As I pointed out to the House on the Committee Stage in respect to this matter and in respect to what Deputy Esmonde said on that occasion, this question is not just as simple as the Deputy seems to think. In fact, if it were, the Deputy would not have had any need to have recourse to an amendment such as is now before the House. The Deputy mentioned that the judge, in his summing up in the High Court, said that a little bit one way or the other did not matter. To my knowledge the judge did not use any such words or give such understanding. If the Deputy can find in the judgment of the High Court some words to that effect that have escaped my reading it is news to me. If there had been any such words in the judgment it would have made things much easier for me when framing the Bill.
I am not aware that the judgment suggested that a little this way or that way did not matter in regard to what the Constitution says—that there cannot be fewer than one Deputy for every 30,000 of the population or more than one for every 20,000 of the population. These figures cannot be applied strictly but in a given constituency they are the figures which determine the maximum or minimum number of Deputies which we may have under the law. While we are opting in this measure as in previous measures for the maximum number allowable under the Constitution, it does not follow that every seat must of necessity represent 20,000, 21,000 or 22,000. The Constitution does go quite a way to determine how the ratios in the various constituencies within the country as a whole may vary when it says that they shall be, so far as possible, the same.
That applies to the constituencies in which a division has had to be made, in which, for instance, a bit of Wexford has had to be taken and put into the adjoining constituency of Carlow-Kilkenny, which makes these two so far as possible the same. There is a difference of only 90 in the ratio of constituency member to population. In the proposed amendment the difference in ratio would rise from 90 to 575. Therefore, nobody can say that in arriving at a difference of only 90, as against 575, we are going against the Constitution which demands and dictates that the ratios shall be so far as possible the same.
It is quite natural that Deputy Esmonde and other Deputies who come from a constituency which up to now has been a county complete in itself without either additions or deletions in the past, would not like to see changes made. They would rather have reduced representation in their own county. I think that applies to all of us representing any constituency. We would willingly accept a seat less and be left with the old territory and population. In my own constituency of East Donegal we have had a change of population from one constituency to another of about 12,000. In the area where we have had to lose that 12,000 I would very happily agree to a three-seat representation instead of the previous four-seat representation. Unfortunately, I cannot do that. I must change the population from one constituency to the other. A greater number is being changed in my constituency than in Wexford for instance, and I deplore it equally with Deputy Esmonde and other Deputies who feel likewise in similar circumstances.
Deputy Esmonde suggested that Tombrack and Ballybeg should be left in Wexford rather than be among the eight district electoral divisions being transferred to Carlow-Kilkenny. If there were a choice in the matter of these eight divisions, I wonder would the other Wexford Deputies be of the same opinion as to the areas that should remain in Wexford? On the Committee Stage another Deputy from Wexford, Deputy Browne, suggested that some areas other than those mentioned by Deputy Esmonde should be left in Wexford and not taken into Carlow-Kilkenny. We have not had the views of the remaining two Deputies from Wexford but it is very likely that the other two would have different opinions from those expressed and if we were to satisfy all we would have to leave the eight in Wexford instead of as the Constitution dictates, taking the eight out of Wexford.
These things seem quite easy to arrange and to justify when one is discussing them from the Opposition side of the House or, as in this case, when one is talking as a Wexford Deputy. I can quite understand Deputy Esmonde's being convinced that his amendment provides the proper way to effect the necessary changes. However, even if there were a free choice and all the Wexford Deputies agreed on Tombrack and Ballybeg district electoral divisions being left in Wexford, the fact remains that it could not be done for the very good reason I have given earlier in regard to the population in Wexford constituency, that at 87,000 odd it is far below what would be held to be legal for five seats in the future and also far too high to have only four seats. It was quite obvious a change had to be made. It so happened the adjoining constituency of Carlow-Kilkenny had such a population in relation to the number of seats, coming near the 100,000 mark, that from the legal point of view and from the point of view of constitutional requirements it was capable of containing within it sufficient additional population which, taken from Wexford, brought Wexford within striking distance of the national average.
In that way, Wexford has come to cede this part to Carlow-Kilkenny rather than to some other part. Without any doubt whatsoever, the addition of these eight electoral divisions brings the Wexford average to 20,652, and on the other side of the boundary, by adding these 4,652 people in the eight district electoral divisions to Carlow-Kilkenny, the Carlow-Kilkenny ratio per member is brought up to 20,562, a difference in ratio, as I have pointed out, of only 90 as between the two constituencies.
If, side by side with that, we were to leave the two electoral divisions of Ballybeg and Tombrack in Wexford— that is, 997 people, just short of 1,000 —it would appear that that surely could not make much difference, but the effect would be to bring about a difference in ratio of 575, Wexford having 20,901 per member and Carlow-Kilkenny 20,326. As I say, looking at it initially it would appear that it would not make much difference, but, in fact, it makes a considerable difference when it is expressed in this manner, and related to the constitutional requirement that the ratio of population per member should be the same, so far as possible. By this division and this addition to Carlow-Kilkenny from Wexford, we have gone as far as possible to keep the member-population ratios as close as we can. There is just 90 in the difference.
A disimprovement in that position at this stage, particularly by way of amendment, surely could not go without notice. If I had unwittingly put it to the House, in the first instance, in that manner, it might have been accepted. It might have got away. But after consideration of the Bill, we have got a ratio which is so closely similar in these adjoining constituencies—and we have been obliged to make certain changes to conform with the Constitution—that I am afraid the expanding of that difference deliberately and wilfully, as it were, by way of amendment, with our eyes wide open, would not get away. We would be asking for quite an amount of trouble in the future if we were to propose to do that.
The big difficulty in all these divisions is not the question of getting agreement. You cannot have agreement; there never is agreement and there cannot be agreement. If my constituency is losing to another constituency, I will not agree to the part that is being lost. I am not satisfied, and neither is any other Deputy satisfied if he is losing portion of his own constituency which he has worked in and got to know, and the people of which have got to know him. It is natural that we should resent that. Deputy Esmonde is just like the rest of us who find ourselves in that situation. I must say I sympathise with him, but further than giving him my sympathy I cannot go.
In regard to the overall division, while it is objectionable from the Wexford point of view, it is a division which we were obliged to make. It has been done to conform with the constitutional law of the country and, while it is not acceptable to all concerned, nevertheless I think it will be agreed to be the best arrangement that could have been made in the circumstances. For that reason, I suggest the amendment should not be carried by the House. I suggest that the proposals in the Bill in regard to these two constituencies and these divisions, are the better arrangement, because they conform to a much greater degree with the requirements laid down. I very strongly recommend to the House the proposals in the Bill in that regard and I suggest that we should retain those proposals, rather than change them in the manner suggested in the amendment, or indeed in any manner that would, in turn, throw out of gear the ratio figures I have already recounted to the House.