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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 6 Jun 1968

Vol. 235 No. 5

An Bille um an gCeathrú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1968: An Coiste (Atógáil). Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1968: Committee Stage (Resumed).

D'atógadh an díospóireacht ar an dtairiscint seo a leanas:
Go bhfanfaidh fó-alt 1º i bPáirteanna I agus II mar chuid den Sceideal.
Debate resumed on the following Motion:
That subsection 1º in Parts I and II stand part of the Schedule.

When dealing with this matter last night, I was drawing attention to the present position in my constituency which is something over 100 miles long. It is a kind of stretch on which you would not know where to start or finish. I can look after my constituents: I am long enough here to look after them. This position is all right where you have a five-seat constituency as we have and where you have two Deputies elected from each Party, but where you have one Deputy elected as you have in the Labour Party at present, he has difficulty in looking after his constituents from Rockchapel down to Youghal. It is a practically impossible task. At the same time, his salary and emoluments are only the same as those of the gentlemen over there from Dublin who can gallop around their constituency at a bob a time: I was contradicted last night when I said they could do it for the price of a fourpenny bus ticket. It would take more than a bob a gallon to go from Youghal to Rockchapel: you would be a time doing it. Even our Committee on Procedure and Privileges have known that for the past 40 years, which will show you the Dublin influence in this House. It is completely unfair and unjust.

I heard a yarn here about people not wishing to go for favours to a man they voted against. I am a long time here and I have seen none of it. There are as many Fine Gael supporters coming to me to my various stations— Fine Gael and Labour men—and I know them and they know I know they did not vote for me. However, they come in because they say: "After all, experience teaches, and that old lad can do the job when others fail." That is the way they look at it. It is above board. There are people who say they went to Deputy Stephen Barrett but, "hang it, he could not do it and Martin did it". Perhaps there are people from my constituency going up to Deputy Stephen Barrett and talking in the same way about me. You have that condition of affairs.

You are a second Saint Jude.

You have the injustice of one Deputy being expected to look after people in a stretch of country as long as 100 miles, while another Deputy, as I said last night, can pick up his constituents in a bus: a bob bus will take you to any part of Dublin. Those Dublin fellows have not even the gumption to have the station we have. I have to have one station in Youghal, Cloyne, Midleton, Cobh, Blarney and so on, where I attend each time——

You are going through the primaries.

You will have to pull up your socks at the next election. You are an old friend and I should be very sorry to lose you.

My socks are well darned.

We have people here who have the misfortune to believe that the single-seat constituency is the right one and who still have to trot into the lobby to vote against it. We have that misfortune here. It is a political misfortune that they cannot help. I am alluding to poor Deputy Dillon over there. He has my utmost sympathy. Any man who described proportional representation in this House as a fraud and a cod and a product of the brains of all the cranks in creation and who will then walk up the lobby and vote against putting an end to proportional representation, well, all one can wonder is what intelligence is in a man like that. I am sorry for him: honestly, I am.

We know what is happening. I am not blind at all to what is happening. For the past three weeks or a month, they are down in my constituency carving a slice off it to attach to West Waterford for the next round. You need not think I have not my ears to the ground: I have. You have that kind of thing happening. You do not know where you will find yourself. They say that three removes are as bad as a fire. My fourth time round, I found myself back where I started in a five-seat constituency but with this difference, that it had a tail 40 miles long stretching from Rockchapel out into Mallow and then further on to White-gate. That ridiculous thing is going on for years. I had part of Deputy Stephen Barrett's constituency and, signs on it, I was able to go back there at every by-election and round up my percentage of the votes on the right side— and nothing Deputy: Barrett could or would do could change that. He knows it and I know it, and we are quite happy, then.

Take a Deputy who is elected for the first time to represent a constituency. He comes in and breaks his neck for years looking after every part of it. Then, suddenly, there is a revision of constituencies, as they call it, and he finds himself with about a thousand votes less out of his own constituency and a splitting-up of someone else's constituency. I represent from Kinsale on the one side down to Charleville on the other. My constituency is Rockchapel, Newmarket, Kanturk, Mallow, Charleville, Buttevant, Midleton, Fermoy, Cobh, Mitchelstown, Youghal and not forgetting Blarney——

Can anyone imagine a Deputy elected for his Party having to travel that area and look after the people there? Thank God, I am as healthy now as I was 40 years ago; otherwise I would not be able to do it. Then you have the fellow who lies down in the corner at the far end of the constituency. I want to get after him and make him stand his ground in a single-seat constituency. That would change the aspect of things in this House enormously. People may say that Fianna Fáil will get a majority of all seats: perhaps they will get a majority in many constituencies the first time but people are very discriminating. They will say: "That is the fellow to whom I wrote four letters which he did not answer. I will vote against him the next time." Or, "that is the fellow who was missing when we knocked on his door. We will not go to him again." If a Deputy has a definite field and a definite line-up in that field, he will be a better Deputy than he would otherwise be, no matter how good he is at present. I have seen Deputies here from all Parties: I have seen the dodgers. When I look around after every election, I wonder where they have gone. That is why I am altogether in favour of the single-seat constituency. It is a personal view but an honest one.

As things are going, one's biggest enemy at the general elections is the fellow put up by one's own Party beside one. He is the man you must watch and fight: you can forget the other fellows.

I do not wish to delay the House but I have seen the dish that is being prepared for the next election already. I have seen a big slice being handed to Waterford. I saw how that worked out before and I saw the difficulty of it. I saw one of the most decent men who ever came into the House from Youghal and he was put up and he had not a dog's chance. The Waterford man will vote for the Waterford man and the Cork man for the Cork man. I am speaking with 40 years experience of a matter in which I have taken an interest and of which I have made a study. If I did not do this, I would not be here. A Deputy does not know whether he had better work one side of the constituency or the other because he does not know which side will go from him on the next occasion. That is nonsensical. Personally, I do not mind. I am here working for my people for about £500 a year. That is all I get. If I stayed at home I would get much more. I am amazed that the Committee on Procedure and Privileges has done nothing in the past 40 years as regards the discrepancy in expenses between those who can travel their constituency by making a couple of bus journeys and those who have to travel 100 miles through their constituencies and spend money on it.

That does not arise on this measure.

This provision is a sordid conspiracy on the part of the Fianna Fáil Party to destroy the Labour Party in this country.

What a hope they have.

The Minister for Local Government may come in here with massive files provided for him by the best Civil Service in Europe, giving him mountains of statistics which he places upon the records of the House in speeches of great length. They are utterly irrelevant. We oppose these proposals and I propose to be brief in my remarks because the sooner we get to the country and determine this in a referendum, the better it will be for the country.

I am a long time in the public life of this country and all belonging to me have been in public life for a century and a half and I claim the right to speak with some authority. Surveying the world in which we live, I warn Oireachtas Éireann: send no minority in this country out of Parliament to the barricades. We are living in a world of violence. We have every right to be proud in Ireland that minorities have consistently found their way to this House, have been heard with respect and had their rights as Deputies protected by the Ceann Comhairle. The people have watched them and judged them and either returned them again or dismissed them into the obscurity from which they should never have emerged. But there is no use pretending in 1968 that the voice of organised labour is not entitled to be heard in Dáil Éireann. Much of what it says I disagree with but I glory in the fact that every single member of that minority Party has the same right to have his voice heard in our Parliament as the Leader of the House, the Taoiseach, or the Leader of the Opposition or any other Deputy, great or small. I do not give a damn about all the statistics that are trotted out here about how the Minister will be bewildered if he is charged with the task of rearranging the constituencies.

That applies to the other Bill also.

That is all fraudulent cod. I have been a Minister of State and I know this matter can be attended to in a rational and intelligent way without the slightest difficulty, but you can produce every kind of irrelevant horror and raise every kind of intimidating ghost for the sole purpose of serving the base unworthy motive that at present inspires a minority, I believe, of the Fianna Fáil Party, a powerful minority who want to crush the Labour Party out of this House.

I do not want to do it. In June, 1968, I know that if these proposals were adopted by our people, that is the effect they would have and I say in June, 1968, with democratic institutions tottering all the world over in the face of the challenge of the violence born of frustration, no one but a Government gone mad would urge our people to reverse a decision that they calmly took nine short years ago.

I implore this House to get away from irrelevance, to get away from illusory statistics and to face the fundamental issue: do you want to drown minorities out of parliament or do you not? I do not. They have talked about the multiplicity of Parties thrown up by proportional representation and the possibility of the fragmentation of this House into a multitude of warring factions. Look at us after 40 years of proportional representation. There are three political Parties in Dáil Éireann and two Independents.

Four Independents.

I had forgotten. Where is the fragmentation? I have seen this House with five Parties in it. I have seen this House with 14 Independents. Out of that situation was born the first inter-Party Government in the record of which I glory, which served our people magnificently, which gave them an alternative Government and, altogether apart from the achievements they left after them, did the public life of this country an inestimable service in demonstrating that the swing of the political pendulum could be maintained calmly and effectively.

Here we are today with three Parties, and is there any one of our Parties which does not represent a substantially effective and recognisable block of free electors in a free country? We are told that proportional representation induces instability of government. I challenge any honest Deputy to say that there is in Europe or the western world a country that can claim to have had more stable government than the Irish Republic has enjoyed in the past 40 years, and that in a country born in civil war. I doubt if there is a country in the history of man which can claim to have achieved what we achieved in Ireland in stability of democratic institutions. In times of turmoil and difficulty and deep and bitter feeling, the civil power in this State has never faltered, and it has carried us through one crisis after another. Yet we are told that this system of government has induced instability and the fragmentation of our Legislature.

I know we can quote one another ad infinitum over the years, but I am not concerned with the irrelevance of quotations and statistics. I am concerned to ask myself: what is it right to do today; what is it expedient to do for the future of this country? There is one thing I am certain of. I want it to go on record, as I know the Irish people will insist on its going on record in the referendum, that this Legislature of the Irish Republic is the place for any minority who wish to make their voice heard, that the doors of it are wide open to any minority who can get a quota of votes to send them here, and that from this platform of Oireachtas Éireann, they can exhort their fellow-countrymen to add to their numbers until ultimately, with the vote and with the vote alone, they can take over the government of this country and claim to rule it by the authority of God. Is that the kind of society in which we want to live? Certainly it is the desire to live in that kind of society that brought me into public life and kept me in it for 40 years.

Let us drop the irrelevancies. Let us drop for the moment the desire to score points off one another. Let us ask ourselves this question: is the effect of this instrument, paragraph 1º of Part II which we are now considering not going to be construed by a substantial section of our people as the slamming of the door of Oireachtas Éireann in their faces? I believe that is what it is constructed to do. I believe it is a kind of madness born of power. I have warned this House time and again: give Fianna Fáil a clear majority in Dáil Éireann and they seem to go berserk. I have never approved of their government because I have dissented from their policies, but so long as there was always the potential here in Opposition of their defeat, so long as they were a government supported by 70 or 71 Deputies, there was always somewhere at the back of their minds the feeling that if they embarked upon a course of extravagant folly, the Opposition of the House would combine against them to eliminate them from the scene.

The chances of four or five by-elections have given Fianna Fáil a clear majority in this House, and the old symptom manifests itself again. They have gone berserk at the dictate of the power-hungry minority amongst them. I urge Dáil Éireann to dispose of this. I wish I could hope to persuade Fianna Fáil to abandon this Bill. I do not believe they will, so I urge Dáil Éireann to dispose of it with despatch. Let us get to the country and let us ask the people by their ballots to determine: do they want to shut the door of Oireachtas Éireann in the face of minorities; do they want to send minorities from Parliament to the barricades? I do not, and it is because I do not that I am passionately anxious to ensure that our people will vote "no", not only to the specific propositions we are now discussing but to the associated Bill which has been submitted at the same time.

I suppose I should be the last person to speak on proportional representation. In the last election, I spent five days being dissected, bisected and trisected to increase my majority by 100 per cent from six or seven votes to 13 votes. It was a most undignified performance for a public man to live through, though afterwards a county council member said to me: "Congratulations: it is a pity it is over." That is my comment on the long drawn out count. In regard to PR, I personally suspect its origins and so does Deputy Dillon, born as it was in the strange liberal glow of a successful empire, smelling of liberalism——

(Cavan): On a point of order, I do not wish to interrupt Deputy Lenihan but we should try to get through this business as quickly as we can, and I suggest that the case the Deputy is now developing is relevant on the next section but not on this.

Of course it is.

The Chair feels that Deputy Lenihan who has just commenced is in order.

The PR system was made for subject people, invented by our late masters and was first tried on us. PR is all right for a subject people but not for a homogeneous society such as ours in which everybody is the son of a farmer or a teacher, a worker or a small shopkeeper. We are a homogeneous society and very little divides us. The North of Ireland has been mentioned and certainly the system is necessary there where you have cleavages and where you have antagonisms born of different beliefs and so on. It is necessary to preserve the rights of the minority but here in this homogeneous society it is absolutely irrelevant. There has been a good deal of talk about the rights of minorities. Deputy Dillon said that the Labour Party would be wiped out but I bet that under the single-seat system, they will come back just as well as ever. They are well entrenched in their areas and I could give the names of the Deputies who will come back here again. I have no doubts about that. The only significant minority we have in this country is the Protestant minority. It is a very substantial minority but Deputy Booth finds that it is well catered for. We also have such things as pressure groups in this country. We have the Georgian Society and the Save the Canals organisation and so on, and such groups will find a home in one of the three Parties.

Deputy Dillon said: "Do not drive us to the barricades" and spoke about the "underground". The only underground movement I am aware of is in the mines. I should like to bring the Deputy's mind back to 1918. We had no PR system then and the people were fed up with the Irish Parliamentary Party and felt that Westminster would never give us our freedom but Sinn Féin came in with single seats with a bang. It is only by way of the single seats that you can save people from going to the barricades. Under the multi-seat system, the last man will crawl in, as I did on the backs of Fine Gael votes and Labour votes and on our own votes. The multi-seat system will always throw up somebody. If the country is seething with discontent, it will never be reflected in the multi-seat system and that is why the system was brought in by England for a subject people. In the single-seat system, the anger of the people will be known throughout the country and the people's voices will be heard and will be well served by those returned to Government who will serve their interests. This happened in England twice or three times. You had a Tory Government taking over from Attlee's Government and they did away with certain aspects of the previous Government's policy and retained others. This is what happens; you have one Party accepting part of the other Government's policy. That is the great benefit of the single-seat constituency system and under it the underground and the pressure groups vanish.

The single-seat constituency will ensure a compact, intimate area in which every candidate will be known to the electorate and he will be able to serve them. At present under the multi-seat system, a Deputy cannot do all he should; he may be running from one end of the constituency to the other, and between being a postman and an ombudsman, he never has time to help his Party or the Ministers or the House in regard to legislation. Another point is that we talk a lot about decentralisation. The single-seater will mean decentralisation plus, as far as Parliament is concerned, because the single-seater involves a small intimate area, whether it is represented by Labour, Fianna Fáil, or Fine Gael, and it will throw up the best man. Each Party will put up its best man and this will produce a good Dáil and the man returned will be able to do more work than he is able to do at present.

All this is apart from the physical problems about which Deputy Corry spoke. In my constituency I am rather fortunate because Deputy Carter, my colleague, looks after Longford and I look after Westmeath. With Deputy L'Estrange, we do the best we can on the principle that "anything you can do I can do better". We do our best to prevent the closing down of non-viable post offices or schools but we both do it, possibly with our tongues in our cheeks, and as long as the two of us do it, one cancels out the other. There is no honesty about it, none whatever.

The last man I heard saying that did not survive long.

I listened to the Deputy's Cassandra-like talk in silence and the Deputy will please listen to me in silence. All this is part of the physical aspect of it, preventing schools and post offices from being shut down. The minorities about which we are so worried will be saved and the barricades will be saved from that European fate, that awful fate, under a single-seat system. You will get better Deputies who will be able to do their work better in the smaller areas, and also in this House, than at present. I say: away with the multi-seat system. I am the last beneficiary I hope under PR in a general election and never, never again.

I listened with a considerable amount of interest as I always do to Deputy Dillon. He said that this was a sordid attempt by the Fianna Fáil Party to destroy the Labour Party and he went on to say that he has been a long-serving Member of the House. I agree that he is a senior Member and as such deserves respect. Even on the basis of family traditions, he deserves the respect of the House because the Dillons, as the House knows, through dark and evil days were good people. At the same time, when Deputy Dillon indulges in histronics, a young man like myself must stand up and defend the name of the Party which I believe is the best political vehicle for the country. I should like to say to Deputy Dillon, to Fine Gael and to the Labour Party that at no time did the Fianna Fáil Party consider this proposal in the light of doing away with the Labour Party.

You do not know the mind of your Minister.

At no time did the Fianna Fáil Party make this suggestion. I have been in the Party now for some 15 years, and at parliamentary level for three, and I have, I think, a fairly good grasp of what goes on within the Party generally. At no time at Party meetings, at cumann meetings or at constituency executive meetings has the view been expressed by any member of the Fianna Fáil Party that the abolition of PR and the introduction of the single-seat constituency would do away with the Labour Party.

I have always held the view that the single-seat constituency, particularly in urban areas, will improve the position of the Labour Party, as was demonstrated indeed in the local elections. The Minister's colleague, Deputy Seán Dunne, headed the poll on the first count. Now, he will be elected no matter what tag he attaches to himself. Let us then be quite definite about that.

Deputy Dillon, for whom I have the deepest respect and whose opinion and oratory I admire and envy, made allegations which were both unfair and unsubstantiated, totally unsubstantiated. We should disabuse our minds of cant and humbug, he advised; he should disabuse his mind of cant and humbug and cease his attempt to spread hysteria. Let us discuss this in as dispassionate a manner as possible but, when the Deputy from Monaghan stands up and makes these allegations, we have a function, as a political Party, to put the truth before the country. I can assure Deputy Dillon that, in relation to the proposals before the House, and this proposal in particular, if I thought for one moment, as a Deputy of the Fianna Fáil Party, that the Labour Party would be wiped out and destroyed as Deputy Dillon said, I would oppose these proposals. I say that honestly and sincerely and with deep personal conviction.

The Deputy has the same love for the Labour Party as a greyhound has for a hare and well we know it.

I may not have a great love for the individuals who make up the Labour Party, but I have a tradition——

We know that tradition. I am well aware of it—anti-Labour.

——which gives me a respect for the philosophical ideals of the Labour Party, ideals the Labour Party and the Deputy never practise. I was born into a republican socialist tradition and I respect it. I will always respect it. Maybe I am not a socialist but I am deeply convinced of the ideal of social justice.

If this proposal is not carried in conjunction with the straight vote and the tolerance issue, it is not a dictatorship of Fianna Fáil, or Labour, much less the unions and Mr. Conroy's hooded crows, that will ruin the country; if these proposals are not carried, I believe the dictatorship that will threaten the country is the dictatorship of political paralysis. At the moment the Opposition, as I see it, are freewheeling along with no hope of power under our present system unless, of course, Fine Gael join forces with the Labour Party under one leader and become one individual Party. If I might briefly refer to the "Seven Days" programme last Tuesday night dealing with the single-seat constituency, we had on that programme the chairman of the Labour Party welcoming a coalition, the Leader of the Labour Party against a coalition, Deputy O'Leary against a coalition and the vice-chairman of the Labour Party for a coalition.

The vice-chairman was not on that programme.

He was on it.

Who is the vice-chairman? Have they lost touch with Dr. Browne?

He is not vice-chairman now. He is not the present vice-chairman.

He was elected vice-chairman, unless there was another secret expulsion.

He is not the vice-chairman.

He was elected vice-chairman and the man who opposed his views was defeated.

I am sure people will be delighted Dr. Browne is no longer vice-chairman of the Labour Party.

And has not been for some months past.

Why do Labour not let the people know about all the people they kick out?

This is a useful illustration of the rancorous hate for the Labour Party within the Fianna Fáil Party, personified by Deputy Boland, the Minister for Local Government.

That is not true. At no time has the view been expressed that, if these proposals are carried, the Labour Party will be done away with and that allegation has not been substantiated to any degree in this House, except by vague generalisations and the authority of people like Deputy Dillon. When the Deputy speaks, people listen to him, and with respect, and I think he has an obligation to temper what he says and to substantiate his statements.

The constituency I represent, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, has the second highest population figure in the country; with 104,584 it comes second after Dublin county with 145,903. It has the fourth highest number of electors, 61,322. It comes fourth after Dublin county in that respect. Dublin county has 74,600 and gives the second highest number of electors, 15,330 people, per TD. Again, this comes second after Dublin North-East, with 15,638. One would want to know the constituency of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. Like Deputy Corry in Cork, I have been living there all my life, and I know it, not perhaps with the same degree of experience as Deputy Corry has of his constituency because he has been in public life for 40 years but, as a native of the area, my whole inclination is towards the single-seat constituency. It is a very rational proposition and even Deputies opposite agree with the concept of single-seat constituencies. What we are falling out on is, I think, the method of election. Deputy Fitzpatrick is smiling. I wonder would he accept the transferable vote?

(Cavan): What has Deputy Andrews to say about that? What does Deputy Lenihan think about it? What does the Deputy's Party think about it? I wonder what Deputy Lenihan thinks about Athlone and the transferable vote. It is well known.

Order. Deputy Andrews.

I am asking would the Deputy accept the single-seat constituency?

(Cavan): Let us get on with the amendment and the position will be clarified. Let us get on with Deputy Norton's amendment and then everybody will have to come out in the open, including the Minister.

We all have an obligation to speak on this in order to let the country know where we stand. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown is a vast constituency.

(Cavan): Maybe if the Party had another weekend at it, they would be able to make up their minds.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown is a very large area. It stretches from Booterstown through Blackrock to Dún Laoghaire, Sandycove, Glasthule and into Killiney and Ballybrack and from Ballybrack to Wyattville, Foxrock, Cabinteely, Stillorgan, part of Dundrum, the whole of Mount Merrion and then down into Milltown. How could one Deputy traverse that constituency and be as close as I should like to be to my constituents? I believe in communication. I believe in making myself available to my constituents. I do not believe in becoming a doormat for my constituents or anything like that. I believe that my constituents deserve my presence—that may be a bit of self-flattery —in a particular area at least once a month. This is bona fide, because I have set up within the constituency, as I call them, political clinics. Deputy Corry calls them stations. We all have different terms for this type of thing. I have set up clinics in Milltown, Sallynoggin and Dalkey, which I visit once a month. I know this is not sufficient. I would want a clinic in Stillorgan, Mount Merrion, Booterstown, Black-rock, Dún Laoghaire, Glasthule, Sandycove, Ballybrack, Foxrock, Cabinteely, and so on, back into Dundrum and Milltown again, that is, if we were doing the thing properly. You can imagine, within a single-seat constituency, how easily accessible I would be to my constituents and they would be to me. This is such a rational thing, such an easy concept to me, this idea of a single-seat constituency as distinct from multi-member constituencies where you have, apart from your opposition, internecine strife. It is probably too rational, actually. However, I should like to disabuse the doubting Thomases of the idea that the single-seat constituency is being brought in for the benefit or welfare of Deputies. I do not think that is true. The proposal is being suggested for the benefit of constituents, because from election to election one visits one's constituents and one finds at election time on knocking at the door of a constituent, the constituent says: “We have not seen you since the last election.” Of course, they have not seen me since the last election because they could not possibly see me; the area is too vast. I think it is a justifiable complaint. It is justifiable that they should say this to me. It is a reasonable complaint. They are entitled to see me. They are entitled to have me available to them, not as a public messenger boy. I have to exercise my own judgment in all these matters. If somebody comes to me as a supplicant, I tell them the facts and do my best for them—no question about it. I do not treat with my constituents on pre-conditions. I meet a man face to face and we have a discussion and that is it. I do not set pre-conditions to my meeting with anyone.

There is the other aspect, of course, of the multi-member constituency. As you know, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown has no Labour representative. If the constituency were split into single-seat constituencies, there is a place for a Labour representative in the area. I have said this already and I will say it again. I have no doubt about that. At the last election, of course, their only mistake was that they put up only one candidate. I am probably helping the Labour Party but I want to disabuse Deputy Dillon's mind of the idea that Fianna Fáil are trying to do away with them. Under PR, if they put up a second candidate there would be a Labour Deputy there.

(Cavan): Are you in favour of PR?

No; I am only pointing out that I have no doubt that there is a seat under the straight vote system for Labour in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. I will not tell them where the area is. They will have to work that out for themselves.

We will get it under PR.

Not under PR. You had a candidate there who was well known—the late and respected Mr. Fitzgerald, a man in a million. You will not get a man like him again.

Many members of the Labour Party come to me as a Deputy for the area and say: "I am not going to vote for you at the next election but I want you to help me this time." I say: "So what?" I do not ask anybody who comes to my door whether he votes Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or Labour. This, again, I hope, will dissipate the view that if a Party is not represented in a constituency, the electors who voted for that Party will be disfranchised. It is just not on, just is not true. We are all reasonable people, civilised people, and we have the innate courtesy of the Celtic race. We are a courteous people, a hospitable people and I would hope that if people come to my door, they will always be met with courtesy. I am sure I speak for 99.9 per cent of Deputies. I know very well that Deputy Fitzpatrick would love a singe-seat constituency. He is a hard-working Deputy—I will say that for him—no question about it—but would not it make life much easier for him? My problem at the moment is that Deputy Fitzpatrick will not tell us what system of election he wants. I know he wants the single-seat just as all the other members of Fine Gael want the single-seat, as typified by Deputy Cosgrave in April, 1965, when he said that as far as he was concerned, he wanted to reiterate what he said in 1959, that he wanted the single-seat constituency and the straight vote.

(Cavan): If Deputy Andrews gets another weekend with the Minister, with his charm and persuasiveness, he will get him round to his way of thinking.

I want the straight vote. I have no doubt in my mind as to what I want. Deputy Fitzpatrick is a little hesitant at this time but when we get on to the next section, I am sure we can convince him.

(Cavan): The Deputy is deliberately keeping us back from it.

This, of course, is another myth that you are trying to propound, that we are trying to hold up the submission of this amendment to the country. This is not true. We have an obligation here to stand up as backbenchers of the Party, on behalf of constituents, to represent their views and certainly I am not one to facilitate political opponents by sitting down and saying nothing. I have an obligation to let the people know where I stand. That is my view. I do not intend to be sarcastic. If I am sarcastic, honi soit qui mal pense.

I should like to mention the constituency of Galway West, which is the perfect example of the multi-member constituency and which is represented by Deputy Geoghegan and Deputy Molloy. This is a case against the multi-member constituency. It is a constituency 80 miles in length, which includes the Aran Islands, and which is 14 miles wide. How, in the name of all that is wonderful, can the four Deputies in that area really spread themselves over a constituency that size, taking in the Aran Islands? The people of the Aran Islands, by virtue of being Irish citizens, are entitled to representation and they are entitled to accessibility to Deputies. How can they have accessibility living on an offshore island It is not a reasonable thing for these people. My information is that Deputies do their best to see them as much as possible but they feel, as Deputies, that they do not see them often enough. How can they, in a constituency 80 miles long by 14 miles wide? It is just not physically on. As to the question of the religious minorities which, I think Deputy Dillon mentioned——

There was a time when religious minorities wanted representation but this is not the time. It does not arise any longer. Religious minorities are now integrating into our society and into the various political Parties. These are just some of the facts I wanted to bring to your attention.

There is one other matter I should like to put on the record in relation to the Constitution Committee, of which I was privileged to be a member. Some people have suggested that the Fianna Fáil people on this Committee were against the straight vote and single-member constituency. This is not so. The truth is that the straight vote was never discussed at this Committee.

(Cavan): It would appear from page 24 that it was discussed and written off.

I do not want to remind the House again of the views of Deputy Cosgrave on the straight vote and the words he used, expressed so succinctly by Deputy Corry. The respected Leader of the Opposition wants what we want. He does not want what Deputy Fitzpatrick wants.

If these proposals are not passed, the country will move towards political paralysis. It is a frightening prospect. At the moment you have the Fine Gael Party looking for salvation from the Labour Party and their plea for salvation being rejected. There are so many different views within the Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party that one does not know where one stands in relation to them. They will admit themselves they are only part-time politicians and some of them will even admit they are a weak Opposition. We want a strong Opposition. Weak Oppositions lead to a narrow, inert type of Government. That is the sort of situation I do not want to see my children being brought up in. I am very serious about this. That is the type of Opposition that brings about the downfall of the democratic fabric.

Annihilation is what you are concerned about.

Keep quiet with your platitudes.

(Cavan): You will have to talk it out yourselves. You will get no assistance from us.

We have been accused of taking no interest in this. It was reported widely by many of the political commentators that we had no interest in the PR issue and there were references to the poor attendance in the Dáil Chamber and so on. However, we are very interested in it. In spite of the allegations of the Opposition that we in this Party are divided on the issue of the single-seat constituency, I want to say that is not so. We are very united. This Party has never failed to do its duty and to do what we feel is right by the people.

During the last general election I made a swift calculation as to how long it would take me to visit all the people on the register. I worked it out that I could visit everyone in the constituency if I worked an eight-hour day for 120 days. It can be truly said there must be houses in my constituency which have not been called on by even one of the five Deputies representing that area. There are approximately 60,000 people on the register for Dublin South-West and if you include those under 21, it probably represents 104,000 souls. These people can call on every one of the five Deputies in the constituency.

It is obvious that the Deputies in the Opposition most concerned about single-seat constituencies, and in particular, the straight vote, are those who have been elected in the past on the coat tails of others, on head of the poll surpluses. What puzzles me is how the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party cannot imagine themselves as being a Government ever. It is obvious they have no faith in themselves. Somebody made a calculation that if we were to receive 40 per cent of the votes, we would get 90 seats out of the 144 in this Dáil. Yet if 40 per cent can give 90 seats, 35 per cent would certainly give an overall majority. I would think it far easier to go after 35 per cent of the votes and form a Government than get the 48 or 49 per cent necessary at the moment. While Labour and Fine Gael cannot see themselves being elected under PR, they are afraid to stand the trial of the single-seat constituency.

Deputy Dillon referred to the irrelevancies of Deputy Corry because Deputy Corry had the temerity to refer to and to comment on what Deputy Dillon had said about PR. Naturally these kind of comments he made previously, which are on the record, would be considered irrelevant by Deputy Dillon. Deputy Dillon is a well-known coalitionist. He said to Deputy Corish here on one occasion: "If you had not announced you would not form a Coalition you would be in office now." We know where he stands. In regard to the idea that this is a trick on the people of the country, can you imagine what this House would be like with 144 Independents?

Now, now.

Do not offend Deputy Norton anyway.

There is more to this than public representation. There is the question of a cohesive policy and government. You must have a good majority in order to select a good Cabinet. It is difficult to select the right men to form your Cabinet out of a Party of 72 or 73 members.

Reference has been made to minority groups in this country. As Deputy Lenihan correctly said, there are no major issues between the minority groups, certainly the religious groups, in this country. They are members of all Parties. At one time if you were of a particular religion, you were automatically pro-British. This has all died out. There is no longer any conflict between nationality and religion in this country. That is important to note. It is glaringly obvious that the people now so anxious to let the Bill go through the House, and accusing us of filibustering, are scared stiff that time is running out. The people who were seized with hysteria when this was first announced have had time to think it out. I would venture to say that many of the political commentators also have had time to think it out and are satisfied that this is not the monster it was supposed to be. The people of this country have a right to vote. They will never be denied that right. But this Party will never refrain from its duty to do what it feels is best in the interests of the people.

I just briefly want to put on the record where I stand with regard to the single-seat. It was suggested by Deputy Dillon that the motivation behind this was to exterminate the Labour Party. Lest he or anybody else might think that I was party, or would be party, to such a sordid conspiracy, I want to refute it quite clearly. I want to make it clear that what motivates me to support the single-seat is my belief that it will lead to greater efficiency, greater political stability, a better type of candidate and the two-Party system—all of which I am very much in favour of. I felt particularly vulnerable as an Independent actively concerned with it. As a Deputy who recently resigned from the Labour Party, I felt perhaps there was some reflection thrown on me in this matter and I would not like the House to be under any illusions.

I was brought up in a family which had and still has a social conscience. I learned to concern myself in a practical way with the less privileged members of society. I do not happen to believe in an extreme form of a socialist communist philosophy. I found myself in a position where the Labour Party had moved extremely to the left and were no longer the Party they were in the days when my father was the Leader of the Party. Having fought a rearguard action quite openly and without any disguise, I found myself in a position where I could not in conscience accept the point of view put forward by the fellow travellers who are now in control and I resigned from the Party. I did not know this referendum was going to be brought forward and I now find myself in the position where the single-seat constituency is proposed that I support this proposal because I believe it will lead to efficiency and stability and not for any sordid reason. It is possible that there are people in the Fine Gael Party who believe in single-seat constituencies but who may have other motivations. I am not accusing Deputy Cosgrave or Deputy Sweetman or Deputy Flanagan or Deputy L'Estrange or other Deputies who are known to favour the single-seat constituencies of any particular motivations. Perhaps Deputy Dillon is speaking from what he knows but a person of Deputy Dillon's standing is doing himself less than justice when he makes the sort of charge he made.

In a grand manner Deputy Dillon dismisses statistics as being unimportant, although they are obviously irrefutable. When he cannot answer them logically, he dismisses them as a matter of no importance. It is only Deputy Dillon who could get away with that grand manner approach but I think he does the nation and this House a disservice when he lends his undoubted talents to this type of double-talk. I do not think he should indulge in it any longer. If he believes in the single-seat constituencies, as I am inclined to think he does, he should live up to his family tradition and not refute statements which he made years ago.

I want to make it very clear that it is no conspiracy to wipe out the Labour Party which motivates me. I do not think the Labour Party would be wiped out, and I would not like that Party to be wiped out. I think they have a function: I think some Labour Deputies do a good job. I think many Members could with advantage be replaced by better Deputies but I have no personal grudge against the Labour Party. I have taken great care not to attack the Party since I left, which is something other members who left the Party in recent times have not done. I bear no grudge and I carry no grievance. It is the interests of efficiency and stability of the two-Party system which motivated me to support single-seat constituencies.

It is very good that we should now, as compared with the early Stages of these Bills, have a reasoned, calm and, indeed, lengthy discussion on the proposals in the Bill. In the beginning, I must say the Opposition had a good innings, and inside and outside the House mounted all their big guns against the Government's proposal to amend the Constitution. In the initial heat of the discussion, possibly, they did convince some people in the country to change their minds, but now I feel we are getting to the stage where the people are beginning to forget the blitz and reason things out quietly for themselves.

The case was made over the past few weeks by the Minister in a workmanlike way, without any flourishes, and the people are beginning to see that the case now being made is a logical and reasonable one, and one which I think will convince the percentage of the people who may have views one way or another. The most important aspect of all this was the point made by the Minister, and proved by him, that if this Bill is not passed here, and if the referendum is defeated in the country, the voters in the rural areas will find themselves less well represented, and it will take a larger number of electors to return a TD in a rural area than it will in the urban areas and the city areas.

Let us take, for instance, my own county which consists at the moment of two constituencies. It is a large county with a falling population. This means that under the Constitution as it stands, Donegal would be represented by five Deputies, each representing—I am not quite sure of the figure—over 13,000 and possibly 14,000 electors, whereas in Dublin and in the urban areas, the number is as low as 10,000. In other words, it would take 50 per cent more voters, if the referendum were not carried, to return a Deputy in Donegal than it would in the built-up areas. The Ceann Comhairle who is a non-politician will have one of the five seats. This means that there will be a contest in the county for four seats, and should the Ceann Comhairle again become Ceann Comhairle after the election, this will mean that the people will be effectively represented by four Deputies, in a county which stretches from Malin Head to Tullaghan Bridge between Sligo and Bundoran, and again from Lifford to Tory Island.

No matter what the remuneration was, I do not think that any city Deputy or any urban Deputy would like to face the task of looking after the interests of that wide area. It could happen that in the case of the four Deputies, there could be centralisation. You could have a number of them living close together with the result that very large areas of the county would not be within striking distance. As against that, what the Government are proposing, and what this referendum will enable the people to have, is equal representation electoral-wise with the cities. This would be the effect of the tolerance which is contained in the Bill.

(Cavan): On a point of order, I think this is the last straw. In pursuance of the policy of holding up the House, Deputy Cunningham now thinks we are discussing tolerance on the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, whereas it is in the Third Amendment Bill.

I mention this by the way.

(Cavan): The Deputy talked about the tolerance contained in the Bill.

Deputy Fitzpatrick talked about a lot of things. However, for this reason I think the people of Donegal will decide against——

——the Opposition's proposals and will give a resounding answer in the referendum because they appreciate that in order properly to be represented here the single-seat consituency with the straight vote is the one which will provide them with representation, reasonably placed and the best possible.

(Cavan): We seem to be forgetting that we had a referendum in 1959 and that the people then clearly decided they did not want to change the electoral system. Notwithstanding that referendum, a small section of the Fianna Fáil Party pressurised the rest of the Party into again introducing this proposal to change, amongst other things, from multi-seat to single-seat constituencies. The Fianna Fáil Party do not believe in the proposal they now have before the House and, for some weeks past, have been shadow-boxing and stalling here to delay the passing of these Bills so that the referendum could not be held until Autumn. But they have gone one stage further here today, and last night, because now they are deliberately trying to avoid a vote in this House on the very subsection of the Bill we are now dealing with and the next subsection.

It is the Deputy who is delaying now. Deputy Tully tried to delay it this morning.

(Cavan): I shall expose you for what you are at.

The Minister deliberately held up the proceedings last night and today. He is scared of going to the country because he is the fellow who will get the blame when the Government are beaten—and they will probably kick him back to where he came from.

(Cavan): He is stalling to reach agreement in his own Party. When we reached the Schedule yesterday evening, the proposal was—and agreed to—that we would go on to deal with the amendments as they appear on the Order Paper and then go back and have a general discussion on the Schedule, but, in pursuance of the Minister's policy to delay and stall, he went back on that and said we would take the Schedule section by section and avoid a discussion on the amendments.

Subsection by subsection.

(Cavan): He started subsection 1º yesterday afternoon and, in pursuance of that policy of obstruction, stalling and delay, we are still on subsection 1º of Part II of the Schedule.

Deputy Fitzpatrick is speaking for the third time. I have spoken only once.

(Cavan): I am speaking now to expose the Minister.

The Deputy will keep me longer replying.

(Cavan): He got speaker after speaker of his own Party and put them up here to stall and delay in the hope that he will carry this debate over until 2.30 p.m.

That is not true.

(Cavan): He will be able to do it now, independent of any assistance. In that way, he will avoid any discussion on Deputy Norton's amendment. He will avoid having to speak on Deputy Norton's amendment this afternoon or to disclose his hand or to commit himself on it. He hopes that, over the weekend, people like Deputy Andrews—who obviously was appealing to the Minister—and Deputy Lenihan will get to work and will resolve their difficulties. This is the great Fianna Fáil united Party.

It is wishful thinking on Deputy Fitzpatrick's part.

(Cavan): Fianna Fáil come before this House with a fundamental proposal to change the Constitution—and they are split on it from top to bottom.

What was the majority in the vote of confidence? There have not really been a lot of new points raised by the Opposition on this Bill but there are a few things which call for further reply by me. First of all, Deputy Fitzpatrick has continued to give evidence of the fact that, on both of these Bills, he wants to have it both ways. He has continued to give evidence of the fact that he is completely confused in his own mind as to why he and his Party are opposing both of these proposals. Of course, that is natural because we know that there is a near fifty-fifty division in the Party as to whether or not they should be opposed and that, in fact, the decision to oppose these two Bills was based on the traditional attitude of the Fine Gael Party that their duty, as an Opposition, is to oppose and that everything proposed by a Fianna Fáil Government should be opposed.

As I said, on both of these Bills Deputy Fitzpatrick has been arguing two different and completely opposite viewpoints. On the Third Amendment, he spoke against the principle of what was being proposed—and then somersaulted to say that the present position is in fact what we are seeking to establish, minus the limitation of one-sixth maximum divergence.

(Cavan): You can do what you want to do for proper motives but not for political motives.

I agree.

(Cavan): I am glad you do.

Deputy Fitzpatrick stated that it is purely on the grounds of suspicion of some ulterior motives which he ascribes to the Fianna Fáil Party that that Bill is opposed. Similarly, with regard to this Bill, he does not know but suspects that there must be some sinister and ulterior motive in the mind of Fianna Fáil in putting this forward and therefore, although he can see nothing wrong, he must again oppose it.

On this Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, Deputy Fitzpatrick has been arguing, on the one hand, that the main advantage of the present system is that it gives minority representation and, again, in the same speech, in the same contribution, he argues in defence of the present system that it has not done this, that it has not produced numbers of minorities being specially represented here. This indicates clearly that the Fine Gael attitude to these proposals is not based on any reasoned disagreement with what is proposed but on the usual unreasoning attitude of opposition for opposition's sake and on suspicion that Fianna Fáil have some sinister ulterior motive.

Now, one point Deputy Fitzpatrick made in one of the two contributions he has made since his first one, to which I have already replied, to which I should refer briefly is that the Fianna Fáil Government have introduced this proposal because they want to create a one-party State. What is the system we propose? We propose that there will be 144 separate constituencies and that in each of them will be one seat to be filled so that these constituencies will be contested, it is to be expected, by one candidate on behalf of all the different Parties that have proposals for the conduct of the country's affairs. The situation in each of these constituencies will be that the best possible candidate the different Parties can find to put forward the best policy they can devise for the country will go before a comparatively small number of electors and try to convince them that their proposals for the conduct of the country's affairs are the best. If this is, as the Fine Gael and Labour Parties say, going to result in the perpetuation of Fianna Fáil Government and going to result, as Deputy Fitzpatrick suspects, in the creation of a one-party State, this can only mean one thing——


——that the Fianna Fáil proposals for the conduct of the country's affairs must be the best. If your proposals are the best, surely it is possible to convince the people of that——

Does the Minister think the Unionists are the best for Northern Ireland? Is that what the Minister is saying?

There is a different kind of situation altogether in Northern Ireland. There the people are aligned on the basis of Orangeism or Nationalism, on the basis of people who see their interests with the rest of the country and on the basis of people who have allowed themselves to be convinced——

If PR were there, a number of Nationalists would be elected——


We have not got that position down here. In these circumstances, where people will have a clear choice between one Party and another, it is the contention of both Opposition Parties that this must result for all time in the perpetuation of Fianna Fáil government.

(Cavan): With what you call a relative majority, not a real majority.

My understanding of democracy is that it is based on the assumption that the people are capable of choosing for themselves the most suitable form of government. If we assume that and if it is to be the position in these circumstances that there will be a clear confrontation between the different parties in each constituency and these circumstances must result in the perpetuation for all time of Fianna Fáil government, and if we accept the fundamental principle of democracy that the people are capable of choosing the best type of government for themselves, this surely constitutes an admission that the Fianna Fáil proposals for the conduct of the country's affairs are the best?

Or what is the Opposition contention? Is it that the people are too stupid to be able to see what is good for them? Or is it an admission that Fianna Fáil policy is the best? Or do they contend that although their policies are better, it is inconceivable either now or at any time that they will be able to attract to these superior policies of theirs people who would be capable of explaining to an intelligent electorate that their proposals are in fact better than ours? If that is so, surely there is a contradiction there, a contradiction of the whole basis of democracy? There is no limit to the inconsistency of Deputy Fitzpatrick and the Party for which he claims to speak. I say "claims to speak" because I know that in fact he speaks only for a majority of one in the Party.

That is wrong.

Who told the Minister that? That is untrue.

I do not know whether the majority of one was on the vote of confidence or on the vote——

You do not know.

We know from one of your own members that the majority was a majority of one.

That is not true.

Is the Deputy the new leader?

The Minister should try to behave himself.

It was announced by an official spokesman of the Fine Gael Party only two nights ago on television——

The Minister has caused enough trouble in his own Party.

——that within a short space of time Fine Gael are going to have a more effective leader.

You do not believe everything that is said on television?

I do not care who sits in that seat for the Fine Gael Party. All I would ask is that whoever you appoint as Leader, please allow Senator FitzGerald to draft your policy statements because so long as you do that we have nothing to fear.

Why does the Minister quote television?

So long as you have Senator FitzGerald drafting your policy statements, we shall be quite satisfied.

Would the Minister like to comment on why he quotes television?

Might I point out that all this is not relevant?

If Deputy Harte wishes to get up and contribute, I shall comment on what he says. He has not availed of the opportunity to do that yet.

I shall do that in Donegal, with Deputy Cunningham, the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Local Government when you hold the referendum.

I expect to speak in many places but I do not think I shall need to speak in Donegal because there are people there quite capable of dealing with Deputy Harte. As I said, I waited for Deputy Harte to put forward anything on which he would like me to comment but he did not do so. In fact, Fine Gael could not get anyone to get up, only Deputy Fitzpatrick who had to get up three times and Deputy Dillon, whose remarks I shall try to deal with, although they do not merit it.

Does the Minister agree with everything on television?

I disagree with most of it. Deputy Fitzpatrick's contention— and we must assume that is the contention of the Party for which he speaks —is that this system must result in the perpetuation of Fianna Fáil government. Does the Deputy therefore mean to convey that the reason the Leader of his Party—at least so far as I know he is still the Leader of his Party, but only for a short time, we are led to believe—and other such prominent members as the man who brings Deputy O'Higgins into the Dáil here with him and the near 50 per cent of the Party who support their view—does Deputy Fitzpatrick want us to believe that the reason they want this change we propose is that they want to perpetuate Fianna Fáil in government? Is it not a fact instead that it just happens that the people who have some confidence in the prospect of the Fine Gael Party at some future time forming a Government happen to be in a minority of one in the present parliamentary Fine Gael Party?

That is completely untrue.

It is absolutely true.

What authority has the Deputy to say that?

On the authority of one of your own executives.

Do not talk utter rubbish.

You do not know when you are being fooled.


Deputy Fitzpatrick, on the one hand, says that the present system ensures minority representation, ensures that minorities can be represented and therefore makes it a feasible proposition for all these unspecified minorities we have in the country to form their own political Parties and, on the other hand, he maintains in defence of the present system, that it has not led to the formation of minority Parties. I remember that in the debate on the Amendment of the Constitution Bill in 1959 I listed the number of political Parties that had contested the elections up to that time. As far as I remember, they numbered 26. It is true that at present we are in a phase when there are only three Parties represented in the Dáil, but there are a number of other Parties springing up every now and then. We do not know how many of these are still in existence. They come and they go.

You refused to allow them to register.

Five of them contested a recent by-election and we do not know how many new Parties we shall have when all these divisions in the Fine Gael Party sort themselves out. The assumed Leader of the Fine Gael Party, Deputy Cosgrave, appears to want to go back to Cumann na nGaedheal, and we know from the papers that there are other lions or tigers or pussycats—I do not know what they are—in the Fine Gael Party who want to make some other changes to social democrats or Christian democrats or national progressive democrats —I do not know what name they want to call themselves—and we do not know how many new Parties this disintegration of Fine Gael will give rise to.

On a point of order, the Minister is obviously repeating himself over and over again, and in an endeavour to save the country further expense, I would ask you, Sir, to accept a motion that the question be now put.

The Chair does not think that such a motion would be accepted by the Ceann Comhairle at this stage.

With all respect, does the Chair not recognise that the Minister is repeating word for word the speech he made last night?

No; I am answering one of the two further contributions by Deputy Fitzpatrick. I have not checked up on Deputy Fitzpatrick to see whether he repeated what he said before or not, but the point I am dealing with is a point I did not deal with last night. I am quite aware that whoever is in charge of the Labour Party has imposed a vow of silence on the Labour Members here.

The people know what the issues are, and they now want to vote on them.

All that the Members of that Party are allowed to do is to interrupt.

The Minister should not waste the time of this Parliament.

Deputy Cluskey is allowed only to interrupt and not to speak, and the remainder of the Labour Party are under the same discipline.


There have been contributions of a disorderly nature made to the debate by the Labour Party, but I would not like to be discourteous and not deal with the points that have been raised, even though they were made in a disorderly way. Perhaps I should come to the only point that I heard Members of the Labour Party making, when a group of them suddenly appeared from nowhere last night and commenced to give expression to an opinion on this.

There were more of our Members here last night than were on the Minister's side, and there usually are.

Because they were prohibited by Deputy Tully from standing up, they made their contributions sitting down. They alleged that the reason why the Fianna Fáil Government have been in office for the past 30 years was that the people voted on the basis of slogans such as "Up Dev" and so on. It is this inherent belief of the two Opposition Parties that the people are fools that keeps them in Opposition, and it is our acknowledgement of the fact that the people are intelligent and that they can appreciate reasoned argument that keeps us over here.

Deputy Fitzpatrick, in his contribution today, alleged that this proposal of ours was desired by only a small section of the Fianna Fáil Party. Even Deputy Fitzpatrick should know that is not so. This proposition was put forward by a number of units of our organisation at our Árd Fheis. It was passed unanimously, to my recollection, but if not unanimously, it was practically unanimously, and our Árd Fheis, unlike the Árd Fheis of other Parties is a democratically-constituted body consisting of accredited delegates from branches or cumainn, as we call them, all over the country.

We would shudder to tell you the type of delegates you have or how you select them.

If you were let speak, but you are not allowed to speak.

Was it passed unanimously at the Árd Fheis?

I think so; if it was not unanimously, it was almost unanimously.

Your whole Party must not have been there, because you could not get unanimity in your Party.

Of course we have. Every member of the Fianna Fáil Party, without any exception, is in favour of the proposition.

The stenographer cannot record the smile or the grin on the Minister's face, but even the Minister himself does not believe that.

Deputy Harte is trying to obstruct the passage of this Bill.

I am not. I will support Deputy Cluskey's motion to have the question now put so that we can go to the country.

With regard to the allegation that Deputy Fitzpatrick stood up specially to make today that I, on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party, was deliberately trying to avoid discussing Deputy Norton's amendment——

Quite right.

That is not so. I am prepared to discuss Deputy Norton's amendment at any time, but it must be clear to everybody that Deputy Norton's amendment proposes to provide for the transferable vote system of election in single-seat constituencies——

But the Minister is against it.

——and therefore it can be relevantly considered only after the question of single-seat constituencies has been decided. That is what we are trying to decide here now.

The Minister is against the alternative vote?

Of course I am.

Therefore he is against Deputy Norton's amendment?

I am. That is why we have this proposal in. Of course we are.

The Minister now says he will not accept Deputy Norton's amendment.

We will deal with that when it comes up, and it would be up now if Deputy Harte and his colleagues would stop obstructing. The only other Opposition Deputy who could not be silenced was Deputy Dillon, and he had not an awful lot to say that calls for any reply. He had the usual type of abuse in which he specialises all right, abuse of the alleged motives of Fianna Fáil in bringing in this proposal, but I do not think that calls for much reply, because we all know for a long time Deputy Dillon's opinion of the Fianna Fáil Government. He spent some time glorying in the two Coalition Governments we have had here, Governments which have been well described by a former member of one of those Governments, the vice-Chairman of the Labour Party——

Dan Browne was never a former member of the Government.

The Minister is getting mixed up.

Who was never a member of the former Government?

Dan Browne was never a Member of this House.

Dr. Browne.

He officially resigned when he was going away but of course the Minister did not read that.

If Dr. Browne is one of the people you expelled, you should make it public. He described this type of government which the Opposition want to continue as one in which different members of it were awaiting the opportunity to spring the trap on their colleagues. He described the members as having no sense of loyalty to their colleagues and seeing no reason why they should have.

He must have been thinking of the Fianna Fáil Party when they were electing the Taoiseach.

We all know that these Governments had no policy and could not have a policy. The people know the disasters that followed as a result. Deputy Dillon suggested that we drop irrelevancies. What were the irrelevancies? What are the things he considers irrelevancies? In regard to the Third Amendment he said we should drop all considerations of statistics and figures.

The Third Amendment is finished. We are on the Report Stage of it—just in case the Minister did not know.

Deputy Dillon did not know and he appealed to the House to forget all about statistics, although the Constitution requires us to have regard to them.

On a point of order, is the Minister replying to what Deputy Fitzpatrick said a few minutes ago or is he making a general statement?

I am replying to Deputy Dillon.

That was on the Third Amendment.

I am replying to what Deputy Dillon said today.

The Minister has been filibustering for more than half an hour.

I have not been speaking for half an hour. Anyway I have not much more to say.

Deputy Harte did not know his own Deputy had spoken.

I know. I knew he had spoken but, I admit, I do not know what he was speaking about. It is very difficult to know what Deputy Dillon is talking about. He appealed to the House to ignore statistics in regard to the Third Amendment. His entire contribution consisted merely of abuse of the Government, of imputations of sinister, ulterior motives to the Government, but he did not adduse one solitary argument in favour of the present system. Of course he is not aware of any argument in favour of it. His opinion of the present system is on record, that it is "a fraud and a cod, the child of the brains of all the cranks in creation, foisted on us by a collection of half-lunatics". He alleged that the object is to destroy the Labour Party. How can a situation such as would exist in a single-member constituency destroy the Labour Party? Do they not aspire to be a majority Party? Do they or do they not believe that their proposals for the conduct of the country's affairs are worthy of the support of the majority of the people?

Not only do we believe it but you are beginning to believe it too; that is your trouble.

If they are worthy of support, is it not possible for them to obtain that support? Why must they regard themselves as a permanent minority unless they believe that it is not conceivable their proposals could be acceptable to anything more than a minority of the people? Of course, there is no reason inherent in this Bill why either the Labour Party, or even the Fine Gael Party, should be destroyed as a result. If either of these are destroyed in the circumstances in which there will be a clear-cut confrontation of the Parties in 144 constituencies, then that is inherent in the Parties themselves, not in the proposed system of election and representation. The fact is every Deputy knows that single-member constituencies are best both for the people and for their representatives. However, a majority of one in the Fine Gael Party are afraid for their own personal seats, while the Labour Party have obviously become so resigned to scraping up votes here, there and everywhere over widespread constituencies and eventually obtaining the last seat with the aid of votes cast for all sorts of different candidates and Parties, that they have accepted for all time that theirs must be the rôle of a minority Party. The fact is, as Fine Gael are beginning to realise, the views of the present Leader of Fine Gael will prevail in spite of the Fine Gael Party itself and despite a defeat by one vote on this issue in the Party.

I do not wish to prolong the debate but just in case anyone——

More obstruction.

——later on reads what was said by the Deputy who has just sat down——

——that is, the Minister, and in case anyone might take him seriously I want to refute the snide suggestions which he has made in regard to the leadership of the Fine Gael Party and the view of the Party in relation to this amendment. May I say at once that Deputy Cosgrave, the Leader of the Fine Gael Party, enjoys the absolute confidence of the members of this Party? Any effort of the Minister to denigrate him will not succeed. The Minister came into this House and never served as a backbencher. On his first day in the Dáil he was made a Minister as a result of some bargaining which went on in the Fianna Fáil Party. His conduct in this House ever since has been to belittle people, to indulge in personal attacks on them. He adds no grace or conviction to any argument.

That never happened in the inter-Party Government.

(Cavan): Father to son.

The contribution by the Minister in support of this proposed amendment of the Constitution belittles the proposal. A majority of one! What does the Minister think this Party is that they would discuss matters with members of the Fianna Fáil Party? It is not true. The Fine Gael Party took a decision and it was a complete decision and the Party are absolutely united as to where they stand. We believe that multi-member constituencies are known, appreciated and valued in this country. People have grown accustomed to them. The members of each political Party value them. The members of the Fianna Fáil Party value the fact that they have not to be coerced into supporting one particular candidate. If they want to vote Fianna Fáil, then under the present system they have a choice and they can exercise that choice. That is something our people understand and appreciate.

There may have been a point of view originally as to whether the single-seat system is better or not. Certainly in this country, and we have had very nearly 50 years' experience of multiple-member constituencies, it would not be in the national interest to change. The system was changed in one part of Ireland in the middle Twenties; the object of the change in the North of Ireland was to achieve the dominance of the political scene by one political Party and that has been the position in the North of Ireland ever since.

There is no point in speaking further on this. God knows, we have had enough debating about it. The people have heard enough arguments about it. Ten years ago the people decided this issue. I can see no prospect of them changing their opinion now. Admittedly, only 50 per cent, or something in that order, voted the last time. I believe a great many more will vote this time and my personal judgment is that this proposal will be decisively defeated again on this occasion. It is in the national interest that this issue should go now to the people as quickly as possible. The allegation that the Minister has been unduly prolonging this debate has been manifestly established. I have nothing further to say. I should like to have a division on this so that we can get to the next amendment, although the Minister has already indicated his view on it. But let us debate it. Let us get on with our business.

I thought I had concluded, but unfortunately Deputy O'Higgins took up the running in time to prolong the debate and I want to say that the forecast of the imminent removal of the Leader of the Fine Gael Party did not emanate from me. It emanated from one of the individuals put forward——

Will the Minister accept from me that it is untrue?

——to discuss the matter on the "Seven Days" programme.

(Cavan): The Minister is a political guttersnipe, a political tramp.

The Deputy should not use language of that type in regard to the Minister.

The Deputy should withdraw, if he has any manners.

Was the Leas-Cheann Comhairle referring to something I said?

I just want to point out that this forecast with regard to the proposed imminent change of leadership in the Fine Gael Party did not emanate from me but from an official spokesman of the Fine Gael Party who was put forward, presumably by the Party, on television to discuss this particular matter.

I said it is untrue. Will the Minister accept that?

This was another member of the Fine Gael Party and presumably he has as much right to his opinion as Deputy O'Higgins has to his. I have no reason to believe that Deputy O'Higgins is any more the official spokesman of the Fine Gael Party than the individual who made this statement on behalf of the Party.

Why the concern about it?

I am not concerned.

Then stop talking about it.

He has to talk about something.

Keep it going as long as possible.

There was another point Deputy O'Higgins made but I forget it now. We will get an opportunity of dealing with it later.

Cuireadh an cheist.

Question put.
Rinne an Coiste vótáil: Tá, 60; Níl, 47.
The Committee divided: Tá 60; Níl, 47.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Lorcan.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Barrett, Sylvester.
  • Blaney, Neil T.
  • Boland, Kevin.
  • Booth, Lionel.
  • Boylan, Terence.
  • Brady, Philip.
  • Brennan, Joseph.
  • Brennan, Paudge.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, Patrick.
  • Calleary, Phelim A.
  • Carty, Michael.
  • Clohessy, Patrick.
  • Colley, George.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Corry, Martin J.
  • Cotter, Edward.
  • Crinion, Brendan.
  • Cronin, Jerry.
  • Crowley, Flor.
  • Cunningham, Liam.
  • Davern, Don.
  • de Valera, Vivion.
  • Dowling, Joe.
  • Egan, Nicholas.
  • Fahey, John.
  • Fanning, John.
  • Faulkner, Pádraig.
  • Foley, Desmond.
  • French, Seán.
  • Gallagher, James.
  • Geoghegan, John.
  • Gibbons, Hugh.
  • Gibbons, James M.
  • Gilbride, Eugene.
  • Haughey, Charles.
  • Healy, Augustine A.
  • Kenneally, William.
  • Kennedy, James J.
  • Lalor, Patrick J.
  • Lemass, Noel T.
  • Lynch, Celia.
  • Lynch, John.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Millar, Anthony, G.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Mooney, Patrick.
  • Moore, Seán.
  • Nolan, Thomas.
  • Norton, Patrick.
  • Ó Briain, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Ceallaigh, Seán.
  • O'Connor, Timothy.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond.
  • Wyse, Pearse.


  • Barrett, Stephen D.
  • Barry, Richard. Belton, Luke.
  • Burke, Joan T.
  • Byrne, Patrick.
  • Clinton, Mark A.
  • Cluskey, Frank.
  • Collins, Seán.
  • Connor, Patrick.
  • Coogan, Fintan.
  • Corish, Brendan.
  • Costello, John A.
  • Coughlan, Stephen.
  • Crotty, Patrick J.
  • Desmond, Eileen.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Donegan, Patrick S.
  • Donnellan, John.
  • Dunne, Seán.
  • Dunne, Thomas.
  • Esmonde, Sir Anthony C.
  • Farrelly, Denis.
  • Fitzpatrick, Thomas J. (Cavan).
  • Governey, Desmond.
  • Harte, Patrick D.
  • Hogan, Patrick. (South Tipperary).
  • Hogan O'Higgins, Brigid.
  • Jones, Denis F.
  • Kyne, Thomas A.
  • L'Estrange, Gerald.
  • Lindsay, Patrick J.
  • Lyons, Michael D.
  • Mullen, Michael.
  • Murphy, Michael P.
  • O'Donnell, Tom.
  • O'Hara, Thomas.
  • O'Higgins, Michael J.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas F.K.
  • O'Leary, Michael.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Reynolds, Patrick J.
  • Ryan, Richie.
  • Sweetman, Gerard.
  • Tierney, Patrick.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Tully, James. Tully, John.
Tellers—Tá: Deputies Carty and Geoghegan; Níl: Deputies L'Estrange and James Tully.
Question declared carried.
Faisnéiseadh go rabhthas tar éis glacadh leis an gceist.

Tairgim Leasú a 3:

I move Amendment No. 3:

I gCuid I, fo-alt 2º a scriosadh agus an méid seo a leanas a chur ina ionad:—

"2º Is do réir na hionadaidheachta cionmhaire agus ar mhodh an aon-ghotha ionaistrighthe a toghfar na comhaltaí.";


I gCuid II, fo-alt 2º a scriosadh agus an méid seo a leanas a chur ina ionad:—

"2º The members shall be elected on the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote."

In Part I, to delete subsection 2º and substitute the following:—

"2º Is do réir na hionadaidheachta cionmhaire agus ar mhodh an aon-ghotha ionaistrighthe a toghfar na comhaltaí.";


In Part II, to delete subsection 2º and substitute the following:—

"2º The members shall be elected on the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote."

In spite of insinuations made last night by Deputy Fitzpatrick that my amendment was not in keeping with the Second Reading of the Bill before the House, I think it was amply demonstrated by the Taoiseach that he was concerned mainly with the difficulties of the single-seat constituency when he spoke introducing this Bill. Indeed, he went to great lengths and dealt in considerable detail with the undesirable problems to which the multi-seat constituency gave rise. He explained in considerable detail the hypocrisy in which Deputies were encouraged to engage by pretending to interfere in the day-to-day administration of matters in which they had little or no influence. He explained that this was a source of great friction between Deputies, especially when these Deputies were members of the same Party. By engaging excessively in this type of rat race to curry favour with constituents, Deputies were tending to neglect their primary duties as legislators.

The Taoiseach explained that the single-seat constituency would encourage the Deputy to avoid appearing partisan for any one section of his constituents and that in time this would tend to build up a better community spirit and that the smaller area would lead to a greater knowledge of and intimacy with his constituents. Because of the direct comparison between one candidate and another at elections, the Parties would be encouraged to put forward candidates of the highest calibre and this would all help to improve the standard of the national Parliament.

The Minister dealt at great length with the long counts which are a feature and are becoming more a feature of multi-seat constituencies. He mentioned the haphazard methods in transfers and the large element of luck involved, especially when you get results involving ten, 15 or 20 counts. He mentioned that the average person could not possibly decide the relevant merits of high preference votes. He mentioned that at the Fianna Fáil ArdFheis resolutions calling for the single-seat constituency were passed almost unanimously. He made a case for the single-seat constituency and mentioned the needless competition, the sham, the bluff and the pretence to which the multi-seat constituency gave rise, not to mention the greatly inflated cost of administration which arose from this unnecessary competition between Deputies and the consequent high costs which in turn lead to higher taxation. The Minister said, on two occasions, since the Bill was introduced, that he was mainly concerned with obtaining the single-seat constituency and less concerned with the actual method of voting.

I agree with both the Taoiseach and the Minister in what they have said regarding the single-seat. I am in favour of the single-seat constituency and the straight vote. I believe that in a relatively short time this would lead to a two-Party system which would make democracy meaningful. I think the present system of proportional representation is an inefficient and cumbersome method of choosing Deputies. Because I believe that at the present time the straight vote is not acceptable to the electorate as a whole and because I believe it would be a national tragedy if we failed to secure any type of parliamentary reform, I tabled this amendment which would give us, I believe, a happy and honourable compromise. Those of us who believe we need the greater efficiency which the single-seat would give us would be satisfied, while those of us who believe in the necessity of retaining the principle of PR would also be accommodated.

I think this is a reasonable approach to the problem. I believe the public at large would be glad to accept it as a happy compromise. Otherwise we will be in a position that, no matter who wins the referendum, it is obvious that there will be a large number of voters who will be dissatisfied. We will have the unnecessary and pointless division of the people over something on which there could be unanimity. I know there are selfish men in all Parties who are not concerned with constitutional reform but are concerned mainly with themselves. I know there are some Opposition Deputies who believe, rightly or wrongly, that if the Government can be stampeded into going ahead with the straight vote, they will be defeated and therefore they feel—putting their Party interest before the national interest—the Government should be encouraged to go ahead. I can only hope the Government will not be so foolish as to take this misguided course.

Opposition Deputies have insinuated that I should never have tabled this amendment. Indeed, some have gone so far as to suggest I was encouraged to do so by the Minister himself or some other member of the Government. I can only reject this as childish nonsense. I would like to inform the members of the Opposition that it is my right—and indeed, as I see it, my duty—to table this amendment and have it discussed by the House, even if in doing so I am endangering the selfish ambitions and the security of tenure of some of those who shouted loudest because I have exercised my right and performed my duty in doing so. The public interest which has been shown in this amendment is ample proof that I am not alone in this belief.

I am not really concerned about the reflections on my character made by some members of the Fine Gael Party. I will confess I was disappointed that one prominent member of the Fine Gael Party, an ex-inter-Party Cabinet Minister and an ex-colleague of my father at that, of whom I thought better and from whom I expected more, suggested that because I took a different point of view from that which he took, there was something dubious in the whole thing and that I had no right to hold a different point of view. The crowning insult was when he dragged in my father's name and started attributing to him opinions and views which I know my father did not hold, in order to lend stature and respectability to this gentleman's out-of-date and old-fashioned ideas. This Fine Gael gentleman was very careful not to attack the Leader of the Fine Gael Party, Deputy Cosgrave, for holding the same views on PR as I hold. I wonder was this an omission or was it a calculated act on his part? Was I being used as a whipping boy by this gentleman to attack his Leader—which he did not dare do publicly? Was he afraid to attack the Leader of his Party, or is his own integrity suspect?

A great deal has been said by Opposition Deputies about the moral right of the Government to introduce a referendum now, since it is only ten years since the previous referendum was introduced and discussed. Indeed, so many Front Bench Members of both Parties made such a debating point of this that I feel I should like to refer to it. I would think it is reasonable to assume that the average voter votes over a period of 50 years of his life. If we assume that he commences to vote at 21 years and that he votes until he is 71 years, that would give us a period of 50 years. It is obvious that not every voter will vote when he is 21, and that many voters will continue to vote long after they are 71, but for a variety of reasons, it is also quite obvious that not every voter will vote for the full period either. I would think that an average of 50 years is a pretty fair estimate of the voting life of most people.

If we take 50 years as the average voting period, this means that in ten years the electorate would have a turnover of 20 per cent. At the previous referendum 58 per cent only of the electorate in fact voted and expressed an opinion. This means that not less than 42 per cent of the electorate did not express any opinion whatsoever. If we add this 42 per cent who did not express any opinion to the 20 per cent who will have reached voting age since then, we find that not less than 60 per cent of the electorate have not in fact expressed an opinion or have not had an opportunity of expressing an opinion on this question. If to the total of the 60 per cent we were to add the percentage of people who will have changed their minds since then, in either direction, on the merits or demerits of the straight vote, we find a position where possibly two-thirds of the people have not had an opportunity to express any opinion, or who could have changed their minds since then.

If we bear in mind that the previous referendum was defeated by only two per cent of the electorate and that at least 60 per cent odd have not had the opportunity to express their opinion, it is obvious that the referendum is wide open. The result might be anything, and the Government not only have a moral right but, indeed, on such a critical issue, a duty to introduce this referendum. This point was carefully concealed by the Opposition, or perhaps they did not realise it or look at it that way. It is certainly worthy of their attention.

Another point raised was the cost of the referendum and a great deal of foolish and unnecessary talk was indulged in on that point. A figure of £100,000 was mentioned. At the previous referendum approximately 1,000,000 voted. If you divide a cost of £100,000 by 1,000,000 people, it works out at approximately 2/- per voter. Does any Deputy seriously consider that the electorate are not worth considering because it would cost 2/-to get a man's opinion? With our glorified fight for freedom, home rule and independence, can it be that after 50 years of self-government we do not think it worth spending 2/- per voter in order to find out the opinion of the electorate? These points were so talked about and used to misguide the people that I thought I should mention them, whether or not they are strictly relevant.

I put down this amendment simply enough and I took the wording in the Constitution, Article 12, section 2, subsection 3º, dealing with the method of voting for the election of the President. This treats the whole country as one constituency with one seat and declares:

The voting shall be by secret ballot and on the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.

My amendment reads:

The members shall be elected on the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.

I deleted the words "by secret ballot" because this is already provided for in the section. My amendment has the merit of using a form of words which has already been approved in the Constitution, and about which there could be little or no valid argument. I do not want to repeat the arguments which have been made ad nauseam on Second Stage as to the respective merits or demerits of PR and the straight vote. I have already made it clear both in this House and outside that I am anxious to reform the Constitution in the interests of efficiency and political stability.

I believe that we should have the single-seat system, that we should have the two-Party system, that we should have a system that would give us real democracy, that we should have a system which would give us a genuine Opposition which would offer constructive counter ideas to those proposed by the Government and not merely an Opposition opposing for opposition's sake, an Opposition that would offer the people the choice of an alternative Government if they should so desire, an Opposition that would not use this Dáil as a status symbol club, an Opposition that would be really competitive and that would have fresh ideas and a sense of urgency, and not a club where all the power lies in the hands of the ruling few who are in danger of becoming complacent because there is no real or vigorous opposition.

In introducing the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, the Taoiseach said the primary concern was not to maintain Fianna Fáil in office, that naturally he would wish his Party to continue to be the Government but that that was not the primary concern. I accept that statement. Like all Members of the House, I respect the Taoiseach's integrity and hold him in high esteem but I do not think the motivation behind this Bill is important. In any event, the result would be the same. At election time this can produce big swings. This will ensure that while the tide is running for the present Government they will have a larger majority, and when the tide turns against them we will have a complete break, a clean sweep, and a strong alternative Government. We have become so stagnant in this Parliament that the danger is that the centre of debate will pass from the House to outside bodies whose members and motives might be more suspect than we are ourselves.

Tugadh tuairisc ar a ndearnadh; an Coiste do shuí arís.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

When are the Government going to make up their minds about Deputy Norton's amendment to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill?

We made up our minds nine years ago.

You made up your minds about the executions.


These people know about the executions without trial. They know the murderers. There are the murderers over there. Your colleagues are the murderers.

Do not start calling "murderers" across the floor of this House.

Do not talk about it.

Anybody who was executed during the term of office of this Government was executed——

You left them dying of hunger strike.

People committed suicide in this country and people were executed for crimes against the people of this country. We have nothing to be ashamed of—but you have, and the people you are associated with.

They should be ashamed of you.

The murder gang. There they are: they are here.

Here comes the Taoiseach. Will he have you removed? The Taoiseach should have you removed. You are making a show of yourself.

Deputy L'Estrange cannot talk about making a show in Parliament. Deputy L'Estrange has debased Parliament.

Would Deputy Andrews please allow me to speak?

May I raise a point of order? The Minister for Local Government has stated that Members of this House, sitting in these benches, are murderers. The Minister for Local Government has further stated that the Members of this House, sitting in these benches, constitute the members of a murder gang. I would ask the Chair to rule if the use of such language is consonant with the rules of order of our House.

In reply to Deputy Dillon, I would say that disorderly remarks were made from both sides of the House.

Certainly not.

I have asked the Chair for a ruling on specific words which I have quoted from the Minister for Local Government. I am asking if the use of such words is consonant with the rules of order of our House. I think, on that query, I am entitled to a ruling from you, Sir.

I only replied to the types of interruptions made by other Deputies and provoked by Deputy Coughlan due to the manner in which he stimulated them. Every Thursday, without exception, Deputy Coughlan reduces himself to this condition——

He has not long more.

The charge of "murder gang" should not be made in this House. Charges were made from both sides of the House.

What charges? There were no charges except about the division on proportional representation.

You are that side of the House——

On a point of order——

The Chair has ruled on Deputy Dillon's point of order.

I desire to submit a further point of order. If the Chair has ruled that the words the Minister used are not consonant with the rules of order of this House, will the Chair ask the Minister to withdraw them?

In the circumstances, I am not asking the Minister to withdraw the statement made, which was out of order, because other charges were made from the Opposition side of the House.

That is a lovely——

I did not hear them.

There were no such charges.

May I call the attention of the Ceann Comhairle to the fact that Deputy L'Estrange is reflecting on the Ceann Comhairle's conduct in the Chair and that that is contrary to the rules of order?


Hear, hear.

He is always doing so.

We have Johnny McGinty entering into it now.

There is a way of doing this. I think it will have to be used.

There is no comment from "Honest John" who sits over there.

As reference has been made to me, I understand that Deputy Coughlan started these charges of "murder" and "slander". It is under that kind of provocation, ably assisted by Deputy L'Estrange——

I said nothing except about the split in the Cabinet over proportional representation. I said nothing else.

As far as I am concerned, I am prepared to withdraw the manner in which I indicated to Deputy Coughlan that it is to the people with whom he is associated that his remarks would more appropriately be addressed.

That is precisely the position.

The accuracy of——

Do not make a reflection on me. I stand by my Ministers any time——


Hear, hear.

That is what is wrong.

——and they stand by me.


Hear, hear.

Of course they will. Birds of a feather flock together.

Be careful of "The Glasshouse".

The Taoiseach stands behind them, no matter what they say. He is just as guilty of their sins as they are themselves.

The Taoiseach is becoming like them. One of his own Ministers said the Taoiseach is becoming as big a gangster——

That is outrageous. Who is a gangster?

Deputy L'Estrange has used the word "gangster" in reference to the Taoiseach. He will withdraw that expression.

I quoted what one of the Taoiseach's own Ministers said in conversation about the Taoiseach.

Deputy L'Estrange will withdraw the word "gangster".

It is just the same as when you said there was only a majority of one.

In the circumstances, I withdraw the word but one of the Taoiseach's own Ministers said it about the Taoiseach.

They never did.

He certainly did say it in conversation.

Deputy L'Estrange will not be allowed to continue. I am calling on the Taoiseach to reply to Question No. 1.