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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 26 Feb 1969

Vol. 238 No. 12

Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1968: Report Stage (Resumed).

Debate resumed on amendment No. 3:
In pages 4 and 5, to delete the entries relating to Clare and Clare-South Galway and to substitute the following:—



Number of Members


The administrative area of County Clare and the District Electoral Divisions of Ardamullivan, Gort, Beagh, Kilbeacanty, and Ballycahalon in the administrative area of County Galway.


—Deputy P. Hogan(South Tipperary).”

Deputy Hogan is concluding on the amendment.

(South Tipperary): I was dealing yesterday with the amendments referable to the western counties, having dealt in the earlier part of the day with eight amendments referable to the eastern counties which culminated in a vote. The Chair had directed that those amendments would be grouped, that the eight amendments applicable to the eastern section be discussed together and the eight amendments applicable to the western section be discussed together also. The Chair has also ruled that the amendments referable to the southern part of the country, South Tipperary, Waterford and Cork would be out of order in so far as they were already substantially dealt with and voted on. Therefore, from my point of view this terminates my contribution on this Electoral Bill.

I am not clear as to whether I am now entitled, having completed my points about the western counties, to make a summary of the electoral complex as a whole. The position was that yesterday, when dealing with the eastern counties, I summarised the position there which would arise if the Minister accepted the amendments. I put to the House vis-à-vis what applies under the Minister's proposals. Here again, as regards the western complex, the proposition which I am putting to him can be summarised very clearly and one gets a clearer picture of what would arise than one may have readily obtained by reading the rather dry bones of the amendments.

Briefly, the position is this. The eight amendments which are before the House would comprise three breaches of constituency boundaries and a comparatively limited amount of population transfer. The three breaches would occur first, as between Galway and Roscommon, where by the transfer of the two district electoral divisions of Taghboy and Ahascragh, 953 persons would be moved into Roscommon to make that county a threeseater. The other breach of constituency boundary would be the transfer from Leitrim of 5,642 persons into South Donegal to provide for two three-seaters, one in North Donegal and the other in South Donegal; and the transfer of approximately 2,800 persons from Galway to Clare. The particular district electoral divisions which I have given to the House would supply a population of 2,805. In other words, the total population transfer would be 9,400.

That would give that area west of the Shannon from Clare to Donegal six three-seat constituencies and three four-seat constituencies and it would preserve intact practically all the existing counties. There would be a slight breaching of Galway county and a slight breaching in Leitrim. It would leave in Leitrim a community of 25,000 persons to be joined up with Sligo to form a four-seater and this would allow a degree of political viability to Leitrim which could not be obtained under the system envisaged by the Minister in his proposal to divide that county.

The Minister, on the other hand, endeavours to provide us with ten three-seat constituencies. He has carried out wholesale transfers of population irrespective of either sentiments or of the welfare of the local people. He proposes to transfer 8,997 persons from North Leitrim to Donegal, 10,503 persons from mid-Leitrim to Sligo and 11,072 persons from South Leitrim to Roscommon. His total transfer of population is 59,274 and that will entail breaches of eight constituency boundaries in that western area so as to have ten three-seat constituencies. The amendments which I have suggested would allow for a transfer of 9,400 persons with three breaches of constituency boundaries, giving six three-seaters and three four-seaters.

Any reasonable person will be shocked at the difference in population transfer—59,000 odd as against 9,000 odd. The Minister can offer no defence that I can imagine which would overcome that and, as a consequence, he has not even risen to reply. The Minister is quite incapable of making any kind of reasoned argument against these amendments. Similarly, when we were dealing yesterday with the eastern complex and I showed that for one breach of constituency boundaries——

A Cheann Comhairle, what amendments are we discussing?

The Deputy would be out of order in discussing the amendments which we discussed yesterday. We are now dealing with amendment No. 3 and the other amendments taken with it.

(South Tipperary): Am I not in order in summarising the position of the country as a whole?

The Deputy would be entirely out of order in doing this.

The Deputy has not exhausted all the means of delay, as Deputy Fitzpatrick has just reminded him.

(South Tipperary): I am aware of that.

(Cavan): Not of delaying but of exposing.

Deputy L'Estrange is at present gathering the forces to ensure that the delay will proceed.

(South Tipperary): Again, I assure the Minister that I am not trying in any way to intrude on his patience. The Minister is a patient man; he can sit there and listen with considerable patience to arguments put up and that is only right because he also tests the patience of the people on this side of the House in so far as that he can stand up and talk for five, six or seven hours, which is quite a performance. I must admire his physical strength alone.

That does not arise either on the amendments.

(Cavan): The question of delay has been introduced by the Minister.

(South Tipperary): I can assure the Minister that there is no planned delay on my part. In introducing the second set of eight amendments I dealt with the entire matter in half an hour.

The Deputy is only replying to himself.

(South Tipperary): The Deputy is only replying to himself because the poor Minister is unable to stand up and reply. I had to do what he was unable to do. There is no reply to the eight amendments which I have given to the House. The only reply we will get will be from the Division Lobbies. The Minister sat there contentedly completely disregarding the fact that he is doing wholesale gerrymandering of the western complex of constituencies, of the eastern complex of constituencies and of the country as a whole and completely disregarding the message the Irish people gave him at the last referendum that they wish to set their faces against gerrymandering. Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour were against gerrymandering. The Minister is gerrymandering in this Bill in so far as the constitutional position and the interpretation of the Constitution will allow him. He is now doing that without even standing up to refute a single amendment. He had placed before him today and yesterday 16 amendments and he has not attempted to refute a single syllable of these amendments. He has not even replied to them. He pretends he is operating in a democratic fashion but he is taking no notice of the wishes of the electorate. He is prepared to steamroll this Bill through the House. His only complaint is that we have had the temerity to talk a little too long about it. We proceeded without much verbal embroidery whatever. We dealt with figures and facts. My introduction to the two sets of amendments could not have been more brief.

The first was more brief than the second. The Deputy is improving. He got ten minutes longer out of the second crop.

The Minister does not know what went on yesterday. He was out fixing up Deputy Norton with a constituency. He was trying to fix him with a constituency in Dublin as he was having trouble in Kildare. I hope he got the job done.

(South Tipperary): I have little further to add to this matter at this stage. I will give the Minister a summary later.

The Minister should not try to hop out a window; he might get stuck in it.

(South Tipperary): I have nothing further to add to what I have already said as regards these amendments.

Deputy L'Estrange will have your life. Poor Deputy L'Estrange.

We have agreed to take a number of amendments together.

Question: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand" put and declared carried.

Acting Chairman

All the other amendments taken with amendment No. 3—amendments Nos. 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 17 and 18—therefore, fall. Amendments Nos. 4, 19 and 20 are out of order.

Amendments Nos. 4 to 8, inclusive, not moved.

(Cavan): I move amendment No. 9:

In page 11, in the second column of the entry relating to North Kerry, to delete "Kilquane,"; and after "Clogherbrien," to insert "Cordal,".

The object of this amendment is quite simple. It deals only with the small number of voters, perhaps, some hundreds, in the constituency of North Kerry and South Kerry. The proposal is to undo an amendment or to reverse an amendment carried by the Minister on Committee Stage. On Committee Stage the Minister moved and carried an amendment which, in fact, transferred the polling area of Kilquane back into North Kerry. Apparently, that amendment went through unnoticed or without regard or due consideration to a mountain range known as Mount Brandon which very materially affects the position. I understand there is no road connection whatever between the electoral area of Kilquane and North Kerry. A constituent living in Kilquane would have to travel 20 miles through the constituency of South Kerry before he would arrive in the constituency of North Kerry. A North Kerry Deputy would have to travel 40 miles through South Kerry constituency to meet his new constituents. I understand that on maps, if one were to disregard mountain ranges, the alterations made by the Minister on Committee Stage look reasonable enough, but if one takes into account the fact that Mount Brandon has to be negotiated in getting from the polling area of Kilquane in North Kerry it alters the whole situation. There are Kerry Deputies here who will be able to bear me out in what I am told that the mountain range means a detour of some 30 miles. I am further told that the Kerry Gaeltacht which is the largest in Munster has been divided in two by the Minister's original proposal contained in the Bill before the amendment was carried on Committee Stage. If this stands as amended on Committee it would mean that this Gaeltacht would be further divided again between the constituencies. It is not necessary for me to say anything more about this. I do not wish to be accused of trying to delay the matter. It was said on Committee Stage that only about 182 electors were involved. Admittedly, this figure was given after a quick calculation by Deputy Sweetman. I am told there are more people than that involved but it does not very materially affect the situation. On the other hand, it would be much more convenient for these people to remain in South Kerry. That is all I have to say. I trust the Minister will accept the amendment.

Amendment No. 9 refers to a revision of the constituencies of North and South Kerry. As a Kerry Deputy, I feel it is my duty to give my views on this matter. It is proposed by the Minister to transfer the electoral division of Cordal from North Kerry into the constituency of South Kerry and at the same time to transfer Kilquane from South Kerry to the constituency of North Kerry.

This change serves no great purpose and would be resented very much by the people of both North Kerry and South Kerry. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister to accept this amendment because, as I have said, there does not seem to be any good reason for the proposed change. We have in North Kerry the required population for a three-seat constituency. The electoral division of Cordal is just outside the town of Castleisland which is in North Kerry. They do their business in Castleisland. They have no connection with South Kerry. Castleisland is their shopping centre. It is proposed to have Kilquane transferred to North Kerry. It is situated west of Dingle town, being only two miles from it, and the people of that district do their business in Dingle. They have no connection with North Kerry. Here, again, there is no good reason why the district of Kilquane should be transferred to North Kerry, an area with which they have no natural connection. There is a mountain range between the electoral division of Kilquane and North Kerry, with the result that a Deputy, to meet those of his constituents in that area, would have to travel over that mountain range, a distance of 35 miles. It is my view that the boundaries in Kerry should be left without this change and I again appeal strongly to the Minister to accept the amendment.

I was waiting to see whether this was part of the delaying operation. It appears that either Deputy L'Estrange's efforts are not so successful today or that the operation has come to a temporary conclusion until such time as Deputy Hogan takes the cue which Deputy Fitzpatrick gave to him with regard to the Final Stage of the Bill.

(Cavan): I will give him a bit of help on that.

It was said, when the Bill was introduced, that the district electoral division of Kilquane should be in the constituency of South Kerry and that Cordal should be in the constituency of North Kerry. Subsequently it was represented to me that a better arrangement would be to put Cordal into South Kerry instead of Kilquane, and that this would, in fact, result in a straightening of the line on the map. Cordal appeared as a bulge, stretching into the constituency of South Kerry, and to take in Kilquane would merely result in a lengthening of the east-west line between the two constituencies.

However, apparently this is just another example of how difficult it is for anybody to interpret exactly what Fine Gael want on any matter under the sun. It was Deputy O'Connor of Fine Gael who represented this to me and, appreciating the fact that Deputy O'Connor who, as far as I know, is a decent man, is a Kerry Deputy, and because the matter seemed to be of such small importance—the number of people involved is so small—and the effect of this would be a straightening of the line on the map, it appeared to me this was a case in which I could accede to the request of a person who anybody would assume to be the official Fine Gael spokesman for that area. I was not aware that in acceding to Deputy O'Connor's request I was walking into an internal Fine Gael wrangle.

(Cavan): Or annoying Deputy McEllistrim.

I did not appreciate that there was in South Kerry somebody who apparently has more influence with the official Fine Gael Party than Deputy O'Connor. Having acceded to Deputy O'Connor's request in this respect, I now discover that he has been disowned by his own Front Bench and that now the request is to revert to the situation I had proposed originally. I really feel this is a matter we could well leave to Fine Gael to settle among themselves, if they are capable of doing so. I am prepared to accept the amendment and to restore the position to that which I had originally proposed. If, in that, I am doing wrong to Deputy O'Connor, I can only say I regret it. It was not I who decided to change this while Deputy O'Connor was sick in bed.

(Cavan): I wish to reply briefly to the Minister. It is beyond the Minister's capacity to do anything with good grace. It would be foreign to his nature and I would not expect it of him. In so far as the reasons for his amendment on Committee Stage are concerned, I am not in a position to comment on them. One thing struck me following his acceptance of this amendment, small as it is, and that is that it demonstrates the necessity for a proper Report Stage. If the Minister had got his way in his proposal to take the Report Stage of this Bill on the same day as the conclusion of Committee Stage, this amendment, which the Minister now concedes to be reasonable and which Deputy McEllistrim, one of the Fianna Fáil Deputies for Kerry approves of, would not have been possible.

And Deputy O'Connor would have had his way.

(Cavan): I should like to consult Deputy O'Connor on this because, though I regret to say it, I do not accept anything the Minister said.

We will vote on the amendment, then.

(Cavan): It is too bad the Minister cannot do anything with good grace.

We will vote on the amendment, then.

(Cavan): I do not mind if the Minister wants to or not. If the Minister wants to he can have it. He has said he will accept it but if he wants to vote on it——

I will accept Deputy O'Connor's request.

(Cavan): I do not know what Deputy O'Connor's request is. This amendment has been put down and has been accepted in very bad grace—the Minister has said he is accepting it at my request and that of Deputy McEllistrim. It is now a matter for the Minister, the Chair and the House.

Acting Chairman

Is the amendment being accepted?

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 10 to 14, inclusive, not moved.

(Cavan): I move amendment No. 15 in the name of Deputy Sweetman:

In page 12, in the second column of the entry relating to Meath, after "Killickaweeney" to insert "Kilmagorroge, Nicholastown".

This, again, means the transfer of a very small portion of a constituency.

This proposes the transfer of two townlands with a population of 54 from the proposed constituency of Meath to Kildare. Both townlands are situated in the electoral division of Cloncurry. The only thing about this is that the effect will reduce the population of the Meath constituency from 20,393 per Member to 20,375 per Member and increase the population of the Kildare constituency from 20,587 per Member to 20,605 per Member and that in that respect it appears to be going in the opposite direction to that indicated in the Constitution which requires every effort to be made to have as near as possible equality of population per Member. It does, however, result in something of an improvement in the boundary line between the constituencies and in somewhat more logical polling arrangements for the two townlands concerned. So that, from that point of view, I suppose it is acceptable although it is not quite in the spirit of what is intended by the constitutional provision but I am prepared to accept it as an improvement from the point of view of practical constituencies.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 16 to 21, inclusive, not moved.
Question, "That the Bill, as amended, be received for final consideration" put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stage today.