The discussion last evening was, I think, on the question as to whether it should be possible for a President to be eligible for a second period of office. I think we would all agree as to the purpose to be aimed at. So far as we can secure it, we ought to try to provide that whoever will occupy that office would be in a position of independence in the sense that he would not be likely to neglect his duty for the purpose of winning favour with any political Party. A difference of opinion arose, apparently, on the point as to whether that can be better secured by leaving him eligible for re-election or not. I think that even on the opposite benches some of the speakers argued on one side and some on the other, each trying to secure the same purpose. I, naturally, in putting down this Draft had to make up my mind on the matter and, in my view, the balance of the argument for independence lay on the side of leaving it possible for him to be re-elected. Remember, that to be re-elected the President has to get the support of the people. He is answerable to them. They will judge his actions during his first period of office by his conduct in that office and, consequently, if a man has proved satisfactory, I see no reason why he should not be allowed to go forward again for re-election. Those who will oppose his re-election, if they have any reason for it, will put forward as a ground: "Well, he has not acted in such wise," or "He is no longer suitable for the office," or some other reason of that kind. Therefore, it seems to me that the balance is in favour of making it possible for him to go forward for re-election, remembering all the time that it is the people will have to decide the question. They will be the judge of all his actions. It has been said that he can only go forward if he is supported by a Party. That is true, but the Party will not support a man who is going to be unpopular with the electorate. If a Party does try to support a man who has not acted in the way which his duty would demand, the people have a very good way of answering any such candidature.
With respect to the proposal of allowing him to go forward for more than two periods of office, two periods of office cover a considerable time, no doubt, and there has been some sort of suggestion that he should be eligible for a second period but not for a third period without a break. Again, my previous argument would apply to that case. If a man is held by the people to be suitable for the office, there does not seem to be any good reason for what I might call artificially excluding him. The only argument that I can think of is that sometimes after a prolonged period of office, a man is not active. He does not bring as fresh a mind to his work as a new man going into the office. There might possibly be a suggestion that if a man had held office for two periods—a comparatively long period in a person's life, 14 years—he might have got stale but we must remember that his functions are those of a judge rather than those of an executive. Notwithstanding all that has been said about it, the fact is that under this Constitution he has no executive powers in the sense of willing and deciding on doing things himself. Certain documents are sent to him to sign in regard to petitions which may come to him from the Seanad. He has to examine these petitions and make up his mind as to whether it is a matter that should go, let us say, to the people, or a matter that should go to the Supreme Court. Therefore, it seems to me that the argument that you want a fresh mind does not necessarily arise. It may arise in the case of the proposed re-election of a particular individual and the people may say: "Very well, this man is getting a bit old, it is better to get a fresh man." My own view is that the less we put in the Constitution in the way of restrictions of that kind, the better. The people will have to be the judges themselves and if they do not think that a person is suitable to be elected as President, it may be assumed that they will not vote for him. However, if there is any strong view held that, after two periods of office at least, there should be a break I am quite willing to concede that but my own instinct is against it. I think you should put no artificial barriers at all there. Let these things be decided by the people in the circumstances in which they find themselves.
Of course, the possibility of a person being elected for two terms or three terms is almost altogether out of the question. I was given the records of Presidents of the French Republic where the period of office is a term of seven years. I cannot at the moment give you the details but they are not germane except for the fact that only one of them over the whole period has continued for a second term of office and then he held office only for a period of two years in the second period when he resigned. Most of them refused to go forward for a second period, the reason apparently being that the office of President, whether of the French Republic or of any other country, is not a bed of roses. The tendency will be that a man who has spent seven years in office will not go forward again unless there is some very good reason for his doing so, not merely a personal reason. There might be a good national reason for doing so. That is my attitude towards the amendment. I would resist an amendment excluding a person automatically from a second period of office but if the House feels that there should be a break after two periods, so as to make it quite clear that this is not intended as a life office for any person, I am quite willing to agree to that. If, however, my wishes were to count, I would say that we should put no restriction of any kind like that in the Constitution.