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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 27 Jun 1934

Vol. 18 No. 27

Public Business. - Electoral (Revision of Constituencies) Bill, 1934—Second Stage.

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

Article 26 of the Constitution directs the Oireachtas to revise the constituencies into which Saorstát Eireann is divided for Dáil representation at least once in every ten years. Excluding University members, the total number of members of Dáil Eireann must be not less than 1 for every 30,000 of population, nor more than 1 for every 20,000, and the proportion between the number of members and the population of the several constituencies must so far as possible be identical. "Population" means here the population as ascertained at the last preceding Census.

The population of Saorstát Eireann as ascertained at the Census taken in 1926 is 2,971,992. Therefore, in accordance with the formula in the Constitution the total number of Deputies must be not less than 100 nor more than 148. The existing constituencies in the Electoral Act, 1923, together return 147 members. On the basis of the Census of 1911 the proportion between the number of members and the population was more or less the same. Between 1911 and 1926 there have been substantial changes in population; some areas have increased: for instance, Dublin City and County from 477,196 to 505,654, whereas Donegal has decreased from 168,537 to 152,508 and Roscommon from 93,956 to 83,556. These changes alone call for a revision of the allocation of seats and there is also a case for a reduction in membership of Dáil Eireann. I have given careful and serious consideration to the question of how far is reduction in membership feasible. The result of a drastic reduction would be to increase beyond reasonable limits the volume of work that Deputies have to perform. Any substantial increase in their correspondence and in the time necessarily spent in travelling would cause an impasse. This Bill provides for 138 members, that is a reduction of 9 or, if you included the abolition of university constituencies, for which a further Bill is now in progress, a reduction of 15 on the 1923 figures. That is for the time being a sufficient reduction.

There is also a further objection to the constituencies in the Electoral Act. Some of these constituencies are so large that it is quite impossible for any Deputy to attempt to keep in personal contact with his constituents. As it is now, these large areas are sub-divided for working purposes by Deputies, even for electioneering. The three very large constituencies were Donegal, Galway and Kerry counties. I consider that the sub-division of these constituencies which is proposed in this Bill represents a substantial improvement in every way. The constituencies were framed with the following intentions: first, to provide as many 3-member constituencies as possible; second, to preserve as far as possible the existing administrative county boundaries; third, to avoid unwieldy areas and, above all, to keep the averages level.

Some constituencies fulfil all these points without any difficulty, e.g., Louth, Monaghan, Kilkenny, and in other cases there is a certain degree of compromise. For instance, in Cavan County—population, 82,452—on the merits, it is preferable to preserve the administrative county boundary and allot 4 members; to insist on a 3-member constituency would involve a sub-division of the county and a transfer of a portion to an adjoining county.

The county with a population less than 60,000 and more than 50,000 presents a different problem. With 3 members it would be over-represented and under-represented with two members. In no single instance is there more than one member for every 20,000 population. That is, of course, an essential matter. The only solution of the difficulty is to be found in transferring a portion of an adjoining county containing sufficient population to supply the deficiency. For example, Kildare, Wicklow and Wexford counties have populations of 58,028, 57,591, and 95,845 respectively. Carlow county has a population of 34,476, and would not be entitled to 2 members. Kildare and Wicklow are nearly entitled to 3 members and Wexford to 5, and they each adjoin Carlow county. In the Bill, Carlow county is subdivided between these three counties and the population so transferred makes the population of the constituency sufficient for a 3 or 5-member constituency.

As regards the average population per member, the highest is that for Dublin townships—three members for a population of 73,367, or an average of 24,456 per member. This is not a grievance or a hardship where the constituency is so near at hand. There are 15 constituencies returning three members, eight returning four members, eight returning five members and three returning seven members. At a general election each elector has a transferable vote. Now the fact that the constituencies return three or more members and that electors have a transferable vote is a guarantee in itself that the election will be according to the principle of proportional representation. No substantial body of opinion need be unrepresented under these conditions, and there is a guarantee that the Party getting the most votes will have a majority of the seats with the prospect of a working majority in the Dáil. I do not agree that proportional representation means that the composition of the Dáil must represent exactly the different political opinions in the country.

In accordance with Article 26 of the Constitution, this Bill will not take effect during the life of Dáil Eireann now sitting.

I have listened carefully to the remarks of the Minister, and I read his speeches in the Dáil, both on the Second Reading and on the Committee Stages. I am interested in my own county, of course, but I believe that by adding on portion of the neighbouring County of Carlow to it both counties are being subjected to very bad treatment under this Bill. There is no county in Ireland where the boundaries are so well-defined as in County Wexford. It is divided from the rest of the country by a line of great mountains, and in order to get into Carlow to the barony of Idrone, which is being added to Wexford, one would have to go through a mountain pass known as the "Scolloch Gap." For the purposes of administration that will be exceedingly inconvenient, and also for elections. The "Scolloch Gap" has a very tragic history. When the Rebellion of '98 was fairly well advanced, a number of warworn Wexford men who tried to get to County Carlow through the "Scolloch Gap" were ambushed and annihilated. I make the Minister a present of the idea that he can do something like this to his opponents in Wexford when they are going electioneering through the "Scolloch Gap." Perhaps when this piece of Carlow is added to Wexford he will make an order that during the election campaign people will take to horseback without saddles, in the old Irish way. When speaking on this Bill in the Dáil, the Minister said by adding Idrone to the constituency of Wexford that that made the ancient Irish kingdom of Ui Ceinnsellagh. Of course, that is only one of the half truths to which we are so accustomed. The old kingdom of Ui Ceinnsellagh consisted of the whole of County Wexford, the barony of Shillelagh in Wicklow, and the baronies of Forth and Idrone in Carlow.

The object of adding on Carlow to Wexford is as plain as a pikestaff to everyone. It is an attempt to retain a seat for the Minister for Agriculture. At the last election he was elected at the end of the poll, without the quota, and he will be the one to lose the seat when there are only four members. I can assure the Minister that if he resurrected the old kingdom of Ui Ceinnseallagh it would not save the Minister for Agriculture. There was a fifty-fifty vote in Idrone at the last election, so that we have as many votes as our opponents. Nothing will save the Minister for Agriculture. It is certain that he will go out of public life at the next election. He was elected the last time by making promises that the economic war would be finished within a month. The farmers of County Wexford are waiting very anxiously to give him their answer. On behalf of the population of County Wexford and Carlow, or the vast majority there, I protest very strongly against this outrage on these two counties. I hope the Seanad will not pass this Bill without amendments. It proposes to cut up County Carlow, and the destruction of it as an entity as far as Parliamentary representation is concerned. It must be admitted that the modern County of Wexford is, for all purposes, the most convenient division of the ancient area that could possibly be made, because, as I said, of its strongly defined boundary. It has a boundary of great mountains. The Minister's explanation about maintaining a five member constituency does not hold at all. It is of no importance. Wexford, with its present population, would be quite adequately represented by four members. I desire to protest against the rearrangement of the constituency on behalf of the vast majority of the people of the county.

I do not know what other Senators may think but it seems to me that this is entirely a matter for the Dáil. The arrangement of the constituencies which will elect representatives to the Dáil is a domestic matter for them. We are very jealous of our own rights and our own functions and in order to conserve these rights and to preserve, as far as we can, the legitimate functions of the Seanad, I think we ought to say as little as can be decently said in relation to this matter of the constituencies for the election of members of the Dáil.

I shall not debate with Senator Comyn the exact extent to which one can prove one's jealousy for one's own rights and the rights of this House but I would agree with him on principle that, in so far as this Bill is simply a division or a revision of constituencies, in accordance with the provisions in the Constitution, the Seanad would have very little to say to it. But if this Bill brings in a completely new principle and if it interferes in spirit, at any rate, if not strictly in the letter, with other portions of the Constitution, then I should say it would be our duty to express our opinions and to take whatever action we can properly take to remedy that. As far as the more important points of the Minister's speech are concerned I am not competent to deal with them, and I do not propose to do so. I am assuming—in fact, I have no doubt whatever—that he is correct when he states that his Department has gone very carefully into the question of trying to provide the right proportion of electors to each member. I am accepting that without question. I may say that I have only just returned from Geneva and I have not been able to follow the progress of the Bill through its later stages. It was in a somewhat chaotic condition when I left.

There is, however, a principle in this Bill, on which I join issue with the Minister, and in regard to which I propose to move certain amendments on the Committee Stage if only for the purpose of endeavouring to preserve a principle which, I thought, had already been recognised. The Minister stated that one of the objects of the Government was to create as many three-member constituencies as possible. In saying that, I think, I am quoting correctly from the speech he has made. That, to my mind, is completely defeating the spirit, if not in the strictest sense, the letter, of the principle of proportional representation. My interest in this Bill is not a Party one; it is entirely inspired by the point of view that I believe the Government are making a very serious mistake in attempting to maintain in theory the principle of proportional representation by a Bill which will defeat it in practice. Though I do not share their views, I have a certain respect for the point of view of persons who believe that proportional representation is a mistake. I can see a very good argument for the single-member constituency. I can see that the representative of such a constituency can keep in touch with his constituents better than under the present arrangement or perhaps, I should say, that his constituents can keep in touch with him better than if he is one of four or five members for a large constituency. I can see an argument in that way for the abolition of proportional representation but I cannot see, when you propose to maintain proportional representation, that by creating 15 three-member constituencies and eight four-member constituencies, you are keeping anywhere within the spirit of it.

The Minister said—of course, it is a matter of opinion—that the object of proportional representation was not to have the Dáil exactly proportional to opinion in the country. That, I could accept, to a certain extent, but I do not agree that the object of proportional representation was not to have the Dáil to a reasonable extent representative of political opinion in the country. One of the chief objects of proportional representation was to provide adequate representation for minorities in the country, to give them a chance of representation which they could not get under the old system. The President in some of his recent utterances, particularly in this House, suggested that one of the main reasons why there was no need for special minority representation in this House was because the Government was maintaining proportional representation. At the same time, we have the proposal in this Bill to create 15 three-member constituencies which means that in order to be elected in one of these constituencies a man must get one-third of the total votes cast. In other words, the smaller minorities in the country unless they happened to be concentrated in the constituencies which are left with six or seven members will be quite unable to obtain representation. I do not intend, at this stage of the Bill, to deal in detail with it as I have only just returned from Geneva and have not been able to study the Bill in all its aspects. I intend, however, to develop the matter further on the Committee Stage on an amendment which I shall put down.

If the Minister will examine the writings of those who have gone to the trouble of examining the whole system of proportional representation, and of examining the test elections which have been carried out for the purpose of getting accurate theory, he will find that the general consensus of opinion is that you cannot have proportional representation made effective with a three or a four-member constituency and, especially, in three-member constituencies. We have always accepted, of course, that there should be a certain number of these constituencies. I think there were three or four three-member constituencies before, and there were also some four-member constituencies, but when you are going to have 15 three-member constituencies and eight four-member constituencies, I say without fear of contradiction that you are deliberately and definitely reducing the chances of minority representation in the Dáil. You are doing that at the same time as you are proposing to abolish university representation and the Seanad itself. I can only take that as the sum total of a policy to which I, personally, am strongly opposed. While I agree with Senator Comyn that it is not our function to deal with quarrels regarding the boundaries of one constituency with another, I do not at all agree that where a Bill is brought in here which proposes to minimise the extent to which proportional representation should operate, this House would be doing its duty if it were not to make any comment on it. Of course, we should not go so far as to reject the Bill, because we approve of the principle in the Constitution which provides for the periodical revision of constituencies. However, in so far as this Bill affects the principle of proportional representation by seeking to minimise it, I intend to move amendments on the Committee Stage dealing with the matter.

It is true that this Bill deals with the Dáil, and although the Dáil deals with the Seanad in a rather obstreperous way, I do not think that the Opposition should have anything to say to a Bill which is for the benefit of the Dáil. I shall only say that I regret that the Universities are losing their members. I think that their membership is rather small and that the Universities would supply men of weight who would be of great assistance in the other House. On that account, I think it would have been better if their representation were left alone. However, I am not going to make any complaint about that because it is a matter on which I think the Seanad cannot have anything to say.

I think that when Senator Comyn suggested that this was a domestic matter for the Dáil in which the Seanad ought not to interfere, he entirely misunderstood the position and the responsibilities of the Seanad in the matter. If the matter of the rearrangement of constituencies were dealt with by the Dáil on a non-Party basis, if a judicial or a semi-judicial commission had been set up to rearrange the constituencies, or if a committee of all Parties working on a non-Party basis had rearranged the constituencies, then the Seanad ought certainly not to interfere. But when you have the majority in the Dáil by a strict Party vote rearranging the constituencies to the disadvantage of the minority, then I think it is the duty of the Seanad to come in and to look at the matter in as non-Party and as judicial a manner as possible. As the Government has not seen fit to deal with this matter in the way I suggest it should have been dealt with, that is on a non-Party or in a more or less judicial manner, then the Seanad certainly ought to re-examine the proposals and modify them where we think they should be modified. If the Seanad were to hold itself in any way precluded from amending the Bill it would be tantamount to saying that it was perfectly proper for the majority in the Dáil to cut up counties and constituencies in such a way as would suit their interests only when an election came on.

I think this Bill, on the face of it, bears all the marks of an attempt at gerrymandering. There is certainly nothing more unpopular than taking a bit off a county and adding it on to another. The Minister said that one of the things the Government had in mind in framing this Bill was to respect, as far as possible, the administrative boundaries of counties. It would seem to me that one of the objects, if there was no special attempt at gerrymandering, was to disregard as much as possible the administrative boundaries of the counties, because all over the place we have counties cut up, such as in the case of Carlow and Roscommon, bits taken off counties such as in the case of East Cork and Waterford, or bits added to counties such as in Clare, all purely, it seems to me, for the purpose of producing an electioneering result that would not be obtained if the natural or historic boundaries were left as they are. I am not one of those people who have any belief in proportional representation. I think at best it is a fundamental fallacy but, on the other hand, proportional representation has certain incidental advantages. It is not all losses. There are certain gains in respect of it, but the Government seem to me to be out to operate it so as to retain all the disadvantages and none of the gains.

I think we would have better results in various respects if we had single-member constituencies, but if we are not to have them, and if we are to have proportional representation, then we ought to maintain proportional representation in a form and on a basis that will give us the advantageous results that can be got from it. There is no doubt that proportional representation does not get a chance where you have too many small constituencies. Theoretically you could have some sort of proportional representation with two-member constituencies, but, as a matter of fact, it has been generally acknowledged that would be entirely farcical and there have been no two-member constituencies. Three-member constituencies are not so bad, but they certainly do not secure true proportional representation. It is a departure from the principle of proportional representation to create so many three-member constituencies. I think they should be avoided as much as possible. Four-member constituencies, in some respects, are even worse than three-member constituencies. Clearly, the ideal size, which we cannot always obtain if we are to respect county boundaries, is a five, seven or perhaps six-member constituency. This Bill gives us the position that out of 35 or 36 constituencies, if the universities are left out, we are to have 23; these will be either three or four-member constituencies. I think the Bill ought to be reexamined with a view to seeing whether or not the chopping off of bits of counties and adding them on to other counties cannot be avoided; also to see whether there is any case to be made other than that of gerrymandering for some of the cuts proposed under this Bill.

The Minister more or less indicated that he wanted to get away from proportional representation while pretending to keep it where there is a prospect of a working majority. Normally under proportional representation no single party will have a working majority. Wherever you have proportional representation you never have such a thing. What we have, taking the Minister's own statement, is the pretence of having proportional representation while avoiding the results of proportional representation. The representation of the Universities is left out of this Bill. I suppose that is in anticipation of another Bill. I certainly would suggest to the Seanad that we should amend this Bill by inserting provisions for University representation.

The Minister talked a lot about personal contact. I think there was no point in the case he was trying to make about personal contact where a county is informally divided into spheres of influence by members. That happened in the smaller counties. In three- or four- or five-member constituencies if there are a couple of representatives of a single Party, they informally divide the county into spheres of influence. One Deputy pays particular attention to one end of the county and another to another end, and personal contact is as easily opened up under this arrangement as it would be if the constituency were split up. I think, from the point of view of personal contact and attention, in the different ends of the constituency there is great advantage in having big constituencies under proportional representation. Because as soon as you have proportional representation in any form you are going to have, not the same personal interest taken in it by all Deputies but you are going to have some Deputies feeling that they will get in on a Party ticket and some that they will get in with surplus votes and, therefore, there is a certain amount of negligence in dealing with the requirements of the constituency. If you have big constituencies the people in the county have the chance of going to some other Deputies. As regards personal contact and attention to the requirements of the constituency I think there would be better results by maintaining the large constituencies. On the other hand, where Deputies do work, the demand on individual Deputies will be confined to a sort of informal arrangement of spheres of influence. I think the general principle of this Bill is bad. I think the Seanad must accept it on Second Reading because the Constitution requires amendment, but I think the idea of reducing the size of a constituency is bad; the unnecessary splitting up of counties is bad, and the adding on of bits of some counties to other counties is bad.

I am inclined to agree with the suggestion with regard to the arrangement of constituencies, that it is not a terrible lot of concern to this House. I think, primarily, it is a matter for the Dáil to deal with, but we are entitled to offer our comments upon the manner in which it is being done. Senator Blythe started off by saying he was not a believer in the principle of proportional representation. Anybody at this stage who has taken any serious interest in the question of elections, not alone in this country but in other countries, must agree,

I think, that the best system of election up to the present found is the system of proportional representation. It has been demonstrated very forcibly under our former system that 51 per cent. of the population could possess the whole of the representation and 49 per cent. of the population would have nobody to look after their interests. That was the old method of single-member constituencies. It meant that, and it has happened, that 51 per cent. of the electorate could have all the representation and 49 per cent., being the minority, would have no one to look after their interests. Senator Blythe also lamented that the question of University representation was not covered under this Bill. I may say I am whole-heartedly in favour of the action of the Executive Council in endeavouring to wipe out this system of University representation. I never could understand this preferential treatment to persons who were lucky enough to have fathers able to pay for them in universities in order to secure that education. I never could understand why a young man or woman having studied in Dublin or in the National University, when they afterwards left the country and settled even in Timbuctoo, or somewhere else, should for the rest of their lives have a vote for the election of representatives to the legislature of this country. Did anybody ever hear anything so absurd? There are a few things in the Bill itself that I would like to say something about. I agree that some of the constituencies are too unwieldy, and that it is impossible to deal with them from the point of view of attention by Deputies, and particularly matters that have to be dealt with when the elections come round. Those who have had to take to the hustings in some of these constituencies know the difficulties of travelling round them. The ideal constituency from the point of view of proportional representation is the five-member constituency.

I cannot understand the mentality of members of the Dáil in regard to this Bill. There were certain large constituencies that they wanted carved up while other large constituencies were left alone. The members of the Dáil, with every respect to them, cannot have it both ways. If Dublin City North is to be cut up into two constituencies, why is Dublin City South to be left as one? It is most illogical. I cannot for the life of me understand why Dublin City North is made into two and why almost the same proportion of the population is left as one constituency in Dublin City South. It seems to me to be most illogical. I cannot understand why Kerry, with its former representation of seven Deputies, is to be cut up into two constituencies of four and three members, while its neighbours, Limerick and Tipperary, which are seven-member constituencies, are left alone. This again, I think, is most illogical. Donegal also is to be cut into two constituencies.

I am not objecting to the Minister's proposals, and I am not blaming the Minister for what is being done. The Minister's proposals, I think, were very good, and he is not responsible for the members of the Dáil having made the Bill the hotch-potch that it is. The Minister proposed to keep nearly all the large constituencies, and he will understand I am finding no fault with him in regard to that matter. The Dáil very often criticises the attitude of members of the Seanad. I venture to say that if the Seanad sent down a Bill of this type to the Dáil in its present form, they would simply be made a laughing stock of; they would be told they were suffering from senile decay. I think the members of the Dáil have nothing to be proud of in regard to this Bill. If they had been consistent I could understand their attitude, but they have been very inconsistent and most illogical in this matter. It seems to me that the members of the Dáil were playing for their own hand rather than dealing with the question of principle. I am not applying these remarks to any one Party. I am applying them generally where we find Deputies cutting up one constituency and leaving another whole and intact.

Of course, this Bill is a matter primarily for the Dáil, but I think the Seanad is bound to take notice of it. But it is a Bill, in my opinion, that this House could never hold up. If we insert amendments in the Bill and the Dáil does not accept them, there is nothing, in my opinion, for the Seanad to do in regard to a Bill of this kind, but to allow the Dáil to come to a decision upon the matter.

Senator Farren suggested that this is a purely domestic matter for the Dáil and that the Seanad should not interfere with it. I would be inclined to respect that suggestion if there was reciprocity in regard to such matters and if the other House refrained from interfering with matters affecting this House. But when it is proposed to exterminate this House, or the members of it politically, then before we expire I think we ought to use whatever little legislative privileges we possess to examine what our would-be executioners are doing. I do not propose at this stage to pass judgment upon this Bill except to say that in the words of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the Minister wants to break the whole scheme of things and mould it nearer to his heart's desire. I have one remark to make before I finish, and that is in reference to Senator Farren's reference to University representation. When the provisions of the Constitution giving University representation came before the Dáil I was a member of the House and was not very enthusiastic about the idea of University representation in the Dáil. I did realise, however, that the University is a factor in the life of the State which is unique and that it is entitled to some medium of expression in the Legislature of the State. It struck me that a more fitting place in which to have expression of the view of the Universities would be the Seanad. In view of the proposal to abolish this House it would, I think, be extremely unwise to acquiesce in the extinction of University representation in the other House. There is one other reason why we should retain University representation for the present— that is, to allow those Deputies who voted for the extinction of their constituencies to appear once more before these constituencies and give reasons for the faith that is in them.

I think that the main discussion on this Bill will take place in Committee Stage when we reach the Schedule. As this House is interested not so much in the constituencies from the point of view of their representatives as in the general plan of the Bill, I suggest that, before Committee Stage is reached, a map of the proposed new constituencies should be displayed in the anteroom of this House, so that we can make ourselves conversant with the novel features of the Bill. I think that such a map was displayed when the Bill was under discussion in the Dáil but that map was probably a delineation of the proposals in the Bill as at first introduced. Some alteration in the proposed constituencies has, I think, been made since. Without the assistance of such a map, it would be very difficult for Senators to get a comprehensive view of the proposals in regard to the different counties. It was mainly to make that suggestion that I rose. I hope that the Minister and his advisers will arrange for the display of such a map for some days in advance of the Committee Stage, so that members of the Seanad may have an opportunity of making themselves acquainted with the proposals.

This Bill was inevitable, as it is required by the provisions of the Constitution, but I think that anybody who examines its terms or who has gone to the trouble of reading even a short summary of the debates will realise that it is devised far more in the interests of particular Deputies than of the community in general. In fact, there has been a most unseemly scramble on the part of the other House to try to retain as many seats as possible for Deputies, while at the same time professing to observe the terms of the Constitution. The extraordinary nature of this scramble is evident from the configuration of some of the constituencies. We have a constituency with the quaint name of Athlone-Longford—a town and county —in which there are bits of three counties patched up together—part of Roscommon and Westmeath and County Longford. What harm would be done if certain constituencies had a few thousand electors to spare after allowing for their quota of 20,000 to each elected representative? Supposing a constituency with three representatives had a population of 65,000 or 68,000—that would be 5,000 or 8,000 more than the minimum—what damage would be done? It exists at the present time. It has always existed and it exists, so far as I know, in almost every country in which constituency representation is the law. Why this frantic endeavour to have 20,000 persons exactly represented by one Deputy? Why have all the traditional and historical divisions set aside in order to give effect to this theoretical aim? I can see nothing but confusion in the minds of electors at the next election and succeeding elections. The idea of people in Roscommon voting for the constituency of Longford, with a part of Westmeath brought in, is perfectly ludicrous. Elected representatives should have more definite and intimate association with those they represent than will be possible under this Bill. A person representing bits of Roscommon and Westmeath and the County of Longford is representing a very heterogeneous assembly, indeed.

As Senator Farren has pointed out, there is no constituency at all in the Bill. While professing to aim at three-member constituencies, as far as possible—thereby defeating the principal object of proportional representation, while professing to continue it— we have constituencies like Limerick, with seven seats, left untouched. Tipperary and South Dublin are in a similar position. Will anybody dare to suggest that personal considerations and the personal interests of Deputies were not uppermost when these decisions were arrived at? It is very surprising to find a House that takes upon itself the task of lecturing people elsewhere as to the manner in which they discharge their duties, their outlook in regard to national affairs, and so on, so shamefully place the interests of individuals against the interests of the community.

It has been suggested that three-member constituencies have proved quite favourable to minority representation. That has been based on the argument that in the counties of Wicklow and Kildare—two three-member constituencies—Labour has always been able to have one representative. They have one representative, because, in each case, there are quite sufficient, and more than sufficient, Labour voters to elect one representative. When Wicklow-Kildare was one constituency it had five seats, and Labour won two of them with something to spare. The electors were there and the division of the constituency into two could not deprive Labour of a representative in these constituencies, though it might easily happen that, if there were sufficient electors in one constituency to elect one Labour representative, division into two three-member constituencies would mean the loss of that seat. It is very difficult in a House that is discussing its own future to get a detached view of this question. I sympathise with the Deputy who sees that a certain rearrangement of constituencies will mean that he will probably lose his seat. It is quite natural that, with that viewpoint, the Bill should be moulded in its present form. We, in this House, should be—no thanks to us—in a better position to view this matter in a detached way than the other House, but I do not know to what extent suggestions made in the interests of the people will weigh with a House mainly concerned with the individual interests of its own members on this occasion. Human nature being what it is, I am afraid that any drastic or material alterations suggested by us will hardly be dealt with on their merits.

I do not want to refer to the question of University representation, except to the extent that the University constituencies are absent from this Bill. I cannot share the views of certain of my colleagues in regard to University representation. From the earliest days education has been honoured in Ireland and has got a special place. Back to the days when Ireland was supposed to be a land of saints and scholars, scholars had a special place in the veneration of the people. The scholars were not always of the well-to-do classes and, to-day, they are not always of the well-to-do classes. They are very often children of poor parents who have obtained University education by the winning of scholarships and distinctions, due to their own talent——

About 1 per cent.

That may be, but our object is to reach the time when any child who displays the necessary ability will, irrespective of material wealth, be able to obtain University education.

I am not disputing that.

The fact that the Universities have not sent to Parliament on all occasions exactly the type we should have expected them to send —people more or less detached from rabid party politics, people able to guide, help and enlighten this Assembly instead of adding to the dog fight of party politics—is not in itself a condemnation of the system. I do hope that we shall arrive at a time when we will be prepared to give education the place it should have in any progressive and democratic State. The chances are that if the majority of the representatives of the Universities were of a certain political type to-day, many members of this House would be instructed to vote against the abolition of that representation. Because that does not happen to be the case, we are expected to denounce as bad in itself what, in effect, is recognised in most enlightened assemblies as a good thing. That is the unfortunate aspect of party politics—that it is so difficult to judge cases on their merits and vote accordingly. One has always to have regard to party commitments and party interests and the merits of the question suffer as a result. I realise that except to the extent that Universities are exempted from this Bill, our references to them are out of order. But, on this Second Reading debate, the omission of University constituencies from the Bill would not justify the passing over of the matter without comment of some kind.


The Minister to conclude.

I will not enter into the question of the right of this Assembly to discuss, to amend or to do what it pleases with this Bill. That is a matter entirely for the Seanad. The Bill is now before it, and the members will express either by their words or actions what course they think they should take with this measure. I naturally expected that the old cliché about gerrymandering would be used by Senators as well as it was used by Deputies. I could not expect that a person such as Senator Blythe would fail to use a word of that kind. I knew that it was bound to be used. It is a pity that members, when dealing with a matter of this kind, would not try to get something a little more original. I do not suppose there is much of an original nature that one could get, but on my ears, at any rate, the use of that expression falls very flat. It is a pity that both here and in the Dáil members who set themselves out to criticise could not find something more original, especially those who have aspirations, whether they are realised or not, as to greater originality and a little more culture in regard to other matters. Be that as it may, members naturally are entitled to use any language they like, and if they cannot find something new, well that is their misfortune.

Senator Farren talked of the inconsistencies that were exhibited in certain respects in this measure. There are inconsistencies in the measure unquestionably, but I think the greater inconsistencies that are to be found in the Bill, whatever they are, are not, as the Senator himself admitted, to be ascribed to me as the author of the Bill. It is not true, as Senator Blythe said, that the Bill was in all its phases a Party measure. The inconsistencies that Senator Farren objected to, and the other things that have been put into the Bill, were not in it originally. They were put in as a result of a free vote in the Dáil, and I naturally have to take a measure as it is finally given back to me by the Dáil. I am not suggesting that I have to take a measure as it is given back to me by the Seanad. I will have to wait and see what it is like first.

I do not agree with Senator Douglas that this Bill is an attack on proportional representation. I maintain that a three-member constituency gives as good an opportunity for proportional representation as we know it in this country—the form of proportional representation that is exercised here— as is necessary. It is not correct either for Senator Douglas to say that in a three-member constituency a candidate must get one-third of the votes cast in order to get elected. A candidate need only get one-fourth of the votes. As long as you have constituencies such as we have—you have not very wide areas—I think that one-fourth of the votes ought normally be regarded as the number that you must at least expect a candidate to get in order to be elected. It is a small enough proportion.

When the Bill was in the Dáil some aspects of it might be regarded as having been discussed on Party lines. When a man gets up and speaks from his place in the Dáil it is generally taken—I do not know if it is always so—that he speaks from the Party point of view. I think it was not so, generally speaking, with regard to the discussion on this measure. Certainly there was greater freedom and more free votes allowed on this measure in the Dáil than on any other Bill that I can remember coming before the Dáil since I became a Minister or before. I cannot see either why the natural swing of the electorate that Senator Blythe talked about cannot operate with a three-member constituency as well as with a five-member constituency or a seven-member constituency. In fact, it does not matter what size the constituencies are. It does not matter whether the constituencies are three-member, five-member or seven-member, the votes of the people will not change. Their views on politics will not be changed because a constituency happens to be reduced from one returning seven members to one returning three or four members. Any alteration of that kind will not change the views of the people. It is entirely open to any Party that has the backing of the majority of the people to use the ordinary influence that they have to win the people one way or the other, whether the constituency in which the people vote is a three-member constituency or a four, five, seven or eight-member constituency. I cannot see how that is going to make or to unmake a Government. I cannot see how changing a constituency from a five-member to a three-member one will alter the views of the people in such numbers as to affect the fate of a Government.

Senator Blythe talked of the five-member constituency as being the ideal constituency. Will any member of this House tell me how, within the ambit of Article 26 of the Constitution, we could arrange the country, still keeping the county boundaries, so as to get the ideal five-member constituency? It is not possible to do so. Every member of the House knows that. There is a certain law laid down for us, and we are bound to keep the numbers within certain limits. Keeping that in mind and trying to act up to that and to keep the numbers as nearly identical as possible, it is not humanly possible to do what Senator Blythe has suggested. Senator Blythe knows that as well as anybody in this House, if not better, because he has tried his hand at gerrymandering too. He charges me with it, but he also has tried his hand at gerrymandering. He knows the difficulties there are in trying to keep to the wording of the Constitution, and at the same time to have what he would call the ideal constituency. Of course, Senator Blythe probably is keen on large constituencies now. We can see the reason. His experience of small constituencies was a rather sad one. He is not likely to try it again. I imagine he would prefer a large one if he could get it. I think I can claim to have as much experience as anybody on these matters. I have been associated with political life for a good many years. I knew the old system, the single-member constituency. I have known this method of proportional representation since it was introduced here. I can say this: that no matter what system you had, whether it was the old British method of the single-member constituency or the method that we have now of proportional representation, I cannot see that the results in this country would have been very much different from what they have been, say, since 1918. I think that on the whole, whatever changes of political opinion there have been in the country—and there have been changes in the last ten years— these changes would have been reflected to the same extent, no matter what system of voting you had. I believe it is right and proper that we should have here the system of proportional representation. It gives a chance to the minority of getting its due representation. I think that the system of proportional representation that we have, and the system of constituencies that I have mapped out in this Bill, will secure that chance for the minority.

I agree with Senator Blythe for once when he says that unnecessary splitting up of constituencies is bad. There has been no unnecessary splitting up of constituencies. Let us take as an example the County Wexford, to which Senator Miss Browne referred. If I went to the Dáil or came here and asked that the representation of the County Wexford be reduced to a four-member constituency, even though it has 95,000 voters, I know well the expressions of horror that would be heard from people with the mentality of Senator Miss Browne. They would say that it was a scandal and a gross injustice, and we would hear a lot more of the extravagant language that is popular with people of that type. I did look around in the case of the County Wexford, as in other cases, to find where we could get a small number that would make up the difference between the 95,000 voters in, say, the County Wexford and the 102,000 or 103,000 voters that would be necessary to allow that particular constituency to keep its present representation.

To make it safe for the Minister for Agriculture.

Now, evidently Senator Miss Browne is very fond of the Minister for Agriculture. I know she was at one time, at any rate.

That is not true.

I do not know that.

I can tell the Minister.

Now we are not going to get into family history. This much I can say with regard to the Minister for Agriculture, that he got more votes every time he went up in the County Wexford than any member of Senator Miss Browne's Party, and he got them at the last election.

He got in without the quota.

There is not a safer seat in the country than the seat held by the Minister for Agriculture.

Do you believe that?


I do not think that we ought to discuss the Minister for Agriculture.

Senator Miss Browne is very fond of discussing him.


I do not think it is fair on Senator Miss Browne's part either.

And she was not stopped from discussing this at length. I say that with all respect, Mr. Chairman, but that is a fact. I have the figures here. They show that there is no need for anybody to worry their heads about that particular gentleman. He will be safe politically as long as he wishes to offer himself as a candidate. I know that there are other people in Senator Miss Browne's Party, and even in that county, who would wish themselves as safe. I am sorry that I was not here when Senator Milroy was speaking.


Senator Milroy asked if it would be possible to have a map put up in the ante-room.

Certainly. I will see that the revised map, with the Bill as it is now, is put up. As the Universities will probably be discussed here later, I do not think it would be right for me to enter into a discussion on that matter now. I have covered all the points of which I had note, but, if there are any other questions, in which Senators are interested, I shall deal with them.

Question put and agreed to.

I suggest that the next stage be taken this day fortnight.

Committee Stage ordered for July 11th.