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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 20 Feb 1935

Vol. 19 No. 16

Public Business. - Electoral (Revision of Constituencies) Bill, 1934—Message from the Dáil.

Dáil Eireann has passed the following resolution:—

That it is not desirable that a Conference be held between members representing the Seanad and the Dáil for the purpose of considering the amendments made by the Seanad to the Electoral (Revision of Constituencies) Bill, 1934, with which the Dáil has disagreed and on which the Seanad has insisted.

I move: That the Seanad do not insist on amendment No. 1.

I second.

I think that the Government is taking a rather unreasonable line in this particular matter. The amendments introduced by the Seanad were of a reasonable nature. They were amendments which avoided the creation of artificial constituencies, which prevented the breaking up of counties and which also prevented the creation of an undue and unnecessary number of constituencies in which the proportional representation system would work worse, namely, four member constituencies. If the Government had accepted the proposal for a conference, I think there is no doubt at all that the result would have seen very considerable amendments in the Bill. When the original Bill was going through the Dáil it met with very heavy weather. On certain issues the Government was constrained to agree to a free vote, and when a free vote was taken it was found that the proposals put forward by the Government, which were of a piece with the rest of the Bill, did not meet with approval. In fact, there is very strong opposition in the Dáil itself, as there is in the country and in the constituencies, to this principle of taking bits out of two or three constituencies and making new and very artificial electoral units out of them. If any group of representatives from the Dáil had met any group of representatives from the Seanad and had discussed this, I think there is no doubt that there would have been something very like general agreement, and that several things that are outstanding features of the Bill would have been amended.

I think that at this stage, with a view to giving the Government an opportunity of considering the matter further, the Seanad should insist on its amendments, not necessarily that some of them might not be susceptible of improvement. There is no doubt that if you had a group of Deputies, with their closer touch and greater information, applying their minds to the matter as well as Senators, that these Dáil Deputies might in details adjust some of the Seanad amendments with benefit, and might even reject one or two of them. I think that the amendments made by the Seanad, taken as whole, are along the right lines. They are something that the Seanad ought not to have any doubt about the propriety of insisting on.

There was a suggestion made here when the Bill came up first that it was no business of the Seanad to interfere with the revision of constituencies. I think that view was entirely wrong: that if there was any House that ought not to cut into the question of the reallotment of constituencies much it was the Dáil, because the members of it would find great difficulty in looking at the matter impartially. As a matter of fact, the best way to have done it would have been to set up some sort of a non-party committee in the Dáil, which might have got general agreement, just as agreement was got on a very ticklish Bill last year—a Bill of quite a different character to this. In default of doing that, or of bringing in some outside judicial authority, the best way to ensure a satisfactory Bill would have been to recognise that the Seanad stood outside; that the members of it are not pulled by local and Party influences in the same sort of way as are members of the Dáil, and to have met the Seanad on this matter. If that had been done I think a more satisfactory Bill would have been produced.

Therefore, I think that the Seanad ought to have no doubt about the propriety of its intervening, by way of amendments, in relation to a Bill of this sort. I think that the Seanad will be doing the right thing by insisting on these amendments, not that all of them should be accepted, but that some such committee as was suggested should be set up so that this whole matter might be considered in a non-Party way, as it has not yet been considered, and in that way producing a Bill more satisfactory to everybody, and particularly to the people in those counties which have been cut up and made parts of the very peculiar and unsatisfactory new constituencies. I think the Seanad should agree that the Senator's proposal be rejected.

Question put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 19 19; Níl, 19.

  • Boyle, James J.
  • Comyn, Michael, K.C.
  • Connolly, Joseph.
  • Farren, Thomas.
  • Fitzgerald, Séamus.
  • Healy, Denis D.
  • Honan, Thomas V.
  • Johnson, Thomas.
  • Keyes, Raphael P.
  • Linehan, Thomas.
  • Lynch, Patrick, K.C.
  • Moore, Colonel.
  • O'Farrell, John T.
  • O'Neill, L.
  • Phaoraigh, Siobhán Bean an.
  • Quirke, William.
  • Robinson, David L.
  • Robinson, Seumas.
  • Ruane, Thomas.


  • Baxter, Patrick F.
  • Bellingham, Sir Edward.
  • Bigger, Sir Edward Coey.
  • Blythe, Ernest.
  • Browne, Miss Kathleen.
  • Counihan, John C.
  • Dillon, James.
  • Duggan, E.J.
  • Fanning, Michael.
  • Foran, Thomas.
  • Hickie, Major-General Sir William.
  • Jameson, Right Hon. Andrew.
  • McGillycuddy of the Reeks, The.
  • O'Connor, Joseph.
  • O'Hanlon, M.F.
  • O'Sullivan, Dr. William.
  • Staines, Michael.
  • Toal, Thomas.
  • Wilson, Richard.
Tellers: Tá: Senators Séamus Robinson and David Robinson; Níl: Senators Blythe and Wilson.
Motion declared carried.

As there is an equality of votes, it is incumbent upon me to exercise a casting vote in accordance with Article 22 of the Constitution, which states:—

"All matters in each House shall, save as otherwise provided by this Constitution, be determined by a majority of the votes of the members present other than the Chairman or presiding member, who shall have and exercise a casting vote in the case of an equality of votes."

In the absence of any reliable precedent in this House, I have given some attention to the practice in Great Britain and the Dominions in regard to the manner in which the Chairman exercises his casting vote. The guiding principle appears to be that a Speaker does not on his sole responsibility make a change in the status quo, and in particular that he takes the course which is best calculated to avoid change in the law, to uphold previous decisions of the House or a Committee, or to maintain constitutional usage. This Bill implements that Article of the Constitution which provides that the constituencies shall be revised by the Oireachtas at least once in every ten years. This period expired some time ago, and, if I gave my casting vote against the motion, my action might have the effect of holding the Bill up for a further eighteen months. In order to maintain constitutional usage, I accordingly give my casting vote——

Before you give your decision, a Chathaoirligh, I should like to say that I went into the wrong lobby.

I am sorry for that. In view of what I have said, I give my casting vote in favour of the proposition before the House. Senator Robinson's motion is, accordingly, carried.

Before we proceed further with the discussion of these amendments, might I make a few remarks on the notice which we received on the Order Paper?


I do not know what other members of the House thought, but it never dawned upon me that we would to-day debate and divide upon these amendments on which we spent so much time previously. I looked at the Orders of the Day and I saw that we were to be told what the decision of the Dáil was in respect of our amendments to this Bill. But that we were to go through all the amendments we had made to the Bill, debate them and divide upon them never entered my mind or the mind of any of my friends in the House, so far as I know. Surely, if we were to have a discussion on these matters, there should have been notice on the Order Paper. I am sure that many Senators who looked at the Orders of the Day came to the conclusion that we were merely going to receive the decision of the Dáil. It seems to me to be unfair, on the notice we have received, to deal with these amendments in the way we are doing. I ask you, Sir, to say whether the Orders of the Day give sufficient notice and whether, on that notice, we should proceed to deal with the amendments as we are now doing. Any Senator who is not here to-day would, I think, be perfectly right in saying that he did not get any notice that these amendments were to be discussed in the manner in which they are being discussed. I ask you, Sir, to look into the matter and to say if something should not be done to meet my point.

If Senator Jameson looks at Item No. 3 on the Orders of the Day, he will see that the usual form has been adopted in connection with amendments to this Bill. Item No. 3 sets out a Message saying that the amendment made by the Seanad to the Criminal Law Amendment Bill has been disagreed to by the Dáil. That refers to a specific amendment but it does not set out what the amendment is. So far as I remember, that has always been the formula adopted in this House. In other words, Senators are expected to advert to the Bill, as it originally came to this House, and to inform themselves as to the amendments which were made here.

May I draw your attention, a Chathaoirligh, to Standing Order 104, which states:

.... Each such amendment shall be considered and any Senator may move without notice "that the Seanad do insist on the amendment" (with or without further amendment) or "that the Seanad do not insist on the amendment" ....

I draw attention to the words "without notice."

That is the point. I was just about to quote that Standing Order.

That does not deal with the question of the Orders of the Day.

May I read the Standing Order?

When, in the case of a Bill which has been received from the Dáil and amended in the Seanad, a Message has been received from the Dáil disagreeing with or amending all or any of the amendments inserted in the Bill by the Seanad, such Message shall be placed on the Order Paper next thereafter prepared. Each such amendment shall be considered and any Senator may move without notice ....

I am advised by the Clerk that the customary course has been adopted in this case.

That does not mention the Order Paper.

No. The only thing incumbent on the Clerk is to place on the Orders of the Day the Message from the Dáil, as he has done in this case. Senators are supposed to be conversant with Standing Orders, where by motions can then be proposed without notice.

Are we to take it that in future we are not to get notice on the Order Paper of such a discussion as we have now entered upon?

I think you must take it that that will be the position. The notice prescribed is given on to-day's Order Paper: "Dáil Eireann has passed the following Resolution—That it is not desirable that a Conference be held between members representing the Seanad and the Dáil for the purpose of considering the amendments...." Those are the amendments we are now considering.

So far as I see, the Orders of the Day merely give us an item of information. They inform us that the Dáil has disagreed with our amendments. Any Senator would take it from that that our business would merely be to receive that Message from the Dáil. Surely it should have been down on the Order Paper that we were going to discuss the amendments.

I am afraid, Senator, that I cannot accept your point of view. All we are obliged to do is to do as we have done here—that a Message has been received from the Dáil and that when that has been done, it is incumbent on the Senators to know their Standing Orders, and that motions insisting or not insisting on the amendments can then be moved without notice.

I think that there may be something to be said for Senator Jameson's point. There are two points connected with this. First of all, there is the resolution with regard to the conference that was down here. Looking down to No. 3, we see that Dáil Eireann has disagreed with the amendments. It seems to me that, possibly, there should have been a similar paragraph there.

Surely, Sir, the question is not a question of the merits of the amendments at all. The question is that of the desirability or otherwise of holding a conference. That is all, and the merits of the amendments do not arise at all. I think that your ruling in the matter, Sir, should end it.


Hear, hear.

My ruling is that what has been done is conformable with our Standing Orders. I think that amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 4 are consequential and I hope that the House will accept them accordingly.

I beg to move: That the Seanad do not insist on amendment No. 2.

I second the motion.

Question—"That the Seanad do not insist on amendment No. 2"—put and agreed to.
Motion declared carried.

I beg to move: That the Seanad do not insist on amendment No. 3.

I second the motion.

Question—"That the Seanad do not insist on amendment No. 3"—put and agreed to.
Motion declared carried.

I beg to move: That the Seanad do not insist on amendment No. 4 (Second Schedule).

I second the motion.

Question—"That the Seanad do not insist on amendment No. 4"—put and agreed to.
Motion declared carried.

As the Seanad has not insisted on its amendments, it becomes necessary to make a further amendment to the Bill, to rectify a printers' error. In the Bill as received from the Dáil, the Urban District of Clonakilty has been omitted from Part II of the First Schedule. Will some Senator, therefore, kindly move the following amendment:—

First Schedule, Part II. Before the word "Kinsale" at the second line on the bottom of page 9, to insert the word "Clonakilty."

I beg to move that amendment.

I second it.

On a point of order, Sir, I am wishful to know how it is possible to move an amendment of substance at this stage. Surely it is more than the correction of a misspelling of a word or the insertion of a comma, and certainly when the two Houses have not had the Bill before them, when there has been a proposal for a conference, and when that has been refused, it is rather extraordinary that it should be possible to bring in something quite new at this stage.

A question of this kind has arisen two or three times in the last few years, and you, Sir, have ruled that a clerical error might be amended. That ruling was subsequently confirmed by yourself, Sir, on a subsequent occasion, and I think that Senator Blythe himself was in the House when it happened.

I think it is quite right because I may inform the Senator that the word "Clonakilty" was on the original White Paper but was omitted afterwards through a printers' error.

What Senator Robinson says puts a different complexion on the matter, of course. If it was originally in a printed copy, and disappeared in transmission, that is quite a different matter from its never having been there.

The word was omitted by accident through a printers' error.

The original White Paper did contain it.

That disposes of my point, Sir, and I am quite satisfied.

Amendment put and agreed to.
Amendment declared carried.