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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 20 Nov 1929

Vol. 13 No. 2

Constitution (Amendment No. 12) Bill, 1928.

Question proposed: "That this Bill be read a Second Time."

The object of this Bill is well known to members of the House. It was introduced as a result of the recommendation, I think I might say the almost unanimous recommendation, of a Joint Committee. The Bill has been a considerable time in the Dáil, and while it was there a certain amount of nervousness was apparently aroused, with the result that some amendments were introduced to safeguard the Dáil. The object of the Bill of course is to make it possible for this House, if it is really dissatisfied with the declaration of the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil that a Bill is a Money Bill, to have a reasonable chance of questioning it by providing a period of seven days, which is a short period enough as it stands, within which to question the decision. The amendment inserted in the Bill provided that if the Committee did not make a decision and report within twenty-one days, then the decision of the Ceann Comhairle shall prevail and shall be definite. That, I take it, was introduced lest the influence of the Seanad on the Committee might make them delay and make no report at all. Therefore, the constitutional provision that there are only twenty-one days to consider a Money Bill might be of no effect.

It seems to me, when we come to consider this Bill in detail, while we should undoubtedly approve of the principle, we shall be obliged as a result of the amendment to make some safeguard for the Seanad. There is no provision at all in the Bill that the Dáil will appoint three members. There is also no provision that they will meet within twenty-one days for the purpose of appointing three members. As we know, it is not at all uncommon for a number of Bills to be sent to this House and for the Dáil to adjourn for a number of weeks, coming back afterwards to consider any amendments we may make. It seems to me that if this Bill is to be effective there will have to be some provision to deal with the situation, should either House fail to appoint three members. I think that the proper procedure would be, in the event of setting up a Committee of Privileges and of either House failing to appoint three members, that the Committee should be given power to act without waiting for the appointment of these three members. If that is not done, the provision regarding a report within twenty-one days may, through inadvertence, operate so that this House may be unable to have the matter considered.

There seem to be other points, in addition to those raised by Senator Douglas, which I should submit for the consideration of the House. There does not seem to be any provision for communicating the certificate of the Chairman of the Dáil to the Chairman of the Seanad in this Bill, so that the Chairman of the Dáil might certify and his certificate might remain during the seven days in which we have a right to call for a Committee. Another question also arises. I see that the Committee is to consist of three members elected by the Dáil and three by the Seanad, with a chairman who shall be the Senior Judge of the Supreme Court, able and willing to act. That means the same person in all cases. I would recommend to the Seanad the adoption of an amendment so as to provide some kind of rota, because probably the judge's decision might not be acceptable—undoubtedly it will be according to his own judgment and good sense—to a section of the House, and it may be desirable to have a rota of judges of the Supreme Court from which one would be selected to act as chairman.

I do not know what the Senator meant by saying that the certificate of the Chairman of the Dáil would remain during seven days. When the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil certifies a Bill as a Money Bill, he does it openly; everybody knows it, and that fact is communicated to the Seanad without any subterfuge. It remains, not for seven days, but until it is upset. Machinery for upsetting it is prescribed here, in the event of objections. As regards the Supreme Court Judge, it is not necessarily the same person. Various things might happen. If the Chief Justice, who is the Senior Judge, were unable to act or were to vacate his office, that would not mean the same person and so on down along the list.

There are only three. I did not suggest that there would be subterfuge, but that there ought to be machinery to communicate the certificate at once.


You will have an opportunity on the Committee Stage of moving an amendment to that effect.

Question—"That the Bill be read a Second Time"—put and agreed to.


I suggest that we take the Committee Stage of this and succeeding Bills next Wednesday.