Last night, before the Adjournment, I was about to refer to a book written by Professor Hogan and published in 1945. That book was introduced in this debate as an argument for the abolition of P.R. Before I deal with that I should like to refer to another matter which arises at this stage. The Taoiseach's main argument, having made a very feeble case, was: "Let the people decide." All right. Let the people decide. I spoke for one hour last night. This morning I read the three morning papers which were conveying to the people what I said. The Irish Times gave me about eight square inches, the Irish Independent gave me seven and the Irish Press gave me one and a quarter square inches.
An Bille um an Tríú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1958— an Dara Céim (Atógáil). Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1958— Second Stage (Resumed).
That does not arise.
The Deputy is lucky to get one and a quarter from the Irish Press.
Will Deputy Sherwin resume his seat? The manner in which the metropolitan Press deals with Deputy Sherwin's speech is no concern of this House and is not relevant to the matter before the House.
Surely, in view of the fact that it is controlled by the Taoiseach——
It is not relevant to anything before the House.
This is a House of Parliament and what I say is intended for the people.
The Deputy will proceed to discuss what is before the House and not what the Press of Dublin does in regard to his statement.
The opinions of the people are certainly before the House because it is on the opinions of the people that this Bill will be decided, not by this House. This is only a preliminary to the referendum. It is the opinion of the people that counts. I am trying to get to those people. I will not proceed with that but I maintain that the people are the State, not this House, and I am trying to reach the people. I am not able to do so. I am, in a limited way, but that is my point, that the people will not be able to judge fairly if somebody tries to crowd me out.
This House has no control over the metropolitan Press. What they publish and do not publish is their concern.
All right. I will accept that but, if the Press injures liberty, they have as much right to be dealt with by this House as any illegal association. If I were not depending on the Press, I would not be here and thanks to the Evening Mail I am here.
I was about to quote last night, before the Adjournment, Professor Hogan's book which I have here and which I read before Deputy O'Malley, perhaps, read it. I have gone through the whole book. Professor Hogan dealt with the whole subject fairly, as things should be dealt with by the Press and by this House. He summed up all that is good in P.R. and all that is good in the straight vote system and he struck a happy medium. He said that perhaps a modified form of P.R. would be the best but he was against the abolition of P.R. That was not said in this House and, if a one-sided view is to be put before the people, the people cannot decide. That justifies, not only a free Press, but an Independent in this House.
I quote now from a book entitled Election and Representation by Professor James Hogan, Professor of History, published in 1945:—
"It is probable that, for example, in Ireland an outright return to the majority system would enable the present Government Party not merely to survive to a ripe old age but to go on governing even after it had declined into a state of dotage. In these hypothetical circumstances, and indeed under present circumstances, there is much to be said for having in Parliament at least a few Independents, who, because they have minds of their own and are free to speak them, can become the medium for expressing unpalatable but salutary truths and opinions. However bitter in the mouth for the Party leaders, and however unpopular with large sections of the electorate, such plain speaking is essential to the elasticity of thought which is an indispensable condition of an alert, fearless, and freely developing public opinion. With but a very limited measure of P.R., Parliament will continue to be accessible to the brilliant individualist, whereas a complete return to the majority system would be bound to turn it into a preserve for Party men only."
The whole book deals with that subject, giving both sides. My point is that both Parties in this House are concerned with putting only one side. I am not wanted here. The people are to be confused. The Press is to be gagged.
We are told all about the countries that have the straight vote system but not of the small countries, of which we are one, which have the P.R. system. The 1916 Proclamation says that we will cherish all the children equally. The Constitution says that all Parties are guaranteed the right of association without prejudice to their political views. If, under this Bill, some small Party is to be kept out of this House, how can they have the right of assembly without prejudice when what is proposed here is prejudiced?
The Taoiseach, speaking on the 1st February, 1933, as reported in the Irish Press said: “If we get power we shall give free and equal rights to all citizens.” That is what the Taoiseach said when he was looking for power. I repeat it: “If we get power we shall give free and equal rights to all citizens.” Surely this proposal justifies the Northern junta? One of our main arguments has been that the minority in the North were not getting their due representation. Surely we cannot now have any face before those people in the future. We have surrendered our cause because our main argument was the disfranchisement in the North of a large section of the people.
As I said yesterday, it is now quite possible that a large number of the citizens here, as evidenced by recent by-elections, will not vote at all. It is now evident that only about half the people voted in recent by-elections. It may be the case that by the abolition of P.R. a Government might be returned by 20 per cent. of the electorate. The votes of the other 30 per cent. would be divided between the other two Parties and so a Government would be in office that would have the support of only 20 per cent. of the people.
There was a Party in power in Spain representing only a minority of the people when Franco declared civil war. What justification will you have if the majority of the people decide to defy you as they may very well do? What will you do if they tell you that you have the support of only 20 per cent. or 30 per cent. of the electorate and that you have not the authority of the law? Even de Gaulle set up a system under which, if a person did not get a majority, there would be a second election in order to give people time to consider the position and withdraw. A Government elected in that way would be able to claim that there was a substantial number of the people behind them. If 50 per cent. of the people do not vote, you will have a Government elected by 20 per cent. of them. How then will you deal with Sinn Féin if they say that you have not the authority of the law and that they will defy you?
I say that this proposal is dangerous in a country divided as we are. The only section of the Constitution that has anything democratic about it at all is that which states that P.R. should be the system of election. It gives a person the right to stand for election to this House. Look at the other sections dealing with elections. Take the one dealing with the election of the President. A man has to get the support of 20 Members of the Oireachtas before he can stand. That means that two Parties can decide on their own who is to be President and there can be no election. That has happened already. The late Alfie Byrne, who was Lord Mayor of this city for 10 years, went forward and got the support of a number of Deputies but because he could not get the support of 20 he could not stand. Only a representative of the Government or of the Opposition could get the required 20 and therefore the Presidency is the property of two groups. I have a right to stand for President if I want to. When the Press referred to me this morning it looked as if I were talking about myself. I want the Press to know that I may talk for myself but I do not work for myself.
I told the Deputy before that he ought to confine himself to the Bill. He is travelling very wide of it.
Something was said about O'Connell. He justified himself because he was fond of asserting himself.
I do not understand that but if the Deputy will confine himself to the terms of the Bill that is wide enough.
We now deal with the right to vote. When you are 21 you can vote and when you are 18 you cannot vote but if there were war to-morrow it would be the fellows of 18 who would be doing the fighting. The majority of the I.R.A. were under 21. They could not vote but they fought.
Surely that is not in the Bill.
It is all part and parcel of what is not in the Bill. The one section of the Constitution that gives people an opportunity and gives them certain rights is to be deleted.
I have given the Deputy a good deal of latitude. He is wearing my patience.
I shall try to avoid that, Sir. I am told that when all power rests in the hands of a few it encourages corruption. I know that in politics there is a good deal of corruption. I have experience, not of corrupting, but of corruption. I am a member of the corporation and I know all the corruption that goes on there. Only last year, in a nice way, I was offered a trip to America.
If the Deputy persists in that line of argument, I shall have to ask him to resume his seat and discontinue his contribution.
One of the main arguments for the Bill is that it will give stability. We all know that there is bargaining in a Coalition Government. But even in one Party there is bargaining. Even in one Party there must be bargaining behind the scenes. It may be done quietly in that case and more openly in a Coalition Government. I am quite certain that the Taoiseach can assert his authority in his own Party but I am not so sure that, when someone else takes over the honour, he will be able to assert his authority without bargaining. I know there must have been some bargaining in the Government when one Minister retired and his son came in in his place.
The Deputy must resume his seat. He is travelling very wide of the Bill and he has deliberately ignored my instructions.
All right, Sir. I humbly apologise.
The Deputy has done that on several occasions already.
I shall not offend again. I want to put the case that there can be bargaining among one Party. Deputies will have read of the bargaining that goes on in England. The Labour Party there differed on the question of the atom bomb and on the question of the death penalty and there was practically strife amongst the Party. In any case, I believe that there is a section of the Constitution which can lead to the differences which existed in the Coalition period.
There is a section in the Constitution which makes everyone aware of a danger and which causes distrust. It is the clause under which the Taoiseach can go to the Park and ask the President to dissolve the Dáil. Let us say there are two or three Parties and all the Parties have a policy which they say is for the good of the people— there is not a great deal of difference between the policies of the Parties— and if they agree to adopt something that is the pet policy of a Party at least it will be something that a large section of the people want. At the same time, as was proved, there is a certain awareness, a certain distrust. Each Party would like to be the Government Party but, all the time they are deciding on policy, they are worrying about how they will stand in the next election. There is a certain distrust and the fear that the Party holding the office of Taoiseach may rush to the Park when it suits them.
Clann na Poblachta tried to assert their authority and they acted like opportunists. They thought the time was ripe to bring down the Government and that they would be able to become the Government. That was largely based on the feeling that if they did something which would force the Taoiseach to go to the President they would succeed. This clause in the Constitution had a lot to do with this distrust and this lack of cohesion during the lifetime of the Coalition Governmnt. Let us suppose that the power was not there. Let us suppose that a Government must last for five years. Each Party would then say: "Nobody can pull a fast one. Let us work hard and then in the last two months of the five years we may try to pull off something." But for the best part of the five years they will work hard.
What has all this to do with P.R.?
The Taoiseach's main argument was that a Coalition Government cannot work and he pointed out exactly what I have pointed out. He says that one Party only can give stability. If the people must have elections more often than they should, what great harm is that? At least the people will be the deciding factor all the time, whereas the people are not the deciding factor at this moment. It could well be said that the Government does not represent the people so it is not a lot of harm for a Party to go to the people every time they seem to differ and say to them: "Now what do you want?" I do not see much harm in that. It is better to do that than that we should have people going around with guns in their hands.
The well-known writer, Mr. De Vere White, referred to the danger of nepotism in politics. That has a bearing on this question. He said that when all power rested with the few all honours would go to the few. That is a danger. I am not one to refer to men and to the fact that their sons hold office. I would probably like my son to be in the Dáil but that is not the point. It can be overdone. O'Connell had eight of his family in Parliament. I am not saying that he was himself responsible for that. There were plenty of his followers who thought he would like that.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce said one of the Parties here was surplus and that they had no justification for their existence. He said that the Labour Party were the natural Opposition. That is right; I shall accept that. However, according to Professor Hogan if there had been a straight vote in 1932 there would not have been one Labour man returned to this House, and he was a man who went into the matter in detail. But what does the Tánaiste mean? He wants to blot out the Labour Party. That is what would happen. Perhaps one or two might get back. The question of a surplus Party cuts two ways and we shall not forget that.
Admittedly on appearances, the Opposition now is a surplus Party but Fianna Fáil might be a surplus Party in a few years' time, especially if P.R. were maintained. That is the real reason for this Bill. After all, when the Taoiseach passes from the scene— I hope he will live for a very long time —the Party will miss his influence. Then they cannot say that they will do any better than the Opposition. It will be a question of who will have the leadership or who will decide which Party will become the surplus Party.
I could speak for two weeks from the voluminous notes, most of which I have memorised and which I have studied carefully for 30 or 40 years. I could argue with any man but, with all respect, I do not accept that this is the best means of making one's case. Another member can get up after me and perhaps misrepresent me, or even tell a fib, and I shall not be able to question it. If I do, the Ceann Comhairle will tell me to sit down or to leave the House. I consider that the best kind of debate would be that which Lincoln had with Douglas on the question of the Union of the States. On that occasion both men stood up, man to man, each answering the other, until finally the audience knew all the facts for themselves. That is the kind of debate I would like and I am confident that I would hold my own in it. If the Taoiseach thinks a little more stability is required, I would appeal to him not to take such a violent course as to abolish P.R. As one fair-minded Deputy said: "There is a happy medium." It must be remembered that while this proposal might give stability, it might also give tyranny. Just as in the case of General de Gaulle, who has given dictatorial powers to the President, the Taoiseach may be careful, but when de Gaulle goes, a bully may come in his place and bullying is always answered in the same way. That is why I suggest a happy medium. Do not deny other people their rights; do not say: "Only we shall represent the people", but rather let everyone, according to his ability, participate in public representation. This Bill denies that right; this Bill says: "Let the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Parties alone survive. We shall put insurmountable obstacles in the way of any others." It declares, as did King Louis of France: "I am the State." But you are not; the people are.
I am rather amazed at the length of time taken to discuss P.R. here, particularly by the Fine Gael Party which always claims to be anxious about the will of the people. We have spent a fortnight now trying to prevent the people expressing their will in this matter. Let us be clear about that. This Bill, if passed by the Dáil cannot become law. It goes by referendum to the people and the people will decide whether the present system of P.R. is to be continued or whether we are to have a change. It is the people and nobody else who will decide, and all this holdup is because certain people here do not want the issue to go to the people.
I have definite views on what the membership of this House would be, if there were straight voting. My views are very different from those which have been expressed here. You have the example of Deputy Sherwin who was elected in a by-election by a straight vote of the people as against all political Parties, and he got in here. That is one example of straight voting. As one almost 30 years here now— which is a fairly long spell—I can go back and examine what has happened. I went into a one-in-five constituency, and, by good hard work, I succeeded in making that a two-in-five constituency the next year. When I came very near getting it a three-in-five constituency the territory I had cultivated and brought into good heart was taken from me and handed over to other Deputies, and a rural area that had been tacked on to a city constituency was given me instead. A countryman in that area came to me later and said that he had written to his local T.D. about a heifer loan and that he had got a letter back saying that his T.D. had seen the Minister and that he would hear all about his Dáil loan next week. I had to hold my new area for ten more years and when I had brought that into some kind of shape. I was told it would hold two after my work. I was duly given a second and I brought him over the sticks. That was the second round.
The Deputy is not as grateful as Deputy Sherwin, seemingly.
Then after a further ten years, they had another look at the territory they had taken from me and said: "The place we took from Deputy Corry has gone into fenland and mud again", so it was handed back to me and I had to get to work and recultivate it. When I had done that, I was told that we should have two seats there and I brought in two, and that is the situation now, thank God. When a person has been carrying ballast for any Party on his back for a long number of years, it is about time he got a clean sheet. I say that any Deputy who does his job in this House and does his job for his people here and outside, no matter what Party he belongs to, will not be put out, either in a straight vote or a crooked one. He is in no danger.
I believe P.R. should have gone 20 years ago. The only two people who agreed on that, it seems, were Deputy Dillon and myself, but Deputy Dillon spent two hours yesterday attacking the abolition of P.R. Let us see what happened. In this House on November 12, 1947, Deputy Dillon said:—
"P.R. is, in fact, as we all know in our hearts, the child of the brains of all the cranks in creation. So far as this country is concerned, it was tried out on the dog. I doubt if any other sane democratic country in the world has put it into operation in regard to its Parliament.... It was foisted upon us by a collection of half-lunatics who believed that they had something lovely that would work on paper like a jig-saw puzzle, but like all these crank ideas in operation, it has resulted here in an election in 1931, an election in 1932, an election in 1938, an election in 1939, an election in 1943, and an election in 1944."
That is the view of a man who spent two hours last night telling us that P.R. should not be abolished. Is there any sense or reason in this House, or is it just a place for this kind of moonshine where a playboy may come in and spend two hours telling us the evils that would follow the abolition of P.R.? He said:—
"If you are going to have P.R., it is perfectly obvious that you should have five- or seven-seat constituencies. Personally, I think P.R. is a fraud and a cod and it ought to be abolished."
That was Deputy Dillon's view, as expressed here on 12th November, 1947. Has he the brains of a little wren? He said then:—
"I believe in the single member constituency, with the transferable vote, so that the man who gets the support of the largest number of people living in the constituency will represent the constituency."
That was Deputy Dillon's view as expressed in this House.
He went back to a period which I do not think any decent man in this country wants to remember, a period which many people would like to forget. James Dillon came into this House as leader of one of these Parties which he is afraid now will be abolished. He was the leader of the Centre Party in this House. He succeeded in collecting a number of others and brought them in here. After six months, all that was left of that Party was the late ex-Deputy Kent, sitting there alone, representing the farmers of this country, and James and Company had sold out.
Deputy Dillon should be referred to as Deputy Dillon.
Deputy Dillon had sold out and was sitting there as a shadow Minister. Deputy Dillon comes here and talks about the freedom of speech that would not be allowed him but for the Blueshirts who supported him, helped him and assisted him, but the unfortunate man who remained true to the Party in whose interest he was elected, ex-Deputy Kent, saw the same Blueshirt brigade pulled around from farmyard to farmyard——
On a point of order, I take it we will all be entitled to refer to this period when we speak? It will be a very interesting debate.
That would be quite disorderly. I am asking Deputy Corry to leave that.
Would it not be desirable if nobody talked about the Blueshirts or such matters here?
The Minister for Defence and the Minister for External Affairs started it. Surely we will be entitled to refer to the Blueshirts, too?
Other Deputies have referred to the Blueshirts, too.
So will I when I rise in a few moments, and I will tell the Minister the number of Blueshirts he has commissioned in the Army.
Deputy Corry must keep to the terms of the Bill before the House.
I am giving an example of what did happen to one of those small Parties who came into this House, whose leaders deserted them and whose sole representative here found himself down the country with a team of men——
The Deputy will pass on to the Bill before the House and leave that section of Irish history out of it.
May I refer to the statement made here last night by Deputy Dillon about the mobs led by Deputies? Am I allowed to allude to the mob who burned the house of Deputy Paddy Murphy—those peaceful, blue-shirted citizens?
The Deputy is allowed to allude to something that is relevant to this Bill, and only that.
I am dealing with the statement made here last night by Deputy Dillon that he had to march up O'Connell Street in Limerick and nothing would have got him up that street alive "but the ranks of blue-shirted men on either side of me, protecting me from the consistent, sustained and malevolent attacks of Fianna Fáil mobs, and led by Fianna Fáil Deputies."
As I said, this is a matter which none of us wishes to remember. None of us wishes to remember a period in which a bunch of Irishmen endeavoured to sell out this nation to John Bull.
No one wants to remember that. They do not like to think about it and I do not wish to remember it, as I am sure others do not. Deputy Dillon was allowed last night, and I heard him here, to express his views and to blow himself into a heat, cool down again, blow up again into steam and cool down again for nearly two hours on his hatred of this House doing now what he appealed to it to do in 1947. Deputy Dillon alluded to the benefit this nation got from a Coalition Government and from the coming together of all these teams. I well remember a couple of questions I asked after the ball was over. On 23rd April, 1952, I asked the Minister for Finance: "If he will state (1) the total amount payable and paid in interest and sinking fund in the financial year 1947-48 and (2) the total amount payable in interest and sinking fund in the financial year 1952-53."
Now, Sir, it must be remembered that from 1923 to 1948, we had 25 years of this Parliament. Cumann na nGaedheal were there for a number of years and Fianna Fáil for a number of years. After those 25 years, the total amount payable in interest and sinking fund was £4,224,000.
Neither the financial position of the State nor the alleged bad administration of Governments arises on this Bill.
We were told last night of the benefits that fell to agriculture and industry and every other activity during three years of Coalition government.
I cannot allow the Deputy to proceed on that basis. If I did Deputies could traverse the administration of all Governments since this State was established. I shall not allow that.
Surely if one Deputy was allowed to point out here the benefits, as he said, the country got from a Coalition Government——
The administration of Governments does not arise on this.
I do not want to discuss the administration of Governments; I want to discuss the results of their administration.
The Deputy is referring to some financial difficulties.
No, Sir. All I am concerned with is the fact that £4,000,000 per annum was paid in interest and sinking fund in 1948 and there was a sum of £10,500,000 when the boys ran.
Surely that is a matter of Government policy and the administration of Government policy.
They are going to borrow £220,000,000 in five years.
The Deputy will pass from the administration of Governments and deal with what is in the Bill.
Very good, Sir. Let us take what we have seen happening under these Governments and what we have seen happening under the present system of P.R. representation. We have five or six different Parties in the House now. I was amazed to hear Deputy Blowick admit that if there were an election to-morrow morning over 100 Fianna Fáil Deputies would be elected and only 27 Opposition Deputies. It is the most amazing thing I ever heard, that a Government Party that must have made a lot of enemies in their time would win all the seats in all the constituencies except 27. That is a most amazing and surprising admission. I do not see that condition of affairs coming at all.
I do not see any danger of it. I do not care what political team comes down to my area. I will kick them out. That applies not only to me but to any Deputy who is doing his job for his constituency.
This business of political Parties has burst and the sooner that is realised the better. In future, people will elect the man who will work for them, who will look after their interests and who will not be afraid to speak on their behalf. That is the type of man who will be elected in the future to this House, whether he is from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Labour Party or any other Party.
What I object to in regard to the small Parties is what happens. Ever since I came into this House, I have seen how many sold out. You had, after the second-last election, a picture drawn by a Deputy of what happened outside a Deputy's house the night before the Taoiseach was elected. The leaders of one Party were outside knocking at the door of his house. They wanted him to vote a certain way and that vote was going to decide which of the two Parties would be in office. How low does a thing like that bring political life or the public institutions of the State. Here you had two leaders of a Party knocking at the door, walking into a Deputy's house and asking how much did he want for his vote the following day. He would be made a Minister. That is what happened.
Those are the conditions under which a Government can be elected under the P.R. system. There is no danger for small Parties under the straight vote system. Let us take the Labour Deputy as an example. No man can tell me that, if one-third of South Cork were carved out to-morrow, Deputy Desmond would not get a seat. He would, in spite of anything. No one can tell me that Deputy McAuliffe would not be elected.
Not if he could help it.
I know the Deputy does his work, and any Deputy who works will be elected. It is the fellow who will not look after his constituents who will get in once or twice but never afterwards.
No. This is the third or fourth time that I have had Deputy Moher as a colleague. He does his job.
It is not a nice thing to say about him.
What will happen to the team which travelled round in a motor-car from booth to booth on polling day from an early hour to tell the fellow at the gate: "So-and-So is all right. We want two seats; vote for the weak man"? I have been round to them all and I know what happens. What will become of them? What I speak of happens in every constituency where two men are going forward.
I do not think Deputy Donegan does that.
Deputy O'Sullivan should keep quiet. I think he would be well advised to take the tip. How many times have we seen the results of what I refer to? If you get two out of three in enough constituencies, you will be on this side of the House and the other fellow will be on the other side.
It does not matter how you do it.
What will happen under the P.R. system? I saw where William Kent, God rest his soul, was sixth and the seventh was elected. A man belonging to a political Party votes one and two for the two members of his own Party and to show what he thinks of the rest he gives his No. 3 vote to the fellow he hates most. Is that not what happens?
Some 1,300 votes went from the farmers' candidate in East Cork to a lady down in Cobh.
That is a nice reference in this House.
I do not understand what this is all about.
Deputy Sweetman should understand the position. He got a tight run the last time.
He understands that all right. Deputy Sweetman will be here, whether there is P.R. or not.
Fine Gael, Labour or any Party can come down to whatever spot I pick out myself and I will get them out. That is a fair offer. I promise another thing. If I can judge what will happen in future under this Bill, knowing the Deputy, but not knowing what will happen in his constituency, I think I can prophesy that his Party, will come back in sufficient numbers to establish a Government. If there is a lazy fellow now, who does not bother about his constituents, he will be found out and he will get the road. Make no doubt about that. However, that is only one side of the picture.
There is another aspect to it. Of what are those who oppose this Bill so afraid? Why are they afraid to face the people? This Bill is for the purpose of affording the people an opportunity of deciding under what kind of system they will elect their representatives. Are those who oppose it so much afraid of the people that they do not want the people to be consulted? Is that what is wrong? All this Bill will do is ask the people to choose between P.R. and the straight vote. There are Deputies here who described P.R. as a fraud and a cod, something introduced here by lunatics. So afraid are those Deputies of facing the people that one of them spent two hours here last night condemning this Bill, a Bill which proposes to wipe out the fraud and the cod. This Bill will not wipe out big Parties. In my opinion, it will have the opposite effect to what a great many speakers here think it will have.
Including the Taoiseach.
Any Deputy who has looked after his constituents properly will have no trouble in being re-elected, irrespective of what political badge he wears.
What about the man who is going up for the first time?
If a Deputy falls asleep after he is elected and only wakes up when the next general election comes round he will deserve anything he gets. Under P.R., he gets a second lease of life; he will not gets a second lease under this Bill. The dodgers, the sleepyheads and the lazy representatives will get the road.
That does not apply in England.
There is where the change will be. I cannot understand why these people are so excited. Very few of them must be doing their job properly. Deputy Dillon made a lot of noise here last night. I know Deputy Dillon does not bother about his constituents from the time he is elected to the time he has to go back to them again, and that is the reason why he made all the noise here last night.
That is not true.
Did Deputy O'Sullivan read what Deputy Dillon said about P.R.? Did he hear him last night? What does he think of him now?
It was a magnificent speech.
A Deputy comes in here and spends two hours defending something in which he does not believe and in which he has no faith. He described it as a fraud and a cod. If he thinks it is his duty now to come in here and defend what he described as a fraud and a cod in 1947, then I think we would be the better for his absence.
P.R. as debauched by Fianna Fáil.
He did not qualify it.
Deputy Dillon said P.R. was introduced by half lunatics. He said it was tried out on the dog. He said no country in the world would have it but ourselves. I will send that speech over to Deputy O'Sullivan, if he wishes to see it.
I have it.
Read it then, and see if it is possible to justify a Deputy occupying two hours of the time of this House defending what he called a fraud here. How can he defend it? It is no wonder some people are afraid as to the respect that will be shown for the institutions of this State.
We have heard a good deal about people understanding P.R. Now, there was an old woman in my constituency who had no reason to have any great love for me. The boys got at her three weeks before the election to show her how to vote. They warned her, and warned her, and warned her. They were at the door of the polling booth the day she voted and, as she was coming out, one of them caught her by the arm and said: "I hope you did it right.""Oh," she said, "I only gave that Corry one vote and I gave Barry five." That is what happens. Anyone who goes to see the count has a fairly good idea of the kind of voting that goes on. For example, poor Bill Broderick got 1,000 over the quota, and, on the redistribution system, I got those 1,000 No. 2's, and we were both in opposite camps.
I suppose that is why Waterford was given Youghal. Gerrymandering!
That is how Deputy O'Sullivan succeeded is coming in here. He had a couple of "fooleens" in North Cork. I ask the Deputy not to interrupt me. I do not want to say things that may hurt him.
We have seen what has happened. I am not at all surprised at the people who tried to foment a Fascist revolution here being afraid to have the will of the people consulted now. I am trying to be reasonable in my approach, but it is very difficult to remain reasonable, in the light of what we had to listen to here last night. I have endeavoured to approach this matter in the light of present-day circumstances. I firmly believe that there would be very little change in this House after a general election held on the straight vote system to-morrow except that a certain number of passengers, who are not paying their fares, would disappear.
I have examined the matter thoroughly. I could spend hours explaining where second preferences went and where third preferences went and all that kind of tripe. I do not believe in it.
Consider the relief it will be to the ordinary representative here. If a Deputy is looking after something in his constituency he will not have two other Deputies putting in their noses and saying: "I shall look after it with you." If a Deputy gets a job done for his constituency, such as having a grant made available, an industry established, or something else, he will not have a political organisation coming along three weeks or a month afterwards and thanking some other fellow for getting it. That is what is happening at present under P.R. That will not happen. The Deputy will have his own constituency and it will be his job to look after it. If he does not look after it while he is a member of Parliament, he will not have the chance of looking after it again because, if he does not do his job right, he will get the boot at the next election. He will not survive a second election if he does not do his job. That is the way I regard this matter and I have a fair idea of it.
Above everything else, I do not like Coalitions. The present system leads too much to Coalitions, leads too much to conglomeration and to the kind of picture that, unfortunately, was drawn in this House a while ago of leaders of a Party knocking at the door of a Deputy's house asking: "How much do you want for your vote? We shall make you Minister for Health if you will vote for our man."
Where is that?
It is on the records of the House.
Where is that quotation from?
Let Deputy O'Sullivan read it.
Who is the Deputy? Read it.
Go down and read it in the Library.
Is he in Mountjoy?
If it is in the reports of the House, the Deputy should say which report it is.
The Deputy is not quoting. If he were quoting he would be required to give the reference.
He purports to quote.
I am giving examples of what happens under this maxium-gatherum and the price paid. There were seven or eight votes there belonging to the unfortunate farmers of this country. The price was, one a Minister and another a Parliamentary Secretary.
Were they not entitled?
Nobody is talking about anybody's entitlement. I consider that I am entitled to be Taoiseach or——
Or Minister for Agriculture.
What one is entitled to is a matter of opinion, but if I walked in with five votes, or even two votes, and those votes were to decide which two men were to sit on one side or the other here, I know the price I would ask and the price I would get.
We know what the Deputy got.
There is no use talking tripe of that description. It has been done and we have had that disgraceful picture drawn in this House of what did happen under that system. Let us be logical and look facts in the face. I do not grudge any group of Parties coming in here and forming a Government. I do not care. I think it is bad to have one Party too long in Government. It is the worst thing that could happen in any country.
Against that, you have the other picture that I drew here, the picture of a country being governed fairly, safely and everything being looked after, where, after 25 years of Government, you were paying £4,000,000 a year interest and principal on debt and a maximum-gatherum crowed came in and put it up to £10,000,000 in three years.
The administration of Governments does not arise on the Bill.
It is the effects of that Government, the effects of a maxium-gatherum team——
Arising out of administration?
——who borrowed £19,000,000 in three years.
The Deputy should get away from references to economics.
These are the things that count with the people—the results of P.R., what it does and how it works out in the final analysis, where every man has his price and, if you refuse to pay, you have the Taoiseach running to the Park. On the day you refuse to pay the price demanded by any one of the little splinters, the Taoiseach will have to run to the Park. I saw Deputy Oliver Flanagan there having to talk for a day and a half so that the Taoiseach would get an opportunity of going, to the Park, that he would not be kicked out here before he would go. We all saw that. As soon as they found that one of the splinters was gone, that one of the sticks propping up the menagerie was gone, there was immediate consultation with Deputies who were sick to know if they would be able to come. Failing that, an unfortunate Deputy in those benches was condemned to speak for a whole day, and half a day.
Would the Deputy allow me to comment on that?
The Deputy can make all the comment he likes when I have finished. Comment away.
These are the things that did happen.
The Deputy might explain another thing—why the average life of a Fianna Fáil Government was less than the average life of an inter-Party Government. What section forced Mr. de Valera to go so repeatedly to the Park?
That is one of the evils of P.R. I remember being here one time and my legs were worn from galloping up that stairs. I remember the first time I came over here I saw a poor Deputy flying out of Buswell's Hotel, with his coat thrown on his arm and one half of his face shaved and the other half lathered. He was running across here to vote.
We know that was Deputy Corry.
I am giving facts.
The Deputy is looking into the mirror now.
I am not.
We know it was the Deputy. We all know that.
It was not.
It was one of the jokes of the century.
It was not.
How does this arise on the Bill?
You have the position under this system that it takes two elections to give the people an opportunity of deciding whether they will get rid of a certain crowed or not. They decided on the second round. That is why we had general elections in 1932 and 1933 and in 1943 and 1944. Deputy Dillon told the truth on that. Fancy being in here as a member of a Party, as we were for a couple of years, depending on the Ceann Comhairle's casting vote. The first time we came in here we thought we had hunted them until John Jinks disappeared.
Is that why you changed the Ceann Comhairle?
The Deputy is only a baby in this thing. How long ago is it since there was a vote of no confidence in the then Government and one member of a Party disappeared in order to give the Taoiseach, or the President as he was then, a chance of running to the country? That was in June, 1927, after a general election and we had another election in September, 1927. John Jinks saved the day that time. You had those things happening all along the line. Two men sitting up there could decide who was to be Taoiseach. They could belong to whatever Party they liked to call themselves. We have seen a lot of these Parties coming and going here.
Then you have the wretched spectacle of the purchase and the purchase price. As soon as that is over you have the retainer which must be paid to each Party in the shape of policy to enable the Government to continue. That is what has happened. You have poor Deputy Corish saying that they could have relieved unemployment were it not that he could not get agreement with the rest of them. That was because each Party had its retainer to get and had to get it. Those are the things that are happening under the present system.
I am a firm believer in a man having charge of his constituency and looking after it. If he does not look after it, let him go back to the people and they will deal with him. How many people have we seen coming in here for one or two terms and then going out for ever? You have those changes happening in every constituency. You have often seen that happening with small Parties who go to the people and say: "Here is our programme. Everything you want in the world is there. The Garden of Eden is there only for you to come into it." They are elected. They come in here, as Deputy Dillon came in here, and they sit down as leader of a Party and then, after three months, negotiations take place, the price is paid, and they are over there. The poor innocent man whom they succeeded in taking away had to sit down alone as a sole representative left of a Party of eight. That was poor Deputy Bill Kent, God rest his soul. He was the only man who was not for sale, who had no purchase price. We know what they did then. I personally had to go down 18 miles and bring my men with me to do that man's threshing.
The Deputy should make an effort to come to the Bill. The threshing of corn does not come into it.
I am very much on the Bill, Sir. I am pointing out what happens to members of small Parties who do not follows their leader. I do not wish to go further into it. I have put up my reasons for supporting the Bill. I am prepared to support, at any time, the judgment of the people. Let the people judge. They are good judges. I have survived 14 general elections and that is a pretty good record. I did it because, instead of being a slavish member of a Party, I have put my constituents first. Any Deputy who does that need not be afraid. Either with single member constituencies or any other system of election such Deputies will come back here.
Listening here for the past few weeks to the debate on this proposed change in the Constitution I wondered what is behind the Bill before the House. Knowing the inner workings of the Fianna Fáil Party, I wonder what is the real reason for the Bill. There are two lines of thought I could turn to on the matter. The first is that when Fianna Fáil appealed to the people in the last election they asked for a majority strong enough to carry out a programme which they laid before the people. That programme was one of more work, less emigration, better prices for the farmer and an increase in old age pensions. That programme eventually led the people to decide that, on those promises, Fianna Fáil were entitled to a bigger majority in this House.
Having got that the majority and having been almost two years in office, nothing was done about that programme which they laid before the people and now we have this Constitution Bill. That makes me wonder whether this Bill was brought in to try to take the minds of the people off the serious issues facing the country at the present time. Listening to the various speakers from the Government benches—and I must say there were very few speakers from those benches—I was struck by the fact that they confined their remarks to the following of leaders of various Parties. I have been following this debate very closely for the past three weeks and I was not surprised that, as I have said, very few Fianna Fáil Deputies offered themselves. The few who did offer themselves have been chosen members who were told by the Chief: "Get in there and make a contribution to this debate."
That is not correct. I was not told by anyone to speak and I intend to speak.
I shall accept the Deputy's word that he will offer himself——
How is it that out of 78 Deputies fewer than eight or nine offered to contribute to this very serious debate? Only that small number offered themselves and we have been close on three weeks debating the Bill.
We have not finished the Second Reading yet.
The important point is: what is really behind the Bill? There can be two motives for it. The first is to blind the people so that they will forget about the election promises, unemployment, emigration and all the usual "blah, blah" we hear during a general election. The second motive is this. Is it possible that the by-elections in Dublin and in Galway have shown the Taoiseach the line of thought which the people are now following? Is it that the 1948 and the 1954 elections have made the Taoiseach change his mind after being himself one of the greatest proponents of P.R.? If we look back we shall see that the Taoiseach, without ever imposing on the country an expenditure of about £80,000, and with a simple majority, could have put into the Constitution the provision he is trying to put in now. What made him change his mind between 1937 and 1958?
It is very hard to know what is in the Taoiseach's mind. He is a man whom I have studied very closely for a number of years and I believe that even the members of his own Party do not know what is in his mind. The Taoiseach merely says: "Come on, follow me," and whether they like it or not, whether they agree with him or not, they follow him in the same way as a flock of sheep follow the leading sheep out of a gap. Only when they get out do they know where they are.
I heard Deputy Corry and others say that the Coalition got in under false pretences. The case they made was that the people did not know who was to be in the Cabinet of the next Government. After the last election I was in this House—I am very friendly with some of the Fianna Fáil Deputies and I hope we shall remain friendly—and one hour after the Cabinet had been formed the members of Fianna Fáil did not know its composition.
Surely the Deputy did not expect to be told?
The members of Fianna Fáil themselves did not know. How could the charge then be made against the inter-Party Government that they did not tell the people who was to be in their Cabinet? We are now told by various speakers that P.R. was imposed on this country by the British Government. It is unnecessary for me to say that that is not true. Arthur Griffith was one of the strongest supporters of P.R. as far back as 1911. In 1918 it was tried out by free choice in Sligo and it was introduced here by an Irish Parliament, by a Government elected by Irish people, and we have had it since. If it were an English system as some Deputies suggested——
Notice taken that 20 Members were not present, House counted, and 20 Members being present,
Why is it that we are now asked to do away with P.R.? Deputy Corry made the case that any man worth his salt and who works hard for his constituency will be elected. There is a lot to be said for that. Any Deputy who does really work for the people will be returned if the difficulties he has to encounter are not too great. But under the system that is now to be imposed on the country by Fianna Fáil, as I see it, it will be very difficult for any member of a small Party to secure election.
I shall take my own constituency where under the present system there are three seats. Under the present system, if I am no use to the people of North Tipperary and if I do not do the work the people ask me to do, they have a choice; they can make a change and many of them will perhaps go to a member of another Party. When the elections come round, such people will not support me or the other Deputy, if we did not work, but under the system now proposed there will be only one T.D. for a fixed area. That gives the people in the area no choice as to who will actually work for them, if the candidate being elected by a minority vote for that constituency is not inclined to do it.
A small Party without money or transport or a very large measure of support from the people will not get representation here. If this Bill goes through—I feel it will pass this House, but I am very doubtful if the Irish people will accept it outside—it means that we shall have no small Parties, little or no Labour Party, no Farmers' Party, neither Clann na Talmhan nor anybody else to represent the farmers, and no Sinn Féin, no Clann and no Independents. Yet these small Parties represent a vast number of our people and it is very unfair to put our people in a position in which they are forced to go to someone who is of a different way of thinking and maybe hostile to them, for representation.
Under the proposed system, a candidate getting 35 per cent. of the votes cast will be elected to the House. Taking my own constituency of North Tipperary, say the Fianna Fáil candidate gets 35 per cent., Fine Gael 32 per cent. and Labour 31 per cent. The Fianna Fáil candidate will be elected on 35 per cent. and the other two candidates with 63 per cent. of the total votes cast will not be elected and 63 per cent. of the voters will have nobody to represent them. If that is a fair way to give representation in this House, I cannot understand it. Instead of going forward as far as the independence of this country is concerned, I think every day, under the leadership of the present Taoiseach, we are marching backwards.
I want to make this point very clear. For years, we, in the South of Ireland, including the Taoiseach and all members of his Party, have been criticising the Stormont Government for the way they have gerrymandered the Nationalist population in the North. The Taoiseach has even told us that under the straight vote in the North, the Nationalists can get very little representation and he gave examples to prove that P.R. was the fairest way and that it did away with gerrymandering. Will the Taoiseach now tell the House that the Stormont Government was right when they scrapped P.R. as he is now doing? Of will he say that he is right? He cannot have it both ways: either the Stormont Government was right in scrapping P.R. or the Taoiseach is wrong in scrapping it now. Does he agree with the present system of elections in Northern Ireland? If he does, I can understand why he is now attempting to introduce the system here. I can understand also his idea of trying to use it now, if he agrees with it in the North, because actually it will be used for the same purpose here—to do away with all opposition and all Parties likely to take over the Government of the country for a long time to come.
The Taoiseach points out that we have never had a stable Government and yet in the past 26 years the Taoiseach has been 20 years in power. He had all the power necessary in that time to make this change: why is it in 1958 he is making it? Was it the 1948 General Election, the 1954 General Election or the two recent by-elections that changed his mind? I maintain that the people have a very serious issue before them and if this Bill is passed the country faces a dictatorship as ruthless and as brutal as Germany or Italy faced. If we observe members on the opposite side—I know some of them personally very well—we see how they have to toe the line for the leader of the Fianna Fáil Party.
I shall give a case in point. Some weeks ago, there was a debate here on the levy on wheat. That was held on a Wednesday and on the day before, Tuesday, there was a meeting of North Tipperary County Committee of Agriculture. The meeting had before it a wheat resolution from various other committees pointing out the injustice of that levy. I proposed, and Deputy John Fanning seconded, a proposal that the resolution be adopted. He spoke very well on it and when he had finished, some other member pointed out to him that, six months before, he had voted here in favour of the imposition of the levy. Deputy Fanning got up and said: "You are right; I did vote for it, but at that time I thought the Irish farmer would be getting £20, whereas now I discover he is getting only £10, due to the bad weather." He went on to say that irrespective of which Minister was in office, whether it was his Minister or any other Minister, he would go into the House and fight——
Has this any connection with the Bill?
I am pointing out, with the permission of the Chair, that the dictatorship is so effectively applied and so hard on members of the Fianna Fáil Party that they are not allowed to use their own discretion or go against their leader.
Is that due to the voting system? What has it to do with the question before the House?
I am only trying to point out that the Party rule is so strong——
The Deputy seems to be discussing the Party system, which is not relevant to the debate.
I believe that if this referendum is accepted, this country will drift back into a stronger dictatorship than there is at the present time. That as I say, was on Tuesday morning. The Dáil met the following day and a division was called and that Deputy had to vote to keep that levy of 5/9. That is a case in point. Deputy Corry has the courage of his convictions and stands up here to attack his own Ministers as well as the people on this side of the House— and I admire him for that—but he lacks the finish. He makes a great race, but when he comes to the last fence, he baulks.
The Deputy is discussing the Party system again.
I do not mean anything personal.
He has got it in now and that is all he wants.
He did not get it in.
Deputy Corry got it in.
But it is not true.
We will leave it to the people to decide the issue. You are afraid of giving them an opportunity.
I do not care if there are 12 referenda.
You are afraid of your lives of it.
Deputy Tierney might be allowed to continue.
A remark has been passed by Deputy Killilea. I want to tell the House I am not frightened of the referendum. I fought Fianna Fáil before and fought them hard, and I will continue to fight them while God gives me the strength to do so.
Rightly or wrongly?
Rightly or wrongly, but generally I am on the right side as the Deputy should know. There are far more important things facing this country at the present time than the referendum. During the last few days, we had people on the far side of the House, members of the Government, trying to stir up the old bitterness about what had happened in years gone by. I believe that is mean politics. In 1958, we should not be thinking of 1922 or 1932 or 1942. We should be thinking of the people who put me here, and put everyone else here to represent them, in the way in which they want to be represented. There is no use in talking across the House about what side we took in the Civil War. The mothers and fathers of the younger generation were not even born during the Civil War. They are looking forward to a brighter and better Ireland. They do not want to know what side we took. They want a decent and a better standard of living, with full employment. I maintain this Government have failed miserably in their attempts to provide employment and to justify the "Housewives, get your husbands back to work."
The question of unemployment or emigration does not relevantly arise.
I am pointing out that the promises they made——
The question of the promises made by political Parties is not relevant to the Bill before the House.
I will finish in a few seconds——
You will not even start.
I started before you came here.
You have the advantage of me. You are 30 years older than I am.
That is right.
Deputy Killilea is very anxious to get in and I think the Chair should call him and give him an opportunity of making a contribution to the debate. The members of the Fianna Fáil Party are trying to foist this Bill on the people. I believe it will pass this House but it will not pass the country.
You hope it will not.
I really do hope not, for the sake of the country.
We heard it before.
I am sure that anyone who has the interests of the country at heart——
The Deputy is worried about his seat, I would say.
We are all aware that there is an element in this country who have this House to come into, if they wish, but who, for their own reasons, have refused to do so. By this amendment of the Constitution—I am speaking of the Sinn Féin element—you will keep them outside this House and will drive the best part of these people and the younger generation coming on into an underground movement.
Does the Deputy agree——
Deputy Tierney is not in the habit of interrupting any other Deputy.
I do not make it a habit to interrupt anybody. Thank you, Sir. I am only trying to make that point. I will conclude by making an appeal to the decent-minded Fianna Fáil members, whether or not we pass this Bill, at some time or other to try to show a little spirit in this House by going in and voting against their own Party. I am sure there are one or two who have the courage to do that.
In connection with the arguments on this Bill, we know now that Deputy Costello has suggested that this is not the appropriate time to bring forward this measure. He further said that every argument based on the so-called multiplicity of Parties was available in 1937. Surely Deputy Costello is wrong. In 1937, the Fine Gael Party was assumed to be the Conservative Party, on constitutional matters and in its direction of economic policy. There was no hint at that time that we would have the position in this country of a Coalition between what was the Right Wing and the Left Wing and all the confusion that brought to the minds of the people.
It is a fact that the then Taoiseach in 1938 was forewarned of the dangers that might arise from P.R. and he spoke on it on at least one occasion. In so far as the time being now appropriate is concerned, what better time could we have? We have come to the end of an era in the life of this country. The problems to be faced in the future are different from those we had to face in the past. We have reached an era when we have to live on our own and none of the savings earned as a result of the accident of war can be of any assistance to us. We have to make a desperate effort to expand productivity, a race with time of a kind that has never been the case before in the history of this country. We need Governments with full periods of office so that solid constructive work can be done. In a country with a largely rural population it is really impossible to get constructive productive work done, put new policies into force and get new ideas adopted unless the Government make quite sure of having the confidence of the people to an extent that they can remain in office for the full period allowed to them under our existing laws.
We are asking the people to decide for themselves whether in future they would like to say to their candidates: "If I elect you, you are responsible for guiding the destinies of this country in my area. You are responsible for putting into force the policy which you stated to me, the elector; you may not combine with any other person with another policy and forget the policy of which you have spoken during the election." It is a case of the electors being asked to give greater responsibility to each Deputy elected, make each Deputy personally responsible for the well-being of the constituency for which he is elected and ensure that he should have the sole responsibility for making quite certain that that Deputy's promises in regard to policy are those upon which he will be called to answer when the next election takes place.
We have been accused of arrogance —arrogance in office and arrogance in proposing this Bill. I have not noticed any special arrogance in countries which have the straight system of voting. Governments go in and Governments go out. There has not been any perpetuity of any one form of Government in countries such as the United States and Great Britain, where this form of voting operates. There is no evidence that in countries with the straight vote Governments remain in semi-dictatorial form. This whole allegation made against us, that we believe in dictatorship, caused some of our Deputies to speak of Blue-shirtism in this country.
If the Opposition would desist from accusing us of being dictators, then we need not raise the issues of the civil war. God forbid we should do that as we have no reason to revive a discussion on that tragic period. We are all trying to forget whatever bitterness may be left arising from the civil war. To suggest for one moment that Fianna Fáil has been a dictatorship or that there was as much as one element of a dictatorship in our Government is ridiculous. When one considers the number of elections fought under the P.R. system; when we consider the free discussion of views and the rigid adherence to the constitutional laws of this country by the Fianna Fáil Government, the Opposition are simply inviting worn-out discussion on civil war and post-civil war issues which are better forgotten when they make these accusations.
The Opposition constantly confuse stability of Government with dictatorship. They are not the same thing. We believe that elections should not be too frequent. We believe that the people should be given an opportunity of electing a Government and of throwing that Government out of office decisively if they are unable to fulfil their promises or achieve good results.
I have been reading back some of the speeches made during the debate. I think myself that Deputy Costello, the former Taoiseach, at column 1004 of Volume 171, No. 8 of the Official Debates was unconsciously in favour of a change when he said: "Whatever may be said about the formation of the first inter-Party Government— and very little, if anything, can be said..." He then went on to refer to the fact that in 1954 it was announced in advance that the Parties forming the Opposition were preparing to form an inter-Party Government. I think, when Deputy Costello stated that little could be said about the formation of the first inter-Party Government, he was himself unconsciously proclaiming the necessity for a change in our system of election.
It will be remembered that at that time there were two branches of the Labour Party—one accusing the other of communist tendencies. There were the Fine Gael Party and the Farmers' Party and there was the new Party called Clann na Poblachta. The atmosphere of the election was not fought as between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. It was fought under the lurid light of the Clann na Poblachta Party who proposed a lunatic fringe type of policy in which practically everything that could be imagined was offered to the electorate and for which the electorate were never to pay. The suggestion was made that we could have a paradise on earth in this country without any effort being made by the individual.
Everyone knows that from that time onward there began the inevitable bargaining associated with the formation of a Coalition Government. From that time onward we had the people of this country confused by hazy economic policies or by what is much more serious the hazy expression of economic policy. Everyone was wondering whether the conservative branch of Fine Gael were going to dominate the affairs of the Minister for Finance or whether we would suddenly see the wilder conceptions of the Clann na Poblachta Party put into operation.
Everyone was wondering whether the whole economic system was going to change overnight; whether the Clann na Poblachta element would prevail or whether we would go back to the ultra-conservative type of Government advocated by Fine Gael before they made this very unnatural alliance. Yet, throughout that period of ten years, during six of which the Coalition Government was operating, there was a chance of initiating a programme of expansion sufficient to enable us to stem some of the emigration. There might have been a chance of getting the whole people to face certain realities in regard to their life and in regard to their productive capacities. Instead of that, as I have said already, economic policy became completely hazy. We had members of the Coalition proclaiming different economic doctrines.
On a point of order, may we all refer to economic issues in this debate?
Only in passing.
Deputy Dillon raised a great many economic issues last night. Let me put it this way. The fact remains that in a Coalition Government no one can be certain of the economic programme. No one can be certain that there will not be sudden deviations and sudden surrenders made to public opinion simply in order to satisfy one small Party within the Coalition. No one can be certain that there will not be sudden refusals to face economic realities that have to be met by action because one element in the Coalition is unwilling to face them and cannot be persuaded to agree to measures required in the public interest. Let us put it that way.
A Government of Coalition Parties proceeds on the basis that some day or another the dream of one small Party may suddenly be put into operation. Nobody can be certain whether the Coalition may not suddenly have to adopt some item of the lunatic fringe type of policy of a Party forming the Coalition to the detriment of the country.
One of the great disadvantages of the P.R. system is that it is utterly impossible for the people in a general election to know what the policy will be of Parties forming the Coalition. They are never told by any particular small Party what part of the programme will be sacrificed if a Coalition has to be formed. In the case of the Coalition Government from 1948, for example, the Fine Gael Party never made it clear in advance that they were prepared to sacrifice that part of their policy. They certainly never proclaimed their intention to promulgate a Twenty-Six County Republic. They never made that clear at the time of the election.
We shall deal with that.
In fact the smaller Parties in the last ten years have done nothing but create indecision. My own belief is that the proposals in this Bill instead of disrupting Fine Gael, for example, will give that Party an opportunity for a genuine revival.
A surplus Party.
The Party are surplus in my opinion, only because of their attitude to this Bill, and I shall deal with that later. The Tánaiste, Deputy Lemass, said that in his view the Fine Gael Party was surplus. Deputy Costello implied that if this Bill was passed the Opposition would be wiped out, which seems to me to reveal a fantastic inferiority complex on the part of the Fine Gael Party, a craven attitude on their part when they think of events that are likely to take place in future years.
Why should the Fine Gael Party imagine that even if a Fianna Fáil Government were elected on the straight vote, it is likely to last for ever? All the signs are that any Government elected on a straight vote will be held far more rigidly to what they promised at the time of an election, and that the swing against them may be far more decisive particularly in our country at the present time where everything so much depends on statements made by a Party as to how far they can secure a tremendous increase in production over a period of time, how far they can persuade the people to support them, how far they ask the people to make a contribution, and how far they make a contribution themselves. When you have that as one of the major items of policy, there is absolutely no reason, apart from Providence and whatever may come in the future, to imagine that we are inviting ourselves in Fianna Fáil to be in office for a long period in future time. I cannot understand why the Fine Gael Party should have such an extraordinary inferiority complex.
If the Fine Gael Party in the course of the next ten years can recruit better men and if they can recruit men who can persuade the people to follow their programme to a greater extent than we can persuade the people to follow our programme, they will be successful. Most of the policies of this State, unless some extraordinary emergency takes place, involve the Government proclaiming a programme offering capital assistance and then having to go down and persuade hundreds of thousands of individuals to support the policy advocated by the Government. We have got far beyond the stage where the Government by itself, simply by the expenditure of a greater or smaller amount of capital, can produce results. Apparently the Opposition have no faith in themselves.
Success at an election, where only one candidate for one constituency can be elected, will depend, as other Deputies have said, on the candidate not being simply a passenger as under the previous system. He will be judged to a far greater extent by his performance in the Dáil. He will have to be far more than before a leader of public opinion. The suggestion that the straight system of voting will produce simply a collection of automatic voters in the Dáil and the suggestion that we would like a system where public men say one thing outside the Dáil and then come and vote against what they said outside the Dáil, both are completely untrue. In this new form of election the candidates will have to state their views very clearly and will have to be constantly in touch with their constituencies and have to hold themselves at the disposition of their constituents in accounting for their views and in accounting for their actions in the Dáil.
In column 1020 of the same Volume of debates, 171, Deputy Costello spoke of the Fianna Fáil Party maintaining a stranglehold on the electorate. It is an extraordinary thing that when a political Party succeeds in retaining office in this country we are told it does so not by the will of the people but because that Party exercises a strangle hold. We have heard that propaganda before and my answer to it is: why were the Fine Gael Party not capable of breaking the stanglehold if such a stranglehold existed? I do not believe that the people of Ireland are of the temperament that they would tolerate a stranglehold of the kind suggested.
Deputy Costello also said, at column 1024 of Volume 171: "I object most strongly to having any hand, act or part in trying to mould the future of the country." I cannot understand that observation. All political Parties in office tend to mould the future of their country. When the Fine Gael Party advocated the rejection of the Constitution in 1937, they were trying to mould the future of the country. When they repealed the External Relations Act in 1949 they were certainly trying to mould the future of the country. Of course the future is moulded. That is one of the functions of democracy. Every Act of Parliament affects the future course of people ten or 20 years hence, and one of the difficulties we have been facing over the past ten years is that nobody will think on a sufficiently long term basis in a country where production is largely agricultural, where one has to look ahead and try to predict the future and make allowances for coming world changes in economic conditions. That is one of the most essential reasons why we should have a system of Government in which we can be assured of stability.
There are many occasions when a Government has to act against a temporary popular clamour that may arise when there are economic difficulties and when people, from a purely human point of view, are unable to see the necessity for taking serious action of a remedial character. It is essential at a time like that that a Government should say to the people: "If you wait for a period we will get through this difficulty" and that the Government should not always be at the mercy of splinter groups who are liable to disrupt any programme of rehabilitation or any programme instituted to steer a country through an emergency. I hope there will not be emergencies of that kind but we must always think of the possibility.
In examining results in countries where the single member constituency and the single vote obtain, I note that there is no evidence that the underprivileged groups in those countries have not been well looked after. There is no evidence that the lower income group have not achieved a far better life in those countries. If we examine their history, we will find that there have been decisive changes of policy when opposition Parties have succeeded in gaining sufficient votes in every constituency to secure power.
The process is one of having to persuade the electorate that a really radical change of policy is required and they have succeeded in nearly all those countries in carrying out radical schemes of social reform, in securing a permanent redistribution of the national income in the interests of the lower income groups, in establishing social services and in gaining prosperity. There is hardly a country in the world with our system of Government that has not gained enormously in prosperity, where production has not increased and where poverty has not diminished. Nobody can point to any country, as I have said, where this system operates which has faltered disastrously or where there are problems which have not been solved or at least some effort has not been made to solve them. I have not noticed any disastrous faltering along the way in these countries where the single vote and the single constituency obtain.
There have been many references to the failure of P.R. elsewhere. My belief is that if this system had succeeded everywhere else in the world it has not worked here. The conditions vary very widely. In other countries with large populations and fragmentation of Parties, it takes a great many forms. We have fragmentation of Parties through regional differences, through provincial differences. We have fragmentation of Parties through the influence of local leaders and we have fragmentation of Parties through, in some cases, different religions. You have fragmentation of parties because of minute changes in philosophical beliefs held by one individual as compared with another. You also have fragmentation if the people believe in Socialism of different degrees and in doctrines such as Free Trade or Protection. However P.R. has failed sufficiently in other countries to suggest at least to us that we believe it is failing here for similar reasons and that we should change the system.
One can note also, in examining the policies of many of the smaller Parties that have been formed here, that they frequently do not seem to have any real pith. They nearly all consist of escapist statements, of suggestions made to people that one particular group of the community can achieve prosperity by some chimerical method. We do not seem to have any real Socialist Party here. These groups seem to be simply making vague statements. When you examine them carefully, frequently they amount to no more than the necessity for printing more bank notes. It amounts to suggesting that there is some easier way out of our economic difficulties that does not involve any personal effort by the people; that, by some manipulation of the currency, by some change in our currency system which is never properly defined, never put exactly, never mentioned in detail, we can achieve greater prosperity.
I think it would be far better if new Parties have to put a policy so definite in any particular constituency that there must be an individual with a sufficiently powerful personality and with a sufficiently good reputation to be able to persuade the largest number of people in that constituency to adopt that point of view. I think that that particularly applies in a country such as ours where we have no strong Leftwing Socialist Party.
If any Socialist Party should arise, I think it would be even more important in that case that they should be able to develop their policy, if they wish to, by having individuals of sufficient influence and character to secure a majority vote in an individual constituency.
A majority vote?
The largest vote in the constituency, the system under the single vote.
But it could be a minority.
Yes, it could be. There have been suggestions that we apparently have not yet become an adult people. We had Deputy Dillon making a most woeful speech last evening in which he said that we are different from the British because there are people on both sides of the House who had shot at each other. That is an appalling statement to make in this year of grace, 1958.
The suggestion that, if we change the system, we will have more unconstitutional Parties in this country is an appalling reflection on what I believe the character of our people to be. I believe we are sufficiently adult in this country to have the same system of election as the United States or Great Britain and a number of other countries. I believe that we can proceed safely on that basis. I cannot see, myself, that there would be any much greater danger to this country of having the Party advocating violence sitting outside the House and not coming into it by changing this system as proposed in this Bill.
I believe in a system where, above all, there is some possibility of stability. I do not believe that investors will invest money in this country unless we face the reality that we are a small island country, that we have got to keep our costs down and that we must be one of the most stable economies in Europe if we are to succeed in our objective of raising our standard of living and increasing our production and getting over all the difficulties we have to face as an island country with high freight costs and all the other difficulties of remoteness from the European stream of commerce.
Stability in our economy is one of the most essential factors, in our view. If investors are thinking of investing money in a country, either in agriculture or in industry, they want to see a country with a specific set purpose. They want to see Governments with consistent policies consistently adopted. They want to see changes made only after due forethought by the vast majority of the people acting in single constituencies.
We are not like some countries where, because there are valuable ores, investors are prepared to go in, even though there are revolutions, changes of Government, Coalition Governments, because the rate of profit will be high. We are a country where, as I have said, the Government must be seriously conducted and where there must, above all, be, as far as possible, no change in our economic life which would make any investor feel: "If I invest here, what happens in the next five years to the value of my money, to the costs of my production, to the marketing system adopted for my product?" That appears to me to be one of the great essentials in the future of this country. It may sound dull and uninteresting. It might be more amusing to have elections conducted with all sorts of fragmentary Parties coming forward and everybody excited and delighted to watch the results and to see which of the half a dozen Parties will have a majority voice in determining the policy of the Coalition Government but it is not the atmosphere which will bring us prosperity: of that we are absolutely certain.
I should like to stress again, if every constituency is examined individually, and if the future prospects in our political life can be considered carefully, that we can say that we are not, in any way, in this Party, perpetuating our existence as the dominating Party in the Dáil. The change in the system, as I have already said, will mean greater individual responsibility. Unless we have extraordinary success—and we may have extraordinary success—and judging by our previous performance over a great number of years we may be able to initiate changes in production, in which case we shall deserve to be elected but the swing will be all the more decisive against us by the changes proposed in this Bill if we fail.
Last of all, I should like to refer to some further observations made by Deputy Costello, as reported in the same Volume of the Official Report, No. 171, column 1029. Speaking of that portion of the Bill which provides for the commission to establish the new constituencies, he said:
"The Ceann Comhairle, in my view, under this system, will be the servant of the big Party that happens to be there at the time."
He went on to refer to the performance by the kind of Deputies, who would be chosen by the Ceann Comhairle, who "will be the servant of the big Party that happens to be there at the time." That again, I think, showed the most desperately craven attitude on the part of the Leader of the Opposition. It showed a cynicism beyond compare, that this Bill, having been passed, the members of the Opposition chosen by the Ceann Comhairle would be chosen by him in such a way that they cannot act properly on behalf of the Opposition, that they are liable to be corrupted by the three Members chosen by the Taoiseach, and that the result will be that the six of them, operating together, will in some way or other conspire to assist Fianna Fáil. I never heard such rubbish.
But the point is: who chooses the Ceann Comhairle? What was done to Professor Hayes ?
The Deputy has contempt for Members of this House if he feels that a person, who is likely to act as Ceann Comhairle, is going to act in such a manner that he will choose the three weakest members of the Opposition so that they will give way to the importunings of the Taoiseach. I have a greater respect for Members of this House than that.
The Ceann Comhairle should be kept above that. He should not be asked to do this.
I have a greater respect for Members of this House than that. The Deputy may argue that the Ceann Comhairle should be kept above that, but I have more confidence in the ability and integrity of the Ceann Comhairle to exercise wisely the responsibility given to him under this Bill.
I have no doubt about that, but we are legislating for years ahead.
Again at column 1030 of the Official Report, Deputy Costello asked:—
"Can anybody assume for a moment that a judge appointed... will not be a politician?"
That again is denigrating the institutions of this House, the institutions of the judicial bench. I think it is an appalling statement to make, that the President, after consultation with the Council of State, will choose a judge who, apparently, will exercise his functions in this commission in a purely corrupt way, that he will deliberately direct the three members, chosen by the Taoiseach, and the three members chosen from the Opposition by the Ceann Comhairle, to gerrymander the constituencies so that, in some way or another, Fianna Fáil will get an undue influence and will be able to elect more candidates. I think we have gone mad in this country when such a statement can be made. I think it is an appalling thing to have said.
One of the most important services that Deputies could render is to go around the country and tell the people that we have one of the most honest administrations in this living world, that whatever patronage exists the percentage of such appointments is lower both in the case of appointments by local authorities and by the central authority, than in almost any other country in the world. I think we should do far more in telling the people of this country that they have honest administration of the public services, and I think that kind of statement, made by Deputy Costello, suggesting that any President we can elect will appoint a judge who, with the commission, will have to go into the most tremendous minutiae, townland by townland and parish by parish, in a fearful attempt to gerrymander this House, is most ridiculous. In actual fact, if all of them were corrupt and sat down and tried to rig the constituencies, they would get lost in the mapping of constituencies before they had finished.
That is what happened at the Fianna Fáil Party meeting.
I do hope Deputy Costello, as a responsible person in the legal profession, will think over what he said in columns 1029 and 1030 of the Official Report, on the Report Stage of the Bill, because I think he must have made those statements without due consideration. He must know that there are members of the judicial bench who are quite capable of exercising that function. He must know there are judges, who were appointed by both Governments, who are capable of exercising the new function impartially.
I was going to say a few words about the suggestions made in regard to the position of the Protestants in this country, but I think Deputy Booth explained the position so well that there is no need for me to repeat anything he said. I think his attitude on that was absolutely splendid and to be commended, and I myself believe the vast majority of the people of this country, of all religions, will agree with what he said in so far as minority religions are concerned and in relation to this Bill.
I think I might close by quoting an excellent statement made by a Labour M.P. in Great Britain. I mention the fact that he is a Labour Party man because the Labour Party had difficulty in securing office for quite a long time until, as I have said, they did persuade a sufficient number of people to give them overwhelming support in single member constituencies. They were then able to take office and they were able to make certain a social revolution that had already been taking place, and that social revolution is never likely to be, in any large measure, reversed.
Sir Herbert Morrison, speaking in the British Parliament in 1924, as reported in Volume 172 of Hansard said this:—
"P.R. is a philosophy which is not unnatural to small new Parties struggling to get a footing on the electoral field, and not having much staying power or programme to fight. It is also perfectly natural to decaying political Parties, who are doomed to extinction in the course of time, and who can only retain their position by elevating the power of the minority and subjecting the power of the majority. It is perfectly natural to them but it is not natural to strong men and women who want their country to be governed wisely and firmly, and I hope, therefore, that the House will not accept that type of Government."
I think that was a very excellent statement made by a man who belonged to a Party which took many years to secure office, whose views at one time were totally opposed to the views of the majority of the English people, and I think that it summarises, in an excellent way, the reasons why we have placed this Bill before the Dáil. We wish strong men and women to come before the people at elections and if they have views that differ radically from those of our Party, we wish them to express those views in such a way that they will be able to get the support of the people under the single vote system and to persuade the people in individual areas to agree with their views so that, when they finally can assume office, they will have educated and exhorted the electorate in advance and that the people can be prepared for the necessary changes.
What we do not want to have is the sort of system where you can have a Government consisting of 80 per cent. people with normal economic views but where there is in that Government, say, a Minister who has frequently proclaimed his belief in breaking the link with sterling without ever having said exactly what he means, how he intended to do it or what lay behind it. Instead, he suggests there is something patriotic about it, rather like wrapping a green flag around you.
Let us have a Government whose policies are known in advance at election time and whose determination to pursue a certain course can be ascertained in advance by the people and can be judged, not on the programme of the constituent Parties forming a coalition, but on the programme of the Party which succeeded in gaining office by itself without the help of others.
Before the Minister for Lands leaves the House, may I direct attention to the quotation he gave us from Deputy Costello's speech: "Whatever may be said about the inter-Party Government, and very little can be said." Those are the exact remarks Deputy Costello made, but we all knew what he implied. He omitted the governing words "Whatever may be said in the way of criticism." The Minister should be generous-minded enough to accept that. We on this side know what he implied and those over there know it, too.
The Minister talked a good deal about economic policies. I just want to refer to one point. If the Minister has studied the White Paper issued by his own Government, he will have seen there an exact endorsement of the agricultural policy followed by the inter-Party Government. There is no denying that. The Minister talked about investment in this country. We realise that the land is our main source of wealth, but any investment in the land of the country should be left to the nationals of this country.
The greatest argument in favour of the retention of P.R. is the fact that in 36 difficult years we have had only three patterns of government here. We had the Cumann na nGaedhael Government from 1922 to 1932. That was succeeded by the people now in office. Then we had the inter-Party Government of 1948 and, following that, the return of the present Government again in 1951. In 1954 we saw the return of the inter-Party Government. Cumann na nGaedhael and Fine Gael are one and the same, and the personnel of both inter-Party Governments were practically the same. That is a great argument in a country which passed through such a revolutionary period.
The Governments which have operated here during that period of 36 years may well have set up a record for the amount of legislation passing through Parliament. No doubt much of that legislation was indispensable in the building up of this State and very much of it was very beneficial to the State. But there were little portions here and there inimical to the best interests of the State, and in the latter category I place this Bill.
In the present world confusion and uncertainty and in our own economic difficulties and financial strains, it is inconceivable to me how any Government could introduce a measure of this kind at this time, a measure that will so disturb the public mind. It is a time when every activity and effort of the Government should be directed towards the expansion of our economy, a time when the co-operation of all Parties, groups and, indeed, individuals, should be sought so that a permanent impact could be made on recurring problems such as unemployment and emigration which have been such cankers in our national life.
My reasons for opposing this Bill are many. First of all, I oppose it because it is not a problem for the people of this country at the moment. Their main worry is how they are to eke out a livelihood, maintain a standard of living and at the same time support their family or their dependents. They are not in the least concerned about the system of election. I do not think there is any great desire or demand for a change. My second reason for opposing the Bill is that it is a highly contentious measure fraught with the danger that it will revive all the political animosities of the past 36 years which, thank God, were gradually receding into the background. The third reason I oppose it is because I believe it will deprive small Parties or outstanding individuals of the possibility of being elected to this House.
The fourth and main reason I oppose the Bill is that we are doing now in this country what we resented the Stormont Government doing in the North some years ago. Every person with any national conviction or feeling resented the North of Ireland Government depriving the minority of our co-religionists there of the possibility of taking their place in the Parliament and in the local authorities in the Six Counties. Some of them have survived and have succeeded in doing so, but in the main the abolition of P.R. in the North was designed to preclude them from making their case heard before the elected forums there. If we had tried to bring in a Bill of this kind 25 or 30 years ago it would have been hotly resented. I believe most thinking people with national convictions will resent it just as much to-day.
Under this Bill a commission is being set up. It is a complete enigma to me. I cannot understand how this commission will function, how six people under an independent chairman will bring in a satisfactory solution of the problems involved. They cannot do so on their own. They will have to go back to the officials of the Department to get guidance, maps of electoral boundaries, the available population statistics and so on. Our Civil Service being so efficient, so admirable and so incorruptible, I believe that any official in the Department of Local Government entrusted with this task will do it with greater efficiency within the minimum time and with results more pleasing to the general public.
Many Government speakers here referred to the disasters of P.R. abroad. I cannot speak from personal experience as to the accuracy, or otherwise, of the assertions made in that regard, but we all know that there are various types of P.R. I think ours is the only country in the world using the type of P.R. in operation here and which has been in operation here for the past 36 years. Not for a moment will I accept the statement that this system was imposed on us by the British.
I regard that statement as utter nonsense because in my young days, when I read Sinn Féin literature, I remember reading The Nationalist every week over a long period. An entire column in that paper was devoted week after week to advocating P.R. It was written by Arthur Griffith, whose portrait graces the portals of this House. He was one of the greatest Irishmen thrown up in this century. We are all of us aware that he turned down many lucrative offers from abroad—offers through the medium of which he would have made his name as a journalist of repute. He turned these down in order to dedicate and devote his life to the service of the Irish nation. In deference to his memory, we should not now besmirch his reputation by saying that this system was imposed upon us by the British.
It is our task to judge P.R. as it has operated here over the past 36 years. There is no gainsaying the fact that we are a highly emotional people. We emerged from a civil war in 1922 with national feelings running high. It was the P.R. system which helped subsequently to promote a better understanding between the two major Parties, the two Parties which opposed each other so bitterly in the battlefield. It is my firm conviction that the small Parties—the Independents, for example—acted as very useful buffers between these opposing Parties for many years, and helped to bring about the situation in which we find ourselves to-day wherein opposition is actively mental but not actively physical.
P.R. gives tremendous elasticity in representation. It gives a variety of personnel. It is the most mathematically fair system, as it is operated here. Remembering that it has survived the turbulence following the early years of the birth of this State, it is a system we should not lightly throw overboard. In 1926 the present Government refused to enter this House. It is my belief that our system of P.R. made it possible for them to take their seats here subsequently, to the satisfaction of all true lovers of Ireland at the time.
It would be a disaster for this country if vocational groups, highly organised as they are, were to be debarred in future from the opportunity of making themselves heard in Parliament. No nation in the world is so highly organised into groups as is our society at the present time. There are spokesmen to propound grievances, make a case, adumbrate policies at all times. It would be disastrous if the leaders of these groups were deprived of the opportunity of seeking election to this Parliament. If this Bill becomes law, the possibility of their success in such a venture will certainly be considerably minimised. The Tánaiste said they have the road open to them; they can join one of the big Parties. If a man has independent views, he likes to retain those views. He likes to put them before the people as an Independent and not as the spokesman of a particular Party. He prefers to speak for the vocation he represents.
We have Labour organisations here and their association with Government here has, I believe, given them a moderate approach to various problems. We all remember when the Labour Government took office in Great Britain. For a long time before that, students of history were fearful that the taking over of the reins of Government by Labour would drive Great Britain Red. What happened? The Labour representatives with pronounced Left Wing views became very chastened when they got a taste of responsibility, and they shouldered their responsibilities like statesmen.
The inter-Party Government—I do not say this for any Party motive— was an extraordinary achievement here. It was a happy augury when, in 1948, we saw men, so divorced of self and of the interests they represented, coming together around the Cabinet Table to work harmoniously and unselfishly for the ultimate advantage of the country. That was a very happy augury and it is one which should not be treated with contempt. No one should speak derisively about the inter-Party Government. Indeed had the Party opposite come in then, as they could have done, to create a really national Government we could have advanced towards the goal of peace and prosperity and made the country at once a haven and a home for our people.
The Minister for External Affairs spoke here last week. We know that the Minister for External Affairs, speaking at the United Nations, whether wittingly or unwittingly, irritated the whole Catholic world by his advocacy of the inclusion of Red China in the United Nations.
Surely, that does not arise on the Bill?
He did not advocate that at all, by the way.
He used the argument: "Let them come in to discuss."
"To discuss" is different.
What the Minister for External Affairs said at the United Nations does not fall for discussion here.
I shall not refer to it again. The Minister was advocating the inclusion of a certain section then; that section was to be allowed to come in and discuss their grievances. Why does he not apply the same argument here? Why is he not prepared to allow minorities to come in here and discuss their grievances? We have a minority in this country—a rather militant and dangerous minority. Representatives of Sinn Féin have been elected to this House. They have refused to take their seats here. People in the past refused to take their seats but subsequently changed their approach. The possibility is that the minority to-day will in course of time change their approach and take their seats here. But if this Bill is passed they will be denied the right to seek election.
The danger is that they may then resort to other means. Perhaps they may go further underground than they are at the moment. Make no mistake; I am not advocating that they have any right to take up arms, or anything like that. I believe they are foolish. I believe they are misled. I believe it is possible to appeal to them by reason. I believe they should get every encouragement to come into the Parliament of the nation and put their point of view here so that eventually they may be prevailed upon to see reason, or even become disillusioned by time, as most of us have been.
The system of straight voting operates in Great Britain and in the United States of America. What has it caused in these countries? Has it not brought about high-power politics? Are not politics in Great Britain and America to-day in the category of big business? Do we wish to see that situation evolve in this little country of ours? Do we want political Parties with all that power, creating all the excitement that is caused in America and sometimes in Great Britain to-day? I do not think we do. I think it would be disastrous.
There is the added danger that strong Parties of that particular type might bring about a situation in which you would have political jobbery, political corruption and political bribery. We do not want that here. There is, too, the danger that the admirable Civil Service and local authority services built up here may not be able to resist pressure on the part of high-power political Parties here. Perhaps that may not happen. I am merely stating my fears for what they are worth.
Reforms may be necessary in our parliamentary institutions, but we can have those reforms within the framework of our Constitution without recourse to a referendum. We can have any reforms that are necessary for the advancement and maintenance of our State in order to ensure the economic survival of our State.
We are not told what the terms of reference of the commission will be or whether there will be reduced representation in Parliament if the Bill is passed. One Deputy is allowed for not more than 30,000 of the population or not fewer than 20,000 of the population. It would be far more appropriate and far more in comformity with our circumstances if in every area there was one Deputy for 30,000 of the population and the representation in the House were reduced to 97, 98 or 100. The people would expect that and are a long time demanding that, as a matter of right in their own interest. If the representation of Dublin is increased, the country will keenly resent it because, in Dublin, there is a concentrated population and the Dublin representatives—I am casting no aspersion on any Dublin Deputy from any side— can move around their constituencies more freely and at far less cost in time and money than is the case with other Deputies. They, at least, could cater, per head, for the 30,000 of the population mentioned in the Constitution.
The Constitution is our great charter. To change, it is a very serious matter. In such a serious matter there should be no such thing as the humiliating, degrading and insulting practice of going from door to door to tell people how they should act in a delicate matter of this kind. By all means, let the Parties concerned put their views before the people through this House or on public platforms or at public meetings, but let us desist from that reprehensible practice that has developed in this country. Personally, I think it should not be allowed at any time, at any election. We have had compulsory education since 1926 and our people are sufficiently educated now to know what their obligations to their nation are, what their duties are, and should be able to make up their own minds on a matter of this kind. Why can we not leave it to the people?
The Deputy's reference to canvassing does not seem to be relevant to a discussion of this measure.
All right, Sir. Deputy O'Higgins referred to the members of this House—not in any derisive way —as political messengers. I would not go so far as that, but I would say that most of our business as elected representatives is to act as couriers between our constituents and Departments. That is not a good system that is developing in the country. Amongst all classes outside there is the impression that if one wants to get anything out of a Department one must go to an elected representative or if one wants anything from a county council one must go to an elected representative, whereas we all know that Departments can give nothing that is not within the regulations. Direct approach should be encouraged between private individuals and Departments. Deputies should not be saddled with that type of work, so that they could devote more of their time to legislative and other parliamentary duties.
There have been repeated calls to the youth of the country to take an interest in politics. Perhaps that is a good thing. In political Parties they may have their views tempered. I would not advise a young man of 20 or 30 years of age, to come into this House. I do not think it is the best academy in which to mould his character. Let him come in, by all means, when he has formed into manhood. I pity those Deputies who come in here at an early age. It is a very empty career, a very disillusioning career. I often say to myself after sitting here for 7½ hours a day: "Have I done anything for anybody or for the country in those 7½ hours?"
I do not like interrupting the Deputy, but I cannot see the relevancy of this.
I have finished my contribution now.
In my humble opinion, the amending of a Constitution is a very, very important event in the life of any State. I feel very strongly that such a proposal should be approached, discussed and considered in the calmest atmosphere and in the most favourable possible circumstances so as to bring about a good and lasting result, one which will be readily acceptable to all the people. The proposal in this Bill to amend the Constitution is so fundamental—the amending of our electoral system—that if at all possible it should be timed for consideration by the people when no other major problems were engaging their attention. Any Government, irrespective of what Government it might be, should endeavour to time a proposal such as this when it might be considered and discussed by the people in a nonpolitical way, in the calmest possible atmosphere and when no other problems were engaging their attention.
I concede straight away that that may not be possible at all times. There might be generated widespread public demand for a change in the Constitution because of certain events. Because of vital national interests, it might very well be that the people would demand that this problem should take precedence over everything else and that it should be dealt with and considered immediately.
Quite honestly and candidly, I have seen no public demand preceding this proposal. I do not think any Deputy on either side can honestly say that there is a public demand or that there is any demand at all, even a minority demand, for this proposal. No Deputy has said so so far.
The only person who endeavoured to make the case that there was this demand was the Taoiseach.
That is right.
He was so enthusiastic in making his case that he said that everybody he met during 1948, people of all shades of political opinion, demanded that there should be a change in the electoral system. Everybody will agree with me that it is straining the credulity of the people rather far for the Taoiseach to come into this House and say to all of us here that everybody he met during that year—there was a general election in that year— demanded this change. One would have thought that the other 146 persons who successfully contested the election in that year and who were on the hustings would have met some of those people. I do not mind what ticket we were on, what Party we were supporting, one would think we would have met some of them. I can honestly say that I met nobody during that year of a general election who said to me: "I think this system of election is wrong. I think we will have to change the P.R. system." I am in touch with all shades of political opinion. I respect the opinions of everybody. I know the opinions of my colleagues in my constituency and I never heard Deputy Healy say that this system was wrong, until this proposal came in.
This is being foisted on the people at a very inopportune time. It may well be that, without public demand, the Government are entitled to bring proposals before the people, if they think they are good, but one would imagine that, with the problems facing the people at the moment, this would be the last thing the Government would put before them. The time is most inopportune because at the moment this nation is faced with tremendous difficulties, apart altogether from our electoral system. We have an unemployment problem of great dimensions which is being completely neglected. We have a growing emigration problem of tremendous dimensions and there is no attempt at a solution by any Party. Instead, the attention of the people is being turned to our electoral system.
We have a low standard of living, so low that when we go to international conclaves, we are bracketed with some of the depressed nations in Europe. We have to go hat in hand to Britain and America and say to them: "We are a depressed nation. You must give us an opportunity and you must put us in the same category as Turkey and Greece." While we are saying that in international conclaves, the Taoiseach comes here and tells the country that our major problem is our electoral system.
I do not know, but I have a pretty good idea, what effect this proposal, and the fact that the time of this House and the nation is being taken up with it, will have on the poorer sections of our community. What effect will it have on the old age pensioners to whom we can allow only a pittance of 25/- a week?
The Deputy may not proceed to discuss the economic situation on this measure.
Apparently, it is in order for Deputies to travel all over Europe and America, but it is not relevant for them to discuss the economic situation in their own country.
The Deputy may not discuss the rulings of the Chair. The Chair has allowed matters which are relevant to the debate. A detailed discussion of the economic situation is not relevant.
While you are ruling that the economic conditions obtaining in this country are not relevant to this debate, conditions obtaining in England, France and America are ruled as relevant to it.
The Deputy is endeavouring to discuss the decision of the Chair and I shall not allow it.
Even the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, á la Deputy Booth, were relevant to the discussion.
It is quite possible that the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas are relevant.
I am accepting your ruling, Sir, but the time is inopportune for the Taoiseach and the Government to bring this measure before the people. Disregarding the wishes of the people, the Taoiseach is prepared to proceed with this Bill. I have listened here to the spokesmen for and against P.R. I have read it up and there is, undoubtedly, room for differences of opinion on several aspects of the problem, but I think there is complete unanimity that the abolition of P.R. will abolish small Parties. Nobody has made a satisfactory case against that argument.
It is unanimously accepted that by abolishing P.R., you will abolish small Parties. This measure is designed to set up two big Parties, one governing and the other in opposition. Because of our peculiar and accidental historical background these two big Parties are Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. It was inevitable that, arising out of a national disaster like the civil war, we should have got for over 30 years the two Parties whose origin was the civil war. Whatever be the reason, the fact is that the two Parties are Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
It is not denied that this change will wipe out the other Parties and, apparently, it is the considered opinion of the Taoiseach and the Government that there should be no independent Labour Party in this House, that there should be no independent Farmers' Party in this House, that there should be no Clann na Poblachta Party and that Independents are undesirable. In this measure, we are taking the important and vital decision of saying to the Sinn Féin Party that there is no room for them in this House.
All of us who have accepted responsibility for constitutional Government in this State have been saying to the Sinn Féin Party: "Come into this House and make your case. If you have a good case and a good policy, go before the people and if the people elect you, you are entitled to come to Dáil Éireann and make your case." All of us in this House—Government, Fine Gael and Labour—have been saying that to these young men. What is the proposal now? It is to change the electoral system because small Parties are bad for the nation. In effect, we are saying to the Sinn Féin Party: "There is no room for you. You cannot go before the people and make your case. You cannot get into Dáil Éireann because it is the opinion of the Taoiseach and the Government that there should be only two Parties in this House." You are saying that, of course, to the Labour Party as well, but I think the Labour Party is sufficiently mature and sufficiently constitutional to be able to accept that challenge. You are saying it also to a younger element of people, whom I have heard elder statesmen in this House describe as misguided people. You are saying to them: "Now go underground for good and stay underground, and if you ever want to have your voice heard you will have to make it heard by the gun. You cannot do it constitutionally". I do not think that is a reasonable or intelligent way of approaching our constitutional problems at the moment.
The Taoiseach said that small Parties were undesirable. That is a point of view to which he is perfectly entitled. I do not share that point of view, nevertheless I shall not argue with anyone who holds it. Who should be allowed to decide that? The people should be allowed to decide it, not once but every time there is a general election. They should not be put in the position in which they are to be called upon to cast their votes for or against this issue for all time on an occasion when they are harassed, cajoled and bludgeoned by political propaganda. The reasonable thing would be that every time there is a general election the small Parties should be in a position to put forward their candidates and to expound their policy in the knowledge that there is a system of election operating which will give them their due proportion of representation in this House.
The Taoiseach does not share that view. He says that small Parties can go out at election times and because they will only be returned in small numbers they can make promises. One would think from that that the bigger Parties never made promises or, if they did, that they carried them out when they were elected. That is stretching the credulity of the people too far. One would think Fianna Fáil had not gone out on the last occasion and said to the people: "Get rid of this Government. There is an unemployment problem; we can cure it. There is a big emigration problem and we have a long term policy for that, too. These people are saying that we shall do away with the food subsidies——"
The question of food subsidies does not arise.
I am simply commenting on the statement made by the Taoiseach that small Parties were undesirable because at election times they were apt to go out and make promises. He warned the people that it was bad to have small Parties making promises which they had no intention of fulfilling.
A discussion on election promises would not be relevant.
It is not quite correct either.
I am glad Deputy MacCarthy interrupted me on that. I suppose the people in the South Cork Constituency and in the Cork City Constituency were the people most gulled, so far as promises were concerned and Deputy MacCarthy knows that——
Deputy Casey need not imagine that he can get over the ruling of the Chair by answering an interruption by Deputy MacCarthy. The question does not arise. If Deputy Casey is allowed to elaborate on that point, other Deputies will seek a similar right.
I was simply replying to Deputy MacCarthy's interruption.
Deputy MacCarthy should not have interrupted.
It was something that was not correct.
The matter can be argued elsewhere.
The case is made for the proposal enshrined in this Bill that it is highly desirable that there should be a one-Party Government. That may be so. I do not think so, but is it not open to the people during any general election to make that decision? Why must we pick out one particular occasion, as we are doing in this Bill and say: "You are to decide now, once and for all?"
That is not in the Bill.
I am simply outlining the arguments put forward by the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and other Ministers, as to why it is desirable we should have a change in our political system. They say that for stability, for progress, you must have one-Party Government. I do not share that view. I am simply asking why can it not be left to the people to decide themselves at every general election whether they are to have one-Party Government, inter-Party Government or any other type of Government?
I think the people already made that decision. I shall not refer to 1948; maybe the issue was not as clear then as in 1954. There can be no doubt in anybody's mind—certainly there is no doubt in mine, and I am sure none in Deputy MacCarthy's because he campaigned against me in an adjoining constituency at the time —that the people were asked on that occasion to make a decision between one-Party and inter-Party Government. The Taoiseach said that different Parties promised different things and that after the election they merged and formed some kind of hotch-potch Government. That is not true. As a matter of fact, in my own constituency the propaganda used against the Labour Party was that I stood for an inter-Party Government. Fine Gael, the Labour Party and the other anti-Fianna Fáil Parties put it before the people in 1954 that if they were elected they would form an inter-Party Government. That was quite clear. It was accepted and the people decided in 1954 to have an inter-Party Government.
What is wrong with allowing the people in 1964 or in 1974 to make that decision again, if they think it right and proper? I see no national catastrophe in that I see no lack of stability in that. We are told: "If you continue with this system you will not have stability". Of course we have had stability. It is recognised internationally that we have had stability in this country. As a matter of fact the Fianna Fáil Party have ruled for 20 out of the last 26 years and now the chief spokesman for the Party comes along and says: "We must change the election system because it does not tend to give stability to the country." I do not know how much ice that will cut because I think anybody outside Grangegorman will see the duplicity and fraud in a statement of that nature.
It strikes me that many people who spoke in favour of this Bill have been speaking with their tongues in their cheeks. I was listening to the Tánaiste who appeared to be most enthusiastic about this proposal. He was more enthusiastic about the measure than I have seen him about any other measure since I came into this House. We find that the Tánaiste every second day is attending various functions as he must in connection with his office. He goes down to Cork or to Galway and attends a Chamber of Commerce annual dinner and the theme of his addresses in the main is: "Listen— we have big difficulties; if we are to survive and to progress we must have co-operation among all sections of our people, co-operation between employers and employees, between consumers, wholesalers and retailers; we must have co-operation in all walks of life."
There is much to be said for that line and it strikes me that it is a very peculiar and novel method of inviting co-operation from all sections of the people to say to the Labour Party: "There is no place for you in Parliament"; to say to the Farmers' Party: "You are out also"; to say to Sinn Féin and to Clann na Poblachta and to the Independents: "We want your co-operation but we want it within the Fianna Fáil Party or within whatever major Party will form the Opposition."
Does the Dáil think that we can say to the trade unionist movement: "There is no room for you politically. We recognise that you are there and that you are doing a vocational job but so far as politics are concerned, so far as governing the country is concerned, you must take your place in the Fianna Fáil Benches or in the benches of the major Opposition Party." Does the Taoiseach—or the Tánaiste—think for one moment that is a desirable proposition to put before the trade unionists? Does he think that is a reasonable proposition to put before the Irish people in advocating a change in the electoral system?
Of course the Tánaiste, in making the case against P.R., said there were Deputies in the House who were elected without a quota. Of course there are, but certainly that, to my mind and I would say to the mind of any reasonable individual, is not an argument for changing the whole electoral system. Every Deputy in the House, no matter what or whom he represents, was elected by the people who sent him here. There are Deputies here who were elected as the second choice or the third choice of the people, but they were elected before other people.
Nobody has proved to me so far that it is desirable that any Deputy should be sent into this House under the proposed new system with a minority vote in his own constituency. I do not think any Deputy should be sent here to represent any constituency as proposed in the new system when he represents 30 per cent. or less of the electorate in that constituency.
I listened attentively to Deputy Booth and subsequently read what he had to say. He went on a world tour and told us what happened in various countries, but he did not prove to my satisfaction that it is desirable to have one-Party Government elected on a minority vote. Neither did he prove to my satisfaction that it is reasonable or democratic to send a Deputy to this House who represents 30 per cent. or less of the electorate.
I think the people will see—please God I shall help them to see—the motive behind this measure. The people are not so stupid, not as stupid as some Deputies in the Government Benches would like them to be, as to accept statements such as this by the Taoiseach as reported at column 993 of the Official Report:—
"Fianna Fáil knows that, as a result of the passing of this Bill, an Opposition will be built up which will almost certainly replace the existing Government as an alternative Government."
I think the people are sufficiently wise to know that this measure is not being introduced by the Taoiseach to oust the Fianna Fáil Party, but he is stretching the credulity of the people to the extent that he says: "We are introducing this measure although it means that we are going out of business and we are so patriotic about the whole thing that although we know it is the end of Fianna Fáil we are doing it for the good of the people." I do not think the people will believe that.
He went on and stated:—
"The position then is that, if it were intended to ensure the continuation of Fianna Fáil, this Bill would never be introduced, because it will certainly not have that effect. It is not being introduced because of Party considerations."
Apparently it is hoped by the Taoiseach that he will be able to mesmerise or hypnotise the people in the same way as he apparently mesmerised or hypnotised the delegates at the last Fianna Fáil Árd-Fheis where not a single voice, in a Party that describes itself as democratic, the people's Party, the Republican Party, the workers' Party—they call themselves by so many names—was raised against this proposal. No, the Taoiseach spoke and there was unanimity. To bolster up the argument which the Taoiseach made—that this proposal meant that Fianna Fáil were going out of power—the Tánaiste came in and said:—
"On the assumption that the first general election on the new system will be held at a time when this Party is in Government and when the normal swing of opinion against the Government in office may be expected it could very well work to our disadvantage. Nevertheless, we think it is a better system."
it is recognised by the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste in bringing in this measure that in the first election— according to that—it is going to drive themselves out of power. I hope that point is sufficiently clear to the people out I do not think the people will be "codded" by that argument. I hope they will realise what it means in effect. As I said at the outset it means the abolition of the smaller Parties in this House, the Farmers' Party, Dr. Browne's new Party, Clann na Poblachta and Sinn Féin. To all of them it is being said: "You cannot come into this House."
It is really ironic that the present Taoiseach should go before the Irish people at this hour of his life and say: "I think the system of election which we have been operating here is bad. I think the system of election which has returned my Party to power for 20 of the past 26 years is bad. It is a system," he is saying, "which as operated in Ireland, I think, is bad. I think we should adopt the British system, the Stormont system." The Taoiseach will not fool the people this time.
Most of the advocates of P.R. have carefully shied away in this debate from the manifest merits of the direct voting system. They have spoken of the advantages of P.R. but never once have they spoken of the advantages of the system this Bill proposes to substitute for P.R.
The chief merit of the direct voting system is its absolute simplicity. Under the direct voting system, the voter goes into the polling booth, gets his ballot paper, examines the names of the candidates on that paper and puts a mark, usually an X, in front of the name of the candidate for whom he wishes to vote. It is as simple as that.
There is a simpler one in Moscow.
Compare it with the P.R. system, as we know it here. The smallest constituency we have in Ireland is a three-member constituency. If you have four candidates, you have a contest. Under the P.R. system, in a constituency with four candidates, the voter gets his ballot paper and examines it, and it may come as a surprise to the members of this House to know that he can express his preferences, or mark his paper, in 64 different ways. That is theoretically possible.
In a constituency with five candidates, the voter has 325 different ways of marking his paper. Six candidates allow for 1,956 variations; seven allow for 13,699; eight allow for 109.600; nine allow for 1,100,000; and ten allow for 9,860,000. I maintain that that type of voting is of the same order as the Sunday paper competitions with which I am sure members of the House are quite familiar. The system tends to confuse voters and it is not any wonder it has been described as an intellectual monstrosity. Deputy Dillon in one of his inspired moments described it as the child of the brains of all the cranks in creation. I heartily agree with him.
Another point that is carefully ignored by the advocates of P.R. is the fact that most of the voters do not vote the field. Some vote one, some vote one and two, some vote one, two, and three. A minority may vote one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight. The small minority that vote the field and fill in a complete ballot paper, play in the final analysis, when a candidate is about to be elected, a disproportionate part, to which they are not entitled, in his election or the elimination of another candidate.
The system may be mathematically correct in giving representation to all shades and forms of opinion, if the people knew how to use it. Those of us who have watched the counting of votes have often seen that a tenth, eleventh or thirteenth preference can get the same value as a number one and a bundle of votes being cast aside because the voter did not exercise the full range of preferences available to him.
Another merit of the direct voting system—and one that the members of the House should not forget—is that it means small constituencies and the representatives are easily able or should be able to make themselves known to their constituents and to establish a proper individual relationship, in so far as they can, with their constituents. A psychological value of the small constituency is thereby established and the care of that constituency is vested in a single member.
Full scope for everything?
Full scope. Another merit of the direct voting system is that it provides stability. It does favour the two-Party system to which Deputy Casey referred some time ago. If a person is dissatisfied with the Government in office he knows what he is voting for, to supplant that Government.
Some of the Parties in this House are wedded to and bedded with the idea of Coalition Government. For that reason, they do not want the direct voting system. I can tell Deputy Casey that it will not prevent the emergence of a third Party and he need have no fears for the future of his Labour Party. For many years, the Labour Party in England were the underdogs. There were the traditional contests between the Conservatives and the Liberals, but eventually Labour did come up and were able in the early 'twenties to form a Government. Again, after the war, the Labour Party supplanted the Tories. The process took quite a while, but they did supplant them and they became the second biggest Party in England and did establish a Government of their own.
I am not interested in all this talk about what happened in France, Italy, and other countries where they had P.R. Can anybody point to a political crisis in Great Britain or Canada or the United States of the type that has been known in the countries where P.R. is in operation?
Herman Finer in his book The Theory and Practice of Modern Government, Volume 2, page 920, sets out to examine the electoral system and to evaluate it, and he poses three questions: Is it mathematically equitable? Does it produce a wholesome contact between constituents and representatives? Does it favour or jeopardise governmental stability? His answer to the first question is “Yes”, it is mathematically equitable. But I think I have shown it is not mathematically equitable, if the voter does not exercise the full range of preference available to him. To the other questions, he answers “No”.
Who is he?
Where does he stand?
I am sure this will come as a surprise to the Labour Deputy. He is a lecturer on political theory in the London School of Economics.
I have never heard of him.
You have heard of him now.
I am grateful to the Deputy.
What about the man who gets in on one-third of the votes in a constituency?
Deputies ask about the man being elected on one-third of the votes but I have known men to be elected on 15 per cent. of the votes. The Labour Party in Cork got only 14 per cent. of the votes.
And two-thirds of the voters are not represented.
Miss Lakeman, in her monumental book on P.R., written in conjunction with a Mr. Lambert, admits on page 21 that such a system produces popular disgust with weak irresolute Government—that is, P.R.— and paves the way for acceptance of a dictatorship. That has particular reference, of course, to Germany.
Another volume I came across is entitled The Electoral System in Britain, written by Professor D. E. Butler. He says if England had adopted the P.R. system in 1924 when the Bill was presented to the House of Commons, P.R. would have fostered large constituencies, unsavoury bargaining and circus electioneering. Under the present system public opinion did get represented. He preferred a bad logical Government to a well-meaning but unstable one.
I should like, if I may, to refer to a statement made by Mr. Herbert Morrison on P.R. in 1924 when the Representation of the People Bill was getting its Second Reading in the House of Commons. At column 2022, Volume 172 of Hansard, he summarises the whole position with regard to P.R. and the direct voting system. He says:—
"It means the development of many parliamentary groups, as is the case in France and in Germany. It means that the groups have to come together often for mutually antagonistic purposes, and any change of Government or of parliamentary work, based upon the coming together of opinions that are really antagonistic, is wrong, is contrary to democracy, and is contrary to the interests of our country."
He further states:—
"P.R. is a philosophy which is not unnatural to small new Parties struggling to get a footing on the electoral field and not having much staying power or punch to fight."
Like Fianna Fáil in 1927.
Mr. Morrison goes on to say:—
"It is also perfectly natural to decaying political Parties, who are doomed to extinction in the course of time, and who can only retain their position by elevating the power of the minority and subjecting the power of the majority. It is perfectly natural to them, but it is not natural to strong men and women who want their country to be governed wisely and firmly and I hope, therefore, that the House will not accept that type of Government."
Deputy Carty's spirited defence of changing from P.R. to the direct voting system is composed largely of quotations from authorities, some of which I know and some of which I do not know. I am sure they are most reliable quotations, but surely they were valid analyses of the P.R. system when that system was introduced into the Constitution in 1937? It is a little belated that they should now be utilised in order to justify the very serious decision that has been taken here to remove P.R.
This decision is very much wider in its scope. As Deputy Corry said, a simpler form of voting is above everything else a vote of no confidence in a man who, whatever our personal views may be about him, is acknowledged in many countries as a mature, intelligent and experienced stateman. Because of that, any decision he may take must reverberate throughout the different countries who are watching our progress here. There are many young countries which have recently taken over parliamentary institutions, the people of which have been great admirers of Ireland and Ireland's struggle to establish an independent society. There are people who have been admirers of the Taoiseach. Because of that, I think his decision at this stage to express—it is implicit in the Bill—his loss of faith in the essentially democratic system of P.R. will deal a very far-reaching blow to those of us who are democrats in the very great world struggle that is going on for the minds of men at the moment.
We may be wrong in the views that we hold, but the watered down versions of true democracy of the type to which Deputy Carty refers and which is implicit in this Bill goes right up to the extreme of complete dictatorship, which, in varying degrees, is an expression of the lack of confidence in the ability of the individual to order his own society in an intelligent, just and efficient way.
I have no doubt, from what I can see, about the tremendous efficiency of the dictatorial society, oligarchy and pure dictatorship. I am discussing this matter in a completely abstract and objective way and in discussing Russian Communism, I do not wish to impute any motives to the Taoiseach or any of his Ministers. Looking at the matter in a completely detached way and examining the progress which many of the communistic societies have made under their form of democracy, it leads to tremendous efficiency and tremendous improvement, as far as one can see at any rate, on the surface. There are very great advances in industrial output and agricultural output. There have been many improvements in the standard of living of the people in these societies.
That is somthing which politicians may wish to aim at—absolute efficiency. They may aim at creating an absolutely efficient machine which will so exploit the raw materials of labour and the mineral wealth of one kind or another in a community as to create an economically prosperous society and an expanding economy, and with that expanding economy, provide an oportunity to give all the things which all of us want to give— better conditions of one kind or another.
What we have to decide is whether we are justified in aiming at these desirable objectives, in seeing whether individual freedom or individual right, not the collective, has a final say in the creation of a Parliament and the formation of a Government to determine under what pattern of life we shall live. Are we justified in so limiting that right as to take it over from the mass of the people, expressed in their point of view as individuals, and hand it over to an oligarchy or, in the final analysis, to an individual?
It seems to me that the complete democrat must accept that. He may be wrong. Sometimes I, as one individual who believes in democracy, wonder whether I am wrong in my view that the people are capable and competent to rule themselves and determine the pattern of life which suits them best. I have seen legislation for education and health services passed through this House which is clearly class legislation. It is passed through apparently with the full consent of the people although it is directed against the best interests of all they hold dear—their old people, their children and the sick, and I often wonder whether the democracy in which I believe is a system which can ever be made to work. The only reason I have to hold on to that belief, as I do still hold on to it, is the example of democratic countries, such as Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway and many of the Scandinavian countries. They appear to have been able to make "a go" of democracy. They have been able to create a socially just, certainly a prosperous, society, equal to that which many of the communist countries, the so-called Iron Curtain countries, whether they are socially just or not, are creating for themselves but at the expense of individual freedom and the right of the individual to determine how his life shall be ordered.
Every mitigation, every weakening of that fundamental right of an individual in society, should not be taken without the most grave and prolonged consideration. All of us in various societies following various forms of democracy are the custodians of that point of view and every weakening to which we succumb is a weakening of the great democratic ideal as known throughout the world. It was once said that peace is indivisible. It would seem to me that democracy is indivisible. The Taoiseach in making this decision, with all the background of his position in our society, is subscribing to a fundamental weakening of our belief in democracy, not only among those who believe in it in this country but in many of the countries in Europe and even more important the Afro-Asian countries who are beset by tremendous problems in trying to create a prosperous society without denying to individuals the right of personal freedom.
I believe the Taoiseach in making this decision has made it on a number of false premises. On the basis of many actions I have seen taken, it seemed to me that democracy simply does not work in Ireland. The case appears to me unanswerable and yet I continue to believe that it must be possible to make democracy work in an efficient way. Perhaps it is slower, perhaps it takes a very much longer time but if it is to work it must, in the process of creating a socially just and prosperous society, preserve the most important characteristics of all—individual, intellectual and spiritual freedoms which in the more mechanically efficient systems are in some way weakened or in some cases completely destroyed.
It is incontrovertible that the removal of P.R. does weaken the democratic ideal. If you reduce the number of Parties, which I understand is the main object of the Government—various Deputies have made that clear—from five, six, seven or whatever the number may be you could, as I suggested to Deputy Carty a while ago, pursue that a little further and get greater efficiency by reducing the number from two to one. Instead of having a choice of two Parties at election time you could do what is done behind the Iron Curtain and have only one Party. It is a very efficient system of Government which has a lot to recommend it but, I believe that there is tremendous weight on the other side. There are countries which have achieved the same amount of prosperity without having to destroy the freedoms which we wish to retain in Ireland.
It has been shown over the years that we have had remarkable stability in government. We had Deputy Booth roaming the world looking for examples of the evil consequence of P.R. in society. If he looked back over our own experience, he would have to admit that we have had a considerable measure of political stability with P.R. One of the problems which I suppose the Taoiseach has had to face on this question of P.R. is the fact that people appear to have lost interest in politics, in politicians generally and to have lost faith in many of the political Parties. That is quite true, but it is not due to the fact that we have had P.R. or a particular system of Government. What has happened—and it is understandable—is that the man in the street has conscientiously done his best to order his society through the Legislature over the years; time after time he has gone to the hustings to listen to us and perhaps believed that, by putting back one or other of the candidates, he would realise the dreams outlined to him at the election meetings and through election propaganda. Time after time he has been disillusioned by all Parties and it is that which has led him to wonder: are these people too much above our heads?
Are we unable to cope with this important question of politics? Is politics a thing that is now to be taken over by the Government in a platonic republic where you have small groups, the elders of society, acting for the mass of the people as in the case of the oligarchic societies and dictatorships we have at the moment? Is that what the Taoiseach believes? Has he come to the conclusion that people cannot be trusted with the art of government? Must the people be ruled because they cannot rule themselves? The people themselves have clearly come to the decision that the politician is too clever.
I notice now that there are societies who will discuss this whole question of P.R. One of their interesting provisos—in a way it is a reflection by the man in the street of his attitude towards the politicians at the moment —is that they want to discuss it among themselves. They do not want any politicians there. They are frightened of politicians. However, that is something which has arisen and which has nothing whatsoever to do with P.R. It is the result of failure, no matter how conscientiously believed in and applied, of policies which have been tried time and again over the past 20 or 30 years. It is the result of failure, as evidenced by the refusal of people to vote for any candidates in elections. It is evidenced by low polls. It is evidenced by the general reflections you tend to get in canvassing—that all Parties are the same. This is a lack of faith, not in P.R. but in the political Parties and in their policies. I think it must be quite clear to any reasonably objective-minded politicians in any Party that the people have had a fair amount of justification for their loss of faith in politicians.
Government speakers must be mentioned with the Opposition speakers in their examination of this proposal to remove P.R., the reason being that, quite honestly, it is impossible to find a rational explanation in these days and at this time for it. No matter how much one tries it is quite impossible to discover why, at this time in our history, it is decided to take this very far-reaching, very radical and possibly revolutionary step in relation to the electoral system.
We are beset on all sides by the thoughts of all kinds of objective, competent, highly-efficient independent observers, by commissions of one kind or another, from the Commission on Emigration right through to the Capital Investment Advisory Body and up to this most magnificent report recently by the Secretary of the Department of Finance, all adding up to the one conclusion with which the Minister for Finance agreed yesterday. I wondered whether this was a personal view, a courageous view and, it seemed to me, a well-founded view of the Secretary of the Department of Finance that even if we were to make staffing improvements we would still lag considerably behind other societies. We find that that is the general view. We all know we are economically on the edge of bankruptcy, of disaster, of a cataclysm of one kind or another and we find that, in the tradition of Marie Antoinette, the attitude is: "Give them bread and, if they do not want bread, let them eat cake."
The people are presented with this Bill to abolish P.R. That is a thing I cannot, as an individual, understand. That is a thing which I think the man in the street will not be able to understand. Talk as long as you like, produce as many quotations from any authority as you want, I think it will. be impossible to persuade the people that, in a time of great national crisis such as we are in, the crisis of existence, they should now be asked to debate the abstract dialectical question of whether we shall have P.R. or the direct voting system.
The function of this House is to devise legislation wherewith to improve the pattern of our society. It is fantastic that we should spend the next weeks, as we have spent the last days, in talking heatedly, passionately and with great interest about this question when there are such important problems to be discussed and that we shall leave this place to go around the countryside, to street corners, and so on, to ask the unfortunate man in the street to stand to listen to our debate— the great national debate which must follow before the referendum—when he wants us to tell him how we propose to end emigration or unemployment, to give him three meals a day for his wife and hungry children——
The only question before the House is the third amendment of the Constitution.
I understand that and I shall not dwell on it. It is a question in relation to which the Government will be put in a position, which they cannot sustain, of trying to create an interest in this matter. Even as a Deputy in this House, I have had to drag myself into the consideration of the question involved in relation to P.R. How much harder will it be for the man in the street to analyse the case for and against, as we put it at the street corners?
It seems to me, in this discussion on P.R., that his preoccupation with abstractions is one of the Taoiseach's great failings. It has been said that the decision to change P.R. is a sort of reprisal by the Taoiseach for 1948 and the formation of the inter-Party Government. I wonder whether it is not a rather more subtle reason? Remember, under P.R., the Taoiseach's Party was returned in the past 26 years. It has benefited more frequently from P.R. than any other Party. It has given the Taoiseach power more frequently than any other Party. I wonder if it is not only that the Taoiseach has lost faith in democracy—a very sad thing—but if it is not also a subconscious reprisal on the people for having placed him in the position of leader, for having put him in that position 40 years ago so that he must now confess, where he Is assured on all sides by the reports produced by these independent commissions, that he has been a cataclysmic disaster, a monumental failure as a leader of our society in his attempts to create either social justice or prosperity.
Cuireadh an díospóireacht ar ath-1ó.