The finding of the Joint Committee on which this Bill has been based was one of the findings of that Committee on which there was perhaps the greatest degree of unanimity. As the Constitution stood originally, members of the Seanad were elected for twelve years and members of the Dáil for four years. Subsequent amendments of the Constitution extended the life of the Dáil to five years, and when this Joint Committee met the initiative was taken by a representative of this House on the Committee with a view to reducing the period of office of members of the Seanad, because it was generally agreed that twelve years was too long a period while the Dáil was only elected for five years. An amendment to have the period reduced to six years was opposed and negatived, only one member voting for it out of ten members of the Joint Committee who were present. The position, therefore, is that when this Bill becomes an Act members of the Dáil will be elected for five years and members of the Seanad for nine years. In other words, as compared with the Constitution as originally agreed upon, the lifetime of the Dáil has been extended by 25 per cent. and the period of office of Senators has been reduced by 25 per cent.
Personally, I have no predilection in favour of nine years as against six, except to the extent that the more you assimilate conditions of election, etc., of the Dáil and Seanad the more you are likely, under the existing method of election, to make one a replica of the other. Even as it is, I am afraid that in course of time the Seanad will become to a certain extent a replica of the other House; but unless there is some material difference in the period of office of each that condition of affairs will come about sooner and it will be more marked than would otherwise be the case.
It is only with great reluctance that I feel compelled to refer to one or two wild and misleading statements made in connection with this House in another place. I do so more in sorrow than in anger, because a greater medley of nonsense has rarely been uttered. I should pass over those statements and treat them as the meanderings of a child were it not that to allow some of them to pass without comment might create genuine misunderstanding in the minds of honest but prejudiced people outside. It has been said that with statistics you can prove anything — at least to your own satisfaction. I never realised the significance of that assertion until I read the astounding conclusions of a speaker elsewhere, after he had waded laboriously through the public records of the Seanad. A veritable wizard of frenzied finance he has proved himself to be. Like Charles Lamb's Chinaman, who burned his house to cook his dinner, he misrepresented the whole Seanad for the purpose of dealing with some members of it who did not attend regularly. Dealing with the bad attendance of these people he told his startled listeners that if every member of the Seanad attended every meeting Senators would be paid at the rate of £4 10s. per hour but as the average attendance is only two-thirds of the total, they were paid for their labours at the princely rate of £6 15s. per hour. For downright whimsical nonsense and inaccuracy this statement must be almost without parallel. As one who has been a very regular attendant here for the past six years I only wish the speaker was dealing with negotiable currency and not in fairy gold. Whatever his delusions, he must have known that, presumably on the principle adopted in the Biblical vineyard, the man who came in at the eleventh hour was paid at the same rate as the worker who toiled for the whole twelve.
As a matter of curiosity, and in order to show how ridiculous was the basis of calculation adopted, I tried to apply the same unique method to the other House. The result was startling. I find that in the first year of the present Parliament the Dáil met on eighty-one occasions. Taking the speaker's method of calculation, each sitting cost the taxpayers £982 for the salaries and travelling allowances alone of the members of the House, including Ministers, without making any allowance for the salaries of officials, reporters, attendants, and the cost of heating, lighting, printing, etc.