That is exactly what is behind the opposition to this proposal, which is merely to re-establish the position that operated here consistently from 1922 until the Fine Gael manoeuvre in the courts in 1959 obtained this legalistic interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution. As I say, this is a repetition of what Deputy Fitzpatrick has been saying but it is something both he and the political correspondent of theIrish Times know to be a falsehood. We are well aware of the policy decision by the Coalition newspapers to resort to every means to try to perpetuate the present potentially dangerous and blatantly discriminatory system we have and we have seen in today's paper a distortion of the facts and in this case deliberate falsehood.
We are not surprised nor indeed particularly concerned, but since Deputy Fitzpatrick repeated this particular falsehood last night again, it is desirable to put the facts on record so that anyone who is interested in the facts rather than the falsehoods in theIrish Times can obtain them. The fact of the matter is that the total population of this part of the country, as asserted in the last census, is 2,884,002 people and the total electorate, in accordance with the 1967-68 Register of Electors is 1,713,466. That means on the basis of 144 Deputies the national average of population is 20,028 and on the basis of 144 Deputies, the national average of votes is 11,899, so that even if the one-sixth were to be applied to the national average of votes, nothing approaching the figures which are given as facts in the Irish Times and by Deputy Fitzpatrick could in fact result. As everybody who has paid any attention to this proposal knows, it is to the total population per Deputy that this will apply and they also know that it is the retention of the present requirements of absolute equality of population per Deputy which will result in a differential voting power for some parts of the country compared with others and that, generally speaking, the extra voting power will be given to the urban population and not to the rural population, and that the only aim is to correct that to ensure that overall the value of a rural vote and of an urban vote will be almost the same.
The attempt that is being made is to deliberately downgrade the value of the rural vote. Deputies opposite and people like the political correspondent of theIrish Times think the urban people are fools and think that they believe this type of distortion of the facts and of the figures, and they also think that they want to get this extra value attached to their votes as compared to the value of rural votes. We just do not think that. We do not think urban people want to have extra voting power as compared with rural people. Fine Gael, Labour and other people, such as the political correspondent of the Irish Times think they do. I think all anybody wants is that votes generally all over the country as a whole will have the same effect in electing Deputies. I do not think, for instance, that the people in County Louth would be in any way worried if it took marginally more votes in Louth to elect Deputies than in Monaghan, and I do not think the large number of 7,500 roughly transferred from Louth in order to comply with the present constitutional provision and who were uprooted from the county they lived in all their lives and transferred to Monaghan, would believe that they have gained any democratic right by being transferred into Monaghan so that it would take roughly the same number to elect a Deputy in Louth as in Monaghan.
I do not think they are particularly worried because if they were left in their own county they would have been entitled, in accordance with the rigid interpretation of the Constitution to 3.3 Deputies instead of three and that in County Monaghan they would only have been entitled to 2.7. As I say the operation of this maximum divergence we propose all over the country as a whole will only have the effect of equating the value of rural votes to urban votes as against the present interpretation of the requirement in the Constitution, as every Deputy here knows, and as every political correspondent of a newspaper knows, if he has been doing anything to justify his position as a political correspondent.
Some time ago, on Tuesday, 26th March, I gave in reply to a question put down by Deputy Gerard Collins all the figures which are required for anybody who is sufficiently interested in justice to the people as a whole, to acquaint themselves of what must happen now if this change is not made. One of the columns in this statement, which was circulated with the Official Report, gives the electorate as a percentage of the population in each existing constituency. It will be seen there that the average percentage of the population that the electorate comprises in this country as a whole is 59.41 per cent, but that the electorate as a percentage of the population in different constituencies ranges from 50.96 per cent in Dublin North West to 67.74 per cent in South West Donegal. It is obvious that that means that if the present requirement of the Constitution is not amended and if we are required to revise constituencies on the basis of strict mathematical accuracy of population per Deputy in every constituency, this must result in the position that it will take 10,206 voters to elect a Deputy in Dublin North West and 13,567 voters to elect a Deputy in South West Donegal. It is to get rid of that requirement of the Constitution to perpetrate an injustice on the rural voters that this Amendment to the Constitution is proposed, and it is to retain that situation, perpetrating this injustice of downgrading the value of rural votes plus the injustice of transferring population from one county to another, that the Opposition are opposing this and that the newspapers are suppressing facts and publishing falsehoods such as this.
They also know quite well that this maximum divergence of one-sixth which we propose can only operate in certain circumstances which are clearly defined in the Bill and that any revision of constituencies in which it could be shown that this divergence from the national average was utilised for any other purpose would be unconstitutional. It is known then that contrary to what the political correspondent of theIrish Times states today, there may be no question of a uniform tolerance, as he describes it, as between rural voters and urban voters.
This amendment, as I said last night, proposes to have the provision of a constituency commission in each of these Bills with a condition that if the Fourth Amendment is enacted by the people the part of the Third Amendment would not be operative. This is absolute nonsense and I am advised that it would not be in accordance with the provisions laid down for the amendment of the Constitution to put a hypothetical proposal such as this to the people. Any proposal to amend the Constitution must be a definitive one which when approved by the people must become part of the Constitution. Therefore, it is just not practical to ask the people to make provisions for two constituency commissions. We are suggesting to the people that they should support both of these amendments and we confidently expect that they will enact the two reforms to the electoral system which we are putting before them. If they do we will have this constituency commission. As far as has been officially made known to date the Opposition are opposing both of these proposals. Why then, if that is so, do they want to insert this constituency commission into one if they are going to oppose the two. It is obvious that both or neither will be passed. It is obvious that certain of these Deputies who see the injustice that failure to enact this amendment would perpetrate on the people of their own constituencies having refused to put this proposition to their own constituencies, know that we will find it possible, despite the suppression of our case by the Opposition newspapers, to let the people of all constituencies know what we are doing. It is for that reason that the amendment is now proposed by Deputy Fitzpatrick and it is clearly an admission that this proposal will be accepted by the people, and I have no doubt that before the campaign is long under way and possibly before the debate concludes here they will also admit that the people will give themselves the more rational system of election and representation which we are proposing in the other Bill. In other words, Deputy Cosgrave, the Leader of the Fine Gael Party, will have his way in spite of the Party he leads.