the evil use of that sovereign power. Here, we are put in the position that the President is out to make himself such a dictator as the Hitlers and Mussolinis have never aspired to. I know that the President is incapable of tolerating even such a restraint as a mere delay, or to have delayed the carrying out of his personal whims or the exaltation of himself. What we are doing now, quite inadequately, in this situation in which the President is taking power to sack the judges any time it suits him if they do not bring in verdicts which please him and his Party, and to get rid of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, if he irritates the President by being too curious about the spending of money, is providing for a sort of restraint, a very minor restraint. It means that, unless he changes the law in the meantime, and he can do it, of course, he will require a majority in this House which is not the servile majority of the Labour Party and the Fianna Fáil Party, who do not ask questions, but when the Whip says "You vote tá, or níl" do so, before he can carry this out.

The public interest in this country does require that the Comptroller and Auditor-General shall not be removable unless there is a case put forward, not merely to satisfy the people who answer to the Government Whip, but a case which is so reasonable that it will commend itself to members of the Opposition, because, not by any virtue in the Opposition itself, but arising out of the whole situation, the Party in this House that will want to retain a Comptroller and Auditor-General, who does his work properly, is, first of all, the Opposition.

Deputy Cosgrave says "no."

The Government may be perfect and the Opposition may be imperfect, but the Opposition would clearly be the Party most interested in seeing that the Comptroller and Auditor-General was not sacked if he were doing his work properly and was suitable. In the same way, not through any particular virtue in us, but by reason of our being the Opposition, it is clear that the Party, or people, who would be most interested in seeing that an incompetent, or undesirable, Comptroller and Auditor-General were got rid of, is the Opposition.

The President says that we answer the Party Whip as well as the Government Party. I quite agree, but that does not enter into the matter. Here is the point: Why should the Government bring in a motion to get rid of the Comptroller and Auditor-General for a good reason? If the Comptroller and Auditor-General is doing something which is in some way outrageous, and the Government wants to get rid of him, in the interests of the proper administration of his Department, why should they expect the Opposition, who are, presumably, moved by some sort of reason, if it is only Party prestige, or something like that, to oppose it? He would get up here and show that there was a man in that office who was clearly unsuitable for it. What interest will the Opposition have in keeping a man there in those circumstances? The Opposition, out of a sort of crassness might say: "No, we will vote against it, and we will not let you sack him." Does that do any good to what the Opposition stands for, even in its opposition to the Government? It does nothing of the sort, because a man who is not doing his job properly is depriving the Opposition of the means of attacking the Government through a proper examination of the national expenditure, so that clearly, whatever form this amendment takes, there can be no argument to the effect that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be "sackable" by the Government side of the House alone without the co-operation of the Opposition, and the President, in a way, gives lip service to that himself.

Then, it is agreed that it would be a corrupt thing to put the Comptroller and Auditor-General into the hands of the Government Party exclusively, because then he becomes a mere servant of the Government Party, whereas his office is created for the purpose of keeping a watch on the action of the Government, and to call attention to any deviation on the part of the Government, from what should be done. Therefore, it is clear that there must be support from the Opposition, and that a Government majority should not be able to get rid of him without that support. Why does the President say that what he proposed was that the number of his henchmen now should be sufficient to get rid of him, and then turn round and say that he had miscounted? Is it not reasonable to say that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be got rid of on, for instance, a vote with which a quarter, or I think it would be reasonable to say half, the Opposition, should agree? I do not see what case can be made against that. The President offered various bribes when we have passed this Bill. He says: "Give me all power, and afterwards I will consider whether or not some of my power should be restrained." If there is any sincerity whatever in his proposal that certain Articles of the Constitution should be on a more permanent basis, clearly this Bill should be withdrawn until that has been done.

The purpose of the Comptroller and Auditor-General is to keep a watch on Government action and to restrain Government action. The purpose of the Constitution is to safeguard the fundamental rights of the citizens of this country. The Constitution, you might say, is directed against the indiscriminate use of Government power, and the office of the Comptroller and Auditor-General is directed, also, against the wrong use of Government power. The President wants power over both of those. He wants, in respect of the fundamental rights of the people of this country, which, in every country, are directed against improper Government action, to have all power which is possessed by no other Government in any country in the world.

At this moment, the President and his Executive Council have more power than any Executive in the world. I know he used to go about saying that the Government of the Free State was not free; that it had to get all its orders from London. He knows now that that was merely lying propaganda. He knows that his Executive, in relation to this country, has more power than any other Executive in any other country. That is not sufficient. He is demanding that he and his Party should have power to abolish every right possessed by the Irish people, and guaranteed to them under that Constitution. He is asking, at the same time, that they should have power to get rid of judges, unless they bring in judgments satisfactory to his Party interests. He is saying that he must have power to get rid of any Comptroller and Auditor-General who might be critical of the Government's expenditure of money, or might be too watchful to see that the Government spends that money only in accordance with the law. That is what he is asking. Everybody knows that I have not an enormous respect for the Labour Party——

Thanks for that compliment.

The Deputy has had that compliment from me for a very long time. I would invite the Labour Party to get up here and say whether they think that the President has even honestly attempted to put up a case against the amendment which we have introduced. The whole discussion that has been going on here was, on the President's part, a spurious and specious attempt to misrepresent the position, even to the extent of giving wrong figures, in order that when a vote is taken on this amendment the effect of that vote may be to take away from the Comptroller and Auditor-General any independence that he possesses, to put him completely in the hands of the Fianna Fáil Party, and leave him in the position of being a mere creature answering to the crack of the whip of the President and his Party. There is no other point in the President's argument against that amendment. The President knows it; every member of his Party who has bothered to go into it knows it, and Deputy Norton and the Labour Party know it perfectly well.

It amazes me that Deputy Fitzgerald could fit so much nonsense into one speech, and yet believe in it all.

A Deputy

He does not believe in it.

The last two elections did one thing: they made a democrat out of an autocrat, or at least they enabled an autocrat to pretend that he was a democrat. Deputy Fitzgerald——

I thought you were talking about the President.

Deputy Fitzgerald now poses as a high-powered democrat and talks the most arrant nonsense——

——in order to try and cover up this curious disguise of his. We had him recently quoting a Papal Encyclical to show us that the Pope was thoroughly in favour of the League of Youth, and the Corporative State as practised by the Fine Gael Party.

That is untrue.

We had him quoting long extracts setting forth the views of St. Thomas Aquinas on the League of Youth, Fine Gael, and the Corporative State.

Again untrue.

The Deputy is a good judge of untruths. I never saw, packed into one speech, so many as there were in the one the Deputy has just delivered. We had the Deputy dressed up in this pontifical role recently. It does not suit him at all. The Pope's Encyclical was used to give benediction to the League of Youth, and the Fine Gael policy on the Corporative State. Then we had the words of St. Thomas Aquinas twisted in order to give endorsement to the same foolish policy. Now we have Deputy Fitzgerald posing as the 22-carat high-powered defender of democracy in this State. The Deputy really ought to hold a mirror up to himself, and see that this role is one which does not suit him at all. He will have no hesitation in realising, having regard to the past actions of his Party, that this is a role which he should not assume, especially so soon after leaving office. The Deputy wants to make sure that in future it will only be possible to remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General by a majority of three-fifths. When did the notion of this safeguard for the Comptroller and Auditor-General dawn upon the Deputy and his Party? For the ten years they were in office here everybody knows perfectly well that the Comptroller and Auditor-General held office only so long as the Cumann na nGaedheal Party permitted him to hold office. Does the Deputy deny that during the Cumann na nGaedheal period of administration——

I completely deny what the Deputy said. The Deputy knows it is untrue.

If the Deputy knows it is untrue Deputy Fitzgerald knows what that means. Knowledge of an untruth and speaking of the truth at the same time has a special definition. The Deputy must withdraw that remark.

Then, Sir, I will say that the Deputy does not know it is untrue.

I am glad that Deputy Fitzgerald was taught manners, but really I was not offended by his interruption. I regarded it more as a compliment than as a derogatory remark. The Deputy denied that during the ten years Cumann na nGaedheal was in office it was possible for that Party and that Party alone to remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General. The Comptroller and Auditor-General, during the ten years Cumann na nGaedheal was in office, could be removed by a vote of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party——

——because that Party had a majority in this House and had a majority in the Seanad.

[An Ceann Comhairle took the Chair.]

Untrue — actually untrue.

The Deputy denies that his Party had a majority in this House during the ten years it was in office?

He denies that it had a majority in this House? He denies that it commanded a majority in this House?

What were you doing as a Government then?

The Deputy has changed his phrase. Our Party were not in the majority in this House, and the Deputy knows that quite well.

I said the Party commanded a majority in this House during the ten years it was in office.

What does the Deputy mean by "commanded"? We did not control a majority.

The Deputy knows perfectly well that during the ten years his Party was in office it was possible for him to command in the Division Lobby a majority of this House.

Provided what we put forward commended itself to a majority of this House.

On one occasion, when it looked like not doing it, a Deputy was kidnapped so as to make sure.

I think that is untrue too.

Ask the Deputy concerned and he will tell you about it.

Some of your Civil Service threatened some of the members on those benches.

The Deputy's Party during its ten years in office commanded a majority in this House. The way they commanded it is immaterial. It may have been by kidnapping; it may have been in other ways, but at all events it commanded a majority in this House.

That is untrue.

There should not be constant comment on the Deputy's speech. There will be an opportunity of replying.

It is because it is true that the Deputy is annoyed. The only pretence the Deputy's Party had to being a Government was that they commanded a majority. Since they were a Government presumably they commanded a majority. The Deputy knows perfectly well and the Clerk of the House can give him information to show that his Party did, in fact, command a majority in the House. That being so, the Comptroller and Auditor-General could have been removed, so far as this House was concerned, by a majority vote of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party.

Does the Deputy deny that his Party had a majority in the Seanad? Does he not know perfectly well that his Party commanded a majority in that House? Does he not know that his Party commands a majority there at the moment? As a matter of fact, the Deputy's Party commanded such a majority in the Seanad and had such an influence over and such a grip on Senators as to be able to get the Seanad to pass their Constitution (Amendment) Act in a few hours and to do an unprecedented thing for the Seanad—to meet on Saturday to pass it. While Cumann na nGaedhael were in office, they had a majority in the Dáil and in the Seanad. Consequently, the Comptroller and Auditor-General and every judge on the Bench could have been removed by a decision of Cumann na nGaedhael Party Headquarters. That being the position then, we have Deputy Fitzgerald now saying that it amounts to autocracy and dictatorship to suggest that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be removable by a Party vote in either the Dáil or the Seanad. What was right during the ten years the Deputy's Party were in office is altogether wrong now, when the Deputy's Party are out of office. If that was right then, what is wrong with it now?

As the President said, he is not asking for power to remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General by a majority vote in this House or in the Seanad. If we visualise the continuance of the Seanad and the continuance of the present method of election to the Seanad, in December three years hence there will be an anti-Fine Gael majority in the Seanad and, possibly, a pro-Government majority. If there is no Dáil election in the meantime and this House remains as it is at the moment, there will be an anti-Fine Gael majority here. Assuming that there was no proposal whatever to abolish the Seanad, in three years the position would be that a majority could be assured in the Dáil and in the Seanad for the removal of any judge or for the removal of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. I think that the President has met the matter very fairly. He proposes to give the Comptroller and Auditor-General and the judges a security which they never enjoyed when the Cumann na nGaedhael Party were in office, because, during that period, they could have been removed by a vote of the members of the Dáil and Seanad, controlled by that Party. The President offers to meet the position by providing for a five-ninths majority before the Comptroller and Auditor-General or, presumably, a judge can be removed. The President said he miscalculated when speaking previously. Even if he did, he did not disturb the argument which could have been made Five-ninths of a House of 153 members is 85. The Fianna Fáil Party have 77 members. One Deputy, who was a member of that Party, occupies the Chair. The position, therefore, is that the Fianna Fáil Party can control 76 votes of their own. Assuming that the Labour Deputies voted with Fianna Fáil, there would be a total of 84 Deputies in favour, say, of the removal of the Comptroller and Auditor-General and 68 Deputies against the removal of that officer. Even in that event, the Government could not carry the motion for removal, because it would be necessary for them to have not less than 85 votes. Assuming that the Government desired to remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General, not only would they have to poll every one of their own members but they would have to secure the votes of the eight Labour Deputies and, in addition, get some Deputy from the Opposition Party to vote for the motion. As the President rightly said, in existing circumstances it would be almost impossible to have a motion of that nature passed unless the different Parties in the House were convinced that there was a strong case for removal. The President, in addition, gave the definite assurance that he has no intention whatever of utilising a majority to remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General during the lifetime of this Parliament. Of course, the Party opposite are of opinion that this is the last Parliament this Government will control, so that if they get an assurance that nothing of that nature will be done during the lifetime of this Dáil, everything will be all right in the future. We had Deputy Bennett, the mathematician of the Fine Gael Party, making a speech in Limerick recently in which he said that 75 per cent of the people were behind that Party, so that, with the assurance that the Comptroller and the Auditor-General will not be removed during the lifetime of this Parliament and with 75 per cent of the people supporting Fine Gael at the next election, everything will be all right. Deputy Fitzgerald will then be back in office defending the people's rights and trying to prevent any attempt to set up a dictatorship. It seems to me to be almost impossible to satisfy Deputy Fitzgerald. The amendment indicated by the President is, I think, a reasonable one and it makes it impossible for the Government Party, of its own motion, to remove the Comptroller and Auditor-General or any of the judges. The President's assurance makes perfectly clear that they cannot be removed during the lifetime of this Parliament by a single Party and that they cannot be removed even with a combination of the Labour Party and the Fianna Fáil Party.

The amendment which the President undertook to accept seems to me to give the Comptroller and Auditor-General and the judges a safeguard which will hold not merely during the lifetime of this Parliament but probably for all time. No Party in this House since it was first established in 1922 has been able to control more than 77 votes of its own. Seventyseven votes is the highest number any single Party could command in this House since it was established. It is hardly likely, with proportional representation continuing, that any one Party in future will be able to get 77 votes to wield on its own. Possibly the biggest Party in the future will have less than 77 votes at its command. Even if they could get 77 votes they will be still short of the number required to remove a Comptroller and Auditor-General. The President's amendment is a reasonable safeguard, and makes it difficult to remove a Comptroller and Auditor-General or a judge. His proposal is a reasonable safeguard for those people; one which they know is really a stronger safeguard than the one they had during the régime of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party.

As the Rules of the House do not permit me to point out Deputy Norton as a liar, I will not do so. I would just like to point out that although he can get up and make such scurrilous remarks, as that I twisted Papal Encyclicals and the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas to suit Party purposes, or to boost Cumann na nGaedheal and the Blue Shirts, he was very careful, in his usual cowardly way, not to attempt to bring any proof of that sort of scurrility. He knows that he is not able to bring forward any evidence to prove that. He not only indulged in scurrility, but consistently maintained that while our Party were in office the Independent Party, while in this House, was as venal and as servile as his own Party is. He tried consistently to suggest that the Independent Party was not independent; that it was completely bought up by us, and answered our Whip, and that we could bring in, no matter how disgraceful, a piece of legislation and that with the same servility and crawling habit that the Labour Party is distinguished by, they would have done the same. At the same time he maintained time and again that Cumann na nGaedheal headquarters could, merely by deciding that they wanted to sack a judge or to sack the Comptroller and Auditor-General, immediately command the support of the Independent members of the Dáil; that being like the Deputy's own Party, he would like to suggest that they were completely bought up by us, and would be ready to outrage justice to the people of this country, merely by getting rid of judges to oblige us. He has done the same with regard to the Seanad. He suggested to-day that when our Party were in the majority the members of the Seanad were so completely venal and servile that they would have answered the crack of our Whip just the same as his Party answers that of Fianna Fáil. It was interesting to see such slave action. If the President got up and said that he would not accept an amendment, Deputy Norton and his Party would promptly have said "certainly not." The President did a little humbugging about five-ninths, which represents his own Party and the Labour Party. To that Deputy Norton says: "What a generous and splendid attitude." I have seen contemptible and nauseating spectacles in my life, but nothing so contemptible and nauseating as when Deputy Norton breaks into a little scurrility that he does not attempt to prove, and then crawls behind his masters in the Fianna Fáil Party.

I want to draw attention to what Deputy Norton has pointed out. I said that five-eighths of the members could not be obtained by the present Fianna Fáil Party of 77, or with the addition of the Labour members. I had calculated on eight there, but the fact that I had calculated on eight was made use of by the Opposition to suggest that five-ninths was chosen deliberately in order that that might be possible. We have heard a good deal about scurrility and avoidance of facts, but I would ask the last Deputy to read his own speech. He did not try to deal with facts. Neither did his Leader. There were attacks on things which are not being attempted by us. We admitted the position of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and we did not suggest that he should not be put in a fairly strong position. Without the slightest attempt to work it out, and to see if we were right or not, the Deputy suggested that there was a deliberate attempt on my part to deceive the House. As a matter of fact, it was pointed out by Deputy Norton that it would not be possible for the two Parties on this side of the House to muster a five-ninths majority. That is the case I want to make, notwithstanding the fact that I had calculated the number of Deputies on the Labour Benches as being one short. It is a fact that there are 77 members in our Party, but that on a vote only 76 could be mustered, and that with the Labour Party voting with us we could only muster 84, while 85 is five-ninths. The Deputy need not be suggesting that I am trying to do this, that or the other thing. Let him prove things by facts and not pretend that there are aims which are clearly impossible of attainment in anything I was proposing to do. I ask the Deputy to consider the arguments that were put forward by his Leader. He suggested that this proposal might come very well from the Opposition Benches; that a motion to remove a Comptroller and Auditor-General for incompetence might very well come from the Public Accounts Committee; that the Opposition might have a very good reason for getting rid of him. If he were incompetent he would not be able to do the work properly, and, therefore, it would be wise to get rid of him, but it was suggested that the Party that would be anxious to retain him in office in such circumstances might be a majority Party. Therefore, I say that a majority of five-ninths, which would not be attainable in the present House by the two Parties, and that is not likely to be attainable in future, and which would have to be got by a public indictment of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, is a fair and reasonable safeguard, and I am prepared to bring that forward on the Report Stage. I am prepared to meet the point Deputy McGilligan mentioned, that a particular Article of the Constitution will not be changed by a simple majority here. I think that is a reasonable proposition.

Does the President suggest that I misrepresented him. I understood with regard to amendment No. 4 that he suggested he would accept a change, and that meant that a resolution passed by Dáil Eireann and assented to by not less than three-fifths of the members. He says that inevitably requires one member of the Opposition. He may be right. He may have miscalculated the power of Article XXII as amended by this Act. The Article reads:—

"All matters in each House shall, save as otherwise provided by this Constitution, be determined by a majority of the votes of the members present other than the Chairman or presiding member, who shall have and exercise a casting vote in the case of an equality of votes."

I think the President might very well be right. I would not undertake to give an interpretation at the moment, but if he came along with 84 votes to 68, or whatever it might be, he could conceivably put up a case that under Article XXII it was clearly indicated that a casting vote should be given by the Chair. He has purported to interpret the law, which I would not pretend to do, and to say that if amendment No. 4 was changed from three-fifths to four-ninths or five-ninths that would exclude the casting vote of the Chair, if they had 84.

There is no doubt about it.

I am glad to hear that.

I move to report progress.

Progress reported. The Committee to sit again to-morrow.