This amendment is practically similar to an amendment moved by Deputy Rowlette on the previous stage.
Bunreacht na hEireann (Dréacht)—Ath-Chúrsa i gCoiste (D'Ath-Thógaint).
I move on behalf of Deputy Norton amendment No. 62:—
In page 96, Article 45, at the end of the Article to add a new section as follows:—
The State shall endeavour to secure that every section of the community engaged in wealth producing operations will have an influence in directing the policy and tendency of the enterprise.
I think that whatever may be said in favour of the principle contained in this amendment, the Constitution is not the place to introduce it. There is also the question of whether it could possibly be accepted exactly as it is phrased here but whatever may be the merits of the amendment, I think it should not be inserted in the Constitution.
What is the difference between this amendment and the President's own Article regarding the family and the home?
There is a big difference.
It is just as effective or as ineffective.
Amendment put and declared defeated.
I move amendment No. 63:—
In page 96, Article 46, Section 2, line 25, after the word "Referendum" to add the words "Where, however, such a Bill has been passed unanimously by both Houses of the Oireachtas it shall become law without a Referendum unless the President in his personal discretion shall consider a Referendum desirable.
This is an amendment which I introduced on the Committee Stage and withdrew on the understanding that it had the sympathy, on the whole, of the President. I understood him to say, that he thought, as a matter of common sense, that it would work well in practice and that he would probably introduce something of the kind on the Report Stage. I have not seen anything so introduced and I have put down the amendment again to hear the President's views once more. This is an amendment which suggests that where both Houses unanimously agree to an amendment of the Constitution, they should be able to carry such an amendment and pass it into law, without the necessity for a referendum.
I understand that there would be a number of consequential amendments occasioned by the acceptance of this amendment. As far as the principle is concerned I would accept it. The only trouble that I see is that it is so difficult to achieve in practice. People would say: "What is the use of that? A single member in either of the two Houses could completely cause it to fail. Are you not making provision in the Constitution for an almost impossible case, namely, when you would get the two Houses and the President all to agree?" The main objection, however, is that there would be a number of consequential amendments. However, if the Deputy would leave it over, notwithstanding the fact that it is so very difficult to achieve in practice I would have it considered again. Naturally, I do not like putting off consideration, because we must have some finality in this, but I do not think it is of sufficient practical value when you must have unanimity. If you do not make it unanimous, then you should not put proportions and that sort of thing.
Might I make this point? I would only wish this to operate where there was something so trivial to be altered in the Constitution that it would be absurd to have a referendum, or else in a case where there was such a grave and immediate national emergency that there was no time to have a referendum.
Later in the day we may see what would be the consequential amendments that would be caused. If they are too many I shall have to ask the Deputy not to press the matter.
I do not propose to press my amendment No. 64, because I see that in No. 65 the President has inserted "thirty-three and one-third," and I am not going to wrangle as between 30 and 33 and one-third.
I move amendment No. 65:—
In page 98, line 24, Article 47, Section 2, sub-section 1º to delete the word "thirty-five" and substitute the words "thirty-three and one-third."
This would mean that you would have a majority of polls of 67 per cent. Of course it will be objected that that would be high for a referendum, but I think we want to make sure that, if the normal procedure and the will of the Parliament is interfered with, there will be no uncertainty as regards the will of the electorate in the matter.
I move amendments Nos. 66, 67 and 68:—
66. In page 100, line 15, Article 49, Section 1, to delete the words "of Éire."
67. In page 100, line 22, Article 49, Section 2, to delete the word "Éire" and substitute the words "the State."
68. In page 100, line 24, Article 49, Section 3, to delete the words "of Éire."
These are consequential amendments.
I move amendment No. 69, standing in the names of Deputies Costello and McGilligan:—
In page 100, Article 50, at the end of Section 1, line 33, to add the words "provided always that no law shall be passed prejudicially to affect the rights of transferred officers under the Civil Service (Transferred Officers) Compensation Act, 1929.
The House is familiar with the rights given under the Treaty to civil servants who were in the service of this State prior to the passing of the Treaty. They were protected as regards their rights and as regards their terms of retirement under Article 10 of the Treaty. It is proposed here by the amendment, in the names of Deputy Costello and Deputy McGilligan, to add to this Article a provision that no law afterwards should be passed prejudicially to affect the rights of those transferred officers under the Act of 1929. We have here the fact that in the Treaty itself it was proposed to preserve the rights of these officers. We have the fact that that was implemented by a statute of the Oireachtas in 1929. If this Article of the Constitution is passed in its present form, the rights of these officers can be swept away. I suggest to the President and to the Government that it is at all events left open to the Oireachtas on a future occasion to take away the rights given by contract to the servants of the State. I think that is bad from the point of view of the public service. When a contract has been made—not an ordinary contract, as between citizen and citizen, but a contract made as between the State and its servants —not only should that contract not be broken by the State, but no loop-hole should be left by which it might possibly be broken on some future occasion.
We heard a great deal lately on the question of the rights of arbitration in the Civil Service. The matter was dealt with in a previous amendment, and I cannot discuss it now, but the rights of the civil servants should be preserved in some form or another. I got a look from the Ceann Comhairle which suggested that I was entitled to say nothing further about arbitration. I accept the warning look that he gave me, and I will not go into that subject now. I should like to urge on the President the undesirability, from the point of view of the interests of the public service, of having any loop-hole left in the Constitution by which these officers might be left under the impression for one moment that the rights given to them by the Treaty, the rights given to them by a statute of the Oireachtas, might possibly be taken away from them. I would suggest that no harm can be done by this amendment, and certainly the sense of security of the civil servants should be protected against any threat of this kind.
I think the Deputy who has moved this amendment, and Deputy Costello himself who is now in the House, will agree that there is nothing in the Constitution which would suggest that the existing position of these transferred officers is in any way being weakened. With the passing of the Constitution the position will remain exactly as it is. We are taking over, as part of the general law, the Act which gives them certain rights and implements a certain national agreement in the matter. The suggestion is that we should change the position now and give them a constitutional position which they have not got at the moment. I do not think that would be altogether wise. I can see, of course, that every section in the country which has rights wants to try and use the passing of this Constitution as a reason why those rights should be put in a position other than they were in before, so that the Legislature of the country could not have anything to do with them. If that were so, we would all try to stabilise the existing situation, and try to prevent motion in any direction— that is what it would amount to— because we would be afraid that any motion would take us out of the position of strength in which we found ourselves at the moment. This is an attempt—and I regard it as nothing else—to change the position which put a certain class of persons in a very privileged position. They are in a privileged position by an Act of Parliament and they ought to be quite content to stay in that position. They are likely to have from the Legislature of the future just as much protection as they have had from the Legislature during the last five years, and during previous years. I see no reason at all for accepting the amendment.
I agree with the President that there is nothing in the Draft Constitution to suggest that the existing position of a class of civil servants is in any way interfered with. I am in entire agreement with the President on that. The purpose of my amendment is to see that no future Legislature will interfere with that position. As the President stated, their rights are safeguarded by Act of Parliament, but any Act of Parliament can be easily altered by any subsequent Legislature. I want to see that these officers are put, not into a privileged position but into a position of safety. Their rights at the moment depend to a very large extent on the Civil Service (Transferred Officers) Compensation Act, 1929, which, in itself, as the President stated, depends on an international agreement. Fundamentally, they rest upon Article 10 of the Treaty. The Act of 1929, and the agreement scheduled to that Act contain a number of provisions which were come to by agreement between representatives of the Civil Service and representatives of the then Government. I had some little part in bringing about the Act of 1929. I am very glad that I had and I am seeking now to preserve what I did at that time for civil servants.
To do more.
I am not asking for anything more. I assure the President that I do not wish to put them, in any single way, in any better position than they were before. I agree that the amendment would give them a constitutional safeguard. I want that, because the President will, perhaps, recollect they had it under the old Constitution. Because they had that safeguard, they were enabled ultimately to achieve the victory that transferred officers did achieve through the famous Wigg and Cochrane case. If it were not for the provision in the old Constitution, providing that transferred officers should have rights conferred upon them, then they would never have been able to bring an action in court against the then Government, not merely to assert their rights, but to ascertain and to determine them, contrary to certain contentions then being made by the Department of Finance to the then Government. Articles 77 and 78 are the relevant Articles which gave them constitutional rights. The Act of 1929 not merely gave them further and more secure constitutional rights, but placed their rights upon the agreement that the President has, I think, properly described as an international agreement. The only thing I want to secure is that these rights shall not be taken away by any subsequent Legislature. I have no doubt —and I am prepared to say so—that the present Government has no intention of interfering with them between now and Monday or of interfering in the unlikely event of again being returned. Certainly this Party has no intention of interfering. But we have to look to the future.
What I want is a provision in the Constitution which will prevent any subsequent Parliament interfering in a fit of economy, or from being urged by the sort of talk we had in the country about big salaries and the number of civil servants, for which Deputies on the back benches of the President's Party were very largely responsible. If a wave of that kind was got up for that purpose, or for any other purpose, the Government might find itself forced to repeal or to alter in some way the Act of 1929. We had at the opening of this Parliament the spectacle of the present Government, in a fit of so-called economy, endeavouring to urge forward the carrying out of election promises by bringing in what they called economy provisions. The rights of transferred officers were raised, and to little purpose, on the passing of the economy measure. What was the result. A number of people, very valuable officers of the State, retired from the service of the State in consequence. I do not want it to be in the power of a future Parliament to repeal the Act. That is all I am asking for. I am asking for no privileged position. The rights of these officers at the moment depend on a privileged position. The roots of those rights are in Article 10. I confess with bated breath that I do not know where the Treaty is at the moment, having regard to what we are doing or where it will be if this Constitution becomes law. I have carefully and meticulously refrained in debate from making certain references to the Treaty. I think this is the first mention I made of it. The rights of civil servants depend on Article 10 because the international agreement, to which the President referred, and which is scheduled to the Act of 1929, is merely a sort of amplification of that Act, and merely confirmed the agreement scheduled to it. It provides in Section 2 that the Treaty shall have effect accordingly. The section reads:
The agreement set forth in the First Schedule to this Act, being an agreement interpreting and supplementing Article 10 of the Treaty, is hereby confirmed and the Treaty shall have effect accordingly.
The agreement scheduled is an agreement made between the then Government of Saorstát Eireann and the Government of Great Britain, and provides that the Treaty shall be construed with reference to the agreement and that Article 10 shall have effect accordingly. Throughout the entire agreement and throughout the Act of 1929, which gives legislative effect to it, provision is made for the protection of the rights of civil servants of the Government of Saorstát Eireann. The rights of civil servants of the Government of Saorstát Eireann are protected by the Treaty, by the agreement schedule to the Act of 1929, and by the Act of 1929, but it is gravely open to doubt—I put it no further than that, as I do not want to exaggerate the position—whether these rights, being rights protected in reference to the Civil Service of the Government of Saorstát Eireann, will be protected in reference to the Government set up, under this Constitution, the legal position being open to some doubt. It is easy to say that doubt cannot arise. I emphasise the fact that I do not want to put civil servants in any privileged position whatever. I merely wish to safeguard them, and to put them into a position of safety, so that the Act of 1929 cannot be repealed, and that it will be perfectly clear that civil servants or transferred officers are transferred to the Government that will be set up, if it is set up, under the Constitution, and will have the same rights as they have, and which were implemented by the agreement of 1929 and the statute of 1929. That is the sole purpose of the amendment. I want no privileged position for them. I want a position of safety and I think this amendment merely secures that.
There are very strong reasons why the President should accept this amendment. The original position contemplated by the Constitution was that civil servants were transferred from the former Administration to the Administration set up here in 1922 and should have constitutional protection. In order to ensure that, Articles 77 and 78 were enshrined in the Constitution. In these Articles, definite protection was afforded to transferred officers. That clearly indicates that the original intention was to provide them with a constitutional right. If the original intention of that Constitution had been carried out, it would not have been possible to alter that Constitution by means of legislation in this House.
The amendment which has been moved seeks to restore to transferred officers their original right to constitutional safeguards in respect to their tenure, salary, and conditions of service. The President ought to recognise that the original position, as contemplated by the establishment of the Constitution and by the inclusion therein of Articles 77 and 78, should be given effect to in connection with this Constitution. The President must realise that, under Article 50 of the Constitution we are now discussing, it is possible for the Oireachtas to repeal or amend any enactment of the Oireachtas. So that we may have a situation in future whereby a particular Party may come into office and, with a majority of one or two in this House, may seek to amend the legislation which at present provides a certain security for transferred civil servants. The President said his Government does not intend to amend or repeal existing legislation. But one could not be sure that, in the course of time, a Party will not emerge which will have as a plank in its platform ruthless economy in the Civil Service and, in order to implement that policy, may enact legislation. It will be assisted in the enactment of that legislation by the provisions of Article 50, the effect of which will be that the rights and guarantees which civil servants at present have in the Civil Service (Transferred Officers) Compensation Act, 1929, may be frittered away from them and they may be thus deprived of a very valuable safeguard which transferred officers have at the moment.
Deputy Costello has referred to the Economies Act which was passed through this House and has rightly pointed out that, as a result of that ill-conceived measure, a substantial number of civil servants, who had given a lifetime of service to the nation, were forced into premature retirement by reason of the insecurity which faced them as a result of the invasion of their transferred rights. It may be possible in future that the Oireachtas will be asked to enact a similar economy measure and in that way the State may again lose the services of civil servants, many of them highly placed, many of them trained in their particular tasks; and the loss of experienced civil servants of that kind cannot but make for the impairment of the State service, to which many of these civil servants have given a lifetime of study. A Draft Constitution of the kind we are discussing provides an opportunity for a declaration by the Oireachtas that the rights of these civil servants should be above the ordinary level of contending Party programmes and policies, which are likely to have for their object the implementation of an economy campaign.
The President says it is not intended to repeal or amend any existing enactment of the Oireachtas in respect to civil servants. But, I take it, the President remembers that the Fianna Fáil Party, when in Opposition, bitterly opposed the passage of the Civil Service (Transferred Officers) Compensation Bill and, in fact, the Minister for Finance, in one of those intemperate moods of his, declared that the Bill was a concession to blackmail. So that civil servants have no reason to believe that the Minister for Finance at all shares the President's view, that it is not intended to repeal or amend any existing enactment in respect of civil servants. Suppose the country and civil servants were confronted with a situation whereby the Minister for Finance happened to be President on some future occasion and, remembering his description of the Civil Service (Transferred Officers) Compensation Act, 1929, thought he ought to amend that Act, civil servants, having regard to the declarations of that Minister in the past, would have no reason at all to feel comfortable at his outlook towards security of tenure, and maintenance of salaries and conditions on the part of transferred officers. The President's Party is the only Party in this House which opposed the Bill in which the rights of civil servants were enshrined. The President ought, therefore, on this occasion, to avail of the opportunity of providing safeguards for those civil servants in a constitutional way so as to indicate that in this matter, as in many others, he has changed his mind since he came into office. The President ought to avail of the opportunity to undo the harm that was done by the Party's opposition to that Bill when going through the House; and to undo the effect of the vicious speech made on the matter by the present Minister for Finance.
I do not know on what occasion and in what terms the Minister for Finance spoke when in Opposition.
You can imagine it.
I do not know that, whenever a question arises in reference to civil servants, there is no stronger champion of their rights than the Minister for Finance.
That would be a revelation to every one of them.
There are lots of things which might be a revelation if the Deputy took care to examine matters more. It is a fact that the Minister for Finance, who is in charge of the Department which deals with civil servants, has been always the strongest advocate of the rights of civil servants. If that is information for Deputy Norton, I am very glad to be able to give it to him. Let us examine this question quietly and calmly. We have in this Constitution no charge whatever in the position. The existing position is that the rights of civil servants as provided for in an international agreement, have been embodied in an Act of the Oireachtas. That was an Act doing what we ought to do in these cases — implementing an agreement arrived at, in so far as it was necessary to implement that agreement in our municipal law. It is suggested that these rights were in the old Constitution. Is it not obvious that the reason was that that was the first place in which the rights of transferred officers could have been embodied? It was anticipating legislation, and after the agreement was arrived at, that was the first place in which the anticipated legislation could be provided for. But the Act implemented that agreement, and their rights are based on that agreement as implemented by the Act, and we are not changing them.
What is suggested now is that they should be put in a stronger position than before. I do not think there is any justification for it. I do not think that there is any intention, or will be any intention, to interfere with those rights. There was a time when Deputy Norton, anyhow, was quite satisfied with that. We had this question before us at the time of the Oath Bill. Of course, the Deputy may have a very ready answer. He can say that there have been a lot of revelations since, and that he has changed his mind as regards anything said from these benches.
They had a constitutional right, then, notwithstanding the machinery of the Oath.
Wait now. The objection to the passage of the Oath Bill was that in that Bill we were taking away the rights in the Constitution —the rights which civil servants had. I think it was Deputy Cosgrave who asked would it not be possible by repealing legislation to interfere with these rights and what I said was that these rights were quite safe, that there was no intention of not implementing that international agreement and that if implemented the agreement would be kept. Perhaps I had better remind Deputy Norton of what he said. I had been asked by Deputy Cosgrave as to whether that Act could not be repealed by legislation. Deputy Norton said:
"We have had a declaration from the President that the rights of transferred officers are in the 1929 Act. I think they are adequately safeguarded in that Act and the President has given us an assurance that he recognises that those rights are there. I would like the President to say now definitely, if he is not obstructed by the other side, that he has no intention whatever of interfering with the rights set out in that Act."
The reference is Dáil Debates, 19th May, 1932, column 2104, Volume 41. If the Deputy were satisfied then he ought to be satisfied now. There is no suggestion whatever of a change and I do not think it is reasonable that it should be pressed. These are only one part of the rights of all the people in the community and it is not right that the group of people concerned should be given a special position. On page 106 of the Draft Constitution in the part dealing with Transitory Provisions we have this paragraph:—
"On the coming into operation of this Constitution, the Civil Service of the Government of Saorstát Eireann shall become and be the Civil Service of the Government of Éire."
And then in a further provision we have this:—
"Nothing in this Constitution shall prejudice or affect the terms, conditions, remuneration or tenure of any person who was in any governmental employment immediately prior to the coming into operation of this Constitution."
That is a sort of parallel paragraph to the paragraphs in the old Constitution which made provision for transferred officers in the Civil Service and made provision as to terms, conditions, remuneration or tenure so that their terms or their tenure would not be worsened to their detriment. We are now providing for that in a general way and it is unreasonable that this amendment should be pressed though I can see that Deputy Costello has special reasons for it because of his having so much to do with the 1929 Act. I can understand his reason for being anxious to secure another advantage on this occasion but I do not think he should press that matter. The position has not been changed in any way. The position has been satisfactory.
The President has said that I have perhaps an undue feeling in favour of the civil servants but it is not for the reason he states. It is because I was associated with them for 10 years, and because of that association with them and my knowledge of them, I regard a satisfied Civil Service as an absolute necessity for the future Government of the State.
We all agree on that.
I want again to try to persuade the President that I am not endeavouring to secure any further advantage for this particular class of civil servants, the transferred officers. I admit I would like to secure for all civil servants the same conditions that have been secured for the transferred officers. I quite admit that. But what I am trying to do now is to preserve the existing rights so that some future legislature, perhaps for some frivolous reasons or otherwise, may not prejudicially affect those rights. I do not think that this amendment is giving them anything that they have not got already. They have at the moment constitutional rights based on Articles 77 and 78 of the existing Constitution, on Article 10 of the Treaty, and the agreement of 1929 as confirmed by the Act of 1929. Now, Deputy Norton, when he was speaking on the matter to which the President referred, was, I think, quite right in one sense in the argument he used. As I understand it, the argument that was put up from this side of the House was this: that the Constitution at that time was subject to amendment by ordinary legislation during a period of years, and that therefore there was a certain reason to fear that the rights of the civil servants would be prejudicially affected. I think that was the suggestion made.
What happened subsequently in the matter of the economy campaign proved that Deputy Norton was not right when he said in reference to these people that they had constitutional rights and that the Government would not interfere with them. Unfortunately, they did interfere in the following year. In the existing Constitution, if the Draft Constitution had not been brought in, we would have reached the position in the coming year that the original Constitution would have become frozen; it would not be possible to alter it, and therefore it would be impossible to take away existing rights. So that if the constitutional rights had not been interfered with in the next 12 months, these rights of civil servants would have become completely frozen. They could only be interfered with by very elaborate machinery which no Government would think of using. For that reason we are endeavouring to get them something by putting into the Draft Constitution a provision equivalent to what they have at present, a provision which they would continue to have if the original Constitution were allowed to run its course for another year. It could not then be amended in the ordinary way. During three years the Draft Constitution can be altered by legislation unless the President sends the matter for a referendum to the people. After that the rights will become frozen. There is nothing in this amendment that I am putting forward other than asking that the existing position be continued. They have a constitutional right at the moment. All I am asking is that they should not have these rights filched from them, as they may be, by ordinary legislation.
I see no difference between the existing position of the transferred officers and what I want to put into the Draft Constitution. There is no provision in that Draft to preserve the existing rights. There is no provision to say that no ordinary legislation will be passed to take away those rights from them. This amendment merely says that the mere passage of the Constitution will not involve the tenure of employment of civil servants. That is the only effect of Article 56, Section 5 — that nothing in this Constitution shall prejudice or affect the terms, conditions, remuneration or tenure of any person who was in any governmental employment immediately prior to the coming into operation of this Constitution. The amendment will not prevent an Act of Parliament being passed; there is nothing to prevent it at present for this reason that although it is a constitutional right yet under the Constitution that right could be taken away by ordinary legislation. But in a year or so, when the full 16 year period allowable under the present Constitution for the purpose of amendment has expired, they will have acquired a very rigid constitutional right which cannot be eaten into except by means of a referendum to the people. They are acquiring that — they have almost acquired a constitutional statutory right to it — and I do not think any Government, if the existing Constitution were allowed to run its course, would have the hardihood to pass an Act taking away the rights of transferred officers. Therefore, they have that constitutional right which would develop in a very short time into a very rigid constitutional right.
They are not being given that in this Constitution. It is being taken away from them because the existing Constitution is being repealed. That constitutional right which they have, and which has been hardening into a very rigid right, is completely swept away from them and they are left with their rights depending on a mere Act of Parliament. What they have they acquired through an international agreement between the Saorstát and the Government of Great Britain. It is open to doubt whether this Constitution as it stands, even with Article 56, preserves their rights in such a way as to prevent their being taken away from them by an ordinary Act of Parliament. I again emphasise, and quite sincerely, that I am not asking for anything more in this amendment than these transferred officers have at the present time.
I do not agree with the proposition that the Deputy has laid down.
I did not think that the President would agree with it.
I do not agree that the position is not going to be continued. Ultimately their position is continued in the Act. I do not wish to repeat what I said on a previous occasion. I think the rights of the civil servants at present will be found in the 1929 Act. That was the culmination of the series of arrangements made, first, in the Articles of the Treaty, and then in these provisions of the Constitution. It was the final working out of what was foreshadowed here. As regards the rights contained in that Act, there is no suggestion of changing them. The Oireachtas can at the moment change it in the same way as any future Parliament can change it, if they wanted to. The Deputy says that the old Constitution would be frozen in the course of a few years. I could say to him that it need not be frozen, because as regards the right by which you are able to continue the life of it, with that same power you could keep it indefinitely.
My statement is correct, that there is no change made by this, that the passing of this Constitution does not change the position one bit. I am against putting in matters guaranteeing one set of rights when I know that there are numbers of other rights that people might like to safeguard in the Constitution, if they had a person so immediately and directly interested as Deputy Costello is. There are groups of people who have not, apparently, such advocates. We ought not to take advantage of the mere accidental fact that we have a Deputy in the House who is taking this keen interest in the matter, to give this class a special protection, because that is what it is.
The President quoted a speech of mine in connection with the proposal to remove the Oath, but I think he unconsciously misunderstood the position. I prefer that the rights of transferred officers should be enshrined in Irish legislation rather than that they should be contained in an exotic document, because rights enshrined in that way are often open to unnecessary attack, and possibly they beget hostility from people who, if the rights were enshrined in native legislation, would recognise them without question. I think, therefore, the position in 1929 was, in the circumstances of that period, as satisfactory as it was possible to make it. You had, first of all, the constitutional guarantee given by Articles 77 and 78, and you had those rights amplified in the Civil Service (Transferred Officers) Compensation Act of 1929. You had, on the one hand, constitutional safeguards, and on the other hand you had legislation implementing and supplementing the constitutional safeguards provided.
It may be argued that the Constitution at that time was liable to be amended by ordinary legislation. That is true, but there was always the expectation that the constitutional rights which were enshrined in Articles 77 and 78 would reach a stage when further amendments of the Constitution by ordinary legislation would not have been possible. Then you had the ideal position of a definite guarantee in the Constitution for the protection of rights, and you had legislation to implement the guarantee so contained in the Constitution. That, I think, would have been a very satisfactory position. The next best satisfactory position was to have the 1929 Compensation Act continued while maintaining Articles 77 and 78 in the Constitution. Now, with the Treaty out of the way, apparently out of the way so far as our municipal law is concerned, with the Constitution containing Articles 77 and 78 also out of the way, transferred civil servants are in this position, that the only rights which they have are those set out in the 1929 Compensation Act. That Act was opposed by the Fianna Fáil Party when it was going through this House.
Therefore, as distinct from the position of having constitutional guarantees in Articles 77 and 78, together with an Act supplementing those guarantees, civil servants will in future be in the position that their only safeguards are those contained in the 1929 Act. Seeing there was in 1929 a general recognition, when the Compensation Act was passed, that civil servants' rights should be safeguarded, I think the President ought at this stage to accept the amendment which is proposed so as to indicate that whatever his attitude was to those rights in 1929 —he opposed the giving of those rights to civil servants in 1929—he has now become so sensible and so constitutional that he is prepared to recognise to-day on this matter, as he has done on so many other matters, that the stand that he took on that Bill was an incorrect stand.
All that is necessary for the President in order to enable him to line up with the other Parties in the House is to declare, by the acceptance of this amendment, that he desires the preservation of the constitutional guarantees which civil servants have. From the President a declaration in the form of the acceptance of this amendment is more than ever necessary, seeing that in 1929 he went into the Lobby, led by the Minister for Finance, who was full of vermilion tomahawk on that Bill, to oppose the rights which the President now says civil servants have. If he has no intention of interfering with them, he ought to accept the amendment so as to have the question of the recognition of these rights raised to a position whereby all Parties recognise that they should be preserved in the Constitution.
When I came into the House to-day and made preliminary observations pending the arrival of Deputy Costello to move the amendment, I thought that this amendment would have been treated in a serious manner, that it would have been seriously debated, and the President would have taken into account the arguments put forward in favour of it. I made merely some preliminary observations on the subject, expecting that the matter would be treated seriously and debated seriously. The President is in the position here of a judge determining a matter with no appeal from him, because he has until Monday night a majority behind him who will support any view he takes on any amendment. I do think it unfortunate that the President, being in that judicial position as regards this question, should have announced at the end of the few sentences I spoke in introducing the amendment that he would not accept it.
I had to indicate my attitude.
He simply said then, "I do not care what arguments are put up"—and I put up only a few observations on the subject—"I am not going to accept it." There is a position in which the judge, from whom there is no appeal, says, "I do not care what the rights of the parties are; I am the great arbiter in this matter, and I am not going to listen to any argument, however sound it may be." Quite plainly, that is the President's attitude still, because Deputy Costello urged on him the point that the Constitution, as it exists at present, the Treaty, and the statute of 1929 give a special constitutional privilege and right to this class of people, and that that is being taken away under the new Constitution. Why should it be taken away? In the ordinary course, this is a diminishing class every year, and you have this bad precedent set that you take away from people rights which they have under the existing Constitution. I do not suggest that the present Government, in the unlikely event of their being there next month after the general election, intend to do that, but you are shaking the confidence of a class of people who have rights under the existing Constitution in the Legislature of this country when you take away from them the protection they have under the existing Constitution. What is the harm of preserving these rights? These people are, in the course of nature, a diminishing class, becoming fewer from year to year. What is wrong with preserving their rights under the existing Constitution? That is an argument which Deputy Costello elaborated, and I urged it on the President. The President has made no reply to it whatever.
I do not like to be accused of not paying attention to what is said on the opposite benches, and with having made up my mind before I hear the arguments. I would remind the Deputy that this is not a new matter. It is a matter which was discussed at the time of the Oath Bill, and a matter which came before our notice a number of times. I discussed it with the Departments, and so on, so that I had a fairly good knowledge of what was to be said on both sides. I recognised at once that what was really being done, notwithstanding what Deputy Rice has said, was that an attempt was being made to put the transferred officers in a stronger position than they were in heretofore, because the existing Constitution could be changed, and the length of time in which it could be changed could be extended, by ordinary legislation, so that, so far as the old Constitution was concerned, its standing was not much more than that of ordinary legislation. This new Constitution will not, after a short period, be of that kind, and, therefore, what we are really asked to do is to give the transferred officers a stronger position than they actually occupy at this moment. I think that is quite needless. I need only say to Deputy Norton that, far from this Party being the terrible body he suggested, with that animus against the transferred officers, he has proved that, having gone through these five years with our Government without any suggestion of interference with their rights, they can face the future with safety.
But you did interfere with their rights.
We did not interfere with the rights of the transferred officers.
The 1933 Economy Act.
Their rights were protected. There was no repeal of their rights, and they had their tribunal to go to if there was any question of interfering with their rights. There was not any such question. As a class, they had a way of appealing to this tribunal when these certain changes were being made, and of saying: "We regard such and such as a worsening of our position, and we prefer to go out." Some of them availed of the opportunity, but that was not an interference with their rights. Those rights were fully preserved, and the fact that some of them took advantage of the position to leave the service and not to accept the cuts which other civil servants had to accept, is a proof not merely that we did not interfere, but that their rights were there, and that they availed of them. I can only say again that we have considered this matter very fully, and we see no reason whatever for giving way to the suggestion of the Opposition that this should be put in.
There are one or two observations that I want to make in conclusion. The President says that he does not agree with the arguments I advanced. He is entitled to disagree with them and he is entitled to his opinion, but the strength of his opinion is only to be measured by the strength of the reasons which he advanced in support of that opinion. He has given only one reason that I have been able to follow for his opinion and it is that the standing of the rights which transferred officers had under the existing position is little better than that of ordinary legislation. I think that summaries the argument of the President. Judged on that reason, which is practically the sole reason advanced for his opinion, I would adjudge his opinion as of little soundness or value, if I may say so with the utmost respect, because his reasoning is entirely fallacious. If I could persuade the President, and I have no hope whatever of persuading him, of the fact that his opinion is unsound, I would endeavour to spend a little more time in doing so, but I have talked on this Draft Constitution at a considerable length and on many topics, and on only one occasion have I succeeded in persuading the President of the validity of my arguments, so that I do not intend to occupy any time in endeavouring to persuade the President further.
I want to say again, and it is a repetition, but the reasons have not been answered: the rights of the transferred officers at the moment are constitutional rights, irrespective of whether these constitutional rights are of such a character that they could be altered during the period of 16 years by ordinary legislation. They are constitutional rights. If this Draft Constitution becomes law, these people will no longer have any constitutional rights. Whether those constitutional rights were great or small, they are gone. Their rights, apart from their being constitutional rights, depended ultimately on Article 10 of the Treaty. I think the transferred officers do attach some importance to the fact that if their rights are interfered with, or trampled on by legislation here, they have at least an international document to fall back upon. I do not know where that document is now and I am not going to pursue it to find out where it is; but it is not anywhere in this Draft. I think it would be a task of some difficulty to find out where the Treaty is at the moment and I am not going to pursue that particular hare now. Their Treaty rights are gone; their constitutional rights are gone; and they are dependent merely on the continuance of an Act of Parliament.
The President may be quite satisfied, as a result of his experience under the Economies Act of 1933, or because he is genuinely interested in the Civil Service, that his own Government will not interfere with them, but he cannot bind a subsequent Government, or a subsequent Parliament, unless by a rigid constitutional provision. If the President is right, as he is right, in saying that the existing constitutional position could be altered by ordinary legislation, and that even the period of 16 years could be enlarged, so can the rights of the transferred officers be affected in a somewhat similar way, if my amendment is acepted, and, therefore, I say my amendment is merely to put them on a parity with the present position. For three years some Government, even if my amendment is accepted, can by ordinary legislation take away their rights. There is that infirmity in my amendment, but, as an infirmity, it is equivalent to the infirmity, in the existing position. The position I ask for is that they be put on the same footing and no additional right is being sought.
Would the Deputy suggest, for example, if we were about to lengthen indefinitely the period in which the old Constitution could be changed as an argument against lengthening it that the position of the existing officers was going to be interfered with?
I probably would.
I would not put it beyond the Deputy for a moment. He would hold seriously that it was a reason for not doing so. We think there is exactly the same position here. His asking to put this in here because we are leaving it to the possibility of legislation to change the position is the very same as if he objected to our lengthening the period because, by lengthening the period, the Constitution could be changed and constitutional rights could be changed. I see no more to it than that, but I may be hard to convince.
The President is not hard to convince at all — he is impossible to convince.
- Bennett, George Cecil.
- Broderick, William Joseph.
- Cosgrave, William T.
- Costello, John Aloysius.
- Desmond, William.
- Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
- Doyle, Peadar S.
- Fitzgerald, Desmond.
- Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
- Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
- Keating, John.
- Keyes, Michael.
- McDermot, Frank.
- McFadden, Michael Og.
- McMenamin, Daniel.
- Minch, Sydney B.
- Morrissey, Daniel.
- Mulcahy, Richard.
- Norton, William.
- O'Higgins, Thomas Francis.
- O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
- Pattison, James P.
- Redmond, Bridget Mary.
- Reidy, James.
- Rice, Vincent.
- Rowlette, Robert James.
- Aiken, Frank.
- Allen, Denis.
- Bartley, Gerald.
- Beegan, Patrick.
- Blaney, Neal.
- Boland, Gerald.
- Bourke, Daniel.
- Brady, Brian.
- Brady, Seán.
- Briscoe, Robert.
- Browne, William Frazer.
- Carty, Frank.
- Concannon, Helena.
- Crowley, Timothy.
- Daly, Denis.
- Derrig, Thomas.
- De Valera, Eamon.
- Doherty, Hugh.
- Donnelly, Eamon.
- Flinn, Hugo V.
- Flynn, Stephen.
- Fogarty, Andrew.
- Gibbons, Seán.
- Goulding, John.
- Harris, Thomas.
- Hayes, Seán.
- Jordan, Stephen.
- Kehoe, Patrick.
- Kelly, Thomas.
- Killilea, Mark.
- Kilroy, Michael.
- Kissane, Eamonn.
- Little, Patrick John.
- Lynch, James B.
- MacEntee, Seán.
- Maguire, Ben.
- Moore, Séamus.
- Moylan, Seán.
- Neilan, Martin.
- O Briain, Donnchadh.
- O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
- O'Grady, Seán.
- O'Reilly, Matthew.
- Pearse, Margaret Mary.
- Ruttledge, Patrick Joseph.
- Ryan, James.
- Ryan, Robert.
- Sheridan, Michael.
- Traynor, Oscar.
- Ward, Francis C.
I move amendment No. 70:—
In page 102, Article 51, Section 1, line 7, to delete the word "three" and substitute the word "eight."
This is an amendment to extend the period during which the Constitution may be altered by ordinary legislation, without a referendum, from three years to eight. I have put it down because at various stages in our debates on this Constitution attention has been drawn to the fact that, after so short a period as three years, the Constitution will be extremely difficult to alter. The effect of making the period eight years would be that, not only the Parliament just about to be elected, but the Parliament following that, would have the power to alter these arrangements by ordinary legislation. I would like to hear whether the President has any strong views about adopting or resisting the amendment.
I do not know what the Deputy would regard as strong views about it, but I think it would be highly undesirable to have campaigns merely from the point of view of changing the Constitution. I do not like to get on to highly controversial ground by referring to the fact that one of the reasons — at least so it appears to me — that would be put forward for changing the Constitution was that there were a number of things in it which were distasteful. On both sides of the House we have had a long number of years' experience of government institution and of government, and we ought to be able in our combined experience to agree now upon what is essential, to get on with other types of work, and to regard this, therefore, as giving a fairly stable position.
I think we all, on all sides, ought to be glad that they have arrived at that: that we have a common set of rules inside which all can work. I think, therefore, it would be highly undesirable to leave the period too long during which this could be easily changed. I think there is a great deal to be said for letting it be finished by whatever Parliament will be elected at this election. This Parliament will be elected at the same time that, I hope, the Constitution will be approved. If some minor, some verbal, amendments reveal themselves as necessary during the period laid down, I think it is only right that it should be possible to make them easily. The Parliament that is coming in at the same time as the Constitution is carried will have been associated, in a certain way, with the passing of the Constitution, and it will be charged, to a certain extent, with seeing that any minor amendments that are necessary, to fill up any gaps that may not have been adverted to, will be made. I do not think it would be well to pass it over. Otherwise, you are going to have what I would regard as a very unfortunate position created, and that is that the amendments to the Constitution, as such, will become a feature, so to speak, of our politics. I think that would be undesirable.
This Constitution has been framed, in so far as it was possible to frame it, with the idea that all Parties in the State, no matter what their opinions were previously, can work it, and can work it without in any way giving up any opinions that they may hold as to our relations say, with Great Britain, or in regard to any internal differences of policy. The basis of the Constitution is that the people are supreme, and that through the people Parliament is supreme. No matter what arguments we may have heard during its passage on details, I think there has been no serious objection to the fundamental principles, and the general principles, of the Constitution. Consequently, my view is that we would be only looking for trouble, so to speak, by leaving the period as long as Deputy MacDermot suggests. I think it is better that any amendments that are found necessary should be made within the lifetime of the Parliament that will be elected at the coming election. Of course, it may happen that the life of the Parliament that is to be elected may be shorter than three years, but I am taking it that the normal life of the incoming Parliament will be at least three years.
The President does not forget, I am sure, that the Constitution contains some novel experiments with regard to the Second Chamber, and the new President or head of the State, and that three years is a very short time for experience to be had as to the working of those institutions. I confess that I, myself, start in rather a prejudiced frame of mind about this, because I do not like Constitutions that are hard to alter. It seems to me that Constitutions that are hard to alter prove themselves a nuisance almost everywhere, but I think that, aside from that prejudice of my own, there is sufficient novelty in this particular Constitution to make it reasonable that Parliament should be enabled to have experience of it and to change it, without setting in motion the cumbrous machinery of the Referendum, for a rather longer period than three years. The President says that we do not want to create a habit of controversy between the Parties about the Constitution, but I think the President will hardly deny that it is not so much a question of creating that habit as of getting rid of it. I agree that it would be extremely desirable to get rid of it, but I do not think it could be said that to extend the possibility of changing this Constitution to a longer period than three years could do anything that could be called creating a habit of constitutional agitation.
Notice taken that 20 Deputies were not present; House counted, and 20 Deputies being present,
The only thing, Sir, that I have to add to what I have said is that, if the period were extended from three to eight years, it would do a great deal to allay any fears that are being felt or promoted on such matters as the alleged danger of dictatorship.
Of course, our whole attitude towards this question will depend on our attitude towards Constitutions in general. I, no more than the Deputy, like what one would call a rigid Constitution that cannot be changed and amended, or changed completely by a simple vote of the people. That is a very different position, for instance, from that of the United States of America, or the position that obtains in other countries where, even on a referendum, a very high percentage of the vote has to be got in order to bring about a change. Accordingly, it is not right to call this a rigid Constitution. Really, it is not right to call it a rigid Constitution, because it is possible, at any time, even without disturbing the ordinary Parliament of the day, to send a question to the people as to whether a proposed change should be made or not. All that is necessary is that a measure should be passed here and that the measure should be sent to the people. The only inconvenience is the inconvenience of a vote. What I believe will happen is that there may be changes, from time to time, which a particular Parliament may wish to have effected; and, to avoid the inconvenience of an independent and seperate plebiscite, they probably will wait until there is a dissolution of Parliament, just as we are doing now. From my own point of view, I should prefer to see this Constitution voted on at a time when there is no election— voted on at a time in which the matter, probably, would get more consideration and, if I might say so, a less biassed consideration — but this being the first time our people will have a referendum, and there being the danger that it might be difficult to get them out to vote in a referendum on the first occasion, it is about the best method of doing it. There is always just that danger in a referendum at the start. However, I do not think that that would continue after one or two experiences of it. After one or two experiences of a referendum, it would be different.
At what cost a time?
That has proved to be so in other countries, and we are not a very large country. It has proved to be so in countries that are larger than ours, and this will be our first experience of people coming out to vote on this. I agree that there is a certain amount of inconvenience and cost in it, and just as we do not want to have too many elections, in the same manner we do not want to have too many referenda, and I believe that the tendency will be for a Parliament to wait, if possible, until there is some other reason for having a vote of the people and then putting these questions of changes in the Constitution at the same time as an election.
I think, however, that it is a mistake to call this a rigid Constitution. It really is not. It is a flexible Constitution inasmuch as a simple vote of the people can change it at any time. I think, that, once we have settled it, it ought to be the people alone who would change it, and I think that the provision for the three-year period ought not to be availed of lightly. I do not know what views would be taken of it under the powers to be given to the President under the Constitution, but my own view would be that any matters of principle certainly should go to the people, and that any other changes should be only changes of a minor character which were necessary in order to deal with some oversight.
But the President has no function in the matter, I understand.
I think he has — in the first three years, yes.
In the first three years?
Yes. I think it is Article 51.
Oh, yes. It is contained in Section 2. I forgot that.
Yes, Section 2 of Article 51 says:—
A proposal for the amendment of this Constitution under this Article shall not be enacted into law if, prior to such enactment, the President, after consultation with the Council of State, shall have signified in a message under his hand and Seal addressed to the Chairman of each of the Houses of the Oireachtas, that the proposal is in his opinion a proposal to effect an amendment of such a character and importance that the will of the people thereon ought to be ascertained by Referendum before its enactment into law.
That is to see that, even within the three years, the foundations of this Constitution are not upset; and it is simply to arrange for the sort of possibility that, I think, Deputy MacDermot himself had in mind when he spoke of changes being made by the unanimous vote of the House. I think, however, that even that ought to stop after a certain period. As I say, it is one of these things on which opinions will differ but I hold strongly that the whole thing ought to be put into its final form within the three years.
The President's original reply on this amendment seems to make a case for the amendment rather than to make any kind of an argument against it. I must say that I care very little either for or against the three-year period, because I do not share the President's opinion as to what will happen this Constitution when it goes before the people. The President indicated that it was near time we stopped dealing with such matters as have been dealt with in connection with this Constitution and got on to other work — and indeed it is — and the reaction I anticipate he is going to get when this Constitution goes before the people is the reaction that the people are very emphatically of that opinion also, and that as a protest against the things that have been left undone in order to work on this Constitution, the people will say that they do not want it. In fact they will say that they want the other work done to which the President has indicated this House might now usefully turn its attention, simply because he thinks the House should turn its attention to it. A number of people think that this House should have turned its attention to that work a long time ago.
The President has indicated that in order that people might turn their attention to other work, we should not extend the three-years period to eight. It is an argument for extending the three years to eight years that the president should have any kind of awakening in his mind as to the necessity for doing other work. If this Constitution is passed by the people, we are going to have an election for a President inside a certain number of months, we are going to have all kinds of scheming to set up a Seanad to implement some of the things that have to be done. You will, therefore, have Constitution-mongering of a particular type for the next two years without the attention of the people or the members of this House being directed to the necessity of making certain vital amendments in the Constitution as drafted. If the President wants to give all Parties and the people, assuming that the Constitution is passed, an invitation to leave constitutional matters alone for a period and to get on with the vital work that is necessary, he should accept the period of eight years and give the people a chance of saying: "Well, let us do the urgent things and let us leave these matters which are mere constitutional matters over for four or five years; at any rate we have eight years within which to do it." The President's argument on this matter, refuting the idea of an eight-years period, is simply all humbug. It is a fact, as he indicates, that some other work should get attention but it seems to me that by changing the period of three years to eight years, we would have a better chance of attending to the other work, if it should happen that this Constitution is passed.
The Deputy's tactics in this matter are too naive, altogether too naive. His hope is that, a referendum being an unusual thing for the people, with that as a beginning, he can get the people to think that this is of no importance to them, that it is something about which they are wasting their time, and that they should be doing something else. I think that he has made a mistake in regard to the people's views, just as he has done on many occasions before. That is his hope, but I think he will be surprised when he finds how unsuccessfully these tactics will work. I shall have other opportunities of dealing with some of the points the Deputy has raised with regard to the fact that there was no necessity for this Constitution. We shall be able to deal with that elsewhere, but I just want to tell him now that, in my belief, this is a vain hope upon which he seems to be relying— the hope that, because this is a new thing for the people, they will not come out in such numbers to vote for the Constitution as they will for candidates at an election, and that he will be able to claim at the end that that has happened because of the natural inertia of the people in this matter. He hopes to be able to hold, in the end, that the view of the people is against the Constitution and against the work we have been doing in trying to make it possible to establish a Constitution of this kind. I think he is entirely wrong, and that he does not understand the people. His hopes in that respect are going to be completely disappointed. If there is one thing more than another which would urge the people, who do believe that this Constitution means good work, to come out and defeat the hopes that the Deputy has in mind, it is the statement to which the Deputy has now given expression. I am glad the Deputy has expressed these hopes, and has revealed the attitude of himself and his Party on this matter.
I should like to emphasise, in case there should be any misunderstanding, that what the President has said is perfectly true. He expressed a desire to get on with other very necessary work when this is done——
After very necessary work has been finished.
He considers that another three years should be left to amend that work. If he means anything by what he said about the necessity for doing other work, he could very well accept Deputy MacDermot's amendment. I do not care whether he does or not, because I believe that neither in the next three years, nor in the next eight, will the Dáil be asked to deal with this matter, because the people to-day are asking that something else should be done to promote the interests of the contry, and they will very soon make that clear.
It is quite obvious that the definite policy of the Opposition in the coming election will be to create an atmosphere everywhere they go that the people should take no part in the Referendum or in giving a decision on this Constitution.
We had to call attention to the fact that there was no House just now, because the President could not get even four members of his own Party to remain in the Chamber to deal with it.
The Opposition, which boasts of its power in the country, has only two Deputies present during this debate. They have displayed the same mentality in regard to this Constitution. They say that it is not the job of the Opposition to help in getting this Constitution through. If their candidates at the coming election have the same feeling, they will say that this Constitution matters nothing, that it is so much waste of time, that it is not necessary for the inhabitants of the country to vote on it. That attitude will apparently have the support of the candidates who are being put up by the Opposition, and if it should happen that only a minority of the electors will take part in the Referendum, one of the first Deputies to make capital out of that will be Deputy Mulcahy.
Could we not leave this over until Tuesday or Wednesday?
Surely I am entitled to reply to the speech of Deputy Mulcahy?
We had to ring for you to come into the House.
I am only showing that this is the innuendo in Deputy Mulcahy's attitude. If this Constitution is put forward by referendum, and that only a minority of the electorate participates in it, it would be a grand cry for the Opposition later on.
Deputy Donnelly raised the point that members of the Opposition have not come in here to listen to the President giving the rather peculiar explanation he gave to Deputy MacDermot on this amendment. How many Opposition Deputies does the Deputy feel should come in to listen to that kind of statement from the President, when not more than four members of his own Party could be got to listen to it?
If the regulations of the House permitted, none of us would be here to listen to the Deputy.
What has all this got to do with amendment No. 70?
That is what I want to know.
We seem to have wandered somewhat from the amendment. I just want to make it plain that I would still prefer a period of eight years, and I am sorry the President has not accepted the amendment.
I move amendment No. 71:
In page 106, lines 16, 21, 28 and 31, Sections 1, 2, 3 and 4, to delete the words "of Eire."
This is simply to make here a change in accordance with those already made in a number of other places.
Does not this amendment, Sir, recreate Partition? Deputy Donnelly does not mind?
What did the Deputy say?
I am asking whether amendment No. 71 does not recreate Partition.
Who created it? Ask the Deputy at your side there.
You will take the price for it all right.
The Ultimate Financial Settlement!
Amendment No. 72 cannot be moved.
I received a letter from the Ceann Comhairle intimating that this amendment is out of order. I should like to know whether I might hope to influence you, a Leas-Chinn Comhairle, into agreeing that that is rather a rigid ruling.
The Ceann Comhairle is the authority on order.
Do I take it, therefore, Sir, that no matter what convincing arguments I may produce there is no possibility of inducing you to revise what I think is a rather rigid ruling?
The Deputy had an opportunity of addressing those convincing remarks to the Ceann Comhairle.
I had no opportunity of addressing them to the Ceann Comhairle under circumstances that would have enabled me to get Deputies to pass judgment on the point I was making, because the Ceann Comhairle vacated the Chair before the amendment was reached.
The Deputy will have an opportunity of getting Deputies to pass judgment on the Ceann Comhairle's ruling on Monday if he wishes.
May I make just this one submission? The House is likely to dissolve on Monday. There are two more days of Parliamentary time left. The President promised five years ago that he would establish this arbitration board. He has now only two days in which to do it. Would he avail of one of those two days to accept this amendment?
The Deputy would not take the board he was given.
It was not a board at all. It was a muzzle.
I move amendment No. 73:—
In page 112, line 22, Article 61, Section 1, to delete the word "Éire" and substitute the word "the State."
This is purely a formal amendment.
I move amendment No. 74:—
In page 112, lines 27 and 29, Article 61, Section 2, sub-sections 1º and 2º, to delete the word "Éire" and substitute in both lines the words "the State."
This is of the same character as the previous amendment.
I move amendment No. 1 on the Order Paper:—
In page 16, Article 12, to delete Section 10 and substitute a new section as follows:—
1º. The President may be impeached for stated misbehaviour.
2º. The charge shall be preferred by either of the Houses of the Oireachtas, subject to and in accordance with the provisions of this section.
3º. A proposal to either House of the Oireachtas to prefer a charge against the President under this section shall not be entertained unless upon a notice of motion in writing signed by not less than 30 members of that House.
4º. No such proposal shall be adopted by either of the Houses of the Oireachtas save upon a resolution of that House supported by not less than two-thirds of the total membership thereof.
5º. When a charge has been preferred by either House of the Oireachtas, the other House shall investigate the charge, or cause the charge to be investigated.
6º. The President shall have the right to appear and to be represented at the investigation of the charge.
7º. If, as a result of the investigation, a resolution be passed supported by not less than two-thirds of the total membership of the House of the Oireachtas by which the charge was investigated, or caused to be investigated, declaring that the charge preferred against the President has been sustained and that the misbehaviour, the subject of the charge, was such as to render him unfit to continue in office, such resolution shall operate to remove the President from his office.
The purpose of that amendment is to deal with the point which Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney made with regard to the investigation of the charge, and the difficulty that there might be in investigation by the House itself. It makes it possible for the House to arrange, for example, that the charge should be investigated by a tribunal consisting of members of the House or otherwise. I think there is no further change in the matter.
I should like to be recorded as against that amendment.
I move amendment No. 2:—
In page 20, Article 13, Section 8, to delete sub-section 2º and substitute a new sub-section as follows:—
2º. The behaviour of the President may, however, be brought under review in either of the Houses of the Oireachtas for the purposes of Section 10 of Article 12 of this Constitution, or by any court, tribunal or body appointed or designated by either of the Houses of the Oireachtas for the investigation of a charge under Section 10 of the said Article.
This is a consequential amendment.
I move amendment No. 2a:—
In page 22, Article 14, Section 1, line 8, to delete the word "or" and insert the words "incapacity, or his".
That, I understand, is purely a drafting amendment.
I was wondering whether it meant that temporary incapacity did not have to be established to the satisfaction of a majority of the members of the Council of State? I cannot understand any other reason for making the change.
I think, as a matter of fact, the Deputy is right. It is the question of the permanent incapacity that should go to the Supreme Court. That was the original intention, I think.
I move amendment No. 3:—
In page 74, Article 34, Section 3 at the end of sub-section 2º, line 10, to add the words "and in all cases in which any such matter shall come into question the High Court alone shall exercise original jurisdiction", and to delete sub-section 3º, lines 13 to 15.
This seems to be simply to take out one section — instead of having two separate sections, simply to link it up. It is to remove a certain ambiguity. We have tied what was in a separate section on to the previous one, and made them into one section. There is also a change from the plural to the singular in the wording.
I move amendment No. 4:—
In page 94, Article 45, Section 2, paragraph i., line 13, after the word "citizens" to insert the words ("all of whom, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood.")
This is to implement the promise I gave last night to Deputy Rowlette that I would try to find some place in which I could put the principle contained in the first part of the amendment he had down. Deputies will remember that the second part of that amendment has already been adopted in its own particular section. The first part related to a different matter, and the difficulty was to find an appropriate place in which the principle could be embodied. Sub-section 2 will read now:—
The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing
(1) that the citizens (all of whom, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood) may through their occupations find the means of making reasonable provision for their domestic needs.
This is the only convenient place in which I could put that amendment. The suggestion in the original amendment was that it should appear in this section. I embodied it in the only place I could find appropriate. It is not easy, when we have got to this stage, and when the building is up, to put in new bricks.
The President did not explain what "domestic needs means?
I take it that the heads of a family, for instance, would find from their occupation sufficient means to enable the family as a whole to live, as I stated a number of times, at least in frugal comfort.
But not to go to the races.
As regards the next stage, what I would like is to have general agreement about this. I will try with all possible speed to have the complete text ready, with the amendments that were passed incorporated in it, as soon as possible. I am afraid it will not be possible to have that done before Monday with the Irish text. It is just possible that even then in the text that will be presented to the House there may be one or two verbal amendments in the English text. I hope not. One has always to make provision for that sort of thing happening. When we have completed the English text and the Irish equivalent, if there are any amendments to be moved to the English text I will move them, and we will then make a comparison of both texts. I hope that will not take long. It would take a good deal of time if we wished to go into linguistic points at great length, but ordinarily I do not think it will take too long. When we have that completed I will ask the House to pass it.
Will there be any other business on Monday except the Constitution?
There is the Bill that was introduced by the Minister for Local Government to-day and there is the possibility that the Appropriation Bill may not be completed. A desire was expressed that we should try to have an early dissolution, and an election as early as possible. I have made some inquiries since, and I have been assured that the 30th June, which was desired, is not a possible date for the election. We could not have it in the time. The House is being asked to assemble on Monday, and we may be able to arrange to have the election as close to the 30th June or as early in July as possible — certainly before the 5th July. I think it might be the 1st or 3rd of July. Later than Thursday is generally not regarded as a suitable day in the week for an election. Thursday, 1st July, would be a suitable date if we could get things ahead for an election on that date. I would not like to give a firm promise that we could have the election on the 1st July. If not on the 1st July it seems that we would have to go on to Monday, 5th July. Monday may not be a suitable date, but we are anxious not to inconvenience those who are going on holidays. Even if Monday is not the most suitable date in the week, I think it is better to have the election that day rather than put it back. The House may reasonably assume that it will be the 1st July or the 5th July.
What concerns me is that there should be an opportunity for adequate discussion of the Constitution as a whole on the Final Stage. Normally, I think, there is always an interval of one day between the completion of the Report Stage and the Final Stage, which in this case would include the Irish text. I gather that it is not intended to have that interval in this case, but I ask that the arrangement of business will be such that the House will have a reasonable opportunity of discussing it.
I hope that will be possible. We are being driven in two directions. My own wish would be to have the fullest possible time for discussion of every stage. It has been urged, and I think with good reason, that an election would be very inconvenient, from the point of view of voters, if we let it go far into July. That is a paramount reason. Further, we have discussed the Constitution in detail at considerable length, and I doubt if on the Final Stage anything new could be said about it. However, I will try to do the best I can to meet Deputies.
I would like the President to consider this, that if it is found the election cannot be held on July 5th is there any reason why we should not sit on Tuesday next as well as on Monday?
I will bear that in mind.
The discussion we have had is a bit polyglot, and in order to make the position clear I would like to get some seperate matters dealt with. There is for consideration the question of the new Report Stage in English and also in Irish, and there is then the Fifth Stage and the general election. As to carrying over the Appropriation Bill to Monday, I should like to assure the President that there is no question of not dealing with all stages of that Bill and the Pigs and Bacon Bill to-day. The President need not expect that anything will be carried over to Monday except the Constitution Bill and the Dublin Hospitals Bill. With regard to the English amendments to the Constitution, do I understand that the House is going to go into the Report Stage of the Constitution Bill in English again for the purpose of making verbal amendments in the English draft? If so, is it proposed to circulate the amendments for that stage?
I should like to say that I have not any amendments in mind or anything of that sort; but, as a measure of safety, I should like to have it open in case there were some drafting amendments necessary. You always like to see the complete text as things may strike you when you have the complete text before you that might not occur to you when you have the amendments separate from the text. I do not anticipate that we will have any amendments— if I can help it, we will not have any. But, for safety's sake, I should like to have it possible to bring in amendments of a verbal character. The urge would have to be very strong indeed before I would bring in any one of substance. We are only simply adjourning the discussion on this stage until Monday. Then, on Monday, we would take that up first. If there were amendments, they would be circulated in the same way as some of these amendments have been circulated. These would have to be dealt with first. I hope there will be very few — possibly none at all. The Irish text corresponding to these would be available at the same time. Then you would have the amendments in the Irish language as well as in the English language, so that everything would be ready. We would then compare the texts and our discussion after that would be largely on the text. I take it the final motion would be: "That the House approves of the Bunreacht and recommends it to the electorate." That is the order as I see it.
So far as I can see, there need be no difficulty in referring back the English text again on Report for the purpose of verbal amendments, which will be circulated before we deal with the matter on Monday. With regard to the Irish Report Stage, I should like to ask whether it is intended from the Government side to submit any draft amendments to the Irish text.
Yes, I should like the Deputy to understand that. Since the original Draft was presented to the House, there has been a continuous examination of the text going on. There have been alterations in order to keep pace with the amendments, so that the text will embody all the amendments agreed to by the House. I also have had a committee sitting on the question of the spelling to be adopted in the text, and I got a report from a majority of those who have been considering it in favour of certain modifications of the spelling as it exists in this Draft. That will be a spelling for the text, without in any way prejudicing the spelling adopted by the translation staff here, and which is to be found in the existing translations of the Acts. The spelling adopted for the Bunreacht does not go so far in the way of contractions as the system adopted by the translation staff. It is not suggested to alter that, so far as the Acts are concerned. But it was considered desirable in this text not to go so far as the translation staff have gone in contractions. As I say, the new text, therefore, will embody the revised spelling, and also the amendments passed by the House since the Draft was first issued.
The President speaks about the possibility of having no amendments at all. I want to remind him that he did say he would consider whether, even now, he would not incorporate my amendment No. 63 in the Constitution, if it did not involve too many consequential amendments — that is, the amendment about a unanimous vote of the Oireachtas.
I have got that looked into since, and my information is that it would involve quite a number of consequential amendments. That would not deter me from going ahead with it, and, seeing that these were made, if I thought it was of any real importance in substance. But I think that the likelihood of getting unanimity in the case of the two Houses and the President is so unlikely that it would hardly be worth while making provision for it. If there are things of the kind met with, we shall have to try to pick these up in the next three years, in which it is easier to make amendments.
From what the President says, there will be quite a number of amendments to the Irish text. I should like to ask whether the proposal of the Government is to have a complete redraft, in the new idealistic form, of the Irish text, and whether the President will put a motion before the House that one be substituted for the other as a basis for discussion?
I do not know whether it is necessary. I take it the basis of what we have been doing in the Committee State has been that we dealt in the English language with the amendments, so far as their substance was concerned, and that an Irish text, corresponding to the revised text, will be presented to the House as embodying the principles agreed upon by the House and discussed in English. The complete new revise will then be compared with the English text. It was thought better to put in the amendments as we have them here by reference, so that the completely new text would be side by side with the revised English text, intended to be the expression in Irish of what was agreed upon by the House. In other words, I am not going to bring in the old text and say, "We have amended it here and there" and so on. We will bring in a new text which will correspond with the old text, changing it whereever a change is made necessary by the discussion in the House, together with the changes recommended by the body working upon it. The Deputy, therefore, had better regard it, so to speak, as a completely new text, though it will, naturally, in reality be very close to the existing one.
I am only interested from the point of view of Deputies who may wish to put down amendments so that they will have an opportunity of seeing the new text in order to have their amendments in order.
As soon as we get it, it will be circulated.
I do not anticipate any delay. I want to get the position clear as to the Fifth Stage in relation to what Deputy MacDermot said about running the discussion into Tuesday. Personally, I do not think there will be any necessity for that, except Fianna Fáil Deputies are going to get much more vocal on the subject than they have been up to the present. There will not be any prolonged discussion on the Fifth Stage so far as we are concerned, and, therefore, it need hardly be anticipated that the Fifth Stage will not conclude on Monday. That brings me to the question of the election date. The President indicated that the most likely date that he saw for holding the election would be Monday, 5th July.
That is the most likely date at present, but if we can have it on Thursday, 1st July, we will have it.
I want to emphasise that we are facilitating the work of the Government and letting whatever dregs of work are left over through in order to facilitate the electors who will have a duty to perform. There is a question of persons going on holidays in July and that arises here. It seems to me that a number of these is going to be hit if the election is not carried out on the 30th June. An additional number is going to be hit if the election is carried out on the first Monday in July rather than on the previous Thursday or Friday. Whatever difficulties there might be about holding an election on Friday, the facilities that will be afforded to the electors to vote on the important matters before them are things that must be considered. The importance of the business in hand would dictate that if the election could be held on the first Thursday or Friday in July it should not necessarily be postponed until the following Monday. In addition Monday is not a good day.
There is one direction in which we all think alike, and that is that the election should be held as early as we can hold it. It is not the will of the Government to postpone it to the 1st July, but there are certain administrative difficulties in regard to matters that have to be done in connection with the election. I am anxious that the election should be held as early as possible, but my information is that there is an undue strain put upon the Department at present, too much of a strain to make it possible. I am just as anxious as Deputy Mulcahy, and each member of the Government is as anxious as Deputy Mulcahy, to have the election on the 30th June, but I am sure that the 30th June is impossible now.
Pushing the date as far forward as the 5th July is pushing the date as far forward as the law on electoral matters allows. In the present circumstances there does not appear to be any reason why the date should be pushed as far forward as the law allows.
Certain things have to be done, indeed various things have to be done in connection with the register. There is the question of the postal voting and so on. I have been informed by the Departments that it would not be possible to have the election on the 30th June. I appreciate why Deputy Mulcahy wants to have the election before the people go away on their holidays. Well, simply at the moment I am told that is impossible, and even the 1st July is more than doubtful. If it is possible to have the election on the 1st July I will see that that will be done, but if we cannot have it on the 1st July the Deputy's point is to have it on the 2nd July. The 2nd July is Friday, and he says that though Friday is not a normal day it would be better to have it on Friday than on the following Monday. If that can be managed we will have it on Friday.
The Report Stage of Bunreacht na hEireann (Dréacht) is adjourned until Monday next.