Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1968: First Stage.

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Constitution.

As has already been announced Fine Gael are opposed to the proposal and have made it clear that they are satisfied that as the matter was decided a relatively short time ago, it is unnecessary in present circumstances to have the matter again considered. There are many more urgent economic and social problems which require solution such as housing shortages——

May I raise a point of order?

I was about to point out to Deputy Cosgrave that as he is opposing the introduction of this Bill, it is usual for the Chair to call on the promoter of the Bill for a short explanatory statement first.

And then the opposer?

It has been opposed from this side too.

How many opposers will there be? I am merely asking for guidance.

The Leaders of the Parties: no other speakers.

Only an explanatory statement from the proposer and statements from the opposers? Would those statements be in the form of prolonged speeches?

No. They are not in the form of speeches. They are in the form of short explanatory statements.

We must go by Standing Orders.

I am seeking guidance from the Chair. In accordance with Standing Order No. 89, I propose to give a short explanatory statement of the contents of the first Bill. This Bill proposes to give the people an opportunity of deciding at a referendum whether the existing provisions of subsection (3) of section 2 of Article 16 of the Constitution regarding the ratio between the number of Dáil Members and the population in each constituency should be replaced by new criteria governing the determination of constituencies. Details of these proposals will be available in the Bill when it is circulated.

As I have said, Fine Gael have already announced their opposition in this matter. There will be ample opportunity both in the House and elsewhere to discuss the matter, but I wish formally now to repeat the decision that we oppose the proposal which the Taoiseach has introduced.

I know it is not usual to oppose the First Reading of any Bill, because the general idea of the House being unanimous in accepting the First Stage is in order to become more conversant with the proposals or the details in the Bill when in fact it is published. This is not the same situation here and for that reason the Labour Party are now opposing even the First Stage. We know exactly what is in it, and we do not pretend that we will by our assent allow this House, if we can stop it, to use any part of public time in discussing this measure and certainly the Second Bill, which is described as the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill.

The contents are well known to us from a statement released by the Taoiseach some few weeks ago after, I believe, a meeting of the Fianna Fáil Party. However, there was a certain amount of confusion even after that statement was issued. It was only in the past week or so that the Taoiseach, on behalf of the Government, and on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party, told us that there would be two separate proposals, despite the fact, if I may mention it—and I assume he was speaking for the Government—that the Minister for Justice told the public on the television programme "Seven Days" that there would be a package deal.

Hear, hear.

He emphasised it very many times on that occasion. This demonstrates, to my mind in any case the confusion that must have existed within the Cabinet, until I assume they had a further look at it, or the Taoiseach himself made a positive decision.

Is this speech against the Bill or against the Government?

No backbench interruptions.

Deputy MacEntee will not be around for that issue.

We are opposing this because we believe there is no demand for it. At the present time, the situation is that there is one Deputy representative of a population of between 20,000 and 30,000. We believe there is sufficient latitude within this 20,000 to 30,000 to do what the Taoiseach suggests can be done under this new proposal. There is a tolerance margin of 10,000 and——

The Deputy is on the wrong point.

——in our view, that is quite sufficient. In any case the suggestion that we should reduce the ratio of population per Deputy is, to my mind, an admission of the failure of the Government to keep people in these special areas looked after.

No such suggestion was made.

We would suggest to the Government that rather than giving those areas more Deputies, they should be concerned about giving them more jobs in order to keep the population there.

This is a Second Reading speech.

No backbench interruptions.

The only limitation on the debate is at the discretion of the Ceann Comhairle and I assure him that I will not be too long more. We are told by the Minister for Local Government, and I think by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, that this will not mean an increase in the number of Deputies in Dáil Éireann. I should like to have that explained. We have had many explanations of this legislation at Fianna Fáil cumainn and various other places, but not in this House. We have been told that it will not increase the number of Deputies in Dáil Éireann. I fail to see this.

The Deputy is opposing something he does not understand.

I am opposing the idea that there should be a special preference to ensure that Fianna Fáil interests are looked after. We are in favour of the principle of one man, one vote. It seems the Government are not.

The Constitution does not provide for one man, one vote.

It should, if it does not. You made the Constitution and it should, if it does not.

We are proposing to change it and bring it nearer to one man, one vote.

We believe in the fundamental principle of one man, one vote.

May I point out to Deputy Corish that we cannot discuss the Bill at this stage because it is not before the House? Deputies will have ample opportunity later of discussing what is in the Bill.

Is that addressed to Deputy MacEntee, the octogenarian delinquent?

I suppose we can assume that this Stage will be passed because the Fianna Fáil Party are all here, and then we will have Second Stage, Committee Stage and Report Stage, and that will take quite an amount of time. After all, this is an amendment of the Constitution, an amendment which will provide for——

(Interruptions.)

For God's sake, stay quiet. This is an important matter and every person in the House will have an interest in it. For that reason there will be a long debate. We object to the First Stage of the Bill being introduced; we object to a discussion on it at all because it is a waste of the time of the House when there are other matters like housing, the new health scheme we are promised, free trade and employment and unemployment to be discussed. We think the House would be better occupied in talking about those things rather than something we know the people will reject.

All you are concerned about is cementing yourselves in power for all time.

You are afraid of it.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 68; Nil, 45.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Lorcan.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Blaney, Neil T.
  • Boland, Kevin.
  • Booth, Lionel.
  • Calleary, Phelim A.
  • Carty, Michael.
  • Childers, Erskine.
  • Clohessy, Patrick.
  • Colley, George.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Corry, Martin J.
  • Cotter, Edward.
  • Cronin, Jerry.
  • Crowley, Flor.
  • Davern, Don.
  • de Valera, Vivion.
  • Dowling, Joe.
  • Egan, Nicholas.
  • Fahey, John
  • Fanning, John.
  • Faulkner, Pádraig.
  • Fitzpatrick, Thomas J. (Dublin South-Central).
  • Flanagan, Seán.
  • Foley, Desmond.
  • French Seán.
  • Gallagher, James.
  • Geoghegan, John.
  • Gibbons, Hugh.
  • Gibbons, James M.
  • Gilbride, Eugene.
  • Gogan, Richard P.
  • Haughey, Charles.
  • Boylan, Terence.
  • Brady, Philip.
  • Brennan, Paudge.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, Patrick.
  • Burke, Patrick J.
  • Healy, Augustine A.
  • Hillery, Patrick J.
  • Hilliard, Michael.
  • Kenneally, William.
  • Kennedy, James J.
  • Kitt, Michael F.
  • Lalor, Patrick J.
  • Lemass, Noel T.
  • Lemass, Seán.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Patrick.
  • Lynch, Celia.
  • Lynch, John.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Millar, Anthony G.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Mooney, Patrick.
  • Moore, Seán.
  • Moran, Michael.
  • Nolan, Thomas.
  • Norton, Patrick.
  • ÓBriain, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Ceallaigh, Seán.
  • O'Connor, Timothy.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Donogh.
  • Smith, Patrick.

Níl

  • Barrett, Stephen D.
  • Barry, Richard.
  • Belton, Luke.
  • Belton, Paddy.
  • Burke, Joan T.
  • Burton, Philip.
  • Clinton, Mark A.
  • Cluskey, Frank.
  • Collins, Seán.
  • Connor, Patrick.
  • Coogan, Fintan.
  • Corish, Brendan.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Costello, Declan.
  • Costello, John A.
  • Creed, Donal.
  • Crotty, Patrick J.
  • Desmond, Eileen.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Dockrell, Henry P.
  • Dockrell, Maurice E.
  • Donegan, Patrick S.
  • Donnellan, John.
  • Dunne, Seán.
  • Dunne, Thomas.
  • Esmonde, Sir Anthony C.
  • Fitzpatrick, Thomas J.
  • (Cavan).
  • Gilhawley, Eugene.
  • Harte, Patrick D.
  • Hogan O'Higgins, Brigid.
  • Jones, Denis F.
  • Kyne, Thomas A.
  • Larkin, Denis.
  • L'Estrange, Gerald.
  • Lyons, Michael D.
  • Mullen, Michael.
  • Murphy, Michael P.
  • O'Donnell, Tom.
  • O'Higgins, Michael J.
  • O'Leary, Michael.
  • Ryan, Richie.
  • Spring, Dan.
  • Sweetman, Gerard.
  • Treacy, Seán.
  • Tully, James.
Tellers:— Tá: Deputies Carty and Geoghegan; Nil: Deputies L'Estrange and James Tully.
Question declared carried.

Next Stage?

Next Tuesday.

Circulation?

Second Stage ordered for Tuesday, 27th February, 1968.

It will not be taken next Tuesday, of course.

On a point of order, now that the Labour Party have shown they have accepted the principles of Mr. Justice Budd, would it be in order to refer to them as "Buddists"?

Deputies

That is not a point of order.

On a point of order, is it in order for a Member of this House—

Deputies

Boo.

Deputies may boo as much as they like; the people will boo them very shortly. Is it in order for a Member of this House to bring up the name of a distinguished judge in this House?

Have the Deputies not accepted his judgment?

Is it not contrary to all precedent that the name of a distinguished judge should be mentioned in this House in this fashion?

(Interruptions.)

Furthermore, will the Ceann Comhairle take steps to remove unruly elements from this House?

(Interruptions.)

You must be stuck when you had to drag him in here.

On a point of information, did I hear the Taoiseach say that it is proposed to take the Bill next Tuesday?

It has been ordered for next Tuesday.

Will it be taken definitely? Many pieces of legislation are ordered for a certain day but not necessarily taken. Can we take it the Bill will be taken next Tuesday? Is that definite?

It has been ordered for next Tuesday. I cannot be positive about everything.

About anything.

The intention is to take it on Tuesday next.

You changed your mind about the package deal and you can do so about this also.