(Cavan-Monaghan): First of all I want to repeat the welcome for the system of arranging constituencies enshrined in this Bill, which sets a precedent for all future creation or revision of constituencies. The system of handing this sensitive task over to a commission is the right one. I want to renew my words of thanks to the learned members of the commission who did their work so well and expeditiously.
This Bill provides for the election of 15 members to represent this country in the European Assembly. When these elections are being held I hope the candidates who offer will not be influenced by any consideration other than that of serving the country to the best possible advantage. There have been suggestions in the media and elsewhere that the European Assembly is nothing short of a talking shop. I hope that is not so. I believe it is not so. There have also been suggestions that the allegedly huge salaries offered are the only attraction for some people and it has been said that the beaverlike activities on the part of those interested seem to bear that out.
Now democracy is the best system of government that can be found. It has its shortcomings. There is no doubt about that, but there also is no doubt that over the ages no better system of government has emerged. Democracy, at European and national level, will be a success so long as it is respected by the people and so long as people have confidence in it. That places a very heavy responsibility on politicians in general, because the day democracy ends or the day it is destroyed and some other system takes its place the people to blame will be the politicians who failed democracy because democracy will not fail them. I hope it never will be said that people are in politics for what they can get out of them financially. That certainly could not be said where national politics are concerned because from the foundation of the State to the present day the tendency has been to underpay rather than overpay. Experience has shown that people in politics, instead of amassing wealth, have actually lost money and many have ended up poor. Experience has also shown that many in politics would have done better financially in private walks of life had they not gone into Parliament.
The salaries are being talked about and speculated about. In the European Parliament they are infinitely—"infiintely" is too extravagant a word and this is a time for moderate language— a few times more substantial than the salaries paid in the national Parliament. The life of the politician at the moment here is a full-time job irrespective of whether he is in Government or in Opposition. A Minister's job is certainly full time. I do not know any politician, even in Opposition, who can discharge his duties to his constituents and to his party and engage in another job as well. I do not think it can be done. I do not think it is done. I believe that national politicians are not adequately paid but I sincerely hope that our entry into Europe will not create a situation where people rush for Europe simply and solely because of £30,000 a year plus. If that day ever dawns a severe blow will have been delivered to democracy. Democracy will be damaged beyond repair and the end result will be an unacceptable form of government. I hope I am making myself clear. I notice the Chair is looking at me.