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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 20 Jun 1968

Vol. 235 No. 10

An Bille um an Tríú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1968: An Tuarascáil (atógáil) agus an Céim Dheiridh. Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1968: Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage.

D'atógadh an díospóireacht ar an leasú seo a leanas:
I leathanach 5, idir línte 18 agus 19, na míreanna seo a leanas a chur isteach:—
"(c) cuirfear na hailt atá leagtha amach i gCuid III den Sceideal a ghabhann leis an Acht seo isteach i ndiaidh alt 2 den téacs Gaeilge.
(d) cuirfear na hailt atá leagtha amach i gCuid IV den Sceideal a ghabhann leis an Acht seo isteach i ndiaidh alt 2 den téacs SacsBhéarla.
(e) cuirfear na huimhreacha `8', `9', `10', `11' agus `12' in ionad uimhreacha ailt 3, 4, 5, 6 agus 7, faoi seach, sa dá théacs."
Debate resumed on the following amendment:
1. In page 4, between lines 18 and 19, to add to section 1 the following paragraphs:—
"(c) the sections set out in Part III of the Schedule to this Act shall be inserted after section 2 of the Irish text.
(d) the sections set out in Part IV of the Schedule to this Act shall be inserted after section 2 of the English text.
(e) the numbers `8', `9', `10', `11' and `12' shall be substituted for the numbers of sections 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, respectively, of both texts."
—(Deputy T.J. Fitzpatrick(Cavan)).

I have not much more to say. I think I can welcome the Opposition attitude as disclosed by this amendment as apparently indicating a change in their opposition to these Bills. It is obviously a tacit concession that they now recognise that at least the Third Amendment Bill will be accepted by the people. I think this shows that Deputies opposite have realised that they are wrong in the attitude that they are taking to this Bill. They have appreciated that what they are seeking to do is to perpetuate a system that requires injustices to be done on the people and that they are now inclined to return to what was obviously their original decision to support this particular amendment because, as I pointed out last night there could be no other reason for their demand that we should change this proposal of ours into two separate proposals than that they intended at that time to support one and oppose the other only. It shows that they are now beginning to appreciate that this changed decision of theirs, based on their consistent policy down the years of opposing principles purely and simply on the basis that they were brought in by Fianna Fáil, was a misguided decision.

I wonder is this changed attitude merely due to the fact that those who see the injustice that the Party decision to oppose this amendment would inflict on the people have refused to conform to the Party attitude and that they have refused in fact to conduct the campaign which will obviously in their own constituency result in a considerable injustice being done to the electorate there, or have they actually been authorised to adopt a different attitude from the official Party attitude. I cannot help wondering whether or not this also applies to the almost 50 per cent of the Fine Gael Party who were in fact in favour of our full proposal in any case. It is quite clear that, now that they have come around to tacitly agreeing that the Third Amendment Bill is bound to be passed by the people, we can almost assume that before the debate concludes they will be equally prepared to accept the inevitable and that is that both Bills will be endorsed by the electorate, in other words that they will accept that the Leader of the Fine Gael Party will have his way in spite of the Party which he leads.

In so far as we are concerned we have confidence in the people and we have confidence in the ability of our voluntary organisation to break through the paper wall erected by the Opposition newspapers and to overcome the one-sided propaganda disseminated under the masquerade of factual reports. After all, Fianna Fáil have experienced this right down through the years and we have been successful in spite of this consistent effort to present only the case against Fianna Fáil and against what Fianna Fáil propose. We see in today's papers a foretaste of what to expect, the almost complete suppression of the replies to the Opposition speeches yesterday, and we also see the political correspondent of one of the papers, the Irish Times, resorting to deliberate falsehood.

I quote from the Irish Times of today:

One Bill seeks to obtain a uniform tolerance of about one-sixth as between rural and urban voters so that it might take 23,000 votes to elect a Dublin Deputy and possibly 17,000 to elect a rural Deputy.

Now, that statement, as the gentleman who wrote it knows, contains two deliberate falsehoods. I admit that these two falsehoods have also been uttered here by Deputy Fitzpatrick and other Opposition spokesmen, but it is known that there is no proposal in this Bill to operate a uniform tolerance of about one-sixth as between rural and urban voters or as between rural and urban population as in the census report.

It is known that the Bill in fact lays down certain conditions in which this divergence from the national average can occur and that it is only to take account of those factors that this can be operated, and in any case it is not on the average of voters that the one-sixth divergence can be applied but to the average of population, which is a completely different thing. The gentleman who put those deliberate falsehoods into his papers, following on the same falsehood as was stated here by Deputy Fitzpatrick last night——

(Cavan): Which is true.

——knows it is not correct that anything approaching the figures he gave could result from the operation of this. He knows it is untrue to say it might take 23,000 votes to elect a Dublin Deputy and possibly 17,000 to elect a rural Deputy.

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

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 the Irish 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 the Irish 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 the Irish 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 the Irish 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.

The whole purpose of our Party was to ensure that these measures would be brought to the people with the least possible delay. We, therefore, deplore the unnecessary holdup in the proceedings which we have been experiencing here in the past few weeks. I would not have intervened in this debate at this juncture were it not for the off-hand and disdainful approach of the Minister to this reasonable amendment by Deputy Fitzpatrick which made clear to us once again the overall purpose which is intended in these measures.

This is unquestionably a political power-grab engineered by the Minister for Local Government who is dragging his Party behind him sticking them into this referendum, the majority of whom know they will get a terrible thrashing in the process. The request for some semblance of fair play in respect of the revision of our constituencies which must be carried out under our present laws is purely a reasonable request and the fact that the Minister rejects this reasonable request is an indication of his deplorable outlook. He wants to take on to himself the duty and respons bility of daring to carve up our consti uencies in his own way. It is reasonable to suggest that this should be done in the interests of Fianna Fáil and Fianna Fáil only. It will be done to buttress them up in every area in which the Minister sees this possible and it will be done specifically to ensure the annihilation of opposition everywhere this Minister sees it.

We have had evidence, Sir, of this in the past. Prior to the 1961 general election in which I participated and was sent into this House at the head of the poll, you had a taste of what Fianna Fáil could do, and did do, in spite of the gerrymandering of constituencies.

We saw therein their utter disdain and disrespect not merely for the Opposition as such but for the will of the people, for traditional boundaries and the like. We saw the evidence of a ruthlessness that one would only associate with North-East Ulster—a brutal carving up of county boundaries in order to entrench Fianna Fáil in power, in order to gain that extra seat or possibly defeat some members of the Opposition, Labour Deputies or Fine Gael Deputies or Independents.

We know too, that this was done without any regard whatsoever for fair play or for impartiality of any kind. Not only was there not a commission of any kind set up with a chairman who would be a member of the Supreme Court; not only was there not any representation from the Opposition; but we know now what transpired was that maps of the various electoral areas and their hinterlands were hung up on the walls of the Party clubs, in the rooms of the Party in this House, and the Fianna Fáil Members were asked to decide how best to manipulate these areas——

That is not true.

——to suit the advancement of their Party. The whole purpose was to try to grab extra power by fair means or foul and the foulest means were adopted. It is an incontrovertible fact that the views of the then Fianna Fáil Deputies were ascertained and he who was regarded as the most ruthless organiser for the Party was charged with the responsibility for the butchering. I know that to be a fact in respect of my own constituency.

And the Minister's own constituency.

The irony of the whole debate——

The Deputy will be in Waterford before he stops.

No matter what the Minister does with me, I will be back in this House and I expect the worst from him in that respect. The most ironic aspect of this whole debate is the reference to tolerance, and the regard which the Minister purports to have for tolerance and for proper representation in rural areas. I do not think I do the Minister any disrespect when I say, from what I know of him in this House, that tolerance is not one of the Christian virtues with which he is endowed.

The only tolerance he knows is the tolerance to let Fianna Fáil lead on. This is a last desperate gamble to achieve that aim. It is a desperate gamble because the Minister has lined up against him — he has castigated them here today—the mass of the Irish people and the united Opposition in this House, and the Press and all the mass media also are against this evil design, which is an affront to the will of the Irish people as registered on this issue only nine years ago. It is an audacious attempt causing widespread indignation among all fair-minded people in this country. They resent deeply this attempt to impose on them a petty tyranny, and this claptrap which the Minister has gone on with within the past week that this is in the interests of the nation, in the interest of democracy——

Hear, hear.

——in the interest even of a good Opposition is poppycock, rubbish. It is merely an attempt to put on this despicable trick the veneer of decency. This amendment asked for some semblance of fair play in the revision of our constituencies — that there would be some impartial observer there to see that what was reasonably fair and just in the circumstances would be done but the Minister would not have that. He has arrogated to himself and to his Party henchmen the right to do this. Let us not forget that in this process of abolishing PR and establishing single-seat constituencies, ensuring that Fianna Fáil are first at the head of the poll, contained in this whole system and device is the secret weapon which the Minister and his Party propose— the weapon to gerrymander. Therein the terrible danger lies, therein the real injustice lies; and therein lies a threat to the democratic way of life. We had hoped the Minister would see the wisdom and the writing on the wall and withdraw these proposals.

He has not done so. He is renowned for his steadfastness, for his ruthlessness, renowned for his arrogance, and all these unsavoury attributes are being demonstrated all the way through in this debate, and indeed outside of these debates on other matters. The barbed tongue of the Minister has indicated his lack of respect practically for God and man.

Every cliche in the book.

It is understandable therefore that he shows a disdain, disregard and hostility to the Opposition in this House. This we expect and understand. He has sought again to infer that the Opposition, by their attitude in this matter are anti-rural, that we seek to disfranchise in some way the rural voters.

Hear, hear.

This is patently untrue. Unfortunately our rural vote has fallen drastically in recent years under Fianna Fáil rule and Fianna Fáil now realise these are the political facts and I defy contradiction of them. The evolution of politics in this country has demonstrated that Fianna Fáil are losing power and control in the cities, in the big built-up areas of this country and they want to hold on fast and maintain their stranglehold on the rural areas, especially in the counties of the West. In order to do that, they are now seeking permission to manipulate the voting system in order to maintain the same number of seats in the West at all costs because quite a lot of them are naturally Fianna Fáil seats. They are seeking to ensure to offset the fall in population. They want now to ensure that a lesser number of votes will elect Fianna Fáil Deputies in certain rural areas as against the number of votes required to elect Deputies in the built-up areas of our cities and larger towns. We believe in the principle of one man, one vote.

We know no good reason as to why our electoral system should be so manipulated as to confer certain preferences on a region comprised of rocks——

And cows.

——and cows, animals, forests, lakes.

What about giving two or three votes to one man?

Voting is concerned with people, not with animals or even the beauty of our counties. This is a human problem, and if the West is denuded of its population it is not our fault; it is the fault of Fianna Fáil. It is particularly audacious of them now to pretend to try and save the West by this means, by giving to any section of the people a preference that their brethren in other parts of Ireland do not enjoy. The people of the rural areas do not want preferential treatment in respect of votes. The people of the rural areas must be told, as I am telling them now, that this device is not for their benefit or for their proper representation in this House. It is for the benefit of Fianna Fáil, to enable them to continue to dominate people's lives in the rural areas and in the West of Ireland. The people of these parts must ask themselves who is responsible for the situation whereby this manipulation is now taking place. I contend that these people must be fed up to the teeth with this regime and will see through this attempt to fasten themselves on to power in these areas by this unfair means.

The Minister calls our present system a dangerous and a discriminatory system. On what grounds does he contend that this is so? Have we had instability of government here in recent years? Have we had social unrest of a serious kind? Have we had a multiplicity of parties here in this House in recent years? Where is the threat to democracy in this country that the Minister alleges there is in this "dangerous and discriminatory system"? The facts are that, outside the totalitarian states of Eastern Europe, the Minister's Party have fastened on to power here for over 30 years under this PR system. They have enjoyed power in this House continuously for the past 11 years, and basically there are only two other Parties represented in this House in opposition. Far from there being anything dangerous or discriminatory in this system, it is a fair and just system. It is the system best suited to our needs in this country, and we have the say-so of the former Taoiseach, President de Valera, for that fact.

The dangerous system is the one which the Minister is now seeking to impose upon the Irish people, the system of the single-seat constituency, the straight vote, and the right which he allocates to himself to gerrymander. Herein lies the threat to our democratic way of life. Other Members much older and wiser than I, like Deputy James Dillon, have forewarned the Minister, and I myself in my contribution on the Second Stage of these Bills also pointed out the dangers inherent in a change of this kind. If, heaven forbid, the designs of the Minister were carried by the people and we did have an overbearing Government in power to the exclusion of minorities in this House, it should clearly be understood that the Irish people, being a freedom-loving people, would never tolerate a situation in which there was being imposed on them by unfair methods a tyranny, whether Irish or foreign, and they would take upon themselves at the first possible opportunity the ways and means of overthrowing that tyranny. I contend that it is the Minister, by his arrogance and his disregard for fair play, his tampering with the pillars of our society upon which democracy and liberty are founded——

I should like to hear something about the amendment before the House.

(Cavan): That has been forgotten about for a long time.

He is not even dealing with the proper Bill.

I am dealing with Deputy Fitzpatrick's amendment.

He has been dealing with the Fourth Amendment Bill.

I have asked the Minister to ensure that the Opposition will have some reasonable say in the revision of constituencies——

The Deputy does not know what the amendment is about.

——and he has said "no" to that. This is an indication again of the real designs of the Minister and his Party, that this is a power grab at all costs, and the people in the Opposition are not to have any effective say in it. These are the views I wanted to convey in the dying hours of this debate, and it is simply not good enough for the Minister to say that we are all out of step except himself. It is not good enough for the Minister to castigate the Opposition, to castigate the Church, to castigate everyone who dares challenge him or dares show him any opposition. That is typical of the whole intention and purpose of this measure. It has all the ingredients of ruthlessness and tyranny, through which the Irish people have seen. We await the opportunity when the Irish people will be asked to decide on this matter, and they will give back the answer to the Minister in most telling fashion. It will be made known to him that liberty is a precious thing in this country, that people have been properly alerted to the threat, that this last desperate gamble of his will founder on the rocks, and that Fianna Fáil will have to face the consequences of going into the wilderness for a long number of years in Irish politics. I would hope that the Minister would show some regard for the consensus of opinion on this amendment and the fact that he has confirms in our minds the feelings and fears we have about his intentions in this matter. He has confirmed the fears we had in that regard.

I was rather amused listening to the last Deputy.

Deputy Burke is now getting afraid.

No. There is not any fear in my bones at all.

Deputy Harte is the one who is afraid. He is getting afraid and that is responsible for his change of attitude.

Deputy Burke is saying : "God save me from my friends. I know my enemies."


Deputy Burke should not turn his back on the Minister.

I listened very carefully to the last speaker and he used nearly every phrase in the English language——

I did not use any bad language.

——to say that there are a lot of tyrants over here, that we are not to be trusted, that they are the saviours of democracy on the opposite side of the House, and that anything we do on this side of the House is designed for our own purposes. I want to tell the last speaker that we have always put the interests of Ireland before the interests of our own Party.

The Deputy should bless himself after that.

What was the line the founder of the Deputy's Party took?

Would Deputy Harte please restrain himself. Deputy Burke is entitled to speak without interruption the same as other Deputies.

I am grateful to Deputy Harte for his help.

The Chair is not grateful to Deputy Harte.

I am putting Deputy Burke on the alert.

The last speaker said we were responsible for all the ills possible, and that pure democratic Irish politics remained only with the Opposition. He would get it very hard to sell that one at any church gate in Ireland. On all occasions the Irish people have been very shrewd. They have returned us here for years. I have been here for almost 25 years.

If the Minister gets his way the Deputy will not be here for 26 years.

The Minister is a good colleague of mine and we pull our weight together.

The Deputy pulls too much weight and that is the trouble.

I do not need to say any more. I want to ask the Opposition would they really seriously consider disfranchising the remainder of rural Ireland, giving rural Ireland very little representation, and giving top-heavy representation to the cities and towns. In the great United States there is a great history of democracy and in their wisdom they decided to have two Senators for each State irrespective of population.

Is this relevant to the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill?

I am answering a point which was made.

An amendment on Report Stage of the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill is before the House.

It is the 11th Commandment. Man mind thyself.

In the United States they elect two Senators for every State, irrespective of population. I am sure the Opposition would not like it to be known in rural Ireland—and I think they will find it very hard to defend themselves as a result of their action in this House——

(Cavan): Would the Deputy deal with the commission?

I will deal with the commission. I am answering a point which was made by the previous speaker and I think I am in order in trying to criticise constructively what was said. There is a provision for a commission. Surely the Opposition must have some faith in their own ability to put their case to the public. They are adopting a very pessimistic attitude. I am very sorry for them.

We also have the Deputy's interests at heart.

A majority of one. We know what the Leader of the Deputy's Party wants.

He is too strong for the Minister in the constituency.

Why are Opposition Deputies afraid of the straight vote?

That does not arise.

I know it does not.

May I point out to the Deputy that the amendment deals with the insertion into the Bill of a provision relating to the constituencies commission.

Deputy Burke is now worried about his own Minister.

Is not that a reasonable request? Is it not reasonable to have a commission?

(Cavan): Hear, hear.

The Minister has already agreed to that.

The Deputy will not be on it.

Not on that issue. Why are Deputies so afraid of this proposal? Why are they alleging all these things? The previous speaker could not say enough against what we are trying to do. The people of Ireland must have wanted Fianna Fáil or they would not have put us in.

Why do Fianna Fáil want to change the rules now?

Because they are losing.

It is his surplus which brings the Minister in.

That was a long time ago. All the Deputy is interested in is a cushy seat.

I will take a cushy seat anywhere if the Minister will give it to me.

The Deputy does not mind about the people who elected him.

Put my part in with County Dublin and I will beat the Minister to a frazzle in his own constituency.

That is more than Deputy Dunne can do.

I will do it.

If the interruptions are now at an end perhaps Deputy Burke who is in possession would continue. I would ask Deputy Burke to relate his remarks to the setting up of a commission.

I am very sorry that this debate has become personal. There is no need for personalities. This is a national issue and people are bringing in personalities which I deplore. I have never been personal and I will not be drawn into being personal this morning.

Hear, hear. We have the utmost respect for Deputy Burke.

The feeling is mutual.

I would advise the Opposition to accept the Minister's proposals and to stand by them, and I am sure posterity will be very grateful. We always did and we always will put the national interest before the interest of our own Party. What we are doing here is in the national interest and the people of Ireland will realise that it is in the national interest.

The same as Taca.

We want stability of Government whether it is Fianna Fáil Government, Fine Gael Government or Labour Government. We want that stability and we want to have continuity of prosperity——

We cannot discuss that on this amendment.

We want to see a continuation of the national prosperity which was so ably initiated by Fianna Fáil over many years. It is for that reason that we have taken this action on this side of the House.

Like Deputy Treacy, I did not propose to intervene in this debate——

Until you were told to delay it.

Having listened to Deputy Burke and, indeed, considering the position in which Deputy Burke will find himself, should the Minister succeed in having this Bill passed in the House and leaving Deputy Burke without half of the constituency, not alone are we concerned about Deputies on the Fine Gael Party benches and, indeed, on the Labour Party benches but, being fair-minded, we must also consider what will happen decent, honest to goodness Deputies on the Fianna Fáil back benches, such as Deputy Burke——

He would be elected in any part of Ireland.

That is something I would agree with but it is not something the Minister could do.

It would not be possible to keep Deputy Burke out of this House. He could not be kept out of it in any part of Ireland.

(Cavan): The Minister will be glad of Deputy Burke's surplus the next time.

I was elected with a surplus of my own.

The Minister got a fright in the local elections.

(Cavan): I do not think the Minister's prestige has gone up since the last election.

That remains to be seen.

Due to no fault of my own, I was absent a fortnight or three weeks ago when the Minister went into great detail in regard to Donegal as a county. I wonder what the position will be in County Donegal, immediately after the referendum, if this amendment is not accepted and if the Minister for Local Government should find himself in an unhappy position. with Deputy Burke as a colleague, and he wanders up to carve a constituency for himself in County Donegal. I wonder whom he would be thinking of. Would he be thinking of the Fine Gael Deputies? Whether or not he likes it, two Fine Gael Deputies will be returned from Donegal. There are six Deputies from Donegal—two Fine Gael Deputies and four Fianna Fáil Deputies. No matter what way the Minister carves up that county, there will still be two Fine Gael Deputies. The one that will drop out will be a Fianna Fáil Deputy.

We all know that Deputy O'Donnell is one of those coming to Dublin. That is why you want to get rid of half his constituents.

I do not know whether the Minister wishes me to say there are more Fine Gael votes in South West Donegal than Fianna Fáil votes but, if the Minister uses the iron fist to suggest to Donegal people that a thousand Fine Gael votes will disappear from there to North Leitrim——

I said "constituents". Deputy Harte is on record as demanding that.

It is between the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Social Welfare because he is the man who will drop out.

Order. Would Deputy Harte please relate his remarks to this amendment?

I submit I am being relevant. The amendment is that the Opposition have some say in the drafting of constituencies: this is what the amendment is. I am pointing out to the House and taking the Minister to task and, indeed, trying to enlighten Deputy Burke as to what the position will be, should the Minister refuse to accept this amendment. I am pointing out to the House that, when the Minister for Local Government, Deputy Boland, was speaking here a fortnight ago, keeping very true to form since he first introduced these two Amendments, he confused the issue. He is trying to persuade the people of Donegal that, should we not go along with this pure thinking, everything evil will happen in County Donegal, particularly in the very southern parts of the county.

He is trying a spot of blackmail, the same as everywhere else.

We shall let the people know exactly what you are trying to do.

The people will show what they think of you, if they get the opportunity.

If the Minister for Local Government could have his way, not even Deputy Burke would be sure of his seat in this House——

Now, now.

——because pride——

Great things have happened in our time.

Maybe in his time but not in the time of his Government.

Deputy Burke could get elected in Donegal, never mind in Dublin.

I know that the Minister has been using tactics in this debate, inviting Deputies from different sides of the House to express their views——

Deputy Norton invited the Leader of the Fine Gael Party to express his views.

(Cavan): Deputy Norton was not here to express them at the vital time.

He was. He was tricked——

If he was tricked, the Minister tricked him. I pointed out to the Minister yesterday evening that we should not resume until 7.30 p.m. but he had not the decency to do that. The records of the House will show that that is so. I pointed it out to the Minister and I asked him if he would be agreeable that the House adjourn until after the tea—but he would not. He thought he was clever but, as usual, he fell down on the job.

Deputy Tully was pressing that the question be put as I was running down the stairs into the Chamber.

The Deputy need not worry. On Report Stage, I shall say what I have to say.

Of course, the Deputy is perfectly entitled to do so— and, if he can get four people to stand up with him, he can get a vote: otherwise, he is on his own.

I spent three years practically on my own in the Labour Party. It is not a new situation.

He did not say very much when he was here.

Last week, when the Minister for Local Government wished to——

We all know that the Fine Gael Deputies will not come in here before 2 p.m. You cannot get them up out of bed before that hour.

While the Minister's Party were hatcheting for his scalp in the Party room, deciding whether or not to accept Deputy Norton's amendment, messages were coming down to the Minister that the debate was going one way and the other. Finally, when the Minister discovered that the Party had reached some sort of a decision— one which Deputy P.J. Lenihan, Deputy MacEntee, Deputy Booth, Deputy Andrews and a few other Deputies whom we do not want to mention——

All the Deputy wants to know is how many Fine Gael Deputies are up out of bed.

——even challenged that decision——

I did not know Deputy Harte was at the meeting.

Does Deputy Norton not know that if the Minister for Local Government had any respect for his amendment, he could have kept the debate going yesterday evening for three-quarters of an hour?

(Cavan): He could have kept it going for three weeks.

You let Deputy Norton down because you have no further use for his amendment.

That is a regular thing with the Minister, anyway. We are used to that in the past few months.

Order. Will Deputy Harte please come to the amendment? These disorderly interruptions must cease.

You cannot come back to something you were never at.

Deputy Harte and Deputy Fitzpatrick are getting tired and irritable because they are the only two Members of the Fine Gael Party who could be persuaded to make any attempt to discuss the Bill. The rest of the Party, who do not believe in what you say, have gone away.

That is not true.

Deputy Cosgrave did not vote.

(Cavan): We come in to attend to our amendments.

Deputy Harte would not be talking nonsense in this House now unless——

Everything Fine Gael say, Deputy Norton now disagrees with as nonsense.

(Cavan): Fianna Fáil have been arguing this over the past six months but they decided upon it only yesterday.

What Deputy Sweetman told him yesterday was also nonsense.

What Deputy Sweetman suggested is nonsense and I challenge——

This whole matter is completely irrelevant at this stage.

I challenge you to ask the Leader of your Party.

Deputy Fitzpatrick's amendment; anything else is irrelevant. Deputy Harte.

Any embarrassment you are causing is to your own Leader.

Deputy Norton should remain in the House more often, even when his amendments are not being discussed. I did not particularly wish to speak on this debate because all this was discussed nine years ago. The tactics of the Minister, however, are designed to keep it going but Fine Gael are anxious to put the matter before the people. Then we can go on building more houses and preparing legislation which will be of greater benefit to the community. Deputy Norton said that what I was discussing was nonsense. Deputy Norton usually maintains, when a Deputy is criticising him or using language he does not like, that it is nonsense.

At this stage again——

We know that Deputy Norton invited Deputy Sweetman to lunch with him in order to discuss the ways and means by which Deputy Norton could join the Fine Gael Party.

Deputy Harte will speak on the amendment before the House. Anything else is irrelevant.

Why does Deputy Harte not ask——

Deputy Norton, I presume, will have the opportunity to speak but at this stage Deputy Harte is speaking.

If the Minister does not accept this amendment, if Deputy Norton does not use the opportunity to vote for it, Deputy Norton will be out of the constituency immediately after the next election because just like Deputy Burke, Deputy Norton will be bushwhacked as quickly as any man ever was, in the true sense of the Wild West.

I am only trying to save Deputy O'Donnell from being bushwhacked.

Deputy O'Donnell knows his friends and his enemies.

He knows what you are trying to do with him.


Deputy Brennan wants to watch the Minister because the truth of the matter is that Donegal's population, because of Fianna Fáil administration, has fallen in the past ten years from 124,000 to 108,000. Because of this, the Minister now wants to have further power to gerrymander as did his colleague, the former Minister for Local Government, Deputy Blaney. He gerrymandered that constituency to such a degree that he almost left the Ceann Comhairle without a seat. However, no matter what way he tried to gerrymander Donegal, the past is rapidly catching up on the gerrymandering tactics employed by Fianna Fáil since 1932. A three-member constituency used to be the Fianna Fáil desire. They believed that a Party with one vote more than 50 per cent could get two seats out of three. This is a straightforward mathematical calculation. They believed that in an area in which the Opposition could get one vote more than 50 per cent the best thing to do was to make it a four-seat constituency so that this would neutralise the support of the Opposition Parties when it came to voting in this House. This just does not suit. The wheel is turning the full circle.

I must here disagree with Deputy Burke. Because they believe more in Fianna Fáil than they do in the country there are fewer people in the west of Ireland now, where Fianna Fáil had more strength than in the cities, it is now necessary to amend the Constitution to give the Minister power to perpetuate the position in spite of the fact that his Party have let down the people in the western areas miserably, particularly the people in Donegal. If this amendment is not accepted by the Minister, no one, particularly an Opposition Deputy, will be safe in this House. There will be no guarantee that if Fianna Fáil are returned to office with the strength that political commentators suggest, further legislation will not be enacted to make this an elected dictatorship instead of a free democratic society for which people paid the supreme sacrifice. These are the reasons I rose to speak briefly on this amendment and not for the reasons Deputy Norton suggested. I do not have to invite any member of my Party to speak his mind.

There would not be much point in inviting the Deputy's Leader.

Any member of the Fianna Fáil Party, and particularly the Minister, who suggests that his Party is united on this score is either a lunatic or is codding himself but he is not codding us.

It took them four hours to make up their minds.

It is no secret that members of Fine Gael disagree with the attitude of the Party. It is no secret, in spite of the fact that Fianna Fáil are trying to cloak it, that members of the Fianna Fáil Party are in complete disagreement with their Party's proposals.

Not one, not a solitary one.

Do not be trying to fool the people. I know several who are against it.

I wonder what attitude Deputy Clohessy of Limerick has. I wonder is Deputy Geoghegan of Galway——

——in complete agreement with the Minister.

(Cavan): What about Deputy Paddy Lenihan?

Every Deputy in the Fianna Fáil Party.

Do not be talking nonsense.

I wonder is Deputy Seán Ó Ceallaigh in agreement with the Minister.

What about Deputy Cosgrave, Deputy Sweetman, Deputy Flanagan and——

The only difference is that the people in the Minister's Party who disagree are so meek and humble and afraid of their positions that they are afraid to speak.

They are not men.

The deadwood of Fine Gael.

This is the reason why Deputy Norton when he was invited to have lunch——

Will Deputy Harte come back to the amendment? Let us deal with that and not discuss extraneous matters.

I do not wish to come in conflict with the Chair——

The Chair wants to keep the debate on the correct lines, on the amendment before the House.

I have always considered Deputy Norton to be a friendly individual and at this stage I would not like our friendship to be abused.

(Cavan): He is a mixed-up kid at the moment.

I am not tired and irritable like Deputy Fitzpatrick.

He is making wild swipes at every Deputy. Deputy Norton and I have been on the most friendly terms since he was elected. When Deputy Norton was seeking election in the by-election, I was one of the Fine Gael Party who believed that he should not be opposed.

The Deputy must come back to the amendment.

It is very difficult to speak directly to the amendment when Deputies like Deputy Norton pull you off track and wish you to reply to statements they make. This is an amendment which the Minister should accept and because of his refusal to accept it, he has demonstrated to the House the way in which he would wish to see members of the Opposition Parties go and he is warning the members of his own Party that, if they do not toe the line, they too will go the way he would like to see members of the Opposition Parties go.

Who will get the vacancies?


I wonder, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, what the reaction of decent, honest, right-thinking people, who cherish the fact that they are Irish and the thought of being free, and who cherish the idea of belonging to a society which is a pure and simple democracy, will be when they examine the proposals of the Minister and look closely at his attitude, and look to the future. Consider the question of realigning constituencies in Donegal: if the Minister does not accept this amendment, what guarantee have people who do not support the Fianna Fáil Party or, at some future date, some new Party which may emerge, that this democracy will remain pure? Is this not a take-over bid by the Fianna Fáil Party? Would it not be an abdication of responsibility on the part of Opposition Parties to allow the Minister this power? Would it not be an abdication of responsibility on my part to remain silent and allow the Minister and his colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Deputy Blaney, who is just as ruthless and just as irresponsible as the Minister for Local Government, to carve up Donegal any way they think fit? The Lord forbid. If the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries had the scissors in his hand, I, for one, would be without a constituency.

Fianna Fáil are so entrenched at the moment and the jobbery is so rife that they have taken over the country. Irrespective of the views of the left wing of the Labour Party, irrespective of whether people support Fine Gael, Labour or some other Party opposed to Fianna Fáil, they must ask themselves can Members of this House, who disagree fundamentally with the concept of government other than single-Party government, stay silent and allow a dictatorship, to which the Minister aspires, to be elected to control the country in the years ahead? This is a very serious situation. In Donegal, which is the constituency I know best, unless one belongs to the Fianna Fáil club and unless one brings with one a member of the Fianna Fáil Party on a deputation to Leinster House, one is not wanted. That is the situation which has developed over the past ten years.

Again, the Deputy is moving away from the amendment before the House and introducing a subject which is irrelevant to the debate.

The point is a difficult point to make. Deputy Geoghegan may laugh but he should tell the truth. I know he is not permitted to do so, but he is not with the Minister on these proposals: I know that.


Order. Deputy Harte, on the amendment. Deputy L'Estrange will cease interrupting.

I am trying to emphasise the importance of the Minister accepting this amendment because, if he does not accept it, some of the things which will happen can be illustrated by the things which are now happening.


A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, if I might be permitted to deviate for one second——

The Chair will not allow deviation.


If I might give some examples relevant to the amendment——

If the Deputy keeps to the amendment, that is all right; otherwise, the Chair will not permit any deviation.

Deputy Geoghegan, by his silence, has indicated to the House that I was not far wrong when I said he disagrees with the Minister in his proposals.


Interruptions must cease. Would Deputy L'Estrange cease interrupting? Deputy Harte, on the amendment.

The amendment seeks to give Opposition Parties some control over the future carving up of constituencies. It is a simple request. It is one democracy demands should be respected. Without being personal, we know the Minister is not concerned about democracy. Indeed, his own backbenchers know that, too. I contend, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that one of the reasons why the Minister should accept this amendment is that, bad and all as he is, he may not always be Minister for Local Government. Indeed, you might have a person in that office who could be more ruthless—if you could find him. I know it would be difficult to find him.

Deputy Harte.

I suggest that the next time Deputy Norton comes into the House he sits to the right. He has taken a passive role.

I am left wing.

I am now told that he will not be allowed. Perhaps that explains it.

Continue: I shall not interrupt.

I want to put on record that, wherever Deputy Norton sits, he is quite at liberty to interrupt me as freely and as often as he likes because I have a feeling that after the next general election Deputy Norton will not be sitting in this House.

Deputy Harte is telling his own tale.

This is only social climbing on the part of Deputy Harte. He should go back to the Bill and stop the codding.

He should sit down and let us have the vote.

Words fail me when Deputy Norton speaks of social climbing. I am not too particular as to company.

I can see that. If you were, you would not have joined the Party.

But, I would have second thoughts after hearing the statements made by the Deputy yesterday evening.

Do not be more irrelevant than you can help.

The point I was making when these general interruptions started was that if the Minister did not accept the amendment, you could have a situation developing where the Minister's Party could be returned to this House with a much larger majority than they have at the moment and there is no guarantee, therefore, that the infiltration of Taca members, the takeover bid, the further entrenchment of that Party into the Civil Service, the Army, the Garda, into every section that controls this community—the Minister may smile but, whether it is true or not——

On a point of order, surely the Garda, the Army and the Civil Service have nothing to do with the amendment?

The poor devil does not know the difference.

There is no guarantee that further steps, more serious——

I have already reminded the Deputy on a couple of occasions that the Chair will not permit extraneous material to be introduced into the debate at this stage. I must ask the Deputy to get to the amendment.

I do not wish to come in conflict with the Chair. The point I am making is that this is a reasoned amendment.

Take the advice of the Chair. Sit down and let the vote be taken.

If the Minister does not accept it, what guarantee have I or any future Deputy elected for Donegal, or what guarantee have the people of Donegal or the people of Ireland, even the backbench members of the Fianna Fáil Party, that the Minister will not seek greater and stronger powers further to entrench the Fianna Fáil Party in the Civil Service, the Garda, the Army and every other walk of life? I do not know whether that is in order or not. If you rule that it is not, I accept your ruling.

The matter for discussion is the electoral system. A proposal for a Commission to deal with the delineation of constituencies is what is before the House at the moment.

If you rule that that is not in order, I accept the ruling.

Let the vote be taken.

I wish to make this point: If Deputy Crowley had been as successful as he thought he would have been, he could have been a member of the Fine Gael Party, if we would have it.

The people of Mid-Cork gave their answer to this type of rumour. When your then Leader, Deputy Dillon, went out at every churchgate, he only reinforced my position in the constituency.

All this material is extraneous to the matter before the House.

(Cavan): Did Deputy Crowley apply for membership of the Fine Gael Party or did he not?

Everybody seems to be applying, according to you.

At this stage the Chair is least being listened to and unless the Chair can insist that the debate will continue in a reasonable fashion, then there is no sense in my trying to control the debate.

I have a point I wish to make. My view is that the arrogance of the Minister for Local Government is demonstrated very forcibly in his attitude in refusing to accept the amendment and, of course, the arrogance of the Minister for Local Government only mirrors the attitude of the Fianna Fáil Party and spotlights the great danger to our society if this Party succeed in convincing the electorate that there must be a change in the Constitution. It is my contention that the Labour Party must look at this in a reasoned way.

If there are forces in that Party and, indeed, if there are forces in the Fine Gael Party, which said that they would rather be in Opposition or in Government on their own, there is one thing in common between these two Parties, that for the sake of the Irish people, we must do everything in our power to put the Fianna Fáil Party out of power. In conclusion, let me say that Deputy Crowley was introduced to me in the Fine Gael Party room, by Deputy Mark Clinton, on the day he made application to join Fine Gael.

This is a deliberate untruth by Deputy Harte again and I would like him to withdraw the remark.

It is the truth.

It is the furthest statement from the truth that he has made this morning.

You were introduced to me in the Fine Gael Party room on the day you applied.

Do not be telling lies. You would stoop to anything.

That is the truth.

You know it is not the truth.

It is, certainly. I met you along with Senator Denis O'Sullivan.

That is the greatest insult payable to my intelligence, that I would seek membership of the Fine Gael Party.

You certainly did.

I did not. I have already pointed out to the Chair that it is not because Deputy L'Estrange tried to join the Fianna Fáil Party that I tried to join the Fine Gael Party.

Never in my life.

You were asked last night and you did not deny it.

Look up the records. I had nothing ever to do with the Party.

Will Deputy L'Estrange, Deputy Crowley, Deputy Norton cease interrupting? There is an amendment before the House. Deputy Fitzpatrick.

(Cavan): I take it I am concluding, Sir?

(Cavan): I find it necessary at this stage to remind the House that my amendment proposes to insert in the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill a Commission which will arrange the constituencies, a Commission consisting of three members of the Government Party, three members of the Opposition Party or Parties in the House, with an independent chairman who will be a judge of the High Court or of the Supreme Court. That is my amendment. I found it necessary to put forward this amendment because there is such a provision in the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill which proposes to abolish proportional representation but there is no such Commission provided for in the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill which proposes to give a tolerance of one-sixth either side of the national average and, notwithstanding what the Minister has said, which proposes to provide a Deputy for a population of 23,333 in one constituency and proposes to give a Deputy to 16,667 in another constituency.

It does not matter whether those constituencies are urban constituencies or rural constituencies. It may be that a population of 16,667 in one rural constituency will be entitled to a Deputy, while it will take a population of 23,333 in another part of rural Ireland to be entitled to a Deputy. Those are the facts. What the Minister states was printed in the Irish Times this morning I have not an opportunity of reading yet. It is correct and is in accordance with the law as it will be if the people are foolish enough to accept this amendment.

In those circumstances, it is of vital importance that the constituencies, which may differ so vastly between one part of Ireland and another, should be arranged by an impartial tribunal such as this amendment proposes. The fact that the Minister has refused to accept this amendment proves conclusively that he is not interested in electoral reform but that he is interested in political gerrymandering, in rigging the constituencies for political purposes. Not alone did the Minister fail to accept this amendment, as indeed a great many people on both sides of the House thought he would, but he failed to deal with the amendment in his speech last night and this morning. He talked around the amendment. He talked about tolerance which is, in effect, irrelevant on the amendment. He spent a considerable portion of his time trying to prove that the Fianna Fáil Party are united on these proposals and that the Fine Gael Party are not united. Therefore, I think I am entitled very briefly to deal with that matter raised by the Minister.

These Bills dealing with electoral reform were ordered to be printed by this House on 21st February last. Presumably, before they were ordered to be printed, they had to come before the Cabinet and I assume they had the approval of the Cabinet. But it is quite clear to me that these Bills, and in particular, this tolerance Bill without a commission, did not come before the Fianna Fáil Party and had not the approval of the Fianna Fáil Party. When these Bills saw the light of day, they were immediately considered by the Fine Gael Party. The Fine Gael Party there and then, after full consideration and in a democratic way, took a decision to oppose both of these Bills. They have not changed that opinion since. They have not reconsidered the matter.

These Bills, and particularly this measure with which I am dealing now, have not the approval of the Fianna Fáil Party. As I said, the Bills were ordered to be printed on 21st February. That is four months ago almost to the day. The Bills have been going through this House in one form or another since then. The Fianna Fáil Party have met week after week. They have considered and reconsidered this matter. While we had the Minister sitting in the Taoiseach's chair in the House protesting that the Fianna Fáil Party were unanimously of the opinion that these measures were good for the country, we had in fact lobbying and counter-lobbying going on between the Fianna Fáil Party to decide whether or not they would go on with the Bills, whether or not the Minister would be told to withdraw them.

Absolute nonsense.

(Cavan): I ask Deputy Crowley why, if the Fianna Fáil Party were a united Party behind these measures and had considered them before 21st February, 1968, did they find it necessary to hold a meeting yesterday morning and to go on the news at 1.30 with an announcement that the Fianna Fáil Party had decided to go ahead with the measures in their present form?

Completely united on it.

(Cavan): I ask the Deputy to explain that. Is it not obvious to everybody that there is no unanimity in the Fianna Fáil Party on these measures?


(Cavan): They allowed themselves to be bullied into a decision by the Minister. They held meeting after meeting since 21st February but only in the dying hours of this debate, when the Bills are about to leave the House, do we have a communiqué issued by the Taoiseach that at a meeting of the Fianna Fáil Party held yesterday it was decided to go ahead with these Bills. Why were we wasting the time of the House for the past three months if the Cabinet and the Fianna Fáil Party had not made up their minds? Is that the sort of thing that this Parliament is to be held up to, that we are here oonsidering a measure introduced by the Government and that at the same time the Government Party are unable to decide whether or not to go on with it? I say that is a public scandal, a public disgrace and an insult to the democratic institutions of this country. So much for that.

So much for it indeed.

(Cavan): The Minister has failed to give one solid reason why he should not accept this amendment. Indeed, not one member of the Fianna Fáil Party has spoken to give a reason against inserting the commission provisions of the Fourth Amendment into the Third. I note that the Minister stated yesterday evening that this proposal of mine could be in only one of those Bills. I do not accept that. It is in the Fourth Amendment Bill. I see no objection to putting it into the Third, especially in the form in which I have put it: that if the Fourth Amendment becomes an Act, the provisions of the Third stand repealed.

The Minister, in saying that he cannot put this provision into the Third Amendment, is in effect saying that the sovereign people of this country have no right to amend the Constitution. Unless his words mean that, they mean nothing. The people are supreme. If they decide in accordance with the terms of the Constitution to amend the Constitution, they are entitled to do so. The Minister said that there is only one proposal and also that that proposal was separated to satisfy a demand from the Fine Gael Party. Once these proposals saw the light of day when they came before the House, they came in the form of two separate and distinct proposals. The present Minister for Education did fly a kite on television, and he and Deputy P. J. Lenihan from Longford-Westmeath have been flying kites since up to as recently as one o'clock yesterday in an effort to get this changed, but once these proposals saw the light of day, they came as two separate and distinct proposals. Therefore, it is quite wrong for the Minister to say that the Government changed their opinion at the request of the Fine Gael Party.

We have two proposals here and, in my opinion, neither of them will be accepted, but it is possible that one of them will be accepted and in that eventuality we say it is necessary that the commission provisions should go into the Third Amendment Bill. The Minister said here this morning that the fact that I put down this amendment means that I am now accepting the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill. It means no such thing.

I said the Deputy accepts it is going to be carried.

(Cavan): That does not mean I accept it is going to be carried and the Minister need not think he will get anywhere by trying to score small debating society points in that way. He knows perfectly well that it is the duty of an Opposition Deputy to amend that legislation, even legislation with which it does not agree and even legislation which it is prepared to fight tooth and nail. I think the people are entitled, if this matter goes before them, to have it before them in the best possible form and that is what my proposal means. That is all it means.

I want to deal with another point raised by the Minister this morning in relation to my allegation and the article in this morning's Irish Times to the effect that one constituency with a population, I think, of 16,667 may be entitled to a Deputy while another constituency with a population of 23,333 would be entitled to only one Deputy. The Minister goes out of his way to say that we should not be talking about populations but about electors. But the Minister knows of course that Article 16 of the Constitution, which he does not seek to change, provides that representation shall be on a population basis. If he thinks that is ridiculous or absurd, why did his Party put it into the Constitution in the first instance? If he now thinks we should be arranging constituencies on the number of electors rather than on population, why does he not change it? I do not mind whether he changes it or not but let us be consistent. He cannot have in the Constitution a provision that constituencies shall be based on population and then say that is not sensible at all and that we must have regard to electors.

I should like to draw the Minister's attention to the fact that when a TD is elected, he is elected to represent the population in his constituency. He is elected to look after the interests of the children from the day they are born until the day they get a vote just as much as the voters. I know that the Minister and his Party have more regard for voters and that they play up to the voters, but the duty of an elected Deputy is to be responsible for the welfare of the people living in his constituency, whether they have votes or not. The Minister's entire argument based on this simply does not hold water. Therefore, the fact is that there is a one-sixth tolerance given by this Third Amendment Bill and that what the Irish Times say and what the political commentators said until they were put off Telefís Éireann by the Minister, afraid to tell the truth to the people, and what I am saying is correct, that is, that while a population of 16,667 will be entitled to one Deputy in one part of rural Ireland another constituency must have a population of nearly 24,000 before it is entitled to a Deputy.

What the Deputy is saying is that some constituencies should be blotted out and get no representation.

(Cavan): No such thing. We did not hear from Deputy Carter on this Bill.

You are hearing from him now. I know what Deputy Fitzpatrick is coming to next, and if the Leas-Cheann Comhairle permits, he will get a reply.


Do not annoy Deputy Fitzpatrick. He has been delegated this unpleasant job of doing something in which he does not believe. Deputy Sweetman will not even come in to help him.

Order. Deputy Fitzpatrick, to conclude on the amendment.

(Cavan): I give Deputy Andrews credit for a high degree of intelligence and credit for having made himself familiar with Standing Orders and he knows perfectly well that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle cannot permit him to speak on this amendment, because I am concluding.

There is another amendment and the Deputy can say what he likes on any one of them.

(Cavan): I invited Deputy Andrews to come into this House as a member of the Committee on the Constitution——

That is what I am doing.

(Cavan):——and explain the absence of argument——

There is another amendment and he can be as relevant as Deputy Harte was.

The Deputy knows that the following day was Thursday and there was no discussion on this matter.

(Cavan): Deputy Andrews graced this House with his presence yesterday but he did not speak. We are here since 10.30 this morning and he has not offered to speak.

Deputy Fitzpatrick is preventing me.

(Cavan): He did not offer to speak until I stood up to conclude. I think the Deputy is worthy of more than that. I have been here since 10.30——

The Deputy was not: it was 10.40 or 10.45.

Sure, the Cabinet is never here on time and there are a few other gentlemen not here on time either.

(Cavan): It is a pity Deputy Andrews did not explain himself and his colleagues on this Committee since 21st February last. Maybe it was only after the Party meeting yesterday that he was allowed to speak: that could be. Maybe he got some kind of licence yesterday. I imagine Deputy Andrews must have got some sort of licence from the Fianna Fáil Party yesterday. It is an extraordinary thing about the Fianna Fáil Party that it is only at the end of this debate we have got any decision from them.

Fine Gael did not make up their minds yet.

(Cavan): We made up our minds in February.

Would Deputy Fitzpatrick tell us did he vote with his Leader when he was voting?

We had no secret vote.

Deputy Fitzpatrick, on his amendment.

(Cavan): If Deputy Norton had been accepted as a member of the Fine Gael Party, he would know that himself, but we would not accept him. You see, if your application for membership had been accepted you would not have to ask me that. You are trotting about now like a displaced person.

The Deputy need not start changing his ground.

Deputy Norton was invited four times to join Fine Gael and he has a letter to prove this.

That has nothing at all to do with the amendment.

(Cavan): An amazing thing about this is that not one member of the Fianna Fáil Party, including the Minister, addressed himself to this amendment in the past two days.

Is that challenging the Chair?

I dealt with the amendment.

The courts are over.

Did Deputy Harte deal with it?

Four times Deputy Norton was invited to join Fine Gael.

Would Deputy Andrews please cease this conversation? Deputy Fitzpatrick.

It is very difficult to sit here and listen to Deputy Fitzpatrick telling lies.

The Deputy has a remedy.

(Cavan): It is no trouble to Deputy Norton to leave the House when he should be here and when he is here he is “lepping” up and down like a Jack-in-the-box.

He went to his tea, the same as you did.

I was here when other people were at the races.

He did not abstain from voting like the Leader of the Fine Gael Party.

(Cavan): The purpose of this amendment is to write into the Third Amendment of the Constitution this commission provision, a very reasonable proposal. The Minister thinks that it is reasonable to have it in the Fourth Amendment. He does not think it reasonable to have it in the Third Amendment. The answer to that is that the Minister knows perfectly well that when this referendum has been decided by the people, there is one thing absolutely certain, that is, that he is going to be left with PR on his hands, whether he likes it or not, and is going to be left with multi-seat constituencies. He knows that perfectly well and the Fianna Fáil Party know it, and that is why the harangue went on from 21st February until one o'clock yesterday. They know it perfectly well. He has some sort of faint hope that he might get this tolerance through. I do not believe he will and anything I can do to stop him I will do it, and anything this Party can do, they will do it.

Half of them.

(Cavan): He thinks there is some sort of faint hope that he might get this tolerance through and with this one-sixth tolerance——

The Ranchers' Party.

(Cavan):——from 16,000 to 23,000, he hopes he will have enough room to gerrymander, to rig the constituencies and give himself an unfair advantage.


Baby talk.

Will Deputies please cease interrupting?

(Cavan): If that is not the intention of Deputy Geoghegan and Deputy Carter, why not accept the amendment?

Be honest for once in your life.

What did Deputy O'Higgins say in 1959?

(Cavan): Once you hear the Fianna Fáil Party getting nettled, you know the point is getting home. It will be got home to the electorate as well.

Two more of your Party have arrived from the courts for the vote.

Do not be so edgy.

(Cavan): If, as I allege, it is not the proposal of the Fianna Fáil Party to rig the constituencies by unfair means, if it is not the intention of the Minister for Local Government to gerrymander to suit himself and if he is bona fide in his intentions here in his proposals, why not accept this amendment? Why not give the commission?

We told you.

(Cavan): The Minister did not deal with it. He simply said in a vague sort of way that he had been advised. Of course, he might have been advised by Deputy Geoghegan for all I know. The answer to that is that the people are supreme and that the people can change the Constitution if they want to change the Constitution.

In a referendum.

(Cavan): The Minister says he cannot include in this Bill commission provisions. I say that the people are supreme and that if the people want to pass this Bill with the commission provision in it, they are entitled to do it. We have always said that, and as I told you when you were out burning institutions, robbing banks——

It does not arise.

(Cavan):——shooting members of the Garda Síochána, we believed in majority rule and when the wild men were up in the mountains. If you are honest in your intentions, if it is electoral reform you are interested in and not political constituency rigging and gerrymandering, I invite you to accept this amendment.

Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1968—would Deputy Andrews please cease interrupting while the Chair puts the question? —amendment No. 1, in the name of Deputy Fitzpatrick.

Nach ceart leasú 1, 2 agus 4 a chur?

(Cavan): You must put one at a time.

Tá go maith: beidh trí vótáil againn.

(Cavan): You are obsessed with package deals.

When you did succeed in getting them up out of bed, you might as well get them to vote.

Cuireadh an cheist: "Go gcuirfear isteach ansin na focail a tairgeadh."

Question put: "That the proposed words be there inserted."
Rinne an Dáil vótáil: Tá, 44; Níl, 59.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 44; Níl, 59.

  • Barrett, Stephen D.
  • Barry, Richard.
  • Belton, Luke.
  • Belton, Paddy.
  • Burke, Joan T.
  • Byrne, Patrick.
  • Clinton, Mark A.
  • Connor, Patrick.
  • Coogan, Fintan.
  • Corish, Brendan.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Esmonde, Sir Anthony C.
  • Farrelly, Denis.
  • Fitzpatrick, Thomas J.
  • (Cavan).
  • Flanagan, Oliver J.
  • Gilhawley, Eugene.
  • Governey, Desmond.
  • Harte, Patrick D.
  • Hogan, Patrick.
  • (South Tipperary)
  • Hogan O'Higgins, Brigid.
  • Jones Denis F.
  • Costello, Declan.
  • Costello, John A.
  • Creed, Donal.
  • Desmond, Eileen.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Dockrell, Henry P.
  • Dockrell, Maurice E.
  • Donegan, Patrick S.
  • Donnellan, John.
  • Dunne, Seán.
  • Dunne, Thomas.
  • Kenny, Henry.
  • L'Estrange, Gerald.
  • Murphy, Michael P.
  • O'Donnell, Patrick.
  • O'Donnell, Tom.
  • O'Higgins, Michael J.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas F.K.
  • Sweetman, Gerard.
  • Tierney, Patrick.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Treacy, Seán.
  • Tully, James.


  • Allen, Lorcan.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Barrett, Sylvester.
  • Blaney, Neil T.
  • Boland, Kevin.
  • Booth, Lionel.
  • Boylan, Terence.
  • Brady, Philip.
  • Brennan, Joseph.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, Patrick.
  • Burke, Patrick J.
  • Calleary, Phelim A.
  • Carter, Frank.
  • Carty, Michael.
  • Clohessy, Patrick.
  • Colley, George.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Crinion, Brendan.
  • Cronin, Jerry.
  • Crowley, Flor.
  • Cunningham, Liam.
  • Davern, Don.
  • de Valera, Vivion.
  • Dowling, Joe.
  • Egan, Nicholas.
  • Fanning, John.
  • Faulkner, Pádraig.
  • Fitzpatrick, Thomas J.
  • (Dublin South-Central).
  • Flanagan, Seán.
  • Foley, Desmond.
  • French, Seán.
  • Geoghegan, John.
  • Gibbons, Hugh.
  • Gibbons, James M.
  • Gilbride, Eugene.
  • Haughey, Charles.
  • Healy, Augustine A.
  • Kenneally, William.
  • Kitt, Michael F.
  • Lemass, Noel T.
  • Lemass, Seán.
  • Lynch, Celia.
  • Lynch, John.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Meaney, Tom.
  • Millar, Anthony G.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Moore, Seán.
  • Moran, Michael.
  • Nolan, Thomas.
  • Norton, Patrick.
  • Ó Briain, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Ceallaigh, Seán.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Wyse, Pearse.
Tellers—Tá: Deputies L'Estrange and T. Dunne; Níl: Deputies Carty and Geoghegan.
Question put and declared lost.
Faisnéiseadh go rabhthas tar éis diultú don cheist.

Amendment No. 2 was discussed with amendment No. 1.

Níor tairgeadh leasú 2.

Amendment No. 2 not moved.

Tairgim leasú 3:

I move amendment No. 3:

I leathanach 7, i ndiaidh líne 3, an méid seo a leanas a chur isteach:—

"Ní déanfar cinneadh ar dháilcheanntraibh i rith tréimhse dár tosach dáta daonáirimh agus dár críoch dáta a thorthaí iomchuibhe (nach torthaí sealadacha) a fhoillsiú, agus, más i dtréimhse den tsórt sin a thárlóchaidh an t-am is déidheanaighe chun cinneadh den tsórt sin a dhéanamh agus nach mbeidh an cinneadh déanta roimh thosnú don tréimhse, déanfar é, d'aindeoin aon ní insan Airteagal so, chomh luath agus is féidir tar éis don tréimhse críochnú.";


I leathanach 7, i ndiaidh líne 19, an méid seo a leanas a chur isteach:—

"A determination of constituencies shall not be effected during a period beginning on the date of a census and ending on the date of the publication of the relevant results (not being provisional results) thereof, and, if the latest time for effecting such a determination falls during such a period and the determination is not effected before the period begins, it shall, notwithstanding anything in this Article, be effected as soon as may be after the period ends."

In page 6, after line 3, to insert the following:—

"Ní déanfar cinneadh ar dháilcheanntraibh i rith tréimhse dar tosach dáta daonáirimh agus dár críoch dáta a thorthaí iomchuibhe (nach torthaí sealadacha) a fhoillsiú, agus, más i dtréimhse den tsórt sin a thárlóchaidh an t-am is déidheanaighe chun cinneadh den tsórt sin a dhéanamh agus nach mbeidh an cinneadh déanta roimh thosnú don tréimhse, déanfar é, d'aindeoin aon ní insan Airteagal so, chomh luath agus is féidir tar éis don tréimhse críochnú.";


In page 6, after line 19, to insert the following:—

"A determination of constituencies shall not be effected during a period beginning on the date of a census and ending on the date of the publication of the relevant results (not being provisional results) thereof, and, if the latest time for effecting such a determination falls during such a period and the determination is not effected before the period begins, it shall, notwithstanding anything in this Article, be effected as soon as may be after the period ends."

This amendment has been prepared following the undertaking which I gave, during the Committee Stage debate on amendment No. 5 moved by Deputy Fitzpatrick, to consider introducing an amendment on Report Stage to provide that a determination of constituencies shall not take place during the interval between the date on which a census is taken and the publication of the definitive results of that census.

I explained on Committee Stage why it is not practicable to base a determination of constituencies on the provisional results of a census. The provisional results do not give a breakdown of population figures for constituencies or for wards, district electoral divisions and other areas used for defining constituencies. I am advised also that the preliminary results, while sufficiently accurate for general purposes, can be up to 4,000 out—normally erring on the low side. A discrepancy of this order could possibly affect the maximum number of Deputies allowed by the Constitution and might result in under- or over-representation of particular constituencies.

I also said on Committee Stage that it would be necessary to clarify the question whether or not the amendment would qualify the 12-yearly maximum period between revisions which is laid down in the Constitution. Adoption of this amendment would mean that if the 12-year period happened to expire during the interval between the date of a census and the publication of the relevant final results thereof, a determination of constituencies could not take place during that interval but could be made either before the census is taken or immediately after the results are ascertained. This will ensure that the Oireachtas will not be forced to make a determination in such circumstances on out-of-date figures but may await the results of the new census. The final population statistics for constituencies and other relevant areas are published in Volume 1 of the Census Results which is published about a year after the date of the census. This is the best that can be done to meet the principle of Deputy Fitzpatrick's Committee Stage amendment.

I cannot agree with Deputy Fitzpatrick's suggestion that the Oireachtas should be prohibited from making a revision of constituencies on the basis of a census taken more than a specified period beforehand, say, nine to 12 months before as he suggested. This would unduly limit the discretion of the Oireachtas in timing revisions. As to the timing of the census itself, I am advised that it would not be practicable to determine the timing on an ad hoc basis—in practice a link with constituency revision would necessitate a decision three years in advance of the revision because of the preparatory work needed. Moreover, varying intervals between successive censuses would detract appreciably from many of the uses of the census.

(Cavan): I do not wish to say much on this. The amendment goes some of the way to meet my objection to the Bill as originally drafted. In effect, it means, I think, that if a revision of the constituencies is not commenced before the census is taken, it cannot be done until after the final figures of the census are known, even if it means it is over 12 years. That is my understanding of it. It is an improvement and for that reason I accept it.

Cuireadh an leasú agus faisnéiseadh go rabhthas tar éis glacadh léi.

Amendment put and agreed to.

Amendment No. 4, in the name of Deputy Fitzpatrick, was discussed with amendment No. 1.

Níor tairgeadh leasú 4.

Amendment No. 4 not moved.
Cuireadh an cheist: "Go nglacfar an Bille, mar a leasaíodh é, chun an breithniú deiridh a dhéanamh air", agus faisnéiseadh go rabhthas tar éis glacadh léi.
Question: "That the Bill, as amended, be received for final consideration", put and agreed to.
Cuireadh an cheist: "Go rithfidh an Bille anois", agus fáisnéiseadh go rabhthas tar éis glacadh léi.
Question: "That the Bill do now pass", put and declared carried.