Committee on Finance. - General Elections (Emergency Provisions) Bill, 1943—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. During a recent debate on a motion by Deputy Cole proposing that the general election, now impending under the law, should not take place during the continuance of the war in Europe, the Taoiseach adverted to the danger which would be inherent in the situation, if, while Dáil Eireann stood dissolved, a grave emergency were to confront the State. It is true that the Constitution confers on the Government very wide powers in time of war and during a period of national emergency, but none the less in certain matters the assent of Dáil Eireann to actions taken by the Government is essential. For instance, even in so grave a situation as an actual invasion, the Dáil would have to be summoned at the earliest possible time, so that the Government in its actions would be upheld by the unmistakable support of the representatives of the people. The importance, therefore, in these critical times of keeping Dáil Eireann in being, even during a general election, will be appreciated.

The House having been practically unanimous as to the unwisdom of deferring the general election now imminent beyond the time which the law, as it stands at the moment, prescribes, it has been necessary to consider the problem very closely in an endeavour to devise a procedure which will diminish to the utmost the period between the dissolution of the present Dáil and the institution or summoning of the Dáil which will be called together after the forthcoming general election. In the normal course, as prescribed by the existing law, a general election is completed and the personnel of the new Dáil is settled three or four weeks after the dissolution of the outgoing Chamber. Not only that, but as the law stands at present the present Dáil, being dissolved, cannot be summoned or reconstituted during that interval, no matter what the circumstances—even, indeed, if they were such as would prevent a general election being held.

The aim of this Bill is to make the contingency of there being no Dáil as nearly impossible as may be. For this purpose, it prescribes the procedure by which the outgoing Dáil will be kept in existence until the general election has been completed and the personnel of the new Dáil definitely settled by the vote of the electorate. As auxiliary to that, it gives to the Minister for Local Government the necessary authority to ensure that the election, and I may say, in particular, the counting of the votes, will be conducted and completed with due expedition.

It also includes certain consequential provisions for the continuance of the Ceann Comhairle in his membership of Dáil Eireann and for the adaptation of the legislation governing the election of the elected members of Seanad Eireann. I should emphasise that all these provisions relate only to a general election held during the period of the present national emergency. As soon as that emergency is declared by the Oireachtas to have passed, the power and authority to be given under this Bill will lapse, and the existing law and existing procedure will be reverted to unless in the meantime the Oireachtas, by further legislation, decides to modify it in any particular.

A reference to the particular sections of the Bill will indicate how the policy I have outlined will be carried into effect. Section 1 is the definition section. Under this section, the phrase which is used in the Bill, and particularly in Section 2, "the present national emergency" is limited to mean the emergency which the Oireachtas has already declared to exist by resolutions passed on the 2nd day of September, 1939. By this definition, therefore, the duration of the Act is confined, as I have said, to the duration of the present emergency.

In the definition section distinction is also made between the incoming Dáil and the outgoing Dáil, so as to make it clear that the expression "outgoing Dáil" applies to the Dáil immediately present; while the expression "incoming Dáil" relates to the Dáil Eireann, the members of which are elected at such a general election. Section 2 will authorise the Taoiseach, instead of advising the President, as at present, to dissolve the Dáil, to advise him to direct that a general election shall take place. Under this section, the provisions of the Electoral Acts which relate to matters to be done consequent on a dissolution will have effect as though a proclamation by the President, directing a general election to be held, were a proclamation dissolving Dáil Eireann. The election will be held on a date, after the proclamation, to be fixed by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, and, naturally, in that regard, the Minister will conform as closely as possible with the provisions of the present electoral law, and the precedents which have been established under it.

Section 3 of the Bill directs that when the election has been held, and the Clerk of Dáil Eireann has received from each Returning Officer the names of the persons elected for the constituency concerned, the Clerk will certify to the Taoiseach that the election in that constituency has been completed. The Taoiseach will thereupon, not later than two days after he has received the certificate from the Clerk of Dáil Eireann, advise the President to dissolve Dáil Eireann—that is, the outgoing Dáil—and summon the new Dáil, the "incoming Dáil," to meet. In the event of the Clerk's certificate not being forthcoming, by reason of the non-completion of the election in one or two constituencies, due, perhaps, to the death of a candidate, or some such occurrence, as sometimes has happened in the past, the Taoiseach must, within 16 days after the polling date give similar advice to the President— that is, to dissolve the outgoing Dáil and summon the new Dáil. If, however, something should arise after the poll which would make the completion of the election in a considerable number of constituencies impossible, or which would render it impossible to complete the election, then, I should like to point out, that the outgoing Dáil—that is, the present Dáil— could meet to deal with that situation. However, I hope and trust that nothing will arise which will prevent the completion of the election in the ordinary course. I just want to point out that so long as the outgoing Dáil is in being it can meet to deal with any widespread situation which might prevent the holding and completion of the proposed general election—or, indeed, any danger which might arise.

I think there will be no doubt about the wisdom of these provisions. It appears to me to be quite reasonable to require that Dáil Eireann shall be dissolved not later than 16 days after the poll. That is the extreme limit. Normally, it will be dissolved within two days after the Clerk of the Dáil has certified to the Taoiseach that the election has been completed, but if for one reason or another the Clerk is not in a position to give a complete or full certificate in regard to every constituency, nevertheless a limit is fixed in this Bill within which the Dáil must be dissolved.

Suppose the election is never fully completed?

Then, as I have said, this Dáil would be summoned to meet and deal with that position and make provision accordingly. Let us say that the election is never completed as a result of some catastrophe or another, and that such a happening would make it clear to us that it could not be completed, then this Dáil would be summoned to deal with that situation.

Yes. That is what I wanted to know.

In that event this Dáil will be here to deal with the situation.

Within the 14 days?

Yes, within the 14 days. Of course, the Government would also have power under the Emergency Powers Act to deal with such a situation, but I presume that, naturally, it would want to be fortified by the concurrence of the Dáil. There might be a delay as a result of the death of a candidate, in which event a fresh election would have to take place in the one constituency affected, but I think it will be conceded that it would not be right to delay the dissolution of the Dáil mainly because the result in one constituency had been delayed by some such circumstance. I might point out in connection with Section 3 that in paragraph (c) of subsection (2) of that section, the latest date which can be fixed for the summoning of the Dáil, after the Taoiseach has advised dissolution, is the seventh day, and I propose to ask the House to extend that period to the fourteenth day. That extension will bring the whole procedure into closer conformity with the existing procedure which provides that the new Dáil must assemble within 30 days after the taking of the poll.

The period of office of members of Dáil Eireann is fixed by Section 4. Under this section the outgoing members of the Dáil would continue to hold office until the Dáil is dissolved, and the incoming members would become members on the next day after the outgoing Dáil is dissolved. The duration of the life of Dáil Eireann is fixed by Section 7 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act of 1927. According to that Act, therefore, the present Dáil must be dissolved not later than the 30th June, next.

Section 5 of this Bill preserves in full force the existing provisions of Section 7 of the Act of 1927 but, as a precaution, provides that if the President, in the exercise of the powers proposed to be conferred on him by this Bill, directs that a general election shall take place the present Dáil will continue until it is dissolved under the new enactment. In the event of certain contingencies materialising, it might happen that, under this section, an outgoing Dáil, in fact, would not be dissolved until a few days before June 30th, but I should say that this is unlikely. The House understands that at present, if it were not for the need to make this special provision to maintain a Dáil in being during the general election, the date of dissolution of this Dáil could be the 29th June, the date of nominations would be the 8th or 9th July, and the date of the poll might be as far back as the 22nd or 23rd July. The actual date of dissolution has not yet been fixed, and it might happen, due either to the difficulty in getting back the writs or to the fact that there are 14 days within which the Taoiseach has the option of advising the President to dissolve the Dáil, if he does not receive the certificate from the Clerk, that the life of the present Dáil would extend a few days beyond the 30th June next. But, under normal circumstances, we may take it that, under this Bill, this Dáil will be finally dissolved some time before the 16th July. The general election will, of course, be declared— probably polling will take place—before the 30th June. Perhaps, in saying that, I am going outside my province——

It is no harm to tell us something about it.

——because that is a matter about which the Taoiseach will have the final decision. I want, however, to make quite clear to the House what the general effect of this section would be, without going too deeply into matters which are not my special province.

Provision is made in Section 6 for the continuance, as a member of Dáil Eireann, of the Ceann Comhairle. Under the existing law the Ceann Comhairle is deemed to be re-elected when he has not announced to Dáil Eireann, before the dissolution, that he does not desire to become a member of the Dáil which will ensue on the dissolution. Under this Bill, as the election will precede the dissolution, it is necessary to provide for the adaptation of the provisions of the Electoral (Chairman of Dáil Eireann) Act, 1937. Furthermore, in view of the altered procedure, certain forms already prescribed under the principal Electoral Act will require adaptation. Express power to make such adaptations is conferred by Section 7, as well as power to modify the Electoral Acts to expedite the conduct and completion of the elections. I think it will be conceded that, in the particular circumstances of this time, everything should be done to get the counts in the various constituencies completed as expeditiously as possible. We all know at previous general elections in some constituencies the results of counts have been deferred for a week, and possibly even longer. We are anxious that the counting of the votes should proceed simultaneously in all constituencies and that the count should be carried through as speedily as possible. The law relating to the election of the elected members of the Seanad will also require to be adapted so as to secure that the Seanad elections will be completed as soon as possible after the new Dáil assembles, and provision will have to be made so that the newly elected Dáil members will vote at the election of panel members of the Seanad. Section 8 of the Bill provides for that. That is, I think, a very detailed statement of the provisions of this Bill.

Mr. Brennan

As the Minister pointed out, on a recent occasion there was a discussion here on the subject of having no election during the emergency. On that occasion fears were expressed, particularly from this side of the House, that difficulties might arise consequent upon the crisis and that those difficulties would be accentuated nationally if there was no Dáil in existence. Very grave fears were expressed that the consequences might be disastrous if certain steps were deemed necessary to be taken by Dáil Eireann and if at the time there was no Dáil Eireann in existence. I take it this Bill is simply to provide the necessary machinery to ensure that there will be no period or, at least, that there will be only a very short period without the existence of a Dáil, which could be called together if necessary.

When the Minister refers to adaptation of enactments and rules with regard to the conduct of an election, it makes me rather fearful that there might be interference by the Minister with the existing regulations. He said that they would conform as closely as possible to the existing regulations. They will, I am sure, follow the same course—at least they ought to. There does not appear to be any reason why they should do otherwise. Those things always have to be done with meticulous care and people are very anxious that no stones shall be thrown with regard to the conduct of the elections. If the Taoiseach and the President feel that an election can be held, then surely the regulations governing elections, regulations which have governed procedure in the past, can be followed just as closely as in the old days.

I do not think there is anything that calls for special comment at this stage. There are some matters which, in Committee, will have to be clarified, but at the moment, so far as we are concerned, we favour the Bill because we feel that there ought to be no period in the present emergency in which the country will be left without a Dáil, if it should be necessary to summon it. It is questionable if a measure of this sort might not be made a permanent measure. After all, emergencies arise from time to time, emergencies of a different nature. I am not suggesting that it ought be made a permanent measure, but we might possibly form a judgment upon its operation and we might find that, on the whole, it would be better to be in the position, if an emergency of any sort should arise, to call together the elected Parliament of the people to decide on major issues, on matters of very great importance to the country.

There is one matter I want to raise because I do not think it is quite clear from the Bill itself. This Bill is part of the Taoiseach's undertaking to make a general election this year less objectionable than it otherwise would be. Deputy MacEoin, who expressed dissent from the view held by the rest of his Party as to the expediency of holding a general election this year, said that the substance of this Bill would largely remove his objections to the holding of a general election this year. It does not abolish mine. I think that the holding of a general election this year is a very reckless thing. The proper course to pursue, instead of introducing this Bill, would be for the Taoiseach to invite the other Parties in Dáil Eireann to form a national government with him. He is the only man who can do it, but, inasmuch as he has declared that he will not, we are faced with the situation where his will and his will alone is going to prevail. Our job, therefore, is to make the consequences of that extremely reckless decision as little dangerous as we can. If that is the purpose of this Bill—to remove some of the perils involved in the Taoiseach's adamantine refusal to co-operate with anybody except his own tried and trusted yes-men from the Fianna Fáil Party—then, I think, there is something to be said for this Bill.

I do not think the country should be presented with this Bill without being fully advised that its necessity arises from the interesting fact that Eamon de Valera, Taoiseach of Eire, announces that whatever the dangers involved for this country he is damned if he will co-operate with anybody except somebody who is notoriously a yes-man of the Fianna Fáil Party and who, in the last analysis, will do what he tells him. The country ought to be reminded that this Bill is made necessary by the fact that the Taoiseach, Eamon de Valera, has announced that he will not sit in Cabinet with anybody who has an independent mind; that those with whom he sits down at the Cabinet table must give an initial undertaking that, in a last analysis, they will do what de Valera tells them, and if they do not give that undertaking he will not co-operate with them. Well, of course, faced with that situation, unparalleled in any other country in the world at the present time, we must pursue the policy of sauve qui peut.

Judged by that standard there is a good deal to be said for this measure. It is not the first piece of legislation that we have had to pass to insulate the country from the consequences of Eamon de Valera's activities, and I suppose it will not be the last. The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the situation that would develop in the event of this country being involved in a major catastrophe in the middle of a general election. The Minister for Local Government and Public Health has gone so far as to envisage the possibility of an invasion during a general election.

I have not envisaged an invasion during a general election.

Envisage may not be the word, but the Minister allowed to peep forth from the back of his mind a doubt that there might conceivably arise a situation in which the country would be invaded during a general election. I am not suggesting that he spoke of the probability; he envisaged no more than the possibility, but this is a pretty substantial monument to the fact that that apprehension is very real in his mind. If it was a mere phantasmagoria, why introduce a Parliamentary Bill to deal with it? If its purpose was to soothe the ruffled feelings of Deputy MacEoin, then Fianna Fáil is much more soft-hearted than I have ever known it to be. When we speak of the great dangers that surround this country and that possibly might confront us during the holding of a general election, everybody of course knows well what we are thinking of—that the Germans might stage a sea-borne invasion of this country during a general election and catch us on the wrong foot. That is the plain purpose of the Bill. We know that the Minister for Local Government is apprehensive that the Germans will land here in the middle of an election, assassinate the Taoiseach and murder any public men they can put their hands on as they have done in so many countries. With that at the back of his mind, the Taoiseach says: "Even though that danger is one which requires to be provided against, I am damned if I will sit at any table except one with ‘yes' men." It is an interesting thought. Dáil Eireann should not forget it, and the Taoiseach's supporters should not forget it.

These facts being true, let us look at the provision that is being made. We are going to keep the existing Dáil in being, so that in the event of the Germans landing here, we will still have a Government to resist them. Well, that is good. We ought to have a Government to resist them, and Dáil Eireann, which is a democratically elected assembly, is the only assembly fit to provide it. We will provide it, we will resist them, and, with the assistance of the Americans and the British, we will put them out. In order to do that it is vital that this Dáil should be effectively kept in being. The Bill provides that the existing Dáil must come to an end on the expiration of 14 days after polling day.

Sixteen days, unless it is summoned to meet.

But suppose something occurs? If the Germans land, there will be a state of considerable confusion, and in that situation it might be necessary for the Government to summon Dáil Eireann to meet in some provincial centre.

Or the Government might make an Emergency Powers Order.

If the Germans land there will be a great measure of public confusion. It may become necessary to summon Dáil Eireann to meet in some provincial city, in some part of our territory not invaded. Some considerable difficulty may be experienced in getting the Dáil to assemble. What is the purpose of putting in that limitation in an emergency measure? I agree that if this Bill were to become part of the regular law, such a provision might be necessary to provide against bad faith. Would it not be better to provide somewhere that, in the event of the new Dáil not being completed or not being available, and until it did meet, the old Dáil would continue to provide the Government of the country? Is there no form of words we could employ which would ensure that the old Dáil would not go out of existence until the new Dáil actually met.

Deputy Brennan, when speaking, mentioned that the purpose of the Bill clearly was that the period when the Government would be without the support of the Dáil should be a minimum one, apparently a period of 12 or 24 hours. Would it not be as easy to provide that when the Ceann Comhairle, who remains a member of both Dála, owing to his automatic re-election, takes the Chair of the new Dáil the calling of that body to order would operate as the dissolution of the old body, thus ensuring absolute continuity and making it perfectly manifest that unless and until he calls to order a body which he describes from the Chair as the new Dáil, the old Dáil continues to function and that, if the circumstances compelled him to preside over a body of Deputies which was in fact the old Dáil, he would be perfectly free to call the old Dáil to order and proceed to legislate, inasmuch as he had not yet had an opportunity of meeting the new Dáil? That is a very rough outline of what is in my mind and the correct procedure for achieving the end I have in view possibly might be quite different from that which I envisage. But the Minister will take my point. What I wish to secure would be absolute continuity so that, no matter where we met or under what circumstances, so long as the Ceann Comhairle or his representative was present, some Dáil would function which would have full authority to speak on behalf of the Irish people.

There is another point to which I wish to direct the Minister's attention. Section 3 (2) (a) provides:

"Immediately upon the completion of such general election the Clerk of Dáil Eireann shall certify in writing to the Taoiseach that such general election has been completed."

Is the Clerk of Dáil Eireann a corporation sole? Is it not better to say "the Clerk of Dáil Eireann, or a person designated by him" so as to provide, in the event of the Clerk of Dáil Eireann being incapacitated, which God forbid, some person would be permitted to act on his behalf? My experience of both Estimates and Bills is that in providing for these matters there is a tendency to draft them too tightly, so that sometimes you find yourself in an extremely awkward position through having too closely confined the authority to do certain things to an individual public servant, whereas the important thing is to make it obligatory that the thing shall be done by somebody, rather than that some particular public servant shall do it.

We have looked upon this as a machinery Bill. I should like to say in reply to Deputy Dillon that there would be very little danger of an invasion of this country if the invader in it left us alone.

There is just one point I should like to mention. Deputy Brennan suggested, I think, in passing that he would like to see this measure made a permanent measure. I want to register my view that it should be as strictly impermanent as possible, because what I can see emerging from this legislation is a whole series of Dála. We may have two Dála, one that has been in existence if the other Bill which is coming before us providing for a six years period is passed, and another one that is just elected as the result of a general election with members of one Dáil defeated in that general election. What is the position then? We have a Dáil that is still a Dáil, and members who have been defeated at the general election can meet and pass a law extending the life of the Dáil and declaring that the last general election is null and void. I think that we ought to handle this particular type of legislation with very great care and not be misled into thinking that what we have in this actually is some wonderful constitutional discovery. This should be as strictly limited as possible. I do not like the fact that this Bill is extended to the duration of the present national emergency. I agree that it must operate during the present national emergency, but the present national emergency, as defined, may be years after this war is over. I do not know where the Bill will lead us. I think we ought to be very careful indeed. I take the view that this Bill ought to be given a life of one year from the date of its passing.

I do not like to sound a discordant note, but I do not like the Bill at all. Perhaps I might go so far as to say that I do not see any necessity for it. The public will get the impression that there is some terrible danger overhanging us at the moment, that the danger is far larger than it really is. The word "invasion" has been mentioned. We are dealing at the present moment with a most important matter. We are taking out of the hands of the people who sent us here certain rights and powers. Each of us was elected in 1938, or at a by-election since, to serve a definite time in Parliament. Our period of office is to be extended so far as I could make out from the Minister's statement, by a period of 16 days, perhaps more in certain circumstances.

Whether it is only two days, or 16 days, or two months, we are taking upon ourselves something that the people did not intend us to do and we are exercising certain powers which the people did not intend us to have. We have not had a proper explanation, nor are we having a proper discussion, as to what exactly is the danger. I am absolutely tired of going around the country listening to people and having to say things myself. We are all speaking in parables. I want to know what the danger is. In response to the appeal of the Government, I appeared on public platforms in my constituency supporting the setting up of various defence services in this country, but we spoke without exactly knowing what the danger was. Now the position will be that the public will imagine there is some terrific danger overshadowing us at the moment as the result of which we cannot hold a general election. If the danger is great I would be satisfied to let the Government carry on without Parliament, because I do not see how Parliament will function. If we are to talk in concrete phrases and say that the danger is invasion, I wish to say that my opinion is that that is altogether wrong. I do not believe we were ever in danger of invasion from any side. If the Government ever had such information, it can be described as having been very well guarded and, possibly, wisely guarded. So far as the general public are concerned, there is no evidence whatever that there was ever any danger of an invasion. I do not know what emergency exists which should prevent us from holding a general election in the ordinary way. For that reason I think this Bill is not exactly necessary.

The next point is that when the discussion took place here as to whether there should be a general election or not, or whether legislation should be introduced to extend the life of this Parliament owing to the emergency, a number of people advanced the very correct view that those of us who did not belong to the Government Party could not possibly consent to the extension of the life of Parliament as long as Party Government continued in existence. It seems to me that what we are doing here is, that we are saying that we are prepared to remain on as a Parliament after the time when a dissolution should take place and still consent to the existence of a Party Government.

It may be only a small matter. Parliament may exist only for a week or a fortnight after the date due for the dissolution but, at the same time, we would be consenting to the existence of a Party Government at a time when we would in the normal course of events ceased to have functioned as a Parliament. I do not know whether I make myself quite clear on that point. I wish to emphasise that I do not want to be a party to any measure which would suggest the continuance beyond the appropriate date of this Parliament, supporting the existence of a Party Government.

The third matter I would like to refer to is this: This is an emergency measure. This measure is brought in after full consideration by the Government who, with the information they have at their disposal, feel that we are going through very serious times and that these serious times may reach their peak during a general election. I am accepting the proposition that there is a serious emergency, danger of—call it invasion, or anything you like. I am taking it that the Government are accepting the position that they have the country behind them on that. Since this election campaign has opened—because undoubtedly it has opened during the last few weeks —there has gone around the country a whispering campaign to the effect that if the present Government is not returned to power there is a danger that our neutrality will be interfered with; there is danger that we may be invaded and danger that we may be brought into the war. That is a whispering campaign. During the local elections I heard a Government speaker saying words to that effect. He was a candidate going up for local election. He was not a member of this House or of the Seanad but there were members of the Seanad and of this House in the crowd and at that particular meeting.

I think the Government should make it perfectly clear to the country that they deem it necessary to introduce this measure because they consider this is a very serious situation and that these are very serious times, so serious that they consider Dáil Eireann should not come to an end until the new Dáil is elected and ready to function. They should say that the situation is so serious that they appreciate—as they must appreciate— that so far as the members of this House are concerned they are one behind the Government and that the country is one behind the Government and that, so far as any question of altering the Government or any question of any Party having to form a Government is concerned, they have received the fullest support from other Parties in this House and that any such whispering campaign that is going around has no foundation whatsoever in fact.

Support for what?

It is outside the scope of this Bill.

I will relate it in this way, that the reason for this Bill is the existence of an emergency in the country and that we are to have a general election. I respectfully say it is as important to impress upon the public that if there is a danger that that danger is a danger from without and not a danger that is created by any Party inside the country. Deputy Dillon has been very vocal while I was speaking. He mentioned the word "invasion". I will finish on this note, that there is an invasion in this country at the moment; it is in the Six Counties. If he wants to talk about invasion, I will say that is where the invasion is—in the Six Counties.

Mr. Brodrick

Deputy Esmonde referred to a whispering campaign about invasion. That is rather old. There is a new whispering campaign at the present time by Fianna Fáil and their Government, a whispering campaign about a kind of I.R.A. in this country. I do not know if it is travelling about the country, but I do know that it is in the West of Ireland and it is due to the fact that an election is due.

That matter has no relation to the Bill.

Mr. Brodrick

It is only when Deputy Esmonde——

Deputy Esmonde was informed that some of his remarks were irrelevant.

Mr. Brodrick

I will try to come back to the Bill. I know in my own parish two gentlemen who were captured with a new Lee Enfield rifle and were in the barrack for eight days. They were fed and supported by the State for eight days. They belong to no force whatsoever. They were released.

That has absolutely nothing to do with this measure.

Mr. Brodrick

It might not——

Why did not the Deputy raise it on the Vote for the Minister for Justice the other day?

Mr. Brodrick

I did not happen to be here at the time. However, I am raising it now. If the Government want to contradict me, let them, but I know that those men were in the barrack——

That is quite irrelevant.

Mr. Brodrick

I know, but we must have law and order.

Mr. Brodrick

You cannot let men loose, who belong to none of the forces of this country, and who have a new Lee Enfield rifle in their house or in their barns. Two men were released after eight days from the Civic Guard barrack.

I wish to say that I am not prepared to discuss any political issues on this Bill. As has been said already, it is a machinery Bill pure and simple. I do deplore two speeches which were made. I deplore Deputy Dillon's speech and I equally deplore Deputy Esmonde's speech. Deputy Esmonde wants us to tell the country why do we fear invasion and why do we fear the present international situation. We are not in the counsels of any of the belligerents, but we do know that our country occupies a very important strategical position in the theatre of war and that, so long as it does that——

I said I am prepared to leave it to the Government.

——we must be apprehensive, and everybody in this country must be apprehensive as to the future course of events here. It is because this House is naturally apprehensive in that regard that the suggestion was made that, since the general election must be held, some procedure should be devised which would minimise and diminish the possibility of danger to the utmost extent possible. That is the reason for the Bill. I did not suggest that this Bill was brought in because we were in danger of actual invasion. Deputy Dillon is apparently incapable of apprehending what another person says. But what I did say was this, that it was necessary for the Government in certain circumstances to act with the Dáil, that if, for instance, an invasion took place it would be necessary to summon the Dáil. That is a long way from saying that an invasion is imminent, as Deputy Dillon suggested.

I did not say "imminent"; I said "possible".

I want to get away from that for a moment and to say that I agree with what Deputy Costello said. I think that the operation of this Bill should be limited to the shortest possible time. We have tried to do that, but I think that it would not be rational to limit it for a shorter period than the continuance of the present emergency. If at any time there is a feeling in the House that a briefer period should be put to the currency of the provisions contained in the Bill, no doubt, an amending Bill can be brought in for that purpose.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take the Committee Stage?

This Bill will have to go to the Seanad at a very early date and I should like to put down the Committee Stage for to-morrow. I quite realise that Deputies might like to consider the provisions of the Bill after the statement I have made in regard to it and, while putting it down for to-morrow—if the House permits— I would not propose to take it before Friday, if the House is sitting.

Mr. Brennan

It would be very unfair to ask the House to take the Committee Stage now. This is, admittedly, a machinery Bill, but it is very involved machinery and the Bill has been only in our hands for a couple of days. It would be treating the House with contempt to ask it to take the Committee Stage to-morrow.

The Deputy is unfair to me. I said that I would put it down for to-morrow and I suggested that it might be taken on Friday if the House is meeting on that day, as it probably will. If we do not get the Committee Stage on Friday, we shall not have it until a week or ten days after Easter. It will then have to go to the Seanad which may make changes in it, so that it would have to be considered here again. I am anxious to get all the arrangements for the election in train at the earliest date possible. Deputy Brennan has already indicated the natural desire of his Party, that whatever adaptations are made, the new procedure should conform as closely as possible with the old. I cannot make any orders or arrangements under this Bill until it becomes law.

If it will help you to get the election over, we will give it to you to-morrow.

I shall put it down for to-morrow and if Deputy Mulcahy indicates to the Chief Whip that he is prepared to let the Bill go without amendment, we shall be glad to take it.

Committee Stage ordered for Thursday, 15th April.