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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 12 Jul 1934

Vol. 18 No. 30

Electoral (Revision of Constituencies) Bill, 1934—Committee Stage.


The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs is in charge of this Bill in the absence of the Minister for Local Government owing to illness in his family. I am sure the House regrets sincerely the trouble which has come to the Minister for Local Government, and hopes that he will speedily be back with us and that the cause of his trouble will have disappeared. We sympathise very deeply with him, I am sure, in the illness of his wife.

Sections 1, 2, 3 and 4 agreed to.


Section 5 refers specifically to the constituency of the Ceann Comhairle, and that would be affected by the proposed alteration in the Schedule, and will be unnecessary, I think, if the Schedule is passed in the manner proposed.

It would have to be deleted as a consequence.


I would ask the Seanad to agree to allow Section 5 to stand over until we have discussed the Schedule.


Sections 6, 7 and 8 and the Short Title agreed to.

I move the amendment standing in the names of Senators Brown, Douglas, Wilson and myself:—

First Schedule.—To delete the Schedule, and to substitute therefore a new Schedule as follows:—





Name of Constituency

Contents or Boundaries of Constituency

Total Number of Members for Constituency


The County Borough of Cork and the County electoral area of Ballincollig.



The Clontarf East, Clontarf West, Drumcondra, North Dock, Arran Quay, Mountjoy, Glasnevin, Inns Quay, North City and Rotunda Wards.



The Fitzwilliam, Merchants' Quay, Mansion House, New Kilmainham, Royal Exchange, South City, South Dock, Trinity, Usher's Quay and Wood Quay Wards.




Name of Constituency

Contents or Boundaries of Constituency

Total Number of Members for Constituency


The administrative Counties of Carlow and Kilkenny.



The administrative County of Cavan.



The administrative County of Clare.



The County electoral areas of Kanturk and Macroom in the administrative County of Cork.



The County electoral areas of Bandon, Bantry and Dunmanway in the administrative County of Cork.



The County electoral areas of Mallow and Cobh in the administrative County of Cork.



The administrative County of Donegal.



The administrative County of Dublin and the areas referred to in the Local Government (Dublin) Act, 1930, as the added urban districts and the added rural area.



The administrative County of Galway.



The administrative County of Kerry.



The administrative Counties of Kildare and Wicklow.



The administrative Counties of Leitrim and Sligo.



The administrative Counties of Leix and Offaly.



The administrative County of Limerick and the County Borough of Limerick.



The administrative Counties of Longford and Westmeath.



The administrative County of Louth.



The administrative County of Mayo.



The administrative County of Meath.



The administrative County of Monaghan.



The administrative County of Roscommon.



The administrative Counties of Tipperary North Riding and Tipperary South Riding.



The administrative Counties of Waterford and Wexford and the County Borough of Waterford.


This division of the old constituencies and the splitting up of counties is very unpopular amongst the voters of these areas. The Schedule which we are proposing leaves the constituencies practically as they were for the past ten years and I may say that during the last two elections, those constituencies worked very well for the Government Party. I cannot see why they should be so anxious to make this change in them. In working out this Schedule, we have tried to give equal representation to every constituency and it works out at about 20,000 of the population for every member. In only one constituency, Longford-Westmeath, it works out at 24,000 of the population per member. We have preserved the historical boundaries of each county, and, where necessary, we have put two counties into one constituency. In the Schedule of the Bill as it stands there are 15 three-member constituencies, but in our Schedule there are only four three-member constituencies and six four-member constituencies. The proposal in the Bill to cut down constituencies to such an extent that you have so many three and four-member constituencies looks very like gerrymandering. At all events, it will do away with any effects which proportional representation might have at elections, and will deprive minorities of any voice in the making of laws and regulations. I hope the Seanad will adopt the amendment.

There are three reasons why the amendment is preferable to the Schedule put forward by the Ministry. The amendment maintains the entity of historical counties. There is no such thing as cutting out Carlow, as the Bill proposes, and substituting a hybrid, especially like Athlone-Longford, or taking a piece off Galway and putting it into Clare, and a bit off Cork and putting it into Waterford. All that is avoided in the amendment. I do not believe there is any gerrymandering in the Bill, but there is an attempt by the Minister to produce constituencies in which there are 20,000 voters. Undue emphasis is placed on the words in the Constitution on that point, neglecting the fact that the Constitution implicitly held that historical boundaries were the premier and the vital thing, rather than the exact number of heads. The wording of the Constitution is that "as far as possible" that standard should be kept to. There is a variation in the proposed Schedule of 20,000 odd in the case of Limerick to 24,000 odd in Clare. I maintain that there is not such a very great difference, and that that result is in accordance with the Constitution, and maintains the boundaries of the counties. It is agreed that proportional representation is beneficial to the country, but we know that in a large constituency the success of a minority representation is inherent as against the position in a small constituency. I was a candidate in both classes of constituencies. In 1922 I was elected in Kildare-Wicklow and later Wicklow, once or twice, and although I had a strong body of people at my back I was elected on a minority vote. A minority with such strength has a right under proportional representation to a representative.

I am sure no one can suggest that the proposed schedule can in any way give rise to gerrymandering. I do not believe that the Minister's attempt is a gerrymandering one. I believe he was obsessed with the idea of getting exactly 20,000 voters in constituencies. A man in the country considers that his voting power should be greater than that of a town dweller. I know that that will not be agreed to generally, and I do not want to discuss the question here, as it is open to argument. I remember that when I was an elector in Africa in the early days, the voting strength of a farmer was about six times the voting strength of an elector in an urban area. The position I would like to see here is that there should not be this lip-service to proportional representation. If we are going to have proportional representation let us have it on a scale that will give the best results. That is the reason that we are against having unwieldy constituencies. If they are not unwieldy, minorities will see that their adherents come forward, and the best results will be secured. I hope the Minister will accept the amendment, and in that way do away with the slashing of the boundaries of old historical counties. If possible he should try to reconcile the fact that the Ministry are insisting in games, at all events, on the rivalry of one county with another. In the Bill they are slashing up Carlow and putting bits of other counties here and there, producing a hotch-potch. As that was not what was intended by the Constitution, I hope the House will support the amendment, as being preferable, and one that will produce the best results for us.

Who is us?

I wish to support the amendment. There are two serious objections to the Schedule in the Bill. The first is that it splits up counties in at least six cases, and annihilates as a political entity Carlow altogether. The second serious objection is that it doubles the number of three and four-member constituencies. As to the splitting up of counties, that seems to me to be a wanton proceeding. I am not going to talk about sentiment, which is very natural, as no county likes to have its identity altered. Splitting up of counties in this way is actually injurious. These counties are ancient political units and have grown to have their own peculiar local interests. If you split up a county, take away part of it and add it to another county, you introduce the broken part of that county into a unit where there are different local interests. The same occurs vice versa. I should like if the Minister would tell us exactly why these counties have been split up in this way. It cannot have been for the mere purpose of getting a sort of equality in the number of electors that there will be in each. The amendment has that result, I think, even more perfectly than the Schedule in the Bill.

I have got the figures of the number of population per proposed member. In the schedule that we propose to substitute for the Schedule of the Bill, the largest number per member is 23,776 and the smallest number 20,145. The figures, roughly, are 21,000, 20,000, 22,000, and up to 23,000. Therefore, as far as the equality in the number of population to each member is concerned, the Schedule in the amendment is quite as reasonable as the Schedule in the Bill.

The more serious objection of the two is the objection that the Schedule to the Bill doubles the number of three and four-member constituencies. In the first place, in my opinion it is absolutely unconstitutional. Article 26 of the Constitution declares that the members of the Dáil shall be elected by proportional representation. Proportional representation does not work so as to have its proper effect in three-member constituencies. It works imperfectly even in four-member constituencies. In a three-member constituency the only Parties who get their fair share of representation are the large Parties in the country. The real minority is not protected at all by proportional representation in a three-member constituency. In a four-member constituency it does not work quite as badly, but even there the system does not work so as to have its proper effect. By this Bill the Government has just doubled the number of three and four-member constituencies. There are at present eight three-member constituencies. In the Bill there are 14, that is six more three-member constituencies in which the real minority will have no chance at all. As to the four-member constituencies, there are at present three. In the Bill there are eight. In the Bill there are 22 small constituencies as against 11 existing at present. That is, the Government have just doubled the number. That is, in my opinion, a breach of the spirit of the Constitution. It is the kind of breach that is really more dangerous and more injurious than an actual breach of the letter of the Constitution which can be dealt with by the courts. I am sure the House will listen with interest to the explanation which the Minister will give us of the reasons, first, for mutilating the counties, and secondly, for increasing the number of three and four-member constituencies, especially the three-member constituencies.

It is very pleasant to come to discuss a measure which really does not involve Party politics. Before I say what I have to say, I should like to express regret—I do not know who is responsible for it—that it has become necessary to reduce by this measure the number of members in the Dáil. It cannot be on the score of economy. The saving of £7,000 a year, or whatever the amount may be that 15 members would cost, is no justification for disfranchising a great number of people and it gives a mean flavour, in my opinion, to the entire body which we represent.

But the Constitution forces us to do it.

The Constitution is not sacrosanct.

Oh, yes.

A lot of people are under the impression that it is. I for one do not think that in every respect it is perfect. If it is not too late, I would urge on the Minister that, by agreement, it might be found possible to retain the number of members at present in the Dáil. I would point out that I am not at all personally interested in this matter. I assure you I have not the least notion of going forward in any constituency myself. It does not make the least difference to me, but I do think it very probable that by reducing the membership it is more than likely that three or four very valuable additions to the Dáil might be left out of the Assembly. I thoroughly endorse everything Senator Brown has said. I think if we are to have proportional representation that the larger the constituencies, or the greater the number of members in each constituency, the better chance of representation every interest would have. However, it was not to speak of that that I intruded in the debate.

My main purpose is to protest against the proposal that portion of the County Cork should be summarily snatched from us and handed over to another county. I may tell you that that particular portion of the County Cork has probably the most authentic history of any portion of the county. We all know that tobacco, whether it was good or bad for the country, was first smoked in Youghal. We all know, equally, that the first potato—whether potatoes have been a success or not in this country I am not prepared to say—ever grown in Ireland was grown in Youghal. Youghal, being in Cork, we felt a little bit of pleasure and pride in being able to assert that in our county two very important experiments were successfully carried out which have since affected the whole progress of the world. Now we are going to hand over that portion of the constituency to another county. What is the effect of that? It is as if they were going to put us in with the County Kerry. A friend of mine reminded me that we built a pass between Cork and Kerry recently and on that pass there is a huge stone. That stone is known in the locality as "the coffin stone," because in the old days if a Kerryman died in Cork his body would be taken by Corkmen to that stone. If a Corkman died in Kerry the Kerrymen reciprocated the compliment. The inhabitants of either county were not particularly enamoured of the inhabitants of the other. Therefore, it is only reasonable—I am sorry my friend Senator O'Sullivan is not here to bear me out—that if you tack on to County Kerry a small angle of the County Cork, or if you tack on to County Waterford a small angle of the County Cork, that any man going forward in the interests of the people of Cork will not succeed in getting votes from those in other counties. I admit, straightway, there is no gerrymandering in this Bill. Everyone realises that no one in a county could forecast how the people are going to vote. I do not say it is for any special purpose that these changes are made, but I do say that the old historical boundaries of the counties should be maintained. While you may mix up one entire county with another entire county, I think it is absolutely wrong to amputate portion of one county and tack it on to another.

The Government have acted in a strictly constitutional manner in introducing this Bill. The Constitution compels the Government to introduce such a measure as this. The Bill, as introduced by the Minister for Local Government, in my opinion, was a far better Bill than the Bill as it now stands. It was no fault of the Department of Local Government that the members of the Dáil mutilated this Bill, and made it, in a good many respects, most illogical. The Minister's original Bill went very deeply into the subject, and dealt with it on a commonsense basis; but owing to the action of the different parties in the Dáil, the Bill sent up to the Seanad is very illogical. They have left some large counties intact, but they have carved other counties up. They divided the constituency of Dublin North City into two, and left Dublin South City intact. The whole thing is a hotch-potch for which neither the Government nor the Minister in charge is responsible.

The real fact we have to consider is this: that the arrangement of the constituencies to elect their representatives to the Dáil is primarily a matter for the members of the Dáil itself. I do not think it ought to be the function of the Seanad to attempt to interfere with whatever decisions have been arrived at by the Dáil on this matter. I admit that some of the decisions arrived at by the Dáil could not be sustained, from any logical point of view. There is no use talking about historical boundaries in connection with this question. The Government were compelled, under the Constitution, to produce a Bill, and they have done it to the best of their ability. I think it is going back to the parish pump idea to suggest that one fellow, looking from one side of a bridge, has not the same outlook on affairs as his neighbour upon the other side of the bridge. Then there is talk about people being disfranchised by this Bill. No one is disfranchised. Everyone who had a vote before will continue to have a vote now. They will have the same right to vote for the election of their representative. The representation may be changed, but it is not the Government, or the Ministry, that makes that change. The Constitution compels them to make that change. Senator Jameson shakes his head at that, but if he reads the Constitution he will see that the Government are compelled to alter the representation of the constituencies. I do not say they were compelled to do it in the way it is done under this Bill, but they were compelled to introduce a measure of this kind. It was the members of the Dáil who altered the measure and sent it before us in its present shape. If Senators compare the Bill as originally drafted and presented by the Minister for Local Government, on behalf of the Ministry, they will find very radical changes have been made in it as compared with the original Bill. I repeat that I think it is not one of the functions of this Assembly to alter what has been done by the Dáil in regard to this Bill. It is primarily a matter for the Dáil. They have sent up the Bill to this House, and I think it is not our function to alter it. I understand the farmers' representatives in the Dáil took the point of view that Senator Wilson has taken here, and said that every agriculturist in the country should have six votes to one for every town dweller. I do not know how that would be received here. I hope we are far away from the stage that one agriculturist in the country would be considered as good as six city men. As a city man I never will admit that, and I never will be prepared to say that the agriculturist should have six votes against one for the manual worker in the town.

Senator Brown's main argument was against the increase in the number of three and four member constituencies. The basis of his argument, in that respect, was that you cannot apply proportional representation in its fuller sense to these constituencies. It is an extraordinary thing, but it is nevertheless an historical fact, that in three-member constituencies, proportional representation has been maintained better than in the larger member constituencies. That is perfectly true. If Senators examine the constituencies in the country and look at the results, from 1922 onward, they will find that three-member constituencies gave the best results as far as proportional representation is concerned. Personally, I would prefer five-member constituencies if that could be arranged. But I cannot see any force in the argument of Senator Brown that you cannot have fair play in regard to proportional representation in three-member constituencies, especially if you take into consideration this important fact, that a minority of 26 per cent. in three-member constituencies cannot be kept out of representation. That is, undoubtedly, true. A minority of 26 per cent. of the electorate in any three-member constituency cannot be kept out of the representation.

That is an objection.

Twenty-six per cent. is a reasonable minority, I say, to have representation. You cannot provide representation for every 10 or 15 per cent. of the population. But when 26 per cent. of the population can get representation, I think that is going a long way to meet the claim of proportional representation. I said before, on Second Reading, and I say again now, in my opinion, if it were possible five-member constituencies would be best, but in all the circumstances, I am satisfied, from observation and knowledge of what happened at the elections in this country, in recent years, that it is not true to say that three-member constituencies do not give fair play to proportional representation.

I have always a certain amount of sympathy with those who make historical references here, but in connection with the historical references made on this Bill I should like to point out that none of the Counties, as we know them, is of Gaelic origin. They have nothing to do with ancient Ireland. Take the King's County and the Queen's County. They were established in Tudor times. Some of the others were lopped off from the original tribal system and established as counties. If Senators want to go back at all, why not go back to the baronies. Many of these baronies have lapsed during the last few years. I suggest that we should do away with the divisions that were made for their own purposes and their own objects by the Tudors and others who came into this country from over the water. Why should we fix our system on what they did? Let us establish it according to the old Gaelic arrangement. I do not see that very much is going to be gained by the proposal in the amendment. What we really want is good government—to get elected the best Government that we can for the sake of the country.

I put my name down as supporting this amendment, not because I consider myself an expert and able to argue that every single detail in it could not be improved, but because its general principles seem to be a definite improvement on the general principles in the Schedule that came to us from the Dáil. I should like, first of all, to deal with the general argument of Senator Farren. He seems to think that the form of the constituencies, the number of members, the general question of fair play and a satisfactory method of election are primarily matters for the Dáil, and that, therefore, we should not interfere.

In the alteration of the constituencies.

The Senator says that the alteration of the constituencies is primarily a matter for the members of the Dáil. It is on that that I want emphatically to join issue with him. An alteration of the constituencies could easily mean an alteration in the representation of the people. Senator Colonel Moore is, to my mind, perfectly right when he says that the exact details of this are relatively unimportant: that what is wanted are constituencies which will give us good government. Now that good government is primarily a matter for the Dáil I do not accept for one moment. I should go further and say that the arrangement of the constituencies is precisely one of the matters on which the Dáil is scarcely fit to form an absolutely fair opinion. If Senator Farren will go through the Dáil debates—I did not read them all myself, but I did read some of them—I think he will find that my impression is not very far wrong. The impression that I got was this: that when you wanted to carve up a constituency all the members for that constituency, of both Parties, voted against it, but the other members of the House combined were able to form a sufficient majority to do it over their heads. Therefore, if anybody says that the members of the Dáil are the people who are primarily interested in this, I do not accept that for a moment. I think that with more reason one might say that the members for a particular constituency were primarily interested. If you take that view you will find it almost impossible, except in very few cases, judging by the discussion that went on in the Dáil, to justify the Schedule that has come to us.

I do not think that this ought to be a Party matter at all, one on which you should have fights between the two Houses or anything of that kind. I do think it is just the kind of measure when you have a Second Chamber which is not, in the personal sense, primarily interested in it—it is equally interested in it with the Dáil from the point of view of getting satisfactory constituencies—that we ought to examine carefully and see if we cannot produce something better, something more consistent that may possibly meet with the general collective approval of the Dáil. As regards this measure, both the supporters and the opponents of the present majority in the Dáil seem to me to be agreed in suggesting that the Dáil has not come very creditably out of it on the Committee and Report Stages. I do not know if this measure had originated in the Seanad, each Senator being allowed to follow his own way in changing each particular constituency, new scheme or method, that we would have done any better than the Dáil. You would have some very extraordinary things carried as regards some constituencies and nothing done in the case of others. I am afraid we would not have done much better than the Dáil.

I suggest that in this new Schedule we have something which in principle is a very definite improvement on the Bill. In general I agree with the arguments used by Senator Brown. I would like to develop them a little bit further because this is a matter on which I feel rather strongly. Senator Farren said that every person would still have a vote, and that there was no disfranchisement. Of course, that is true. He said that the people would have the same chance in every case as before. That is only what I should call quarter true, because, as was very well illustrated in his own case by Senator Wilson, a small minority may have a very fair chance of getting one member in a constituency of seven, but if that constituency be divided up into a three-member and a four-member constituency, that small minority gets no chance at all unless the one-eighth, which would be sufficient in the case of a seven-member constituency, all happen to reside in either the new three-member or the new four-member constituency.

There is nothing that would be further from my mind than to suggest that we have, or ought to have in any sense, a religious minority which would act politically in this country. I have been, leaving out actual present day affairs, in sympathy with the majority politically since I was a young man. From the religious point of view I am in a tiny little minority of about 2,500 persons, people who could not, even if they wanted to, act politically —I am glad to say they do not—and who could not get representation under any of these schemes. It happens that a considerable number of people who compose the religious minority have an outlook, or imagine they have an outlook, based on traditions in the past, and it is to my mind essential, in the interests of good government, that we should get elected to the Dáil some small proportion of those people. It is important from the point of view of good government in the Twenty-Six Counties, and to my mind, from the point of view of ultimately ending Partition, it is essential.

What does this new scheme do? There is one constituency in which, by accident, that minority happens to be fairly strong. That is in the County Dublin. In the County Dublin, even if they stood alone, which I hope they they never will and ought not to do, if they decided to put up Independent members they have the chance of one and probably of two seats. Otherwise, this minority is spread all over the country in small numbers. Taking them as a whole, they are certainly entitled to and ought to get a few members in the Dáil.

Under this Schedule, with the one exception of County Dublin, I cannot see that they will be likely to get a member anywhere. Why? Senator Farren stated that 26 per cent. is magnificent. But 26 per cent. is not sufficient, because you do not get 26 per cent. of this minority, except in the one place I have mentioned, living together. Under the system we have at present in many constituencies all you require is one-eighth. I maintain that if you change from one-eighth to one-fourth in many places you are definitely reducing the chances of a minority getting representation. If I were spokesman here for either of the two big main Parties, and if my one concern was to get a good, strong, pledge-bound representation of members of whoever happened to be in the majority, I would not only support the Bill, in so far as it has three-member constituencies, but would object to the few seven or eight-member constituencies introduced more or less accidentally in the Dáil. But, as Senators know, that is not my point of view.

It seems to me that, whether by design or accident, or with some other object in view, the Government have introduced a schedule which will really take away definitely from the value of proportional representation to minorities. I do not suggest that we will not have proportional representation. As far as the three big Parties are concerned—if there are only three—if they represent every point of view in the country, then three-member constituencies are all right. You can get a proportional result as between the three large Parties, but the smallest of them will be rather worse, because they will have so to arrange their members that they will have one-fourth, plus one, in each constituency.

I believe there is another aspect of this question. We are probably going to have in this country, in the main, two large parties with, I suppose, the Labour Party, at any rate for some time, considerably smaller. Inside these parties, to my mind, it is desirable that there should be a measure of proportional representation. While I think it should be possible to have a few independent members, if they have sufficient to get one-eighth in certain large constituencies, in the main what I want to see is that the constituencies will be large enough, so that each of the bigger parties will have a chance of electing three or four at least. By that means they are far more likely to have one of the three or four representing, say, a minority in religion or some other point of view, even inside their own party. If you have three-member constituencies, and if, as would be the case in practically every constituency here, no one party had a chance of getting more than two, then they will choose two representing the biggest interests in their party, and ignore the smaller interests. I am not accusing any party of anything. I am only dealing with what is the natural effect. I, therefore, hold very strongly that if you are going to have these smaller minorities represented in the Dáil you must not go to three and four-member constituencies, particularly three-member constituencies, and that the more large constituencies you have the better.

I shall deal with the effect of that on the Schedule in a moment. I want to connect this up. Whether it be deliberate policy on the part of the Government, or whether it was accidental, I do not know. I am not making any charges. I am only dealing with the effect. The fact is that practically at the same time we have three proposals before us. One is to abolish the Seanad, which contains some representatives of a minority. The next is to abolish University representation, which has always ensured some minority representation. At the same time you come here and change your schedule to make it scarcely possible to have any of that minority representation in the Dáil. I should like if the President were here to make a personal appeal to him that that is not only a serious mistake, but that it is quite contrary to everything he has told us. Even on this very question of the Seanad, in his Fifth Reading speech in the Dáil, he said that he did not believe that "a Second Chamber is justifiable at all, particularly when we have a system of proportional representation such as we have here." Then the Government comes along with a Bill which takes away the value of that proportional representation for the smaller minorities. In this country you have got, and will have, a considerable number of people who do represent a small minority.

All I am pleading for is some constituencies with seven or eight members—the more you can have conveniently the better—in which one-eighth or one-ninth, if they vote together, will get a chance of representation. I maintain that it is only by such means you can ensure having that minority representation. If you cut away University representation, abolish the Seanad, practically do away with minority representation in the Dáil, and then say: "This is part of our policy to try and end partition," I say it is ridiculous. I plead with the Government, whether they take this Schedule or not, as a matter of national policy, and not any question of Party at all, to consider what the effect of their Schedule would be if they insist upon it in the form in which it has come here. Senator Farren said quite correctly that it was illogical and inconsistent. But the very illogicalities in it are the improvements, from the point of view of minority representation made in the Dáil, due to the fact that certain members did not want to see their constituencies cut in two.

It may be said that in this Schedule which has been introduced in the names of some other Senators and myself there are some three-member constituencies. That is true. I have a very clear recollection of discussions which took place at the very earliest period of the State. I was not, of course, a member of the Government, but on the Constitution Committee one heard a great deal of discussion, and the question of the effective working of proportional representation was considered. It was then generally recognised that to get the best value out of proportional representation there should be no constituencies with less than five members. It was also felt, however, that it was better to take the definite recognised boundaries in the country, and that, at the sacrifice of having all constituencies of five members or more, it was better to keep to the county boundaries. Senator Moore reminds us that the county boundaries really came from England and that we ought to go back to the baronies.

If this Government proposed to have a new set of counties, with a new set of boundaries and different county councils, I am quite prepared to consider it. It may be an improvement— I do not know, as I have not seen the proposals. But what this is doing is leaving the different counties for the purpose of local government and taking bits of them and adding them to other constituencies for the purpose of Parliamentary Government. That, to my mind, will create a certain amount of muddle. You may have it to a small extent at the moment, but not to anything like the extent you will have if the Bill passes in its present form, under which a person will be voting in Carlow for the purpose of a local government election and in Wexford, or whatever the new constituency will be, for the purpose of a Parliamentary election. That, to my mind, is bad. Not only that, but if you read the debates in the Dáil you will find that it did not meet with the approval of Deputies. A few Deputies approved of it, but, generally speaking, when it came to their own areas that they knew, they did not like it or want it. I suggest that this amendment should not be discussed in a Party fashion at all. If necessary, let it be considered further on Report and let us keep to this Schedule, so far as possible. I want to emphasise one or two things. This Schedule accepts the principle of the Bill as introduced by the Government. It accepts the number of members proposed by the Government. I should be inclined to agree that the number is very largely a matter for the Dáil. It endeavours, taking into consideration the debates in the other House, to get better and more logical constituencies. It particularly adopts the principle of keeping to counties and, last but not least, it keeps as many of the larger constituencies as possible in order to get the maximum amount of representation for minorities. These are the principles on which I suggest this House should send the Bill to the Dáil, with a view to giving them an opportunity for further consideration. The amendment should be considered by this House without any reference to the question of gerrymandering or otherwise. I am so ignorant that I should not know a gerrymandering Schedule if some Senator brought it here. If one were inside the machine, he might know. A very well-known expert in the early days said to me—I was rather against the three-member constituencies at the beginning—"I advise you to keep to the counties. If all your Parties keep to the counties, no Party can be accused of gerrymandering at any time. You will avoid that charge by keeping to the one fixed boundary."

The House adjourned at 7 p.m. and resumed at 8 p.m.

I was very much surprised to hear Senator Brown refer to the Bill in such terms as being "absolutely unconstitutional." I do not know whether he really intended to use those words. I had some doubt, because a little later he spoke of the Schedule as being a breach of the spirit of the Constitution and I could understand him trying to defend the latter. I cannot understand the phrase "absolutely unconstitutional", especially coming from a lawyer. I might have excused it coming from any back bencher. I have a notion, after hearing a good deal of talk about the proportional representation clause in the Constitution, that there is a misapprehension as to what that involves. It is not at all necessary, in fulfilment of Article 26, which provides that members shall be elected on principles of proportional representation, that the method of applying these principles shall be by the single transferable vote. The Constitution may be fulfilled by any method of obtaining proportional representation and there are many other methods besides the single transferable vote. I think it would be well if Senators would remember that fact. The Bill, of course, presumes the continuance of the single transferable vote method.

For my part I am quite prepared to say that the Bill is not logical or sound from any standpoint of consistency. But I think whatever is alleged against the Schedule in that regard can be alleged with equal strength against the scheme that is proposed in the amendment. The question before the Seanad is, which of these schemes is preferable? I think the majority of those who have spoken up to the moment have not had very much direct experience in the fighting of constituencies for the Dáil. I think that is a matter that should weigh with Senators in discussing these alternatives. If we were endeavouring to secure a perfectly straight and orderly scheme, I would go blunty for a five-member constituency as a maximum and almost as a minimum. I think I would concentrate on the five-member constituency as being the best compromise to satisfy two desirable conditions, (1) having a fair method of obtaining proportional representation and (2) having regard to the compactness of the constituencies and the desirability of taking account of the difficulties of contesting elections, particularly for minorities.

I draw attention to the fact that the amendment proposes to give us 25 areas. The Schedule of the Bill proposes to give us 34 areas. From the point of view of minorities, I would say without any question whatever there is a better chance of political minorities securing election in the 34 smaller areas than in the 25 larger areas. Taking the amendment and comparing it with the Schedule of the Bill, Senator Douglas expressed his preference for the five-member constituency.

For at least five members.

For at least five members as compared with three and four. In the amendment we have four five-member constituencies and in the Bill we have eight. In the amendment we have six four-member constituencies and four three-member constituencies. In the Bill we have 15 three-member constituencies. As I look at it, it is going to be a matter of choice and the convenience of parties fighting elections, and particularly for small parties fighting elections, as to whether it is more advantageous to have ten constituencies returning seven, eight and nine members or 15 constituencies returning three members. That is about the choice that is before minority parties. Having had a little experience of fighting a large constituency, not so large in area, but large in numbers, and having had a little experience also in fighting the larger constituencies both in numbers and in area, I am, frankly, in favour of the smaller constituency. For the convenience of people engaged in the elections that is a very important factor to be considered in discussing these alternatives.

Senator Douglas laid stress upon "the minority." I was disappointed and astonished to hear Senator Douglas argue as he did, as though the minority in question was a single religious minority. This Bill is not dealing with the representation of religious. It is a political measure dealing with political organisations and political ideas and if we are going to speak of proportional representation surely the last thing that any member of the religious minority in this country should advocate is that the proportion should be in relation to the numerical strength of the religious sects or organisations or faiths? If there is one thing more than another that ought to be avoided, it is to assume that a religious minority is always and ever of a single political faith. I take it that the principle of proportional representation has as its purpose the securing of representation of political minorities and securing that wherever a minority arises in any particular issue or interest it may have a reasonable chance of being represented.

Take these ten areas in the amendment, the seven, eight and nine-member constituencies, which is the proposal of the amendment—I would put it to any ex-Deputy, now a Senator, who has had experience of conducting elections, and particularly if he was one of a minority party in those elections, how much greater is the difficulty of securing a quota in a large constituency of that kind than in a smaller constituency. The small minority Parties cannot work the constituencies. They cannot reach the people, the expense of doing so is so very much greater, and they are far more likely to secure the return of a minority member in a smaller constituency because they can concentrate. That is my experience and it is my belief. Because of that, I am against the large seven, eight and nine-member constituencies. I may say that there is some point in it if you take Dublin County or Dublin North City or Dublin South City, where you have a large numerical constituency and a small area, but the amendment does not deal only with those small areas. It takes County Galway and makes one constituency of it. It takes County Donegal and makes one constituency of it. It unites Wexford and Waterford, and if you look at the extent of that constituency that would have to be covered by a small minority Party trying to get one member returned, I think you will find that the chances would be lessened rather than increased for minority representation.

The Bill is illogical in many respects. The amendment also is illogical in some respects, but we are presented in the amendment with a single new Schedule and we have to take it as it stands. I should say, definitely, speaking as one of a minority politically, that the chances of selection in 35 constituencies most of them being small in area, are greater than the chances of that minority getting representation in the smaller number of areas with the large constituencies. As between those two schemes, I should certainly favour the scheme in the Bill——

First of all, I should like to welcome the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to this House, as it is the first time he has appeared here——


Hear, hear.

——and in case he does not know it to tell him that our business here is conducted on drawing-room principles.

I am very glad that he is piloting this Bill through the Seanad. Personally, I would prefer, when there is any alteration of boundaries in question, to get back to the old historic boundaries. Senator Colonel Moore talked about the baronies to-day, but there are more historic boundaries in this country than those of the baronies. There is the old clan system, and there are the boundaries of the dioceses of Ireland. I do object to any chopping off. If the Government wanted to get back to the old boundaries, whether baronies or dioceses, I would agree with it, but when they start to chop off a piece of one county and throw it over to another county I am going to disagree. Senator Comyn, on the last day—I am glad he is present—told us that this was a domestic question for the Dáil, and that we should not interfere with it. It is a very domestic question for me. My father happens to be a Carlow man, and I may tell you all that if I allow County Carlow to be carved up in the way it is intended in this Bill, my father will disown me, and I do not want that. I am not going to have it. He stood by me many times when he did not agree with me. He never let me down, and I am not going to let him down when he objects to his county being carved up. The nickname on the Carlow people down there is the "scallion eaters." One part of the county is thrown into the "short grass" of Kildare and another part is thrown to the "goat suckers" of Wicklow. Another portion, an ancient barony, is thrown over to—only that Senator Miss Browne is present I would tell you the nickname of that county—but, at any rate, to Wexford. I do not agree with it, and I think that amalgamation of Wexford and Waterford is much better than carving up the County Carlow.

Now, I am a Mayo man myself, and I think the County Mayo is a perfectly good constituency under proportional representation to which to elect Deputies. This Bill proposes to divide it, and it divides it in an extraordinary way. The part of Mayo in which I was born was always South Mayo for Parliamentary purposes—South-west if you like—but it is going to be put into North Mayo now. Why? It is really a very domestic question for me as to why I should protest against it. The amendment proposes that the County Mayo should be left in one.

Changed to one.

Senators all know the shape of County Roscommon on the map. The Bill proposes to cut the tail off Roscommon. That is really what it does. The Minister knows Roscommon as well as I do. Well, I am not going to stand for that, and I am sure that the Minister will not stand for that either. Why is it done? The Constitution says that you must have one representative for every 25,000 people —for not less than 20,000 and not more than 30,000. The amendment is, I think, the fairest thing that can be done under the circumstances. The lowest is County Limerick with 20,049 to each member, and the highest is Longford-Westmeath with 24,166. If we leave things as they are in the Bill, North Mayo, in which I am largely interested, would have one representative for 26,283. That is not fair, and I think that the Government, when they were planning the Bill, did not do the thing as they should have done it. They allowed pieces to be chopped off here and there. They allowed Youghal to be thrown over the other side of the border and they allowed places in Sligo to be thrown over to Leitrim. They allowed places in the County Galway to be thrown over to Clare, and I think that is unfair. The only trouble or difficulty I see about the whole of it is in putting Waterford and Wexford in as one constituency. It is one constituency from Gorey to the end of Waterford. After all the trouble we had at the elections, railways torn up, roads blocked with trees and so on, there is one thing to be said for the amalgamation of Wexford and Waterford, and it is this, that you can go there by the coast or you can get there by Hook or by Crook.

I approve of this Schedule in the amendment. I prefer it to the Schedule in the Bill because it does not cut at the counties. I am not at all enamoured of Wexford being thrown in with Waterford. The only thing that makes me agree with it is that as far as I can see it is the only arrangement that can be made with regard to those two constituencies. In order to arrive at a proper number of Deputies it was necessary to do so. However, I must say that those two counties, Waterford and Wexford, could scarcely be more different. Historically, they are totally different. In temperament the people are very different. But it is the best arrangement that can be arrived at. With regard to those old chieftains' districts, like Clonmore, I would say that they are utterly out of the question. The barony is the nearest thing to the old Irish Tuath. The chieftains' kingdoms, those ancient Irish kingdoms, would now be entirely out of the question. Counties may be an English invention, but they are certainly the most convenient and the best possible divisions of the country under modern circumstances. We cannot go back to the early Christain times. Some of the counties are more important from the historical point of view than the old chieftains' Tuath.

Before the Minister replies, I just want to say a few words. I will not take up much of the time of the House. I have already spoken——


On the Committee Stage the Senator may speak more than once.

There is one point on which it appears to me I was clearly misunderstood by Senator Johnson, and I want to put it right. I did not mean to say that the minorities in this country coincide entirely with religious lines. I do not think I said that, and I did not mean to say it. I never favoured anything of the kind. I thought I made that clear to the House. All my life I have endeavoured to fight against that attitude, but I do say that unfortunately in some parts of this country they do go along those lines. When I said that I was thinking of the Six Counties. There they do go along those lines. I was pointing out the danger that if, as a result of our new system we did not get minority rights, the effect would be very bad in the Six Counties. I have always done my best as an individual to stand against and fight against bringing religious questions into political matters. In that I think I have the sympathy of people like Senator Johnson, but in this matter I notice that he differs in opinion from me. He says that a small Party can manage a small constituency better than a large one. How can you manage a constituency when in that constituency there is not enough to get a quota? It would be an absolute waste of time if there is not a possibility of getting a quota. The constituency which you can manage under such circumstances is of no use to you. You may be able to get one-eighth, but unless you get one-fourth you have no quota. By minorities I mean not religious minorities. I mean people who are more or less on the side of the other big Parties, but who are not prepared to go the whole hog. They take up an independent position. I do not know how far that is the case in the Fianna Fáil Party, but I do know it must apply to a certain extent as far as the other large Party is concerned. A considerable number of people of whom I am one are in general sympathy with that Party, but they are not prepared to go the whole hog with them. There are quite enough people holding that point of view to entitle them to a representation of four or five seats, certainly to two or three seats, but they are spread all over the country. With the exception of the one constituency of the County Dublin they could not get a quota.

I think Senator Johnson is looking at this thing from the point of view of the Labour Party. But the Labour Party is an organised Party, and finds it easy to work a small constituency. What I am speaking of are minorities who will not be organised as a Party, minorities who would exert a certain amount of influence where the constituency was large and where a big Party would have a chance of electing four or five members. In that case a member of such a Party would be likely to get elected as a member of one of the bigger Parties—but as a member of that Party who might have a slightly different point of view from his colleagues. I think now when the Seanad is being abolished and when University representation is being abolished, there is a great danger that you will have a Dáil the complexion of which will leave out a section of opinion in this country, a section which will never have a majority and which ought not to have a majority, but which ought to be represented in the Parliament of this country. That is the danger I see in this Bill, and that is what I would like to guard against.

I am glad to have been proven to have misunderstood Senator Douglas's inferences. My misunderstanding was due to my knowledge of the attitude he has adopted for many years. I think Senator Douglas has a way of looking at things differing from my way of looking at things. I assume that an election campaign or preelection campaign—that is to say the propaganda which goes on between elections—is aimed at changing opinions, and from that point of view I argue that the smaller constituency is better for the small Party or the small minority. Senator Douglas appears to deal with this matter from the point of view that Parties are static and never change. In that case, there is no possibility of agreement.

I cannot agree that this Schedule is any improvement at all on the Schedule in the Bill. As a matter of fact, I think it is very much worse. Miss Browne has touched on one point. I do not see how there can be any excuse for the suggestion to amalgamate Waterford and Wexford. I think anybody who knows anything about the geography of the country knows that in order to get by land from Wexford to Waterford, one has to travel about 14 miles. One can go by rail across the Barrow but, as Senator Staines says, if the roads and bridges are broken you can go by sea. There is certainly no case in the world for amalgamating these two constituencies. I quite agree with what Senator Johnson has said, that, although on the face of it it might appear that the small constituency did not give representation to minorities to the same extent as the large constituency, that is, one returning eight or nine members, in actual practice the reverse has proved to be the case. I think I know most of the constituencies very well. Take the case of Monaghan. For a good period there were three different Parties represented there. There were three members elected and each Party got representation from 1927 down to the last election. County Louth, which also returns three members, before Mr. Coburn joined the Fine Gael Party and when he was an Independent, returned three members of different Parties. In County Kildare, at the present time, and, I am almost certain, since 1923, each of the three Parties, one of them being the rather small Labour Party, got representation, and I think Wicklow is the same. At one time, North Cork used to return three members to the Dáil, and up to the June Election of 1927, one of each Party was returned.

After all, the real test, I submit, of proportional representation is the result. Theoretically, it would appear that minorities ought to get representatation in the big constituencies, but it does not work out like that. In Donegal, there is a minority representative returned and also in County Dublin, but in all the other big constituencies it has not been so. I think, therefore, that that argument falls to the ground. As every one knows, the Government were compelled, by Article 26 of the Constitution, to revise the constituencies on the basis of the last census and when the time came for doing that, they decided, acting on their experience of some years past, that, in the best interests of the country, no constituency ought to return more than five members. That was what we set out to do, but we found it impossible to have them all five-member constituencies and it is quite obvious that those people in this House who expressed the wish to have five-member constituencies have also found it impossible. They have produced only four in this Schedule whereas in the Bill there are eight. I think that is a very good point in favour of the Schedule in the Bill.

The Dáil did not see its way to pass the Bill as introduced. They amended three constituencies, leaving them with seven members each, but that was not the Minister's fault. He had to accept what the Dáil gave him, and if he had had his way, as I say, no constituency would have returned more than five members. In the five-member constituencies, just as in the three-member constituencies I think it is true to say that the minority does get representation. I could, if the House wishes, go over the constituencies, but I do not think it is necessary. Anybody who cares to look at the constituencies will find that the Labour Party, which is a small organised Party, has got representation in Wexford and Leix-Offaly. In Dublin City, where we have eight-member and seven-member constituencies, they have no representation at all. In Galway, with nine members, the small Party has no representation. In Kerry, they have no representation and, since the last election, none in Tipperary. The same applies to Sligo-Leitrim and Donegal. I repeat that it is only by the working out of a system you can decide whether it carries out the intention of the people who brought in that particular system and I maintain that, in practice, it certainly has been so. For that reason I think there is no case for these large constituencies and it is quite obvious that that is what is proposed here.

There is one big change proposed. That is in County Mayo. This very big area has been two constituencies since 1923, and I do not know whether Senator Staines realised that when he was speaking. It is proposed here to amalgamate these two constituencies, and I do not think that anyone seriously intends that we should do that, A great point was made about cutting across county boundaries. I represent the constituency of Roscommon and, under the Local Government Act of 1898, part of Mayo was put into Roscommon—the Ballaghaderreen-Edmondstown district. Formerly, that was in County Mayo, and it has been in Roscommon ever since. I have found no great trouble with regard to it, and the people do not mind it in the least. At the other end of the county, Athlone borders my constituency, and I admit that if I had my own personal way, I should not have cut South Roscommon into two, because it was always the part of the county that returned me. I know that the part that has been taken into the Athlone constituency was at one time the No. 2 Rural District of Athlone. Athlone was the administrative area in the old rural district days, and similarly with regard to part of Westmeath. It was the administrative unit and was in existence as such since 1838, long before the present administrative County of Roscommon was formed, which, as I say, was only in 1898. I do not think, therefore, that there is very much point in the talk of cutting up constituencies and taking a bit of this county and putting it into that county. As Senator Farren has said, it does not follow that because a man votes in a different constituency he is going to regard his neighbour as a foreigner.

This revision has to be carried out under the terms of this Article of the Constitution, and there is no reference in that Article to county areas at all. It simply refers to the population of the Free State and sets out that there shall be not less than 20,000 and not more than 30,000 of the population per member. I have a list of the constituencies here which gives the average number for each constituency per member, and in no case does it reach 24,000 per member, although it comes pretty near it in a couple of cases. There is one constituency in which, as a result of an amendment, the figure is brought up to 25,000 per member, but that was done by agreement of all Parties. That is South Dublin. In the original Bill, in or about 23,000 odd was the maximum, and it went down in one case—County Limerick—to 20,000 odd—just on the very margin. Apart from that, there was a very fair attempt to give proper representation, and I do not think there is any improvement whatever in this proposed Schedule. I am glad that the debate has been conducted in a really non-Party way. I did not expect it; I thought we should be accused of all sorts of attempts of gerrymandering, but that has not been the case. I certainly must say that I appreciate that, but I do not see how anyone could expect the Government to accept a Schedule which contains such anomalies as are in this. A very important thing from the point of view of administration has been done in respect of this proposed Schedule. The new Dublin City area has been completely ignored, and it is suggested that it be put back into the county and one more member added to the county, making it a nine-member constituency. I do not think that could be seriously meant at all. The Government could not possibly accept it. In regard to Cork County, the basis of the Schedule in the Bill was a proposal initiated by the Cork County Council itself. They requested the Minister for Local Government to divide Cork County into three health districts. It was on that basis the new constituencies were formed. Cork City is an urban area now, and the rural area is put in the other end of the county, which is quite proper and consistent. Senator Brown said that, in his opinion, the Bill was going against the spirit of the Constitution by practically departing from the principle of proportional representation. I do not think that has been done. Senator Douglas did not agree with him. As far as I remember, the latter Senator admitted that the principle of proportional representation was maintained for minority Parties. I do not see how the other groups could possibly expect to get many seats. It is not to be imagined that people belonging to small units will be concertrated in one constituency. They will be all over the country, and could not reach the 25 per cent. plus one necessary to have a member returned in a three-member constituency. If they do not get that number I do not see that they have any claim to representation. They could ally themselves with, or get into some of the big Parties so as to have their views considered. That is the case at present, where people do not accept everything in the programmes of Parties they support. If they want representation in the Dáil, and find that they cannot get 25 per cent., the best thing for them to do is to swallow as much as they can of the political tenets of the other political Parties. I cannot make a better suggestion.

That is the point I made. That is what I object to.

I cannot see any remedy. In practice it has not turned out that way in an eight or nine-member constituency, with the exceptions of Dublin and Donegal. On the other hand, in Monaghan and Cavan, which return three and four members, respectively, Independent members were elected. I imagine those were the types of representative Senator Douglas was thinking of. Senator Johnson has probably given the reason—that small Parties find it easier to do their work in small constituencies. I have touched upon the main points that were raised, and in my opinion the amendment would make the Schedule worse than the one in the Bill, and I hope the Seanad will reject it.

It has been said that as the Schedule has been passed by the Dáil the Seanad should not interfere with it. Did the Dáil agree to it of its own free will? We have had it from the Minister that if he had his way he would not have his constituency of Roscommon split up. That shows that the Dáil would not agree to have the constituencies split up if it had a free will. That is proof that there was not free will in agreeing to the Schedule. Senator Johnson points out that minorities have a greater chance of getting representation in small constituencies than in larger ones. I do not think anyone who understands proportional representation will agree with that. The larger the constituency the greater chance there is of representation for the minority. The Minister pointed out that if some constituencies were split they belonged, for poor law purposes, to the administrative portion of other counties. He said that the Athlone portion which is taken from Roscommon and put into Longford-Westmeath, belonged for poor law purposes to Westmeath. I can point to Garristown district in County Dublin, which belongs for poor law purposes to another county, and although the rates were many shillings in the £ less than they were in County Dublin, for sentimental reasons the people came into County Dublin and agreed to pay 3/- in the £ more on their rates. There is a place where sentiment counted. The Minister says it does not count. It does count, and the people in that district sacrificed a good deal to be in their own county.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 9

  • Barniville, Dr. Henry L.
  • Bellingham, Sir Edward.
  • Bigger, Sir Edward Coey.
  • Blythe, Ernest.
  • Brown, Samuel L., K.C.
  • Browne, Miss Kathleen.
  • Counihan, John C.
  • Crosbie, George.
  • Dillon, James.
  • Douglas, James G.
  • Fanning, Michael.
  • Garahan, Hugh.
  • Griffith, Sir John Purser.
  • Jameson, Right Hon. Andrew.
  • Milroy, Seán.
  • Moran, James.
  • O'Connor, Joseph.
  • O'Hanlon, M.F.
  • Staines, Michael.
  • Wilson, Richard.


  • Comyn, Michael, K.C.
  • Connolly, Joseph.
  • Dowdall, J.C.
  • Johnson, Thomas.
  • Keyes, Raphael F.
  • Linehan, Thomas.
  • Phaoraigh, Siobhán Bean an.
  • Quirke, William.
  • Robinson, Séumas.
Tellers:— Tá: Senators Douglas and Counihan; Níl: Senators S. Robinson and Comyn.
Amendment declared carried.
Second Schedule ordered to stand part of the Bill.
The County Constituency of East Galway as defined in Part II of the First Schedule to this Act shall be the constituency corresponding, for the purposes of Article 21 of the Constitution, to the County Constituency of Galway existing at the passing of this Act.

I beg to move, as a consequential amendment, and I take it without notice, that Section 5 be deleted. It is there because of the fact that the Ceann Comhairle has not to submit himself for election. He is elected without a vote in his own constituency which, according to this section, is declared to be the constituency of East Galway. As that has been altered by the amendment which the House has just passed, I beg to move as a consequential amendment that the section be deleted.

Amendment put and declared carried.
Title ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Bill reported to the House with amendments.
Report Stage fixed for Wednesday, 18th July.