The Chair wishes to point out that section 1 provides for the deletion of existing matter in Article 16 of the Constitution and the substitution of new material which is set out in the Schedule. Deputies have the opportunity of discussing the proposals on section 1 or on the Schedule, but not on both, as duplication of debate is not permissible. As amendments have been tabled to the Schedule, it is suggested that the debate might take place on it and that section 1 and section 2 be postponed until the Schedule has been disposed of.
An Bille um an Tríú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1968: An Coiste. Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1968: Committee Stage.
But the Schedule must be dealt with as was the previous Referendum Bill, by taking paragraph by paragraph?
How it is dealt with is a matter for the House.
It was so ruled on the previous occasion.
Is it agreed that we take the Schedule first in order to avoid duplication?
Is it being ruled by the Chair that discussion cannot take place on both?
Is it the position that discussion can take place on both or on either?
I think the Chair meant the ruling to be no.
Is that a ruling from the Chair, that discussion cannot take place on both?
That is a ruling, because Deputies could not be allowed to duplicate.
The Chair put it "was it agreed" and I want to put it that it is not agreed, but if it is a ruling of the Chair, we will accept it.
Surely there can be no question of duplication? I understood that duplication referred to duplication on similar sections.
I thought I made quite clear what the Chair is seeking.
Am I correct in understanding the ruling to be that the Schedule is to be debated before the sections and that each paragraph of the Schedule can be decided separately in the same way as in the last amendment of the Constitution Bill?
If the House so agrees that is quite in order.
I am trying to find out what the Chair's ruling is.
I have pointed out that Deputies will have an opportunity of debating the proposals on section 1 or on the Schedule, but not on both.
That is the ruling?
Yes. As duplication is not in order and as amendments have been tabled to the Schedule, it is suggested that the debate might take place on the Schedule and that sections 1 and 2 be postponed until we dispose of the Schedule.
I do not want duplication but surely the point made by Deputy Tully is a valid one? Duplication of a debate on a particular section obviously should be avoided as being out of order, but if we are debating a Schedule and a section, surely they are two separate things?
Section 1 is putting in the matter contained in the Schedule.
I am not looking for duplication.
If we deal with the Schedule paragraph by paragraph we can see at the end what the story is then.
(Cavan): Before the House goes into Committee on this, I wish to refer to amendment No. 4, which stands in my name, to the Third Amendment. You, Sir, have ruled it out of order on the ground that it seeks to change from one-sixth to one-twentieth the maximum divergence above or below the national average and, according to your ruling, it would therefore have the effect of negativing the principle assented to in the Second Reading, that is, the introduction of a significantly greater divergence than is at present permissible. I wish to submit to you now that we do not know the extent of the divergence at present permissible. We know that in the O'Donovan case a percentage of approximately 17.6 was considered too high and we know that 4.6 was considered correct, but we do not know what the difference is between 4.6 and 17 per cent approximately and, therefore, we do not know what the present permissible tolerance, or divergence, within those limits is. I submit, therefore, that it is not correct for you, Sir, to rule the amendment out of order.
The Chair has given careful consideration to the Deputy's amendment and adjudged it out of order as it was considered it was in conflict with the principle of the Bill as read a Second Time.
(Cavan): I respectfully submit that the Chair in arriving at that decision, the decision set out in the Chair's letter to me, reached the decision on the assumption that the present legal tolerance is known and ascertainable and I wish to submit now that that is not so, and the Chair has, therefore, ruled on a false premises.
The judge in giving his decision in the High Court indicated that a deviation of 1,000 upwards or downwards from the national average would be acceptable and 1,000 on the national average of 20,000 is in fact 5 per cent, or one-twentieth, which is what Deputy Fitzpatrick is seeking to establish in the proposed amendment; in other words, what he is proposing to establish is the present position.
Might I submit that this is a question of what are the principles of the Bill. The Chair has stated its view of what principle is involved in the Bill. I want to submit that the only principle involved here, and the only principle accepted by the House on Second Reading, was an amendment to Article 16 of the Constitution.
(Cavan): An amendment to the Constitution.
The only principle accepted by the House on Second Reading was an amendment to the Constitution. That is all that is contained in the Bill. That is all that concerns the Chair—not any statements made by the Minister, the Taoiseach or any Deputies in relation to what he or they think should be done but the wording of the Bill and the Bill is a Bill to amend Article 16 of the Constitution. That was agreed in principle on Second Reading and that is the only thing that is agreed in principle.
We are concerned in particular with what is contained in the Bill.
Could the Ceann Comhairle tell us what he deems to be the principles that were agreed on Second Reading and were passed on Second Reading.
Deputy Fitzpatrick's amendment seeks to delete from the Bill the provisions which give effect to the principle assented to on the Second Reading and that principle is the introduction——
(Cavan): Oh, no.
The Chair is talking about the wrong Bill.
(Cavan): That is the Fourth Amendment.
Let us have the right Bill anyway.
Tell us the tolerance issue.
The amendment seeks to change from one-sixth to one-twentieth the maximum divergence above or below the national average and the Chair felt that it would have the effect of negativing the principle assented to on Second Reading, namely, the introduction of a significantly greater divergence than is allowed at present.
What is allowed at present?
That is not my reading of the judge's ruling. He said, in a particular case.
(Cavan): I submit that Mr. Justice Budd held that 17 per cent approximately was too high, but he said nothing about 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8, or 7 per cent and, therefore, the permissible divergence is some place between 4.6 and 17 per cent. That is all we know and, furthermore, the O'Donovan case must be read and considered in conjunction with the Supreme Court decision on the Constitution Bill in 1961.
It would be helpful to the House if the Chair would say what view the Chair took as to the present permissible divergence.
I can assure the Deputies that all these matters were considered, and I am afraid——
Surely the House could have the benefit of the consideration?
If the House were told what the consideration was, it would help us.
What is suggested as being the permissible divergence at the moment?
This is a matter for the Chair, not the Minister. The Minister may have one view, the Chair another, and I may have a third. It is the Chair's view I want.
I only want to give what the judge said.
I want to hear what the Chair has to say.
I understood the divergence at present is about one-twentieth.
Is it not a fact that the principle that was passed by the House on Second Reading was the principle that there should be a tolerance and surely it is therefore in order to decrease the margin of that tolerance? It seems to me to be so anyway.
As I have already pointed out, all these submissions were considered.
And the Party ruling reigned supreme.
I do not care.
(Cavan): The Minister has his majority and he will bulldoze it through anyway.
What are we worrying about? The country will decide anyway.
I have not the slightest objection to the Chair changing its ruling, not the slightest. It is completely immaterial to me whether the amendment is allowed or not.
Why does the Minister say that?
I do not care. It does not matter to me.
I asked "Why". Why does the Minister not care?
I do not mind our discussing the amendment. I am quite prepared to discuss it.
Is the Minister prepared to accept it?
Oh, now—if I were prepared to accept it, I would not have gone to the trouble of bringing in a Bill.
Schedule, Part I, amendment No. 1, in the name of Deputy Fitzpatrick.
Sir, is that the only amendment that has been ruled out of order in this Bill?
That is the only one.
In this Bill?
In this Bill, yes.
We will come to the other Bill in due course.
I am afraid it is rather doubtful that we will come to the other Bill. The adjournment is at seven o'clock.
(Cavan): Tairgim leasú a 1:—
I move amendment No. 1:—
I gCuid I, leathanach 5, líne 30, "is déidheanaighe dá ndearnadh" a schiosadh agus "a rinneadh go díreach" a chur ina ionad;
I gCuid II, leathanach 7, líne 12, "last" a scriosadh agus "immediately" a chur ina ionad.
1. In Part 1, page 4, line 30, to delete "is déidheanaighe dá ndearnadh" and substitute "a rinneadh go díreach";
In Part II, page 6, line 12, to delete "last" and substitute "immediately".
This is largely a drafting amendment. The subsection reads at the moment:
A determination of constituencies shall be so effected that if
i. with respect to each of the constituencies, the number of members to be elected for it is divided into its population (as ascertained at the census last preceding the determination),
The amendment proposes to delete the word "last" and insert the word "immediately". I think it is better drafting. The word "last" seems to denote the last effort, or something like that. Our amendment is put down simply in an effort to improve the drafting of the Bill and still to leave the same sense in the subsection.
The existing subsection (iii) of section 2 of Article 16 of the Constitution refers to the population as ascertained at the last preceding census. This was the phrase that was used also in the 1922 Constitution and it has been the subject of judicial interpretation. It was for that reason that this was naturally adopted when the present Bill was being drafted. As far as I can see, it appears to be immaterial whether "last" or "immediately" is used in the subsection, but I think the more natural and, also, the more desirable, thing to do is to follow the phraseology that has been used up to this. It does not appear to be of any great importance. "Immediately" seems to convey the same meaning but we put "last" into the Bill because it is in the Constitution already and it was also in the 1922 Constitution.
Would the Minister accept the amendment to substitute "immediately"?
I do not mind accepting it if the Deputies press it, but it does not seem to be necessary.
Is the amendment accepted?
If the Deputies are pressing it.
Cuireadh agus d'aontaíodh an leasú.
(Cavan): Tairgim leasú a 2:—
I move amendment No. 2:—
I gCuid I, leathanach 5, línte 31 go 33,
ii. go ndéantar amach meadhón na gcomhrann as iad a roinnt amhlaidh,"
I gCuid II, leathanach 7, línte 13 go 15,
ii. the average of the quotients of the divisions is ascertained,"
In Part I, page 4, lines 31 to 33, to delete
ii. go ndéantar amach meadhón na gcomhrann as iad a roinnt amhlaidh,";
In Part II, page 6, lines 13 to 15, to delete
ii. the average of the quotients of the divisions is ascertained,".
Amendment No. 3 is consequential on amendment No. 2 and, therefore, the two amendments may be discussed together.
(Cavan): I agree that the two amendments may be discussed together. I regard these two amendments as very important. I submit to the House that if these amendments are not accepted we will have in the Bill a situation created even worse than the situation we think we are creating. This Bill, I imagine, was drafted as part of a package deal. Originally, it was part of the proposal to abolish proportional representation, to abolish multi-seat constituencies and to create single-seat constituencies. In addition to that proposal in the original measure as drafted, as far as I know, there was a proposal to increase the tolerance from approximately 5 per cent to something in the neighbourhood of 17 per cent. The idea was to grant this tolerance in relation to the national average.
Of course, it would have been the national average when it was part of a package deal because all the constituencies then were to be single-seat constituencies but, as we all know, the Government were forced by this Party, by public opinion and by the free press package deal, to concede that that was of this country to run away from the a proposition which could not be justified, to concede that that was a way of ascertaining the wishes of the people which was grossly unfair; it was asking two questions in one. The Government, as I say, ran away from it but I imagine that the drafting of the Bill still remains the same.
My submission on this Article 3º, i and ii, as it stands, is that unless it is amended we will get something very different from a national average. We would get a national average if all the constituencies were single-seat constituencies. Then, I agree, the machinery inserted there would produce a national average. I also agree that if the constituencies were all three-seat, four-seat or five-seat constituencies we would still get the national average but it is quite a possibility, although a remote possibility, that this measure would be accepted by the people notwithstanding the defeat of the Fourth Amendment and then we would have this provision here applying to multi-seat constituencies and you would get then, by using the machinery provided here, an average of the constituencies which would not be a national average. That is what I want to avoid. These two amendments are proposed with a view to ensuring that the average will, in fact, be the national average.
Amendment No. 3 proposes the deletion of the words in section 3º subsection ii, "the average of the quotients of the divisions is ascertained" and to delete the words "that average" in line 16 and to substitute therefor the words "the average obtained by dividing the total population, as ascertained at the immediately preceding census, by the total number of members of Dáil Éireann".
I understand from the Taoiseach's remarks on Second Reading that that is what he has in mind but I want to suggest to him that the proposals as drafted will give him a very different average and an average that could be quite less than the national average and you would then be granting a tolerance of 16?, not on the national average, but on this average which could be something different.
I am putting that very strongly to the Minister. The Taoiseach, after taking some advice on it on the last occasion, did seem to admit that that was so but that the amount of difference between the average which would be ascertained in the way proposed by the Minister and the average ascertained in the way proposed by me would be insignificant. I should like to hear the Minister on this, he having the benefit of all the technical advice that is at his disposal. I want to concede immediately that this is a very technical business and a highly complicated mathematical problem. I challenge the Minister to contradict what I am saying as being correct.
So far from this being something that was originally part of what Deputy Fitzpatrick described as a "package deal", this formula that is being used here arises from the division of the proposals for amendment of the Constitution into two separate Bills rather than their presentation as one proposal. There would have been no difficulty in using the formula Deputy Fitzpatrick proposes if there was only one Bill before the House. The only reason for introducing this other formula is that there were two Bills to deal with the proposed amendments and it was therefore necessary to word the provisions so that, if enacted, it would be appropriate whether or not the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill is approved by the people. In other words, the formula had to be such that it would suit either single-Member or multi-Member constituencies.
As Deputies know, it is intended to provide in the Fourth Amendment that there would be a second seat in a constituency for the Ceann Comhairle. It is because of the desire to make it absolutely certain that that seat would not be taken into account in deciding the national average population per Member that this formula was used. I am legally advised now that while there may be some doubt in the matter, if the subsection is amended as Deputy Fitzpatrick proposes, the extra seat for the Ceann Comhairle under the other Bill could be ignored in calculating the national average population per Member. In other words, I would be prepared to accept this amendment. At the same time, I want to make it quite clear that there could not be any substantial difference between the average as decided by the formula in the Bill and the formula proposed by Deputy Fitzpatrick. There could be only a slight difference.
To illustrate the point, when the present constituencies were established the national average population per Member was 20,127. If it was worked out on the basis of the average of the quotients in each individual constituency, the national average would have worked out at 20,121—a difference of only six. It is quite clear that any difference would be insignificant. At the same time, there is no doubt that the formula proposed by Deputy Fitzpatrick, provided we can in fact ignore the proposed creation of the second seat for the Ceann Comhairle, would be more truly the national average. In view of the advice I now have that it will be possible to do that, I am prepared to accept the amendment. If on further consideration it appears there is some reasonable doubt about the permissibility of ignoring the extra seat for the Ceann Comhairle, I think we could deal with it by an amendment to the Fourth Amendment Bill.
The Labour Party did not submit any amendment to the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill because we feel that this Bill is just a dressing for the Fourth Amendment Bill, that it was just put there to indicate to the people of the sparsley populated parts of the country that this Government were so seriously concerned about them that they were anxious to provide additional representation for them in this House. We believe that is a subtle move on the part of the Minister.
I should like to get further information about the statements made by the Minister and Deputy Fitzpatrick. It was stated that there could be a tolerance of 5 per cent under the High Court decision. It is peculiar that that was never taken to the Supreme Court if the Minister was in doubt that that decision was not a sound one. I would like the Minister to tell us what the acceptance of this amendment means. Does it mean that instead of having a constituency average we will have a national average? I would like some clarification as to what the Minister's statement accepting this amendment actually means.
The Constitution at present provides that the number of population per Deputy shall, as far as is practicable, be the same throughout the country. The proposal in the Bill is that there can be a divergence of one-sixth either above or below the average population per Deputy in the country as a whole in order to take account of certain considerations. What we are discussing is the formula in accordance with which any national average will be worked out.
The way in which it was worked out up to this was the simple one of taking the total population and dividing it by the number of Deputies. That quotient was the national average. There was some doubt, in view of the proposal in the Fourth Amendment Bill, as to whether or not that formula would permit the ignoring of the extra seat it is proposed to create for the Ceann Comhairle. In order to have a formula that would be appropriate whether the Fourth Amendment Bill was passed or not, this formula was utilised whereby the national average would be worked out by getting the quotient in each individual constituency—taking the population for each constituency and dividing it by the number of Deputies in each constituency—and getting the average of all those quotients over the country as a whole.
As Deputy Fitzpatrick pointed out, these two results could be different. We maintain that the difference would only be marginal, that it would not be significant, but I admit that you could get a different result. Of course the national average obtained by dividing the total population by the total number of Deputies is in fact the true national average. There is no doubt about that. In view of the fact we think that it will be still possible to ignore the creation of the extra seat for the Ceann Comhairle, I am prepared to accept this amendment. The national average now, if the amendment is accepted, will be the quotient got by dividing the total population in the country, as obtained in the immediately preceding census, by the number of seats. The proposal in the Bill is that a maximum divergence of one-sixth above or below that in individual constituencies can be taken into consideration.
It would be unfortunate if Deputies, including my friend Deputy Murphy, were to be misled by the Minister into the belief that the High Court allowed a differential of one-fifth. The High Court allowed no such thing.
I did not say one-fifth.
Sorry—five per cent. The High Court allowed no such differential. What the High Court said, and were right in saying, is that what we should be seeking is that the ratio should be equal. Equality was what the High Court stated, not a differential of five per cent or a differential, as the Minister is proposing, of 20 per cent. We must not be victims of the chicanery and dishonesty and political machinations of the Fianna Fáil Party.
I think the Deputy is on the wrong amendment.
We are on the section which deals with equality. If in the debate on this section the Minister has deliberately tried to mislead this House or anyone else into thinking——
If the Deputy would talk to his colleague, he would appreciate that in fact we are dealing purely and simply with the method of arriving at the national average. Deputy Fitzpatrick has put forward an amendment proposing a different way of arriving at the national average from that in the Bill. So far as my understanding goes, that is what we are discussing at the moment. I think Deputy Ryan's contribution would be relevant at another stage.
At the moment we are discussing amendments Nos. 2 and 3.
The determination of the constituencies and the ascertaining of the national average. I am quite well aware of what we are discussing: lines 31 to 33 on page 4 and lines 13 to 15 on page 6. During the course of this debate, the Minister has misled the House, as he has been misleading his own Party, into the belief that at the moment the law allows inequality.
May I take it that we can discuss the question of whether or not any divergence from the national average is permitted at present and the proposal to write into the Constitution a permissible divergence of one-sixth? Are we in order in discussing that on this amendment?
If it is in order, I am quite prepared to discuss it.
That cannot be discussed on this amendment. Amendment No. 4 has been ruled out of order.
It has been ruled out of order, while an amendment which seeks to change the non-transferable vote into the transferable vote has not been ruled out of order by a partisan Ceann Comhairle, nominated and elected by Fianna Fáil. How can democracy work——
I must draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that that has been disposed of. It has been ruled out of order and may not be discussed further.
I respect your ruling. You are a Chairman this House can respect, but how can this Assembly and the nation continue to pretend to accept——
I must draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that no reflections may be cast on the Chair.
I am not casting any reflection on your chairmanship.
It is the Chair as such, as the Deputy well knows.
I am not casting any reflection on the Chair as such but to cast a reflection on someone who is unfit to occupy the Chair is a different thing.
What about the dignity of the House?
Dignity, my foot. What concerns me is integrity. There may be some people who do not wish to see democracy remaining in this country. They are all assembled on the far side of the House.
Why can the Deputy not say what he has to say in a dignified way?
(Cavan): There is dignity and there is hypocrisy.
There is also the disposition of some people to belie sincerity— the kind of attitude that everyone is nice, and we can all be nice and agree or disagree.
On a point of order, are we to have a discussion on the amendment or these irrelevancies as a prolongation of the Fine Gael Ard-Fheis?
I am anxious to get to that point.
This discussion is out of order. The amendments before the House are amendments Nos. 2 and 3.
They deal with the national average.
The House will continue to do its business without any unseemly interruptions from the widow from Balbriggan. We will deal with this amendment tabled by Deputy Fitzpatrick to keep the Minister and the Government from committing yet another bloomer.
The Minister has accepted the amendments.
I am quite well aware of that and I need no assistance from any galoots. The Minister had no alternative to accepting these amendments.
On a point of order, is there any dignity in this Parliament when we are called galoots?
Questions may not be raised on a point of order.
What about the abolition of the small farmers?
We are entitled to say on the Fine Gael amendments to this section that the Government had no option but to accept them. There are no thanks due to the Government for accepting the Fine Gael amendments because they could not have failed to accept them. This is not the first time in the history of this assembly that the Fianna Fáil Government have had to accept Fine Gael amendments. This is not the first time in the history of this State that we have stopped them from doing wrong. This is not the first time —and it is not the last time that we will stop them from doing wrong. They had no option other than to accept the amendments in the name of Deputy Fitzpatrick. They are taking up time with a debate which no one wants but which was forced on us by Fianna Fáil.
That was a useful contribution.
Cuireadh agus d'aontaíodh an leasú.
(Cavan): Tairgim leasu a 3:—
I move amendment No. 3:—
I gCuid I, leathanach 5, línte 34 agus 35, "an mheadhóin sin" a scriosadh agus "an mheadhóin a gheibhtear tríd an daonradh iomlán, do réir an daonáirimh a rinneadh go díreach roimhe sin, a roinnt ar líon iomlán comhaltaí Dháil Éireann", a chur ina ionad;
I gCuid II, leathanach 7, líne 16, "that average" a scriosadh agus `the average obtained by dividing the total population, as ascertained it the immediately preceding census, by the total number of members of
Dáil Éireann", a chur ina ionad.
In Part I, page 4, lines 34 and 35, to delete "an mheadhóin sin" and substitute "an mheadhóin a gheibhtear tríd an daonradh iomlán do réir an daonáirimh a rinneadh go díreach roimhe sin, a roinnt ar líon iomlán comhaltaí Dháil Éireann.";
In Part II, page 6, line 16, to delete "that average" and substitute "the average obtained by dividing the total population, as ascertained at the immediately preceding census, by the total number of members of Dáil Éireann".
Cuireadh agus d'aontaíodh an leasú.
Amendment No. 4 has been ruled out of order.
Níor tairgeadh leasú a 4.
(Cavan): Tairgim leasú a 5:—
I move amendment No. 5:—
I gCuid I, leathanach 5, líne 35, an méid seo a leanas "Ní dhéanfar dáil-cheanntair a chinneadh san idirlinn idir an tráth a dhéantar daonáireamh agus an tráth a gheibhtear amach a thorthaí sealadacha. Is cead torthaí sealadacha daonáirimh d'úsáid chun dáil-cheanntair a chinneadh muna mbí torthaí cinntitheacha an daonáirimh sin ar fagháil." a chur isteach i ndiaidh "san.";
I gCuid II, leathanach 7, líne 17, an méid seo a leanas "A determination of constituencies shall not take place during the interval between the taking of a census of population and the ascertaining of the provisional results thereof. The provisional results of a census may be used in the determination of constituencies if the definitive results of such census are not available.", a chur isteach i ndiaidh "average.".
In Part I, page 4, line 35, after "san." to add "Ní dhéanfar dáil-cheanntair a chinneadh san idirlinn idir an tráth a dhéantar daonáir-eamh agus an tráth a gheibhtear amach a thorthaí sealadacha. Is cead torthaí sealadacha daonáirimh d'úsáid chun dáil-cheanntair a chinneadh muna mbí torthaí cinnti-theach an daonáirimh sin ar fagháil";
In Part II, page 6, line 17, after "average.", to add "A determination of constituencies shall not take place during the interval between the taking of a census of population and the ascertaining of the provisional results thereof. The provisional results of a census may be used in the determination of constituencies if the definitive results of such census are not available."
The section of the article with which we are dealing provides for the revision or determination of the constituencies at least once every 12 years. The constituencies are to be revised by reference to the immediately preceding census. This is what we are led to believe is the intention in the section as drafted.
We know that when the constituencies were last revised in 1961 they were not revised by reference to or on the basis of the last preceding census. They were, in fact, revised on the basis of the 1956 census, although a census had been taken in April, 1961. The constituencies were revised, as I said, by reference to and on the basis of a census which had taken place five years earlier. My amendment is calculated and designed to prevent a repetition of that state of affairs.
We are now electing Members to this Dáil on the basis of the 1956 census and could go on, I believe, according to law doing so until 1973, when the available information will be 17 years old. This amendment proposes to add to Section 3 (2) of Article 16,
A determination of constituencies shall not take place during the interval between the taking of a census of population and the ascertaining of the provisional results thereof. The provisional results of a census may be used in the determination of constituencies if the definitive results of such census are not available.
I should like to substitute there, and I shall do so later, if necessary, "The provisional results of a census must be used" I want to substitute "must be" for "may be".
What happened in 1961 was that the census was taken in April. In May, 1961, the Government proceeded to revise the constituencies on the basis of the 1956 census. I want to say that the Government deliberately arranged to delay the publication of the provisional figures of the 1961 census——
(Cavan):——in order that they could go ahead with the revision of constituencies on out-of-date figures.
(Cavan): I want to provide that this will not happen again. The amendment merely seeks to lay down, as a matter of law, that the constituencies shall not be revised in the interval between the taking of a census of the population and the publication of the provisional results of that census and goes on to say that the provisional result must be used as the basis of the revision. I think that is reasonable.
If we do otherwise, and tolerate a repetition of what happened in 1961, we are merely using a device to get around the Constitution and to get around the law as enacted under the Constitution. A Government can do two things. They can proceed to revise the constituencies immediately the census has been taken and before the provisional figures are announced, or can wait until the provisional figures come out and then proceed to ignore them on the basis that the final figures are not available and that these figures are only provisional. I think that that is something that should be prevented.
We have the bad precedent that the Government did in 1961 exactly what I am objecting to now and what I am seeking to prevent. I think no unbiased or unfettered Member of this House will agree that it is reasonable for a Government to proceed to revise the constituencies after a census has been taken and before the result of that census is known. I say that that is unreasonable. I would say it is something that cannot be justified. Yet it is something that happened in 1961.
Very often, when measures are going through this House, and when I or some other Deputy point out that these measures could be abused, we are told, time and time again, by Ministers from Government benches that the abuse we fear would never take place. I am convinced that, if we had not the precedent of 1961 to warn us, if I made the case I am now making, I should be told from across the floor of the House that I might not fear, that my fears were unjustified, and that no Minister would proceed to revise the constituencies after a census had been taken and before the result was known. I should be told that that simply would not happen but we know it did happen in 1961.
I will go further and say that the provisional figures were deliberately and dishonestly delayed by the Government in 1961 so that they would not be embarrassed by the provisional figures, although they could have ignored them. I want this House to write into this measure now, in case it would be accepted by the people, this amendment which will prevent this type of abuse from taking place again.
First, I must say that Deputy Fitzpatrick made a very dignified contribution. He upheld the dignity of Parliament.
With reference to the point made by Deputy Fitzpatrick, if the census had been taken, as it was taken, in April, 1961, it would be completely and utterly impossible for any Government, faced with a general election, to adopt the census of 1961 when it had only just been taken as it would take some months for the full picture to emerge. Anyhow, I fail to see the point sought to be made as it was not any good to Fianna Fáil, to Fine Gael or to Labour. It was fifty-fifty all round. It was simply a matter of adopting the figures it was possible for the Government to adopt at the time. If we delayed the election, there would be ground for some other sort of complaint.
I do not accept from Deputy Fitzpatrick that any Government would delay the report of the 1961 census. What reason would they have in so doing? It was of no use to us and I do not think it was of any use to Fine Gael or to Labour.
If there were any such thing as changing a constituency, or doing anything like that, all we might have succeeded in doing is that the rural areas might have fewer seats, which God forbid. I should not like to see that happen. It is a good thing to see the representation from rural Ireland and not to have all the representation from the built-up areas. Deputy Fitzpatrick represents a rural constituency. I am sure it would be a very bad thing to see only two seats in County Cavan, and to have many citizens here in Dublin, in part of Limerick or any other area. It is very important that we should help on all sides of the House to ensure that we have representation in these areas.
I am not going into these points but I am going into the point made by the Deputy and I cannot see how any Government Minister could divide up constituencies on the 1961 census. I do not know legally how long it takes to compile a census of the whole country and get reports from various areas but these things are not done overnight. It is not like adding up an ordinary sum: it takes time. I think that Deputy Fitzpatrick made his point well but I fail to see that he has proved anything. Suspicion is not evidence and ambiguous statements get us nowhere. That is all I have to say.
It is neither suspicion nor an empty charge to say that in 1961 the Director of the Central Statistics Office was told by the Taoiseach's Department in no circumstances to publish the provisional results of the 1961 census. That is a matter of fact, and if the Government would allow the creation of an Ombudsman, he would establish it by producing that record and putting it before the House. Without willingness on the part of the Government to do that, we can only assert what we know.
It is also a fact that the Central Statistics Office was not given the staff necessary, the staff usually allocated to it to process the census figures of 1961 because the Government did not want the census figures ascertained, calculated and presented and published to the public while the Supreme Court was in cuckooland trying to calculate whether the Dáil and Seanad had done the right thing upon figures which were at that time known by the Government to be at least five years out of date. The result of what happened is a matter of fact, a matter of certainty and cannot be denied unless the Government are allowing an Ombudsman to go in as of now before the records are destroyed to search the records in the Central Statistics Office. What is a matter of fact is that the Government deliberately stopped these records being prepared and published. It is because of that that the Fine Gael amendment, which Deputy Fitzpatrick has put before the House, has been put down—to render useless any effort by the Government to delay the processing of census figures.
Deputy Burke has ventured to suggest that an impossible situation might arise in which a Government were under obligation to have a general election and could not have it because the census figures were not available. What happened in 1961 arose solely out of the fact that the Government waited until the 59th minute of the eleventh hour of the twelfth year to revise the constituencies which previously had been revised in 1957——
No, they had not. That is not right. They were not revised in 1957.
1948 to 1961.
I meant 1947. The Government waited until the very last moment in the twelfth year to have the revision and even before the President was asked to sign the Bills, they were already outside the constitutional obligation to be the law of the land within 12 years. If any difficulty arose then or in 1961 it was purely because the Government failed in their constitutional obligation in taking steps necessary to revise the constituencies which must be revised not less often than every 12 years. There is no obligation to wait 12 years but there is a constitutional obligation which the court said was there, and it is down in black and white for anybody to see, to revise not less often than every 12 years. But the Government failed to do that. They failed even to make an attempt or a pretence at doing it. When they did make a pretence of doing it, they were found to be grossly wrong and to have brought into consideration many extraneous factors which are not provided for in the Constitution and which indeed are contrary to every accepted principle of decent public behaviour.
What happened in 1959-61 we want to prevent. It can be prevented by the simple amendment which Deputy Fitzpatrick has put before the House, and if the Government refuse to accept it, let the people clearly understand why they are refusing: it is because they again want to fiddle around with the Central Statistics Office. Once again they want to have a census taken and then require the Dáil and Seanad and the courts, if necessary, to pretend that a census has not been taken. They want once again to lead to a situation in which our growing cities and towns are to be deprived of the representation to which they are entitled. They again want to facilitate a situation in which Irish men and women, forced to leave the land and live in cities and work in industries, are to be deprived of equality of political power. That is the only reason they would refuse to accept the most reasonable amendment which the Fine Gael Party put before the Government.
I just want to say that it is a pity Deputy Ryan would not be a little more factual when speaking here. I seldom come here to listen to him but I am here this afternoon——
It is seldom the Deputy is here.
I am here every day and do my duty as far as the people, not only of Dublin but of the country, are concerned. If Deputy Ryan had some facts instead of this usual practice of making statements by innuendo——
I have given the facts. They were not innuendoes; they were charges.
The Deputy was building up hypothetical cases and making charges. I cannot compliment the Deputy. Under the privilege of the House, any Deputy may say anything about anybody, whether true or otherwise——
They were perfectly true, as the Deputy and the Minister know.
Deputy Fitzpatrick made a speech and it was a pleasure to listen to him.
(Cavan): I feel guilty when Deputy Burke compliments me.
Deputy Fitzpatrick does not have to put up with as much of Deputy Burke as I have in different assemblies.
Deputy Ryan is supposed to know everything that has happened. Under the privilege of the House, anybody may say anything he likes. I wonder if Parliament would not be better if Deputies could say only what was really true——
I have said these things elsewhere, if Deputy Burke or anybody else wants to take me up.
Everybody should have the right to speak, but when I listen to Deputy Ryan making ambiguous hypothetical statements like these and saying that he knows what happened in the Taoiseach's office, I want to ask how could Deputy Ryan know that? I do not believe any responsible officer in any Government Department would divulge any statement or any direction he gets from anybody; and if there is such an officer in a Department, he should not be there.
The purge is now on.
Yes, that is a threat of a purge.
No, it is not my wish to injure any individual; in fact I would try to save such a person. I do not know who the man is, but Deputy Ryan has made a statement here, a very undignified statement, implying that a certain officer of the Taoiseach's Department gave information that was confidential. I have nothing against Deputy Ryan personally; we are on a number of committees together. However, it is a pity that people should make such strong statements by ambiguity, by innuendo or otherwise, about people who are not here.
I made them about the Taoiseach and the Government. I did not make any statement about an official.
The Deputy said that an officer of the Taoiseach's Department was told not to produce——
Yes, that is right. The Taoiseach or some member of the Government told them.
That is a very serious statement.
Against the Fianna Fáil Government. I did not make it against any officer. The order came from the Government.
Either it was not made at all or the Deputy did not hear it.
It was made.
The Deputy is suggesting that this information was given by a civil servant who holds a responsible position, a position of dignity and trust.
We have our sources of information, and you can like it or lump it.
As I say, hypothetical statements, implying that we have a number of people employed in trustworthy positions who cannot be trusted and who will repeat what they have heard, undermine the dignity of the House.
I do not know whether Deputy Burke understands the English language, but if he were listening to Deputy Ryan and Deputy Fitzpatrick, he would realise there was no ambiguity here: there was a plain allegation, flat, straight up into the face of the Minister representing the Government, and it is up to the Minister to deal with it before this debate is over. Nobody could misunderstand one word of what Deputy Ryan said. He was saying to the Minister for Local Government that in 1961 the Fianna Fáil Government deliberately contrived to delay the publication of the census figures. There is no ambiguity about that; there is no hypothetical case about it. These are the facts, and each Fine Gael Deputy who stands up here to contribute to the debate on this issue will continue to say these are, unambiguously, the facts.
Even if this amendment by the Fine Gael Party were not prompted by the sorry experience of 1961, is there any possible reason why the Minister should refuse this amendment? We are discussing a fundamental document, the Constitution, in which is contained the sum total of our rights as citizens. The article which the Government now seek to insert in that Constitution, and the article we are discussing at the moment, contains a key word, "population". It says:
A determination of constituencies shall be so effected that if
i. with respect to each of the constituencies, the number of members to be elected for it is divided into its population (as ascertained at the census last preceding the determination),
Then they go on to give the other requirements. If this article which it is sought to insert is to be effective at all, if it is to be effective in the determining sense, it must be limited in the fashion suggested by the amendment we are now discussing. You simply try to ensure that the determination of the constituencies shall not take place during the interval between the taking of a census of population and the ascertaining of the provisional results thereof.
Is there any point at all in determining constituencies with respect to the number of members to be elected divided into the population unless we have figures which are up to date? I can see no reason in the world why the Minister or the Government should in any way resent the introduction of this amendment, which I commend to the House.
I have no resentment to this amendment being introduced, but I want to make it clear why it should not be accepted. In 1961, the circumstances were exceptional. The 12-year period prescribed in the Constitution for revision of constituencies expired in 1959, and a revision of constituencies was made at that time. That revision of the constituencies was found to be repugnant to the Constitution and, accordingly, there was a requirement to carry out a further revision of the constituencies as soon as possible, and this was endorsed by the Supreme Court, which stated:
This Court is of opinion that while the subsection makes it obligatory on the Oireachtas to carry out a revision of constituencies at least once in every 12 years, if this period has been allowed to elapse without a revision being carried out, the obligation remains to carry it out as soon as possible.
The High Court decision declaring the 1959 revision to be unconstitutional was given on 20th February, 1961, and, contrary to what Deputy Fitzpatrick stated, the further Bill to revise the constituencies was introduced on the 7th March, 1961. The 1961 Census was not taken until 9th April, 1961, and the Second Reading of the Bill started in this House on the 12th April, 1961.
What was the date of the introduction of the Bill?
The date of introduction was 7th March, 1961. The 1961 census was taken on 9th April, 1961, and the Second Reading of the Bill commenced in the House on 12th April, 1961, and not in May, as Deputy Fitzpatrick stated. The provisional census returns were published in mid-August, 1961. The date for the 1966 census was 17th April, 1966 and the provisional returns were published on 30th August, 1966. Therefore, the time taken between the taking up of the census in 1961 and the publication of the provisional results was practically the same as in the case of the 1966 census. If anything, the 1961 provisional figures were published in a shorter space of time than the 1966 ones. It can easily be shown therefore that the provisional figures were published within the normal time after the taking up of the census and with every reasonable expedition, but there was a definite requirement on the Government to make the revision of the constituencies as soon as possible, in view of the fact that the 12-year period laid down in the Constitution had already expired.
I do not think there is any need for me to deal with the scurrilous allegations of Deputy Ryan and Deputy Barrett. I know that they have no facts on which to base these allegations. They are made on the spur of the moment and without any foundation whatever and, in fact, as I have shown, these results were published in the normal space of time and in a reasonable space of time in view of the complexity of the task of assembling all the information and publishing it.
This amendment as drafted poses a number of difficulties. There is one particular one which makes it impossible to accept the draft. The provisional results of a census, as Deputy Fitzpatrick must know, do not give a break-down of population figures for constituencies, or wards, or district electoral divisions, or other areas which are used for defining constituencies and which are essential for that purpose. It would not be possible to accept the amendment because the information is not available in the provisional results on which to base a revision of constituencies. It is not possible to carry out a revision on the basis of——
(Cavan): Can the Minister say what information is missing?
This information. You have not got the populations for constituencies. You have not got the populations for wards or district electoral divisions or for other areas which are used to define constituencies. The provisional figures are built up only in relation to counties, rural districts and urban districts and to define constituencies you need DEDs, wards and so on. If you want an amendment proposing this, you must put in an amendment requiring that no revision of constituencies shall be carried out until the definitive results of the census are available. Another matter in regard to provisional results is, I am advised, that these results, which are sufficiently accurate for general purposes, can be up to 4,000 out and normally err on the low side. Deputies can see that a discrepancy of this order might result in under or over representation of particular constituencies. In any case, the information is just not available in sufficient detail in the provisional results. I am also told that the drafting of the amendment is not sufficiently precise because the insertion of "the provisional results of a census" have no statutory significance.
In addition, it is not clear whether this amendment is intended to qualify or to be qualified by the other requirement in the Constitution in regard to a revision being made at least once in every 12 years. In other words, if the end of a 12-year period practically coincided with the time of taking a census, is this amendment intended to make it permissible for, or in fact obligatory on, the Government to postpone their revision of the constituencies until the census figures are available even if that would exceed the 12-year period, or is the 12-year period to be the over-riding consideration? I would be prepared to consider this amendment, provided it is based on definitive results rather than on provisional results because it is only in the definitive results that the information is available in the manner necessary to make a revision of the constituencies. We would also have to consider the effect of the amendment on the other constitutional requirement to effect revisions within a specified period. Subject to that, I have no objection to the principle underlying the amendment. I quite agree that a revision of constituencies should be done on the basis of the most up-to-date information available. Certainly, if a census is due to be taken and if there is a prospect of the definitive results being available within the 12-year period I quite agree that the revision should not be made until they are available.
As I said, the amendment as it is put down here is unworkable and could not be accepted but if Deputy Fitzpatrick will agree to withdraw the amendment I will consider introducing an official amendment on the Report Stage to provide that a determination of the constituencies shall not take place during the interval between the date on which a census is taken and the publication of the definitive results of the census. In this context there will also have to be some clarification of the question whether or not this is to qualify the 12-year period laid down in the Constitution.
(Cavan): I am glad that the Minister did not seek to justify that it would be reasonable to revise the constituencies on a five-year-old census because it is a proposition which could not be justified. There are two things we should bear in mind here. There is the constitutional requirement that the constituencies be revised every 12 years. The taking of the census is a matter which can be regulated by law. There is no constitutional involvement there. I am sure that even the present Acts relating to the taking of a census are wide enough to get the information which the Minister requires in the provisional figures, without waiting for the definitive results. Therefore, I clarify the first point raised by the Minister by saying that I think constituencies ought to be revised every 12 years. As far as I am concerned, and as far as my Party are concerned, that provision should remain in the Constitution and the Minister can regulate by law any way he likes the taking of the census to coincide with that requirement; or he can alter the procedure, which is apparently in operation at the present time, under which the provisional result of the census does not give the detailed information the Minister says he requires to enable him to review constituencies. That is a matter the Minister can regulate.
I have stated what I think about the 12-year period. I think it is fundamental: I think it should remain. I do not know what period of time elapses between the taking of the census and the publication of the final result. I think—I am not, of course, definite about this—that it is about two years. That probably would be too long a period to hold up the revision of constitutencies and the Minister might find himself in trouble with the Constitution if he were to delay that long. My solution is, therefore, to leave the Constitution as it is in regard to the 12-year period and to arrange the taking of the census at a time and in a manner which will permit this to happen.
All this talk is based, of course, on the supposition that people will accept this Bill. I think they will reject it. I think they will be right to reject it and they will get every encouragement from us to reject it. I want to make that clear. I admit I was not satisfied myself with the amendment but, as I have said on numerous occasions here, amendments put down by Members of the Opposition are put down without the expert advice of the Parliamentary Draftsman. They are put down in order to get a principle accepted and, if the Minister accepts the principle, then it is up to him to redraft the amendment. I take a little pride in the fact that two of my amendments, which were dealt with this afternoon, have been accepted as perfect by the Minister and, presumably, by the Parliamentary Draftsman. They are accepted as meeting the requirements.
As I said, I myself found a flaw in this particular amendment. It reads: "The provisional results of a census may be used". That is not strong enough. It follows that, if they may be used, then, equally, they may not be used. If the amendment is accepted, I will bring in another amendment on Report Stage substituting "shall" for "may". If the Minister is prepared to put down an amendment on Report Stage providing that the revision of constituenies shall not take place between the taking of the census and the publication of the definitive result of that census, that would go some of the way to meeting my objection to the provision as drafted. But I am not prepared to extend the 12-year period. What the Minister will have to do, if he is to meet the objection fully, is to accept the amendment as drafted—that is, that the provisional results will be acted upon and he will then have to arrange that these provisional results will contain the information he requires or he will have to arrange matters so that the census will be taken and published in time to allow a revision and determination every 12 years.
The Minister, as I expected, when properly laid charges were made here, charges which could not be substantiated because of the rules protecting State documents, said that the charges, which were properly laid, were scurrilous. The Minister knows what scurrility is and only he understands his own capacity to use the word. On the Minister's interpretation, it would be scurrilous for some person to say that murder had been committed if a person, who had no arms, were found lying prostrate covered with blood from a fatal wound inflicted in the back and, nearby, a dagger covered with the same blood was also found; it would be scurrilous, according to the Minister, to suggest that murder had been committed unless one had proof of the person who committed the murder. The simple fact is that in May, June and July of 1961 the Government took steps to prevent the publication of the provisional census figures of 1961 prior to the determination of the constitutionality of the 1961 Act by the Supreme Court. I am not a stranger to this. It is not something I thought up in 1968. I did not think it would ever be necessary for me to utter what I know to be true. I knew it in 1961 when I was not far removed from the testing by the Supreme Court of the constitutionality of the 1961 Act. I was the person assigned by the court to deal with the matter and I am aware, as of 1961, and since then, of what the Government did.
Can the Deputy give any evidence at all?
I was as anxious then as I have been since not to bring the institutions of this State into disrepute, particularly the Central Statistics Office in which we must have confidence if right decisions in regard to economic and social affairs are to be taken. When in 1968, the Government tried to do once again what the people in 1959 told them they might not do, and when I know the institutions of the State are being tampered with and the integrity of public officials is being undermined by the actions of the Government, I regard it as my duty, in spite of the very personal adjectives which may be hurled at me, to recite what I know to be true. There is a simple way available to the Government if they want to prove the falsehood of it, that is, to appoint an Ombudsman——
This is rather straying from the amendment.
——and as of now, giving custody of all the records of the Central Statistics Office to some person who is beyond the influence of Ministers of state.
On a point of order, are we discussing the amendment or are we going into a general discussion?
The Deputy seems to be going away from the amendment in the name of Deputy Fitzpatrick.
I am discussing the amendment, the purpose of the amendment and the Minister's reply to the arguments advanced in support of the amendment, as Deputy Booth well knows. It is unfortunate that Deputy Booth should try to mislead you, Sir, who personally have gone into the Chair since the debate began and therefore could not be aware of all that has occurred. If Deputy Booth were anxious to maintain fair rules of debate, he would not have tried to mislead you into thinking that this was an extraneous matter introduced for the first time.
It always was extraneous.
It was not. This deals with the necessity to have a provision in the Constitution which will prevent a recurrence of that type of activity.
The Minister has already said he is prepared to do so.
We realise the Minister's preparedness to accept the principle of the amendment. We are not unaware that the Government got themselves into difficulties in 1961 and are not at all happy, even if this Bill were passed, that they would not find themselves in difficulty again because those who do wrong frequently suffer by it. But it would at least go some of the way to preventing their fall and the fall of the nation if the amendment were accepted. We would hope that it will be on another day and in another time, when there is a worthwhile matter for decision, that the necessary amendment will be made to the Constitution in this particular regard, that is, on the lines of the amendment which Deputy Fitzpatrick suggests. As Deputy Fitzpatrick says, we are confident that the Billin toto will, in any event, be rejected but that does not prevent us in the meantime from trying to make a bad Bill somewhat better than it is.
I have made it clear that it took very little, if anything, over four months to publish the provisional results of the census of the State in 1961. Deputy Ryan can make whatever charges he likes but I am satisfied that any normal person will agree that four months was a reasonable time to take to collect this information from all over the country, to assemble it and to publish the provisional results. This is a rather childish effort of Deputy Ryan when, in fact, it took slightly longer to publish the provisional results in relation to the 1966 census and I would be surprised if the results were ever published in a significantly shorter space of time on any previous occasion. I do not believe that there is anybody in the country, except Deputy Ryan, who would consider four months an excessively long time to take to do this work. So far from meriting the charges of corruption Deputy Ryan has hurled against the Central Statistics Office and so far from these charges being justified, I think the Central Statistics Office would be worthy of commendation for having these provisional results out within such a short space of time as four months.
In fact, if there were any concern whatever for the facts on the part of Deputy Ryan, he would have taken the trouble to refresh his memory and he would have discovered that the Revision of Constituencies Bill became law on 14th July, 1961, which was approximately one month before the provisional results were published, so that there was obviously no point in any artificial delay at that time.
I made it quite clear, and it has not been controverted, that there was a requirement on the Government to make this revision as quickly as possible, that the Supreme Court has laid it down that the obligation remains to carry out the revision as soon as possible, that the 12-year period was already up since 1959 and that the decision declaring the 1959 revision to be unconstitutional was given on 20th February, 1961. The Bill was introduced on 7th March, 1961; the census was not taken until 9th April, 1961 and the Second Reading of the Bill was started on 12th April, 1961 and the Bill was enacted on 14th July, 1961. As I said, the provisional census returns were published in mid-August, 1961, and that was quite a good achievement on the part of the Central Statistics Office.
With regard to the suggestion that censuses could be taken in any year that it is wished to take them, I suppose that is possible, all right, but a census is a major undertaking; it is a fairly costly undertaking and I do not think there is any reason why censuses should be taken too frequently. The timing of a national census, to be useful for the purposes for which the figures are required, must have regard to the historical sequence of preceding censuses. For over half a century, censuses have been held in the first syear of a decade—1911, 1931, 1941 and so on—and it has become customary to have limited censuses in mid-decade—1926, 1936, 1946, 1956, 1966, and so on. It is desirable to continue that pattern that has been established of having a full census in the first year of each decade and a limited census in the mid-decade period so that we can maintain the sequence.
We must accept the fact, then, that censuses are held at five-yearly intervals and one of the things that have to be decided before an amendment embodying the principle that is embodied in this amendment can be drafted is, what is to happen if the 12-year period comes at or near the census time, which Article of the Constitution is to take precedence? In drafting the amendment, it has to be made clear whether the 12-year period is to be the primary consideration or this requirement of not making a revision until such time as the census results are available. So that the amendment as it is here is just not workable and I am suggesting to Deputy Fitzpatrick that he might agree to withdraw the amendment and that I will consider introducing an official amendment on Report Stage, as I said earlier.
I mentioned earlier the reasons why the Labour Party would not intervene in the discussion of these amendments and I do not think it is necessary for me to repeat the reasons. We have been listening for some time to amendment No. 5 being discussed and to some doubt being expressed by the Government spokesman, the Minister, and by Fine Gael Deputies as to what would be the wording of the amendment. I have failed to understand in my time here why more simplified language is not used in the drafting of Bills. It is clear there is some doubt as to the proper wording of this subval section. The Minister has indicated that he proposes to have a new sub-section drawn up somewhat on the lines indicated by Deputy Fitzpatrick. What I am anxious to avoid, when this type of language is used in legislation, is having court cases spread over months, with huge fees being handed out, to determine whether a certain word means what we think it means, and so on. In drafting measures, this Parliament should be watchful so that it will not be necessary afterwards to go to the High Court, and later the Supreme Court, and pay thousands of pounds to have an appraisal of what a section or subsection means.
I regard the difference between the Minister's contention and the Fine Gael amendment as very slight indeed. That is my interpretation of it. My only reason for intervening is to point out, as I did earlier, that we believe this Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill is only a window dressing for the Fourth Amendment. It is a move to indicate the Government's so-called interest in the sparsely-populated areas. For that reason, we did not take it seriously. In saying that, I am sure it is most unlikely that this Bill will become law, seeing that it will be subject to the vote of the people. In the unlikely event that it should become law, I would like to see these amendments—not only in this Bill but in all Bills—worded in much more simplified language so that the ordinary person could understand rather than outdated and obsolete legal jargon. It is some kind of heritage we have got from the Middle Ages. It has often been availed of by our legal brethren to procure fine fat briefs. I do not begrudge them money when it is necessary to have a question determined, but the wanton waste of time and public funds in determining the meaning of sections and subsections is something I want to see avoided.
I conclude by saying it is unlikely that the people will approve of this, but, at the same time, I would like to ensure that what we are discussing today should not arise afterwards if by any chance the result is the opposite to what I believe it will be and that we would not have a battle of wits to determine the actual meaning of a section or subsection.
(Cavan): I do not think it would be right to let it appear from the record that my amendment is simply a squabble with the Minister about words, as Deputy Murphy seems to think. That is not so. My amendment is designed to prevent the Minister from using a stale census, a five-year old census, as a basis for changing the constituencies. I do not care what language is used in order to make that clear so long as the point is made clear.
It must be conceded that the point in revising the constituencies is to bring them up to date. Surely you are not going to bring them up to date if you use a yardstick that is outdated, if you use information that is five years old and is changing daily? That is fundamental here. That is what is between the Minister and myself. Indeed, it is not even between the Minister and myself because the Minister is in a most amiable frame of mind this evening.
(Cavan): I hope he is feeling well and that there is nothing wrong with him. The Minister even concedes that it is not reasonable to use this stale information to bring something up to date. I want to put that on the record.
The next thing I want to comment on is the Minister's statement that he would have difficulty in changing the year for taking the census because it has been taken in the first year of the decade from 1901 or 1911. We are in an age of change at the moment. Without being absolutely certain that it is possible to do so, I fail to see any great difficulty in synchronising the date of the census and the date of the revision of the constituencies, or to have the census taken, we will say, a year before it is necessary to revise the constituencies and see to it that the information obtained in the census is available.
I do not mind how the Minister does it. My amendment is not perfect: perhaps it does not even ensure that I will get what I want. What I want is to ensure that a stale, outdated census, containing obsolete information, will not be used to bring the constituencies up to date. I would suggest to the Minister that the amendment he introduces on Report Stage should be worded differently from mine. That just shows the value of debate and argument here. The amendment should take the form of writing into the Constitution that the constituencies shall not be revised on the basis of a census taken more than a specified time, say, nine to 12 months, before the introduction of the Bill to revise the constituencies. That would do the job I am trying to do better than the amendment I have tabled would do it.
I hope I have made myself clear on that point. I think an amendment in that form would be better than the amendment I have down because if the Government of the day wanted to act dishonestly and to use a stale census they could do so, even if my amendment as drafted were accepted, by getting to work just before the census or in the dying months of the census. Therefore I strongly recommend to the Minister that he should consider proceeding as suggested by me since I last spoke.
It seems to me that there is no difference in principle between the Minister's proposal and the amendment. Some members of the Fine Gael Front Bench made categorical charges against the Minister and the Government about the way they conducted the census of 1961 and the revision of constituencies at that time. The Minister has denied those allegations and has proved otherwise. It does not deceive us here, and I do not think it will deceive the people outside, when a man says if the Minister accepts an amendment that he is being forced to accept it by the Fine Gael Party, as Deputy Ryan suggested, and that they have saved the people from a tremendous act of injustice or discrimination. If, on the other hand, he does not accept an amendment, he is immediately branded as a tyrant using force of numbers to push any ill tion through against the people of Ireland. It seems to me that the Miniter and the Government cannot do right according to Fine Gael.
We are playing with words. I have a great deal of sympathy with what was said by Deputy Murphy that we are toying with words and playing with "whereases". We must realise that there is no difference of principle involved. The Minister and the Government are as anxious as anyone that the most up-to-date census should be used in the division and apportioning of the constituencies. I cannot understand this debate being prolonged for nearly an hour to frame exact words when we are agreed in principle. The Minister has agreed to Deputy Fitzpatrick's amendment in principle and that should be the finish of it.
(Cavan): I will withdraw the amendment on the Minister's assurance that he will consider the matter again and introduce an amendment on Report Stage.
Tarraingíodh siar an leasú faoi chead.
(Cavan): Tairgim leasú 6:—
I move amendment No. 6:—
I gCuid I, leathanach 7, línte 2 go 5, "ar fhairsinge agus ionsroicht-eacht dáilcheanntar agus ar a riach-tanaighe atá sé límistéirí caothamhla ionadaidheachta do chur ar fagháil agus, fá n-a réir sin,", a scriosadh;
I gCuid II, leathanach 7, línte 19 go 21, "the extent and accessibility of constituencies and the need for securing convenient areas of representation and, subject to those considerations, to", a scriosadh.
In Part I, page 6, lines 2 to 5, to delete "ar fhairsinge agus ionsroicht-eacht dáilcheanntar agus ar a riach-tanaighe atá sé límistéirí caothamhla ionadaidheachta do chur ar fagháil agus, fá n-a réir sin,";
In Part II, page 6, lines 19 to 21, to delete "the extent and accessibility of constituencies and the need for securing convenient areas of representation and, subject to those considerations, to".
The article of the proposed new section concludes:
Subject to the foregoing requirement of this sub-section, regard shall be had at a determination of constituencies to the extent and accessibility of constituencies and the need for securing convenient areas of representation and, subject to those considerations, to the desirability of avoiding the overlapping by constituencies of the boundaries of administrative Counties (other than boundaries between those Counties and County Boroughs).
My amendment seeks to delete the words:
"the extent and accessibility of constituencies and the need for securing convenient areas of representation and, subject to those considerations, to".
It would then read:
Subject to the foregoing requirements of this sub-section, regard shall be had at a determination of constituencies to the desirability of avoiding the overlapping by constituencies of the boundaries of administrative Counties (other than boundaries between those Counties and County Boroughs).
I understand that when this matter was before the courts there was some decision or some suggestion that an effort should be made not to overlap the county boundaries, although in this year, 1968, it is difficult to understand the case which is being made that the county boundaries are sacred at a time when we have members of the Government from the Taoiseach down preaching regionalisation in other spheres: regionalised health and regionalisation for this and that. I am just pointing out the inconsistency of the Taoiseach when he makes this case. I do not think I am being inaccurate when I say that Government policy appears at the moment to be towards regionalisation.
These additional provisions which I seek to delete appear to me to have been inserted solely for the convenience of Deputies. The Government in a two-phase operation seek to reduce the size of the constituencies from the multi-member constituency to the single-member constituency and, at the same time, to write in that regard shall be had "to the extent and accessibility of constituencies and the need for securing convenient areas of representation and, subject to those considerationsel" I do not think this is necessary and, in my opinion, it would simply provide another excuse for doing what the Government have sought to do in these two Bills, that is, to rig the constituencies to suit themselves. I think the less handles and the less provisions of this sort we write into this measure — if it goes through—the better.
We have had complaints from Deputy Murphy and Deputy Healy about putting legislation through this House which it is difficult to interpret. That is just the sort of thing we are doing here. We are having regard to all sorts of things that could be argued about for six months. If we adhered to the simple straight philosophy of Irish democracy enshrined in the dictum of one man, one vote, we would know where we were going, and there would be no difficulty about interpreting complicated measures which Deputy Murphy and Deputy Healy fear there would be. We are going to have not only this tolerance but the one-sixth as well. We are allowing the Minister and the Government of the day to have regard to all these extraneous and unnecessary matters.
Not as well.
(Cavan): They will have plenty of elbow room to move anywhere they like. In arriving at this tolerance and in carving up the constituencies, they will be able to take all these matters into consideration. There could be a fine long argument in the High Court and the Supreme Court as to whether the constitutional provisions which the Government are now seeking to put through have been observed. If you do as I suggest in this amendment, you will simplify the matter. I shall have a lot to say about tolerance later. However, as I say, these additional levers and extraneous considerations are altogether unnecessary.
One would think from the section of the Bill that this nation of ours was a vast empire with inaccessible regions which were incapable of being reached without days and weeks of immense physical endurance. One would think we did not live in the age of the telephone, the radio, the five-penny post, the railway, bus services and air transport and that the Minister therefore wants to put into a Bill, and is asking the people to accept in the referendum, that there are parts of this land which are inaccessible.
We, in the Fine Gael Party, live in the 20th century—and we look into the 21st. We do not accept that there are any regions in this country so inaccessible that preferential representation is to be given to them. One would think we were dealing with a vast community of nations, some of which had concentrated populations and others of which were across seas and oceans with sparsely populated areas. One would think we were establishing a federal government in which it might be thought fair to give advantageous representation to inaccessible areas of the united states simply because they were inaccessible. It is plain poppycock, balderdash, unmitigated rubbish of the first order, to suggest that preferential representation has to be given to any parts of this country on the basis of inaccessibility.
If the amendment is not accepted, we could well have a situation in which the closing-down of a railway would entitle people to more Deputies because an area was being made more inaccessible. We could have a situation in which the discontinuance of a bus service would entitle an area to additional representation. We could have a situation in which the advancing age of the Deputies representing that consituency would justify, within the law, the giving of additional representation to the constituency merely on the ground thatanno Domini made a constituency less accessible to an old man than to a young man. All of these would be perfectly valid considerations, within the law, in the light of the kinds of rubbish and fantastic ideas the Government seek to provide in the Bill.
If there were agreement as to where some of our natural physical difficulties lay, we might at least be able to know the Government's intentions. I remember the then Minister for Local Government giving evidence on oath in the High Court on behalf of the Government, evidence which was not accepted by the court even though it was given on oath, that the Government's view was that mountain ranges which, on the map, were shown to run from north to south in their political experience ran from east to west, and accordingly that the boundary should be drawn from east to west and not from north to south. I can see that Deputy Corry is puzzled by all this. I cannot imagine that he readily accepts that the people do not know the direction in which mountain ranges run. I cannot imagine he, or many others, would consider there is room for debate as to where rivers run or populations lie. I heard that argued for days on end in court. The transcript of evidence is available for anyone who wishes to read it.
Who is to determine the accessibility of constituencies? Who is to determine how many obstacles people have to go up, over and across in order to reach constituencies? These are things that are not certain. One would think they would be. One would think the Government of the day would know their Irish geography, but they do not. The courts cannot assume these things. They cannot take judicial knowledge of things which are uncertain outside the court. Therefore, this provision the Government seek is quite clearly a provision to enable them to trick around with constituencies to their political advantage. On the other hand, there is no doubt at the moment about the location of administrative boundaries whether they be counties, county boroughs or metropolitan boroughs.
I came into the House while Deputy Fitzpatrick was speaking. I think I am correctly interpreting his remarks about possible changes in administrative regions which may arise in the future but I have no doubt that the populations will be known: I should not anticipate any great difficulty in relation to them. These are matters which ought to be quite clear and about which there should be no dispute —as there has been dispute about the accessibility of constituencies, about the location of the natural, physical and other obstacles and features in the country. I am convinced there is no valid reason for accepting the argument the Government are making that accessibility of constituencies should be taken into consideration in the determination of a constituency.
Every part of this country is reasonably accessible. No part of it is so inaccessible as to justify advantageous representation against other parts. We are not a mighty empire requiring days of travel in order to reach people or in order to allow people to reach their representatives. In the days when Irish Parliamentarians were obliged to travel on foot or on horseback to reach their Parliament in Dublin, they did so from far-flung regions in this country which then consisted of 32 counties. We now have a State consisting of 26 counties. We have all kinds of modern travel aids—the motorcar, the bus, the railway, the aeroplane. Deputies have been known to arrive on bicycles and to be photographed and put on record as so doing. Modern travel facilities are available for accessibility of Parliament and constituencies.
I think of the days when public representatives in this country were obliged, in the discharge of their national duty, to tramp from the furthest points of this country to some port to embark on a ship, to cross to English ports and there to travel across the length of Britain to speak in the Parliament in London. I am not aware that in those days anyone sought to change the representation because of the accessibility or otherwise of any particular region. Why is it in this day and age, when all the discomforts and hardships which had to be endured by our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers are no longer obligatory on us, that we have a Government concerned with their own convenience and the convenience of Deputies? It is extremely bad that we should write into our Constitution a provision which is there purely out of an anxiety on the part of a Government to make life softer and easier for Deputies. It is not the purpose of a Constitution to make life easy for particular people. The purpose of a Constitution in any society is to make life better for all. You are not making life better for all if you prevent people having equal voice in deciding national policy, or if you thwart the voice of the people. If you introduce political inequality out of consideration for the convenience of Deputies, you are doing a grave disservice to the people of our time and those who follow us.
Both Deputy Fitzpatrick and Deputy Ryan alleged that this is intended solely for the convenience of Deputies or, as Deputy Ryan put it, to make life easier for certain Deputies. This is not so. There is also the question of constituents and it is considered desirable that constituents should be adequately represented, and if the areas to be covered by their representatives are excessive, it is beyond doubt that they would not get the proper representation or the same standard of representation as they would get with reasonably sized areas and reasonably accessible areas. It is not only the Deputies who have to travel but the constituents also.
On this matter, the Fine Gael attitude appears to have changed since the last proposed amendment of the Constitution in 1959. There is nothing unusual in that. In 1959, Deputies T.F. O'Higgins and Declan Costello put down an amendment in these terms:
The Oireachtas shall revise the constituencies at least once in every 12 years on a fair and equitable basis and in accordance with the principles of social justice and, in so far as it is practicable, with changes in the distribution of the population, and the geographical features and the established administrative and territorial divisions and the wishes of the electorate in the area or areas to be affected and generally so as best to ensure that all classes and sections in the community shall have fair and adequate representation.
(Cavan): I am sorry; I did not hear who proposed that amendment.
Deputies T.F. O'Higgins and Declan Costello.
(Cavan): On the previous occasion?
On the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1958.
Social justice is there too. What the Minister and the Government are now proposing is not social justice.
Social justice is not defined. I do not mind putting in social justice but I do not think anybody knows what it means. You have "the geographical features and the established administrative and territorial divisions and the wishes of the electorate"—however these are to be ascertained—"in the area or areas to be affected and generally so as best to ensure that all classes and sections in the community shall have fair and adequate representation."
(Cavan): Did the Minister accept the amendment?
No, I do not think so.
(Cavan): Would the Minister mind reading out the arguments against it?
I shall leave that for Deputy Fitzpatrick but I can imagine what the arguments were, that the provision that was in the 1958 Bill was already adequate to allow this to be done. At that time, the High Court had not been called upon to give the interpretation of the Constitution which it has since given, but at the same time, the Bill did include a provision making it clear that the phrase "as far as is practicable" would be held to make it permissible to take geographical features and so on into account. I should imagine that the argument against this was that what was in the Bill was already sufficient to allow this to be done.
It seems to me that it is just not possible to arrange things here to avoid the Opposition, and particularly the Fine Gael Party, becoming confused The whole operation of the two proposed amendments of the Constitution has consisted of an effort to avoid confusing the Fine Gael Party but they still seem to be confused. First of all, we were making just the one proposal, putting it all into one measure, and they were confused. They could not understand the two things rolled into one.
(Cavan): We understood what you were up to too well. That is why we made you separate them.
We agreed to separate them in order to try to relieve the confusion in the minds of the Fine Gael Party, although, as I said, in 1959 the only real difference was that no specific maximum divergence was laid down in the Bill, and on that occasion the Opposition apparently were not confused. So there seems to have been a substantial deterioration in the capacity of the Fine Gael Front Bench to understand things since then because they now claim to be confused. However, we did separate the proposals and when this was done, they found it would be confusing to consider the two of them separately.
(Cavan): This would seem to be more relevant on the section than on the amendment.
I am getting down to an indication that Deputy Fitzpatrick has given that he is still confused because he sees, or thinks he sees—he mentioned it himself on this amendment—some application of the principle of one man, one vote, but it is actually in the other Bill that we are trying to establish that principle and trying to get rid of the present system of plurality of voting accorded in a discriminatory way to certain members of the community and not to others.
(Cavan): What the Minister is saying in the other Bill is that 33 per cent is a majority of the votes cast.
(Cavan): Indeed it is.
It is in the other Bill that we are dealing separately with this principle of one man, one vote. We are trying to establish that principle in this country, a principle which applies in most other countries. This principle of one man, one vote is not relevant to this Bill at all. It is in the other Bill, the Fourth Amendment Bill and there we will try to get the people to establish this principle of one man, one vote, and the Opposition will try to prevent the principle of one man, one vote being established. It does not apply here. What we are trying to do here is to ensure that the unjust things that had to be done in 1961 to comply with the decision of the High Court will not occur again, and that there will be reasonable scope for avoiding the perpetration of injustices such as those on the people of certain parts of the country in future. The Deputies on the opposite side of the House, both on the Labour Benches and on the Fine Gael Benches, are trying to prevent that, having again changed their minds since 1961. Deputies on all sides of the House are on record as having demanded in 1961 exactly what is being done here, and we naturally expected complete unanimity with regard to this proposal, because there was a unanimous demand from the Opposition to do this. The only possible criticism we could have expected was that the proposed permissible divergence would be too small. I do not want to go into that, because, as Deputy Fitzpatrick says, we shall be going into it on the section.
With regard to this question of accessibility and the travelling of huge distances, and so on, to which Deputy Ryan referred, I do not think anybody wanted to exaggerate distances, but it is a fact that there is more difficulty in keeping in touch with some constituencies than others and that these can develop further in the future. We consider that there should be reasonable scope to avoid placing certain Deputies and certain sections of the population in undue difficulty. This amendment, as far as I interpret it, presupposes that the divergence of one-sixth from the national average has already been implemented; in other words, it assumes that there is a permissible divergence of one-sixth from the national average. I am suggesting to the House that, without these guidelines which we are asking should be laid down in this part of the subsection, that divergence of one-sixth would be open to criticism and would be difficult to interpret, if the only thing which could be taken into consideration was the desirability of avoiding the overlapping by constituencies of the boundaries of administrative counties. We think that these other considerations are also relevant, and this is the type of consideration that is regarded as relevant in countries other than this, for instance, in Great Britain, where the average area per seat in Parliament would not be any greater than here. However, the question of shape and accessibility of a constituency is a relevant consideration there.
I thought we had won our freedom from Britain, so that we did not have to extend her laws to this jurisdiction.
There is no suggestion of accepting her laws. I am merely pointing out that the average area to be covered by a member of the British Parliament is certainly no greater, and I would say is considerably less than the average area to be covered by a Deputy of Dáil Éireann; and yet it is considered there—I agree that the population represented by them is higher—that the question of the size and accessibility of the constituency should be a relevant matter in delineating the constituencies. We are not asking for anything like the latitude that is allowed in England and Wales the In respect of England and Wales the rules are that, so far as is practicable:
(i) no county or any part thereof shall be included in a constituency which includes the whole or part of any other county or the whole or part of a county borough or metropolitan borough;.
All we are suggesting on those lines is that, subject to a maximum divergence from the national average of one-sixth, regard shall be had to the desirability of avoiding the overlapping by constituencies of the boundaries of administrative councils. The next rule is:
(ii) No county borough or any part thereof shall be included in a constituency which includes the whole or part of any other county borough or the whole or part of a metropolitan borough:
We are not asking for that at all here. The rules go on to say:
(iii) no metropolitan borough or any part thereof shall be included in a constituency which includes the whole or part of any other metropolitan borough;
(Cavan): We are leaving you the county boundaries. The amendment does not prevent you from having regard to the county boundaries.
I know that. I am only saying that what we are asking for is not by any means as much as is allowed in other countries. This provision would mean nothing, unless the one-sixth divergence from the national average is also accepted. In England and Wales, it is fairly effectively provided that this overlapping of other counties or boroughs cannot take place.
(Cavan): Anything about accessibility?
Yes, I am coming to that. It says:
5. The electorate of any constituency shall be as near the electoral quota as is practicable having regard to the foregoing rules; and a Boundary Commission may depart from the strict application of the last foregoing rule if it appears to them that a departure is desirable to avoid an excessive disparity between the electorate of any constituency and the electoral quota, or between the electorate thereof and that of neighbouring constituencies in the part of the UK with which they are concerned.
6. A Boundary Commission may depart from the strict application of the last two foregoing rules if special geographical considerations, including in particular the size, shape and accessibility of a constituency, appear to them to render a departure desirable.
There is much greater scope allowed in other countries. Neither I nor my Department know of any country in which there is a requirement such as exists here according to the interpretation of the Constitution by the High Court.
I can give examples of what the application of this rule in England, Scotland and Wales means, what it has resulted in, and Deputies will see that a much greater divergence is allowed there than what we are asking for here. What I want to point out is that this question of the accessibility of the constituencies is considered relevant. I quite agree we have reasonable means of communication here. Largely due to the Fianna Fáil road policy, the equitable allocation of road moneys from the Road Fund—which the Fine Gael Party wanted to know about today and then suddenly decided it did not want to know, because the information would be embarrassing—all parts of the country have a fairly good road system.
I see Deputy Cunningham frowning.
We have got an increase.
Poor old Donegal. You could not say that it was all accessible.
You cannot say that the present Minister is a Donegalman.
At the same time, there are areas which are more difficult of access than others. There are areas in which the task of Deputies getting around their constituencies is more which getting in touch with Deputies by constituents is similarly difficult. The idea in this is to give a very small amount of scope to the Government, or to the Commission, depending on whether the Fourth Amendment Bill is passed or not, to take account of these very practical considerations. These are considerations which were held——
In other countries they are called gerrymandering.
——to be practical by the Supreme Court when it decided that:
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 Oireachtasel
I agree that in the constituency of Dublin South-West the existence of such physical features as rivers, lakes, or mountains may not appear very relevant——
In other areas these things may seem quite relevant to Deputies. For instance, if the proposals which we are putting before the House, and which we hope to put before the people, are not accepted, it may be very likely that it will be necessary to transfer part of the present constituency of South-West Cork to County Kerry. The existence of the mountain range between West Cork and Kerry would be considered quite a relevant factor by the people concerned, the Deputies, the Party organisations and the voters who would be inconvenienced by such a revision of the constituency and who, according to the statements by Opposition speakers in onerous than in other areas and in 1961, would be virtually disfranchised by such an arrangement. It is to avoid this disfranchisement of people that we are asking that——
That did not worry you in 1961.
Not at all: you disfranchised a lot of people.
We had to. The High Court compelled us to do that. In 1959, we had endeavoured not to do that. We had brought in a revision of constituencies which avoided, in so far as it was possible, doing things like that. The Fine Gael Party through a subterfuge had that declared unconstitutional. They arranged for an individual to challenge that decision—which had been unanimously accepted in the House—in the courts and as a result that revision of constituencies was declared repugnant to the Constitution and it became necessary to revise the constituencies again in 1961. Because the High Court decision was to the effect that you must try to get mathematical accuracy in the number of population per Deputy in each constituency throughout the country, it was necessary to do these things which Deputies on the Opposition side of the House in particular found highly objectionable in 1961. Apparently now they do not.
Faced with a situation in which a much more serious butchering of counties and constituencies must take place they apparently look on this with equanimity. The only reason I can give for it is that, confused as the Opposition are about everything else, there is on thing they are not confused about and that is the literal meaning of the word "opposition". They find it difficult to understand what was quite a simple proposition for electoral reform. They are not able to understand that. They know that opposition means opposing and they interpret the duty of an Opposition to oppose everything. As late as 1961, they demanded what we are asking the Dáil and the people to do now, when the requirement to dismember counties and constituencies was not anything like as severe as it is at present, but now, when a much worse situation faces the country, they decide to oppose it just because the proposal was brought in by Fianna Fáil.
As it is being brought in by Fianna Fáil, I can and will clearly show that it is brought in in response to the unanimous demands of the two Opposition Parties in 1961, and I will give the quotations from both of the Opposition Parties where they demanded that the Constitution be amended to prevent this undemocratic butchery of the well-established administrative and territorial areas. Some of the Opposition Deputies who spoke admitted that this was necessary at that particular time because of the decision that Fine Gael had extracted from the High Court at that time.
(Cavan): That is nearly as insulting as the Minister's remarks about——
(Cavan): The Minister is now insulting the High Court. He insulted the clergy, the High Court and anybody——
I am not insulting the High Court. I am not even questioning the decision: I am accepting it. I am saying that it was assumed since 1922 by the Members of this House that the phrase "as far as is practicable" could be interpreted in a different way and that in 1959 the Fine Gael Party contrived to bring this before the High Court. They got this legalistic interpretation of the phrase, "so far as is practicable", and thereby compelled the Government to change the revision of constituencies that had been unanimously accepted in 1959. They compelled the Government to do such unjust and such undemocratic things as tacking on portion of Meath and Westmeath to County Kildare——
And giving a fourth seat to Kildare for Fianna Fáil.
——part of Louth to County Monaghan, part of Roscommon to County Mayo, part of Leitrim to Roscommon and the rest to Sligo, part of Waterford to South Tipperary and part of Wexford to Carlow-Kil-kenny. It was the Fine Gael Party manoeuvre that compelled that to be done. In order to comply with the High Court requirement, it was necessary to do these things in 1961, but some Opposition Deputies appealed and demanded that the Government would move after the election to have the Constitution amended so that this kind of nonsense would not be necessary in future. Now, we did not do it immediately. The revision of constituencies had been effected. The Dáil had been returned on the basis of that revision and we did not take any steps to amend the Constitution. We let thestatus quo prevail and another general election was fought on the same scheme of constituencies. But, as soon as the figures in the census were published, certain Deputies saw an opportunity of getting more convenient areas of representation for themselves.
Deputy Dunne is one example. He suddenly realised that the constituency he was representing was now, in accordance with the High Court's interpretation of the Constitution, entitled to greater representation and, therefore, if a revision were made now, he would be likely to get a smaller area to represent. He was quick enough to see that the Constitution, in fact, required a revision of constituencies to be made now and it was when that situation presented itself to the Government, and when we saw what would have to happen if this demanded revision of constituencies were made, that we decided to comply with the demands of the two Opposition Parties and to ask the people to amend the Constitution so as to give a certain minimum amount of scope to the Government to avoid this undemocratic thing that had to be done in 1961 and that would have to be done on a much more widespread scale on this occasion.
I pointed out to the House on Second Reading that this would have to happen in practically every county from Donegal to Kerry and Wexford and what would happen in one county would affect other counties. There would be a kind of chain reaction. I pointed out that there were, in fact, only 14 of the 38 constituencies which complied at present with constitutional requirements, but that did not mean that even those 14 could remain untouched because they would be affected by the changes required to comply with the Constitution in other constituencies. In fact, although we had a revision as recently as 1961, and although the Constitution appears to require a revision at periods of only 12 years, still it was necessary now to revise constituencies again. A further transfer of substantial numbers of the population from one county to another and from one province to another would be required on a large scale and we would have complaints of injustice and complaints of disfranchisement from all over the country instead of from the comparatively few areas in which this had to be done by 1961.
I am absolutely certain that had we complied with the demands of Deputy Dunne, and a few other Deputies, and had we brought in a revision of constituencies based on the present provisions of the Constitution, there would have been an outcry from both of the Opposition Parties and a demand from them to bring in an amendment of the Constitution and have a referendum so that the people would get an opportunity of requiring this injustice and this nonsense to be stopped forthwith. There is no doubt whatever about that and Deputies on the opposite side of the House know that is so. I know they do not do their homework. They got the figures in reply to a Parliamentary Question.
We do our own homework. We have not got an army of civil servants to do it for us. All the Minister does is read what they write.
(Cavan): The Minister complained on the Road Traffic Bill that we had done our homework too well.
I complained that Deputies would not let the Bill come before the House.
(Cavan): The Minister complained that as good a case as could be made was made.
If there is any Deputy really interested in what would have to happen, all the necessary figures were given in answer to a Parliamentary Question.
(Cavan): Why would the Minister not give us a commission on this? The Minister talked about a commission on the other Bill but he kept it carefully out of this.
You can only put it into one Bill. You could not have two provisions for a commission at the same time.
(Cavan): Of course you could.
If Deputies are incapable of understanding a simple Bill——
(Cavan): I am perfectly capable of understanding.
The Parties opposite could not understand what we were proposing.
(Cavan): I knew what the Minister was proposing.
It was too complicated. It was all in one Bill. We separated the proposals and put them into two Bills, and that naturally meant that the provision for the commission could only go into one Bill. We separated them and, when we had them separated, the Parties opposite were too confused to discuss them separately. They decided they could not discuss them separately; they would have to discuss the two together.
It was the Minister suggested that.
(Cavan): That was the Minister's proposal.
Deputies were given on 26th March all the figures necessary for them to see the type of thing it would be necessary to do, if a revision of constituencies were to be made now.
But they are not sufficiently interested. Apparently they interpret their function here in a very simple way: if Fianna Fáil propose something, they oppose it. It does not matter whether it is right or wrong.
It is a fair assumption that it is wrong.
Tugadh tuairsc ar a ndearnadh; an Coiste do shuí arís.