Local Elections Bill, 1937—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The main provision of this Bill is Section 5 (2), which provides that the local government elections, which are due to take place between 23rd June and 1st July of this year, shall be postponed to a day to be appointed under Section 5 (1) of the Bill, which shall be a day not later than 30th September, 1940.

Notice taken that 20 Deputies were not present; House counted, and 20 Deputies being present,

The postponement is necessary, as a general election is to be held during the course of the present year. It would not be in the public interest to hold both elections this year. Local elections are normally held every three years. The Bill, therefore, provides for a postponement of elections for a full triennial period, that is, up to the year 1940. The actual date to be fixed for the holding of the postponed elections can be considered at any time within the period of three years. If it is decided to hold the elections next year or the following year, it will not be necessary to hold triennial elections in the year 1940. When a date is appointed for the holding of a triennial election under the provisions of the Bill, subsequent elections are to be held in every third year thereafter. A new triennial period will thus be determined. The provisions of the Vocational Education Act, 1930, and the Agriculture Act, 1931, are brought into conformity with the provisions of this Bill by declaring that the election year fixed under this Bill will be the election year for the purposes of these two Acts. The remaining provisions of Part II which deal with the periods of office of members of local authorities and the filling of casual vacancies are consequential.

Special provision has been made with regard to the Borough of Cork in Part III of the Bill. Under the provisions of the Cork City Management Act, 1929, the Borough of Cork is one electoral area; and one-third of the membership of the council is elected annually. This Bill does not alter the existing system of annual elections. It provides that the members whose term of office would expire this year will remain in office until the fifth day after the appointed day, that the members whose term would expire in 1938 will remain in office until the fifth day after the first borough election held after the appointed day, and so on.

Special provision is made with regard to dissolved local authorities. Whenever a local authority is dissolved under Section 72 of the Local Government Act, 1925, and its powers and functions are transferred, an election of members to such local authority must be held within three years after the date of dissolution. This limit of three years will not apply as regards any elections due to be held before the appointed day, but it will be within the discretion of the Minister to cause an election of members to be held to a dissolved local authority before the appointed day, if he sees fit.

It has come, I think, rather as a surprise to everybody in the country that there is to be a postponement of the local elections for a period of three years. It is quite reasonable that there should be a postponement this year, in view of the coming general election, and so far as that is concerned, I am in entire agreement with the Minister, but the Minister has offered no justification whatever for the proposal that the elections need not be held until 1940. One is sent searching for reasons, and unless the proposal is the first taste of what we might call disturbance of public business and public authorities, possibly through the election of a President by referendum, or something else, I do not know what it is. The Minister ought to tell us why, in his opinion, this Bill should set out a postponement until 1940. Why does the Minister not say "This is the year of a general election and it is not advisable to have elections for local authorities in the same year, but we will have them next year?" Why does he go as far as 1940? Is it for the reason I have stated? If it is, it is just the first taste, as I say, of the disturbance we are going to have in public life by reason of too many elections of different types. We are opposed to the principle of delaying local elections until 1940. There are very many reasons why there should be an election for local authorities next year, at least, and, in fact, there are very many reasons why it should be held this year, were it not for the general election, and why there should be a postponement until 1940 is a puzzle to us. The Minister's opening remarks disappointed me in that he gave us no reason for it.

There seems to be general agreement that the local elections should not be held this year, that it would be inconvenient to hold them considering that the general election will probably be held round about the time — before or after, I cannot say which — they would be held. As to the Deputy's other point, I am of a conservative turn of mind. I looked for precedents in this matter and I found that, when, in 1931, I was sitting where Deputy Brennan is now sitting and the then Minister for Local Government was here, his Bill proposed to do what I propose to do in this Bill and I found that I made a speech somewhat like that which Deputy Brennan has made now, protesting against the elections being held over for so long. It is not my intention to hold the elections over for a period of three years. I agree with Deputy Brennan that it is wise to have these local elections held at regular intervals and that the intervals should not be too prolonged. I should like to see local elections held next year and, round about the time they would be held, the end of June or the beginning of July, perhaps they will be held. I think, however, that a certain latitude is necessary, particularly in view of the fact to which Deputy Brennan adverted, that we may have an election of some kind about that time next year A little latitude is necessary. I assure the House that I should like to see the local elections held next year. If nothing happens that would make the holding of the elections awkward next year, I should hope that they would be held then.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage fixed for Tuesday, June 1.

The next item on the Orders of the Day is the Committee Stage of Bunreacht na hEireann (Dréacht)

I am afraid that Deputies who are members of the Opposition may be under a misapprehension as to the time the consideration of the Dreacht-Bhunreacht would be resumed.

If the President wishes, we can adjourn until 7 o'clock.

I am ready to proceed, but I am afraid that Deputies on the opposite side went away under the impression that the Committee Stage would not be resumed until 7 o'clock.

It would be a great convenience to everybody if we could have an adjournment until 7 o'clock.

Agreed accordingly.

The Dáil adjourned at 6.15 p.m., and resumed at 7 p.m.