When the debate was adjourned last night, I was discussing the particular problems of urban areasvis-à-vis rural areas. I would like to dwell for a moment on some actual figures as distinct from the theoretical arguments which have been adduced by the Government in an effort to justify giving 40 per cent deviation to certain parts of the depopulated areas of this country. We were asked to accept that because of a higher population of people under 21 years of age in urban areas than in rural areas the principle of one man one vote was not respected where the ratio between public representatives and the people was on the basis of population rather than on the electorate.
We did extract from the Minister that the percentage of electors to population in rural Ireland is about 56 and in the urban areas, it is 61 per cent, giving a variation of only five per cent. It is quite clear you cannot under any canon of justice decide that it is fair to allow a 40 per cent deviation to compensate for a theoretical five per cent differential; yet that is what the Government are doing. They want a bias which is eight times greater than the percentage difference of the electorate to population of our land.
I want to give some actual figures as distinct from the theories which the Government have propounded. When in 1959 the Government introduced an Electoral (Amendment) Bill to rearrange constituencies, they did then what the courts said was unjust, unconstitutional and unfair. They gave preferential representation to some areas. What the Government are now seeking to do in the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill is to provide power in the Constitution to do what was considered to be unjust, unfair and inequitable.
The exact figures for some constituencies are very interesting. The number of Dáil electors per seat—I am dealing with electors and not population—under that arrangement which the Government now seek to include in the Constitution, in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown was 14,370 electors per TD. In Galway, it was to be only 9,439 electors per TD. There were to be 5,000 electors fewer in Galway than in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. That is what the Government say is fair, proper and just and are now seeking to ask the people to accept.
Under the same arrangement in 1959, which they now seek to include in the Constitution, Dublin South-East had 14,522 electors per TD and Galway West had 9,961 electors per TD, again just 4,500 more electors in Dublin per TD than in Galway. Do not think for a moment that this was confined to Galway. You had the same low number of electors per TD in Monaghan, Wexford, Kerry and Donegal.
That was the situation in 1959 based on the 1956 census. At the time that Bill was introduced, the actual figures under the system which was in existence up to 1959 were: in Dublin County, there were 24,689 electors per TD; and in Galway South 9,439 electors per TD. You had nearly 15,000 more electors per TD in Dublin county than you had in Galway. Again, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown had 20,450 electors per TD as against Galway with 9,961 electors per TD. Here we have the actual figures showing 150 per cent disadvantage against Dublin.
The figures at the moment, in 1968, which are based on the census of 1956 are even more atrocious. This is again what the Government are seeking to enshrine in the Constitution and regard as fair, proper and just. At the moment you have the situation that in some Dublin constituencies there are almost 30,000 electors per TD and some of the constituencies in which it is intended to give advantageous representation have little more than 8,000 electors per TD.
That is what we are asked to accept as fair and proper. The Constitution, and the only course open to people in determining what the boundaries of constituencies will be, allows the calculation to be made only on the basis of known figures, figures ascertained in the immediately preceding census. If we are not to use that basis, the only other basis would be the electorate ascertained in the immediate preceding register preparation. This takes no account of the inevitable trend which will increase the population of urban areas in every 12 year cycle. The Department of Local Government, the Central Statistics Office, the Taoiseach's Office, several Government agencies and several local authorities will confirm that the population of Dublin is expected to increase by at least 100,000 in the next ten years.
Any rearrangement of constituencies which is now made will give no attention whatsoever to that inevitable shift in population, so that even if an effort is made to be strictly fair on this preparation of constituencies now and to have an equal ratio between population and TDs, it is bound to be put out of joint in the next ten years. It is bound to be put out of joint in one year after another, just as the 1961 arrangement is now completely out of joint giving three times higher degree of political power to constituencies in depopulated rural areas against Dublin and other urban constituencies.
The interesting thing is that in the preparation of the electoral arrangement in 1961, the Government were aware that the constituencies in Dublin were again going to have their population increased. Although it would not have been improper for them to bear that in mind, they did quite the reverse. Under the 1961 arrangement, the population per TD of Dublin North-East was the highest in the whole country. Dublin North-East which was a constituency in which there was bound to be substantial building, in which the population was bound to rise by the better part of 100,000 in the ensuing ten years, started off by being the furthest away from the national average by having the largest number of electors per TD. The next in line was Dublin County which again was bound in the ensuing 12 year period to have its population multiplied because it was, with Dublin North-East, the only region contiguous to Dublin city which had development land. That is Dublin County and Dublin North-East. From Clontarf to Howth and back to Ballymun, there was land ripe for development, land that had been dormant for years because of lack of development and was just then ripe for development because the new Dublin drainage scheme had been completed. No provision was made for the population that was bound to come into existence during the next 12 years in those areas.
There is no obligation on the Oireachtas to take cognisance of the inevitable increase in population but one would consider that it would be more relevant to do so than consider all kinds of imaginary inconveniences that some Deputies think they have and the personal burdens they have to bear. Under no acceptable canon can we approve any election system which will give 40 per cent additional power to some sections of our people. I do not think our people want it. I do not think that is what was in mind when this State was established and when so much was sacrificed to establish it and when so much has been sacrificed since we must maintain a degree of justice and equity for all sections of the people.
I mentioned last night, and I reiterate, that rural Deputies have immense advantages and their constituents have immense advantages which are not available to people in the urban areas. The greatest of all advantages is the provincial press which gives detailed news about townlands and parishes in the local news columns, where pages are taken up with every little detail of communal activity, family activity and personal achievements and personal happenings throughout the length and breadth of the areas in which the newspapers circulate. Any Deputy worth his salt will raise a substantial amount of publicity in the local newspaper if he is doing a modicum of work. Every meeting he attends and every branch meeting will be reported in the local press.
None of these benefits is available to Deputies in the urban areas where the most a hard working Deputy can get is his name in the newspapers in relation to a contribution in Parliament. It is common knowledge that when rural Deputies raise questions here they cannot get down to the general office fast enough to get copies of replies and have them circulated to their local newspapers where they are certain to be published. Dublin Deputies have no newspapers to publish their deeds or misdeeds other than the occasional newspaper when they are involved in national or international news.
I am not making a personal complaint. I have no personal grouse in this regard but I mention this as one of the important rural advantages. When rural Deputies say they are suffering disadvantages, they might bear that in mind. It is also common knowledge that people in rural areas are not so preoccupied in their daily existence with the daily pressures which are forever pressing in on the people in the urban areas, with the result that people in the rural areas are always full of information about their neighbours and areas, their own parishes and adjoining parishes and also their county. The same does not happen where you have thousands in certain areas, where the population can be up to 4,000 or 5,000 people per 100 acres. That would be a density some 500 times greater than the density of population in parts of rural Ireland.
The loneliest place in the world by far is the large city. The lonely person suffers much more acutely when living in crowded areas. That is the experience of people in large urban areas. There is a much greater need to have closer representation in the urban area than in a rural area. The only inconvenience which has any validity is the one which requires rural Deputies to travel long distances. But, in that regard, the Minister for Lands, speaking recently of the great benefits of going to Castlebar, told civil servants that they should not be grousing about going to Castlebar because they would get much faster to their work in Castlebar. Even if living in towns 20 miles away, they would get much faster to their work with less irritation, inconvenience and cost than if they were to remain in Dublin where it takes, in the Minister's words, half an hour and often more to cover even a mile. This is common knowledge, but these things apparently are to be ignored when we come to the immensely impossible distances through impassable territory where the pioneering Deputies of rural Ireland are perpetually to suffer in their imaginations.
The longest distance in mileage between the extremities in any constituency in the country is 79 miles and most Deputies would not have to do that in one day. The average distance for any Deputy within his own constituency would not exceed 30 or 40 miles. That is putting it at a generous figure and I venture to say that quite a number would have far less trouble in traversing that distance than it takes Dublin Deputies to get around their constituencies because of the traffic problems we have to face.
These are unimportant matters. The only reason I mention them is that these are the only arguments that have been advanced as to why we should change the electoral system. We have had arguments about electoral systems which are in operation in countries thousand of miles away and thousands of miles in dimension. Many people forget that although Canada is our next door neighbour, although there are Irish people there and it is an English-speaking country, although it may appear to be close to us in many ways and is a young nation like ourselves, there is a longer distance from the east to the west coast of Canada than from Canada to Ireland. Similarly in Australia, the distances are beyond our comprehension. Indeed in Australia even though the eastern seaboard may be sophisticated and developed, there are vast jungle or bush areas and deserts to be crossed when moving across land to reach the west. Any electoral systems which are thought to be convenient in those geographical circumstances are not likely to have any relevance to our own, in which, as we have seen, the average journey a Deputy would have to take to represent his own people is 30 or 40 miles.
However, these are nothing compared with more fundamental rights. We can wax indignant on liberty, equality and other political rights, as we call them. We are living very much in the past, spending so much time being concerned with political rights when it is with social rights we should be preoccupied. Our political rights ought to be sacrosanct. One of them is the right to an equal say in the selection of the Government, in the selection of one's public representative. The Government seek to interfere with that right which every democracy and republic has recognised since the days of the French Revolution—the qualities of liberty, equality and fraternity.
Where is equality in any system which will give 40 per cent more say in voting to one section of the community? That is clearly a negation of what the revolutionaries in France and those who followed them believed in. It is an interference with fundamental political rights to attempt to destroy the priceless privilege of equality in political influence. But I am concerned with social rights which I consider to be just as fundamental as the political rights of freedom, the liberty of the individual, the freedom of States. These are critically important things but the day has gone or should be gone when any of these should be qualified or challenged in any way.
What we need to concern ourselves with are the social rights without which man cannot develop properly. In a just society, which we have not got in this country, social rights would rank equally with political rights. On an equal footing with fundamental political rights should be fundamental social rights and they include the aspirations of every man to work, to education, to have a home, to full family rights, to be relieved of the agony of seeing his children emigrate, to social and medical assistance, to rid himself finally of poverty, insecurity and bad housing and, to the greatest extent possible, to be freed from the inequalities imposed by nature or society.
These are the fundamental rights, these social rights about which we should be concerning ourselves in the spring and summer of 1968. We should be concerned with the many ways in which we as a society fall short—the giving of these fundamental rights to the people. We should be concerned with closing the gap, removing the inequalities imposed by nature and society. What we are doing is something of which we should be ashamed, something in respect of which we should ask God to forgive us. We are wasting the nation's time and the nation's energies by endeavouring to infringe on what should be unchallengeable fundamental political rights, when we ought to be preoccupied with trying to confer on all our people equal social rights which are fundamental and essential if man is properly to develop.
I should like to turn to the Constitution and to refer to Article 41 to illustrate one thing I have in mind. We provide, in section 2, paragraph 1:
In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.
In our society an increasing number of married women are obliged to go to work, and this is particularly true in cities and towns, to supplement the grossly inadequate incomes of husbands. What is the State doing about recognising the rights of the woman to be at home to look after the family? What are we doing in the spring and summer of 1968 to improve the lot of families? We are doing nothing. What we are trying to do is the reverse—to reduce the voting power of innumerable families in Dublin and other urban centres whose women are obliged to work in factories and domestic service because the family incomes the husbands can bring home are grossly inadequate to maintain the homes in a proper degree of comfort and to maintain children and give them the opportunities for education and development which should be theirs.
Article 45 of the Constitution gives a directive on principles of social policy and it is terribly important we should read this Article because it is not cognisable by any court. It is for the general guidance of the Members of these Houses and it behoves us when considering the Constitution to look at this Article which has been directed to us to see to what extent, if at all, we are fulfilling our obligations to give the people the opportunities and the social policies they should be enjoying. We find, for instance, in that Article:
The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the whole people by securing the protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice and charity shall inform all the institutions of the national life.
How can we say we are promoting the welfare of the whole people when we are proposing to interfere with the very basis of our parliamentary system by depriving masses of our people of any representation in the House unless they happen to be lucky enough to back the winner first past the post. They are to be deprived of all representation in the House and that is not having regard to the welfare of the whole people. It is not a system which represents the virtues of justice and charity, nor could it ever be said that any Dáil elected under the British system of first past the post could be a just institution, an institution which was having regard to the need for justice and charity in national life.
Section 2 of the same Article provides:
The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing
i. That the citizens (all of whom, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood) may through their occupations find the means of making reasonable provision for their domestic needs.
We know that is not so: we know there are many homes which are below adequate, social, financial and economic standards and which do not afford all our citizens equality of opportunity. Yet we are not concerning ourselves in the spring and summer of 1968 with these matters. We are concerned rather to qualify the political rights of some members of the community.
The same Article provides:
That there may be established on the land in economic security as many families as in the circumstances shall be practicable.
It is because the Fianna Fáil Government, now in office for more than 30 years, have failed to establish on the land in economic security for as many families as shall be practicable that they are now endeavouring to diminish their responsibility by taking a crack at the people in urban areas to compensate for their lack of activity in establishing and maintaining as many families as practicable in adequate security on the land.
We find also in the Directive Principles of Social Policy:
The State pledges itself to safeguard with especial care the economic interests of the weaker sections of the community and, where necessary, to contribute to the support of the infirm, the widow, the orphan, and the aged
Yet we are giving the same infirm, widowed, orphaned and aged pensioners paltry pensions which are insufficient to provide for them a diet which would save them from starvation. It is common knowledge that there are hundreds and thousands of old people in this country who are simply dying of malnutrition. Yet, in the spring and summer of 1968, this Dáil and the Irish people are prevented from taking steps to remedy these unfortunate people's circumstances because we are, by Government direction, to preoccupy ourselves with disqualifying the electoral effect of some sections of the Irish people. I do not want to go any farther. I think I have drawn enough attention to the matter to show that the Constitution is concerned with matters other than political advantage.
I cannot too strongly condemn the Government for wasting so much time and effort in this attempt on their part to ensure the creation of rotten boroughs in rural Ireland with the assistance of rotten money to maintain a rotten Government in office. When we leave aside all the theory and all the arguments concerning which is the best and most suitable means of electing members to the national parliament of Ireland, we come down to the real purpose of the Government's proposals.
I am quite convinced that the Fianna Fáil Party have unlimited funds. I am quite convinced that they have received immense funds from a large number of highly questionable sources. They have sailed as close to the wind of corruption as any Government could ever sail. Machiavelli was a saint compared with them. One of their purposes in having this referendum at this time is in the hope that it will financially ruin their political opponents. They are less concerned with whether or not they can win the referendum than they are with having an expensive referendum campaign.
This is a Dáil in which we have had, every year since this Dáil was elected in 1965, a major electoral campaign— a Presidential election in 1966, local elections in 1967. I think the country was entitled to look forward to a year in which it would not have any elections other than by-elections. There is no doubt that the Fianna Fáil Party can fight general elections, referenda, Presidential elections and by-elections without batting an eyelid because their corrupt funds are limitless and they have no shame whatsoever in their efforts to get them.
Far from being sorry, whenever charges of corruption are made, the Taoiseach and all his Ministers and all the members of the Fianna Fáil Party delight to hear these charges made because they want the people of this country to believe that rights and privileges and facilities are not obtainable unless people corrupt themselves to the Government and they hope that that will continue. They would love to cheer Deputy L'Estrange and others when they make charges of specific cases of corruption. The Government could not care less whether or not the charges are true. They want people to believe that that is how government in this country is run because it gives them unlimited funds.
The anxiety of Fianna Fáil is that, in this referendum campaign, their political opponents will become bankrupt because of the money they will have to expend. Irrespective of the outcome of the referendum, it is not unlikely that a general election will follow, under the existing or a new system, not because there will be any cogent political or moral reason for having the election but because the Government would hope, immediately after the referendum, to rush a general election in which they would find their political opponents without funds to fight their campaigns.
I can assure the Government that if the Irish people have to beggar themselves to get rid of Fianna Fáil they will do it. By heavens, there is a day of reckoning coming for those who have endeavoured to corrupt the political institutions of this country in the way Fianna Fáil are encouraging them to do. Each and every one of those people will be exposed for what they are—the most despicable scum this country has ever had the misfortune to house. Those who tried to buy this country with the Act of Union and to buy the members of Grattan's Parliament were, like Machiavelli, saints compared with what is going on now under the guise of respectability.
I can assure the Government that, notwithstanding their best hopes, the Fine Gael Party will not be beggared by any referendum campaign or any general election. We have the masses of the small people of this country behind us. When the rights of the Irish people were challenged or at risk before, when sacrifices had to be made, the poorest of the poor gave their one shilling a week—and that was over 150 years ago when one shilling a week was given by the poorest of the poor—and that was a great deal of money then. That money worked against the might and the wealth of the British Empire and the ascendancy of this country. Be comforted with the knowledge, people of Ireland, that, once again, the ordinary people of this land, the little people, the people who have respect for decency in public life, will rally to the cause and will butcher the might of the Fianna Fáil Party. The day of reckoning to which I refer is fast coming. It cannot come soon enough.