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.