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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 21 Feb 1968

Vol. 232 No. 10

Fourth 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.

I gathered from what Deputy Corish said on the first Bill that it is the intention to oppose the introduction of this Bill also. Therefore, I propose under the appropriate Standing Order to make a brief statement explaining broadly the purpose of the Bill. The Bill proposes to give to the people the opportunity of deciding at a referendum whether the relative majority system of election, with the single non-transferable vote and single-seat constituencies, should be adopted for Dáil elections. The Bill also provides for the establishment of a Constituency Commission for the purpose of determining constituencies and for the automatic re-election of an outgoing Ceann Comhairle as a second Member for an appropriate constituency. Details of these proposals will be available when the Bill is circulated.

In view of an obvious misunderstanding of the ratio of Deputies to population, as indicated by Deputy Corish of the Labour Party, I should like to say that there is no question of tolerance between 20,000 and 30,000. The Dáil in its legislation may adopt any number between 20,000 and 30,000 and whichever number is adopted, the existing Constitution requires that the same number of the population per Deputy, as near as is practicable, should be in every constituency.

This is the second Bill. It was the intention to introduce both measures in one, and with due authority from the Government, the Minister for Justice made the announcement, but the Government were entitled to reconsider the position.

(Cavan): Public opinion made you do it.

There was no question of any one member of the Government, Taoiseach or otherwise, overriding other members. It was a Government decision taken in the ordinary manner, in the proper way, by the Government.

They are on the run.

This proposal is also opposed, as was announced some time ago, by Fine Gael. This Party consider that this matter was already decided a relatively short time ago—something more than eight years. I think I overheard the Minister for Local Government make an observation that the same view prevails among all members of Fianna Fáil. Deputy Colley thought he should be Taoiseach and Deputy Haughey thought neither Deputy Colley nor Deputy Lynch was suitable.

We are all the same on this.

You are not.

Every single one.

Then the Minister for Industry and Commerce and Deputy Lemass are both dishonest liars, if you are all the same.

They are not liars.

They are, if they are all the same.


You are either dishonest or liars.

One of your Ministers told the Taoiseach to leave.

To leave or get out, he was told.

Where is Oliver J. today?

Is it in order for Deputy Sweetman to refer to Deputies as dishonest lawyers or liars?

What I said is quite clear. If it is out of order, I withdraw it. I said that either the Minister for Industry and Commerce and Deputy Lemass are not in accord with the majority view of Fianna Fáil in this matter or they are dishonest liars. I think the first is true, not the second.


May I say that we shall get ample opportunity to deal with this and we will show that Deputy Sweetman, as usual, is talking through his hat?

You signed the report. That condemns you.

Will Deputies allow Deputy Cosgrave to continue his statement?

Tell us about the time you ran Deputy Blaney for Taoiseach.

Anything I did was done in public.

I understand he is to run Deputy O'Malley the next time.

So long as it is not Deputy Childers.

There never was a vote of confidence in the Taoiseach in this Party—never a vote of confidence carried by one vote.

Are Deputy Sweetman's last remarks to remain on the record?



He went further than——

I should like to point out that the Chair did not understand whether Deputy Sweetman meant liars or lawyers.


As a lawyer, I have nothing to say to that.

Will he withdraw the imputation that Deputy Lemass is a lawyer? What has Deputy Dillon to say to that?

Will Deputies allow the Leader of the Labour Party to make a statement?

The Labour Party have no problem at all on this because as a Parliamentary Party, we are unanimous in our views on it.

You will not be sitting there——

You should not be so confident.

You thought you would be there forever.

Will Deputies allow Deputy Corish——

You are on the scaffold, brothers.

Until a few months ago there did not appear to be, outside Fianna Fáil, any demand for this change. As I have said before, it is an insult to the intelligence of the people to refer back to them a question which they decided eight and a half years ago. Of course we will be told, as we were told by the Minister for Justice in "Seven Days", that the countries of Europe do not employ the system of proportional representation. They do. It is not necessarily the same. Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland do employ a system of proportional representation. We have been told we should be trying to adjust ourselves to European patterns in our Parliamentary and economic machinery but it seems now that we are going in the opposite direction. What we are adopting now is the British system and the Northern Ireland system.

What is Germany doing?

I am pointing out what six European countries are doing. In any case one has to be suspicious of the motives of the Fianna Fáil Party. Under a system of proportional representation, they have been in government for 27 out of the past 36 years. They have had majorities in most of these governments. The lifetime of Dáil Éireann, on average, has been longer than most European parliaments. Therefore, we are entitled to be suspicious as to the motives of the Fianna Fáil Party in wanting to introduce a new system. It seems to me the game is going against them, and they want to change the rules in order that the people will retain them.


We convinced the people the last time that the proposal was wrong and they rejected it. We also deplore the unscrupulous attempt —and I say "attempt"—by the Government to use this Constitution Committee, which we joined in good faith, to ensure that there would be changes made in the Constitution——


It was not we who brought in divorce. Ask your backbenchers about that.


You recommended it anyway.

You are not at all concerned about what are necessary changes on which the Committee were unanimous in their views. We should also like to know from the Taoiseach, and perhaps he will reply next week, whether it is proposed to change to the straight vote, or perhaps the Minister for Local Government would tell us whether it is the intention to change the system of local elections, or is there consistency in the Fianna Fáil Party? Last week when the Minister for Justice was asked that a certain type of legal aid be given, he said it would cost £200,000 and said that that money should be directed to some more worthwhile project. Surely this £100,000 which it is expected to spend on the referendum could be put to better advantage than putting the Dáil to the inconvenience of this worthless proposal?

What about Liberty Hall?

What about Liberty Hall?


We oppose the First Stage of this second proposal and will continue to oppose it as long as it is under discussion in Dáil Éireann.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 68; Nil, 46.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Lorcan.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Blaney, Neil T.
  • Brennan, Paudge.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, Patrick.
  • Burke, Patrick J.
  • 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.
  • Boland, Kevin.
  • Booth, Lionel.
  • Boylan, Terence.
  • Brady, Philip.
  • Gogan, Richard P.
  • Haughey, Charles.
  • 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.
  • Ó Briain, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Ceallaigh, Seán.
  • O'Connor, Timothy.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Donogh.
  • Smith, Patrick.


  • 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.
  • Governey, Desmond.
  • 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; Níl: Deputies L'Estrange and James Tully.
Question declared carried.
Second Stage ordered for Tuesday, 27th February, 1968.