European Assembly Elections (No. 2 Bill, 1977: Second Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am glad to note that the method of election to the European Parliament will be the form of proportional representation to which we are accustomed. One would hope that eventually a system common to all the partners would be evolved and the members elected in the same manner in each of the member states.

Section 15 provides for casual vacancies. It is actually our hope that such vacancies will not occur but recent happenings underline the possibility of such casual vacancies occurring. We are fully aware the possibility is there. The Minister's proposal is in the main a good one bearing in mind and respecting Deputy Enright's reservations. Deputy Keating raised the point—it has already been raised in other places—as to what would happen if an independent seat had to be filled by a casual vacancy. He talked about the large number who would be disenfranchised if such a vacancy were filled by the Government of the day. I would ask the Minister to take another look at this possible evolution bearing in mind what happened recently when a great many people were disenfranchised in one of our cities and their wishes set aside when two councillors resigned.

This Bill has the support of all Members and it should have a speedy passage. Direct elections will mean a greater sense of identity with the whole concept of Europe and the European Parliament between our people and what will be for the first time their elected representatives. Direct elections will also make much easier the availability and dissemination of information in that representatives of the European Parliament will know the needs of their own constituencies and seek to meet and satisfy those needs. With the election we will enter on a new and historic phase in European affairs in which each partner, while still clinging to its own heritage and culture, and cherishing both, will be enriched and, in turn, enrich the culture and heritage of its partners. We can now look forward to a renewal of the original and nobler motives which led to the formation of the European Economic Community.

Is í seo an chéad deis atá agam comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis an Aire as ucht a cheapúcháin agus tá súil agam go n-éireoidh go h-an-mhaith leis agus guím rath Dé air.

This Bill is unique in many ways. Its uniqueness lies in the kind of Bill it is, a Bill setting up the machinery for an electoral process which is itself unique in this country. It is a noncontroversial Bill. The Minister adverted to that aspect and he paid a special tribute to Mr. Justice Walshe and the commission who were given the responsibility of drawing the boundaries. The drawing of boundaries is of its very nature controversial and the significance of the legislation before us lies in the fact that this highly difficult exercise was given to an independent commission. The fact that the Bill is noncontroversial is a good thing.

The Minister in his introductory speech adverted to a very important aspect when he said:

The mere fact of holding the elections will not in itself be enough. The elections must be a genuine exercise in democracy with a very large degree of voter participation.

This is vitally important because of the significance of the elections in a European context and we should certainly be conscious of the implications for this small nation on the periphery of Europe. The decision to have a democratically elected European assembly is an historic milestone on the road to European unity. It gives reality to the visionary ideals of the people who were the architects of the Treaty of Rome. From the point of view of Ireland it will strengthen the centuries old links between Ireland and the European mainland. The elections will serve as a forceful reminder of the manner in which the destiny of this small nation and the lives and fortunes of our citizens are influenced and determined by the deliberations and decisions of the various European institutions.

A democratically elected European assembly is not merely an essential prerequisite but also asine qua non for the ultimate achievement of the aims and ideals enshrined in the Treaty of Rome. Any organisation, be it national, international or supranational, which professes a commitment to the concept of community development cannot achieve its objectives if it fails to recognise the fundamental rights of the local communities it serves to express their views through the democratic process.

For Ireland in particular the European Assembly elections are of very special significance in many other ways also. We are a small country on the periphery of Europe. We are more remote than any other country from the heart of the European mainland. For whole regions of this country and particulary for regions along the western seaboard and for the people on our offshore islands this remoteness is accentuated by geographical and physical difficulties which amount to virtual isolation. Brussels is very remote from Belmullet and Strasbourg is remote from Spiddal. It is little wonder that for many communities and people in this country—I would say for the vast majority—the EEC as it is now is something remote, isolated from their daily lives, something they do not understand and cannot comprehend. The forthcoming European Assembly elections will be a very effective means of bringing home to our people what the EEC is all about. I believe this will lead to a better understanding of the EEC, a better appreciation by our people of what is involved.

I believe that the Assembly elections are significant in another way. We are a very small country with problems of underdevelopment, economic and social problems of many kinds which do not find a parallel in other member countries. Our problems of underdevelopment and our special claim to Community resources were recognised in the special protocol to our Treaty of Accession. An elected Assembly with elected representatives from Ireland will be the best way of ensuring that the Community institutions will be conscious of our special problems and claims.

When the referendum of the EEC was carried out there was an enthusiastic, indeed overwhelmingly favourable response by our people. In particular, in voting to join the EEC, our people were influenced by the expectation of substantial additional assistance. We have got substantial assistance since we joined the EEC but we must not blind ourselves to the fact that many of our expectations at the time of our decision to join have not been realised. For a person who spends four years carrying responsibility for the social and economic development of the most remote and peripheral regions in the Community, the most remote regions in this country—I refer to the western regions and our offshore islands—there is a feeling of disappointment to which I have adverted on a number of occasions in recent years, and of frustration at the failure of the EEC to formulate and implement a realistic regional development policy. I am confident that the election of 15 European representatives by this country will ensure that these economic and social problems and particularly the vital importance to us of a realistic regional policy will be brought home to the various institutions in the EEC.

As I see it, the main challenge facing our European representatives will be that of influencing and persuading EEC institutions to formulate and implement a policy which will have two objectives, so far as this country is concerned, first, to reduce the development gap between this country and the rest of Europe and secondly to reduce the internal gaps in the development level within Ireland. The European Assembly elections are therefore of special importance to us and it is important that our people should be fully aware of the meaning, significance, and implications of this democratic exercise. To secure the response which the Minister hopes for, it will be necessary, as he also pointed out, for all parties to campaign vigorously and energetically thus ensuring that our people will know what they are doing and the significance of the vote they will cast on that occasion.

There has been much discussion on one aspect of the European Assembly elections. I think the Minister also referred to this. It is the fact that there has been a good deal of publicity and not a little controversy about the proposed remuneration of members elected to the European Parliament. It depends on how one looks at it; this may be a good thing in that it means that at least our people are talking about the elections but, on the other hand, it is significant also and would be a bad thing if the discussion and debate on the European Assembly elections were to place over-emphasis on the question of remuneration of the elected representativs. The job which the 15 elected representatives will have to do will be an onerous one. It will be difficult. It will be of vital importance to the economic and social development of this country.

On the question of the dual mandate, I agree with the Minister that this should be looked upon as an interim measure. I do not see any possibility of the dual mandate being retained by any individual indefinitely. That is not on. It cannot be done. Those of us who have served in this House down the years know the increasing workload which rests on Deputies, the growing demand on one's time with the complexity of legislation, the growing demand by constituents for a better and more efficient service from Deputies. It is not possible for any person, no matter how able or willing he may be, to discharge the dual mandate of membership of Dáil Éireann and the European Parliament. As I see it, the dual mandate will be a purely interim measure. When the second election to the European Assembly comes around each of those elected next summer and who has a dual mandate will have to make a personal decision as to whether he wants to be a member of the National Parliament or a member of the European Parliament.

There is no controversy about constituency boundaries or the alignment of constituencies. It is worth nothing that, in the submission the Fine Gael Party made to the commission, there were two major recommendations. The first was that, so far as possible the constituencies should represent coherent regions with broadly similar socio-economic characteristics. Secondly, that they should comprise groups of existing Dáil constituencies so as to facilitate the organisation of the election and thus help to ensure a high turn out representative of public opinion and, so far as reasonably possible, they should avoid breaching county boundaries. The constituency arrangements which were recommended and which have been accepted by the Government, are very much in conformity with our views and our thinking on this important question.

Another aspect of the Bill which has been adverted to by a number of people is the question of by-elections. I fully agree with the provisions for co-opting people to fill vacancies in the European Parliament. To attempt to have a system of by-elections in large constituencies, provincial constituencies one might call them, would be ludicrous. It would be very difficult to organise. It would be time-consuming. It would be wasteful. I agree with the system proposed, whereby a member of the party who lose a member of the European Parliament will have the right to submit a name to Dáil Éireann for nomination to the European Assembly.

The Minister referred to the role of the Parliament and the powers of the Parliament. He said the European Parliament has a considerable role to play in restoring expenditure in areas of vital interest to Ireland. He gave an example of the action by our representatives recently in the European Parliament in securing an increase of £110,000 in the funds available for studies on cross-Border projects in Ireland. This example brings home to us in a very practical way the role of the European Parliament within the complex structures of the institutions of the EEC. It reminds us of the practical and important role our members can play, a role which I should like to think will be not merely for the benefit of this country but also for the benefit of an emerging developing European Economic Community.

Mr. Leonard

It is now almost five years since Ireland entered the European Economic Community and that fact alone would warrant our taking a hard look at where we stand in relation to the development of the Community and our contribution in helping to shape the Community along the lines laid down in the Treaty of Rome.

In the next 12 months we will have the first direct elections to the European Parliament. That is further justification for having a hard look at the Community and its functions. Between now and the elections it is essential that people should be fully aware of the importance of the elections to the European Parliament. While that Parliament may seem to have only limited powers at present, the future of the EEC, particularly with the addition of the proposed new members, depends on the expansion of the powers of that Parliament and its development as a fully democratic institution. This is of particular importance to smaller nations such as Ireland. We have everything to gain from the expansion of the powers of Parliament. Because we have so much to gain, it is very important that the best possible representatives should be sent to Europe.

I should like to pay tribute to our representatives in the EEC Parliament. I am speaking on behalf of the men with whom I have contact, members of my own party. We are particularly lucky in our selection. Over the past number of years they were always available and willing to discuss matters regarding the regional fund and cross-Border co-operation and economic development. They were also willing to travel long distances to address meetings and to explain the workings of the Parliament, especially in relation to the matters I have mentioned. Deputy Herbert, accompanied by an assistant to Commissioner Thomson, addressed a meeting in Monaghan and dealt with the regional fund. He gave an informative lecture and answered probing questions. Those who attended the meeting were given a great in-sight into the workings of the European Parliament and the availability of aids for areas such as the north east.

The view has been expressed that it will be difficult to create sufficient interest in the direct elections unless they are held in conjunction with the local government elections. It should not be a great problem to run the local government elections in conjunction with the elections to the European Parliament. In the referendum campaign on entry to the EEC we outlined the benefits we felt would accrue to our people. Only one political party, Fianna Fáil, went all out to ensure that the facts were presented before our people. In this regard I am speaking for my area. The Fianna Fáil party, prior to the referendum, worked hard to encourage the people to vote in favour of entry. Fine Gael gave us token assistance and did not seem to be concerned about spending money to ensure that there was a big vote in favour of entry.

The Deputy has a hard neck.

Mr. Leonard

The Labour Party opposed entry. However, the people gave a massive vote in favour. I have no doubt that the people will show a great interest in the elections to the European Parliament even though the candidates may not reside in their immediate area. I should like to congratulate the Commission responsible for drawing up the constituencies. One factor that will pose an obstacle to the full involvement by the public is the large area which makes up a constituency for these elections. Monaghan is part of a vast constituency with points as remote from each other as Buncrana and Achill and west Galway and Castleblaney. The fact that areas in that constituency are so far apart is caused by the inclusion of the three Ulster counties. We have always looked to the EEC for aid for various projects in that area.

The Deputy will have an opportunity to deal with these matters when a number of other motions come before the House shortly. We are only dealing with elections to the European Parliament and other matters concerning the EEC can be dealt with later.

Mr. Leonard

I wanted to make the point that in Cavan, Monaghan, Leitrim and Donegal public representatives have been co-operating with their counterparts from the Six Counties in relation to a number of projects. They met public representatives from Fermanagh, Derry and Tyrone. It should be remembered that the public representatives in the Six Counties had no direct link with members of the European Parliament because there was no representative from there in Europe. That meant that our discussions were curtailed. Our meetings were very fruitful and we got a great volume of co-operation. If we got such co-operation when representatives in the Six Counties had no direct contact with the European Parliament, I am sure that with three representatives from the Connacht-Ulster constituency and four representatives for the Six Counties it will be even greater. I am pleased to note that no by-elections will be held. Those of us who have spent time campaigning in by-elections will welcome the proposal to co-opt.

I wish the Minister every success in his new post and in the difficult task he faces. As far as this side of the House is concerned he can rest assured that he will get every co-operation and help in carrying out his duties. The Bill before us was prepared by the National Coalition and we are in agreement with it. It seeks to create the machinery for elections to the European Parliament, similar to the machinery that must be put in motion for local and national elections. There is one difference and that is that the European elections are more abstract in that voters will be voting for the first time for membership of an institution which they know little about. All political parties must create sufficient interest in the elections to get our people out to vote. In this regard the Minister must ensure that between now and the time of the elections a good public relations job is carried out.

I should like to deal with a matter mentioned by the last speaker in relation to the EEC referendum. Fine Gael, both in funds and manpower, put the same amount of effort, if not more, into that campaign as they would into any election in which that party were involved. There is no point in Deputy Leonard claiming credit for the Fianna Fáil Party for the high percentage who voted in favour of entry to the EEC. That is not the way to approach direct elections to the European Parliament. It is not right to attack the Labour Party because of their opposition to entry at that time. These things should be forgotten. I have always contended that they did a good job in creating at least a discussion of the merits and demerits of our entry to that Parliament. The people made their decision and we should abide by it. We should now try to create interest in the direct elections which we hope will take place next June, although I have doubts that they will take place then.

From listening to debates I have come to the conclusion that there are a number of problems which must be solved before direct elections can take place. The greatest problem is the attitude of the British Government to direct elections. If there is one nation in the Community which is holding up progress since it entered, it is the British. I cannot understand why the Community as a whole will have to wait until such time as Britain are ready for direct elections.

I happened to be a member of the European Parliament. My group, the Christian Democrats, had discussions in London with members of the Conservative, Liberal and Labour Parties. There is no doubt that the Lib-Lab Pact is a deterrent to direct elections because the Government are in difficulty as to the type of electoral system they will adopt for direct elections. I am glad we have proportional representation because it is the most democratic system. We should have more than a passing interest in the electoral system the British adopt for direct elections. The ultimate aim for a united Europe should be one system of election to the one institution.

If Britain does not adopt proportional representation, there could be a very unbalanced representation of the six north-eastern counties of this country. The Minister should use his influence, as the Christian Democrats did with the three major political parties in Britain—the Liberal Party are in favour of proportional representation—to make sure that PR is adopted there. My party have an interest in this because if PR is not adopted there will be discrimination against the minority.

How many people who will be voting in direct elections understand the workings of the European Parliament? That institution, as of now, does not have great power or teeth in decision-making and until we have direct elections it will be without teeth or power. The present system is the dual mandate. It is very difficult for a member of that parliament to be also a member of his own parliament. Nobody could give a proper service to his own parliament and the European Parliament at the same time. I am sure nobody would agree more with that than the Minister. Look at people like Laban, the Dutch Socialist and Peter Kirk of the British Conservative Party who died at a very young age due, no doubt, to overstrain, trying to be in two places at the same time, trying to work in both Parliaments. The sooner that system is done away with the better. I do not believe there should be a dual mandate.

I have no doubt that some of the Irish members who are elected to the European Parliament will also be members of the national parliament until the next general election. I know from experience that a man cannot service his constituency, attend to his duties in the Dáil and be a member of the European Parliament unless something suffers.

I find the committee system in the European Parliament very effective and I often wonder why we do not have such a system here. Under that system, proposals from the Commission for a regulation or directive are sent to the committees within the Parliament, then to the relevant committees and also to the Council of Ministers. Then there is a preliminary discussion on the proposals from the Commission. Arapporteur is appointed and the committee meet to tease out all the details of the report. When it is examined, every member is given an opportunity to express his views, the subject matter under consideration is gone into in great detail and the motion or resolution is sent to the Parliament.

The Parliament will then discuss it. Having debated it, even though the speeches are restricted and contributions are limited because of procedure and a member of the group with therapporteur representing the committee will speak on it, it is then submitted to the Council of Ministers, the all-important decision-making committee.

I am on record as saying—and I am not being political when I say this— that our approach to the European Parliament is very fragmented and that I would like to see more co-operation between members of the Parliament, whether they belong to the Socialist Party——

Would the Deputy not accept that that would be more appropriate to the motion which follows?

We are talking about membership of the European Parliament but I will certainly abide by your ruling.

We are talking about elections to the European Parliament. The motion we will be discussing soon covers all the activities of the EEC.

I will be very brief. All I wanted to say was that the members of the Irish delegation should co-operate fully. If they want to play politics at home, by all means let them do so, but when they go to Europe there should be a united approach to the problems of this country. The point I was making was that I see nothing wrong with Ministers, who are in the Council of Ministers, calling their members of the European Parliament together and saying "This is my line". A recent example of this was the Minister for Fisheries and we will be discussing this at the agricultural committee.

A united approach on certain subjects, but not all subjects because——

I do not see any objection to a united approach on anything that is in the interests of the people of Ireland.

That is more appropriate to the motion following this Bill.

Very well, I will not proceed on those lines.

The other concept is the single party Government approach.

The Bill deals in great detail with the system of election.

I am fascinated by the Deputy's contribution. From my point of view it is very helpful.

From my understanding of the explanatory memorandum we have a separate register of electors for the European Parliament as distinct from the normal register of electors. I take it that each year a register will be compiled. This register will allow more people to vote than would normally vote in a general election. People from the Community who are living here with L after their names will be allowed to vote in the European direct elections. There is nothing wrong with that but the number of people living in this country with L after their names is very small. Will this expense be justified? Is there not a much more simplified system which could be used? Compiling a separate register for the direct elections would be one hell of a job. Perhaps the Minister will comment on this.

Deputy Moore mentioned yesterday the question of the ballot paper. I am glad that on the ballot paper the political parties to which the candidates belong and the group to which the political parties will be attached in Europe will be mentioned. Quite a big ballot paper will be used to contain all this information. There is a belief that I am inclined to accept, that the names on the top or bottom of the ballot paper have a greater advantage. I have contested a number of elections and I have been in a position where my name was never anywhere else but second. A number of people, old people in particular, do not want assistance in filling in a ballot paper and they are inclined to mark it either at the top or at the bottom. Deputy Moore suggested a circular ballot paper. I do not know if that would be feasible. If there is an advantage in being at the top or at the bottom of the ballot paper and a disadvantage in being somewhere in the middle in a constituency with 30,000 voters, surely these advantages and disadvantages would be multiplied in the direct elections where there are 20 times that number. This should be examined and not lightly dismissed. Could something be said for a draw for a place on the ballot paper for the direct elections?

We are introducing the concept of lottery into the direct elections.

That looks like something we could tease out on Committee Stage rather than now.

This was mentioned by Deputy Moore and I believe it should not be allowed to pass without comment. I appeal to the Minister to use everything in his power to ensure that direct elections take place next June.

The postal vote and co-option were also mentioned. We introduced the postal vote system into local elections and there was considerable doubt as to whether or not it worked properly. The system was abused but that does not mean that we could not get together and try a system which would be fairer and where abuse would be minimised. This is important because a number of people will be disfranchised in the European elections. People such as civil servants and members of different organisations who are involved in Europe at the moment would be away on election day and the postal vote for them would be important. Provision has been made in the Bill for co-options for the party who will lose members to the European Parliament. A situation might arise where a candidate may have been an independent member. Do I take it that the majority party in the House would take the seat? The deposit of £1,000 is fairly steep. There could be small men with big ambitions anxious to contest the European elections.

I support the Bill and I look forward to the day when the direct elections will take place. Every effort should be made to speed up the direct elections because that is the only way in which power can be restored to the European Parliament.

I am pleased to be in a position to say a few words on this historic occasion. This is the first occasion on which we have had an opportunity to elect our own members by the democratic process to the European Parliament. Parties nominating members must ensure that the best men go forward to represent us, to put our policies and claims before the European Parliament. Those who already represent us are doing an excellent job. We are unaccustomed to taking part in European affairs as such. Our history has taught us that the only manner in which we can win a battle is by co-operation and it is in this context that I see our members in the European Parliament playing the biggest role. We have political differences, but in the European Parliament we must be assured of a concrete foundation of co-operation and cohesion among our members so that we as a small nation can put forward our just claims in the Parliament of Europe. The divisions in our history have taught us very little in this regard and our members who will ultimately be elected to Europe should stand together and ensure that division in the European Parliament will not be to the detriment of this country.

It is possible we will be faced with a certain degree of apathy in relation to this election, perhaps because a section of our community looks upon the election to Europe of any member as a life-long sinecure. For that reason alone we may be faced with a certain section of the community abstaining from the European election. It must be impressed on our people that it is their duty now to ensure that our members are elected. Our people must take a deep interest, for we are now a member of a Community in which we will remain for many years. Possibly our economic and social futures depend on our remaining members.

Another Deputy mentioned the format of the ballot paper, which is a valid point. Indeed it has been a bone of contention in all elections over a long number of years. The Minister might very well direct his attention to this and when further regulations are being made later perhaps something could be done about it. I am in no position to offer an alternative except to say that it has caused great difficulties in the past and certainly will in the future.

There is another angle I see at present. We find great emphasis being placed on reciprocity within the EEC. In that respect I wonder could we draw attention to the fact that many of our people—people who unfortunately have had to emigrate, possibly to other European countries, and who perhaps as a result of our accession to the EEC were compelled to do so-our own kith and kin who have emigrated over the past few years will not have an opportunity of voting in this election. When the full regulations are being drawn up the Minister or members might be in a position to ensure that all our citizens are covered in future elections to the EEC.

Once again I appeal for full co-operation among the members we send to the European Parliament. It is of vital importance and cannot be stressed too strongly. Irrespective of our views here, political or otherwise, when we come to the European table we must ensure a very high measure of co-operation among our members.

I have a few points to make on this Bill with particular reference to the candidates who will be standing in this election. Reference was made a short time ago to dual representation but, in many cases, the candidates initially will have treble representation. This carries special significance and difficulty for candidates from the Dublin area. This can be shown by the fact, for example, that in North County Dublin the constituency area is roughly equivalent to the area also administered by the relevant committee of Dublin County Council. There are three Deputies for this area and only five councillors. In the nature of things one of these will probably be a candidate for the European election. That will mean that that person initially will have to represent people at local, national and EEC level. It is totally unrealistic for a man to have to carry out that task efficiently and, at the same time, to have to look over his shoulder to ensure there is continuity of communication with his constituents at grass roots level. I would make a plea for examination of the local authority aspect of what I might term this treble representation. It may not be so important down the country but certainly it is in the Dublin area. It is totally unfair to expect a Deputy to have to look over his shoulder and be worried about very minor matters when elected to do a national job.

The quality of the prospective candidates has been alluded to many times. With the track record of this side of the House we can look forward with confidence to a vigorous campaign, particularly bearing in mind our practical association with the Gaullist Party. I think it is recognised that, effectively, we have a disproportionate influence on many matters of vital interest to this country, matters which are and have been affected. It is important to recognise that we in our special situation on the edge of Europe have particular contributions and problems.

The running out of the world's fossil fuels in relation to our situation and the development of our fisheries must be considered by candidates in this election. It is recognised that it is more efficient to have a fishing industry nearer the fishing grounds than have the long haul out from Europe in order to make more efficient use of the fuels. An interesting figure here for possible candidates would be the possible return in fish catch per ton of fuel oil burned. In this context those of us who live in coastal regions will be putting to our candidates the importance of the channelling of funds for the expansion of shore installations, the catching capacity and the efficient use of the resources close to our shores, as is being done very efficiently already by the Minister for Fisheries. Every aid that can possibly be got by our European representatives will be of prime importance. Any help that can be given by local organisations, trade or professional bodies to possible candidates, I would suggest, must be of value in this election.

I should like to mention a very valuable contribution, even in the European context, made by a relatively small group of fishermen.

There is a motion following this Bill and it would be very appropriate to deal with all of these matters on that motion.

I shall deal with them under the appropriate headings then. My apologies for straying somewhat from the point.

The most important point I want to make is for the establishment of a framework in which candidates are protected, shall we say, on their flanks from treble representation and that some formula might be devised through which they could work efficiently rather than have to be looking over their shoulders at all times.

I am happy to have an opportunity of saying a few words on this Bill. It is good to be able to come into the House and discuss a constituency Bill without any rancour. This is a new departure. I have no doubt that had either side of the House produced the same type of constituency arrangement we would have had an acrimonious debate. The fact that it was taken out of the political arena and placed before a commission demonstrates that it was treated in an impartial way and that is important. I have always held the view that you cannot gerrymander and the last election proved that conclusively. Because the matter was handed to a commission there has been no bitterness in this debate and that is important.

In the European elections apparently the votes will be counted at one central point. That is a bad arrangement. We should operate the system that operates in Presidential elections and in referenda where the votes are counted within the Dáil electoral constituencies and then transferred to a central point for the overall count. That would be more manageable and it would be better from the political point of view because each constituency would know how it voted and the effect, if any, on that constituency. As yet, we do not know what effect the European elections will have on the electorate.

To date I can get no sense of real enthusiasm for direct elections. I wonder what kind of vote we will get, whether we will get what I would call a mandate from the people. If the vote falls below 50 per cent, are we really getting an opinion on whether the people want direct elections? I am in favour of direct elections. It is important that any assembly should ultimately be put there by the people. I do not think the political parties have really sold the concept of Europe. To the average person Europe is a rather remote place particularly in the political sense. Things happen with regard to agriculture and other matters but they do not really affect the man in the street as he sees it. A broad educational change is needed to try to orientate people towards thinking in the context of Europe because decisions taken there will have far-reaching effects on our way of life in the future. It is important that we make people aware of that.

One speaker said we should be united in Europe but I think there is a kind of siege mentality in going to Europe as an Irish group. That would defeat the whole purpose of the European Assembly. There are various political groupings there with which we, as political parties, can identify and work. If we are to achieve anything in Europe we must work in that kind of context. Otherwise we will be a very small group, almost completely ignored. We have to get into the big league. Naturally, we must work for Ireland but not merely as a totally committed group working for Ireland only.

Europe has enormous potential but it can only be realised if we work in a European way. We want to share in the Community and to make our contribution. We also want to get our share from the Community and we can do that best by operating within the major political groupings working on the European scene at the moment. We should not be parochially-minded about this. Otherwise we would be better off staying out of Europe.

Much of the idealism existing in the early days of the Community is on the wane. This is to be regretted. It is still a young Community and anything young needs idealism and a dynamic approach. As a group we can bring that kind of contribution to the European forum. We can show we want to play our part, that we are not going there just looking for something. We can show we want to make a positive contribution towards developing Europe.

I am glad the Community will expand. I do not think it should be an élitist group of fairly wealthy nations. It should include other countries that are not so rich and it should concentrate on developing them. I hope I am not straying too far from the Bill.

I am afraid the Deputy is straying somewhat. There is a motion afterwards.

I do not think it is any harm to say what we expect and how we should approach Europe. Since our entry we have made a worthwhile contribution. Small nations can play a major role within Europe and I have no doubt that we will do that. When we have direct elections the European Parliament will have real meaning. At the moment there is the impression that it is something in the nature of anad hoc group, that we send out people to Europe to have a chat. Now the procedure will be formalised and that will give the Parliament more authority and respect. However, it will have to earn that respect. The members will have to perform well in the interests of the Community, not necessarily only in the interests of Ireland.

There has been much publicity about payment to the European representatives. The question has been raised whether it is too much. On the basis of what Dáil Deputies get, it seems ludicrous that one person in one assembly will get £X while the other will get £X minus minus. I am not advocating that our salaries should be increased to that obtaining on the European scene——

It is not in order to discuss that matter at this stage. Certainly the Deputy may in passing compare the salaries here and in the European Parliament.

I think it is very relevant.

Somebody should propose that the salaries here be increased.

Not on this Bill. There will be another opportunity of doing that.

I am not proposing that. It is a point worth mentioning here. Are we attracting people who want to serve in Europe or are we attracting people who want the lolly?

Each party should decide that.

I am talking about individuals not parties. It is a question of what motivates a person. It was suggested in the British House of Commons that the same salary should operate in Europe as in Westminster. If we have the same thing here it might sort out the list of candidates very quickly and might get things into proper perspective. We might see the great idealism breaking forth.

Would it be tax-free idealism?

I do not know because it might be misconstrued. I do not say that our salaries should be brought into line with those in Europe. It appears that there is one salary here and a much greater one in Europe. The salary in Europe is very high and the salary in this House is low.

The salary in this House is not a tax-free one.

I believe that is a point worth considering. When one is going out selling the idea of electing people to Europe, knocking at doors and asking people who might not be in a very high wage bracket "Will you vote for Mr. X to go to Europe" it is very hard to justify why they should be asked to come out and vote for those people.

The Deputy is exaggerating.

You cannot go into Europe with a threadbare approach. You have to explain the reason to the people.

I agree. Politicians have not done much to educate people about what Europe means and the effect of the decisions made in Europe. We spend very little time on this type of education. If the elections are to be held next year we have very little time. If they are postponed for any reason we should use the time to educate the people about what being in Europe means. A lot can be done in the House and through the media. If the elections are to be a success it will only be because we have got the people out to vote for whatever candidates they want. We want a large percentage turning up at the poll. If we do not get a good poll it will be a poor outlook for the future of direct European elections.

We had a postal vote for local elections. Would it be possible to have a postal vote for the European elections? There are people in hospitals who would like to vote. I know that many people will say it is open to abuse but I believe that if people cannot vote because of illness or some other good reason a postal ballot should be available to them. It is not a very good reason for not granting this to say that it can be abused. I have been advocating for a long time that elections be held on Sunday. Travellers and other people who are away from home during the week return home at the weekend and could vote if the elections were held on Sunday.

I believe that all political activities should be suspended at midnight the day before the elections are held. This would mean that there would be no pressure put on people at polling booths. We could try this on an experimental basis. It was a good idea to get a commission to define the boundaries. I believe if either this side or the far side had decided on the boundaries for the European election we would have had heated arguments and charges of all sorts about gerry-mandering. It was a good thing to have this type of debate because the heat is taken out of it and we can look at it in an objective way.

I welcome the principle of this Bill on the direct elections to the European Parliament. There must be direct elections to give the European Parliament teeth. There must be uniformity throughout the EEC. The elections should be held on the same day in all the member States. The people elected to the European Parliament by the direct elections will have a mandate from their own countries. This is very important because the people who are there at the moment are nominated by the different political parties. They have a mandate from their parties to go there but have not a mandate from the people of their own electoral areas. It is only by good fortune they are selected to go there and it does not mean that there will be representation for any particular party or constituency.

The independent commission set up by the Government is a very novel approach to the arrangement of constituencies. When it was announced at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis last February by the leader of the then Opposition there was doubt in the minds of the Government that this would be carried out. The minute Fianna Fail got into office they set up this commission to arrange the boundaries and asked them to adhere as far as possible to the natural county boundaries. The Taoiseach, without viewing the commission's report, accepted their findings without question. That is an indication of the statesmanship of the Leader of the Government. It is different from ordinary party political considerations.

I still have reservations about the representation, or lack of it, for the most deprived areas. I refer particularly to the west. We have only three seats for an area which includes part of Ulster as well, and this is not adequate representation. The Dublin area has four seats and yet the needs of the people in the west, in the European context, are much greater than those of the people of the eastern counties. It seems strange that this area, represented by so many Deputies and Senators, will have so many members of the European Parliament. If we had more representatives from the west we could ensure that all the grants received would be allocated to that part of the country—for instance, the FEOGA grants and the grants from the Regional and Social Funds. We would have a better voice in the European Assembly. As Deputy Creed says, it is remarkable that in the last few months prior to the takeover of Government by Fianna Fail the FEOGA grants for 1978 have been cut by one third without a word of protest from any of the members of the Assembly, as far as I know.

The west is not adequately represented in this new Assembly but I realise that there is not much we can do about that. We are ruled by the Treaty of Rome regarding the number of people to be represented by each member of the Parliament. I feel that it would be far better if we had representation on the basis of area plus population and not on the basis of population alone. In my constituency, Roscommon-Leitrim, we have a larger number of people to represent than any other Deputies and they live within a larger area. The same applies regarding the European Assembly and I am surprised that the commission did not take this into consideration.

Deputy Creed spoke about the need for a united approach to Europe. The Irish members will certainly keep the needs of their own country in mind. They will be looking for the betterment of the Community as a whole and will not be parochial in outlook, but they cannot ignore the needs of the people at home.

I am opposed to the election being held on the same day as the local elections and I would ask the Minister to ensure that this does not happen. There would be confusion in the minds of the people and errors might be made between candidates standing for the county councils and those standing for the European Parliament. It would take from the general style and standard of European elections. The recognised system in France is to have elections on a Sunday and this should be considered. There are certain drawbacks here due to the fact that so many GAA fixtures are held on Sundays, but the suggestion is worthy of consideration.

I presume that the register of electors will be the same as for general and local elections, but I hope that there will be a major improvement in the compilation of the register. It is scandalous that many people who were on the register up to 45 years were dropped from it before the general election and I am asking for an inquiry in my constituency to find out why this happened. It is totally unfair that people should be disenfranchised by error or otherwise.

I had hoped that this election would be held next year but it now seems unlikely because of the British approach. This is unfortunate because we need a European Assembly elected by the people of each country. We have been very successful in preparing this Bill, but the British are dragging their heels. If it does not suit England they just do not bother. I hope that the Minister will try to persuade the other members of the Community to put pressure on the British Government to have the necessary Bill prepared and to hold elections on the same day as the other member countries.

We cannot widen the scope of this debate to discuss the policy of the EEC. We will have the opportunity to do so in a later motion before the House and we must confine ourselves now to the elections. Many of my own opinions have already been voiced by my colleague from Roscommon and I am glad of the extra strength in putting the position of the forgotten west before the House. I have been doing so for four years.

I congratulate the Government on the setting up of the independent commission. This took the heat out of the situation. The representation of the province of Connacht and the three counties of Ulster is very small but we must not forget that we have no representative in the European Parliament at present. I do not think there is a single individual from this area in the European Parliament and three representatives will be an improvement. Many people think that the European Parliament has no teeth and that it will be the same even after the elections because decisions will continue to be made by the Council of Ministers. At the same time if you talk long enough, even without power you will eventually create an impression. I hope that we will create an impression in Europe by sending the right men there, men who will make a good case for us, particularly for our disadvantaged areas.

The European elections should not be held in conjunction with the county council elections. In towns and urban areas we have corporations, urban councils, and county councils. As Deputy Leyden said, and I agree with him, there would be complete confusion in the filling of ballot papers in these areas if the European elections were held at the same time as the local elections. There would be so much parochial interest in the local elections that the European Parliament would be forgotten. Between the five counties of Connacht and the three counties of Ulster there will be eight or nine candidates and a lot of people will not know them. The people will have to be educated for this election by the holding of non-political meetings to point out the duties of European parliamentarians. If this is not done there will be apathy, except in a county where an individual is known. In my constituency the voting could be as low as 25 per cent unless the political parties make an effort to stress the importance of the elections. If we do not send dedicated people to Europe to represent us we will be wasting our time in holding the elections.

Those who are elected to represent us in Europe will have enough to do without becoming involved in constituency work or county councils. When I was elected to the Dail I was a member of co-operatives and committees and I had to resign from them in order to fulfil my duties as a Deputy. The same thing applies to those who are elected to the European Parliament. I was offered a week in Europe during September but I could not go. Accepting the offer would have meant neglecting my work here. Nowadays, if you want to do the work of a Deputy you must spend as much time as possible in your constituency. It is not possible for a man to be a county councillor, a Dáil Deputy and a Member of the European Parliament at the same time.

If a rule is made that a man cannot be a Member of this House and a member of the European Parliament at the same time, would we have the power to ask them to report to this House? That is an important point. Perhaps the Minister will answer this question in his reply.

The postal vote was abused at the last local elections. If this system is to be used again there will be more abuses and I suggest that there should be tighter control.

One speaker said that we should be united for Ireland in Europe. I believe that the different political groups can work together for Ireland. The main point is that our representatives should be dedicated no matter what group they belong to.

I congratulate my colleague, Deputy Leyden, on his first speech in the Dáil. He stole a lot of my thunder.

As a fellow county man, I should like to congratulate the Ceann Comhairle on his elevation to the Chair. I also wish to congratulate the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary on their appointments, and I believe that they will be worthy representatives of this country.

I welcome the Bill because it presents to the people an electoral system for the selection of candidates to the European Parliament that is familiar to them. The use of a familiar system is of advantage to the electorate who will no doubt be somewhat confused when they are presented with their ballot papers, particularly in large constituencies. Therefore, I agree fully with the proposals presented to us. I welcome the Bill because it will give the people the right to choose through the ballot box those they wish to represent them in the European Parliament.

I congratulate the Commission who have been responsible for drawing up the constituencies. No political party could find any major fault with the proposals. The constituencies are drafted in such a way as to give equal representation to all the people. No party could claim that the proposals are such as would give advantage to one party or to one area as against another. Fianna Fail have kept their promise in this respect, and this augurs well for the future drafting of the constituencies for Dáil elections.

Because of the direct election system the people will be sending to Europe those familiar with the needs of the areas they represent and who will familiarise themselves with the various schemes and so on. They will decide how these schemes affect their respective areas and they will be in a position to work for the improvement and further expansion of benefits.

Ours is an ancient nation. Down through the years her sons and daughters have contributed in many ways to the betterment of European countries. I am convinced that those who will be representing us at the European Parliament will distinguish themselves too.

Another significant feature of these elections that is significant is that people both from the Republic and from the six north-eastern counties will be going to the polls to elect their representatives. Those elected will be regarded in Europe as one unit. In this context it is my hope that the representatives from the Republic will work in close liaison with their counterparts from the North, bearing in mind that the problems with which they will be dealing will be common to people from both parts of the country. Hopefully, the problems of the Irish people as a whole will be uppermost in the minds of those elected.

It would be my hope too that the representatives from the Republic will play a major part in Europe in bringing about unity with the representatives from the six north-eastern counties, a unity that is desired throughout the country. Regardless of what may be the differences at home, Irish people, no matter from which part of the country they come, wish to be recognised as Irishmen when they go abroad.

I welcome the provision in the Bill whereby vacancies occurring as a result of death, for instance, are filled on the basis of co-option. This seems to be the fairest and best way of dealing with the situation.

Some Deputies have expressed the fear that apathy may prevail on election day. I do not think these fears are justified because as the various political parties will be competing for seats they will make every effort to achieve the maximum vote. Those of us who have been involved in elections, whether at local or national level, know this very well.

Doubts have been expressed too whether the best way of sending representatives to Europe is by choosing the candidates from the political parties. Again I would dissent from these fears because, what-ever may be our political differences here, I am convinced that when we send repesentatives to the European Parliament their first consideration will be what is best for the Irish people.

I trust that when the day of decision comes the people will elect those suited best to serve our interests in Europe.

I, too, support the Bill. As has been pointed out already, it is a representation of a similar Bill introduced by the last Government but with the major change in the designation of constituencies. Before going on to outline my views on the Bill I should like for the purposes of the record to rebut something that was said yesterday afternoon by Deputy Fitzpatrick regarding the arrangements for the Second Reading.

I had indicated to the Fine Gael Assistant Whip, Deputy Begley, on Thursday last that the Bill would be brought forward for Second Reading yesterday morning but as a result of what I regarded as a last-minute request from Deputy Creed I arranged to have the Bill ordered as the last item on yesterday's Order of Business. However, the other business was dealt with so expeditiously that the Bill before us was taken immediately after Question Time. Deputy Fitzpatrick had a complaint to make in this regard. I want to make it clear that it is not my intention to create friction of any kind, especially in these early days of the session. The arrangements between the Opposition Whips and myself are extremely good. I find it easy to reach agreement with them, but I do not like being accused wrongfully.

This Bill is a measure that should be talked about in the House. The bulk content of the Bill consists of repetitions of the various arrangements that go to make up the normal run of elections, and in that context it is very much a Committee Stage Bill. The basis for any discussion in this House on the Bill itself must be the constitution and layout of the proposed constituencies according to this Bill. Enough could not be said about honouring the commitment that was entered into by the then Leader of the Opposition, now Taoiseach, that he would set up an independent commission to make recommendations with regard to the arrangement of constituencies.

If we had debated the previous European Assembly Elections (No. 1) Bill which was presented by the Minister for Local Government in the former Government it would have been extremely difficult to justify the constituencies which that Government had been responsible for creating.

We have very acceptable constituencies. We are following the old provisional boundaries. It is unfortunate that the people in the three Ulster counties which form part of the Republic have not the opportunity of being in the province in which we as a nation would like to see them placed with the right to represent that province of Ulster in an election. However, the three members of the commission who so speedily investigated the situation, Mr. Justice Walsh, Mr. Meagher and Mr. Tobin, all of whom came up with this recommendation, must take great satisfaction from the wholehearted and pretty unanimous acceptance of their recommendation that has come from all sides of the House.

From listening to the last couple of speakers here I appreciate that Deputies representing the west may feel that they have not sufficient representattion on the basis of the size of their constituency apart from their representation on the basis of population. On the other hand the short report of the commission clearly points out the reason for the findings in the recommendations. Despite the fact that the commission draw attention to the fact that there is no constitutional—as they see it—difficulty in playing about a bit, they nonetheless accepted the guideline which the country had given in the Third Amendment to the Constitution Act, 1968, that is that they did not want a greater variation than the courts had decided on arising from disputes before that. As Deputy Callanan said, it is better to have representing that west and the three Ulster counties three Deputies with a positive interest in the wellbeing of that part of the country.

Despite what Deputy O'Brien from the Opposition said in relation to his objection to European representatives fighting Ireland's case not as Europeans but as, so to speak, parochial Irishmen, one thing for which we can take pride in ourselves as Irishmen is that irrespective of what disagreements we have at home at political level it can be expected of us as Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour men or men of any other party yet to be formed, in a European Parliament to fight the Irish cause as a united group of 15. This can and should be done without being constrained by different political party affiliations on the European scene. If within any constituency in this State some disaster occurs or there is danger to an industry or if a group of people are affected to their disadvantage the pro and anti-Government politicians, be they members of any party or independent, rally together, as is their duty and responsibility, in representing that constituency, in an effort to help out their constituents and do what is right by them.

In the wider context of the European commitment nobody can point a finger if representatives from the Connacht constituency, the Munster constituency or the Leinster constituency get together, or if the people from the four constituencies get together to fight a battle in the national interest. That is what it is all about, and it would be very wrong for us to renege on our responsibilities as Irishmen in this regard.

We have a Bill here which is generally welcome. I have heard views expressed in the House which give the impression that it is taken for granted that, due to the UK attitude, it is unlikely that we will have these European Assembly elections as expected during the course of next year. I do not share in that pessimism. There is an enormous amount of goodwill here, great anxiety to get the whole European scene in proper perspective, to have positive progress towards the social and political well-being of the Community, in other words, to get going a European Parliament with teeth.

Deputy Callanan expressed the view that until now there was the general feeling that talking at European Parliament level has been ineffective because of insufficiency of powers but, he said, he has discovered from experience that concentration of talking, even where it would appear to be ineffective, has worked out to be very effective. The effect of direct elections to the European Parliament will be that the power will be in the hands of the different peoples and therefore that the Parliament will be representative of all peoples in the Community.

I have looked at the Schedule to the Bill setting out the constituencies and I draw the attention of the House to the fact that this is an earnest of the Taoiseach's endeavour to do the right thing about getting Ireland's representatives in Europe truly representative of the wishes of the nation. The Taoiseach arranged that, having received the recommendations of the commission set up to consider the matter, he would adopt these recommendations and circulate the Bill immediately so that the Dail and the public would not be in any doubt as to his and the Government's acceptance of the recommendations.

The Taoiseach clearly indicated in advance that the recommendations would be acceptable whether they appeared to be of advantage or disadvantage to the Government party. I would point out that one of the lesson learned in the last general election was that trying to arrange constituencies to suit the sitting Government can backfire. It is the people who decide whom they want to govern and I suggest to all parties represented in the Dáil that the handing over of the job of arranging constituencies to an independent group, with the Government automatically accepting the recommendations of that group, is the effective way and the just way to fix constituency boundaries.

Coming back to the Schedule, in the Connacht-Ulster constituency there will be a representation greater than that constituency is entitled to theoretically. It is difficult to break up a country of this size into four constituencies for 15 seats, particularly because the former Government fell down on the job of providing us with a census of population, which meant that the commission arranging the constituencies had to rely on the 1971 census figures. The ratio representation for the European Parliament was set at 198,550 electors per seat. The Dublin-Leinster area, the most densely populated, will require a little fewer than the national average to elect a member. In Connacht-Ulster and Munster there is a slight advantage, quite different from the proposals in the No. 1 Bill.

I can foresee that in 25 to 30 years the European parliamentary elections will become the important elections here, but I doubt if that will be so next year. The report of the commission refers to the difficulty of getting the people sufficiently interested. The reason given by the commission for turning down a single national constituency is that if the electors could not be intimately associated, locally, with the candidates they would be disinclined to vote. I agree, though experience in Presidential Elections has not been bad in that way. As well, the three political parties represented in the House have proved their ability to generate interest in national campaigns. However, the commission made the solid point that it is easier to get people out to vote if they have a positive local association with the candidates—a feeling by the voter that he is supporting somebody who represents his view.

The commission report went into detail in relation to the problems of Munster—whether it would be advisable to extend the constituency into a six-seater, adding Carlow. They decided against it on the basis of the old traditional provincial ties. That was a very intelligent approach. In the context of the European Assembly Election (No. 1) Bill I recall that that particular area was added into Connacht. With all due respect to you, a Cheann Comhairle, I think you will appreciate that from the point of view of affinity or the sharing of interests the people of Laois and the people of Donegal are not all that akin. We have the bogs. You have the mountains. I do not think the aspirations of the bogmen in Laois, whom I represent, are exactly in line with the aspirations of the shrewd Donegal people. We are more at home in Laois-Offaly and Longford-Westmeath with Leinster people. We have always been part of Leinster. We have the old tradition of the four provinces. The only unfortunate aspect is that the three Ulster counties cannot at present be part and parcel of their proper province from the point of view of European Assembly elections.

Doubts have been expressed as to whether the election can take place during the course of next year. The Minister in his opening speech pointed out that the Government considered it very important that the election should take place on the target date—that is, in May or June of next year. As the Minister also said, there is no doubt that the proposed arrangement appears to provide a reasonable basis for the fair conduct of elections and has due regard to social and economic factors, the electorate and density of population as well as to total population. There the Minister was quoting the commission's report. Both the Opposition parties have accepted the report. Remember, both the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party made submissions to the commission. In the Fourth Appendix to the report we have a list of the persons and bodies from whom submissions were received but there is no indication as to what the submissions from the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party were. There was press publicity about the submissions. It is rather remarkable to note the change in regard to the submissions of both the Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party compared with the contents of their own No. 1 Bill when they were on this side of the House and could put their own submissions into effect. However, that is history.

The Minister said the Bill proposes that nationals of other states ordinarily resident here will have a vote in the Assembly elections on the same conditions as Irish citizens. He added:

The European instruments forbid double voting and this Bill makes it an offence under our law to vote at the same Assembly election in this country and in any other member State and lays down a penalty for doing so.

That is an essential provision. We have the situation in which English nationals living here are registered for local elections. They have no right to vote in Dáil elections but they will have the right to vote in European Assembly elections and that is as it should be.

Some Deputies may have misgivings about the deposit of £1,000. That has to be weighed against the necessity of ensuring that every candidate will be abona fide contestant. I am not for a moment suggesting the deposit should be increased. A pattern which has evolved in recent years in conjunction with RTE is the making available of time on the radio and television for representatives of political parties. I have had experience as Whip of discussing with the other party Whips the allocation of time, particularly in regard to by-election candidates. There may be an argument as to who gets the last night or the night before the last but equal time is given to each candidate. He gets, I think. ten minutes peak viewing time. A candidate, be he an Independent, a Communist or what have you, provided he deposits his £100, gets ten minutes prime viewing time on television to sell his line.

Perhaps we should not be trying to stop anybody from selling his line to the electorate but we definitely had that situation in a number of by-elections in the past five years—I think it arose in the Monaghan by-election. I do not know how much the ten-second spot, the thirty-second spot or the full minute of advertising time costs on radio but if you want ten minutes time on radio to try to sell your washing machine powder it would cost more than £100. I do not suggest that it should become more expensive or more difficult for legitimate politicians to get their messages across on television but it should be made a little more difficult for somebody who is not interested in being elected and has no chance of even reaching the quota figure and whose £100 is down the drain from the beginning. I have a recollection of a by-election candidate who never got out a poster and who made no serious effort at election time but he got ten valuable minutes of television time to get his message across and in my view that message had nothing to do with the welfare of this State.

As the Deputy's speech has nothing to do with the Bill.

I am in order. This arises in the context of the deposit of £1,000. I do not suggest that the deposit should be increased. In the case of the European Assembly election we are talking of something which is not only of national but of international importance. Any Joe Soap, provided his name is on the register—he must qualify for election—may stand. I suggest to my colleague the Minister for the Environment—and he is not in control of RTE—that we should make sure that just by paying a deposit of £1,000 somebody who is not interested, or whose backing group is not interested in his being elected to the European Parliament but is interested in spreading his philosophy, is facilitated. We should see if there is any way in which that can be avoided. It will probably be very difficult.

One of the problems in connection with the Bill is the provision whereby one can be a Deputy of this Parliament and can be elected to the European Parliament. I understand that provision is subject to the rules that the new Parliament will ultimately lay down. According to the Bill, a Deputy or a Member of the Upper House who is elected to the European Parliament does not have to give up his seat here but it appears that if the European Parliament decides that he should not be a member of a national parliament, he would have to accept that. Originally, when this Bill appeared, I was under the impression—I have not had an opportunity of studying the former Bill—that the dual mandate would apply in the first instance but would cease to apply from the Dail election following the European Parliament election. I do not see that provision in the Bill and I hope that the Minister will be able to clear up that point.

Deputy Leyden I think, recommended—and I would be interested to hear further contributions from Members either on this Stage or on Committee Stage in regard to it—polling on Sunday. It has been previously discussed here but we have never had polling on a Sunday. I think it was Deputy O'Brien who recommended it and Deputy Leyden spoke about the possibility of clashing with a football match. He mentioned Gaelic football. We might have some difficulty with some provincial councils if we had Assembly elections on a Sunday in June in trying to get them to leave a day free but from what I know of the GAA, I believe in the case of such a serious matter, the Minister having given due notice of the decision to have the election on a Sunday, that great national body would ensure that people would be facilitated. There is no doubt that would have to be done. I should hate to be one of the three party candidates from Leinster for the European Assembly election on Sunday, 14th June. I should hate to depend on the votes of my friends in Laois if they were playing Dublin in the Leinster semi-final in Croke Park on that day. They would have every intention of coming home to vote but if justice were done and they beat Dublin they would hardly make it before 9 or 10 o'clock.

Is that in order?

He is referring to the possible defeat of Dublin which is an impossibility.

That is in order for some counties.

It is in order but not on the cards.

I will concede that. The explanatory memorandum states:

This Bill proposes to lay down the provisions which will apply to the election of representatives to the Assembly in this country pending the entry into force of a uniform electoral procedure.

Do I take it that the Bill only refers to the first election? The explanatory memorandum also states that the polling day in each of the member states will fall within a period beginning on a Thursday morning and ending on the following Sunday. The Council, acting unanimously after consulting the Assembly, will determine the period for the first elections and subsequent elections will take place in the corresponding period in the last year of the five year term of office. Should it prove impossible to hold a subsequent election in the Community during that period, there is provision to select another period not more than one month before or after that period.

I am worried about that. In that context we are talking about the second election and leaving it open to be held in a 14-month period, in the fifth year or the month before that fifth year starts or the month after it ends. Why are we doing this when it is expected that the new Assembly will have decided on the format for its re-election?

I am aware that the format of the Bill was drawn up before we took office and the only conclusion I can come to is that the original drafter, the former Minister for Local Government, felt that the new European Assembly would take as long to make up their minds to do something as his Government did and that five years could pass without something being done in relation to arangements for the next election. I hope I am not embarrassing my own Minister. The explanatory memorandum also states:

This Bill proposes to lay down the provisions which will apply to the election of representatives to the Assembly in this country pending the entry into force of a uniform electoral procedure.

That being so, I do not think it is necessary to talk about the declaration of the next Assembly elections. The explanatory memorandum, on the main provisions of the Bill, states:

—Irish citizens and nationals of the other Member States of the European Communities will be registered as electors and have the right to vote provided they are ordinarily resident in one of the constituencies specified in the Second Schedule and have reached the age of 18 years;

I take it that that refers to Irish citizens living overseas and to nationals of other member States living here who are not listed on the register. In the course of the last general election campaign a number of my constituents, who are from England, complained that while they are listed in the register for local government elections they have no vote in the general election. It appears that it is the responsibility of a local rate collector to prepare the register and decide which election they are entitled to vote in. It is claimed that a new register will be created where those listed in the existing register as being entitled to vote at local elections only will be given a vote in the Assembly elections.

Will an instruction be issued to county councils to introduce a new heading in the register? We are all conscious of the fact that "P" is put after the name of a person entitled to a postal vote and "L" is put after the name of a person who can only vote in local elections. The type of person referred to in the quotation I gave from the explanatory memorandum is the person with "L" after his or her name. It should also be remembered that "L" is put after the names of persons with land or property in an area and that they also have the right to vote in local elections. What proposals has the Minister to get the register in order? I presume we are not talking in terms of preparing a special register for Assembly elections.

I welcome the proposal in relation to casual vacancies. Provision is made that the nomination by the Dáil will come from the party of the person who has for some reason or other been responsible for the casual vacancy. The explanatory memorandum states that where following the preceding election, the vacant seat was won by the representative of a registered political party, the appointment by the Dáil will be on the nomination of the party concerned.

What happens if in the preceding election the seat was won by a person who was not a representative of a registered political party? How do we fill that vacancy? There is provision in the Bill for the registration of political parties.

I have in mind the genuine Independent who is nominated by a group—let us imagine there is a group called the Canal Preservationists, a fine decent body of people. These people could decide that the Royal and the Grand Canals were not being properly looked after, wanted to form a group to take this matter seriously and so nominated a man to contest the European Assembly elections in the Dublin area.

I assume they would try to be listed as a political party, but if they do not—and there is provision in the Bill for non-party—and if there are enough people who believe that the Government and the Opposition are not sufficiently interested in canal preservation and if this person succeeds in being elected to Europe, how will we fill that casual vacancy if he or she departs the scene?

I am thinking now of my new constituency, the rest of Leinster. Under the Bill a new returning officer will be elected for that constituency. In each of the other counties we have a local returning officer. The elections will be conducted in the same way as the Dáil and other domestic elections. Deputy O'Brien assumed—even though there is nothing in the Bill to justify that assumption nor is there anything in it to say that his assumption is wrong—that all the ballot papers would be counted in one headquarters. I want to know if that is so or if they would be counted separately.

To make my point I will deal with the constituency I know best, the rest of Leinster. At present a candidate for the general election in that constituency hands his nomination papers to the registrar or the returning officer in Portlaoise. I do not know if it is merely historical practice but there is an assistant registrar in Offaly. Invariably candidates, whether located in Laois or Offaly, come to the returning officer in Portlaoise and hand in their nominations. I do not think they could hand them in at the Tullamore office, but may be I am wrong.

This Bill makes provision for a returning officer for Leinster. This means that the returning officer at Kildare or Offaly, or Mullingar is the chief returning officer and he will have local returning officers—the county registrars, the men who are normally the returning officers in the constituencies. My question is this: if there is a candidate from, say, Wexford, must he come to Kildare to hand his nomination to the central returning officer or can he hand it to his local returning officer?

(Cavan-Monaghan): Are we still on the Second Stage?

I am speaking on the Bill.

Many of these matters will arise on Committee Stage.

(Cavan-Monaghan): I appreciate what the Parliamentary Secretary is at, but I was wondering which Stage we were on.

I do my best to help Deputy Fitzpatrick and I get nothing but abuse for my trouble. I am a Member of this House. I happen to be the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach.

(Cavan-Monaghan): And the Deputy must keep the debate going.

No. When we get to the Committee Stage it is very likely that I will be busy elsewhere and will not have the opportunity of making a number of these points to which I am anxious to get a reply. Like every other Deputy I am entitled to a reply.

The Parliamentary Secretary is entitled to refer briefly to what is in the sections.

I am doing that. Those points struck me when I was reading the Bill and it is evident that I spent more time on the Bill than the Opposition spokesman.

Deputy Mitchell is grateful because he gave him a speech. Am I right?

The Parliamentary Secretary is certainly entertaining.

I had these points ready from the last time.

(Cavan-Monaghan): It is an old established ploy that if you have to make a speech and it is not prepared, you read the Bill and comment on it as you go along.

The Parliamentary Secretary is still in order.

It is a pity the Deputy did not do that yesterday instead of coming here whingeing because he was not ready.

Reference was made to the fact that there is no provision for postal votes, apart from the standard postal vote for the Army and the Garda. At a local election some years ago the postal vote was provided for people who were legitimately unable to cast their vote personally. I realise the postal vote was abused at other elections, but I would still ask the Minister to have a look at this.

The report of the commission took into consideration the difficulty of exciting interest by reason of not having sufficiently localised candidates in large constituencies. As I see it, Parliament bears the responsibility to encourage and facilitate as many voters as possible to cast their votes. Perhaps the Minister, between now and Committee Stage, would consider amending this section.

Before the last general election I told my organisation at local level that I knew all about the postal vote. About three weeks before that election, I was amazed to learn that the postal vote no longer operated. I am just drawing attention to this in passing. I already raised by way of an aside the question of the constituency returning officer being responsible for functions which must be discharged centrally in each constituency, for example, the receipt of nominations and the counting of votes. I wonder if the receipt of nominations could be made a little easier in the regulations and if the counting of votes must be centralised. These things will come up on Committee Stage. At the bottom of page 5 of the explanatory memorandum it says that:

Where, following the preceding election, the seat falling vacant was held by a person who was a candidate of a registered political party, the appointment will be made by the Dáil on the nomination of that party.

Is there provision whereby a registered political party can change its name and still be qualified? I recommend that query to Deputy Fitzpatrick.

(Cavan-Monaghan): Where would the independent Fianna Fáil Party come in?

Nobody wants to renege on our name.

(Cavan-Monaghan): Will we put in an amendment about that?

We heard the Deputy was about to change the name of his party. I was trying to protect the Deputy's interest in the future because we would be lost without an Opposition.

(Cavan-Monaghan): As long as we have the Parliamentary Secretary we do not need an Opposition.

The Parliamentary Secretary is in possession.

The explanatory memorandum states:

Rule 18 provides that each candidate at an election will be entitled to send one election communication, free of postal charges, to each Assembly elector on the register for the constituency. For the purposes of this Rule candidates of the same political party in a constituency will be treated as a single candidate.

That is a repetition of something we have had in the past. I have often felt that it was a bit of a disadvantage for the political party who had four candidates to get the same treatment as an independent candidate. I wonder is this a good thing.

(Cavan-Monaghan): The Deputy is obviously jealous of me.

I am making a passing reference.

Passing references are in order.

Rule 31 is a continuation of something already in existence. Under rule 31:

A candidate or his agent is entitled to inspect the list of persons appointed or proposed to be appointed as presiding officers or poll clerks.

Is there any point in making a rule whereby the returning officer has the duty of showing a candidate or his agent his proposed list of presiding officers if some remedial action is not built in? Is it assumed from the fact that a candidate is entitled to inspect, that on receiving protests, the returning officer may take appropriate action? It would be wrong to give the candidate or his agent the right to specifically object because this power could be abused at election time. Why is the regulation put in at all? For fear that the wrong impression might be created and in view of the fact that I do not wish to do all the Committee Stage work for the Opposition, it is a pleasure to find the House discussing a Bill with such unanimity. It is very satisfactory that by using a commission to look at the job independently and impartially we can have such a satisfactory presentation of a schedule of constituencies arising from the fulfilment of a promise that the Government entered into.

Not only did I enjoy the Parliamentary Secretary's speech but he highlighted some interesting as well as irrelevant points.

I do not wish to be controversial but I believe that the importance of these elections has been greatly exaggerated. An elected European Parliament will not have any more say than the present nomination any more than this Parliament has any real say in what goes on in the country. The Government decides. In Europe the Council of Ministers will decide issues, backed up by the Commission, not the Parliament.

Along with the salaries that will be payable to representatives elected to the European Parliament, travelling expenses will also arise. I reckon that it will cost the Community about £1 million per year for Irish representation alone in the Parliament. That is a very hefty price to pay for what will turn out to be not a terribly important assembly. The salaries are certainly an outrage in the Irish context. I know they do not differ much from those paid to continental parliamentarians. The outrage is underlined by the relatively poor salaries paid to parliamentarians here and in the UK. If the Irish and British parliamentary allowances were the sort of allowances that would attract into Parliament people who would not thereby lose substantially financially, the comparison would not be so outrageous, but, in my view, it would still be unacceptable. It would mean a situation in which a member of the European Parliament, together with expenses and so on, would be paid more than twice the President or Taoiseach of this country and perhaps five or six times the Leader of the Opposition here. I do not know why there has to be a uniform allowance. For instance, I do not know why allowances cannot be paid on a basis comparable to average salaries in each of the respective member countries. I see there is a certain principle involved here—that members of the European Parliament from different countries might then be considered unequal members of that Parliament or considered by reasonable people to be treated unequally. While there is a certain amount of weight in that argument I believe there is a grave scandal involved in paying salaries way above the norm for parliamentarians, ministers, managing directors and so on here. It is something that should not be accepted without a lot of thought and debate.

One of the problems of such a proposed high salary is that inevitably it will attract to the European Parliament—I suppose this could be construed as an argument in favour but I would contend it is possibly one against—people of a higher calibre. Certainly with such attractive salaries it will be difficult for Members of this House to survive the rush for nomination. It will get to the stage where membership of the Government will become a positive disadvantage because the financial loss involved will be so great. I would urge the Minister for Foreign Affairs to take up this question with the Commission before this Bill is passed.

I have heard some Government Deputies oppose the idea of having the European elections on the same day as the local elections. I think most members of local authorities would have been opposed to the bringing forward of the local elections from 1979 to 1978. While I take the Parliamentary Secretary's point that we should not be conceding yet that the European elections will not take place in June of next year, on the face of it, it appears that they will not take place in June, 1978 but at the earliest, in October, 1978, or perhaps more likely in 1979. If they take place in October, 1978, or during 1979, it would be completely unjustified to have the European elections held on a day different from the local elections. It would be a terrible waste of public funds to have elections close to each other on different dates. Saving money is an important aspect of that argument, though not the only one. There is the over-riding one of getting people out to vote and that of facilitating the easy casting of a ballot. I shall come back to that point when I speak about registration of voting and Sunday polling.

As the European elections are proposed to be fixed-time elections—in other words, that they will take place every five years—as far as Ireland is concerned they should be tied in with local elections or even perhaps with the Presidential election. I know the Constitution provides that the President has a seven-year term and that he can have two terms only. I think the seven-year term is too much. It is very easy for a President in office to be returned unopposed for a second term, when we have a President in office for a total of 14 years. There are some people who might even contend that 14 months was sufficient. However, the point is that a man in the presidency for 14 years loses his shine after the first eight or nine years. He may not any longer instil any sort of pride or confidence in the people.

There is an argument I would tie in with this Bill for reducing the term of office of the President to five years and perhaps for tying his election in with the European ones. I know that involves a constitutional amendment that will not happen now; it might happen in the future and is something the Government might bear in mind. The more feasible proposition is for the tying-in of the European elections with the local elections, or rather tying in the local elections with the European elections because we will be one only of nine countries agreeing on a date for the European elections if it is not to be June, 1978. In the interests of economy, efficiency, democracy—getting people out to vote—I would strongly advocate that the European elections be held simultaneously with local ones provided the European elections are not to be held before October of next year.

One of the reasons I make that argument is the additional cost to the State of holding those two elections separately. There is also to be considered the additional cost to political parties of holding them separately, which should be borne in mind also. We must remember that party funds and State funds come from the people; that is whence the money emanates. There is the possibility, both from a financial point of view and an excess of elections, that people would become bored with them which would lead to apathy and a low turn-out, both to be avoided. Therefore, by holding local and European elections together they will complement each other in increasing the electoral turn-out which is very poor at present in the local elections.

It seems to me that the constituencies proposed for these European elections are quite fair. However, as I know from my experience in public life—especially in Dublin Corporation—propositions introduced to solve certain problems sometimes do not solve them fully or may even create new ones.

The constituencies are fair in that they are capable of reflecting proportionally the support for political parties but if after one or two elections it was clear there was no reasonable proportionality in the results, that a party or parties were being under-represented in relation to their percentage of the vote, I would like to believe an amending Bill would be introduced to provide proportionality. There will be a grave disservice to democracy if this Bill does not provide for such proportionality. I welcome the appointment of the commission and I congratulate the Taoiseach on his action. I should also like to congratulate the members of the commission on their work which was done quickly and efficiently. They took into account not only the terms of reference set down by the Government but also the submissions of many organisations and persons.

In the past ten or 15 years there has been too much politicising of offices and institutions which should be non-political. In the early days of the State the then Government provided for the establishment of the Local Appointments Commission and the Civil Service Commission to ensure fair play in appointments to the public service. That was a very important and wise step by the Government. To politicise matters that should be non-political is a grave mistake and in the end it is not to the advantage of the offending party. None of the parties in this House has clean hands in this matter.

I hope the appointment of the commission will signal the start of a non-political approach to subjects that are non-political. In that regard I hope in the next revision of Dáil constituencies there will be appointed a commission that is non-political as in this case. I hope that a number of other important offices will remain non-political. For instance, it was the tradition that the Chair of this House would rotate among political parties. The Chair is greatly respected by all and the incumbents have been honourable people but unfortunately it has been made the subject of politics by the method of nomination and appointment. That is a regrettable fact. In addition, the tradition has grown up that the Government of the day nominate members or supporters of their party to the Judiciary. I hope that will be changed in the future. If it is proposed to appoint a commission to deal with Dáil constituencies after the report of the next census I hope it will be fair and impartial as in the case of the commission dealing with the European constituencies.

A fundamental matter in any election is getting out the voters. In general elections we have had a fairly high turn-out, approximately 70 per cent of the electorate. The turn-out has been less in by-elections and much less in presidential and local elections. In Australia they have a very high turn-out because there is compulsory voting there. That is a matter that should be considered. However, in America which is supposed to be the greatest democracy of them all, in the election of their President—the most powerful position in the world—the turn-out is extraordinarily low. On the whole our record in general elections is not bad by world standards although it does not compare with Australia where there is compulsory voting or with Germany or other continental countries. I am not necessarily advocating compulsory voting but I am saying that the matter should be considered.

There will always be problems in getting people to vote if the arrangements made do not facilitate the public to the maximum extent. We have the practice of holding elections in midweek. Some of the speakers have recommended Sunday polling and this is a very appropriate suggestion. Very few people work on Sundays and they would be free not only to vote but to help in the elections for the State, for political parties and candidates. I would be a strong advocate of Sunday or even Saturday polling, certainly weekend polling. If the Minister decided to have polling on a Sunday he would receive widespread support in this House.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach mentioned some of the problems that would occur if there was a major sporting event on the same day as the elections. For instance, it would not do to hold the elections on the day of the All-Ireland Final. I believe that suitable provision can be made to avoid such problems.

Another aspect of facilitating the electorate is the compiling of the register. Deputy Leyden referred to the serious mistakes in the register in his constituency. Although I am a young Deputy, I have some years experience of elections and I have never seen anything as bad as the register used for the last general election. For instance, people who had been on the register for years were omitted. There were cases of wives being listed twice and their husbands being omitted andvice versa and many new voters were omitted. There has to be a better system than the present one. Local authorities start compiling their registers on the 15th September and it is open to people to register up to 15th December. A draft list is published some time after Christmas and the final list is published in April. That is the present arrangement and it is not a good one. The draft register is published after Christmas when nobody is in form for political activity and when the weather is least suitable for it. This means that there is very little checking of the register except by party activists who check the list and make amendments to it. Many people did that last year but there was still a great number of mistakes on the register. One of the problems is that there has been a tendency to have short election campaigns. There is merit in that because a three-week campaign is sufficient. Some other countries have longer campaigns. For instance, in Australia notice has now been given of an election to be held in two months' time. If longer notice of elections was required by law, it would facilitate the registering of electors and would be of great service to democracy.

The European elections are to be fixed-term elections and there is no reason why a different approach to the registering of electors should not be considered. People should be required to register for the election three months in advance. If there was adequate publicity before the registration date, it would facilitate people who had moved house, those who are away from their homes such as hospital patients and those who are disenfranchised by not being available on the day of the election.

It was suggested that postal voting would eliminate many of our problems. I would be in favour of postal voting if safeguards could be built into the system. The abuse of the postal system undermines democracy more than anything else and there is evidence that it was abused in the local elections. I would have reservations about postal voting unless adequate safeguards were built into the system.

Another problem is the possibility of future clashes between European and general elections. I am in favour of European elections being held at the same time as local or presidential elections. It would be undesirable to hold European and general elections at the same time.

One other point which affords us the opportunity for fresh thinking is in relation to the selection of candidates. We all know by looking at constituencies which parties are sure of a number of seats in each area. Therefore, the selection convention of the political parties will decide our European parliamentarians. It is too serious a decision for a small number of party activists. We should try to provide for the broadest possible selection of candidates.

Debate adjourned.