This is a Bill to alter the Constitution, to change the system of voting which has obtained here for nearly 40 years, and to substitute for it the British system of voting which gives a single seat constituency where the candidate who tops the poll wins the seat whether he gets a majority or not. In other words, this Bill is a departure from the plan of electing members of the Dáil by a majority vote, and arranging a system whereby a Party that gets 40 per cent. of the votes in an election may, in fact, get 80 per cent. of the seats in Dáil Éireann. That is the precise purpose of this Bill.
It is not a Bill, as the Taoiseach with great simplicity, or perhaps I should say, with great apparent simplicity, has endeavoured to point out it is, to prevent us from having coalitions or to prevent the growth of Parties. It is a Bill to ensure that the first candidate past the post wins the seat, whether he gets a majority or not, and it is a Bill which arises quite simply from the political fact that the Taoiseach is the head of a Party which normally heads the poll and which, if it could continue to do so, would win the great majority of the seats. In other words, he is altering the rules of the game for his own political profit and, I think, for no other motive.
Such a move, it seems to me, is a bad thing. It is particularly bad now and there has, in fact, been no demand for it; there is no need for it and there was no mention of it in the last general election. It is the Taoiseach's own idea now, as he has explained with great clarity, not because he finds something wrong with P.R. but because he believes that his own defeat on two occasions was assisted by P.R. and since he thinks defeat for himself and his Party is a reversal of the natural, and the national order, he is therefore against anything which, in his judgment, contributes to that defeat.
It is his own idea and following that idea—suddenly thrown out—his adherents and his followers are going through the country cooking up and improvising all kinds of arguments against P.R. and bringing into play all kinds of examples on the Continent, and even in the United States of America, to prove that the ills of Europe and the good things about America are due, in the one case, to the presence of P.R. and, in the other, to the absence of P.R. One would imagine that instead of a whirlwind of talk of that kind, a question of this nature, which goes to the roots of our Constitution and concerns our electoral system, would have been calmly examined. The Taoiseach has proved very partial during all his political life to commissions of inquiry but he took very good care not to appoint any commission to inquire into this very difficult subject.
There is a provision in the Bill for a commission to mark out the boundaries of the constituencies, if the Bill becomes law, but surely it would have been more suitable to appoint a commission at an early stage to let us see how P.R. of this kind works and how—what is very much misnamed— the direct vote works in Great Britain and let that be examined and let the people be given some information about how the different systems work in different countries before they were asked to decide?
We have commissions of inquiry on very much less important matters. I have been taking part myself recently with some members of this House and of the other House in a commission to inquire into how 43 members of this House come to be chosen. This is a matter of much greater import. Instead of any inquiry of that kind, what we have got is an enormous and regular shoal of red herrings drawn across the track of intelligent debate and no information at all as to how the proposed system works elsewhere.
The Taoiseach's speech to-day, and indeed his speeches in the other House, have made it quite plain that this, frankly, is a political measure, that it has nothing whatever to do with the merits or demerits of P.R. as we practise it, or as it might be amended. He has made it quite clear that he blames it for his defeat in 1948 and he says: "That was bad enough, but when it happened again in 1954 that was unnatural and surely we must abolish the system under which that kind of thing could happen?" Of course, clever as he is, he will not be able to supply his supporters with an alternative for himself, which is exactly what he is trying to do in this particular Bill.
Everything possible has been said by the Fianna Fáil speakers in the other House that would excite the people's passions on this matter of P.R. The first thing was that this particular system that we have been working successfully for nearly 40 years was imposed upon us by the British, that it is of British origin. This system was used for the first time in the election which purported to be an election to the Southern and Northern Parliaments under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. That particular election was legalised for our purposes by a decree of Dáil Éireann in 1921. They accepted the election and the Dáil ordered that the members elected at that particular time would become members of Dáil Éireann. There was not a single word said then about the imposition by the British of a new system of election, one which differed from their own. There was no word against it. There was no word against it in the debates that took place after the Treaty. Every sin in the calendar, and even some which were not in it, were ascribed to Mr. Cosgrave and his colleagues in 1922 and 1923. But even the ingenuity of the Taoiseach himself and the present Minister for External Affairs and various other wild and reckless propagandists never thought of saying: "Surely you are imposing the system of P.R. because the British want it?" It was never said and it was never thought up until 1958. It was not thought up before that.
There are several things to be said in favour of P.R. as it has worked and as it has benefited the Taoiseach. He did not say a word against it in the election of 1923. P.R. enabled him to get a substantial number of seats then. Under the British system he would have been destroyed and, though I was an opponent of his then and I am an opponent of his now, that would not have been a good thing for the reason that he had just ordered a cease fire in the civil war and had ordered the people to dump their arms, and it would have been a disaster if quite suddenly he had found that a system of election was in operation which prevented him from getting a reasonable representation according to the feeling in the country in his favour. Taking the long view, it was as well that his particular minority got a fair showing under the P.R. So much for that.
It was at that moment also, in 1922, that a Labour Party emerged in the House. I will come to that later on. The Constitution of 1922 actually did not contain as detailed provision about P.R. as the Constitution which the Taoiseach himself framed in 1937. He was asked in 1937 to leave more freedom to the Oireachtas and he refused. That is the kind of mind he has. He thinks he can understand everything and that he can provide for everything and he wants to bind everybody down. In the Constitution of 1937, there was P.R., the transferable vote and the multi-seat constituency. It was inserted in great detail and at the same time he said he believed in it.
Now it is said by the Minister for Defence, in Listowel, and by the Minister for External Affairs in Dáil Éireann last Wednesday, that the Taoiseach was not in favour of P.R. at all in 1937; that they merely inserted P.R. in the Constitution in that year because they were afraid, if they did not put in P.R., the Constitution would be defeated. That, surely, is an accusation against the Taoiseach by his own supporters, by the Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Defence. It accuses him of hypocrisy and deception of the people in 1937, because what he said about the Constitution at that time, 1st June, 1937, at column 1343, Volume 67, of the Dáil Debates, was:—
"The system we have we know; the people know it. On the whole it has worked out pretty well. I think that we have a good deal to be thankful for in this country: we have to be very grateful that we have had the system of P.R. here. It gives a certain amount of stability, and on the system of the single transferable vote you have fair representation of Parties."
Later on at column 1353 he said:—
"I think we get, probably, in this country more than in any other country, better balanced results from the system we had. If you take countries where P.R. exists, you get better balanced results than you get in the other countries. I think we get the benefit of P.R. in reasonably balanced legislation here better than in any other country that I have read about or know anything about."
Apparently he had not been to Rome then and had not discussed this system of P.R. with the unknown Italian who did not tell him the Italians had not our system; nor had he heard of the Dutch Prime Minister who was not in favour of whatever system they had, but who, of course, had not our system either.
I have cited the Taoiseach's declaration. This is the Minister for Defence speaking at Listowel on the 24th January last and reported in The Kerryman. He talks the usual Fianna Fáil “dope” about republics and dictatorships and all that kind of thing. He talks about the opponents of the Constitution of 1937, the so-called new Constitution of 1937 which was, of course, an amendment of the Constitution of 1932, and said:—
"They will remember the closeness of the struggle and will realise that to give the anti-Republicans one more argument might have resulted in the defeat of the Constitution and the consequent retention of the Irish Free State."
In other words, Fianna Fáil were really not in favour of P.R. but they put it into the Constitution to deceive the people. The Minister for External Affairs speaking last Wednesday, 28th January, in the Dáil, said at column 1243:—
"If Fianna Fáil had insisted at that time—that is in 1937—on putting the straight vote system into the Constitution it might easily have been defeated."
So that the people who are sure of the national interest now are confessing that they were deceiving the people in 1937 when they put P.R. into the Constitution. It is a very extraordinary thing. Perhaps the Taoiseach would tell us whether he thought P.R. was good then or whether he was merely humbugging the people or had he, as the Minister for External Affairs suggests, cold feet about the success of his Constitution?
It has been said over and over again, and the Taoiseach repeated it to-day, that P.R. creates Parties. Surely it does not. The Taoiseach talked about artificially-created Parties. Surely Parties are not artificially created; they respond to some want or need, to the desire of some group to come together for a particular, legitimate purpose. If they do, they are not artificially created. For example, there were really only four Parties ever here, the Fianna Fáil Party, the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Farmers' Party. There have been other small Parties but very few.
The Labour Party and the Farmers' Party emerged in 1922 and surely one may ask: why not? Every Irish Nationalist leader from Wolfe Tone to Tom Kettle who died in France in British uniform in 1916, every one of them, whether constitutionalist or advocate of physical force, Pádraig Pearse or anyone you like to take, stated quite clearly that they hoped in an Irish Parliament every possible kind of Irish interest would be represented. That was the ideal, the aim and object of every kind of Irish Nationalist up to our own day. Griffith was strongly in favour of it; everybody was in favour of it.
Surely if you take for example the Labour Party, they form a very good example of how a Party has a right to existence. In the national movement that preceded the Truce of 1921 and the Treaty of that year, everyone will agree that considerable assistance was got from Labour using the word in any sense you please, trade unionists, unorganised and organised Labour. Labour had helped in the national movement. They had suppressed their own political aims and objectives and surely they had a right, when freedom had been achieved and when for the first time in history an Irish Parliament had been set on foot, to emerge in the sun of freedom, and take part in an Irish Parliament. Surely the Taoiseach will not tell us that was a Party artificially created by P.R. It was not created by P.R.; it was there; it was real; it had a genuine claim not only in justice but also from the national interest point of view. In the light of expediency it is surely a desirable thing that trade unionism should not be dependent entirely on the industrial arm but should have a voice in the Parliament of the nation.
I have excellent reason for remembering how that Party came into the Dáil. They came in in September, 1922, and performed wonderful work as an Opposition. I would like to take this opportunity as we may be on the verge of creating a new system here —I hope we are not—of saying it was a very remarkable Party led by a very remarkable parliamentarian who is happily still live, Mr. Thomas Johnson. They did great work at that time. The idea that because they are a small Party they should be obliterated or that any system should be adopted whereby in order to get a seat they would, before an election, come to an agreement with somebody to get their head in, is, I think, a very retrograde step.
Much the same thing may be said about the Farmers' Party. The Taoiseach is really worried, of course, about the fact that in 1947 a splinter Party from himself, Clann na Poblachta, led by Mr. Seán MacBride, was successful in getting into the Dáil. And why not? Why should they not get a chance of putting themselves before the people? They failed after a certain period but surely it is not in the national interest that there should be a Party so firmly established, so tightly gripped that nothing could fall away from it. That is what the Taoiseach wants. It is not because P.R. creates small Parties that he is against it but because the small Parties that were there combined to put him out. That is his sole reason and his sole line of reasoning. He is against small Parties that do not vote form him; if they voted for him, of course, that would be a different thing.
He talked to-day and elsewhere about Parties combining before an election. Under the British system which he wants to adopt there would be single seat constituencies. If Fianna Fáil—which is very doubtful in the Taoiseach's absence—remains a strong Party they will get a substantial vote in any given constituency. If a Fine Gael candidate and a Labour candidate go against them in the same constituency, then Fianna Fáil are bound to win. That is the line of reasoning and the line of bargaining. And the line of collaboration is that you should say: "Put up no Labour man here now in Dublin South-East and we will put up no Fine Gael man in Dublin South-West." That is the idea; you must bargain beforehand, give individuals power to blackmail.
For example, would it not be very clever of an Independent in Dublin, somebody with a rather good pull, to throw his hat into the ring in two constituencies and bargain in both and say: "I will pull out of one place if you will let me into the other place." If the Taoiseach thinks he is going to stop bargaining, surely he is very far from his mark.
We have been told that P.R. does not give us stability. Of course, all the words used in this debate by the Fianna Fáil speakers are used in a special Party sense. Stability means Government by Fianna Fáil. When you have not got Government by Fianna Fáil you have not got stability and when you do not belong to Fianna Fáil you have not any national feelings. When the Taoiseach is in we have stability and when he is out we have not. That is his argument.
It is little more than 30 years—in fact, 32—since he came into the Dáil in 1927—perhaps I should say since he returned to the Dáil in 1927—and in that period he has been in office about two-thirds of the time, something over 20 years. What more does he want and what has he done in that period which he could have improved upon if he had not had P.R., that is, supposing he had had a bigger majority, which is what he wants? Perhaps he would tell is, or somebody would tell us, what more he would have done if he had had that bigger majority in 1933 or 1938, or any other time? The truth is, of course, that he would not have done anything. Would he have done any single additional thing if he had a bigger majority or a different system of election?
With regard to stability and the challenging of Government, surely any challenge ever issued to a Government in this country did not proceed from P.R. but proceeded from other and much more fundamental facts than an election system? The Government was challenged in 1922, but P.R. was not the cause of it. There are people at the present moment who challenge the right of the Government to govern and I heard the present Taoiseach himself say in the Dáil at one time that the title of the Dáil was defective. It was not because of P.R. that it was defective in his judgement. There are people now who do not acknowledge this Parliament and this Government. Would the abolition of P.R. and the substitution of the British system open the internment camp in the Curragh? What good would it do? Will anyone tell us what national reasons there are, apart from the purely Party, partisan, political reasons, for the abolition of P.R. and the substitution of the British system? I do not see them, Sir.
The Taoiseach talks about bargaining. Nearly every Party is a Coalition. I do not want to mention names, but all of us who know Fianna Fáil may see how they range from A to Z, with different kinds of people. Surely the Taoiseach knows there has been any amount of bargaining to get Fianna Fáil into office. Without going outside the limits of this House, those of us here have seen people in this House who were put into it because they voted for Fianna Fáil in the Dáil when elected as Independents. A man who votes for Fianna Fáil stays a period in the Dáil, he is defeated, Fianna Fáil puts him into the Seanad—that is, the Taoiseach puts him into the Seanad, because the Taoiseach is Fianna Fáil, he is the whole thing. When that man is beaten for the Seanad election, what happens to him? He gets an equivalent income in a post to which the Government appoints him. Is he not getting a reward, plain and simple, for his vote and did not someone make a bargain? Perhaps the Taoiseach can wash his hands of the bargain but, as the lawyers say, it was surely made "for and on his behalf."
One of the most disgusting things about this whole business is the way in which history has been destorted. Fianna Fáil have had a special line about Irish history. Everyone on their side is good and everyone against them is bad. For the purpose of this debate on P.R., they have gone across to the Continent and explained to us that everything wrong on the Continent of Europe is due to P.R. Could anybody conceive a more ignorant view? The Minister for External Affairs, last Wednesday in the Dáil, appeared to imply that the prosperity and the stability enjoyed by the United States of America are the result of their having what he calls the direct vote. Could anything be worse than that, could anything be more foolish?
Fianna Fáil have been very expert in messing up history in this country. Let me give one example to illustrate how poor they are on history. They celebrated recently a national event. No matter what you think or thought of it at the time—of course, I was breast-high for it, as I was a Sinn Féiner—and no matter what anyone thought, the meeting of Dáil Éireann on the 21st January 1919 in Dublin was a matter of historic importance. The anniversary was celebrated by Fianna Fáil. Not one single person was mentioned except those on their side. The most remarkable thing about that event in 1919 was that five people were appointed a Government on that day. The head of the Government was Cathal Brugha; the other four members were Michael Collins, Professor John MacNeill, Count Plunkett and Richard Mulcahy. The only one who is alive of those five is Richard Mulcahy, who is still active in politics and head of the Fine Gael Party. At this anniversary meeting there was not a singe mention of that.
The Taoiseach, who has been through a great deal and who knows a great deal about the period, was able to refrain from mentioning a single name of those against him. Two of those people died violent deaths— Cathal Brugha and Michael Collins. Two of them, Professor John MacNeill and Count Plunkett, survived to a ripe old age. One of them, General Mulcahy, has survived in politics. Neither the Irish Press which the Taoiseach controls, nor the organisation which he controls, mentioned anybody except the people who were Anti-Treaty. It is the people with that jaundiced point of view about Irish history and that point of view about themselves, who want to get a system of election which they feel will give them a grip on the country greater than the grip they have at this particular moment.
From Irish history, they cross over to Europe. They talk about France. The Minister for External Affairs was able to tell us last Wednesday in the Dáil that P.R. brought France to her knees. First and foremost, it seemed to me rather inappropriate that any Minister, and more particularly a Minister for External Affairs, should say that a friendly country like France has been brought to her knees. I think it is not true. It will be found that France is a country which is farther from being on her knees than we are. To attribute the woes and troubles of France constitutionally and parliamentary to P.R. is childish. I cannot credit the Minister for External Affairs with the necessary ignorance to make that statement. He must have made it in wilful disregard of the facts which he knows. He could scarcely be ignorant of those facts.
The same thing applies to the idea that Mussolini and Hitler arose—the one in Italy and the other in Germany —because of P.R. The thing is fantastic. Our system was never used, I think, in France and one trouble in France constitutionally, as most people know—and their troubles were many —is that there was no power to dissolve the French Parliament. Power of dissolution is one of the main features of the new French Constitution—with which, of course, we have no concern.
It is desirable that we should know that our system of the single transferable vote was never used in France. I think that it was never used in Italy either. Anyhow, whatever system of election was used on the Continent of Europe one cannot ignore history. One cannot ignore Louis XIV and the French Revolution and the war of 1870 and Heaven knows what else. Who can believe that all the ills of Europe were due to systems of election instead of being due to a great variety of historical, political, economic and religious causes?
Another point which is made is that the smaller constituencies bring people nearer to the electors. I know quite a number of Deputies whose complaint at present is that they are too near the electors. One can go to the Library any day and see the piles of correspondence they have from their electors. Anything which would bring them nearer to their constituents would not bring them more peace.
It is of interest that in Britain, about which the Taoiseach has found a new enthusiasm, 60 per cent. of the members of Parliament live outside their constituencies and do not appear to have any connection whatever with their constituencies. The desire that we should all be put in the straitjacket of a single Party actuates the Taoiseach. In England the system operates of what is called the direct vote. It has produced some extraordinary results. One of the things it has not produced is two Parties. There are three Parties in England. Anybody who read the results of the last by-elections will see that the order of votes was Conservative, Labour and Liberal. It has most extraordinary results. Let me give one or two examples. For 20 years Sussex has elected Conservative members. Ten Conservative members get elected for 240,000 votes. There are 210,000 votes for others who do not get elected, and these votes are entirely wasted. In Durham the very reverse happens. There are eight Labour members of Parliament for 510,000 votes. There are 300,000 votes that elect nobody. Surely that should be called an indirect system?
The British system is unpredictable and erratic. The Taoiseach thinks that in a five seat constituency a person who gets one-sixth of the votes should not get in, but in England a number of voters, much less than one-sixth of the total, can sway the whole election and produce the result without electing anyone themselves. Nothing is more certain, for example, about the next British election than this. At the next election it is said there will be 180 Liberal candidates. If there are 180 Liberal candidates in the next election, they may get ten seats or even less; but they will certainly defeat the Conservatives because that will be the result of the election under the British system.
There are some very interesting examples. I commend to my friends opposite, if they would like to read something of this other than the speeches, a book just published, The Irish Election System—what it is and how it works, by J.F.S. Ross. It is an explanation quite easy to follow. On page 67 he gives some very interesting examples of the result of British elections.
In 1950, the Socialists secured 46.3 per cent. of the poll, nearly as much as they did in 1945. But their share of seats in the House of Commons fell from 62 per cent. to 50 per cent. In other words the same poll could in one example give 62 per cent. and in the next only 50 per cent. of the seats. In the following election, only one year later, their share of the votes went up from 46 per cent. to 48 per cent. but their share of the seats went down from 50 per cent. to 47 per cent. This is what has been recommended to us as a direct system. In 1945 48.7 per cent. of the total vote gave the Socialists 62.3 per cent. of the seats and gave the country a powerful Socialist Government. Six years later, in 1951, the same proportion of the total vote only gave them 47 per cent. of the vote and put a Conservative Government into power.
Has any consideration been given to facts like that, which are of course commonly known? The direct vote so called, is most indirect. It depends upon where Parties have a majority and how that majority is distributed all over the country. Every British election is a gamble.
Why do the British keep the system? They keep it because they are British. It is a quite simple explanation. I was at an international conference and some British members of Parliament of different Parties were discussing P.R. There were two Irish representatives present. The British members of Parliament asked me to explain how our by-elections worked for the single seat—the alternative vote. I explained that to them. In Britain, a candidate gets 20,000 votes, another 15,000 and another 14,000. That is 29,000 on one side and 20,000 on the other; yet the 20,000 man gets in. I explained our system of voting at by-elections. I explained it very carefully and everybody listened. When I was finished, one said: "Very good, by Jove, but it would not be British." Therefore they would not have it. They have their own views, but there is no reason in the world why we should adopt their system.
There is another objection to this. In our system a voter can choose between individuals. The Taoiseach does not like that. The Taoiseach wants to do the choosing for everybody; he wants them to choose between Parties. In the British system now proposed here the candidate is chosen by the Party and you have no choice between individuals. You cannot vote for the candidate of your choice, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, or anybody else.
Another thing said is that P.R. has done harm and that we must get it out of the way to make progress. What does that mean in real terms? What harm has P.R. done? It did not give us a weak Government from 1922 to 1932 when the Taoiseach was in opposition, for a part of the time in the country on not very constructive work and for part of it in the Dáil. The Taoiseach's objection then and the objection of the present Minister for External Affairs—expressed in unparliamentary language now and again —was that the Cosgrave Government was too strong. He thought it was far too strong—a Government elected under P.R. and in the teeth of very violent opposition.
Surely P.R. gave the Taoiseach himself a Government strong enough to stay in office, to set up military courts and to carry out executions. What more does he want? It gave him a Government from 1932 to 1938 strong enough to carry on an economic war with Britain. Could he or somebody else tell us how P.R. retards our progress? Has it put a man out of employment? Has it contributed in any way to our unemployment situation? Has it contributed to our emigration? Has it made it worse? Has it contributed, in any way, to, for example, one of the things the Taoiseach said is dear to his heart and which has always been dear to my heart? Has P.R. contributed to the advance of the Irish language? When the Taoiseach became a member for the constituency of Clare in 1917 there was a considerable number of Irish speaking households in County Clare. There is not one Irish speaking child in the County Clare to-day. I wonder is P.R. responsible? I do not think so.
The only harm that P.R. has done is that it has put the Taoiseach twice out of office. He hates it for that, just as he was able to say at one time that he hated the Government that was in when he was out.
The electoral system is not of supreme importance. It will not resolve our economic, political or cultural problems. It will not raise the drooping spirits of our young people who are prepared to leave the country willingly with no abiding interest in it. An electoral system has two purposes. You can place them in any order you please. One is to distribute the seats in the Dáil roughly in the same proportion as the votes cast. The other is to put in a Government. P.R. in this country has done both of these things. Eighty per cent. of the Dáil has been two large Parties. Roughly speaking, 10 per cent. has been another Party, the Labour Party, to whose right to be in an Irish Parliament nobody presumably will object.
The Taoiseach argued that that will not continue. Why not? Whether he wins the Presidential election or not, presumably he is leaving public life. He thinks that when he leaves public life, things will not continue and he wants to make constitutional provisions for what will happen. Why can he not leave it to the people? Why adopt the view that we must have the British system? Indeed, we are adopting more than the British system. Fundamentally, when one examines the Taoiseach's point of view, one finds that it is the same point of view as that held by the British, namely, that we cannot govern ourselves. The Taoiseach's point of view is that nobody can govern us except the Fianna Fail Party, and this is a Bill to improve the prospects of the Fianna Fáil Party when he ceases to be the integrating force in that Party.
In my judgment, Sir, this is a shameless and purely partisan measure to ensure, as far as it is humanly possible to ensure, that the electoral system will be so altered as to suit the prospects of the Taoiseach's own Party. It is nothing but smug hypocrisy to say that it is in the national interest. It is not in the national interest. It was not conceived in the national interest. It was conceived hurriedly in the interest of a particular Party. What is necessary for progress is that we should rid ourselves of this idea that only one group of people can govern the country and that if any two groups agree they are committing a national sin.
We want to create a situation—and not by amending our Constitution— where no Party can claim a monopoly of national feeling, or national regard, or national interest.
The Party which the Taoiseach represents refuses to co-operate with anybody. The fundamental appeal appears to be: "Agree with us." But one can go further—"Agree with us" means agree with the Taoiseach and with nobody else. Fianna Fáil make the same claim as the British made: we cannot govern ourselves in any way except under the aegis of Fianna Fáil. Every trick in the bag —and it is a very big bag, and it is full of tricks—has been brought into play in this particular issue. Every device for altering and twisting quotations from other people has been used. Every device to appeal to the lowest instincts of our people has been used. Irish history, English history and European history have been distorted by the Taoiseach, and those who support him, to bolster up this proposed amendment of the Constitution, the Constitution once so dear to him.
This is openly and brazenly a Party measure, and it is admitted to be so. I read somewhere an article by an Englishman on this matter. The writer said that Mr. de Valera, the Taoiseach, would like a big Party and it was no accident that he was the head of a big Party himself. The writer went on to say: "Mr. de Valera, of course, would like another big Party. He would like another big Party to do well but,"— the article added—"not too well, and not too soon." That, I think, is a very fair analysis of the Taoiseach's mind: he wants his own Party to do well, and he wants to take every possible step to see that no other Party will do well; and anyway, if another Party does well, he wants to ensure that it will not do well in his lifetime.
Rarely, in this House, have I opposed a Bill on the Second Stage because normally such action merely delays the enactment of the measure and prevents our amending it in Committee. But this Bill, it seems to me, is not open to amendment—it would be extremely difficult to amend—and so I propose to ask the House to vote against it on this stage. I should like to point out in this context that, if this House rejects the Bill, that will not prevent these proposals being put to the people ultimately. The Dáil has decided that issue. Neither will our decision affect the question of whether the Presidential election and the referendum are to be held separately or on the same day. The dates for the Presidential election are fixed and cannot be altered; it must be held within a certain period. The referendum on this Bill when it passes, as it is bound to pass whatever we do, may be held at any time. It could be postponed to the autumn of this year. It could be postponed to next year. I can assure the House that the Taoiseach will do—with regard to these two matters being separate or together—whatever he thinks is good for the Fianna Fáil Party, and no action that anybody else may or can take will make any difference.
There is one other point I should like to mention. This is an extraordinary Bill. It is drafted in two languages and the reason why it is drafted in two languages is that the Constitution provides that, where there is an English version and an Irish version, the Irish version is passed and is deemed to be the governing version. That, again, is fraudulent. The Constitution of 1937 was framed in English. It was argued in English. It was passed in English. It was then translated into Irish—rather furtively, as a matter of fact, and not by the Translation Section here. This Bill offers to the people who believe in the living Irish language, and who know in what a parlous condition it is, a bit of green paper with English words translated into Irish as a cure for the decay of the Gaeltacht and the decay of interest in the language. Nothing could be more typical of the situation in which we find ourselves.
This Bill and the arguments on which it is based should certainly be rejected. It seems to me that the House will be honouring itself and will show its capacity to function well on an important occasion if it gives the people a breathing space of 90 days in which to calmly consider all the implications of this project to abolish P.R. by amending the Constitution. I can praise our present system no better than by repeating the words of the Taoiseach spoken in June, 1937:—
"The system we have we know; the people know it. On the whole it has worked out pretty well. I think that we have a good deal to be thankful for in this country: we have to be grateful that we have had the system of P.R. here. It gives a certain amount of stability, and on the system of the single transferable vote you have fair representation of Parties."
I cannot improve on those words and, with those words, I commend to the House the rejection of this measure.