Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 2 Apr 1968

Vol. 233 No. 11

An Bille um An Tríú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1968: An Dara Céim (Atógáil). Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1968: Second Stage (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following amendment:
Go scriosfar na focail go léir i ndiaidh "Go" agus go gcuirfear ina n-ionad:—
"ndiúltaíonn Dáil Éireann an Dara Léamh a thabhairt don Bhille ar an bhforas gur togra atá neamh-dhaonlathach go bunú-sach an togra sa Bhille suas le 40 faoin gcéad de bhreis ionada-aíochta sa Dáil a thabhairt do roinnt saoránach thar mar a thabharfaí do shaoránaigh eile."
To delete all words after "That" and substitute:
"Dáil Éireann declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill on the grounds that the proposal in the Bill to provide some citizens with up to 40 per cent greater representation in the Dáil than other citizens is fundamentally undemocratic."
—(Deputy Cosgrave).

(Dublin South-Central): When the debate was adjourned last week, I was pointing out why I thought it desirable that we should have a referendum at this time. I believe we should give the people an opportunity of voicing their opinion on this matter at various intervals. If we with our present majority are deprived of this opportunity we may not get another opportunity to have a referendum. We realise that the present electoral system is not all that desirable. Having looked at the system employed in various countries throughout the world we believe that the single seat constituency and straight vote is the most desirable type of electoral system.

Many Opposition Deputies have stated that we are doing this for vested interests. This is not so. This is the one opportunity Opposition Parties will get to form a Government. If we continue with our present electoral system we are bound to remain the biggest Party in this House and the Opposition will find it very difficult to form a Government. We believe this is the one way we can have a strong, constructive Opposition. One leading member of Fine Gael said last week that he could not see a chance of their forming a Government. That is bad for our electoral system and for our political institutions. Our political Parties must have drive and initiative with the idea of forming a Government. The people who support both Labour and Fine Gael—and I have no doubt many young people are supporting these Parties—do so with a view to their forming a Government some day. If one of the main Opposition Parties avail of this opportunity, in ten years time they may be over on this side of the House.

I should also like to give a chance to the people who had not an opportunity in the last referendum of voting on this matter. Many young people have come on the register since 1959 and have had no opportunity of saying whether they liked the present system. That is another reason why we believe we should hold this referendum. The people who drew up our Constitution many ago never imagined it could last forever. They knew that with changing circumstances it would be desirable that parts of it should be changed. It is only right that the people of the younger generation should disagree with those who drew up the Constitution 30 or 40 years ago. As time passes every country changes sections of its Constitution, and there is no reason why we should not do it now.

We believe this proposal offers stability and constructive government with a strong Opposition. We are facing many important issues in the future such as our entry to EEC and the encouragement of financial investment here. We all realise that the three things anyone coming into this country looks for are: availability of labour, export potential and a good, strong political system. These are the three most important factors in any country. If we have not a strong political system few people will come and invest here. This proposal will create a strong political system where we will have a strong Government with a reasonably large majority. Nobody is saying that you need a majority of 20 or 40 to carry on Government. But we believe the Government should have a reasonable majority to carry forward its programme during the five years it is in power. Then the people should be allowed decide what they want to do.

By all means, the people should have an alternative. But we are in the unfortunate position that our people have not got a good alternative Government. This proposal will give it to them. They will have a choice, just as the people of England have a choice today. If the British people feel like changing their Government three years from now, they have an alternative. The Government in power have a majority and can carry through their present policies. I have no doubt that if you had a Coalition Government in England today, the Labour Party could not possibly have put through the Budget it put through a few days ago. That is why they could carry out a policy such as this. I hope they succeed because the policy they are pursuing is to try to stabilise the economy of the country and to bring England back into a strong economic position again. They could do this because they have a majority. That is the type of Government which is required.

Looking to the future, I think Deputies will agree that a strong Government with a reasonably strong majority in this House is the best political system we could have. We know what Coalition Governments have done in other countries. We have only to look at Greece.

The Deputy went far south.

(Dublin South-Central): We know what has happened in Belgium over the question of the language.


(Dublin South-Central): I could quote Germany, France or Italy, but I am sure Deputy Corish has studied these things in more depth than I have. We know that Coalition Governments throughout Europe were most unsatisfactory. That is why we advocate the single seat with the straight vote. We think it is the more purified form of voting.

It is a laxative.

(Dublin South-Central): I cannot complain that my constituency is too large, but there are other constituencies which are practically impossible to work. I had the experience of being in Wicklow recently and I know how difficult it must be for a Wicklow Deputy to try to work his constituency. He cannot work it. He does the best he can with the amount of work that is thrown upon him, but I am sure there are parts of his constituency which he does not see from one end of the year to the other. It is utterly impossible for him to try to service it efficiently.

The single seat with the straight vote will bring new life to politics. There are many people who do not get an opportunity to enter political life because only two, three or four people can stand in a constituency. In my constituency we had only one Labour candidate in the general election. That is not good for political life. If we had five candidates in that constituency it would give young Labour Party followers who are anxious to face the public an opportunity to prove their worth. I do not think this would have any ill effects. I think it would have good effects. Many of these people are frustrated at the moment. We see it in our own Party. Many people go to the conventions, but by and large about one quarter only are picked to stand before the public. This would simplify that matter and would have a good effect on public life.

Another matter which has been discussed is the question of tolerance. Anyone can see that there is a big difference between the value of a vote in Dublin and the value of a vote in Donegal and various parts of the country. In Dublin somewhere in the region of 54 per cent of the people vote at a general election. In Donegal the percentage is 57. It is easy to understand why this happens. There is a high ratio of children to adults. There are also orphanages and institutions. In my constituency there are three orphanages and ten hospitals. Nurses and other people are counted, but they are not qualified to vote.

It is easy to understand why a vote in an urban area is of more value than a vote in a rural district. This tolerance question is to try to make the value of the votes equal. It does not get away from the principle of one man one vote which is enshrined in our Constitution, and God forbid that it should ever be removed. We want to make the value of the votes the same and that is why we are considering this question of tolerance.

There was opposition to the boundaries commission to be set up to draw the constituencies if and when we win this referendum. I can see no better device than that. Last week Fine Gael had a Bill on the Order Paper dealing with planning appeals. It was discussed in Private Members' Time. It proposed that the power to deal with appeals should be taken from the Minister for Local Government and that a commission should be set up presided over by a High Court judge or a Supreme Court judge. At the moment the right to divide the constituencies is vested in the Minister and the Government. The Minister has the right to draw up the constituencies, which he will have to do if this referendum is lost. There are 24 constituencies in Ireland, some under-populated and more over-populated. By and large there will have to be manipulation of other constituencies to bring these into line. The Government have the right at the moment to draw up these constituencies without consultation with members of the Opposition.

What about the commission?

(Dublin South-Central): This commission is about to be set up. The Minister is giving over a right to an independent commission consisting of Members from both sides of the House presided over by a High Court judge.

Could there not be a commission anyway?

(Dublin South-Central): Not necessarily.

Is a commission not fair?

(Dublin South-Central): It has been criticised by members of the Opposition as unfair. The Minister is conceding this and giving it away. This will be a commission with Members from both sides of the House and an impartial chairman. Nothing could be fairer than that. No one could possibly criticise that. I cannot see how anyone could possibly oppose that commission.

There is very little which can be said in this debate that has not been said already. Every aspect has been covered during the past month. I am a firm believer that the single seat with the straight vote is the right thing. I hope members of the Opposition will take this opportunity to favour this type of proposal. There is no hope of anyone else forming a Government under our present system. We will always be the largest Party unless there is a complete landslide. It is impossible that this position will ever be changed. There is no hope of finding an alternative Government under PR. I am sure that people looking back 20 or 30 years from now will say this was the right decision. I hope the people of Ireland will accept it, and I think they will when they have studied the political system in Europe and seen the instability which prevailed down through the years. Under the English system irrespective of whether they are doing a good or a bad job they can carry on for their term in office. The Labour Party can do this under the most unfavourable conditions and they can carry on for the next three years. With a Coalition this would be impossible. I trust we will succeed in getting this through to the people and in getting them to see that this is the best way for the future.

Never have so many speeches been made from the Government side of the House for the so-called ultimate benefit of the Opposition Parties. Indeed, one must be grateful for the amount of ministerial advice that has been given in the course of this debate and for their recipe for our ultimate success. For this we are deeply grateful. This advice has been given by people who most certainly have had a sufficiency of Government and of power for so many years. These amendments to the Constitution are supposed to be gifts with no strings attached to Opposition Deputies in Leinster House to change the system so that ultimately they can be over there in ten years time. Ten years is a long time. In political language, it is too long.

So much has been said in this debate that there is not much more that can be said. I hope that, after tomorrow night, we shall go rapidly through the remaining Stages of this Bill and that the Government will get the people's views on it and then get down to the serious business of governing for the remainder of the year. The Minister for Local Government said the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis is the authentic voice of the people. Our sources of information and our contacts, through our branch organisation in the Labour Party, suggest there is no volume of public opinion behind the proposal for the introduction of the straight vote. The Government are entitled—as they say themselves—to a repetition of the 1959 experiment to see if the people are in favour of the straight vote. The Government say they are courageous. They should test their courage on the matter of the straight vote throughout the country. In our opposition to the straight vote, we are willing to test public reaction. We shall see who exactly comes out best in that encounter with public opinion.

Lincoln once said that government rests on public opinion and that whoever can change public opinion can change the government. If our estimate of public opinion is correct, we believe it will be possible to change the government on the result of the forthcoming referendum—and not in ten years time but very early in the future.

Pundits have expounded in the press and elsewhere on the great era facing this country when proportional representation is abolished. One would imagine, from the way they talk, that, since the last war, there was nothing wrong with this country which was not due to the existence of proportional representation. One envies the simplicity of mind of people who can attribute the ills of this country to proportional representation. One cannot but admire the spirit of the numerous Government back-benchers who have burst into praise of the straight vote system in the past few weeks and condemned all the other electoral systems. We have had many songbirds in this Parliament in the past few weeks who have sung delightfully in praise of their Government's condemnation of proportional representation as the most suitable electoral system for this country.

We are told that, with the abolition of proportional representation, a new era will be opened up to us, that squads of young people will be waiting at the doors of political Parties, that there will be a completely new face on Irish politics, and so on. Our attitude is that proportional representation has not been at the root of the problems of this country but rather that the Government's policies have failed to solve the problems. Government speakers have compared conditions here with those in other democracies. It is ludicrous to compare the achievements of this section to our island with those of France, Western Germany and all the democracies of Europe who have brought modern democracy to bear on the problems facing them. It is ludicrous for the representatives of Government here to compare their puny achievements with those of governments which have solved unemployment, which have progressed, in education, far beyond us and which have introduced humane social services. How ludicrous to compare our achievement with the achievement of such countries. I do not believe, as our Party do not believe, that the electoral system has been responsible for our economic ills but that the blame should rest on the inadequacy of policies pursued by the Government in that respect.

The Minister for Local Government spoke of the rearrangement that would be necessary all over the country if we did not now, at this stage, have a complete surgery on our present electoral system. He spoke about the necessity, after each census of population, to bundle counties together so that electors were being treated like shuttlecocks, and so on. That happens frequently in this country because we are losing our electors to Britain. Because of emigration, we are forced, every four or five years, to consider drastic changes in respect of population representation. It is a desperate admission to argue about the necessity to rearrange constituencies in view of loss of population. If this drain in population continues then any electoral system will involve the Government, every few years, in drastic changes of constituencies.

The Taoiseach, originally, and later, the Minister for Local Government, mentioned the great problems involved in changing county boundaries. Who introduced counties into this country? Is this the national Parliament of this country? As far as I know, counties are relics of feudalism. We owe loyalty to this country rather than to any county. We owe loyalty to cities such as Dublin, Belfast and Cork, and to the rural areas: we should not shed tears for county boundaries which were introduced, in the first place, by an English administration.

There has been much talk to the effect that, under the straight vote electoral system, the quality of the membership of this House will be improved. Undoubtedly, there could be an improvement in the type of Member elected to this House, but I do not think it follows that the straight vote system necessarily ensures a better type of representative. In fact, it may produce the very reverse of what has been suggested. We hand over a high proportion of control to the larger Party organisations and, in the past, these organisations have shown weaknesses for athletic stars, for widows, sons and daughters of former or deceased Members of Dáil Éireann. They have not shown themselves to be really anxious about getting a good type of Member of this House. Such protestations come badly from a Government Party who have not shown themselves aware of this problem in the recent past.

If what we need in this House is a full-time Member—and that is desirable—we need also full-time politicians. There are far too many Members whose main business in life is to look after their private business and to come in here for diversion. That problem can be tackled here and now without abolishing any political system. It is fundamentally wrong that Members of this House should give equal time to their outside business interests or, as happens in most cases, more time. Be they farmers, businessmen, shopkeepers, and so on, it is not good enough to treat the nation's business as second best. One could say there has been a dramatic change in the approach by this House to that question, because at least under the Taoiseachship of Eamon de Valera, there was a strict ethic in the House, which was largely abided by, that Members give their main loyalty to the business of the House. There are indications that this has changed drastically, first under the Taoiseachship of Deputy Lemass, and then, continued under the present Taoiseach.

We know that there are several members of the present Government who will probably become wealthy men as a result of quite legitimate business interests but the question must be asked: have they given equal attention to the business of the nation? There is a large measure of doubt about this. Many Deputies coming in under the new dispensation must take the nation's business as second best. But all this is another day's work and something which we can consider again. It is something that can be changed under the present system, provided the will is there on the part of the Government. It is not something which will be solved by bringing in the straight vote: we may, in fact, have an intensification of present tendencies to regard public business as coming a very poor second and lagging behind your own private interests.

I am not casting any doubts on the legality or probity of these business interests but I am suggesting that the order of priorities for a public representative should be first, Dáil Éireann and what he does there, and I also suggest that the complexity of public business today is such that one cannot give proper attention to it unless it comes first in the order of one's priorities. Therefore, the requirement is full-time politicians and also that the full-time politician who wishes to give full attention to these matters should be given greater help in the House. Secretarial help must be given to Members.

It is pathetic to see public representatives sent here by their constituents to work out legislation and represent their people being forced day after day to spend so much time replying to constituency correspondence. I doubt if there is any other parliament in Europe which gives so little aid to its Members and which has so little regard for the duties of these representatives that it leaves them in the position of replying by biro and spending hours each day answering inquiries from constituents.

This situation will not be solved by the straight vote. This is a non-starter argument. This can be settled now by the Government coming into the House with practical proposals and all Parties will certainly support any suggestion to give greater secretarial help and greater research facilities to Deputies. We can also consider improvements in our Library which greatly needs them. These are constructive proposals. In our Library we should have research facilities so that we can know exactly what sort of legislation is going through in other countries and we should have an economic section to keep us up to date in that field. If the Government came in with proposals of this kind, we, as public representatives, could sink our Party differences and see how we could improve the position of the public representative generally and see that democracy was made more effective so that the people would know that this House was properly equipped to deal with their affairs. The idea that the introduction of the straight vote, as though one waved a wand, would produce a solution to our difficulties seems to me illogical and cannot be sustained.

One wonders why the Government have produced these particular proposals. If we are to believe themselves, it is for the good of the Opposition Parties: they are worried about the position of remaining in power until the end of the century. They feel there is not much chance under the present system that Opposition Parties can aspire to government. This is possibly a worry of a Government who have been in power too long. One may sympathise with them but there are ways of getting out of that responsibility. In my own Party in the past year or two, we have taken measures to ensure that we shall at least narrow the credibility gap between the present position and Labour eventually becoming a Government in this country. We are certainly more serious in our aspiration to government and we want to nail the lie that some people on the Government side have voiced that Labour Party Deputies are here merely to put in some years of life and are probably looking forward to a career in a minority Party. I can assure the House that we are serious in our aspiration to become a Government and we are working out policies in the light of that. It may seem far-fetched to speak in this fashion but stranger things have happened and, to go back again to Lincoln, there are changes in public opinion at present which at least augur well for our future.

The argument against the straight vote system has been amply made in this debate that it is favoured by very few countries, the main country having that system being our nearest neighbour, Britain. We have, in the debate, criticised the Government tendency in legislation to imitate the British practice. While in our full form the PR system may not be in effect in Europe, there is no doubt that we do not have the British system in European countries and the countries that have been quoted by Deputies opposite do not, in fact, have the straight vote system on the British pattern. To some extent all of them have a variant of the PR system. There has been the tendency growing up here in recent years to follow British example. If you examine our legislation, you will find that most of it comes some months after similar British legislation which is usually more effective. We had the recent example of the Redundancy Bill which was legislation brought in by the British Labour Government and put into full effect in Northern Ireland. On this side of the Border, we brought in a similar Bill some months later and the redundancy provisions here were not comparable with those enjoyed by our fellow countrymen in Northern Ireland. Similarly, you can go down the list of other legislation passed by the British Government and introduced here some time afterwards with suitable amendments governed by the philosophy of the Government of the day here.

It is regrettable that our Government appear to have fallen into this habit of following closely British initiative. It is regrettable that we do not appear any longer to have the will to seek out answers to our own problems and that apparently we have lost the determination to capitalise on whatever independence we have. I suppose it could be said about our own experiment in self-government that having been given the opportunity, limited though it was, to do and say something about our own affairs, we appear to have abdicated that responsibility. In these days we appear to be more intent on a keeping-in-step approach in our legislation and on keeping company with our near neighbour, Britain. This is a regrettable tendency and one that I think older members of Fianna Fáil must also regret in their hearts, because the Fianna Fáil Party had a good radical approach—that stage is long past— and did give evidence of initiative on independent objectives.

One is chiefly amazed in this debate by the rather vocal band in the Press who have hammered so much on the idea that there is some kind of fear in the Opposition Parties of these measures being brought in. There has been a shedding of crocodile tears by Government spokesmen about the future of the Labour Party and we had Deputies bewailing democracy and seeing the disappearance of the Labour Party. The Labour Party will not disappear whatever system is brought in so long as there is even a semblance of democracy in the country. Let nobody be in any doubt about that. We have an industrial arm and a political arm and we have no intention of disappearing. We shall look after ourselves, whatever change may come in the future. But we most certainly intend to fight the proposal for a straight vote as strenuously and as vigorously as we can and we invite the Government not to delay very long in putting these proposals. We are very anxious to bring these proposals to the test of public opinion. It should be possible to have these measures before the country by the end of May, or certainly by June. Our voluntary workers throughout the country are very eager to start on this campaign, and very eager to test their own opinion of the public's attitude to Fianna Fáil proposals.

It would be wrong, now that we have had such a full debate on this matter, to delay going to the country on this referendum until the autumn. It would be disgraceful if in 1968, in the midst of so many international crises and movements towards freer trade, we were to waste an entire year on this proposal. It would be very bad for the country and we earnestly hope that the Government will bring these proposals before the public as rapidly as possible. Our Party is willing to co-operate in seeing that the remaining Stages of this Bill are carried through quickly. We have said all we want to say on this issue, and we invite Fianna Fáil to get a decision from the people as rapidly as possible.

If the Government put these proposals to the public and are defeated, they should give an undertaking that they will not, the next time they are in Government, bring these proposals up again. It is much too much to say that a volume of opinion exists for the introduction of the straight vote. If tomorrow morning any Government in any country were so foolish as to put through a referendum on whether the tails of all cats should be cut or some such ridiculous proposal, I presume the people would say yes or no to that proposal. Similarly, if the Government in 1959, in the heel of a presidential election, brought in a proposal for the introduction of the straight vote, obviously people would say yes or no to it. However, it is wrong for the Government to conclude from the introduction of a referendum that a substantial volume of opinion exists for the abolition of PR.

I believe PR lives up to the role that a parliament or Dáil should play. It means that power is taken away, to some extent, from the Party machine, and who will deny that taking away power from the Party machine is not a benefit to democracy? All of us who are members of Parties will agree that it is a very salutary experience for a Party to have to acknowledge that the people have rights that supersede those of the Party. Under the straight vote, however, the monolithic Party machine will be that much stronger. All of us must be apprehensive of a monolithic Party machine, and all of us have seen in the recent past cases of one kind or another of which we do not approve, events taking place because of the overweaning power of the Party machine. If we believe in the idea of democracy, we must ensure that the political Parties do not call the tune all the way. Under PR the people of a constituency can choose their own favourite son from among the candidates put up by a Party. This is giving power to the people in a real sense and it would be wrong to take that power away.

All of us may at times become impatient with the necessity for consultation at all stages. We may become impatient that decisions cannot be steamrolled through efficiently without consultation, but public opinion is a very healthy thing. Under the straight vote it will be possible for the Party machine to steamroll candidates through and to have far greater power than they enjoy at present. It is not, therefore, the electoral system that is at the root of the problems of this country; it is the policies we have followed over the years.

One thing I find rather ironic in this connection is the importance which the Taoiseach attached to putting policies before the people prior to an election, the necessity for a Party to bare its heart and say: "Here are our policies. This is what we want you to vote for." Perhaps there is something in the recipe, but Fianna Fáil have always been notable for their complete silence on policy. Fianna Fáil have always stood for the fundamentalist idea that they were on the side of right, without any qualification which would give the public some further information on their programme.

I do not recall the Fianna Fáil Party saying before an election: "We are going to seek admission to the Common Market." I do not remember them asking the people about the turnover tax. In fact, of all Parties of this House Fianna Fáil have been most noteworthy for completely ignoring the electorate in the matter of producing policies before an election. In fact, up to quite recently they relied on the eloquent message: "Up Dev." I grant you that "Up Dev" was an effective slogan but it was not a programme which could stand up to much argument nor could we get any information as to what was meant by "Up Dev".

It is extraordinary, therefore, that Minister after Minister in this debate should seek to know the policies of the Opposition Parties, and say they did not want to permit the dishonesty of going before the people without having worked out policies. My Party has not been successful in our 40 years history in combating the "Up Dev" slogan, but we have always been naive enough to believe in the necessity of having a policy. We still believe it, and nowadays, the idea of putting your policy before the people prior to an election is coming into its own, and we are very glad of that.

The main fear of Government spokesmen appears to have been the possibility of coalition government. One can say truthfully that the present Fianna Fáil Party is a coalition of interests. It is a Party in which there are strange animals called Fianna Fáil trade unionists. We have seen a few of them on television recently. It is not a figment of their imagination. There are certain Deputies in Fianna Fáil who are trade unionists, or certainly they have some acquaintance with the trade union movement.

Is it no longer possible for a member of Fianna Fáil to be a member of a trade union?

I do not deny that. That is what I am saying.

What is so strange about it?

I find it very strange when you locked them up last week. There are also Fianna Fáil employers, some of whom do not keep trade union labour. There are also Fianna Fáil advertising executives. Therefore, on any analysis of the situation, the Fianna Fáil Party is a coalition of interests. In fact, the Fianna Fáil Party have on occasion been forced to go outside the Party faithful in this House to maintain themselves in government. This also is a coalition. To suggest that coalition is a problem to be seen only on the Opposition side of this House is not in accordance with the facts. This is not for one moment to suggest that the policies on which I remarked at the very start which have been pursued by successive governments since the foundation of the State have brought us any nearer to the solution of problems like unemployment and emigration.

Most Fianna Fáil spokesmen begin the saga of recent Party history from 1957. That is when the Fianna Fáil success story begins, at least the modern chapter opens in 1957 when the country was rescued, as the nursery rhyme goes, from the terrible situation in which it was left by the Coalition Parties. Since then, under the good government of Fianna Fáil, all things have been made well. That is the kind of line they have put across. They themselves have been a little bit anxious to prove this point. They believe that under PR they will be successful once more in the next election. Our information does not suggest they will, but we do not have a Fianna Fáil Árd-Fheis to let us know what the people are thinking. Perhaps the Fianna Fáil Árd-Fheis is correct again; we do not know.

It would seem to me that the straight vote proposal which is now before us has no strong body of public opinion in favour of it. It would be tragic if this year, 1968, were to be wasted in this House going over the details of these Bills. We should ask this Government now—and our Party will do so tomorrow when this debate is concluding—to bring this matter before the public as rapidly as possible. Our point has been made in this House in this debate and there is not much more that can be said about it. Most Opposition Deputies have explored all the points in the Bill and now all that remains to be done is to get the verdict of the people. This Government were so loud and courageous at the start of the debate, and throughout the debate, in their grand designs and in saying that it was a matter of courage, that I hope their courage will not falter at this stage. Their arguments suggest that the straight vote would give strong government and that only the single-seat would give strong government. This is the time for them to stick to their guns and they should put this issue to the people. We may be right, or they may be right, but we should not waste any more time but go to the electorate with this proposal. We will put our attitude to them, that the problems of this country are not tied up with an electoral system, and you will put yours, that something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and then, after the result, let us get back to the serious business of government because there is a lot of work to be done.

(Cavan): I should like to endorse the sentiments expressed by my namesake from Dublin South-Central, when he said “God forbid the day will ever come when we will depart from the principle of one man, one vote enshrined in the Constitution”. However, I should like to add another equally important sentiment, that is, God forbid the day will ever come when we will depart from the principle of majority rule. The two Bills with which we are dealing at the moment propose in effect to abolish the fundamental system of majority rule and to abolish the fundamental system of one man, one vote of equal value. These two Bills propose amendments of a very drastic and far-reaching nature to Article 16 of the Constitution. This Article provides for the election of Members to Dáil Éireann who in turn elect the Government. In effect, Article 16 guarantees majority rule and establishes the principle of one man, one vote, and one vote of equal value. This Article, in my opinion, is fundamental to our system of democracy and above all, it is fundamental to the Irishman's love of fair play.

The introduction of these two Bills could only be justified if it could be proved that the present system of election of Members of this House by the system of the single transferable vote in constituencies of not less than three members has proved unsatisfactory, or has broken down, or unless it can be established that there is a widespread public demand for a change, or, at worst, unless it can be argued convincingly that the views of the people are uncertain, that the views of the people are not known, and that it is necessary to ask the people what their attitude is towards the present system. I propose to prove that none of these prerequisites has been fulfilled and that it is clear beyond doubt that the Bills are being introduced in an effort to perpetuate Fianna Fáil rule, by hook or by crook.

Fine Gael are determined to resist this proposal in this House as has been evidenced by our opposition to the First Stages of these Bills which in effect have the intention of establishing a single-Party dictatorship. If these Bills are passed in the House, as I am sure they will be by the Fianna Fáil majority, we propose to campaign relentlessly to defeat the referendum. I am satisfied that the people will express their indignation at this attempt to destroy democracy as known to us even more emphatically than they defeated a similar attempt by the Fianna Fáil Party and their then Leader in 1959.

In the course of this debate, we have heard discussions on how various systems of PR operated in various countries. I should like to say that that is totally irrelevant to the measures which we have under consideration, in our circumstances. First of all, the system of proportional representation which has served us so well here since the foundation of the State can be described as the Irish system of proportional representation because an exactly similar system does not operate elsewhere. There are various forms of it in other countries, but comparisons with other countries are irrelevant to the measures we have under consideration here.

It might be pertinent and helpful to draw comparisons with or make a study of the system of proportional representation as it operates in other countries if we were introducing it here for the first time. But we are not doing that. The proposal here is to reject a system of election to Dáil Éireann which has been in operation here since 1922 and I say, therefore, with a considerable degree of conviction, that the only relevant consideration here is to ask ourselves how the system has worked here. Has it given good service? Has it given fair play? Has it given stable government? Has it reflected in Dáil Éireann the will of the masses? Those are the only considerations relevant to this discussion and it is utter nonsense for the Taoiseach, his Ministers and the members of his Party to try to draw red herrings across the trail of this debate by posing questions as to how proportional representation has worked elsewhere all over the globe. That is not relevant. We have our experience of proportional representation here. It has been in operation here since 1922.

Proportional representation has served this country well since 1922. It gave satisfaction in the turbulent Twenties. It gave the Fianna Fáil Party then an opportunity of getting representation and of coming into Dáil Éireann, had they so desired. It served the country well from 1922 to 1932, notwithstanding the fact that we had here during the early part of that decade a Civil War and, during the latter part of it, unsettled conditions engendered principally because the present Government Party refused to accept majority rule, refused to come into Dáil Éireann and refused to operate the freedom we had obtained. If ever proportional representation was put to the test, it was put to the test in those years and it emerged triumphant. It was endorsed by the people at every election. The Constitution which provided for the system of election was itself on trial. The people endorsed proportional representation at every opportunity they got. In 1937, the then Leader of Fianna Fáil had many faults to find with the Constitution of 1922, but the one important provision of that Constitution with which he could find no fault was the fair and honest system of election to Dáil Éireann and he wrote proportional representation back into his Constitution in 1937 and strongly recommended it to the people. Is it not then a little nauseating to have to sit here and listen to the Tánaiste tell the House, as he told the electors in Clare, that proportional representation was imposed on us by the British and that we should get rid of it.

That is a fact.

(Cavan): You know, the Tánaiste's true self comes out. It brings us back to the early utterances of the same gentleman and to the time when he said that we could carry on even if every damn ship was at the bottom of the sea. He comes out in his true colours when he says proportional representation was imposed on us by the British. Do we not know that the Irish people accepted it in the free elections of the Twenties? Do we not know that the Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party wrote it into the Constitution in 1937, recommended it to the people and the people enacted it? Let us analyse for one moment this outrageous statement of the Tánaiste that our system of proportional representation was imposed on us by the British. That sort of argument, coming from the second in command in the Cabinet, shows how bankrupt the Government are for an argument to put these Bills across and to put this proposed referendum across. This is merely playing on the emotions of the people.

I said that, in 1937, the then Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party wrote the exact same system into the Constitution, wrote it in in more definite form because he went further in the Constitution of 1937 to ensure that the system of proportional representation would operate here and spelled out in greater detail and more elaborately the system we were to operate than did the Constitution of 1922. But that is not the end of it, because, in 1959, we had another testing of public opinion on this issue. On that occasion the issue put before the people was a net issue. It might be said that in 1922 and in the subsequent elections of the Twenties, all the Articles of the Constitution were involved and one had to take it or leave it. It could be described as a package deal. The same argument could be advanced about the referendum in 1937 on the Constitution.

It could be argued that all the Articles of the Constitution were put to the people, but in 1959 the net issue and the single issue of whether the people wanted PR was put to them as a single issue and on that occasion the only complication or the only confusion that could have been said to have existed was the Presidential election. But I wish to say to the House and to the country that the Presidential election was introduced deliberately on that occasion as a smokescreen, as a cloud, as an extraneous consideration to carry the proposal to abolish PR; but so clearly did the people think and so accustomed were they and so well did they understand the system of PR and so determined were they to hold on to it that they considered these two issues apart and they elected as President of the country the man who was advising them to abolish PR. They elected him by a majority of more than 100,000 votes and they rejected his advice to abolish PR by 30,000 votes. If anything could demonstrate clearly that the people on that occasion knew what they were doing, knew what they wanted to do, it was demonstrated then.

PR has served the country well since 1922. We have had stable government here: there is no doubt about that. The people know the system of PR. They know how to operate it. They know how to operate it within the Party which they support and they know how to operate it as between one Party and another. This has been said several times since this debate began but the by-election in Wicklow proved conclusively that the people understand PR and how to operate it. They did exactly that in Wicklow. There was a massive transfer of votes under the system from one candidate to another. The Taoiseach went to great trouble to say that PR, the election system, was not an issue in the by-elections in Wicklow or in Clare. Of course it was an issue and the people made it an issue, and we had the result in Wicklow.

I can almost hear the Parliamentary Secretary thinking: "What about Clare?" Exactly, what about Clare? In my opinion, the situation in Clare has another story to tell. It has the story to tell of the huge majority, of the control of a constituency by one Party, of the apathy which that engenders, of the failure of the people to take an interest in elections with massive numbers of them staying away from the polls. That is what happens when Fianna Fáil——

Is that what accounts for a drop of 2,800 for Fine Gael?

(Cavan): Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell me how many did Fianna Fáil drop?

They did not drop any. They increased their vote by 1,800, if it is of any interest to the Deputy.

(Cavan): I have the figures and I will come to them in due course. That is what happens when a system is installed by which the result of an election is a foregone conclusion and that is what Fianna Fáil wants to do here. It has been said that the system of PR leads to a multiplicity of Parties and that is the charge that has been made against it and the reason that has been given for changing.

Let us look at the position here since the people were last asked to give an answer on this issue. Has there been a multiplicity of Parties here? Has the number of Parties grown since 1959? Of course not: the contrary is the case. Since 1959, Clann na Poblachta have disappeared; Clann na Talmhan have disappeared and the National Progressive Democrats have come and gone. We now have three Parties here and three Parties only. This, therefore, cannot be put forward as an argument for saying that PR leads to a multiplicity of Parties.

Is there anybody who can stand up in this House and say that the system of PR has not worked fairly in this country? Can anybody say that it has not given stable government? Can anybody prove that it has led to a multiplicity of Parties? Of course not. I am afraid, therefore, that we must look elsewhere for the reason for attempting to change the system. The only reason we can find is the obvious one. Fianna Fáil have tried to make the case that they seek to change the system in the interests of the Opposition Parties. They will not succeed in convincing anybody of that. The only reason is that Fianna Fáil know they are slipping. The events of the last two national contests have indicated that clearly. The Presidential election of 1966 indicated that the majority of more than 100,000 enjoyed by that Party in the previous Presidential contest was reduced to 10,000.

The Deputy is forgetting one factor—that the President increased his poll. I am putting the facts to him and he may put whatever construction he wishes on them.

It is very awkward for them.

What about Deputy T. F. O'Higgins?

Was it because you did not work for the man before?

(Cavan): I understand from his movements that the Parliamentary Secretary intends to contribute to the debate and he will have an opportunity of doing so when I have finished. I want to repeat that the Fianna Fáil majority was reduced from over 100,000 in 1959 to 10,000 in 1966 and I want to say that the local government elections of last year indicated a massive swing away from Fianna Fáil.

They control seven out of 27 counties.

(Cavan): These are the considerations that, in my opinion, have prompted Fianna Fáil to change the rules of the game, to change the system of election, to try to get control of the government of this country by hook or by crook. The attitude of the people to the present system is well known. It has been given decisively on every occasion on which the people had an opportunity of answering the question they were asked, whether they wanted proportional representation or not.

It is important that we should consider the system of election which is proposed to us in substitution for the system which has worked here so well over so many years. Fianna Fáil speakers have referred to it throughout this debate as the straight vote. Of course that is not the correct name for it. It is technically known as the spot vote. It is so discussed. In the report of the Committee on the Constitution, it is called the spot vote. It is an unfair system of election. It does not believe in majority rule. It speaks of a relative majority and a relative majority of course does not mean a majority. It means something other than a majority. We all know that under the system of the spot vote, a minority of electors can get control of a constituency. It is not necessary to go further afield or farther back than the Wicklow by-election to demonstrate that. The Fianna Fáil Party in that election secured 34 odd per cent of the vote. Under the system which they now want to introduce, that would have given them the seat and they would all have gone home— perhaps not in Wicklow but in some places—at teatime with the seat in the bag not because the majority of the people of Wicklow wanted to return their candidate but because the system of election was unfair. That would be the position under what I call the spot vote.

In a constituency with 14,000 electors and one candidate getting 5,000 votes, another candidate getting 4,600 votes and another candidate getting 3,400 votes, the candidate with 5,000 votes gets the seat and that is that. I say that that is an unfair system of election. I say that the sense of fair play of the Irish people will not stand for that system of election. The attitude of the Irish people on this matter is well known. It has been tested as recently as 1959. I want to ask what has happened here since 1959 to suggest that the people should be asked again. What has happened since 1959 to suggest that the people desire the first past the post system of election rather than the present system of proportional representation? We have had stable government, whether one regards it as good government or not, since 1959. We have not had a multiplicity of Parties. We have two fewer Parties in the country now than we had in 1959.

It is true that since 1959 a Commission was set up by the Government to inquire into all the provisions of the Constitution. That Committee reported on 14th December last. There were a number of Fianna Fáil Deputies and Senators on that Committee and the Minister for Industry and Commerce was chairman of it. Deputies Andrews, Seán Lemass and Molloy, and Senators O'Kennedy and Ryan were members. There is one thing that Committee did not do and there is one case the Fianna Fáil Members of that Committee did not make. I defy contradiction of this and I know nothing about what went on at that Committee, other than what is contained in this book. However, I want to say that there is one thing this Committee did not recommend and there is one case that was not made at the Committee, that is, that we should have here the first past the post system of election rather than proportional representation.

I defy the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries to deny that because at pages 24 and 25 of this Report, the Parliamentary Secretary will see that the first past the post system of election is condemned by the people who were making a case in support of some sort of change in the electoral system. The Fianna Fáil members of the Committee who were advocating a change condemned in no uncertain language the first past the post system of election. They made statements like this: "The `wasted vote' phenomenon would not arise" when discussing the alternative vote system. They referred to the first past the post system as the wasted vote phenomenon which would not arise.

Whom are you quoting?

(Cavan): I am quoting from page 24.

I understood you were quoting some individuals.

The Parliamentary Secretary has not read the report.

(Cavan): It is obvious the Parliamentary Secretary has not bothered to read this report because if he had he would know that no name was mentioned. I mentioned that no case was made for a change by the Fianna Fáil members of that Committee and that they referred to the first past the post system as nothing but a wasted vote phenomenon.

They went on to say at the bottom of page 24 paragraph (q).

One of the most serious objections raised in the past against the first past the post system as an alternative to PR was that it could give rise to a Government which does not have the support of the majority of the electorate (this arises out of the fact that a member is elected simply because he has been given more votes than any other candidate, even though he may not have secured more than 50 per cent of the total poll). This could not arise under the Alternative Vote system since each candidate must receive a majority of the effective votes before he can be successful.

They condemned the first past the post system.

You are only quoting the argument against.

(Cavan): Deputy Carter is getting very annoyed about this because he knows that the Fianna Fáil members of this Committee never made a case for this first past the post system, and the Deputy knows that the former Leader of his Party said it would be an insult to the Irish people to ask them to answer again the question which they answered in 1959.

Quote the full text for and against.

(Cavan): Deputy Carter wants the wasted vote phenomenon. He wants to disfranchise the majority of the people in any constituency in order to get the seat for himself. I want to know whether the Fianna Fáil members of that Committee are in favour of the first past the post system.

Would it surprise the Deputy to know that out of 15 Governments in this country since the foundation of the State, 13 received less than 50 per cent of the total votes and indeed the first six received less than 35 per cent?

(Cavan): I am going to make my case.

I wish you would.

(Cavan): I want to know whether the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputies Andrews, Lemass and Molloy and Senators O'Kennedy and Ryan believe in the first past the post system of election or not? If they believe in it, I want to know why there is no argument in favour of it in this Committee's report because they were members of that Committee representing the Fianna Fáil Party. Surely if they believe in it as strenuously and as strongly as they now would have us believe, they would have put forward arguments in favour of it and their arguments would have appeared in this report? I will be forgiven for labouring the point by saying that the mere fact that the Committee's report contains no arguments in favour of the system now proposed by the Government, the unfair first past the post system, means that those representatives of the Fianna Fáil Party did not put forward those arguments to that Committee.

I defy anybody to announce that. I want to know if they believe in it why they did not put forward those arguments. Those people sincerely believe what they said there. Did they seriously believe what they were saying when they represented the Government Party on that Committee or did they not? Are they honest or are they not? When did they become converted? When did they suddenly see the virtue in the system which they were denouncing a few months ago? It is high time we had some honesty from the Cabinet and it is high time we had some honesty from the Fianna Fáil Party about this. Is it not a fact that the man who was bulldozing this in the Fianna Fáil Party and the country is the political boss of the Fianna Fáil Party, the Minister for Local Government, who spoke about this silly system of election when he got the fright of his life in Cork.

I did not know they were fighting in Cork. We happened to win there.

(Cavan):——this silly system of election, and Cork was the first shot.

If the Deputy won, it would be very hard to stand him.

(Cavan): It has been said even today by my namesake from Dublin South-Central that a single-seat constituency will stimulate interest in politics. In my considered opinion, it will do no such thing. The single-seat constituency will stultify interest in politics. It will create here what Fianna Fáil want to create after the next election, that is, a large Fianna Fáil Party. Deputy Fitzpatrick advocated a safe majority but he said no Government wanted a majority of 30 or 40. Do not all political observers and students of the electoral system say that after the next election, on the system proposed by the Government, the Fianna Fáil Party would have a majority of 35 or thereabouts?

That is what they want. They want that in order to drive the life out of politics in Ireland, to kill opposition and to entrench themselves in power for all time. Under the single-seat constituency system, the members of a constituency will have no say as to the candidate that will be put up. If the Fianna Fáil Party want to find a safe seat for somebody—supposing they want to find a safe seat for Deputy Norton—they can simply get a constituency in which they have a big majority and send Deputy Norton there.

I would be more worried about Deputy Michael O'Higgins.

(Cavan): The people in the constituency would have no say. In that way the constituents of a single-member constituency lose control over affairs within their own constituency. They cease to be masters of their own house. They take the candidate who is sent down to them. Under the present system, the electors within a constituency have a say as between the candidates of a particular Party. That is a good thing. It is certainly a good thing at the present time when more and more control seems to be passing from the Oireachtas and passing from Members of this House to outside agencies. It is vital that the people retain control in their own hands and that they refuse to hand over to any Party complete control with a majority of 35 or 40 seats.

It has been stated here that the system of the single-seat constituency and the non-transferable vote will stimulate interest, if you would not mind, in politics in this country. I know that it would be less than fair to compare the situation in the Six Counties of Northern Ireland with the situation here because I know there are special considerations there. But are the Members of this House aware that the system of election on the basis of first past the post is so unfair that in Northern Ireland certain interests and certain Parties have refrained from putting up candidates in order to make their voice heard?

I read a short leading article, Sir, with your permission, from the Irish Press of Tuesday, 27th February as follows:

No Nationalist voice. No Republican voice. As nominations stand at the moment it looks as though the electors of Lisnaskea (Fermanagh) will hear of no other policies but those of a Unionist, between now and March 22nd, the date on which a successor to Lord Brookeborough will be chosen for the Stormont Parliament.

Many will be disappointed at this advance acceptance of defeat. It may be hard to fathom why the Nationalists are openly leaving their field to the independent candidate and former Unionist, Mr. Fred Patterson. The latter, it would appear, stands a strong chance of snatching a lot of Unionist votes from the official candidate, son of the former Premier, and also of getting good support from the Nationalist fold.

Lisnaskea is a close-knit well-defined area for Unionist electoral purposes. Its history, as far as Stormont elections are concerned, must be unique. Two contests have been held in forty years—the first when Brookeborough began on the road to Premiership and the second when it was feebly contested in 1949 by a Nationalist who now represents South Armagh. In all the other electoral years the member for Lisnaskea was returned unopposed.

It is easy to see why the Republican element is disinterested. After all, if one lays claim to a Stormont seat one must declare allegiance to the Crown and also declare pre-paredness to take the seat. No declaration, no nomination. And if this element cuts off its nose to spite its face in Dublin it must assuredly do so in Belfast also. However the Nationalists are not caught in this electoral cul-de-sac and their decision not to fight betokens a dreadful lack of ordinary self-confidence. How seriously can this sort of policy claim to be regarded? Even if the odds are heavily loaded it would have been better to have fought and lost than never to have fought at all.

That is a tremendous condemnation of the Nationalists of the Lisnaskea electoral area of Fermanagh, but does the writer of that article not realise that the reason the Nationalists could not put forward a candidate was that the system of election is unfair and that if they want to make their voice heard, the only way they could make it heard is by not putting up a candidate themselves and voting for Fred Patterson. The Nationalists saw no point in putting up a candidate and they ended up with electing Fred Patterson over Captain John Brookeborough. If you had a fair system there, if you had proportional representation, the Nationalists would have put up a candidate and voted No. 1 for him and No. 2 for Patterson.

That, in my opinion, is a clear example of the effect of this unfair system of election in Northern Ireland. We are told by Members of this House that its introduction here will stimulate interest in politics. Its acceptance in Northern Ireland has driven the Nationalist Party out of existence, although they have some thousands of votes in the electoral area of Lisnaskea. That is the system we are invited to introduce here in order to stimulate interest in politics, in order to encourage young people into politics. Is it not manifestly obvious that the system is unjust, that the system only suits people who want to get a complete stranglehold of the government of a country?

In this Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, we are offered a Commission to define the constituencies. Mind you, that might appear at first sight to have a lot to recommend it, but it is good at any rate to see that when the Fianna Fáil Party want to inspire confidence, they seek to make it appear that what is put down will be done fairly. They offer the people a Commission presided over by a judge, and Deputy T.J. Fitzpatrick (Dublin), the last Fianna Fáil speaker, said today that that should satisfy us, that everything would be all right.

He reminded us that as recently as last week we were advocating appeal under the Planning Act to a commission presided over by a judge. I agree with him that we did recommend that, but the Fianna Fáil Party refused to accept it, and they ridiculed the procedure and argued that a judge was totally unsuited and unfit to decide these matters. But let me put on the records of this House that the fundamental difference between the body which we offered under the Planning Act presided over by a judge and the commission offered by the Fianna Fáil Party in the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill is this: in the case of our body under the Planning Bill, the judge gave his decision and that was the end of the matter, but in this Bill the judge is to decide and to define the constituencies, but if the Fianna Fáil Party are dissatisfied with the judge's decision they reserve the right to appeal and the Fianna Fáil Party could proceed, with their majority in this House, to undo the work of the judge and the commission and to carve up the constituencies any old way that will suit the Fianna Fáil Party. I defy the Parliamentary Secretary to contradict what I am saying. That is the difference between the body that we suggested under the Planning Bill and the bogus, sugar-coating commission that is offered in the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill.

I am satisfied that the people will reject by an overwhelming majority the attempt to abolish proportional representation. I join with Deputy O'Leary in saying that the sooner the people are given an opportunity of adjudicating on and answering that question the better we will like it.

I now want to come to what I regard as the Fianna Fáil safety valve of these two Bills, that is, the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill. I said in opening that Fianna Fáil are determined to hang on to power, to get a throttle grip on the government of this country by hook or by crook. I think by now they know perfectly well they are not going to carry the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. If they had any doubt about it before the Wicklow by-election, I am sure they have none after it. I do not speak of the votes in the Wicklow by-election as being definite proof of that but I speak of the canvass in the by-election, which I am sure the Fianna Fáil Party digested, as proving conclusively that this attempt to abolish proportional representation will take a hammering at the polls the like of which has never been experienced in this country before. It was obvious from the canvass that there were many people in Wicklow who voted for the Fianna Fáil candidate who would not dream of voting to change the electoral system. I suggest that the Fianna Fáil proposal will be beaten in Wicklow by at least 4,000 votes. Time will tell whether I am right or wrong. As I say, the Fianna Fáil Party know that they will not carry the Fourth Amendment. They hope to carry the Third Amendment and to retain to themselves under that Bill such powers as will enable them to rig the constituencies in order to secure an unfair majority for themselves.

There is no necessity for this Third Amendment of the Constitution. We have heard quoted in this House the decision of Mr. Justice Budd in the case of O'Donovan v. The Attorney General. Some people seem to forget that the Electoral Bill, 1961, which superseded the Bill which was condemned by Mr. Justice Budd, was referred to the Supreme Court in 1961. I should like to refer to the concluding portion of the judgment of Chief Justice Maguire in re Article 26 of the Constitution and the Electoral Amendment Bill, 1961, which is reported at p. 183 of the Irish Reports, 1961. The Chief Justice had this to say:

The sub-clause recognises that exact parity in the ratio between members and the population of each constituency is unlikely to be obtained and is not required. The decision as to what is practicable is within the jurisdiction of the Oireachtas. It may reasonably take into consideration a variety of factors, such as the desirability so far as possible to adhere to well-known boundaries such as those of counties, townlands and electoral divisions. The existence of divisions created by such physical features as rivers, lakes and mountains may also have to be reckoned with. The problem of what is practicable is primarily one for the Oireachtas whose members have a knowledge of the problems and difficulties to be solved which this Court cannot have. Its decision should not be reviewed by this Court unless there is a manifest infringement of the Article. This Court cannot, as is suggested, lay down a figure above or below which a variation from what is called the national average is not permitted. This, of course, is not to say that a Court cannot be informed of the difficulties and may not pronounce on whether there has been such a serious divergence from uniformity as to violate the requirements of the Constitution.

To justify the Court in holding that the sub-section has been in fringed it must, however, be shown that the failure to maintain the ratio between the number of members for each constituency and the population of each constituency involves such a divergence as to make it clear that the Oireachtas has not carried out the intention of the sub-clause.

In the opinion of the Court the divergencies shown in the Bill are within reasonable limits.

That, in my respectful opinion, is the law. It is a decision of the Supreme Court. It is a decision given subsequent to the decision of Mr. Justice Budd in the case of O'Donovan v. The Attorney General and it is obvious from that that there is enough elbow room given to the Oireachtas to arrange the constituencies fairly and squarely. In my opinion, therefore, the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill is quite unnecessary and is introduced as a political safety valve in order to make sure that if Fianna Fáil lose the Fourth Amendment they can still do what they want under the Third Amendment.

On reading these two Bills there was one thing that struck me very forcibly. These are two separate and distinct Bills. They will go to the country as two separate questions. It is possible that the people will say "yes" to one and "no" to the other. In my opinion, the people will say "no" to both of them, but it is possible that the people will say "yes" to one and "no" to the other. Why, I ask this House, does the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill provide for a commission to arrange the constituencies while no such commission is given in the Third Amendment? Is this not a case of Fianna Fáil saying: "If you do not abolish proportional representation and give us a stranglehold on the country in the single-member constituency with the first past the post system, we will see to it that we will arrange the constituencies in such a way as will suit ourselves under the Third Amendment"? Is that not what it means? The Third Amendment is a violation of the fundamental right of one man, one vote of equal value. That cannot be denied.

Some of the arguments put forward by the Fianna Fáil Party here in support of these measures were very weak indeed. I made a note when the Taoiseach was introducing the Bills. Making the case for the Fourth Amendment, he said that multi-seat constituencies tended to drive Deputies into competition with each other in getting or pretending to get favours and that as a result they had not enough time for their primary duties as legislators. This would seem to me to indicate that the Taoiseach thought that really it was not any part of a Deputy's business to be looking after the wants of his constituents, particularly if those constituents were entitled to these benefits as of right. But when the Taoiseach was making the case for the Third Amendment of the Constitution he seemed to see great virtue in preserving county boundaries. Elaborating on that case he said that a considerable part of a Deputy's work on behalf of his constituency would relate to matters within the competence of the county council. In one argument he is saying that the Deputy should not be running here, there and everywhere, into Departments and so on, looking for this, that, or the other. But in the other argument, when it suits him, he says the Deputy should be running as a messenger boy to the county council asking, presumably, to get hospital bills reduced, disability allowances increased, to get pumps erected and so on. I think the Taoiseach is being inconsistent there.

Another thing that struck me is this. Over the years here, when we were actively talking about entering the Common Market, everything we did in this House was done under the pretence that it was bringing us into line with Common Market practice. We went to great trouble to do this. We changed our whole system of trade mark law. We introduced an anti-social, anti-family Bill, the Succession Bill, under the pretence that it was in keeping with Common Market country practice, but the Government were forced to drop this measure. I do not know whether we have given up the idea of getting into the Common Market or whether the gimmick of the Common Market has been dropped for some other gimmick, but it strikes me we are seeking to introduce here a system of election which does not operate in any one of the six Common Market countries. That is something the people should bear in mind.

I have said all I want to say on this measure. I wish to conclude on the note on which I started, and that is that the Third Amendment to the Constitution is an attack on the fundamental principle of one man, one vote of equal value, especially when it is coupled with the claim of the Government to arrange the constituencies themselves without any assistance from a commission or a judge, and that the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is a savage attack on the principle of majority rule. It does not even pretend to be a system under which the majority rule or under which a candidate must get a majority of the votes in order to secure election. I am confident that the people will reject this attempt and reject it even more emphatically than they did in 1959.

Having listened to Deputy Fitzpatrick for some time, I was glad to find that after his initial efforts he got away from the past, from the period of 40 years ago. This highlights one of the reasons PR has outlived its usefulness in this country, if indeed it ever was useful. It may be a reasonable system of election where you have sharp divisions of a social or political nature but where these are no longer relevant, there is no longer need for PR as such. Rather is there need for a more direct and positive system of voting to give a Government and an Opposition. Parliament must have both if it is to function well.

There has been much to-do about the fact that under the straight vote system, Fianna Fáil could gain a majority with possibly only 30 odd per cent of the votes cast. I should like to remind the House that out of a number of Dáil elected—I have counted 15— 13 received less than 50 per cent of the votes cast. These Parties—in most cases it was one Party—received less than 50 per cent for 13 Dála. Of those 13, eight Dála received less than 45 per cent of the votes cast. When we analyse this and find something in the region of 62 per cent or 63 per cent of first votes cast in various general elections and counted only once, is it such a great disparity to think there is such leeway that the other 30 per cent will be completely denied their voting right? As it stands, 60 per cent of the people have only one opportunity to vote under the present system. They may vote ten times if they like, but their votes are counted only once. There is no need then for this to-do about people being denied the right to vote for those they want to represent them.

We have heard a lot about Wicklow. I will not inflict the other five by-elections on the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, but I should like to say that Wicklow was singularly peculiar and significant. In my memory here— I admit it is a short one—this is the first time a Deputy has been elected in a by-election without having reached the quota. Whether this is something significant for PR, I do not know. I do not think it is. It is not a valid argument to be adduced here and expounded upon. The candidate elected there was elected on a minority of the votes cast. It shows that Fianna Fáil are not completely peculiar in looking for the straight vote system.

Deputy O'Leary mentioned that probably some of the lack of fire and lack of enthusiasm in the Opposition Parties is attributable to the fact that many Deputies consider their duties in this House secondary to their duties elsewhere. That is a matter on which Deputies must make up their own minds. I cannot guide them in that regard.

I feel that in the single-seat constituency system a Deputy elected for a constituency would have to work both in this House and outside in his own constituency for the people who elected him. There would be no such thing as safe coasting and riding along, and letting three or four other Deputies do the work, and that he by virtue of being one of a minority Party, would be assured that once he was a favourite son of the Party, he would come back when election day came around, irrespective of whether he worked in this House or in his own constituency.

These are some of the things I think which have motivated many Opposition people to oppose the straight vote. There is nothing heinous about the straight vote. There is a tremendous challenge in that those elected would have to work. There would be no room for playing to the side or up the wings. There would be no buck-passing or saying it was not his fault, that because the two or three other Deputies—whichever the case may be —did not pull their weight he could not be blamed. The straight vote and the single-seat constituency would make for a better type of Deputy in this respect, and a more enlightened electorate in so far as they would be measuring up the working ability of the Deputy on his past performance and his likely future performance.

Last week a Fine Gael Deputy said there was no alternative to Fianna Fáil. I would not say it is my concern that the Opposition should become the Government. That is not my duty. My concern it for the complete disregard the Opposition have for their duty in this House. Their duty is as real and positive as that of the Government. They should be forced into the position if they are not willing to take it up of having to abdicate their seats and allow someone else to take them, or else they should be positive in their approach to their role in this House.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary name one Deputy with whom he is expressing dissatisfaction?

If the Deputy thinks I am tightening the screw on him personally, I do not mean to.

None of that soft talk. Name the Deputy with whom you are displeased.

I am not going to name people in this House for the Deputy or anyone else.

Do not imply nasty things if you are not prepared to back them up.

I am delighted to hear the Deputy saying that.

Make a speech and stop the propaganda.

It is not propaganda. A peculiar thing under the multipleseat constituency and the PR system of election is that it is virtually impossible for the leader of a Party to be defeated in a constituency. It is like the old traditional absentee landlord—an absentee representative. These are the facts which Fine Gael and Labour do not want to face up to. These are the reasons why they do not want to deviate from the present system. It is nice and cushy. If you do not take a chance, you do not put your neck in a halter. I think the electorate of this nation deserve better than that.

Last week a Fine Gael Deputy also mentioned the fact that the only alternative to a Fianna Fáil Government was a Coalition Government. My view may not be universally shared, but I think that coalition has not been the best thing in the world. This has been proved in the past and will be the same in the future. It has many peculiar components. It means bargaining for place and power by minority groups who have cajoled their various supporters and the electorate to vote for them with completely divergent policies. Due to the fact that numerically they are stronger, they can coalesce and form a coalition Government. They are weak Governments with no stated policies as such, but rather compromise policies at their best. Frequent changes of Government are likely. Certainly there is no doubt that there is a depression in trade and industry and there is no progress but stability, security and credit in constant danger.

I subscribe fully to that idea of coalition Governments. I have with me a rather tattered document, an election advertisement published in the Irish Independent by the Cumann na nGaedheal Party on 4th June, 1927, when they gave those reasons as being the most objectionable things they saw in coalition Governments.

There are other factors governing the change in the Fine Gael attitude. I admit there may not have been a very large majority at the decision-taking point when they decided in favour of opposing the straight vote, but it was written into the Fine Gael document when that Party drew up their policy in 1933. At point 7, they declared: "The abolition of the present proportional representation system so as to secure more effective democratic control of national policy and to establish closer personal relationships between parliamentary representatives and their constituents." I will be excused if I cannot keep abreast of Fine Gael policies. I do not suppose they have changed that since. I do not know whether or not they have, but they declared that in 1933.

Deputy Dillon suffered a lot of barraging. I do not want to be unkind to him because I have the utmost respect for him. I will not mention what he said about PR, but I should like to mention what Mr. McGilligan said when he was a Member of this House. On 25th May, 1937, Deputy McGilligan said that it was always held with regard to proportional representation, which this country adopted, that we had adopted the worst possible system. I could not agree with him more. Possibly at the time it was adopted it was forced on us. Possibly in the circumstances at the time there may have been some valid reasons for it. I cannot think of any reason why PR should be retained now instead of a more positive system of election which would be simple and which would bring undoubted benefits in so far as it would bring a more realistic approach from politicians on the opposite side of the House. It would also stimulate the Government if they were lethargic in any field of endeavour. PR and the multi-seat constituencies contributed much to the lethargic element that rests in this House.

Although Fine Gael have said that they are an alternative Government, I cannot see them gaining something like 30 seats at the next election. Deputy O'Leary of the Labour Party seemed confident that they could treble their votes and he was not talking about a ten-year period. He was dismayed that anyone should mention a ten-year period. I cannot see Labour becoming an effective Government in a short time. Possibly they have been rethinking their slogan that they would go it alone and would not coalesce with anyone. Maybe they are giving that second thoughts: I do not know. In political life, PR as such has been one of the factors that have never allowed for a real and positive approach towards constituents.

People speak here of tolerance and deride it as such. I should like to point to my own constituency of South Tipperary and West Waterford, a distance of over 90 miles in length and something over 40 miles in width. It varies at some points. However, these are the two longest measurements in it. It is well nigh impossible to come in contact, even annually, with every individual in each parish or each area in that vast constituency which I think it is my duty to do as their representative in this House.

One argument brought up in favour of the retention of proportional representation and against the straight vote, single-seat system is that those who voted against the elected candidate would be out on a limb, so to speak. I do not concede that point at all. Deputies know they are elected to serve each person in the constituency and not merely those who have voted for them. They have a duty to each and every person in the constituency whether or not a person voted for them or is likely to do so again. That principle operates to a very wide degree under the present system and it would operate to a greater degree still under the single-seat constituency system where the representative in an area would be the only person to whom a constituent could turn for some required service. That being the case, a Deputy who would do anything else would soon get short shrift from the electors of that single-seat constituency, and rightly so. The proposed system would send him packing out of Dáil Éireann and certainly on his business if he failed to perform his duty here to those who voted for him and, equally so, to those who did not vote for him.

If we were to make representations merely on the basis of serving the people who voted for us we should thereby, first of all, abolish the secrecy of the ballot box which is something to which I should not be willing to subscribe and neither, I am sure, would any other Member of this House. Neither can we assume that everybody in a constituency will vote. There may be circumstances such as illness, absence from home, and so on, which prevent a person from voting at a given time. If the criteria were to serve only the person who voted for the Teachta Dála, that such person is the only person entitled to such service and the only person entitled to come to the Teachta Dála to request it, how many people, even under the present system, would feel they could not approach their local representative because of their failure to vote at the last general election or at the general election before that? It is their right and privilege not to vote, if they so wish. As elected representatives, it is our duty to serve them irrespective of whether or not they consider it their duty to vote in a general election.

I did not want to interrupt Deputy T.J. Fitzpatrick of Cavan when he was speaking, although I felt tempted to do so, because he was entirely wrong in his statement that, at the last Presidential election, Fianna Fáil received a tremendous hammering. Fianna Fáil did not receive a tremendous hammering at the last Presidential election. The President received a greater number of votes at the last Presidential election than he received in 1959. I say that in order to put the record right, and for Deputy Fitzpatrick's benefit. The Deputy also said that, under the present system of proportional representation, a convention is duly held and that any small minority group with headquarters could not foist their opinion on the inhabitants of an area. We in Fianna Fáil fully subscribe to that and it would operate also under the straight vote system. Deputy Fitzpatrick's Party went to Clare—this is one of the contributing factors to their loss there—and tried to foist their opinion on the convention there and to tell the would-be candidates, long before the flags were up at all, they were non-runners and non-starters and that, even if selected by the convention, they would not be ratified by head-quarters. These are a few of the things that have a bearing on the present discussions and debate.

We have heard much talk about the forthcoming referendum and about its being held a short nine years after a referendum on the same subject. Fine Gael may not be too anxious about referenda. If we have made one mistake in this country, it is that we have not had a sufficient number of them. Fianna Fáil introduced the 1937 Constitution under which it was provided that there could be no change in the Constitution without direct consultation with the people through the medium of a referendum. Fine Gael were not as great champions of this right, which was conferred upon our electors by the 1937 Constitution, as they now pose to be. Let us not forget that Fianna Fáil gave our electors that right. Under the 1922 Constitution, the principle whereby the people could institute a referendum was withdrawn without reference to the people. Furthermore, the three-year period was extended and the then Constitution could be amended merely by resolution and not by referendum. That knowledge is now irking Fine Gael.

By this courageous act of going to the people again, Fianna Fáil clearly show they want the matter to be decided by the people. Fine Gael and other Opposition speakers say we are going to the people after a short nine-year period. Nine years is a considerable percentage of my lifetime, and the same can be said of many Members of this House. People who will be voting this year, and getting the right to vote this year for the first time ever, would hardly have left national school when the last referendum took place on this very question of whether to retain or abolish proportional representation. The younger people particularly, the inheritors of this country, will want to see a social order marshalled out of a clear policy and that can be done only by breaking with the traditional method of election to Dáil Éireann and, when all else wears itself out, by introducing a more positive measure.

The Opposition are completely at liberty to write down any policy they think fit because, within the foreseeable future, neither Opposition Party shows a chance of becoming a government of this country on its own. Therefore, they have virtually poetic licence to write down anything they want to write down regarding a policy. They can be as unrealistic as they wish. Fianna Fáil—the Government Party— must not only write down a policy but also act a policy. They must be realistic in government and in policy-making. That is our strength. The Opposition have failed miserably in this respect. They are now being given a chance to measure up to and to face their responsibilities. They can achieve office if they are willing and able to translate their policies into action.

Let nobody think Fianna Fáil have some kind of magic wand whereby 144 Fianna Fáil Teachtaí Dála will be returned from 144 single-seat constituencies. Fianna Fáil do not have a monopoly of the people's votes. The people vote individually and must do so. There is no method by which we can make them vote for us and if there were, there is no Deputy who would not be here until his whiskers were tripping him because we would all discover the secret and put it into operation. Neither we nor anybody else can say how many votes or seats Fianna Fáil will have if PR is abolished and the straight vote comes in. Some people in safe, sheltered areas can sit down and tot up and sub-divide and come back with figures. It may be a good exercise in mathematics but not in practicalities. It is impossible for anybody to predict, if you create 144 constituencies tomorrow, how many will be Fianna Fáil, how many Fine Gael and how many Labour, because unlike Britain where you have tremendous built-up areas and intensive voting, we have not those factors. There can be no very safe Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or Labour seat. Everyone would be out in a new area in a new climate seeking votes on behalf of the Party for which he stands and on his reputation and ability to represent the people of his area.

These are the cold realities of the straight vote from which the Opposition are shrinking. They do not want to go out into the winter climate but to continue to bask in the tolerable sunshine under this glass roof. We are told that a representative could be elected with 33, 34 or 35 per cent of the votes in a single-seat system. Lincoln was elected in 1860 in America and had only 39 per cent of the votes cast and who would say the American people made a bad choice? It does not follow that because a representative gets only 30 odd per cent of the votes he is not as good a representative as the person who gets 40 or more. As I have said, 13 Governments in this country got less than 50 per cent of the votes cast and eight got less than even 45 per cent of the votes cast. If the Opposition criterion were adopted, there should have been no Governments, or should the Government have been the people who were in Opposition on each occasion if they got more than 50 per cent of the votes? I am quite sure they did not because there is never 100 per cent voting.

To think that Fianna Fáil are going to be the only Party here under the straight vote system is ridiculous. I can see how very tempting it is for the Opposition to say that we want to perpetuate ourselves in power and that that is our only aim in introducing straight voting. Admittedly, any Party with fire in its guts is determined to remain alive, expand and gain power. If a Party has a death wish about itself, this is quickly transmitted to its followers who will turn up their toes also or change over to another Party. Possibly this is one of the reasons why the Opposition are not prepared to take up the challenge and adopt a positive approach to the straight vote system we seek. We seek it because we know that under it any Party might form a government and therefore any Party going before the country cannot go with fanciful ideas of what policy might mean.

Few people regard the system of multi-seat constituencies as the best in a democracy and the sooner we give them an opportunity of deciding on this or changing the system, the better for everybody, and certainly for the country if they adopt the straight vote system which will show a real awareness of the ordinary problems of the people, their living problems, and which does not live on tradition and on sides that people may have taken 40 years ago or less. These are not the real problems of today but, unfortunately, PR allows these to remain in a sort of safe alcove and there will always be one or two people who will get in here under a PR system so long as these remain. I do not subscribe to this; I do not think it right, and I think we here would be lacking in our duty if we did not seek to evolve a better system of election for the people of today and tomorrow who will be voting in the future.

Politics, as somebody said, is a rather insecure occupation and not one that is consonant with old age. I think seven people have died out of this House in the three-year period since I came in, most of them relatively young people. We were sorry indeed to see them go and it shows that there is a certain element of tension possibly —I do not know what it is—that contributes to this situation. The percentage out of 144 is high. These people gave of their time here and can no longer do so. So long as we are here we have a duty to subscribe to any and all methods that will give a better system than that which we have and if the next system can later be improved, we should grasp the opportunity with both hands.

I should like to read something from Father O'Connor, Lecturer on Politics in UCD, who sums up the matter very nicely. I am quoting from The Irish Press of 27th February, 1968, where he is asked:

Could the direct vote not lead to government by one Party indefinitely?

I think that is really what is worrying the Opposition. He should be a fair adjudicator and this is what he says:

Let us suppose that Fianna Fáil gets 120 seats in the next election. This would simply mean that Fianna Fáil policy appealed to the people in the constituencies and that they wanted it. This is what politics is about. Fianna Fáil is not a homogeneous Party, after all, and if they happen to get a majority of Deputies, there will be different opinions emerging within the Party and helping to shape policy. These different views may not emerge under the Party Whip inside the Dáil, but they will appear in terms of ironing out policy in the Party rooms. If Fianna Fáil can maintain unity in this sort of monolithic structure, this will be because the leadership is presenting a policy which finds a response among the local representatives. If Fianna Fáil wins more seats and more power, then it speaks very poorly for the other two Parties. Personally I have more faith in their capacity to meet the challenge.

I wish the Opposition would read this and draw from it some consolation because I believe there are and always will be those who are for and against the Government, irrespective of what Government it is, but there will be more and more people who will look for policy rather than for past slogans and old clichés.

I had something to say to Deputy L'Estrange but he is not here and I shall leave it to another time.

The possibility of bargaining for power in the event of the Opposition Parties individually gaining seats and then coming to this House is not a figment of my imagination; rather it is a reality and I should like to bring the minds of Deputies back to the very first Coalition when the Leader of the Fine Gael Party had to resign his leadership because he was not acceptable to some people participating in the Coalition at that time.

That is not true.

I have not got the reference with me from his own writings.

That is not true. General Mulcahy remained the leader of the Fine Gael Party all the time. Deputy John A. Costello was a person acceptable to all Parties.

What happens is that parties, let us say three in number or indeed ten, go forth to the electorate with completely different policies and different attitudes, seeking the votes of their supporters, asking for some very definite line, and then come back here and deny, at least by implication, their policy, either by completely losing sight of them or shelving them; or even betray the electors who have placed confidence in them by coming back and subjugating themselves to a larger party or to a smaller party, whichever might be the more vocal during the bargaining procedure. These are the realities that emerge from coalition.

Again we have had the criticism that under the straight vote system Fianna Fáil could well get only 40 per cent of the votes and 60 per cent of the seats. I do not accept this as a valid argument, and we can go back to many of the past elections to refute this. Any election under PR in which Fianna Fáil have got 60 per cent of the seats, they have got well over 40 per cent of the No. 1 votes cast, these being the ones predominantly counted.

We feel again that the role of the Deputy can be made more effective by having the area smaller, by having him more intimately associated with his constituents and by his constituents making him more aware of the needs of his area and their particular needs. By having a smaller area, the Deputy will be able to bring his mind to bear more positively and more directly on the opinions of the people in his constituency.

In this regard, too, we have had a number of people who are rather anxious that the tolerance should be completely scrubbed. There is nothing peculiar about the tolerance issue here. Indeed, even from the physical point of view, it is something that should commend itself to the majority of Deputies and indeed to the majority of the people. The people, even though many of them may be city dwellers, are, in the main, only a generation or two in the city and most of them have some connection with the rural areas. They know full well that on the basis of distance alone, there are tremendous problems for the constituents as well as for the Deputy in becoming familiar with the problems involved or in making representations to the Deputy in the case of the constituent. Again there was last week—I did not get time to study it fully—a comparison drawn here between many of the Dublin constituencies where the juvenile population was much in excess of that in the rural constituencies and the tolerance is based not on the electors as such but on population. I think the system whereby there could be a slight deviation—not one that would give three votes as against two as has been suggested—which ensured that there would be some degree of normality would be reasonable for the country areas where it becomes obvious that this is needed.

The Court held that the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1961, was not repugnant to the Constitution. The divergence from the national average population per member in the constituencies determined by the 1961 Act ranged from -833 to +789, that is, -4.1 per cent to +3.9 per cent. There is no means of knowing what the Supreme Court would regard as a serious divergence from the national average, although, by implication, it accepted the general approach of Mr. Justice Budd, while saying that it could not lay down a fixed figure above or below which a variation from the national average would be permitted. Hence the need to write the tolerance into the Constitution.

I appreciate the difficulty Mr. Justice Budd was in or that any other judge would be placed in if he were asked to give a ruling on divergence. Take my own constituency which has West Waterford annexed to it, where there is a mountain range for almost 13 miles before you meet a house and where there is a river which sub-divides West Waterford and where people must travel eight or nine miles to the nearest bridge to bring them to a point just across from where they started. These were considerations which no judge could have known when making his decisions, and Deputy Fitzpatrick did mention that this was taken into account in so far as the judge admitted that he could not be presumed to know all of these peculiar cases that would arise and exist in practically every constituency.

I would ask that in approaching this matter of the straight vote, the Opposition would take heart from what Father O'Connor said. There is a very definite place for an Opposition in this and every other parliament. But the Opposition, too, have their duties and their responsibilities to the public and to the parliament. If we allow the Government or the Opposition to fall down on their job, then we cannot hope to have the same degree of participation by the people, by the electors, in future elections, nor indeed have the same faith in the results or in the Government who may be elected.

When the Minister for Local Government made the announcement to the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis some months ago that the Government intended once again to place a referendum before the people in an effort to change our electoral system, I must confess my reaction, and, as far as I am aware, the reaction of the public generally, was one of astonishment that so soon again after having received the verdict of the people on this issue, the Government should attempt to influence the people to change the electoral system. This astonishment felt at the time was followed by a period of speculation, particularly when we found that the Committee which had sat for 18 months in an endeavour to review the Constitution had recommended, on the one hand, the arguments in favour of the retention of the present system, and, on the other, the argument in favour of the change to a single-seat constituency system with the transferable vote. The speculation came to an end with the introduction of two Bills proposing this tolerance of one-sixth, which had not previously existed in our Constitution, and the abolition of the system of election which we know as proportional representation. The immediate reaction of the people, to the Fourth Amendment in particular, was one of absolute astonishment. They certainly protested, when they heard of a sum of £100,000 being bandied about, that this money should be spent in this way. They listed various economic needs to which this money could be devoted. There were people who held the view that this constitutional change is a fundamental matter and as such it be considered in an atmosphere of absolute calm and, in so far as possible, at a time when the minds of the people are not occupied with serious matters such as they are this year when we are approaching a period of challenge in industry, the challenge of free trade, the challenge of competition which we did not have to face heretofore, and when there exists an uncertainty in the minds of employers and employees such as never existed before. The people contend that this is not an atmosphere in which we should consider something so fundamental as a change in our Constitution, even if this issue had not been decided so very, very recently.

There is a public demand for a solution to many of our economic problems—there is a public demand, for instance, for the introduction of this health service which we have so long been promised—but there has not been, and there is not, any public demand for a change in our electoral system. We have to ask ourselves then why the Government have decided to put this referendum before the people. In trying to answer that question we know that the Government were aware that another election could not be fought as the existing boundaries are drawn and that another election fought on these boundaries would be declared unconstitutional on the grounds that the number of people within the boundaries varied so greatly. We know that a change in these boundaries would of necessity have meant a big reduction in the number of Deputies in rural areas, particularly around the western seaboard. We know that such a reduction would automatically have meant a reduction in Fianna Fáil strength because this is largely a Fianna Fáil stronghold. We know, too, that such a reduction could and would have made a great difference between Fianna Fáil in power and Fianna Fáil out of power and, therefore, logically you have to conclude that the Third Amendment to the Constitution was brought about by political expediency and the desire of the Government to remain in power.

Arguments were advanced by the Taoiseach and other supporters of the amendment that special regard should be had for the special needs of constituents in thinly populated areas. We know that special regard should be had for the needs of such constituents but we know, too, that their needs are economic and we know that a change in the electoral system will not solve their problems. We believe that the time of this House would be better spent, even though the problems are big ones and would require a lot of time to solve them, if it were devoted to solving those problems rather than to discussing, as we have been for the past four weeks, this constitutional change. The Taoiseach in his case for the introduction of a tolerance of one sixth said that the aim was to keep the representation at, or as near as possible to, the present figure in rural areas. We know that it is very easy for Fianna Fáil to say that, but it will not save the west or will not stop the flight from the land in these areas. The fact that five people voting in the west, or in rural areas, will be as effective as seven people voting in Dublin, Cork or in any of the more urbanised areas, will not solve the problems that exist for people in remote areas. It is not sufficient for us to accept the flight from the land as a natural phenomenon. We should address ourselves to finding ways and means to solve the problems of these people and of arresting the flight from the land.

My colleague from mid-Cork, Deputy Tom Meaney, during the debate had much to say on the question of fewer people being required to elect a Deputy in the rural areas than in the urban areas. At column 903, volume 233 of the Official Report he said:

It must be remembered that people are still coming into the cities, into the Civil Service and into business generally, and at the time of election, many thousands of those may not be on the register. That is a point which has been missed. What is going to happen is that in the finish the cities are going to be over represented.

I do not know what sort of logic this is, that Deputy Meaney should arrive at this conclusion. Surely the register does not count. Numbers of people and the census of population are what count. If these people are not registered in the cities they surely appeared in the census in their own rural areas before they came to the cities and they must have figured in the numbers required to elect a rural Deputy. The argument which Deputy Meaney is putting forward works in reverse. He went on to say:

If the Deputies opposite from mid-Cork, one Labour and one Fine Gael, are going to vote against this, I will be surprised. If they do, we will have a big discussion outside chapel gates later in the year. However, that is another day's work.

If this is the type of logic the Deputy employs neither my colleague, Deputy Creed, nor I, will have much to fear. Certainly I would stand for equal rights for all our people, whether they be from the rural areas or from the urban areas, outside any chapel gates. Deputy Meaney went on to refer to the change from the present system to the system of the straight vote and he said that the system of PR is dying out. At column 904 he said:

The people would be wise to change to the straight vote, no matter what arguments are put forward.

Surely this is ridiculous. At least the people should listen to the arguments and then make up their minds. He went on to say:

We had arguments about candidate A getting 7,000 votes, B getting 6,000 votes and C getting 5,000 votes and so on, but what you will get is the candidate whom most people want, being elected.

You would have the candidate who gets 7,000 votes elected, but that is not the candidate most people want. More people wanted that candidate rather than any other candidate, but most people did not want him. In the constituency I represent, I got more votes than any of my colleagues, but I do not for a moment suggest that I am the candidate most people wanted. In fact, I know very well that most people did not want me.

The real reason why Fianna Fáil have introduced this question of tolerance at this point is to ensure that Fianna Fáil will not be reduced in numbers. That is the real reason why the question of tolerance has been introduced. But it is not so easy to understand why the Fourth Amendment has been introduced again now, so soon after the defeat of the referendum on the selfsame issue in 1959. We must assume, I suppose, that the Government, having gone so far, do not feel so sure of their own position and have decided to test it out all the way.

Many arguments have been advanced to sustain the proposed change to the straight vote system. They might be summarised as follows: first, the need for stable government; secondly, the necessity to allow people to choose a government directly; thirdly, the need for avoiding competition between Deputies, particularly in rural constituencies, a situation, the Government argue, resulting in Deputies devoting too much of their time to the personal problems of their constituents and too little to the job for which they are elected, namely, the consideration and enactment of legislation in this House.

Let us examine these arguments. Let us assess the price that must be paid if this change should take place. First, there is the argument in relation to stable government. The arguments put forward by the speakers on the Government benches can best be answered, I think, by John Ross writing about the Irish electoral system. At page 76, dealing with 50 years of government in Great Britain prior to 1959, he says:

In Great Britain the single-member plurality system, though operated with increasing rigour, has failed repeatedly to ensure single-party majority government. In the last fifty years the type of government that has been in power has varied as follows: One-party majority government: 25 years 6 months; Minority party government: 3 years 3 months; Inter-party government: 21 years 3 months.

We can compare that now with the type of government we have had here and with the stability of that government and, when we do so, we see at once that the first argument advanced in favour of this change does not hold water.

The Taoiseach, at column 1951, volume 232 of the Official Report, when introducing this Bill, said:

In a modern, developed economy, where the Government play a key role, the electors will wish to choose their Government directly and will consider this as the primary aim of elections.

In order to choose a Government directly there would have to be the same proportion between the votes cast and the results produced by those votes; if there is not, then it cannot be held that the electors choose their Government directly. The less proportionality there is between the votes cast and the result produced, the less chance there is of Government being chosen directly by the electors.

Again, this argument is not a valid argument. The system of proportional representation which we have had here since we became self-governing has, by and large, produced a great degree of proportionality between votes cast and the results. In fact, any divergences have been in favour of the bigger Parties. Fianna Fáil got 7.5 per cent more seats on average down through the years than their votes would warrant; Fine Gael got 5.9 per cent more seats than votes would warrant; the Labour Party, on the other hand, got ten per cent less seats than votes would warrant. At first sight, there would appear to be a slight divergence from what might be considered true proportionality, but let me quote once more from John Ross to show the big differences that exist between the system of proportional representation we have enjoyed and the system now proposed. He says at page 66:

There are, then, divergences from proportionality in the Irish election system; but they are as nothing in comparison with those that the British single-member system produces. In 1945, for example, the Socialists received less than half of the total vote (48.7 per cent), yet gained five-eighths of the seats (62.3 per cent). That means that they got 27.8 per cent more seats than were due to them on their voting strength. Even that deviation from proportionality, however, is mild in comparison with that suffered by the Liberals in 1950 when, with 9.1 per cent of the votes, they gained only 1.4 per cent of the seats. That meant that they were deprived of 84.2 per cent—over five-sixths—of the seats that their voting strength should have given them.

It is not only the magnitude of the departures from proportionality exhibited by the British system that arouses criticism, however—it is quite as much their erratic nature, their unpredictability. In 1950, for example, the Socialists secured nearly as high a share of the total vote (46.3 per cent) as they did in 1945. But their share of seats in the House of Commons fell from 62.3 per cent to 50.4 per cent; that is, instead of getting a 27.8 per cent bonus of seats, they only got one of 8.8 per cent—a very different matter. In the following election, only a year later, their share of the vote went up from 46.3 per cent to 48.6 per cent, yet their share of the seats went down from 50.4 per cent to 47.4 per cent. The really startling comparison, however, is between 1945 and 1951. In 1945, as already noted, 48.7 per cent of the total vote gave the Socialists 62.3 per cent of the seats and gave the country a powerful Socialist government; six years later practically the same proportion of the total vote only gave the Socialists 47.4 per cent of the seats, and a Conservative government came into power.

That, I think, adduces sufficient proof to show that the system the Government now wish to foist on the people is completely erratic in operation. In a period of six years, a drop of .1 per cent in the total vote for a Party here could result in a drop of 14.9 per cent of seats. Surely such a system could not be held to provide stable government or a Government more stable than that provided by proportional representation? Secondly, on the ground of permitting the people to choose the Government they want, there might be no proportionality whatsoever between the votes cast and the result in terms of seats.

The third argument advanced was that Deputies spend too much of their time dealing with the personal problems of their constituents. We had occasion to refer to this last week during the debate on the Supplementary Estimate for the Department of Social Welfare and it was the consensus of opinion of all Deputies who spoke that many of the problems of the people with regard to social welfare had direct bearing on the system of social welfare which we apply. The fault lies with our system of social welfare in which there are too many injustices, too many incomprehensible regulations, and there therefore exists naturally in the minds of the people a refusal to believe that such systems could exist at all. When people are refused or denied participation in benefits by virtue of some regulation which they refuse to believe in —when they think their cases should not be outside the scope of the system —they must go to their Deputies to try to have their wrongs redressed.

The way in which to allow Deputies to devote more of their time to legislation, to the affairs of the House, is to streamline our social welfare schemes to bring them into line with what makes sense to the people, to get rid of the regulations which make for injustices and anomalies and try to give to the people a system of social welfare which they can understand readily without continuous recourse to Deputies for advice and help. If we devoted more time to that sort of thing, we would not have people approaching Deputies so often to try to remedy their problems. If this situation existed, Deputies would be enabled to do a better day's work than they can do by devoting their time to discussing a matter with which the people dealt very adequately nine years ago. When we have finished with the exercise we are now engaged in, our problems will still exist.

In the type of constituency which the Government propose to foist on the people, we would have, I visualise, a small constituency based, for example, on an area in the immediate neighbourhood of my home. If, by chance, I survived this change and were re-elected, I can think of prominent Government supporters in my village who would not come along to me to ask for my advice and help to have their wrongs righted. I know there are some Fianna Fáil supporters who would not have qualms about coming along to me but I am worried about the many people who would be reluctant to seek advice from people who they might think would know they did not vote for them. There are many people whose integrity would prevent them from coming along and what would happen in such cases is that Fianna Fáil supporters in my constituency, whether their political allegiance was known or not, would go to seek help and advice from the nearest Fianna Fáil Deputy, whether that was outside their constituency or not. The net result would be that Deputies, even in smaller constituencies, would be as busy if not busier than ever.

However, as I have stated, we should be devoting our time to eliminating existing social problems rather than trying to change the system of election under the supposed impression that it will solve our situation. It will not solve it. PR is the system which places most confidence in the political maturity of our people. We know that less than one per cent of the votes cast in the general elections since 1948 have been spoiled. PR is a system which has been well used, which all of our people under the age of 70 have used in elections during their voting lifetime. It presents greater choice between candidates. The choice in this country, for instance, is three times greater than in Britain where the single-seat, non-transferable system is in use. It also gives a certain satisfaction to voters because they know they have played a part in electing their first choice.

I have come across a figure which indicates that in 1957 69.8 per cent of the people got their first choice elected and, of course, a much higher percentage got their choice of second, third or fourth elected. The people, therefore, played a bigger part in the election of Parliament. The position is very different in England where in 1950 only 55.2 per cent got their first and only choice elected. Therefore, as far as giving a choice to the voters and a certain amount of satisfaction in the system of election, the system which we know as PR by far outstrips the system proposed by the Government. We have shown that the straight vote system does not necessarily produce a more stable Government than PR because under the proposed system the people have no real choice in electing Parliament and the argument that it does is not valid.

A great deal would depend on the placing of the constituency boundaries. However, we shall be able to comment more adequately and to more effect on the position of boundaries when we come to the Committee Stage. All in all, my opinion is that the price of the disfranchisement of two-thirds of the population is far too high to pay for the dubious benefits. I believe there are no benefits and even among Fianna Fáil supporters, there is a genuine belief that the short-term advantage of this proposed change is not adequate compensation for the big price to be paid for it.

A lot of worry has been expressed since the debate started about the annihilation of the Labour Party under the proposed system. I believe the Labour Party would suffer a setback but I do not believe the Party would be annihilated. What the Labour Party are concerned with are the rights of the people, for whom Government and Parliament exist, and this proposal would be an infringement of these rights, and as such the Labour Party will not stand for it. I am convinced that this referendum will be beaten more heavily than the last one. I am concerned as well because a referendum of any kind can be very confusing. The necessity for a certain amount of legal jargon in a referendum can lead to confusion. This was borne out by the fact that there were 37,000 spoiled votes in the last referendum. This is a far higher proportion than the normal complement of spoiled votes at a normal election.

This is an indication of the need to make the contents of the referendum adequately clear to the people if they have to vote on it. I would say that we should make every effort to avoid a situation where 37,000 people might, through no fault of their own, spoil their votes. For that reason I would hope that every medium—press and television—would be used to familiarise the people with the ballot paper presented to them. There are two issues involved and it could be quite confusing. We are all concerned that the result, whatever it be, will be a true expression of public opinion and that whatever the result spoiled votes should be kept to a minimum.

I am convinced that if this referendum is put to the people in its present form, it will be defeated. I think this is only just. I do not think the people should be asked to vote again on an issue to which they gave their answer nine years ago. As far as the tolerance question is concerned, I am convinced that it is an effort to perpetuate as far as possible Fianna Fáil Government and I doubt whether anybody, either in this House or at the church gates, can say that it gives equal rights to citizens.

These proposals as well as every other proposal that comes before the House should, I would imagine, be examined from certain standpoints and those standpoints should be related to the time in which the proposals are being put forward.

I would like to start by examining these proposals from the point of view of their necessity as evidenced by public demand. Nowhere can I see any evidence from the circumstances obtaining at this time that there is a necessity for them nor that there is any public demand. In 1959 when similar proposals to these were being discussed, one rarely listened to anybody from either side of the House in the almost universal absence of everybody, unlike this evening. At that time the Public Gallery was relatively full. In the Public Gallery at this moment there is but one person and while, of course, the Press has its own way of doing things, it cannot be said that two members of the Press in the Press Gallery for a debate of this kind would show that their readers are avidly waiting for anything that we may say on either side of the House. As far as I can see and as far as I can hear from meeting people in different parts of the country the question generally asked in relation to this matter, when it is asked indeed, is "why now?" Why, when there are so many things pressing, so many problems crying out for solution, so many people unemployed, population falling drastically in certain areas, take the public eye of scrutiny off these matters by discussing in Dáil Éireann and later in Seanad Éireann and taking up the time of the House and the time of the country and newspaper space and people's time reading those newspapers with a proposed change in the voting system?

Deputy Mrs. Desmond who has just spoken has put her finger on the pulse of this matter. It is my view, too, as indeed, it is the view of many people not alone inside the House but outside it as well that these proposals have been put forward by the Government at this time because, first of all, they know that the constituencies must be revised in order to avoid a constitutional questioning of an election before the next election and the Government know, too, that in that part of the country along the western coast the population has so fallen that County Mayo lost about 28,000 people between the census of 1961 and 1966 and what is the Government's immediate proposal to remedy that in County Mayo? It is to maintain the number of Deputies they have at the moment by bringing in this Third Amendment which for convenience sake I shall call the tolerance proposal.

How can anybody argue that, in a three-seat constituency which will have to be enlarged on the one hand or if not enlarged the number of persons per Deputy reduced, if it were enlarged and the Deputies consequently reduced that the people would be much worse off with three-fifths of their present representation than they are with the whole of the representation now obtaining? I cannot for the life of me see how, for instance, I can be of any more use to 16,000 people than I would be to 20,000 people nor do I see how one and two-fifths of me could make for happier conditions among the number of people I represent at the moment.

We are told that this tolerance is necessary because of rivers, lakes, hills and mountains and, of course, coupled with that, the great difficulty the Deputy has in moving around and visiting his constituents. It has been called a duty by Deputy Davern, the Parliamentary Secretary. While it may be a duty and while it may be a very commendable thing, I want to say here and now that a lot of the going around by Deputies with good news, bad news or neutral news is not something in the interests of the people they represent, nor is it something in the interest of the constituency they represent. It is all part of the merry-go-round of his advancement, being first with the news. I know of very few Deputies in rural Ireland who are not able to cross the ravines, walk the hills, down the dales and even use boats to the islands in order to be first with the news. Tolerance, therefore, is not any solution, in my view, to the problems which exist in areas seriously denuded of population. How can it? Surely going around inquiring about old age pensions, social welfare benefits, rural improvement schemes and housing grants must become easier if the number of people grows less? If one is to follow this argument logically, the tolerance should go the other way because we are not on horseback travelling those queer ravines and galloping madly. Travelling conditions have changed since the beginning of this State. It probably was not easy at the beginning for somebody representing a very large area like Sligo-Leitrim or the whole of County Galway, having regard to the travelling conditions available to Deputies. Perhaps some of us would like the conditions for getting around to be improved but I still think the necessity to get around must not be the criterion by which this is changed.

It is not because a Deputy goes around and carefully nurses every vote from election to election and carefully nurses the coming of age of people that this should be changed. If that is a legislative necessity, then I do not know what legislative necessity is. When we talk of travelling conditions nowadays, we know that we can get to either end of our constituencies, however long they are, in less than two hours. When Deputy Davern was speaking about the tolerance, he made a complaint that Mr. Justice Budd did not have all those physical conditions before him. I remember this case well. Surely all the machinery of the State was available through the law officers of the Government, their representatives in the court, all their technical witnesses from the Department of Local Government who gave evidence and there is no need for any Fianna Fáil Deputy to come in here criticising the judgment of Mr. Justice Budd as being faulty because he did not have all the information which they in their wisdom think he should have had. If he had not, let them blame their own law officers and their technical advisers in the electoral section of the Department of Local Government. If they were not satisfied, why did they not appeal? There is a Supreme Court in this country to which we can appeal in such cases. The machinery of appeal was not used and constituencies at that time were redrawn in accordance with the principles laid down by Mr. Justice Budd in that judgment.

Those principles are still valid and the constituencies now under PR must be redrawn according to the very same principles. It is to avoid this that the Government are bringing in these proposals now. They see very clearly that opinion in the areas, for which they seek tolerance, is now mounting against them. I forget what the actual figures were in say 1948 but I think in the province of Connacht at that time, there were certainly not more than five—I know there were four— Fine Gael Deputies. The present representation in this House from the province of Connacht, where there are 23 seats, is 12 Fianna Fáil and 11 Fine Gael Deputies. That is as close as one could have it where there are 23 seats, that there would be 12 one way and 11 the other way. In the province of Connacht, on a redrawing of the constituencies, and in Donegal and possibly Clare, although I am not sure of that, maybe Kerry, West Cork, Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon, the number of Deputies inevitably would have to be reduced and on that reduction, from my own study of the figure, the Fianna Fáil Party would suffer. It is not easy to determine how much but they would have certain losses.

It of course is not desirable from the point of view of the Fianna Fáil Party, or indeed from the point of view of any Party, to have losses. The Fianna Fáil Party are determined like the Israelites of old in, I think, the Book of Leviticus, to go a-whoring after false gods. Those people at that time were urged not to do this. At a later date in constitutional history, one reads of the efforts of the Liberals of the day under Asquith to increase the number of Liberals to avoid trouble from the Upper House. I think it was Sir William Harcourt who advised them to hold tight to principles and not go a-whoring after false constitutions. I would similarly urge on the Government of the day in this country.

I do not think there is very much more to be said about this question of tolerance. Tolerance, as interpreted in this Bill, is an effort by the Fianna Fáil Party to maintain their numbers as far as they can in the areas denuded of their population under their policies. There is no need for that. In modern conditions one can represent up to 30,000 people in a rural area, however vast it is, however many hills there are, however many ravines and however many rivers there are. Let nobody tell me that the purpose of a legislator is to spend virtually all the time when not in this House moving around his constituency looking for work and looking for it in such a way that he seeks to curry favour in every possible move.

What is really needed is a rationalisation of the services in the country. One can get an old age pension in 999 cases out of 1,000 by simply filling an application form which can be done by a local teacher or by somebody in his or her own house at the moment and producing a birth certificate. That is all that is required. The local officer comes along. There might be an occasional time, a very occasional time, when injustice is done, but in my experience, it is inadvertently done, certainly not deliberately done by any of the officers of the Department of Social Welfare. It is due to the fact that they have not been given all the evidence or they may make some kind of mistake due to the evidence being improperly put to them. Grants for houses are the same.

In every sizeable area in this country at the moment, there is an officer of some sort, one for social welfare, one for local government, one for agriculture, one for forestry—I could go on and on giving them. They are there in rural Ireland to be used by the people, at the service of the people and there is no need for the humbug of having TD's approached by the people to go to these officers and then going back to say: "You were lucky you asked me because if you had not, you would never have got it."

Let us stop the codology; let us stop the nonsense and become legislators, what we are intended to be. We are not all the drones that Deputy Davern made us out to be in his colourful verbiage, not based on truth, but arrogant nonsense. It would be a good thing if some of the men here in Parliament, even the junior Ministers, realised that logic is based on syllogisms, that there is the major premise, the minor premise and the conclusion, and without them you cannot reach the truth. Truth is not a political variant, to be taken from or added to as expediency requires. That is not the kind of Parliament that was envisaged for our people. These are not the kind of charges that should be levelled against Members of this House.

The single-seat constituency, the first past the post system, is where, whatever number of candidates stand, the man who gets the highest number of votes gets in. Again, we are told that it makes it easier to get around, around with the news, to be able to get to know everybody, to be able to move with greater ease in the knowledge that one recognises that baby's blue eyes belong to every mother to whom they in fact are alleged to belong. It has become very important in this matter of gathering votes, extremely important, but the more it progresses, the less effective Parliament will be. People will not have the time to do the work appropriate to Parliament.

How many Deputies go through even a fraction of the Bills brought before the House, Bills for social reform, fiscal measures, occupational injuries? How many go through them in the detail necessary and with the understanding that is more necessary still if they are to fulfil their true purposes here as legislators for the community? Would I not be right in saying that the number who do that— I do not say they should do it with all Bills because we all have our special likes for the things that apply to our special areas—is small? How many go through them all? It may be that this is not due to reluctance or laziness on their part, or incapacity to understand. It may well be due, and I think in many cases is due, to the fact that Deputies have to spend so long in this House either dictating letters to a secretariat or writing them themselves in longhand.

I confess straightaway that I am not a believer in the universal letter writer and I am often amazed when I meet Deputies in the corridors, Deputies of all Parties, with armfuls of letters. I ask myself: "I wonder what they are writing about; what is it all about and what is the necessity for all this?" Again, of course, it has been built up by the system that says you cannot get anything under any of the enactments of Parliament or any budgetary proposals unless you approach a TD, a Senator or a county councillor. What can be more ridiculous than that? What is more awful? Do people not feel ashamed writing as they do and talking as they do to innocent people, saying: "If you had not spoken to me, you might have had trouble in getting it"—let it be a pension, a housing grant, or anything else to which these people are perfectly entitled and which the officials of the appropriate Department will see they get?

Let us be rational, let us be realistic about our services, on the one hand, and let us be proper engineers of this House, on the other. I do not represent Dáil Éireann in North Mayo. I represent North Mayo in Dáil Éireann and anybody who does not want me on that basis is perfectly free to reject me.

On the single-seat constituency, too, we had the Parliamentary Secretary telling us we were going to get a better type of Deputy. Part of this, of course, is the complaint about the competition between Deputies of the same Party in a constituency. We do not have to worry about this in my particular constituency at the moment, where there are two Fine Gael TDs and one Fianna Fáil TD. So that, as far as the better type of Deputy is concerned, Fianna Fáil have them. They have their very best in my constituency in North Mayo. I want to know what Deputy Davern is seeking and at whom is he hinting when he says he wants a better type of Deputy.

For instance, in his own constituency in South Tipperary, the representation is two Fianna Fáil, one Fine Gael and one Labour. Does he think that by having the Fine Gael and the Labour man replaced by two Fianna Fáil men, he will have a better type of Deputy, or does he think that his other colleague would be replaced by a better type of Fianna Fáil candidate in whatever new area would be allotted to him, if allotted at all? There was never any doubt not that Deputy Davern was the better type of Deputy but that he was the best type of Deputy that was ever here. That well may be. But, the fact that a man has great capacity, great political insight, great experience, great knowledge of the law and all its consequences—Deputy Davern has all of these qualities to the full—does not give him the right to decry anybody else of lesser stature. He, obviously, is quite certain that there are people of lesser stature.

In Dublin North-East, there are five seats. Two of the representatives are Ministers in this Government; two of them are members of the Fine Gael Party; one is a member of the Labour Party. What better type of Deputy is the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Davern, looking for in North East Dublin? Whom does he want to eliminate in order to get better types? In Dublin North Central there are Deputy Major Vivion de Valera and Deputy Mrs. Celia Lynch, on the one hand, and Deputy Luke Belton, Deputy Michael O'Leary representing Fine Gael and Labour, respectively. Who is to be destroyed there in the interests of getting a better type of Deputy?

Does it not all amount to this, that this is a phrase that somebody thought up in order to convince the public in some queer way that a better type of Deputy will emerge if you have a single-seat constituency? How will it be done? Are Fianna Fáil going to change the machinery of the Convention, the ratification by the Party Headquarters or are they going to impose on a constituency somebody from outside? Somebody in Fianna Fáil should tell us.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Davern, had great complaints about our going to Clare and saying who would go and who would not go. He was on very dangerous ground there because his Party has got a history of imposing on constituencies people from outside whom the constituents do not want. That was done as recently as the last general election. I do not propose to follow the Parliamentary Secretary along that illogical path.

We are told by Government spokesmen that the single-seat constituency will make for stable government. Have all their own Governments over the last 30 years not been stable? What was wrong with them? They say that it makes for a quicker change of government. Do they seek a change of government? Are they holding out the hand of electoral friendship to Fine Gael and saying to us that this is our only chance of getting a sufficient number of seats to form a Government and that they are giving us this chance? Really, we are being treated as babes in arms if we are expected to believe in this kind of electoral generosity coming from the Government benches to us. I suppose the same would apply to the Labour Party, that they are making a similar offer to them.

Again, the single-seat constituency is being sought after now by Fianna Fáil because they see that opinion is mounting against them in all of the constituencies. I know they can say that they won five by-elections in a row and all that kind of thing. Certainly they did, but a by-election is a different proposition altogether. Fianna Fáil should look at their total polls. They are going down steadily. The fact that that is happening means that the Fianna Fáil Party vote will be considerably reduced at the next general election under proportional representation. Accordingly, they want to destroy proportional representation. They want to destroy anything that comes in their way.

In addition, there is this dishonest racialist remark of the Tánaiste, that proportional representation was imposed on us by the British and we must get rid of it. This is 1968. Some people never grow up. As far as his bitternesses are concerned, I do not think the Tánaiste has grown up. Anglo-Irish trade agreements are ex-tolled on the one hand and, on the other hand, the Tánaiste says that we must get rid of PR, which was imposed on us by the British, which was a terrible thing—which, of course, is absolutely removed from the truth. Assume for a moment the false premise of the Minister for External Affairs, that proportional representation was imposed on us by the British, why was it enshrined in the Constitution of 1937 by the Fianna Fáil Party, in which Party Deputy Aiken was then, as now, a considerable controlling force? In fact, I would say that his controlling force in 1936 and 1937 was stronger than it has been in recent times. Why did he not use that superior force and influence which he had in those days to prevent PR from being enshrined in the 1937 Constitution? Why should he in 1968 be indulging in all this ráiméis about PR being imposed on us by the British?

To follow that argument to its logical conclusion one could say that the British imposed income tax, local government laws, the rating system, the county system and a great deal of British common law. They imposed all these things but Fianna Fáil do not point to any of them as being bad until it begins to hurt them. We had all this old argument trotted out in 1959 as to the British imposition of PR but the people did not believe that, they rejected it, and they do not believe it now.

Under proportional representation there is fair play. Take, for instance, the recent by-election in Clare where almost 20,000 voted for Deputy Barrett and something over 9,000 voted for Mr. Bugler. I do not believe for one moment that the 20,000 voters in Clare who voted Fianna Fáil would like to see the 9,000 to 10,000 persons who voted Fine Gael disfranchised and not represented in Parliament. At the moment, following the by-elections, there are three Fianna Fáil Deputies and one Labour Deputy representing Clare. The normal representation of Clare, I would say, under proportional representation, at a general election, would be two Fianna Fáil Deputies, one Fine Gael Deputy and one Labour Deputy.

In regard to this Commission pre-sided over by a judge—I will have something to say about that incidentally, not critical of any judge or judges but of the unfairness of putting a judge so close to the political scene— I do not care what kind of Commission you have. If it were formed in heaven —and a Fianna Fáil inspired commission is not likely to come from such a celestial source—you can divide County Clare on the streams, the rivers, the mountains, the burns and the roads, and I do not care what four areas you emerge with, on the present voting strength you are going to get four Fianna Fáil Deputies.

Deputy Mrs. Desmond said that if there was not a Fianna Fáil Deputy somewhere they would have to go to the next one. Where do the people go to if they want to have representations made on their behalf? They go to one of the four and in the process become indebted. Being the nice, decent people we are in the West of Ireland, we never forget a favour, not openly anyway. Of course, when the next election comes around the four go in again somewhat strengthened by the little pieces of patronage they have successfully manoeuvred over the preceding time. Here are four of the safest seats you could possibly imagine. Where is this violent change the Fianna Fáil Party are offering us? Where is this great chance to come when every possible piece of Government patronage and local patronage will be used to cement in their safe seats these four people in the County of Clare?

At present we have got in the province of Connacht 12 Fianna Fáil Deputies and 11 Fine Gael Deputies. Now I do not care how this Commission divides up the various parts of the counties—that is maintaining the counties—the very best we could hope for in the Province of Connacht on the present voting system would be five, six, or maybe seven. But Fianna Fáil would maintain their twelve plus the ones we lost. Again, over the period between elections I have no doubt but that the power and patronage would be suitably used so that the people would never be able to lift a pencil in their hands to vote in any other way except for the sitting Deputy of the Fianna Fáil Party.

I am serious in what I say now. I believe that even Fianna Fáil Deputies from the country would be prepared to admit this or certainly go a good part of the way with me. I wonder would Deputy Miller agree with me that he would rather see a constituency where there were Deputy Brigid Hogan O'Higgins and Deputy John Donnellan at one end and at the other Deputy Carty, Deputy Kitt and himself thrown in to keep a suitable balance, a majority, because that is what a suitable balance is in Fianna Fáil parlance? I do not think he would like to see the people who have been voting for Deputy Hogan O'Higgins and Deputy Donnellan put into the position of having to come to him. I have no doubt in the world but that he would receive them with the greatest courtesy, not alone offering but giving them his best help. But, at the same time, within himself he is bound to feel that here are people who would prefer to be going to somebody else, and in his heart of hearts he believes that they should have that somebody else to whom to go. This is what I call fair play. Nobody wants to see people ruled out of an audience. They must have an audience. From time to time the Deputies of a constituency get together on a deputation. I think the deputation from a constituency composed of all shades of political opinion parliamentarily represented is a much stronger delegation than the one-man deputation from the one-seat constituency.

I do not want to go over the old arguments in 1958 and 1959. This proposal was beaten then and from the tone of the people, particularly from their apparent lack of interest, I would think they are a trifle annoyed at parliamentary time being given and taken up by this performance. Face up to the situation, I would say to the Government. Redraw your constituencies along the legal principles that are there for you to follow. Use proportional representation as it has been used from the beginning of the State. If it puts you out of office there is always and always has been—it has happened in the past—the possibility that the same system will put you back again into office. It is not nice to be holding on to office all the time. It is not nice to be changing the rules when you think the game is going against you. That is the philosophy of the bully. I would say by and large particularly the rural Deputies—and this applies equally to the rural Deputies of Fianna Fáil—they are not bullies nor do they believe in the philosophy of bullying. I would say there exists within them the same modicum of fair play we all sense and like to practice. They would be as appalled as we are over here at changing the rules when you think you are losing the game.

Proportional representation has worked extremely well in this country, even though it has kept us in opposition for a much longer time than we would like to be in it. But we are not completely and utterly lost even in opposition because from time to time we give on the one hand, and on the other hand it is stolen, so much of our good policies to the Government that they are kept going. When they appear to be bankrupt of ideas for policies they just look up Fine Gael speeches and tracts on policy and set them in motion as of their own.

Proportional representation was adopted here and used because of its inherent sense of fair play. There is no point in people taking things out of context and quoting what somebody said in 1927 and what somebody else said in 1937. That is each side of the House. Fianna Fáil people made statements they do not want to hear, and I am quite sure there are statements made by Fine Gael people they do not want to hear. These things which were said were applicable in the times when they were said. They do not apply now, but that PR does give fair play is something that never changes.

The main plea I am making is to keep fair play in operation. In a three-seat constituency, PR may give two to Fianna Fáil this time. It may take the third one from them. It may give two to Fine Gael the next time. There will always be a time after that. After all, PR has done extremely well for the Fianna Fáil Party in the three, four and five-seat constituencies. It gives the people a choice. I have never yet heard anyone from the Fianna Fáil benches, a senior or a junior Minister or a backbencher, giving a real reason why they now want to change from PR to the single vote.

They talk about people having fire in their guts, fire in their bellies and looking for power. You have the power under PR. Are you not satisfied that you are going to retain it under PR? If you are, what is wrong with PR? If you are in doubt, as I believe you are, then you want to change the rules in the course of play. In earlier times at the foundation of the State, PR protected the religious minorities. I do not think this would be a valid reason for us to give now, because there has been such intermingling, such a great understanding and such a growth in neighbourliness among all our people, irrespective of creed or class, that that kind of protection for that kind of minority is no longer necessary.

Minorities are not always religious minorities. There will always be minorities, and I think they should have a voice. That is all they are asking for. I should have thought that in seeking to have this principle of fair play not only established but maintained, a far-seeing and thinking Government, called the youngest Cabinet in Europe, would keep in mind the future of this country. In the event of Partition going as we all hope it will—the economic barriers are being removed gradually and all that remains is a barrier of hearts, and irrespective of hand-shakings in Belfast and afternoon teas here, the barrier of hearts is still there and will always be there as long as you are content to deal with the top stratum; real friendship can be got only at the ordinary neighbourly level—I believe that the man and woman now voting Unionist in Down or Armagh or elsewhere coming into this State as citizens of the Republic of Ireland would like to feel that they would live in constituencies where they would have Parliamentary representation. If for nothing other than for our lost brethren across the Border, I would urge this Government to keep PR.

Nine years is a very short time. The people voted against this in 1959. They rejected it then. Nine years is a very short time in the history of Parliaments and a very short time in the history of a nation. It is too soon to ask the people to decide again. There may well come a time—certainly not this year or next year or even in the next ten or 20 years—when it might not be a bad idea to have another look at this, when we have gone through the full cycle of tariff reforms, when the recent Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement is fully implemented, when tariff barriers are fully down and customs impositions reduced to the minimum, when the Border as an economic barrier will have ceased to exist, and when our younger people North and South will begin effectively to work on the removal of the barrier of hearts.

Keep PR for that time and when they are all together—very few of us will be here—let them in a united Ireland decide whether they want to change their electoral system. That is the plea I am making here. I am making it almost non-politically. I am making it on behalf of minorities. It is of no great concern to some of us as each year passes whether the future lies with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or Labour. The future will have to have its own assessment made in the days I am talking about, the days distant when all of this island will be one, and all of its people now unborn will be called upon to deal with and talk about constitutional issues for all of our people.

It is a shame to be wasting parliamentary time with proposals such as these when there are so many problems pressing upon us. It is a shame for Government speakers such as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries to come in here and talk about absentee Deputies, and Deputies who have other work to do. Those of us who have other work to do and who gain experience from that work can bring it to bear on parliamentary discussions. I will not be a runner up hill or down dale at the behest of Deputy Davern on any principles he chooses to lay down as to the proper and appropriate duties of a Deputy. That argument is all directed towards the growth of the professional politician.

It is not a bad thing occasionally to have a professional politician here and there, whether he is a trade unionist or simply someone devoted entirely to politics, having given up something else. When the Parliamentary Secretary comes here and smugly attacks absentee Deputies and Deputies engaged in other work, earning another living outside of here, I want to ask him: "What did the others give up to become professional politicians." Where do insults begin and where do they finish?

It is extremely difficult, at times, not alone in this House but outside it, to listen to the neo-philosophers, the sophists, the gimmick-men, pronouncing views as if they were God-made. If any Fianna Fáil speaker succeeding Deputy Davern has anything to say about people engaged in work apart from Parliamentary duties let him tell us what their professionals gave up, let him tell us what their professionals left. If it is to perpetuate that kind of thinking and if it is to impose that kind of philosophy upon our people that this Government want to get rid of proportional representation, to destroy fair play, to change the rules as the game is going on, I urge upon them to withdraw. They are merely putting the people of this country to a certain waste of time and to an equally certain waste of public money. Fianna Fáil's effort to destroy fair play will not be tolerated by our people who have resisted all disruptive attacks on their democratic structure. They will resist this attack, too.

Mind you, the Fianna Fáil Party might do better if they drew the constituency lines again in accordance with the principles that are there laid down for them and took their chance in an ensuing general election. They might do better than they think they will do by trying to put something down the throats of our people which our people do not want.

It never ceases to amaze me nor, I am sure, does it cease to amaze reasonable people how it is that the Fianna Fáil Party, collectively, always seem to think they know what is good for the people of this country even though the people think otherwise. One would imagine that the people were some sort of bug-infested patients at the mercy of a Fianna Fáil medical equipment outfit going around with syringes and injecting into the people principles they want to operate in their veins as each day succeeds the other.

I say to this Fianna Fáil Government: be brave: withdraw these proposals. Have the real courage. Do not say these proposals are courageous— because they are not. These are the proposals of the coward. These are the proposals of the one who wants to change the rules while the game is still proceeding when he thinks he is losing. These are cowardly proposals. Be brave: withdraw them. At least, save yourselves the humiliation of having the people kick them back in your teeth.

When the Bill of 1958, or before that, left this House, the statement was made that the people of Ireland, especially the people of Sligo, had asked for proportional representation. Since then, I have had an opportunity of studying the files of the Sligo Independent and they show that the situation was far worse than I thought it to be. I shall give the House a short history of what happened.

The whole thing started at a meeting of Sligo Corporation—the corporation that was elected after the Local Government Act, 1898. Up to then, as Deputies know, this country was ruled by the Grand Juries and other such people. The 1898 Act changed all that. Sligo found itself with a corporation elected on what was then a very limited franchise. I think nobody with a valuation of under £5 had a vote. A man of £4 valuation had not a vote because he paid no rates: his landlord paid his rates.

The corporation found that they were close on £40,000 in debt—and, mark you, that debt was incurred by the people who left off in 1898. At a meeting of the corporation, it was decided that something would have to be done to clear up the affairs of the corporation. They asked the corporation to pass a resolution striking a higher rate. This they did. They struck a higher rate but a meeting of the ratepayers was immediately called to protest against it. The ratepayers who called that meeting were the very people who had just left power and had incurred all these debts. For instance, a sum of £11,000 was borrowed to build a town hall in, I think, 1879. Other sums were borrowed that brought the total to close on £40,000.

The affairs of the corporation were in such a state that the furniture of the town hall was auctioned while the corporation was in session. The mayor bought back the furniture on behalf of the corporation and tried to keep things going. The corporation met again and struck a rate of 12/7d. in the £. The moment they did so, the ratepayers' association got to work. They called a meeting and protested to the Local Government Board at that time against the striking of that rate which they alleged to be illegal. They asked for a writ of mandamus in the courts here in Dublin to stop them from striking that rate. A judge heard the case.

Meetings took place between the ratepayers' association and the corporation. The ratepayers' association wanted a Bill in Parliament to give them the power to strike the rate. They also wanted a £10 franchise so that no man with a valuation under £10 would have a vote. That was resisted and beaten, I am glad to say. As well as that, they got a clause inserted in the Bill that triennial elections would be held and that the principle of proportional representation would be abolished. A conditional order was made to quash the rate and various meetings took place between the ratepayers' association and the corporation. The writ of mandamus was held. The judge issued a conditional order but did not make it permanent. A Bill was drafted by the ratepayers' association in which this order was embodied.

Sligo Corporation met on 22nd January, 1918, to study the Bill under the shadow of an Order from the King's Bench in Dublin. There was a man present from the Local Government Board and they were told that if this Bill was not accepted by the corporation, the writ of mandamus would be made permanent on the following Monday. The meeting was held on Thursday night. That is why PR was inflicted on Sligo Corporation. They were promised that if they agreed to the Bill, the British Government would adopt it, and it would be passed without any cost to the corporation, but as soon as they had adopted it, the Local Government Board and the British Government imposed a charge of £1,000. That is how they kept their promise.

These are the facts of the matter. The Bill was passed while a threat of mandamus was hanging over the heads of the corporation. They had until the following Monday to accept the Bill or the Local Government Board would refuse to let them strike a rate. At that time the corporation had had to dismiss all its workmen. The streets of Sligo were not cleaned for weeks. The rate they were allowed to strike was about 4/- in the £ which would no more than meet the interest due on the £40,000 loan. The interest then in 1918 was 4½ per cent and not many Irish people had money in the banks at that time, so that they were looking after their own people both ways.

The ratepayers' association we hear so much about were the very same people who were in power who had left all these bills for the corporation to clear up. When they went to clear them up, these people objected and asked for a writ of mandamus until they got their own way. That is the history of the matter. I have heard it said that the Sligo people asked for the Bill; they did not. I am glad to say that the old Nationalists in the corporation voted against the Bill. The British Government would not accept the corporation's ruling but had to have a meeting of the ratepayers also. That is as far as I need go into that.

I cannot understand the opposition to this Bill, which is a simple one, asking the people to decide between the straight vote and PR. For people who prate so much about the will of the people, I cannot understand the Opposition attitude to the Bill. There is nothing in the Bill except a provision to allow the people to decide. We hear the Opposition talking about time being wasted. Who is wasting time? This Bill could have been passed in three hours and let the people decide. That is fair.

Would the Deputy support a motion to postpone the referendum until the next general election?

The argument that it is only nine years since this happened before is futile. One might as well say there need be no general election.

You must have a general election.

Yes, but the revision of constituencies is due before the next general election, and what more opportune time is there than before that is due? It is utter nonsense to say it is too soon. You might as well say we should have no general election.

You have a choice at a referendum but none at a general election.

You have a choice in both cases. We all seem to forget that a general election is not held to elect Deputies to this House but to decide policy. When the Government go to the country, they put their policy before the people and they also put the policy they intend to follow in the future, and the Opposition do the same.

The only difference is that Fianna Fáil put one policy before the people and follow another.

If Deputy Harte would confine his interruptions to the Donegal people, I should be better pleased.

I shall do that.

He should allow me to make my own speech. I did not interrupt him. A general election is held to decide policy. The Government and the Opposition put their policies before the people. What will happen if every small Party puts up a certain policy, a crazy policy such as somebody said was a bog-road policy and say that if they do not get in, they will act as dogs in the manger and ensure that those who get the majority in favour of their policy will not be allowed to implement it? Is that what we want under PR? It is as simple as that.

Anybody who studies our history knows that when we were invaded in the past, there was no central authority with power to bring all the people together. It happened when the English came and when the Danes came, all down the years. If PR continues, the same thing will happen again. The people will break up into small Parties. You may have Parties saying: "We will not obey the law, no matter what it is." Under PR they have that power. Under the straight vote they will not have it. I heard some Deputies say that if Fianna Fáil get this power, they will become dictators and control the whole country. They must have a very poor opinion of their own nominees if they are not able to put up men who will capture seats either in the Dáil or in the county councils. I do not hold that opinion.

To the Labour Deputies, I want to say that I remember the time when there was not one Labour Deputy in the British House of Commons. Today they are the Government. I say without fear of contradiction that if PR were in operation in England, a Labour Government would never get into power, and I say that while PR operates here, neither Fine Gael nor Labour will get a clear majority. I do not care what Government are in power, or if Fine Gael were in power tomorrow, but what I want to see is that whoever goes into power will be fit to govern and have a majority and not dependent on a few cranks to back any measures they want to put through the House. That is why we are in favour of abolishing PR.

I have watched the working of PR since it began and I say that even within the Party it creates trouble. You cannot have a loyal Party when you have PR——

Hear, hear.

You have the same over there: an election goes against them and they kick out their leader, call a special meeting and do away with him. Under the straight vote, there can be and there will be a change of Government.

For the record, whom did we kick out at a special meeting?

Deputy Gilbride is in possession.

He should not make sweeping statements that are misleading.

These can be answered.

There is nothing misleading about it. I listened to Deputy Lindsay giving a long lecture on tolerance and what would happen and would not happen. He began by saying that this Bill was brought in because Fianna Fáil were afraid they would lose. I do not believe that. PR has served Fianna Fáil well and would continue to do so. I am not one bit afraid of PR but what I want to see here is an Opposition or an alternative Government who, when they get into power, will be able to govern, and will not have to dissolve at the whim of a few.

Deputy Lindsay referred to tolerance and told us Fianna Fáil were afraid they were going to be beaten. Referring to the 23 seats in Connacht, he said Fianna Fáil held 12 and Fine Gael 11, but that at the next election, Fianna Fáil would lose. Let me give Deputy Lindsay this one example: at the present time Leitrim is divided in two, but if these proposals are not accepted by the people, under the new revision, Sligo-Leitrim will have to be one constituency because it will only have enough to elect four Deputies. At the moment there are three Fine Gael members in that area and two Fianna Fáil. Under the revision, no matter how it works out, it will be two and two, and that means Fine Gael will lose a seat.

The Minister for Local Government said North Leitrim would go into South Donegal.

Would the Deputy allow Deputy Gilbride to continue?

In Clare, you elected four Fianna Fáil Deputies in five seconds; yet Fine Gael say that under the new system Fianna Fáil will get 19 seats in Connacht and Fine Gael will be reduced to five. Before that, he said we were bringing in this Bill because we were afraid of being beaten. He says one thing one time and another thing the next time. I cannot understand it at all.

As I have said, I have watched PR since it started. Fianna Fáil did well under it, but I believe that if this system is continued, it will bring ruin to the country. It will divide the people up, as it has done before, into parties and groups. The only sensible system is the straight vote. If there must be a government, let there be a Government. Let the Opposition ponder over that. The Members over on those benches agree with what I am saying, but because of a majority of one, they are speaking and voting against their consciences.

I want to say a few words on this latest attempt by the Government to get rid of PR, the election system we have known in this country for over 40 years. As a new Member of the Dáil, I fail to understand why its time could not be more profitably spent discussing the very many urgent problems which exist all round us. I remember reading once that our first Minister for Agriculture, the late Paddy Hogan, said that the main reason we in this country were not progressing as we should was that we spent too much time talking about the problems that existed and too little time directing our energies towards finding a solution for them. I think these words are very applicable today when our time is being wasted on this proposal to abolish PR.

There are many problems in the field of industry and in the field of agriculture which need immediate attention. Rates are soaring in every county, and we will shortly be faced with a Budget of record dimensions. The time of the House could be more profitably spent in endeavouring to alleviate the burden of taxation than on a useless wrangle which nobody outside of Fianna Fáil wants, and about which even they are not unanimous. There are many motions on the Order Paper which the time of the House would be better spent discussing and which might be of some benefit to sections of the community.

I am not in the least impressed by what Government speakers have put forward as a reason for abolishing PR. I do not feel that the arguments that have been advanced have fooled anybody, and my presence in this House is surely a proof of that. The Taoiseach and his Ministers said in Wicklow that PR was not an issue in the by-election. If PR was not an issue and if the voters were not influenced by present circumstances in the political field, then the policies of the Government certainly stand condemned as far as Wicklow is concerned. How else could Fianna Fáil possibly explain their drop of 2,500 first preference votes there? I believe that Wicklow can be taken as a fair indication of what will happen the Government proposals when they are put to the country.

This is the second time in nine years that people have been asked to agree to the abolition of PR and the introduction here of the same system as is in operation in Great Britain and in Northern Ireland. We have been told by Fianna Fáil that PR leads to unstable government, and that we are forced to wait too long for the results of counts. The fact is that we have had an extremely good record of stable government here, and the length of the count should hardly be a factor when the very essence of democracy is under attack. I do not think the fact that we might have to wait some four or six hours longer for the results of the count should be questioned, when all the time Ministers and Deputies spend before polling day seeking to secure votes is not looked upon as being wasted. I do not see, therefore, why a few hours more on the day of a count should be taken into consideration.

When speaking here in favour of proportional representation Mr. de Valera said: "This system we have we know, the people know it." He said that we should be grateful that we had the system of proportional representation here because it gave a fair amount of stability and under it you had fair representation of Parties. He also said that in countries where they had PR you got better balanced results. We get the benefits of PR here in reasonably balanced legislation. It is regrettable that Mr. de Valera's successors in office have not displayed the same enthusiasm for PR. They now want the people to be the authors of their own political destruction. I would strongly advise the people to look at the results in other countries where PR operates and the countries in which the straight vote system is in operation. South Africa can be taken as a typical example of what can happen under the straight vote system.

In 1948, the Nationalist Party there secured 442,000 votes and 78 seats and the total opposition vote was 623,000 and they won only 60 seats. In 1953, the Nationalist Party secured 598,000 votes and won 92 seats and the total opposition vote was 609,000 and they won 43 seats. In 1963, the Nationalist Party secured 644,000 votes and won 103 seats and the opposition vote was 503,000 and they won 29 seats. The increase in the number of seats can be explained by the fact that a number of them were uncontested in each election. A one per cent increase under the straight vote system can mean a three per cent to four per cent increase in the number of seats, whereas a one per cent loss under the straight vote system can mean a loss of three per cent to four per cent in the number of seats. The Government want to put themselves in the position of the Nationalist Party in South Africa. The very weak arguments advanced by them would seem to indicate that they want to sit in solitary splendour here over the final destruction of our democratic system. The only fair system, even as far as PR itself is concerned, is the multi-seat constituency. I am sure that members of Fianna Fáil are aware that where democracy is driven underground the people have always found means other than the ballot box of bringing about a change in their political affairs.

We have been told that there is too much competition among Deputies in the various constituencies, and that that is one of the reasons PR should be abolished. We have been told that they have to do work they were never intended to do. Members on the opposite side of the House are more responsible for that situation than any other Party because they themselves, to a great extent, have helped to implant in the people's minds the idea that if you do not know a Deputy, or do not know a county councillor, you will not get what you want. We are also told that constituents at certain times cannot see their Deputies but if we look at England, where a Member of Parliament may represent 30,000 or 40,000 people, we find that that same Member may not even live in his constituency; he may represent a constituency in Wales or Scotland and may live in London.

The money spent on this referendum could be better spent in many ways. There is probably no Deputy who has not in his own constituency problems on which this £100,000 could be well spent. A few years ago in the constituency I represent, we had severe flooding and the Government made no extra money available to relieve the hardship caused by that flooding. Bridges were washed away and much damage was caused all over the constituency, and all that Wicklow County Council were told at the time was that they could use the county road grant to help repair the damage, but no special provision was made. If a fraction of this money were spent in West Wicklow for the provision of technical advice, it would be money far better spent and it would be in the interests of all sections of the constituency. The real reason the Government are introducing this measure is that their vote is dropping. It dropped to 40 per cent in the local elections last June and it is apparent that after the next election, we will not have a Fianna Fáil minority Government. We have been told that we want strong Government. For 24 years out of 41, since Fianna Fáil came into this House, we have had minority governments and for 13 out of these 24 years, Fianna Fáil have been in office. To ask the people at this stage for another verdict is like telling a jury, when they have brought in one verdict, to go back and change it.

As far as the tolerance position is concerned, I believe in the principle of one man, one vote and one vote, one value. The people in the West realise that their problems are not tied up with our electoral system but that their problems are economic ones, and that to increase the representation of the Government in this House from the strength it is at the moment, three-quarters of the total number of Deputies from the West, would not help to make them better off. As a matter of fact, the reverse may be the true position. The more Fine Gael Deputies come in here the better chance Fine Gael will have of having something done to provide a solution for their problems. I do not think that any fairminded person will agree that it is right that 117,000 voters in one part of the country can elect seven Deputies while 116,000 voters in another part of the country can elect only five Deputies. I believe, when these proposals go before the people, the Government will get in no uncertain terms the same answer as they received in 1959.


Hear, hear.

I should like to congratulate Deputy Timmons on his speech. I am sure he will be a wiser man when he is here 12 months.

Not under the Deputy's tutelage. God help him. Sure, he has come here to suffer for his country and he will do it cheerfully.

Suffer he will. This is a very important issue. It is the essence of democracy that the people should decide on important issues, a right of which the Opposition are trying to deprive them, namely the right to decide. Opposition Deputies talk about democracy. We know the kind of democracy in which they have indulged over the years. We know that an effort is being made now by the Opposition to deprive the people of a right to which they are justly entitled.

The reform of the system of election by the introduction of the straight vote is of vital importance from the point of view of stable government and economic expansion following on such government. It is important that we should have efficient and effective government. There are seven good reasons why we should accept the straight vote system. It would produce stability of government, a strong Opposition, a simple voting system, fair elections, small constituencies, more contact between Deputies and the public and majority rule.

Apparently, Fine Gael are not in favour of stable government, strong government and a strong Opposition. They do not want to be a strong Opposition. Deputy Hogan representing South Tipperary, told us recently that, as a matter of fact, they are not in opposition at all. I will quote some of the remarkable disclosures made by the Deputy. At column 1241 of the Official Report he said:

I do not think it is possible for us, in the foreseeable future—with the traditional type of voting we have in this country—to mount an alternative Government.

The Deputy has absolutely no confidence in his Party being an alternative government in the future.

Yet, I believe the interests of this country will have to be served by a proper Opposition.

Would the Deputy give the reference?

It is volume 233, column 1241 of the Official Report of 27th March. The Deputy goes on to state that he believes the national interest demands that we should provide an Opposition and that, in fact, it has not been provided. That, of course, is quite true. We have known it for years. Deputies opposite have never provided an Opposition and never will. Deputy Hogan is one of the few Fine Gael Deputies who has given the House the true picture in relation to his own Party and in relation to the Opposition as a whole.

On the other hand, we had Deputy O'Connell of the Labour Party wanting an assurance from us that there would be no further referendum for the next 20 years. We have two Opposition Deputies then, one asking for an assurance that there will not be another referendum for the next 20 years and the other telling us there is no Opposition in the House. We know there is no Opposition. We know they do not want to be a strong Opposition and we know that the only alternative to our Government is a government by coalition. An attempt was made at a merger between Labour and Fine Gael not so very long ago when certain members of both Parties met and discussed the situation. Now they are satisfied to play Russian roulette by Coalition Government. They did that before. The first time they pulled the trigger they blew the brains out of Aer Lingus. The second time they disrupted industrial development.

Did the Deputy ever read Alice in Wonderland?

He sounds like a missionary.

He is a missionary.

The Opposition Parties have no confidence in their ability to govern. We have had the remarkable situation over the years of Fine Gael Party leaders—Deputy Cosgrave, Deputy Dillon, Deputy Costello —all speaking in favour of the straight vote system. The revolution on the part of the backbenchers has changed the picture. For some unknown, or known reason they fear a time might come when they would have to accept the responsibility of government. When they do not want to be an Opposition one can scarcely expect them to want to govern. During their period in office it was proved beyond all doubt that they had neither the capacity nor the desire to govern the country. They let it run into a situation in which the nation was brought on two occasions to the verge of bankruptcy. The alternative to the straight vote system is Coalition Government.

We want to ensure that in the years ahead, faced with entering the Common Market, we will have a strong Government, a stable Government which will see the country through, irrespective of what Party constitutes that Government. In the past we, in Fianna Fáil, have never run away from our responsibilities. A change in the system of voting might give the Opposition, if they have the courage to take it, an opportunity of forming a Government at some stage in the future.

Deputy Fitzpatrick from Cavan said that the present system had served us well. That is the system that put the Opposition into power on two occassions, by mistake really. What happened? They ran away. That is the system that is alleged to have served the Opposition well. Under that system in almost 40 years the Opposition were put into power on two occasions. That means that in 80 years they might find themselves in government on approximately four occasions. And that, according to Deputy Fitzpatrick, is the ideal system. The argument advanced is that it has served them well. No doubt it served them well when they had neither responsibility nor power and when they had no desire to honour such responsibilities as they had in full.

That is the type of system that serves you well. It is the type of system that keeps you in Opposition. If that is what you want, that is what you have and if this change does not occur, that is where you will remain. I noted that Deputy Hogan gave a very clear picture of the future—that there is absolutely no prospect for Fine Gael. He said there is even less prospect for the Labour Party. You are accepting the situation that you do not want responsibility.

Is the Deputy interested in our future or his own?

I am interested in the nation's future. I know Deputy Harte is concerned about his own, and more luck to him. If the system remains as it is, he might hold his seat for a little longer, but eventually the people will find him out.

I have a fair good chance but they are bound to catch the Deputy out long before me.

Watch out you are not caught from behind.

If they had confidence in themselves, in their leader or their policy——

What policy?

Why do you not let Lemass lead?

Listen to Cicero.

We had him on every lamp-post in the country.

The present Leader of Fine Gael on numerous occasions said it was the best system.

On what occasions?

Numerous occasions. Deputy Dillon said the present system was a fraud and a cod.

Give the reference.

On 12th December, 1947.

On 1st June, 1947——

If Deputy Harte wants a reference, will he listen to it?

There is a man who made his maiden speech after 40 years.

Who? It was said in point 7 of a Fine Gael statement of policy—it was given as point 6 by one of our men who got confused among them all—that the abolition of the present PR system would give more effective democratic control and that it would establish closer relationship between Party representatives and their constituents. Have they thrown that overboard?

You accepted it in 1933.

You have more policies than the Royal Liver and the New Ireland put together.

Are you trying to advocate the views of the former leaders of this country?

So many policies have been issued by you that you have run out of paper and you did not issue any policies during the last two by-elections. On 2nd February, 1935, you indicated that the PR system should be abolished and that the straight vote system should be adopted.

That is when your leaders were wearing bullet proof vests.

If that fellow were not interrupted, he would not last five minutes.

I received a ballot paper recently from my trade union. It is a large trade union, having amalgamated recently with another. I was asked to name not more than four candidates for the National Executive and to use the straight vote. Therefore, our trade unions are asked to operate the straight vote system. The ballot papers directed us to vote in that way. As far as I am concerned, I will adopt the straight vote system which I have been advised to adopt by my trade union and I will strive to ensure that it is implemented. The only alternative is a coalition government. We know that is where the Opposition are heading. That is where they will arrive if they can. They will not accept responsibility for anything: they will try to pass the buck. We have bargaining among them for places in power. They are trying to bargain for places in power by irresponsible groups.

Did you ever hear about "turnover Joe"?

Because they have no policy, a two-man Party can put them out of power as they did before. All that can result from that kind of bargaining is depression in trade and industry, no progress, no stability, no security, credit in constant danger. I am sure they realise all this because Cumann na nGaedheal, now Fine Gael, preached this argument publicly and it is as valid today as it was then. They have not the capacity for anything else. They want to remain a weak Opposition. Deputy Hogan said they were not an Opposition at all and I must agree with the Deputy from South Tipperary. Empty cans make quite a lot of noise.

Hear, hear.

And so say all of us.

These are the tactics the Opposition have engaged in during the years—making a lot of noise, trying to convince the people they are the saviours of the nation when in fact they have been shirking their responsibilities when the need has arisen. We know they do not want power and do not want to oppose. Why then do they not let somebody in who will do something useful as a reliable Opposition?

Do you want to be the Opposition?

Members of your Party have indicated that you have not the capacity to govern. You want to remain a weak Opposition and that is not in the best interests of the country. Give us something we can fight. Give us a reasonable Opposition.

Were you in Wicklow?

I was, and in Waterford, Cork and Limerick.

And will be again.

He is like The Fugitive—hopping about all over the place.

The western world is at it again. Fine Gael spoke about bargaining for power by irresponsible groups. This meeting took place some time ago between certain members of the Opposition Parties who spoke about a merger but the little meeting collapsed and they came back dis-illusioned. I will not bore you with a lot of quotations.

That is our good luck.

I have a lot of quotations. Deputy Dillon said in 1947 that PR had been foisted on us by a collection of half lunatics. It will probably be said in time, if it is retained, that its retention was supported by half lunatics. The remarkable situation is that it is the back-benchers of Fine Gael who opposed this, not the leaders. Even the leader of the Late, Late Show himself decided that he was in favour of the straight vote system. Other people were silenced when they indicated that they were going to speak out in favour of the straight vote system. I wonder how this decision was arrived at because it was generally believed that the Fine Gael Party themselves would, by their own supporters outside, support this.

Is that why you brought it in? You made a big mistake.

I am told that there was a deputation received from a section of Fine Gael who cannot devote full time to politics but can only appear in this House from 7 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. and that this particular group said: "For heaven's sake, do not take government; we could not devote the time to it." I do not know if it is true that it was due to the pressure of this particular group that this decision was arrived at when they said: "We can only be available in this Dáil from 7 to 10.30 p.m."

I wish to God you would get a job that would keep you out of here until 7 o'clock.


It would be a wonderful relief.

We find, and the public will find if they are in the Gallery, that certain people appear here only from 7 to 10.30 p.m.

You could lay that on all sides of the House.

Do you mean your own people?

I am not like the rest of men.

I am sure that this was the reason. Those gentlemen do not want to accept power. They do not want to accept responsibility. They just want to be ornaments in this House. Fair enough: carry on. With the present system, they will remain ornaments.

Whom is the Deputy referring to?

Do you want him to spell them out?

You do not want names, do you?

Whom are you referring to? Are you referring to your own members or to our members?

I am referring to your members.

Put your own house in order first.

Would Deputy Harte keep in order for a few minutes and allow the Deputy to make his speech?


It is not right that the record should be put out of order by him.

I would appeal to the Labour Party——

Good man.

——even at this late stage to examine their conscience.

They are throwing out the lifebelts.

Are you inviting us to get where you have got yourself. God forgive you.

I just want to protect you lads. You are likeable fellows and I want to protect you from this particular group. I know that it was this particular group that made you sell out before; they made you sell the aeroplanes and close down the factories and do all these things which you did not want to do. I know you do not want yourselves to be mixed up with a group of men who do not want power, only destruction, and who will force you into a situation where you will have to go to the people and answer to the people. I am trying to protect you. I know the workers themselves want strong government, and I am sure that if you decided even at this late stage to support a system that will give you some hope of survival, some hope of Government even in the distant future, the workers will respond and you will probably find that they are more reasonable than you think they are at the moment so that you can carry on as responsible and honest politicians who will be known, loved and honoured in time to come.

I know that it is difficult for you. I know that at this stage you have thrown your hats into the ring and it is difficult to pull out, but I believe that there are members of the Labour Party who believe in the Labour Party, who believe in its survival, who believe in a strong Opposition, and I am quite sure that if they had their way, they might be prepared to support this particular line just as the trade union to which I belong and many other unions use this system. The workers would not support a system they do not believe in.

I have dealt with the question of strong Opposition and simplicity of voting. The people are not mathematicians. This is a simple and straight-forward system whereby people can make up their own minds in a short space of time and decide on one man and vote for the best man, and that is the only vote. I believe that the people on this occasion will not be misled as they were on the last occasion but will, as they have done on many other occasions in the past when a reasonable case was put before them, measure up to their responsibilities, meet their responsibilities in full and vote for the system which they know is best in the interests of the nation. There will be fewer elections.

It has been stated here that this referendum will cost a terrible amount of money. Deputy Ryan spoke about spending the taxpayers' money, and the new Deputy also.

That was Deputy Timmons from Wicklow. You should not forget him.

I will not forget him.

Deputy M. J. O'Higgins will not forget him.

It was Deputy Paudge Brennan who won that election.

Deputy Ryan spoke about the taxpayers' money. The average life of a Government in this country has been less than three years. Of the 15 elections we had, seven were unnecessary and would probably not have taken place if we had had a better system of voting and it would have saved an enormous amount of money. It was Deputy Ryan who spoke about saving taxpayers' money. He cost the country more money. It cannot be said that he was a cheap politician. He cost the country thousands of pounds on all sorts of gimmicks and dodges over the years. If we knew his surrender value, many a man would buy him out of here. As far as the cost to the taxpayer is concerned, the situation is that more elections have taken place because of PR than were necessary over the years. The average length of a Government was less than three years.

It is two years and five months in England.

Oh, I see. You want that system adopted.

We want stability of government.

What system did you say? This would not necessarily give you stability.

It would, of course. We know that the Irish people are intelligent people and will see this in the manner in which it is presented. This will ensure stability of government on a long term basis so as to protect this nation from all the dangers and the horrors that from time to time——

A few obvious interruptions there.

You should not have interrupted him. He was about to say something.

Deputy Cluskey is a member of a five-seat constituency. Probably other Deputies are members of those large, cumbersome areas.

Deputy Seán Lemass is one, too, and the two fellows he dragged in with him under this system.

Dragged in—I shall deal with that in a minute. I must make a note of it.

Are you afraid of Ben Briscoe?

It may well happen that I will be defeated next time.

You are only trying to build up our hopes.

It may well happen, but there is no guarantee that you will be returned. You have no guarantee about yourself.

What about Noel Lemass?

One of you will have to go.

What about Noel Lemass?

Will Deputies allow Deputy Dowling to make his speech?

We are not stopping him.

I wish he would start.

I think every Deputy will agree that the areas are too large and too cumbersome and it is impossible to represent the people properly.

Speak for yourself.

I say that small areas are especially desirable. It is in those areas you can best serve the people. I believe a division of the five-seat areas, the four-seat areas and the three-seat areas will give public representatives more contact with the people. I know that the Opposition do not want to have more contact with the people. They would like to keep as far away from them as possible and that is why they want to have those cumbersome areas. They want to see the areas large and cumbersome so that the people have to take their place in the queue.

What sort of areas would you have in mind?

Will Deputy Harte cease interrupting?

I regret that that member is doing his best to embarrass you.

I know from the number of people who come to me, a considerable proportion of whom have been with other parties and have not supported me in the past, that they find it impossible to get anything done and to get any recognition whatsoever from Deputies in other Parties because they find they are overburdened with work. I can well understand their problems because there may be something to be said about this. There is not a single Deputy in the Fine Gael Party or in the Labour Party who does not know the great burden which falls on them.

When you say "single", are you referring to the married state?

I did not get to that: I am not sure whether they are married or not. I am concerned about the single Fine Gael and Labour Deputies. Five-seat constituencies must throw a large burden on them. I have crowds of people coming to see me every Saturday morning, crying about the lack of attention given to them by the Opposition Deputies on the basis that the areas they represent are too large.

You have upset Deputy Cluskey.

Will Deputy Harte allow Deputy Dowling to make his speech? He has no licence to interrupt in this manner.

The majority rule. We have heard a lot of talk about dictatorship and it is rather regrettable that this factor was drawn into the discussion. During the past few weeks, we have heard many such charges about this thrown at the Government for introducing the straight vote system, that it was to set up a dictatorship. We all know that some people might be inclined to take this seriously. Some of the younger generation might be inclined to take some of the pronouncements that will come by way of literature seriously, but it must be remembered throughout the years in this country only one Party attempted to set up a dictatorship. The members of that Party now accuse the Government of wanting to set up a dictatorship. I have heard the threat which was made to the people of this nation which is recorded in the Irish Independent in 1934 at the Fine Gael Ard-Fheis. The records show that the majority of the delegates and all the Party Leaders arrived at the Ard-Fheis wearing blue shirt uniforms. The entire assembly stood and gave the Fascist salute.

You supported the IRA and you locked them up afterwards.

Many people were executed in 1934.

The democratic system was protected by Fianna Fáil.

Many people were executed in 1934. What about those people?

Deputy Harte should behave himself.

It is terrible to listen to him.

The Deputy has a remedy.

You are excused.

That is more than I could say for you.

You will have a front bench seat soon.

The Wicklow by-election was mentioned by one or two Deputies. We had the type of propaganda in Wicklow that we will probably have again during the referendum campaign. I listened to Deputy Ryan of the Fine Gael Party speaking in the most disrespectful terms of our candidate, indicating that she was a woman of 73 years, 70 years, 69 years, 65 years.

This was the type of propaganda the Opposition seemed to favour during the election campaign. They tried to paint a picture of a situation which is not factual. We know that during the coming referendum all sorts of gimmicks will be used by the big Molotovs of today and tomorrow, the no-men. We see one big building now carrying "Vote No" on it. The question of how that sign is produced, who produced it and whether in fact they have proper authority to put it there should be considered.

Why not inquire into it? Let the Minister for Justice inquire into it.

It will wipe itself out.

He has no head for heights.

It will wipe itself out. I do not mind it being up there.

What are you talking about it for?

It is questionable whether it is permissible or not.

You should report it.

I will be dealing with it at a later stage, not in this debate but in another debate where I will deal with it more fully. I would now ask this House and the Labour Party, before I depart, in the interests of your own Party and the interests of the workers to give them some hope for the future. Do not bury yourself in the same grave or the same rut as the Fine Gael Party are about to bury themselves in. Give the people who support you some hope for the future. I am quite sure that this is the last chance you will have.

We have heard it before, Joe.

You will hear it again now. This is the last chance you will have. I am quite sure the people know this. The Minister also realises this from contacts he has with people who have in fact opposed us in the past. They now indicate they are in favour of stability of government, economic development and economic advancement when it comes to entering the Common Market or any other market we may enter.

Where was all that support during the by-elections?

They supported us in five constituencies out of six. That is not too bad—the straight single transferable vote. That would do just as good. I do not favour the single transferable vote. The straight vote is my line.

Are you going to oppose the other?

Where the Party goes I go. I should like to read two or three extracts from the Labour Party contributions.

Take your time.

You said "in conclusion".

It might take a long time to conclude. It was suggested by one of the Opposition speakers that there were not so many splinter groups in this country after all. The political cannibals have gobbled up many of these Parties over the years and the reason they gobbled up the Labour Party was given.

Tell us about that.

Since 1948, 22 parties have contested elections: 12 were elected. A party or two were put out of office and the entire control of the nation rested at one time in the hands of two people.

That was Lenehan and Sherwin.

It burst up the coalition on two occasions.

Lenehan and Sherwin kept you in office.

We do not burst up.

We will be here for a long time as predicted by Deputy O'Connell. He gave us 20 years. He guarantees 20 years but I am sure this is a conservative estimate. We might be able to give him that guarantee.

Did you not say that before?

I want to emphasise it in case the Deputy did not hear. I want to ensure that the public know that the Labour Party spokesmen feel that we will be here for 20 years, and rightly so. Deputy O'Connell made probably the most intelligent speech from the Labour benches. I agree with him. I do not always agree with him. But I agree with him just as I have to agree with Deputy Hogan who said they were a poor Opposition.

Does Deputy Dowling want a strong Opposition? You will be safe here after proportional representation.

I dealt with that some time ago. At column 1240, volume 223 of the Official Report, Deputy Hogan of South Tipperary said:

Fianna Fáil are now urging us to provide a proper Opposition. I believe we are not providing a proper Opposition.

He admits that he may be disloyal to his Party in saying this. Nevertheless, he is honest enough to admit that you are not a proper Opposition. You will have to get together and provide a unified Opposition to justify Deputy Hogan who wanted a guarantee that we will not present the country with proportional representation for 12 years, as predicted by members of the Labour Party.

We say we are good for 20 years anyway. At least you still have time to change your minds, to show the people that you have confidence in yourselves, in your Party and in the future of the country. I would suggest that you get Deputy Hogan and Deputy O'Connell together in some quiet corner tomorrow and let them work out a solution because they alone seem to have grasped the significance of this delicate situation.

There has been a suggestion that this system was not imposed upon us by the British. I should like to quote from information at my disposal. Following the Sinn Féin general election victory of 1918, the British Government brought in PR first——

What is the Deputy quoting from?

Will the Deputy give the source of the information?

It is from the Attorney General, Mr. Samuels, in 1919.

What is that about?

What document is it?

I am quoting Mr. Samuels.

He is quoting from Woman's Own.

If the Deputy is giving a quotation, he must give the source.

We must know the source of this document.

Following the Sinn Féin general election victory, the British Government brought in PR first for Irish local elections and then for parliamentary elections under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920.

What was the reason for this complete break with the long standing British electoral practice?

The explanation was given by the Attorney General, Mr. Samuels, in introducing the Local Elections Bill. He said:

At the general election on the parliamentary franchise, 75 per cent of the representatives has gone over to the Sinn Féin Party. What is the declared object of that Party? It is to make local government in Ireland absolutely impossible and to break down the British reign and rule in Ireland by capturing local bodies...

Does the Deputy want the quotation? I will give it to him.

It continues:

Who are you going to trust the administration of these things to? Are you going to trust them to bodies elected on the present franchise and under the present machinery—bodies which have been absolutely captured by people who call the rest of the United Kingdom "the enemy", and whose object is to break down the rule of the "enemy" and make the whole administration in Ireland impossible.

In other words the policy of the British Government was to make Ireland weak while keeping Britain strong.

You put it into the Constitution 18 years after.

This was the introduction of proportional representation into this country by the British. The object was to weaken our representation here while at the same time they would remain strong. We know that 60 years ago a commission was set up in England to examine the system and after comprehensive investigation they found that there were 300 systems of PR in operation. When they finally reported——

How many systems?

Three hundred.

You must have been talking about the other 299.

In dealing with the question of Government majorities, the report had this to say:

The advocates of the Transferable Vote remind us that the object of a representative body is to represent, but the object of representative government is not only to represent, but to govern.

The greatest evil that can befall a country is a weak executive, and if a strong one can only be obtained at the cost of mathematical accuracy of representation, the price should be willingly paid.

The object of a representative government is not only to represent but to govern. We know that the Parties now in Opposition have deserted their responsibilities, deserted some of their own people, have indicated that they are not prepared to take power, at any price or at any time, that they are prepared only to come together to form weak coalition government whereby blame-placing can become a factor in the future just as it was in the past. They can bring this country, not to the verge of bankruptcy but into bankruptcy and produce a situation which will probably be irretrievable in future.

We know from the statements made by the Opposition Parties that they are no longer interested in government, no longer interested in Opposition. They are prepared to sit and snipe, to make noise and to give the impression that they are the people who are trying to keep the government of the day on the tracks and trying to extract concessions, whereas they have completely failed the people who elected them and have given their supporters no confidence in themselves or in the future. When the next election takes place it will be seen that a very substantial section of the people will support the Party who are in favour of constructive work being done in order to maintain efficiency and the progressive advancement of the nation, the only Party that are prepared to accept their responsibilities and to measure up to them, as they have in the past, and will in future, when called upon to do so, who will never desert the nation, who will never desert their supporters, who will not run away from their responsibilities, as was done by these weak, watery, coalition groups that came together and now see that the only alternative for them in future is a weak coalition.

I am quite sure when I look at the Labour Members now that the only thing left for them if they are ever to be a government is to be a government with a group of people who sit very close to them in this House. I am quite sure that the bulk of their supporters do not want a coalition.

Did you read the Wicklow by-election results?

People are prepared to accept coalition in order to remain in the House under a system that would probably give them some representation in future. They are uncertain about their representation in future. Maybe they will be here for some time but they can be assured that the seats which they now occupy are the seats that they will remain in for all time. Deputy Cluskey says that he does not want to be here on this side of the House. I can well understand why he does not want to be here. He need not have any doubt about it. He never will be on this side of the House. Neither will the Labour Party nor the Fine Gael Party. I hope that at the next meeting between the two groups they will agree to the merger suggested behind closed doors over a dinner plate, that they will be in better form when they come into the House and that at least one thing will emerge, that there will be some sort of responsible, strong Opposition, not the type that we have at the moment that is concerned only about its own survival and not concerned about the nation's survival, as we on this side of the House are.

I am sorry that Deputy Dowling is leaving the House. That is rather unfortunate, particularly having regard to the advice which he attempted to give to this House and in particular to the Labour Party. Just before you took the Chair, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, in the process of advising the House, Deputy Dowling said quite emphatically, "This is your last chance". There is great depth in that. The implication was that the Labour Party should watch itself. I regard that as a threat. We are very mindful of that threat, having regard to the way in which the Fianna Fáil Party has operated since its inception. "This is your last chance". This is what is really behind the move by Fianna Fáil to do away with PR. This, of course, is the people's last chance. This referendum will be the people's last chance to ensure that Fianna Fáil do not get their way.

Deputy Dowling went on to talk about the advent of small groups. He said there were 22 of them since 1934, as if this was a crime. When it suits Fianna Fáil, they shout about upholding democracy. Surely, it is the right of people to form a party that they see fit to form. Surely, the time has not come when the situation is that parties will be allowed to come into existence only by permission of Fianna Fáil.

Deputy Dowling produced a ballot paper in this House which he said he got from his union. It is generally found, when a person gets a ballot paper, that he uses it. It would appear that Deputy Dowling had not got the courage to use the ballot paper that he produced in this House. Perhaps, he pretended it was a ballot paper. He suggested that that ballot paper showed that there could be a straight vote system in operation for something. He did not say whether it was in connection with a wage increase or the creation of a new post in his union. We know, of course, that Deputy Dowling can safely be described as a disappointed trade union official. He tried to become an official of the union to which he adverted, of which he says he is a member, and was rejected. It is only fair to say, when talking about trade unions and their operations in the context of PR, that there is no denying the fact that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has an annual convention at which every union affiliated to it is afforded the opportunity of changing the executive for the coming year. The system of voting used on these occasions is the system of proportional representation. This is done deliberately with a view to ensuring that the small unions will have a say in the running of the affairs of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, as the big ones will. That system is also operated in the various centres where there are what are called trade councils. These are bodies to which various unions are affiliated in their area.

The Dublin Council of Trade Unions, to which Deputy Dowling is duly affiliated but to which, for obvious reasons, he has never been selected as a delegate to represent his union, elect their executive annually by means of proportional representation. That is very important when one talks about how the trade unions behave in this matter.

It is typical of Deputy Dowling to mislead and to say things that are incorrect or half-true. He talked about holding the balance of power and conveniently forgot that a few Independents kept the Fianna Fáil Government in existence for a number of years and allowed the Fianna Fáil Government to perpetrate the turnover tax on the people. We know what happened at the next election as a result of the action of these people.

Deputy Dowling told us he had nothing to fear from the single-seat constituency and pointed out what a great idea it was. However, it is only reasonable to try to ascertain why this is being done. For example, in Dublin South-West, the constituency Deputy Dowling represents, there are at present three Fianna Fáil Deputies. Having regard to all that is happening around us, common-sense tells us that, if there was a general election tomorrow under the PR system, some of these would go. Whether it would be Deputy Briscoe, Deputy Noel Lemass or Deputy Dowling himself remains to be seen. Perhaps this is the reason they are looking for a change—in order to avoid the back-stabbing that would go on amongst the Fianna Fáil group on the occasion of the next election under PR.

A similar situation exists in County Dublin. Undoubtedly in the next general election under PR, someone there would fall by the wayside. Fianna Fáil attempted before to ensure that Deputy Boland, the Minister for Local Government, would head the poll—the bright young man in place of the old dog for the hard road. Still, Deputy Burke headed the poll. Then we had Deputy Foley coming along. Who will be knocked the next time? Surely these are the things that are exercising their minds? Then you have the remnants of the succession stakes in Dublin North-East. Who is going to be cock of the walk there under the PR system? These are indications of the real reason why this proposal is being brought forward —this lust for power, this impudent suggestion that it is wrong to form Parties.

Something new has emerged in the course of this debate. Heretofore we have had one Fianna Fáil speaker after another referring to coalitions and talking about them as if they were terrible things. Now their spokesmen are suggesting that Labour and Fianna Fáil should get together to form a coalition.

Labour and Fianna Fáil?

Fine Gael and Labour.

You joined with Labour before.

Labour joined with us.

It is extraordinary how forgetful some Fianna Fáil people can be. To the discredit of the Labour Party perhaps, we voted on one occasion and created a Fianna Fáil Government.

May the Lord forgive you.

We brought the Fianna Fáil Party into power. Of course, we also have the proud record of being the Party that formed the first Opposition in this House, when it was not very healthy to form an Opposition and when many threats were issued to members of the Labour Party if they discussed forming an Opposition. Why did we do it? Because the Labour Party was in existence before ever Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael were thought of. This Simon Pure talk on the part of Deputy Dowling will not wash. He talks about people queuing at clinics looking for assistance. It could be that they find it difficult to see him or some of his colleagues.

The Taoiseach introduced these Bills in his usual way, reading his speech, not making a case for it and appearing as if somebody else had formulated what he was uttering. Certainly, an examination of his speech proves conclusively that no case was made for either of the two measures he placed before us. Subsequent speeches of Ministers had the same effect. It is interesting to bear in mind what the Minister for Industry and Commerce said on 5th March at column 150 of the Official Report for that day:

As I said, the situation, therefore, is that any realistic assessment of the situation will show that there can be no alteration in the political system in this country under PR except Fianna Fáil going out through some kind of combination of Fine Gael and Labour and we know that in the next election Fianna Fáil will come back again. I am human enough not to want to see Fianna Fáil going out of office but I am also sufficiently concerned with the welfare of my country to know that for any Party, Fianna Fáil or any other, to be in office for ever would be a disaster for this country.

Yet we had Deputy Dowling telling us they were going to be here for the next 20 years or 80 years. Who is right— Deputy Dowling or the Minister for Industry and Commerce?

They have all this concern about the Opposition, but it is only natural to query its sincerity. Surely their advocating of a fusion of Fine Gael and Labour is not realistic? Surely it would be more realistic to have a merger of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael? In column 151 of the same volume, the Minister for Industry and Commerce also said:

Surely Deputies know very well that the situation in Northern Ireland is quite different? Why get up here and tell us about the dictatorship we would have in this country? Why do they not have dictatorship in Britain, Canada, the USA with this system of election? This kind of thing is not helpful.

Because of that we are supposed to forget about the system of election in Northern Ireland.

This new change on the part of Fianna Fáil, which I consider to be the brainchild of the Minister for Local Government, will never be accepted by our people. We know the Minister's way of introducing anything and we can compare his advertence to this matter with that of his colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and see that it differs very much. The Minister for Local Government is well known for his intolerance, indeed his arrogance, and the contempt he has often displayed in this House for matters introduced by Deputies. While there have been some interruptions here tonight during the course of Deputy Dowling's speech, they are nothing to the many interruptions that have taken place from Fianna Fáil during this debate. This is a fearful thing. It is a bad sign. It does not augur well for the future and should make us more cautious about changing the system of election.

I submit that it would suit the Minister for Local Government better to tighten up the manner in which elections are conducted rather than proposing to change our system. At the last election in Wicklow we had the situation in Bray—and it was subsequently admitted in this House—where members of the Fianna Fáil Party were arrayed right in front of the booths setting out to ascertain from the people their names and numbers, with a view to ensuring that they had not already voted. At the same time, they were setting out to find out who had not voted and got on the ball. That is a form of intimidation utilised by the Fianna Fáil Party. I submit that is the type of thing we should look into— checking registers outside polling booths.

Good organisation: jealousy is at you.

It is not jealousy. The polling booths should be left to the people to vote in. There should be no sign of interference when the people are going to the polling booths to exercise their franchise.

No one interfered. We were encouraging them.

Encouraging, and holding the hammer over their heads. The strange thing is that some of the people conducting this exercise outside the booths were well-known employers. Heaven help the employees if they did not respond in a civil manner. The Minister should also concentrate on the misuse of State cars during the course of elections.

Fianna Fáil are good employers.

Personation should also be attended to.

Did the Parliamentary Secretary say Fianna Fáil are the Party of the employers?

I said Fianna Fáil are good employers. Does the Deputy not want people to get employment?

I know a number of them and they are bad employers.

We had Deputy Dowling here tonight going back to some Attorney General in England. The period which he was talking about was when PR was being introduced——


He neglected to say that it was Fianna Fáil who put it in the Constitution which we operate. So much for his worry about the British Attorney General. Of course, as time goes on, we learn a lot. There was a time when Fianna Fáil advocated that we should burn everything British except their coal. Now there is a different state of affairs. We cannot get close enough to Britain so far as Fianna Fáil are concerned.

They have a Labour Government.

It suits the Fianna Fáil Party very much in this House in snide remarks to refer to the British Labour Government. At the same time, when the occasion presents itself, they go over and are all palsy-walsy with members of the British Labour Government. We all know there are faults which need to be remedied, especially if we are going into the Common Market, or if we are to play a greater part in Europe and the world. These are the things we should be looking into rather than dilly-dallying with the system of voting.

I should imagine that I am expressing a fair consensus of opinion when I say it is not the system of voting which is worrying our people today. They are preoccupied with hosts of problems: housing, rates, insufficient social welfare benefits, a continued rise in the cost of living and unemployment. These are the things we in the Labour Party would like to see the Government getting their teeth into. If they set about doing that, they would not have to turn to these benches and tell us what to do or ask us what we would do. We would give them every assistance.

We would not want to follow your example: 10d a year for the old age pensioners.

Under the PR system no constituent is at the mercy of one TD or one Party as he would be, if PR were abolished. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that in his own Party there are activists and inactive people. Surely he is not suggesting that would be changed completely by making this change? If there is only one TD in an area, what about the inactive TD? Do we have to wait for another election for matters to be remedied?

I am submitting that under the present system—and Deputy Dowling verified this—a constituent who finds he is not getting anywhere with a problem can go to another TD. Deputy Dowling admitted this. This is a good thing. This is the proper way of servicing our people. This element of competition is useful. I do not think there are people in any walk of life who do not need to be checked, watched and pulled up at times. We can all do with being checked and pulled up. Under the multi-seat arrangement with PR, there are three, four or five TDs in an area and this affords the people an opportunity of having matters being put right. It does not enable a person to say: "All right; you voted for me. I will forget about you until the next election." Perhaps a few months before the next election he is heard from again.

It would seem that one of the reasons given for the abolition of PR is to avoid having dissident groups. The Government cannot deny there are dissident groups in existence, and where they are in existence, the obvious thing to do is to encourage them to come into this House, to get elected and then express their point of view rather than producing some measure which will make it more difficult for them to come into the House. If there were no dissident groups in existence, it would be pertinent to inquire: why the continuation of the Emergency Powers Act? Does it mean that the Emergency Powers Act is being held in readiness for trade unionists only, these dissident groups about whom Fianna Fáil seem to be worried? I continue to maintain that they have a right to express their point of view and to appeal to the people and to hope to be elected.

There was a time when Fianna Fáil did not follow that line of reasoning. There was a time when Fianna Fáil did not recognise authority in Parliament. We are satisfied that authority emanates from Parliament and this is what the Labour Party, to its eternal credit, brought about in this country. It was the Labour Party who introduced an Opposition at the inception of this Parliament. Very often, when it suits ourselves, we prate about democracy and about the right of people to express themselves. At the same time, we have this talk about taking steps to ensure there will not be the irritation of the emergence of dissident groups.

The Irish have been more than anxious to show themselves to be a people who believe in free expression of thought so long as it is done in an ordered fashion. The case has been put for and against the abolition of proportional representation. A study of Deputy Boland's contention that proportional representation is wrong reveals that the case he makes does not ring true. When we think in terms of giving people a voice we must come to the realisation that people are entitled to a preference.

Almost everything is influenced by the existence of alternatives. Our purchasing power is influenced by the existence of what we have and what we have not got and by what is on offer as compared with what we have. Here, also, the operation of alternatives comes in. The same applies to wage negotiations. A claim is made for increased wages and it ends up in a bargain, which is an alternative. It is synonymous with the system of proportional representation which is not a dogmatic system of vote "I" and forget the rest.

I have already made the point about what would happen to the people in relation to the single-seat constituency system as compared with the multi-seat constituency system. I now submit that the people who would be the worst affected would, in the main, be those who, of necessity, must obtain social welfare or health benefits. Every active Deputy can verify that a goodly portion of his work consists of making inquiries about the operation of the social welfare and health services systems. They are both deplorable systems. If the Fianna Fáil Party get their way and introduce the single-seat constituency, then the pensioner on 57/6d. a week will be left to the mercy of this one individual and will not have the opportunity he formerly enjoyed of going to one of the other Teachtaí Dála in the area to seek immediate action. His only remedy will be afforded to him in the next election, a long-term remedy, typical of the way Fianna Fáil do things—the long finger.

In my estimation, the Taoiseach is seeking a blank cheque from our people. He cannot point to instability of government. Never has it been said and never could it be said during the lifetime of this Government that any Minister was unable to do this or to do that because the Government had not an overall majority. Neither can the Taoiseach give any one instance that, during the lifetime of this Government, proportional representation held up the introduction of legislation. These are proper remarks and personal points which highlight the importance of ensuring that proportional representation be retained.

The Taoiseach cannot assert that the single-seat constituency will produce a better Deputy unless he has in mind a better Fianna Fáil hack or backbencher who will shout for his Party when the opportunity presents itself—perhaps that is nearer the mark. I do not believe the back-benchers have any voice on this proposal. Why do the Taoiseach and his cabinet want to alter the rules? Are they afraid the fruits of Fianna Fáil Government will have an effect on the people—unemployment, rising costs of living and the bringing of international combines to our country? Are Fianna Fáil afraid that these undesirable trends will turn a large proportion of their supporters away from "the grand old Party" that is so frequently talked about? The people want an opportunity to give Fianna Fáil their answer. Deputy Dowling said Fianna Fáil will be in office for the next 20 years——

He was quoting Deputy O'Connell.

Deputy Dowling did not say that. Furthermore, Deputy Colley said it would not be good that Fianna Fáil should be so long in office. There is a contradiction there which is typical of Fianna Fáil.

The Parliamentary Secretary knows better than Deputy Colley.

Deputy O'Connell did not say what the Parliamentary Secretary has attributed to him. I understood him to say that an attempt should not be made for another 20 years to bring about in this country a different system of election—and that is a different thing.

For the past six weeks we have listened to attempts by the Government to justify the introduction of the proposal to abolish proportional representation which is nothing but a malodorous red herring in this deliberative Assembly. The red herring has now begun to stink in the nostrils of the people of this country who are well aware of the Government's motives in trying to induce them to agree to the abolition of proportional representation.

The Government's proposal will get a State funeral when it is put before the people. It will then be buried so deep in the ground that never again will our people be asked to agree to that proposal. If the people were foolish enough to agree to the straight vote then I could see the day when, with the Irish temperament, it would take the bullet to change the system.

Let us have more of democracy. Let us have proportional representation which is democracy in full. We have heard talk about tolerance for the West. My colleague opposite has not offered to support this, nor has his colleague in my constituency. Maybe he is thinking: "If the Big Chief thinks it, we will all say it."

The Minister for External Affairs told us this was imposed by the British. I wonder if they are imposing anything on us now. He reminds me of Rip Van Winkle. He has been asleep for 46 years since the British left this country and he now wakes up suddenly in his latter days here to realise that we have been held down by the British. I wonder if they imposed sterling on us at the moment would we refuse it, or the ships off the Wexford coast at present? Does he call that being imposed on? That old cock will not crow any longer. This proposal shows that we have a power-drunk Government in Fianna Fáil.

It is hard to get that old cock to crow now. It has been crowing a long time.

Yes, but his head will be pulled soon.


Let us probe the real reason for this proposal which I have not yet heard; why they are trying to put this across the people. We have a group known as Taca——

Hear, hear.

This is a puppet Government because Taca pull the strings and dictate policy. It is a sad day when power is being taken from the people by the gangsters. We had gangsters in Chicago——

The Deputy should keep to the two measures before the House.

I am pointing out the underlying cause is that those backroom boys want to keep control. They never had to stand on a public platform. They remind me of the gangsters in Chicago who at one time pulled guns. These gentlemen pull chequebooks and the one hundred pound note. That would not be a cheque, which might be noted. They want to ensure that the paw-greasing backhanders will have full control and will continue in power. The Government are only a face for these gentlemen. At one time we condemned, or were prone to condemn, free-masons——

I have already asked the Deputy to keep to the Bills before the House.

I am getting to them. To be a freemason, you had to have some background; you did not have to be a blackguard. I know some of them. It is sad that we have in our public galleries, coming to the front gate and putting up his hand, a man who spent two years behind prison bars through corruption, one of the he-men and key men of Fianna Fáil, the greatest fixer who can fix anything anywhere anytime. These are the gentlemen I want to point out as being the string-pullers of a puppet Government.

The Chair must point out that the Deputy is not in order in discussing such matters. We are discussing the Third Amendment and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution.

Why should we change the Constitution so as to take power from the hands of the people and give it to the backroom boys? This gentleman has been the fall guy for the Front Bench of Fianna Fáil and he has them blackmailed today and they must cough up. This is the type of government we must guard against, government by remote control. Let us have government for the people by the people but not government by the backroom boys.

Is the Deputy criticising the present system of election?

I suggest the Parliamentary Secretary should leave it to the Chair to decide what I am criticising. He should listen and learn. Let us get our priorities in order. If we have £100,000 to spend for a referendum, let us bring down some of the gentlemen in the Bentleys and Mercedes and so on—my own is only an old Ford but it will do; we make them in Ireland—to places where the Bentleys cannot go, where there is muck and slush and floods and where people must come out in wellingtons. If we have that sort of money to spend, let us spend it on back roads and on building houses for poorer people who have to pay high rents and cannot afford them.

People are being asked to hand over their powers now as the gunmen once asked them to hand over their money. Unless people have the full power of their vote, they are, as we have said, handing over to a Taca-backed government, that is only a face for the gangsters we have. The sooner the people wake up to this and express that view the better. They will express it, as I have said, when they give this proposal a State funeral and deep they will bury it in the bowels of the earth.

Fianna Fáil Deputies have made milk and water statements. Deputy Dowling came here to-night but he did not have his own speech. He was handed a statement to get across. We knew from the way he spoke that he did not mean a word of it. He was just like the man on television—is it Charlie McCarthy—the ventriloquist. It was not himself who spoke but his statement, most of which he read when he came here trying to put this across and keep on the right side but he failed miserably. I know that Deputy Geoghegan would like not to be asked to speak but if Deputy Geoghegan is prepared to stand up and defend this proposal—he has been honest enough so far not to do so—I am prepared to give way because I know that Deputy Burke is eager to go. If Deputy Burke agrees now to let Deputy Geoghegan defend this proposal, I will give way to him, but I think he is honest enough to remain seated keeping his mouth shut, since a shut mouth catches no flies.

I shall deal with the Deputy at the church gates and at the crossroads.

I can stand at any crossroads and I can say that my people stood at the crossroads when it was dangerous to do so and were elected for Sinn Féin before either the Deputy or his colleague was heard of.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 3rd April, 1968.