The first thing on the Orders of the Day is the Committee Stage of the Electoral Bill. The first amendment in the Paper stands in the name of Senator de Loughrey. I want to call your attention, Senator, to this amendment, because it is not really in order, and I want to help you to accomplish what you wish to discuss. It is not an amendment to any particular section. It is an amendment to omit certain words—the words "for Local Government" after the word "Minister," wherever it occurs, except in one particular section. Of course, that amendment is not in order. The right way to do that is to put down an amendment to these words wherever they first occur in the Bill, and then it can be discussed. If the Seanad accepts your amendment as regards that particular section, it will follow that the consequential result will be that the words will go out wherever else they occur in the Bill; but you cannot propose an amendment in the form it is in. I have been looking through the Bill, and I think I am right in assuming that the first section in which these words occur which you wish to have omitted is Section 8 of Sub-section 2, and accordingly I will call on you when we reach that section. I may say the same with regard to the next amendment in your name, which also is not confined to any particular section, but proposes to omit certain words wherever they occur in the Bill. I have not been quite able myself to follow the effect of the second amendment, nor can I find the particular first section of the Bill in which the words objected to occur, but perhaps while we are discussing the earlier clauses you will look into the matter yourself, and if you find out for me where these words which you wish to omit first occur, I will call on you when we reach that part of the Bill.
SEANAD IN COMMITTEE. - ELECTORAL BILL, 1923.
What I intended was to put in this as an addition to the definitions given on page 27. I do not claim that it is of any material importance, only I thought the recurrence of the word "Minister" so often in the Bill might be deleted. I do not see that there was any necessity for it. I think these words occur over thirty times, but if the Minister thinks my proposition of no service or importance I will not press it.
Your object then, Senator, I understand is that you think it would be enough if these matters were left to the definition Section.
That is what I intended exactly.
In that sense I think you may move it if you wish now. The object of these two amendments, No. 1 and No. 2 in the paper, that stand in your name, apparently is to avoid the repetition of the words "for Local Government," that is to say, you will find in various sections references to the Minister for Local Government, and your suggestion is it would be sufficient to leave those words "for Local Government" but when you come to the Definition Section and say "the Minister in this Act shall mean the Minister for Local Government," I have not gone through the Act, and I cannot say if that would be satisfactory, because other Ministers, for example the Minister for Finance, may be referred to, and it would be very awkward if you were to do that, unless you were satisfied that no other Minister is referred to in that Bill.
As a matter of fact, in Section 52 the Minister for Finance is mentioned.
That being so, you see, Senator de Loughrey, the result would produce confusion in the Bill. I suggest to you that it is hardly worth while for the sake of getting rid of these few words in a long Bill of this kind to press this amendment, particularly as it would lead to confusion between particular Ministers.
It escaped my notice that there was any other Minister referred to. In that case I ask for permission to withdraw the amendment.
After Sub-section (2) to add a new Sub-section (3), as follows:—
"Always provided that the regulations as to the mode of exercising the vote prescribed in Article 14 of the Constitution shall require that—
"(a) every elector, before any election or referendum, shall obtain from the Registration Officer for his or her area a voter's card, for which a charge not exceeding sixpence may be made;
"(b) voters' cards shall contain a space, three-and-a-half inches by two-and-a-half inches, for a photograph of the elector, and four lines underneath for his or her signature, address, date, and age, together with as many spaces as possible for the affixing by the presiding officer at the polling booth where the elector votes, of a stamp showing the date and place of polling for each election;
"(c) at least one calendar month before any election or referendum, and thereafter in the month of January in each year, the elector shall present this card, with his or her photograph firmly affixed thereto, to the Registration Officer for his or her area, who shall satisfy himself as to the identity of the elector, the accuracy of the photograph, and the right of the elector to exercise the franchise, and shall require him or her to sign his or her name, address, age, and date of signing; the Registration Officer shall then proceed to stamp the card partly over the photograph with an embossed Revenue Stamp for five shillings, upon the payment of this sum by the elector.”
I think that in order to enable us really to understand the motive and object of my amendment it would be a good thing for us to think of how other people regard us, and in connection with that perhaps I might refer to an article which I read in an American paper a good many years ago discussing the fitness of the Irish for self-government. The article was written in connection with the franchise, as they call it there, or a concession which had been voted away by a board which was controlled largely by Irishmen, for what was notoriously a consideration. The article went on to say that the Irish appeared to have a peculiar power or capacity for corruption in public affairs, and that even in America where they were controlled by public opinion that if a few Irishmen got into a town in the course of a very few years they ran that town, and it further said that if in this country where in the face of public opinion they had kept themselves moderately honest they could in a short time have stolen the fee-simple of the Emerald Isle what can we expect will occur in their own country. The article was somewhat illuminating as regards the American editor's idea of what moderate honesty was and the standard it set up by stealing the fee-simple of the Emerald Isle, but it was more illuminating as showing the power which they had acquired, a power which gave them a monopoly of votes. An advice was given by an American Society, which was largely controlled by the Irish, that in every election they should vote early and vote often, and it was said that by means of this proceeding they had succeeded in obtaining the control they had. Whatever form of Irishmen we may be, reading remarks of this sort in a foreign press hurt. They hurt me, and I am sure that every member of both Houses of this Irish Parliament will be concerned to do everything that is in his power to put a stop to the possibility of corruption being carried on. I heard on the last occasion on which this matter was discussed in the Seanad that a lot of dead people had been polled, and in fact that it was the practice to poll them and with that object in view I framed these amendments. I followed the lines, as far as I could, which covered the issue of passports, and we shall probably hear from the Minister that he has submitted this question to a Committee which has considered it and which has advised them. I have the Report of the Committee and I see that they allude to a system of electoral cards, which differs in some very important respects from the proposals that I have made. For instance, I propose that on every card a number of spaces shall be provided in which the Presiding Officer at the polling booth will stamp the date of the election at which the card was used. If the Presiding Officer satisfies himself by means of the photograph and by the signature that the right person presents the card, and if he further stamps the card, it seems to me that no better protection can possibly be given to prevent that person voting a second time or to prevent the wrong person polling the vote of somebody else. Of course all this procedure will cost a certain amount of money, and furthermore the whole electoral proceedings will cost a certain amount of money. The country has to pay that. I do not think I am disclosing any very great secret in saying that the country wants money and that the more money we can get the better. I am not wedded to the sum in any way; I do not care whether it is more or less, but I think everybody who wishes to be a good citizen should not grudge, say, the amount of a dog tax to exercise his vote, and I never yet knew an Irishman so poor that the amount of the dog tax prevented him keeping a dog if he had any desire to do so. If he has any great desire to exercise the vote conscientiously I do not think that five shillings will prevent him from doing it, but, as I say, I am not wedded to that sum. I simply put it down. I suppose we may probably assume that there will be a couple of million voters in the Irish Free State, and, if so, this will bring in a revenue of £500,000, which would largely go towards the cost of conducting elections and preparing the Register, and in my opinion it would be a very good thing. If anybody thinks that the amount is too high it can be reduced, but if a man has first to get a card the same as for a passport, if he has to get a photograph, which he can get for a very small sum—a stickyback on the card sufficiently accurate to enable his features to be recognised would be sufficient—and he brings the card to the office of the proper officer where it would be stamped with an embossed stamp, I do not know what better protection we could adopt to prevent corruption. I beg to move the amendment.
I merely wish to point out that the proposal contains no suggestion that the photograph need be a recent one. The enterprising elector could put a photograph of himself as a baby on a card and, as all babies look exactly alike to the masculine mind, it will be impossible to say whether it was accurate or not.
May I explain that Senator Yeats' artistic skill is not quite correct in that case. There is a provision, as he will see if he reads down further, that the photograph shall be recent and shall be renewed at least every five years.
Senator Barrington's proposal is a very interesting one. I am rather inclined to support it. I have had some experience of elections——.
I do not see, Senator Barrington, where that is contained in your amendment as it is on the paper. I see no provision with regard to the recent date of the photograph at all. It is certainly not in the amendment as it is down on the paper.
Well, it was in the original that I handed in.
It is under Section 37.
My recollection of that, sir, is that it was a period of two years.
"To be renewed every 5 years." That is an amendment to Section 37.
There is a legend in this country that at elections there is a certain amount of personation. Our side never personates, but the other side always does. But however that may be an opinion prevails that personation is carried on to some extent. Some time ago the Minister—I am not sure which Minister it was—sent round a very interesting pamphlet with regard to the Ministry's ideas for dealing with this question of personation. I am not sure how far those ideas are carried out in this Bill. To be frank, I have not read through the Bill and I do not know, but I think Senator Barrington's idea is original and it deserves to be encouraged. The only question is that of expense. The five shillings which he puts down as the price of this voting card is not as bad as it looks. It is five shillings for the first time and then it does for five years or three years, so that it is really at the rate of either 1/4 a year or a 1/- a year. That is not at all too much to pay for a vote. I think if people want to have votes they might pay that much for them, and I also think that if people get votes they ought to be compelled to use them. Some people personate, and others do not vote at all. I do not know which of the two species is the greater offender. If Senator Barrington likes to put his proposition to a vote I will vote for it with pleasure.
I think that this is not an amendment which the Seanad would be well advised to pass. Some time ago, when Dáil Eireann was in its period as a Provisional Parliament, a Committee was appointed to consider the question of electoral abuses, and particularly personation, and we appointed six people on that Committee who had had a good deal of experience of elections. I will not say that they ever had anything to do with personating, but in any case they are all on the side of the angels now. They considered this proposal and they came to the conclusion that it was too cumbersome and too costly to be adopted, and that moreover it might not be efficacious. In Belgium, where people have to carry cards to establish their identity when they change their residences and must produce to the police from time to time, these cards are called for when they go to vote, but here people are not compelled to have cards. I believe that if anything had to be paid very few people would get cards and that when you got right up against an election you would have, perhaps, not one-fourth of the people qualified to vote by the possession of the necessary cards. They might have a certain interest. They might intend to get cards, but fail to do it, and it is undesirable that people through any sort of slackness when an election comes, and when a vital matter has to be decided, should be prevented from exercising the franchise. I think the exercise of the franchise would be restricted. Then if people could not vote without the cards it is possible you would have a few young men with guns straying along the roads who would let some people pass and would stop others and relieve them of their cards. You would find, perhaps, that the issue of cards had created a new difficulty. The Committee to which I referred is of opinion that the problem of personation presented its greatest difficulties in the cities, such as Dublin and Cork, and that there the difficulties were largely due to the form of the register. There were large polling districts where people came from one end of a ward to another and where personating agents could not possibly be put into the booths who would know everybody entitled to vote there. The Committee recommend a system of smaller polling districts consolidated round each polling booth, so that it would be possible for agents to be put in who would be personally acquainted with nearly every one entitled to vote. They also recommend giving certain additional powers to policemen who might be in the booths and to Presiding Officers, and they recommend that changes should be made in regard to the penalties for personation—that people convicted should not be let off with a fine, but should get at least a term of imprisonment. A Corrupt Practices Bill is in preparation and we intend to incorporate these proposals for dealing severely with people who personate in that Bill and also to provide powers to enable Presiding Officers and policemen to arrest, without direction from the agents of either candidate, people whom they know and whom they are prepared to swear in court were guilty of personation. I think that though personation has been a terrible evil in this country it is one that can be overcome without resorting to the costly and difficult and somewhat drastic measures proposed by Senator Barrington.
I am of opinion that some form of identification or guarantee must be produced in this election, not so much to stop personation as to ensure that the election should be carried out on the adult franchise. It is very difficult, so far as I can gather from the means adopted to secure information as to who are and who are not entitled to be on the roll. It is very difficult to discern whether a boy or a girl is really nineteen or twenty-one years of age. So far as my information goes from some inquiries that were set on foot I know of people who are only eighteen or nineteen and who certainly will appear on the register if not objected to. I think that if some definite steps are not taken to tighten matters up you may conclude that you will have this election on an average of about a nineteen-year-old franchise so far as a great number of those who will be enabled to get on the register are concerned. That is not a desirable thing. Article 14 of the Constitution is referred to in the amendment, and it specifically states that those only who have reached the age of twenty-one, or of thirty years in reference to the election to the Seanad, who have actually reached that age, and not those who have stated they have reached it, are entitled to be on the register. The onus is thrown on the Government and on those responsible for this election to secure that persons only who have reached these respective ages appear on the register for the Dáil and for the Seanad. Now the present regulations do not ensure that. In fact they afford every facility for evading it, and consequently unless something more definite than appears to have been done so far is done you will not have the election carried out in accordance with Article 14 of the Constitution. It is for us to take every measure that we reasonably can — and even then there will be new loopholes to secure that the spirit in which that article was couched and was drawn up should be adhered to. I think the proposal of Senator Barrington is not such as could in practice be carried out. I am rather inclined to agree with the Minister that you would have only a more limited register to work upon. There should, however, be some guarantee that those young persons whose age cannot be certified should have some declaration made. If we insist on their getting a baptismal certificate we will probably find that the records are not there. The baptismal records or other records of many people of that age are not procurable, or possibly could not be procured, because those who are in a position to give copies of these records would require certain fees. Certainly it would be a very long and wearisome task. There should be somebody, whether father or mother, uncle or aunt, or some responsible relation, who would be made to sign a form under a very heavy penalty that a person claiming to be put on the register, and whose age was doubtful, was 21 years of age and over. I think that would not impose any very great hardship upon anybody, and I am sure that these adult relations will be only too glad to certify. If you put on a penalty I do not think that many will sign that declaration unless they are absolutely sure of what they are signing. In that way we might get near to the ideal election, the election that we would all like to see carried out on an adult suffrage basis, and an election that will be carried out in such a way as will give no room to any party to question the result of that election on the very serious issues that will have to be decided.
I intend to vote against this amendment, because I believe it would restrict the number of voters that would turn up. I would suggest to Senator Barrington that a good way to meet this point would be to agree to pay the voters that are going instead of making them pay to be allowed to vote. They would then have a much better chance, because in many cases a great many workers cannot afford to go up to vote and somebody else personates them.
I should like to associate myself with the remarks made by Senator Kenny, and to suggest that this is not the proper time to effect his very desirable intention, and that the matter would more properly come under the Bill which the Minister foreshadowed in connection with corrupt practices. I do suggest very strongly that there is a duty cast upon the Government to make corrupt practices as watertight as possible and not to throw that duty on the party organisations. Party organisations in the last resort, of course, have to operate, but the Government should reduce the scope for the party organisations in this matter to the minimum by Statute and by adequate penalties. There is a danger we all know of the Central Authority being satisfied with things which appear all right on the face of them, but which in practice will prove to be very defective. As you know a certain form, I think it was Form A, was issued lately in connection with the preparation of the register. I do not exactly know who is to blame, but we know as a fact, at least many Senators know, that many of the forms never reached a large proportion of the voters at all. I believe it was the duty of the rate collectors, but they did not do it. The point I make is that it rests with the Government to see if these things are not done that adequate penalties are inflicted and, if possible, the law altered and some machinery set up which does. As Senator Kenny has said, the great danger will be not on the question of personation but on the question of age.
Amendment put and negatived.
I move to delete the section. I hope notwithstanding anything that has happened in the Dáil that the Seanad will consider this amendment purely on the merits. If I could convince myself that the ends of justice were in any way served materially at all events by depriving policemen of the vote I should not move the amendment. Although you may deprive a man of the vote you cannot deprive him of his mind or of having the right to a political outlook and a political voice. We know from experience that some of the most ardent politicians in the past and indeed at the present time are people who never had a vote. The Bill as it stands does not prevent a policeman from being a politician. He can take part in the elections to the extent if he so desires of canvassing, speaking on a public platform and in other respects acting as an ordinary elector. At least as far as the Bill goes the only restriction is to deprive him of the right to record his vote. Now the actual voting power of policemen with the extended franchise will be absolutely negligible. Where there are 6 or 7 policemen in a town or district where there are thousands of electors their votes will not count; their political influence will to all intents and purposes be negligible, and certainly will not, if there is any influence at all, be minimised by depriving them of the vote. It is like a man who, knowing that water or some other liquids were becoming scarce, developed a terrible thirst. The knowledge that he has been deprived of the vote makes the policeman perhaps more of a politician than if he had the ordinary rights of other citizens. The other people connected with the work of an election, the returning officers and others, the Sheriff, all those who are inside the booth, and who really have the power if they have the mind to influence the election one way or the other by the proper working of the Franchise Act, have the right to vote. The only one deprived of the vote is the policeman who may be standing outside the booth or waiting inside to carry out his instructions. He certainly does not exercise the same influence on the election as people who are actually engaged in seeing that the Act is being complied with in all its details. For that reason I fail to see how justice is going to be served or the better administration of the Act is going to be furthered by inserting this particular clause. I appreciate of course the spirit in which the clause is being inserted, but I believe on further consideration it will be found to be unnecessary. I quite agree that it would be very undesirable that policemen should be canvassed in barracks, but at any time the Minister can make regulations preventing that without having this special provision. We would agree that it is also undesirable to canvass soldiers in barracks and that particularly will be the case at the first election. Still they have the right to vote, at all events, and the inference is that they will also be liable to be canvassed. If it can be prevented in the case of soldiers it can also be prevented in the case of policemen. For that reason I hope the Seanad will give a fair and unbiased consideration to this amendment, as I think they will agree that it will in no way disimprove the Bill, but on the other hand that it will be a better document than it is at the present time.
I would like to assure the Seanad that before this Section was inserted in the Bill the matter was considered very carefully indeed and the Government and the people associated with the direction of the police were of opinion that it was desirable to have a provision of this sort. We are at the present time starting a new police force under very difficult circumstances. We are sending them out with very little training as it happens, with incomplete training, to carry out their duties under circumstances of extreme difficulty. We want them everywhere they go to preserve an attitude of strict impartiality and to do their duty without any party bias whatsoever. It is quite true that their vote in the balance would not matter, their numbers would be so small that it would not matter in the least how they voted. It is also true that men may have their opinions whether they have votes or not—strong opinions on political matters—but if they have no votes there will be no attempt made locally to drag them in by one side or the other. They will not be subjected to a canvass, and they will not have the neighbours coming to persuade them to go and vote for this side or for that side, or asking them to use their influence one way or the other. They will be able to preserve more easily their position of detachment and impartiality in the matters that arise in the political arena. We think in the circumstances of the time no matter what may happen in 5 or 10 years, that at least for the present it is most desirable that no arrangement should be made that would tend to have the police brought into party political strife.
Of course, it is quite clear they would not be allowed to canvass or speak on public platforms at elections. That can be prevented easily by regulations, but we think it is improper that they should be given the right by law to vote and be debarred from exercising that right to vote by police regulations. That would be a way by which it could be done, but we think that is an undesirable way. If the law confers the right on people to vote they ought not to be debarred from voting by private arrangements. Consequently we think it is desirable that they should not vote. One of the difficulties of stopping personation arose from the fact that the onus for action rested on the political parties and their agents. What happened was that both sides were personating; one agent got one man arrested from one side, and his opponent got another man arrested from the other side. At the end of the day they exchanged prisoners, so to speak, and nothing happened. We want to make arrangements so that if there is flagrant and undoubted personation the police could come in and prosecute a man whom they find personating just as a policeman would prosecute a man found drunk on the streets. If this new duty is cast upon the police it is doubly desirable that they should be kept detached from political activities. I recommend to the Seanad to leave the provision in the Bill as it stands for those reasons, and inasmuch as people who have given most thought to the question of police administration, present and future, advise it.
Amendment put and negatived.
On behalf of Senator the Earl of Wicklow I beg to move:—
"After Section 5 to add a new Section 6 as follows:—
"Every person rated as occupier of any house, lands, or other hereditaments shall be disqualified from being registered as an elector, if the last rate made on the premises out of which he or she derives his or her qualification has not been paid, provided that he or she is legally liable for the payment of such rate."
It does not require many words to explain what the purpose of the amendment is. It means that people who do not pay their rates should not have the right of voting. In the conditions that we have in the country at present I think it will be a very excellent thing for the local authorities to get in the money by means of such an amendment as this, and it also will exclude that class of elector that I think would not do any good to the country, because the man who will not pay his rates in the district in which he lives is hardly a good sample of citizen. What the Electoral Bill should do, if possible, is to get the best class of our citizens to vote, and the men and women who bear the burden of the country on their shoulders should be given the right to vote; would-be electors who refuse to take their share in paying the rates should not have a vote. That is the entire object of the amendment, and I do not think it needs any further explanation.
I think this amendment would be more adapted to Local Government Franchise than to Parliamentary. When the Bill came to be introduced I suggested to the Minister that he should have such a clause inserted in a Bill dealing with Local Government Franchise, and that would carry out the object which is intended by this amendment. For Parliamentary Franchise I think it would be unfair to deprive a man of his vote who had not his rates paid, because he is contributing to the taxes of the country in the same way as an individual who had no rates to pay was contributing. He is contributing by means of taxes paid on the food he consumes, on the tobacco he smokes, and on the drink he takes. In that way he is contributing to the taxes of the country, and ought to be entitled to the Parliamentary vote. I oppose the amendment on this occasion, but I would be very glad to support the suggestion in connection with Local Government Franchise.
I take the same view. It would be a penal clause as against property owners. The chances are that a man may pay his rates a few days afterwards. As it is a penal clause against property owners I am against it.
Amendment put and negatived.
Perhaps something could be done with a view to making the age limit definite.
There are special powers in this Act for the registration officer to enter an official objection to any person claiming to be registered at any time up to the printing of the Register. After the period for lodging ordinary objections has expired, and although we know in some places rate collectors and others have wrongfully included names which should not be included, I believe we would be able to get most of those names out of the Register before it is printed. Where it is proven against the rate collector we will take action against him, and as a penalty he will be liable to dismissal, and any such person will be dismissed by sealed orders.
Following on the explanation of the Minister, I should like to know what definite instructions have been given to the rate collectors, whether they are asked to see any record, any birth certificate, any record of marriage certificate or marriage lines, or do they simply go to a house and on their own judgment say, "yes, you are 21 years of age," and are no further steps taken?
Having young children on the register is not a new idea. Any one listening here would think that this was the first attempt to get them on. Many of us remember the Stephen's Green lodgers where they packed the register with young people.
They will again.
They will do it as long as they are let. All the safeguarding should not be left to the rate collector, because in many cases forms were left in by political parties.
Personally I have been on the register for the Sinn Fein Party from the age of 17 to 21, and I have never been since.
I beg to move, to delete the words "15th day of April," and to substitute therefor the words "1st day of June." This is a matter about dates. I have consulted authorities about it, and it is admitted that if it is left as it is, there would be no register at all for a part of the year, and therefore the amendment is necessary.
I have been asked by the Earl of Wicklow to move:—"To add at the end of the Sub-section the words, ‘Provided that the Clerks of Rural District Councils, the Clerks of Urban Councils, and Town Clerks, shall be the Deputies so appointed, if they are willing to act and discharge the duties to the satisfaction of the Registration Officer.'"
This has reference to the appointment of a deputy Registration Officer. If you look at the Registration Officers under Section 9, they are the Clerks of the Crown and Peace for an administrative county and for the county boroughs, and Clause 10 refers to the appointment of their deputies. I believe that, with reference to deputies, the Clerks of the Crown and Peace being solicitors themselves have a habit of appointing other solicitors to act as their deputies, and Lord Wicklow's belief is that the most efficient deputies would be the Clerks of the Rural Districts and the Urban Councils, and the Town Clerks, and that solicitors to act as deputies should only be appointed when those clerks will not act. He believes that the putting in of the words of this amendment will enable the most efficient men to be first called upon to act, and that solicitors will only be called upon to act in the failure only of the clerks to fulfil the duties.
The sting in the tail would only render nugatory the provision to appoint Clerks of a District Council.
The object is to give the Registration Officer the power of seeing that the proper person is to be appointed.
I think the power of the Minister to approve might also be preserved, because it may be difficult for a Registration Officer if you give a sort of prescriptive right to a Council Clerk to be a deputy to refuse him, although very often he might be an unsatisfactory type of person. He might be a politician or a party agent. At present he may be appointed, and there is nothing to prevent his appointment. I do not know whether it would be wise to give the Clerk of an Urban Council or a Rural Council absolute right to be appointed.
Amendment put and negatived.
Might I ask the Minister if he has noticed in Section 18 the words: "At a general election the last day for receiving nominations shall in all constituencies be the eighth day." That means up to all hours of the night. I take it that the day is twenty-four hours. Would it not be better to put in some time like "Noon of the day"? I am just suggesting it because it seems to met that if you leave it out, people may have to be sitting up until 12 at night.
That is provided for in Rule 2 of the Schedule, page 41.
I had a number of very ingenious arguments in favour of this, but I have since thought of a considerable number of dangers also, and therefore I want to restrict myself merely to asking the Minister if he will accept a verbal change, that is to say "furnishing" instead of "giving."
You wish to move an amendment changing "furnishing" into "giving"?
No, "giving" into "furnishing."
But it is "furnishing" here.
I am afraid I have not made myself clear. I merely want to move a purely verbal amendment to substitute in the Bill "furnishing" for "giving," instead of the long amendment that I have down on the paper, for the reason that "furnishing" is a much more definite word. "Giving" might suggest that a candidate might have to hand it in in person, and I am now asking the Minister if he will agree to that.
It seems a very small matter. The difference it makes, I take it, is if you change "giving" to "furnishing" it means that the writing need not be presented by the candidate in person. Well, I do not know about that.
If the Minister does not accept it I will move it on the Report Stage.
I would prefer you to do that.
If the purpose of this amendment is adopted I am quite prepared to admit that it will entail several consequential amendments, but as we have at present no legal adviser except yourself, Sir, to carry these things through, I did not wish to bother you about it. But I suggest at present that an enterprising party who wished to obstruct the Government could embarrass the Government very much by putting up the same candidate in a number of constituencies, and the only method by which you could prevent that is by the forfeiture of the penalty, and I am not quite clear even then that if the candidate chooses to take his seat for one constituency legally his deposit is forfeited in all the other constituencies. because naturally it is a physical impossibility for him to take his seat for more than one constituency. That is a matter of law which the Minister has probably considered already, but if I am right, and if a candidate could get elected for— take an extreme case—fifteen or twenty seats, you will then have fourteen or fifteen bye—elections forced on the country; and that is not desirable in the interests of economy or business, or even national dignity, and I suggest you can prevent it by ensuring that no candidate shall be allowed to appear on the ballot papers of more than one constituency. As I understand the thing at present, you cannot prevent a candidate being nominated in a number of constituencies. The nominations take place on the same day, but a period must elapse between the nominations and the printing of the ballot papers, and during that period a candidate must elect for which constituency he will go forward, and his name will not appear on the ballot papers of any other constituencies. That appears to be the most practical method of achieving the purpose. It may not always be necessary, but conceivably in certain circumstances it may be highly desirable.
What seems to me to be an insuperable difficulty in this connection is that a candidate may be proposed in his absence from the country. His proposer or seconder may be his election agent. For all purposes they are really two persons, as you might say. One set of people propose him in one constituency; another set propose him in another, and there is no means of deciding between these two sets of people in the absence of the candidate. There is no means of making one of them give way to the other, and at the same time it would be unfair to strike out a candidate's name because of that. As this Bill stands at present, no matter how many seats a candidate may be returned for he can only get one deposit back, so that there is at least a fine of £100 where a candidate is returned for more seats than one. There are not likely to be many constituencies with unopposed returns under Proportional Representation. I think the unopposed return in the future would be a very rare thing indeed. Consequently all that will be effected by the nomination of a person in more constituencies than one will be to add an extra name to the ballot paper, and I do not think that that is likely to be the case, except in very rare instances where an election is forced upon a constituency by a spurious nomination. I think that possibly this might impose restrictions which are undesirable, and there are difficulties in carrying it out. This is a difficulty that I have mentioned in carrying it into effect, and I think that unless we see from experience that evil had arisen in this way it would be better to leave things as they are.
After what the Minister has said I beg to withdraw the amendment.
I beg leave to move the amendment to Section 20, Sub-section 4, standing on the Order Paper in my name and my object in doing so is to endeavour to make forfeiture more equitable. The whole Bill is based on Proportional Representation and the amendment that I suggest is based on similar lines. At present if the required number of votes that a candidate should secure so as to obtain the return of a deposit was 1,200 and he obtained 1,199 his whole deposit would be forfeited. I suggest, in that instance, that only one-fourth of his deposit should be forfeited and that £75 should be returned to him. Similarly, if he only obtained half the amount, that half the deposit would be returned to him, which is an endeavour to make the forfeiture more equitable. Were it not for the strong objection to frivolous candidates I would be keen on sweeping aside the whole section because, while it is calculated in some respects to deter these frivolous candidates from going forward, experience has shown that frivolous candidates are drawn from a class that will not be deterred by this penalty of £100. On the other hand we know from experience that £100 would act as a handicap on candidates of great merit who will go forward and contest elections. We have only to look at the recent past to find such experiences. In the case of genuine candidates—and I hold that genuine candidates will be in the greater number and that the frivolous candidates will be a very small percentage— it looks to some extent like confiscation that if they do not come up to the required number of votes, which is reasonably large, their whole deposit shall be forfeited. That is my object in proposing the motion and I beg to recommend it to the Seanad.
I take it that one-third as set up here as a first quota would enable a man to save his deposit. If he gets one vote less than that he forfeits his deposit and that would be considered a very great hardship. Possibly the last successful candidate may have only three or half-a-dozen votes more. Look at the wide gap between these two men; one is an elected candidate and the other has not only lost his seat by a few votes but he is penalised to the extent of £100. Now what about the man who only secures one-third, one-sixth, or one-tenth of the quota? Is he to be put on the same level as that man, or is the man I have mentioned to be penalised to the same extent as the man who had no possible chance whatever to secure a seat, and who knew it, and the party who put him forward knew it? I think there should be some differentiation or sliding scale in the treatment of unsuccessful candidates.
On two grounds I dislike this amendment. First, it substitutes votes polled for votes credited to a candidate. Now it is undesirable, especially in elections under Proportional Representation, to depend on first preference for deciding as to what support a candidate has. I quoted in the Dáil the case of the last Cavan election, where the quota was 6,030, I think. Deputy Milroy was elected by a small surplus over the next candidate, but on first preference he received only 513 votes, that meant that although he was elected ultimately by 15 votes, if he had been those 15 votes less and had just failed to get elected, he would have, under an amendment like this, not have got one penny of his deposit. I think it is undesirable in view of the fact that a party may concentrate on a single popular candidate for their first preferences and that other candidates who may have a good chance to get elected may receive only a small number of first preferences, so that I think when we are dealing with the matter of the return of the deposit we should pay attention not to first preferences, but to votes credited. Even if the amendment were to be altered to that extent, I think then that we would be reducing the penalty unnecessarily. If a person cannot get credited to him in the course of the count at least one-third of the quota, that candidate must really be looked upon as a frivolous candidate. If the quota is 10,000 it will mean in most instances that there is a total electorate of 30,000. In big constituencies it may be far more; a person who cannot get 3,000 votes in that case credited to him in the count must be regarded as a frivolous candidate.
There is another way of looking at this. One-third is not at all too high. In fact, looking over the election returns you will find that only a very small number of candidates would be kept out, and would fail to get their deposits back. I do not remember the figures exactly. I had a look over the last election lists and I found that the number would be extraordinarily small indeed, but it is desirable to put some check on nominations, because one of the difficulties of Proportional Representation is to get intelligent marking of the preferences. The tendency is for people to vote for a favourite candidate and then to mark their subsequent preferences very much at random. Consequently it is undesirable that there should be an unnecessarily large number of candidates on the paper, and you will get much better voting and much better representation by attempting to keep the names down. If you let the people off without any forfeit, because they can get some small amount of support, you might have happening what happened in Belfast at the time of the Municipal elections. There are a number of wards in Belfast, about 24, I think, and every year a gentleman named Boston got himself nominated for every ward. This little flutter cost him something, but he got some satisfaction out of it. In Dublin, too, there has been a practice in the case of Municipal elections of people who, having the same name and surname as some genuine candidate getting nominated, or being persuaded to get themselves nominated, so as to voters. We want to prevent that sort of thing taking place. That might work very well where you have ten or twelve candidates going forward a bogus candidate bearing the same name as one of them might put out a large number of electors, and it would make it much more difficult for them when voting than if there were only one candidate of the same name. Consequently, I think that if there is anything wrong with this it is that the figure of the deposit is really too low. We accepted that as a compromise in the Dáil and reduced it from £150, but certainly £100 is on the low side. If you introduce a modification as suggested by the Senator, and bring it in fact lower still, I believe you will not get the effect intended, that is to keep out the frivolous and freak candidates.
I beg to move:—
"Section 20, Sub-section 4, lines 43 and 45. To delete in line 43 the word ‘him,' and substitute therefor the words, ‘the person to whom the deposit was made,' and to delete the word ‘him' in line 45, and substitute therefor the words, ‘the candidate.'"
This amendment is merely to bring this Sub-section into line with the previous one. The intention is when money is being refunded the deposit shall be refunded to the person who made the deposit. The Sub-section, as it stands at present, would make it compulsory for the candidate himself to apply for the deposit. I think that the Minister will see that the amendment is necessary.
I accept the amendment.
Do you accept both of them?
Before you decide that I would point out that there is, in my opinion, a mistake as regards one word. This is a proposition that the money shall be returned to the person by whom the deposit is made. According to the amendment here it is to be returned "to him."
That is a clerical error.
I move the following amendment:—
Section 20, Sub-section 5, line 54:—
"To delete all after the words ‘should be' and substitute therefor the words ‘returned to the person by whom the deposit was made as soon as practicable after the result of the election is declared."
This is an amendment of another kind. It provides for the return of the deposit of the successful candidate whether he takes his seat or not, or where there is a delay before he takes his seat. I do not know that I can say anything new on the subject. The deposit was first provided to prevent freak candidates. A candidate, however, who secures sufficient votes to return him cannot be termed a freak in the sense in which it is understood. The electors who return him may be freaks, but the electors are the supreme authority, and they have a right to be freaks if they so desire. It is quite unlikely that abstention from Parliament is going to be a popular pastime in the future; certainly it is not going to be stopped if it is popular by a forfeit of one hundred pounds. We know that from past experience and from recent Irish history. I do not like the idea of actually holding out inducements to people to come into the Dáil. A person who is elected and who is so stupid as not to take his seat should, I think, be rather paid for staying away. We seem to be rather holding out an inducement or actually offering a financial consideration for coming into the Dáil, to which an elected candidate is entitled to come by reason of having been elected. Certainly I would rather like to show our appreciation of his patriotism by paying him to stay away, because I cannot understand the reasoning of a man who seeks election to the Parliament of his own country, who is elected by his own fellow-countrymen, and then refuses to take his seat. If you confiscate his deposit you more or less make a martyr of him, a very cheap martyr; and the wholesale making of cheap martyrs, by taking serious consideration of their grotesque antics, is largely responsible for a good deal of the undesirable things that are happening in this country at the present time. In Ireland it is much easier to kill by ridicule than by coercion. The clause as it stands is a very feeble and ineffective form of coercion, at least coercion of a kind, and it will prove absolutely ineffective for the purpose for which it was intended. It would look as if there was a certain anxiety on the part of those who framed the Bill as to the future of Parliamentary Assemblies. I hope the Seanad will show their confidence in their future by adopting this amendment and by saying to anybody who wishes to abstain, although elected, that he can do so, and that they are quite prepared to hand him back the hundred pounds deposit, instead of confiscating it, as is proposed. That is the view in which I would look at it, apart altogether from the question of principle. I do not think there is very much principle involved in this case at all. It is really a storm in a tea cup, and it is making provision for some line of action that is not likely to develop in the future. I would hold out no financial consideration of any kind, because I believe that Parliamentary institutions will for some time to come, in any case, be the only institutions, from a governmental point of view, that will be respected. The inclusion of this clause shows a certain lack of faith in the stability of these institutions, and I think the Seanad, by adopting the amendment, will show that they have more faith in these institutions than the people who inserted this particular provision.
There are two things to be said in connection with it. First, we propose in this Bill that only one deposit shall be returned. If a deposit is to be returned immediately a person is declared elected we defeat the intention we had in view in the case of a person who is elected for two constituencies, because that person would immediately be returned his deposit, and the intention of preventing people going up for two seats at one election would certainly be defeated.
There is the other thing, and the main thing, to be said against it, and that is that the purpose of an election, the holding of a General Election, is to provide a Parliament, an organ of Government, for the nation, and not to provide any political party with an opportunity for demonstration. It is prostituting the purposes of an election for any person to go forward and, if elected, to refuse to take his seat. If a person cares so to abuse the machinery provided for the purpose of providing a Parliament for the nation we think he ought at least to pay the amount of the deposit for the pleasure he has got. That is really all there is to be said about it.
I take it it will be necessary to make an amendment consequential on the amendment which we agreed to, and which was moved by Senator O'Farrell. That is, not to have the deposit returned to the candidate, but to the person by whom the deposit was made. It is in line 56.
I do not think that that is necessary, because it is plain that "him" cannot refer to anybody else.
I propose to insert after Section 20 a new Section, as follows:—
"If a candidate is elected for more than one constituency, he shall, within one calendar month of the date of the declaration of the result of the poll, be required to declare the constituency which he intends to represent, and to resign from the other or others, and a fresh election shall forthwith be held in the other constituency or constituencies."
I confess it causes me the utmost amazement, in view of the obvious desire of the Government to have a perfect Bill, that anything which so closely affects their own House would have to come from a Senator. I feel sure that the Minister has forgotten about this, and that he will accept it holus bolus.
I would like to consider this. I do not think as it stands that it would cover every possible contingency. For instance, if the intention is not to allow a constituency to continue unrepresented it does not deal with the possible case of a candidate who refuses to take his seat. I do not know what would happen if a candidate refuses to declare or resign his seat. If any candidate takes his seat I presume he can only take it in respect of one constituency, and the Dáil will declare a vacancy in the other constituency and order the Speaker to have a writ issued. I would prefer, if the Senator were willing, to consider this matter and see if we could put forward a clause that might be even better than his clause.
Mine is a poor clause, and I would be glad to withdraw it, provided what I wanted to do is done.
In that connection perhaps the Minister would consider the other matter—not allowing the candidate to go forward in more than one constituency?
I would ask the Minister to consider the question of ballot papers being sent to postal voters. These papers may be intercepted and may not reach the voter in his home, so that they would be returned to the Returning Officer. I consider a great deal of abuse might crop up in that way. I think that some order should be made that these letters containing such ballot papers should be sent under registered cover. That might not check the abuse but it would minimise it. The Minister might also order that there should be a very heavy penalty to anyone presenting these papers who is not entitled to fill them. There will be a means afterwards of discovering whether the postal voter filled up the papers. I think the onus should be thrown on the Post Office so far as possible by sending the papers under registered cover and an instruction should be given to the Postmaster-General and through him to his officials to ensure as far as possible the safe delivery of the letters.
Senator Kenny refers to what really is the great weakness of postal voting. It is undoubtedly subject to the abuse he refers to, and it is because we feel that it is very difficult to prevent the misuse of ballot papers and to prevent their getting into wrong hands that we have cut out all classes of postal voters except University voters and military voters. When we are putting forward the Corrupt Practices Bill I will deal with the point as to penalties.
Might I ask a question of the Minister. Section 26 refers to the Dáil and Seanad election ballot papers, etc. When you come down to Section 27 you notice that all the ballot papers and everything else go to the Clerk of the Dáil. There are two other elections which these are regulations for; one is the election of the Seanad and the other is the referendum. It would look as if some such words as these ought to be added to Section 27: "to be elected and return their or his names or name to the Clerk of the Dáil or the Clerk of the Seanad, according as the election is for a member of the Dáil or Seanad and in the case of a referendum to both." It looks as if some such words as these would be required, otherwise the whole of the ballot boxes in connection with the Seanad elections would go to the Clerk of the Dáil and the Clerk of the Seanad would know nothing about the election for the Seanad or about the result of the referendum.
I think that is provided for in the Sixth Schedule in Rule 10, page 54, which deals with the Seanad election.
Then the matter will be ruled by that part of the Bill and not by Section 27, because Section 27 coming first makes it compulsory to send the whole thing on to the Clerk of the Dáil.
I will have advice on that particular point.
It would be necessary, I think, to make a change there. Probably "return their or his names or name, as provided for by the Schedule," would do.
I move to delete Sub-section 3. This Sub-section gives power to candidates to hold their meetings in an elementary school. I think it is very undesirable that a public school in any district should be in any way used by any party. I think it should be retained as neutral ground for the children of all parties. Furthermore, I do not think there is any urgent necessity for providing a schoolroom for a meeting of any of the candidates, because all parties who are likely to come forward at an election have either their Committee Rooms in every village or, if their meetings are larger than could be held in these rooms, they have the open air for their public meetings. I think the school should be kept as neutral as possible, and I move that we delete the Sub-section.
I wonder if Senator. Linehan has taken part in many elections. Some of us have been across the water and have attended elections there. I remember quite well that election time in Sheffield there were six or eight inches of snow on the ground. The Committee Rooms of the candidates were quite small, and you could not possibly hold a meeting in them. If we had attempted to hold a meeting in the open air we would certainly have been frozen. I have not the slightest doubt that in Ireland, as in Great Britain, there are many places where a school is probably the only room in the place in which you could hold a meeting. Meetings are always held at night, when the children are at home. Schools are convenient places, as you have a platform in them. Why should you force the people out into the open air, probably in extremely bad weather, for their political meetings when there is a school there? The school is open to both sides, and it seems to me that this Section is a most sensible one.
Amendment put and negatived.
The next amendment is consequential on the one that has been defeated, so that it is unnecessary for me to move it.
You have a third amendment.
The same thing applies.
I wish to draw attention to one point in this Section which says: "If and whenever any nomination of candidates or any poll shall be interrupted or obstructed by any riot or open violence the returning officer or any deputy returning officer shall adjourn the nomination or poll as the case may be until the following day." I consider that is too short a period for the adjournment, and I suggest that it should be for seven days, as provided in another Section.
There is power to further adjourn the election if necessary. I do not think it is a matter of very great consequence, but I presume the reason why the following day was suggested was that he might not have discretion to postpone it any further than proved necessary, and that if possible the work should be done on the following day. If that proves impossible he has power to further adjourn.
I have not put down any amendment, as the Constitution states very clearly that the elections shall be on the one day all over Ireland. On the First Reading I pointed out the difficulties that might occur, and which are evident to anyone in these times, so that there is no use in stating them again. I only ask the Minister if it were possible to make any change now, or if the Constitution binds him so closely that it is impossible to do so.
The Constitution states that the elections shall be held on one day, and I think without a Constitutional amendment it would not be possible to make any change now.
I beg to propose the following amendment:—"In Sub-section 1, line 33, to delete the words ‘and shall be proclaimed a public holiday."' As a matter of fact, this amendment was also down in the name of Mr. Douglas, and I content myself by moving it and allowing him to argue it.
I think the case is pretty simple. The case for a public holiday for the elections to the Dáil is, I think, unanswerable, as the election will be held on the one day all over the country. As everyone concerned knows, very large numbers of persons will be taking an active part in the elections, but for the Seanad you will have a small number of persons to be elected over the whole area, and it does not seem to me to be a case where it is necessary to insist by an Act that it must of necessity be a public holiday. Public holidays, unless generally desired, cost a good deal of money. Wages are lost for that time and work is stopped, so that unless there is a very clear case, as I think undoubtedly there is for elections to the Dáil, I do not think we should enforce by law that there must be a general holiday for Seanad elections. The same argument applies to referendum. A referendum might conceivably be on a very important question, but even then I cannot see that it is so essential that it should be a public holiday, while being taken. It may be on a relatively unimportant question and would cost a considerable amount, especially if we had two or three referenda, as I do not anticipate, in one year. Personally, I support the amendment because I think it is not necessary to make it obligatory, but if it is found in practice later on that it is, it will be very easy to pass a small Act, or probably a proclamation of the Executive would be quite sufficient to ensure a holiday.
In arguing my case I do not think Senator Douglas mentioned the difference between Dáil elections and Senatorial elections. For elections to the Seanad the electors are over 30 years of age, which means if it was a holiday you would have a lot of young fellows about interfering, having nothing else to do.
I should like to ask the Minister if a public holiday is intended to mean a statutory Bank Holiday?
That was my idea.
In that case I would oppose any increase in the number of holidays.
Is it intended that if these days are proclaimed Bank Holidays the employers must pay their workers the day's wages. It is quite easy to give holidays to people at their own expense, but it is not very generous.
There is no legislative proposal to that effect.
Public employees and Government officials will be paid.
As regards the Seanad, I agree that these words should be omitted owing to the comparatively small number of voters.
Question: "That the words in Section 46, ‘shall be proclaimed a public holiday,' be omitted," put, and agreed to.
I beg to move to delete the words "and shall be proclaimed a public holiday."
I have already argued the case, except that it is really stronger in the case of a referendum.
I beg to move in Sub-section (2), after the word "proclamation" [21 days after the date of such proclamation] to add the words, "provided that the Minister may, with the assent of both Houses of Oireachtas, postpone the date of such referendum for a period not exceeding 9 months."
What I want to achieve is this: There may be, in anticipation, a certain number of referenda in one year. It is possible that the Minister could arrange to have two or three held on the same day if the assent of both Houses could be obtained. If a referendum was on a subject of great importance it could have a special date to itself, but if the matters are not of such great importance the Minister would not suffer a great deal if, by assent of both Houses, he postponed the holding for a period not exceeding nine months. I think I am correct in stating that in some other countries where the referendum is in vogue a certain amount of delay is allowed before the actual referendum takes place. I think if you read the Bill you will find the time is pretty drastic and the 21 days is too little as a safeguard. My main object is to try and save expense in having frequent referenda.
I think such an amendment as this is necessary if there is any danger of frivolous use being made of the referendum. Perhaps I am raising an unnecessary danger, but would it not be possible for 50,000 electors to seek too frequently for a referendum conceivably with the object of embarrassing the Government and plunging the country into elections or festivals of that character. I suggest that aspect is worthy of consideration and that if the Government could by any means, as Senator Douglas suggests, make it more difficult, it would be desirable.
From my point of view this is not an amendment to which I would raise an objection or offer any opposition. I take it that referenda that arise from good cause would most frequently arise from a demand of the Seanad and, consequently, if the Seanad feels the matter is urgent it could refuse to assent to any postponement.
Do I understand that this means passing all the Schedules, at the end, mentioned in the Clause.
Section 50 deals with the Eighth Schedule only. It fixes the constituencies and number of members.
I have nothing to say about the constituencies, but the number of members for each constituency strikes me as rather strange. Take the case of Mayo and Galway. These are very large counties, and the same number of members are to be elected for both; but in the case of Mayo it is divided into two constituencies, five members for the one and four for the other. In the case of Galway the whole county is one constituency, for which nine members are to be elected. It is an enormous county, containing all Connemara, and I do not know how anybody is to know about all these members. In the last County Dublin election not one-tenth of the people who elected the Deputies knew who they were or anything about them. Many of the electors came to me in trams and elsewhere and said, "Who are these people? We never heard of them before." Now, if that is the case in connection with the County Dublin election, what is to happen in the case of a county like Galway, with nine candidates before the electors that most of the people never heard of before, who are to be elected upon a very complicated system of election? I think it would be much better if very large counties like Galway and Donegal were each broken up into two constituencies. The suggested method of election is very cumbrous, and I think if you have too many candidates for one constituency it would be impossible to manage it properly.
Are you moving any amendment?
No, but I would like to ask the Minister if he could agree to any changes in constituencies where they have a large number of members, such as Galway, which has nine. I suggest that it should be divided into two divisions, the same as has been done in Mayo.
The difficulty in the case of Galway was with the existing county electoral areas. It was found impossible to divide Galway in the way that a division was made in Mayo. If such a division were made in Galway it would mean either the creation of new boundaries, which would be somewhat troublesome, or the losing of a seat to the County. This matter was discussed by a Committee of the Dáil which was appointed to go into it, and they were satisfied to leave the constituencies as they stand. Some members expressed the opinion that they would like, for one election at least, to have an election in a 9-member constituency, because such a thing is new and in a sense experimental in the counting. One advantage of an election in a 9-member constituency would be that it could be seen how it would work out actually, and how intelligently, or otherwise, the people would vote at such an election. As soon as the census can be held there will have to be a revision of the constituencies, because the allocation of seats is based on population. There has been no census taken since 1911, and the population may have shifted very considerably since then. There is no doubt that, as soon as the census can be taken, and as soon as the returns come in, it will be necessary to put through a short Bill reallocating seats. Consequently in this division as ít stands there will only be the one election, and from the rather variegated character of the constituencies we will learn what is the best size of constituency for carrying out Parliamentary elections under the Proportional Representation system.
I am quite satisfied with the Minister's statement.
I would like to ask the Minister, in connection with this section, whether any provision can be made under it for the representation of the people in the Six Counties who may be included in the Free State after the Boundary Commission has met and given its decision. This is only a temporary Bill, and perhaps this would be the time to make the necessary arrangements whereby the people I have in mind may be given adequate representation. I notice that 153 members are provided for under this clause, and that representation is to be allotted in proportion to the population. It will be necessary, I expect, to make provision for the representation of that proportion of the Six Counties transferred to the Free State in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants.
I think when we know where we are that we can bring in a Bill to deal with that matter.
I beg to move the following amendment to Section 51, Sub-section 4:—To add after the word Dáil "provided that should a member be sentenced to imprisonment for a term exceeding six months, he shall not cease to be a member until thirty days after the date of such sentence, or of the final hearing of any appeal against such sentence, and the disqualification provided in Sub-section 2(a) shall not take effect if, during the thirty days, Dáil Eireann shall by resolution declare such sentence to be unjust or excessive.”
I do not stand by the words of the amendment; in fact, I do not think they are satisfactory. I have got an idea which I think is of considerable importance, and I hope it will be adopted later on, and that suitable words will be found to introduce it into the section. I find in this clause that a person is disqualified from standing for membership if undergoing a sentence of six months' imprisonment. That I quite approve of. I find also in the clause that if a member of the Dáil is sentenced to six months' imprisonment he is immediately disqualified from membership. I understand there are many cases in which a magistrate can impose a sentence of six months' imprisonment without a jury. That means that you are giving to a magistrate power to sentence a man for an offence which would disqualify him from acting as a public representative. In my opinion, that is too drastic a power to give to a magistrate. I am not suggesting that public representatives should not be liable to imprisonment for drunkenness or anything of that kind, but I say there are often cases, such as drunkenness, in which the charge might be debatable. I do not think that power should be given to a magistrate. My suggestion in this amendment is that the disqualification should not take place for 30 days after the date of the sentence being imposed, or of the final hearing of any appeal against such sentence that might take place in the ordinary course of the law in the case of a member of the Dáil. I would also suggest that the Dáil itself should have the power by resolution to state that the sentence was one which should not cause disqualification. The words I put down in the amendment were too strong. I think it is not desirable that the resolution should state that the sentence is unjust, but I suggest that the Dáil, by resolution, should declare that the member shall not be disqualified. I think there are quite conceivable cases where sentences for more or less trivial matters would not be good grounds for disqualification, although it might be a good ground to prevent the man standing for membership of the House. It is also a temptation to the magistrate or even judge and jury to be somewhat influenced by political considerations if they actually had the power to sentence. I think it is really an infringement against the rights of the House to deal with its own members. I think in the case of the Dáil that some such amendment as this should be adopted. I intend to bring on a similar amendment later to apply to the Seanad.
I feel there is a good deal of force in the arguments of Senator Douglas. I am glad he sees that it would be very undesirable to have the Dáil declare by resolution that the sentence was unjust or excessive.
There are one or two matters to be considered in connection with it. One is the possibility that a member of a minority party would have the guillotine coming down upon him, and the friends of a member of the majority party might come to his rescue. It is difficult to draft a Clause that would be entirely satisfactory, but probably a Clause could be drafted and I do think it is undesirable that a magistrate should have the power, if he chooses, to increase the sentence a month more than he might have imposed in other circumstances.
I am quite willing to withdraw if the Minister would be prepared to assist in drafting a Clause and moving it on the Report Stage.
I would suggest that this Section be brought into line with Section 51. You see here that Civil Servants, members of the Defence Force, and such people are grouped in with lunatics, imbeciles and bankrupts. There is a difference made in Section 51, where the sub-sections are divided. If you would accept a verbal amendment, of which I have not given notice, I would move that the Section be constructed as in Section 51 by dividing the sub-sections into two parts and inserting between paragraphs (c) and (d)“A person shall be incapable of being elected or sitting as a member of the Seanad who is,” and by shifting up paragraph (g) into the place now occupied by paragraph (d).
I would accept that; it is an oversight that the amendment was not moved in the Dáil in that form.
I would like to call the attention of the Minister to page 31 where reference is made to persons entitled to be present at the count. I see candidates are excluded. If a candidate elects to be his own agent I presume he will be entitled to be present. If so, the clause will have to be amended accordingly to read "either the candidate or his agent."
There is a provision which indicates that a candidate can be wherever his agent can attend. The matter is already covered.
I move: "After the word ‘Council' to insert the words ‘including the Town Clerk' or the other accounting officer of a Borough which is not a County Borough."
This amendment I have proposed is really to preserve the status of the old boroughs which like Kilkenny are not county boroughs. Perhaps the Minister did not look into it, but we people who are natives of Kilkenny would feel that we were cut out, and grouped with urban districts. In the Local Government Act of 1888 there is a stipulation that nothing in it is to alter the style and title of any borough. Accordingly I think boroughs like Kilkenny require to be dealt with separately. I do not expect the Seanad will enthuse over it. This is almost a personal matter.
I think the Clerk of the Kilkenny Borough is the Clerk of an Urban District. However, I will look into the matter.
What I want is to have a borough included in the Bill.
Would it meet the Senator's wishes if you wrote down the words "Clerk of a County or other Borough"?
That would meet the point.
On behalf of Senator Jameson I beg to move to delete "15th" and to substitute "1st" therefor, on page 31, line 46. The amendment is purely a verbal one and explains itself.
On behalf of Senator Jameson I beg to move on page 36, line 62, to delete "11" and to substitute "43 in the Fifth Schedule to this Act" therefor.
On behalf of Senator Jameson I beg to move on page 36, line 69, to delete "9" and to substitute "7" therefor.
I move the following amendment to the Fifth Schedule, Part III., Form 7, page 50:—
To omit lines 10 to 14, and to substitute therefor the following:—
"The surname of each candidate, and if there are two or more candidates of the same surname, also the other names of the candidates; and if there are two or more candidates of the same first Christian name or fore-name (whether each such candidate has a second Christian name or fore-name or not), then sufficient further particulars to distinguish each such candidate from all the other candidates, shall be printed in large characters, as shown in the form, and, in addition to the particulars as aforesaid in large characters, the Christian name or other fore-name (or names), surname, address, and description of each candidate, as set forth in his nomination paper, and the number on the back of the paper, shall be printed in small characters.
"In order to effect that, sufficient particulars of every candidate, to distinguish him from every other candidate, shall be printed in large type, when two or more candidates have both the same first Christian name or fore-name and the same surname, the most distinctive part of the address of each such candidate shall also be printed in large characters, and if the address as well as the surnames and the first Christian names or forenames of two or more such candidates shall be exactly the same, then the Christian name or fore-name (or names) and surnames, and the description of each such candidate, but not any part of the address of any such candidate, shall be printed in large characters.
"The following is a model for the form of the front of a ballot paper where there are more candidates than one with the same surname, and also more candidates than one with the same first Christian name or other fore-name and surname, and more than one with the same first Christian name or other fore-name, and the same address:—
(James Murphy, of 24 Railway Villas, Dun Laoghaire, Carpenter.)
(William Murphy, of 10 Tara Terrace, Killiney, Commercial Traveller.)
(Matthew Sullivan, of 349 Upper O'Connell Street, Dublin, Draper.)
PATRICK SULLIVAN, COACHMAN.
(Patrick Sullivan, of Dublin Road, Rathfarnham, County Dublin, Coachman.)
PATRICK JOSEPH SULLIVAN, INSURANCE AGENT.
(Patrick Joseph Sullivan, of Dublin Road, Rathfarnham, County Dublin, Insurance Agent.)
THOMAS WILSON, DONNYBROOK.
(Thomas Wilson, of 14 O'Rourke Place, Donnybrook, Co. Dublin, Gentleman.)
THOMAS WILSON, MALAHIDE.
(Thomas Wilson, of Seaview, Malahide, County Dublin, Architect.)
This is really a desire to make voting simpler, or at least to make voting plainer for the average individual. I was glad when, at an earlier stage, I heard the Minister refer to the possibility of complicating the voting papers by nominating candidates of the same surname. This model ballot paper which I handed in with the names changed is actually a copy of a ballot paper which was used in my own county in a Local Government election. In the case of the first two candidates the surnames are the same. The next three surnames were the same. Then the next two Christian names were the same; and in the case of the next two both surnames and Christian names were the same. That may seem an exceptional case, but it actually happened in the Callan Union area in County Kilkenny. The presiding officer at the time had nothing to guide him, and if the same thing occurred again there would be no guide except something of this sort is done to make it quite clear. What prompted me to move this at all is the fact of it having occurred in my own area, and that brought it more forcibly to my mind.
I think the purpose of Senator de Loughrey's amendment is to be commended. There may be certain verbal alterations to be made in it, but I would suggest that if he would postpone the moving of it to the next stage, I would arrange that the Parliamentary draftsman would look over it in the meantime and perhaps put it in a form in which no further changes would be necessary.
I move my next amendment:—In Fifth Schedule, Part III., 8 Note, page 52, line 1—"To omit line 1, and to substitute therefor the words: ‘Note: If the surname of any candidate is the same as or similar to that of any of the.'"
I accept that amendment.