An Bille um an Tríú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1958—An Dara Céim. Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1958—Second Stage.

Tairgeadh an cheist: "Go léifear an Bille an Dara hUair anois."
Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am sure every Senator is aware of the purpose of this Bill, which has been under discussion for some months. Perhaps it is no harm to go quitely over some of the provisions. Its purpose is to amend the Constitution so as to replace the existing system of multiple-member constituencies and the single transferable vote by single member constituencies and the non-transferable vote. In addition, there is provision by which the constituency boundaries will be determined by a commission, the number of constituencies being determined by law.

I can only repeat, as regards the reason for introducing this measure, what I have already said in the Dáil, namely, that you cannot refer a question such as an amendment of the Constitution to the people for their judgment until it has first been passed, or has been deemed to have been passed, by the two Houses of the Oireachtas. If you had a situation in which you had a number of small Parties in the Dáil it is obvious it would be almost impossible to get such a measure through that House, and the people therefore would be deprived of any opportunity, in such a situation, of passing judgment on a change.

Some years ago, when a number of small Parties combined in a coalition, it appeared to many people that not for a very long time could it happen that a Party could be returned with an overall majority. Under normal circumstances, that does not frequently happen. It happened on this occasion, and we think it is only right that the fact that there is a single Party in Dáil Éireann with an overall majority who are prepared to support this measure and put it to the people should be availed of in order that this measure may be put to the people.

Experience has shown that the system of the transferable vote and the attempts made in that way to secure P.R. lead to a multiplicity of Parties. A multiplicity of Parties means that it is very unlikely that any one Party will get an overall majority. Therefore, you are compelled to have Coalition Governments.

One of the main purposes of elections is to provide a Government. Two main purposes are indicated in the Constitution—two matters on which the ultimate power is with the people. The first is deciding who will be their rulers—in other words, their Government—and the second is deciding what is to be the national policy. For the moment, let me keep to the first purpose, which is the provision of a Government. One of the purposes of an election is to provide a Government. We have a system of representative democracy here in which a Government is chosen from the members of the Legislature and the principal Ministers have to be members of the Dáil, and, consequently, on the election and on the method that is used in the election, depends the Government you get.

We feel it is not in the best interests of the country that Governments should be of a coalition kind. There are many obvious objectionable features about them. When you have a number of Parties at an election, small Parties can act quite irresponsibly. They can promise, and pretend that they are working for, any particular type of policy so long as it will secure a certain amount of support for them. They get votes on the pretences that they will achieve the objectives which they set before the people at the time of the election.

One section will say: "We shall lead the country to the right." Another section will say: "We shall lead it to the left." When the elections are over, these groups, ignoring what they have led their supporters and those who have given them votes to believe, come in and join together with no responsibility for carrying out any programme. They are always able to excuse themselves with the plea: "We cannot do it. We had to combine with the other people and they would not let us do it."

When you have a number of Parties with divergent aims and when those Parties have representatives forming the Government, it is quite clear that they must make some sort of compromise after the election. If this compromise were put to the people before the election, it is pretty certain that those small Parties would not get support against any one of the policies advocated by the major Parties. When you have these Coalition Governments, you have representatives who are responsible to outside Parties. It is a game of poker at the Government meetings instead of frank discussion. Those who want to go to the left are afraid that if they give way or give expression to any views that may be regarded as an inclination to go to the right, the people on the right will use that against them. I am using "right" and "left" in no special way, only to indicate directions. There is, therefore, a want of confidence in each other.

It would not be quite so bad if, when they entered the Government, the members detached themselves from their Parties, if they were no longer bound to report back to their Parties and give reasons for their actions to them, but we know that does not happen. Each of the individuals in the Coalition Government representing a Party is bound to report back and is under pressure from his Party. It is therefore not a homogeneous group or a team. In fact, the Taoiseach is prevented at the very outset from selecting a team. In the Constitution the Taoiseach is given the power or the responsibility of selecting a team. He has to consider the various Ministries available and how best he can compose that team. He will have to look at the team as a whole and see how the various members will co-operate so as to get the most effective teamwork. That is prevented in a Coalition Government because it would be part of the bargain made that he would have to take those sent to him from the various Parties; otherwise the Government would not be able to get the support of those Parties in the Dáil. Therefore the Taoiseach is compelled to abrogate some of his responsibilities or rights and take those who are presented to him.

When it comes to a question of policy, there is always compromise. Of course, there are deals in trying to arrive at this compromise. It is a different situation from having a Party in office which have a settled programme in advance which they try to carry out as quickly as possible. When there is no programme in advance, the coalition Parties have to work out a compromise, and, if they are unable to arrive at that compromise, and if there is stubborn resistance—even by a small Party in a Coalition Government—that small Party, as we know, can bring down the Government. If such a small Party want to have a particular point of policy adopted or if they want to prevent a policy to which they object being adopted, they can hold out and, by threatening resignation, prevent decisions being taken.

It is a feature of these Coalition Governments that decisions are not arrived at promptly. Sometimes it is necessary to take decisions quickly, and these decisions cannot be taken in circumstances such as I have just described. The system of P.R. with the transferable vote does lead to a multiplicity of Parties, which, in turn, leads to Coalition Governments with the weaknesses I have pointed out. The difficulty is that, once you have these various Parties and Coalition Governments operating, it is nearly impossible to get rid of them because the people do not often get an opportunity of passing judgment on them.

We are proposing in this Bill that the people should be given the opportunity of passing judgment in this case and saying whether they want the P.R. system with the evils that are obviously attached to it or whether they want a system which, while nobody will say it is perfect—there are no systems of election absolutely perfect —will give more satisfactory results. On the whole, the system we are advocating—the straight vote system, as it is called—does lead to more stable government and is more likely to lead to the general public good than the system we have now.

It is sometimes argued: "The system you have had here has worked fairly well." I said that myself when the Constitution was going through some 21 years ago. There was a proposal at that time that we should not put in the transferable vote. When that system was introduced here by the British Parliament in 1919—although I remember there were resolutions at Ard Fheiseanna against it—I was one of those who, as a member of Sinn Fein, said: "It appears to be a fair system and we will accept it." Looking at it from the theoretical point of view without any experience of the system, I was inclined, as many are inclined still, to favour it. Although it seemed to work fairly well up to 1937, it is because it has since worked out badly in practice that I am against it and the Government is introducing this Bill.

We all know there were issues here which divided the country into two major Parties. As long as that was so and there was no public support of any kind for the smaller Parties, they found it very difficult to operate and had not operated to any extent. It is different when the aims and objects which divided the major Parties are no longer there. One of the reasons we did not have the evils stemming from P.R. which were to be seen in other countries was that the divisions were so sharp that they prevented the development of small Parties, which leads to Coalition Governments. Again, the war kept us fairly well together, but immediately after the war we were obviously entering into a new phase in which the antagonisms—I do not like to call them that, but I may as well use the work here—which divided us into two main Parties were disappearing. When these disappeared, you were going to have, as a normal feature, the growth of a lot of artificially-created Parties, splinter Parties, and so on. The inducement for such Parties is fairly great when you have Coalition Governments because the leader of a Party who has a group behind him in Dáil Éireann can practically demand that he, or one of his group, should be represented in the Government. These features began to appear, it is said, on account of my own attitude, but I have to say that my attitude is well known. There is no secret about it.

From 1938, that is, for the past 20 years, looking at the working of this system, I have on many occasions pointed out that, if it should lead here to a multiplicity of Parties, it would be well for the people, in the interests of government, in the interests of the State and in the interests of the community, to get rid of it. When some of the post-war established countries were getting new Constitutions, we had people from these countries coming over here to examine our Constitution, to see to what extent there were features in it which they might copy and use in their own new Constitutions, and the one thing that I did say to those who came here after the war, the one thing I recommended them very strongly not to have, was the system of the transferable vote with the multi-seat constituency. Therefore, for 20 years at any rate, I am on record as having pointed out that this system in practice does not work well.

If we compare the stability, on the whole, of the system of the straight vote, the straightforward system— which has been used in Britain, in Canada, in the United States of America, in New Zealand and, I think, in some of the States in Australia, and the stability that has followed from that system—with the instability and sometimes the inability to form a Government at all, where you have the transferable vote in multi-seat constituencies, where you have Coalition Governments and a multiplicity of Parties—nobody can doubt for a moment that the single straight vote has led to far greater stability and is more in the public interest than the other system.

The allegation is sometimes made that we are copying the British system. I think it was the Minister for External Affairs who said that, if you are building a house, and they have built a house and have a roof over their heads in Britain, it does not necessarily follow that you are copying them if you put a roof on your house; what has been done in that regard has been found useful there and, similarly, here. When the system of government was being worked out here, we found that we had more or less the same system— that the Government depend upon a majority in the Legislature, that the Government are chosen from the Legislature, that the Government have to go out of office when they do not command a majority, and so on; and that is the position, I think, in the other countries I have mentioned which also have the same type of representative democracy as they have in Britain.

Sometimes, if you are adopting a system that has worked in another place, and if you do not adopt it completely, you may find the very thing you leave out of their system, that is, the system you are copying—I cannot get a better word than "copying"—if you leave out some particular parts of it, they may be the very parts which destroy the system as a whole. You have to have it as a whole, and I am of opinion now, that that is true in this case.

There have been commissions set up in Britain to examine this matter, and there have been groups who have advocated the P.R. system over a large number of years. A good while ago, I happened to be reading a book by an English publicist in which he described an interview he had with a former Prime Minister of Holland. The Prime Minister asked, more or less in these words: "Are you thinking of adopting that system over there in Britain?" and advised: "If it is ever introduced, fight it like the devil," because he had found, in his own experience, that it was not a good system.

Years ago, when I was in Italy on a State visit, I had an interview with the then King of Italy. He spoke English well; he had had an Irish governess. I had a long conversation with him about the position in Italy, that is, the position that arose there which led to the coming of the new régime of Mussolini, and in speaking about the position, I remember well that the King said: "The present system is better than the system we had." Those who have studied the history of this period after the first World War know exactly what the situation had been in Italy, and it is to make sure that our country will not be faced with a similar multiplicity of Parties that this Bill is being introduced.

I think I have mentioned the features of the Bill. They are contained in the Schedule, and it provides in detail for the matters I have mentioned, for the single member constituency, for the non-transferable vote, for the election of the person who gets the largest number of votes, and for a commission to determine the constituency boundaries. When we come to the Committee Stage, I suppose we will deal with these in greater detail, and I do not think it is necessary for me to go further into the matter at present.

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.

Since we heard so much about history from Senator Hayes and so little about the Bill, I should like to make the comment that Senator Hayes and his colleagues have antedated the late Adolf Hitler in the operation of the theory of the "big lie". Senator Hayes devoted most of his speech, which to my mind did him no credit, to a personal attack on the Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party.

That is not so. It is not so at all.

He repeated many of the insinuations which have been made from time to time in the Dáil. Senator Hayes and the Fine Gael Party have evolved a very clever technique. The technique might be summed up as follows: "We can talk about 1922; we can misrepresent what happened in 1921; we can tell you how you came into the Dáil, and why you did." And that is not politics! It is not introducing the civil war! It is not introducing the past! They can do it.

I did not say anything about the civil war.

He did not say one word about the civil war.

If anybody on this side of the House mentions anything about that period of our history, then it is introducing politics; it is introducing past history; it is reviving old bitterness. But if anyone went a good distance in that direction since this debate began in the Dáil and in the Seanad, I regret to say it is Senator Hayes.

I was astonished to hear the line he took on this Bill. He described it as a frankly political measure. He suggested that all the words used by Fianna Fáil in relation to it were used in a Party sense, that the Bill arises because the Taoiseach is head of a Party which normally heads the poll and wants to secure complete control here under the new system, that the Taoiseach was altering the rules of the game for his own political profit. There was a lot more in that wise and a lot more of history and about challenges to Governments in 1922, et cetera, et cetera. I intend to refer to that at a later stage.

Although Senator Hayes did not deal with the Bill in the constructive manner which I would expect from the Leader of the Fine Gael Party here, I shall not be put off dealing with the matter in my own way and at the appropriate time shall return to Senator Hayes and his distorted picture of what happened during recent years, with particular reference to the Constitution of 1937. In order to deal with this matter in my own way, I shall bring it down to the language of the man-in-the-street. To bring it home to the ordinary person, I shall take the example of a sensible person, who finds himself with a serious defect in his radio or television set which he cannot remedy himself and sends it back to the shop where he bought it for repairs. He does not wait until there is a complete breakdown. He takes action as soon as he can conveniently do so. When the repaired set comes back, he continues to derive benefit from it. That, in my opinion, is precisely the position in regard to what we are doing with the Bill before the House. We believe that a serious defect has been found in the Constitution and this Bill proposes to send the Constitution back to the people who enacted it 21 years ago, in spite of Senator Hayes and his friends. It proposes to send it back to them to remedy the defect in it.

I feel that it is worth while because of the infantile criticism which we have heard, not alone from Senator Hayes but from many members of his Party, during recent weeks, and from some newspapers also, to go into some detail about the procedure in this matter since there seems to be quite an amount of confusion about it.

As the Taoiseach has indicated, the object of this Bill is to give the people an opportunity of changing the system of election to Dáil Éireann if they desire to do so. It is not, and should not be regarded as, a political measure, in spite of what Senator Hayes has said and the intemperate language in which he said it. The people can decide for themselves by a secret ballot and every citizen of 21 years and over whose name appears in the register has a right to take part in the ballot to decide which is the better system to secure the result which a general election should secure for the country, that is, a Government able to govern.

The debate in the Dáil and Seanad on a Bill to amend the Constitution is a necessary preliminary so that a definite proposal for the amendment of the Constitution can be formulated and put before the people. It is only a preliminary. The people themselves must decide the matter for themselves. Fianna Fáil do not decide it. The Taoiseach does not decide it. The people must decide this matter for themselves.

In case anyone has forgotten, particularly those who so vehemently opposed the Constitution of which they are now such staunch defenders, I should like to remind them that this right of final appeal to the people is guaranteed by Article 6 of the Constitution, which says:—

"All powers of government, legislative, executive and judicial, derive, under God, from the people, whose right it is to designate the rulers of the State and, in final appeal, to decide all questions of national policy, according to the requirements of the common good."

The Constitution prescribes that members of Dáil Éireann shall be elected on the system of P.R. by means of the single transferable vote. The Constitution, however, leaves the way open to changing this system if a majority of the people wish to change it. Senator Hayes was rather sarcastic on that point and I shall return to it later.

The procedure by which the people are enabled to amend the Constitution, if they so desire, by a majority plebiscite is laid down in Article 46 of the Constitution, which says:—

"1. Any provision of this Constitution may be amended, whether by way of variation, addition, or repeal, in the manner provided by this Article.

2. Every proposal for an amendment of this Constitution shall be initiated in Dáil Éireann as a Bill, and shall upon having been passed or deemed to have been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas, be submitted by referendum to the decision of the people in accordance with the law for the time being in force relating to the referendum.

3. Every such Bill shall be expressed to be ‘An Act to amend the Constitution'.

4. A Bill containing a proposal or proposals for the amendment of this Constitution shall not contain any other proposal."

In accordance with our belief in Fianna Fáil that national security in the future requires a change in the method of election to Dáil Eireann, we recommend this Bill to the Seanad and to the people. It is a straightforward measure providing for the straight vote in single seat constituencies instead of the transferable vote in multi seat constituencies. It also provides, as the Taoiseach has told the House, for a representative commission to settle the boundaries of the Dáil constituencies, a commission consisting of three members from the Government side, three members from the Opposition and a neutral chairman appointed by the President after consultation with the Council of State. After all the discussion in the Dáil, which went on for almost three months, no better way of dealing with this matter of constituency boundaries was suggested by the opponents of the Bill.

If there is any political honesty left in the Fine Gael Party, the proposal should end the allegations that the Government wanted to change the electoral system so that they could gerrymander the constituencies to their hearts' delight. Yet, in keeping with the intemperate language used here by Senator Hayes, we find that a Fine Gael Senator told a branch meeting of his Party last week that these proposals to which I have referred were so infamous, dishonest and politically immoral that the Irish nation would never and could never accept them if it was to preserve its freedom of thought and government. The same Senator will, no doubt, cast his vote at the end of this debate in the manner prescribed by Senator Hayes, to refuse those people the opportunity of putting his prophecy to the test. If he and his colleagues in that Party are the great democrats that they profess to be, why are they afraid to let the people have this referendum? Why have they organised, and continued to organise, such bitter opposition to it? Of course, we know they do not like to consult the people because they fear the verdict, and since Senator Hayes indulged in some history, I should like to follow him in relation to this charge of mine that they are afraid of a referendum. It is part of their history, and the history of their Party, to be afraid of consulting the people through a referendum and I can give two examples.

In 1925, as soon as the Treaty (Confirmation of Amending Agreement) Bill was passed by the Dáil, the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, which was the predecessor of the Fine Gael Party, put the referendum clause of the Free State Constitution into cold storage and thus deprived the people of their right to say "yes" or "no" to Partition, which was accepted at that time. Senator Hayes paid great tribute to the Labour Party here this evening, but their opposition to the removal of the referendum, or at least to the suspension of these clauses, was at that time led by the very gentleman —Mr. Tom Johnson—for whom he now has such high praise. At that time, no opportunity was given to the people when this arrangement was made to give a verdict on it. Why? Because the Cumann na nGaedheal Government knew that if the referendum was held under the Constitution, the people would reject the agreement and reject them with it. Therefore, they did not consult the people.

Again, in 1928, we had a further example of the Fine Gael Party's fear of a referendum and of their detestation of the very idea of allowing the people to be consulted on a matter of grave national policy. Three years after the suspension of the referendum clause of the Constitution the Fianna Fáil Party, on a matter of grave national importance, collected the necessary number of signatures to enable a referendum to be held as to whether the people's representatives coming into Dáil Éireann should be asked to take an oath of allegiance to a British King. The answer of the Fine Gael Government was promptly to remove the Article from the Constitution which would have enabled the people to pronounce in a secret ballot in an orderly manner on whether they wished that disgraceful state of affairs to continue.

We have been asked why this proposal to change the electoral system is being made at this time—what is the sinister purpose behind it. We have heard Senator Hayes and others on it. As the Taoiseach explained, and as I should like to re-emphasise, so that it may be got into the heads of those people who do not appear to understand it, the answer is quite simple. To refer an amendment of the Constitution to the people it must first be passed by the Dáil and be passed or deemed to have been passed by the Seanad. As we know from our experience of two Coalition Governments here, there would be no possibility whatever of any Coalition Government agreeing to refer a matter of that nature to a verdict of the people. Therefore, it required a Party which believed in it, and which had the necessary majority to put it through the Dáil, to be in control of the Government before the necessary preliminaries could be carried out. Fianna Fáil having that majority now and believing in the necessity for it, have put the Bill through the Dáil and will give the people the opportunity of a referendum.

I know it has been said that we had an overall majority in other years which would have enabled us to do it, but in other years there were other things to be done and they are also part of the history to which Senator Hayes referred during his remarks. Suffice it that this is the first opportunity in normal times that has presented itself to enable this to be done and we feel it is a national duty and a national responsibility because of our belief that the system is dangerous to the future of this country. We feel it is our duty to give the people a chance to make their views known in the ballot boxes.

The second reason, of course, and a very important reason for those who are always prating about economy and efficiency, is that this year the 12-yearly period provided by the Constitution for the revision of constituencies expires. It is only common sense that if any changes are to be proposed in the electoral system, they should be made at the same time as the revision of the constituencies is due. The attitude of the Opposition undoubtedly shows that if they were in Government, the people would never get a chance to change that system.

One of the objections we have heard to the institution of the straight vote here is that the P.R. system is based on tradition going back to Arthur Griffith, even before the foundation of the Free State in 1922. Senator Hayes waxed enthusiastic on this question of tradition and he gave us or purported to give us, history to back up this talk of tradition. It just so happens that we have on record a statement of one of his colleagues, one of Arthur Griffith's colleagues, who worked with him long before some of the traditionalists we hear to-day were ever heard of. It is interesting to note what he has to say in regard to this matter.

The gentleman I refer to, Earnán de Blaghd, was Vice-President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, a former Minister in the Cumann na nGaedheal Government from 1922 to 1932 and an old colleague of Arthur Griffith. Earnán de Blaghd cannot by any stretch of imagination be accused of being a Fianna Fáil propagandist. In the Christmas number of the Dublin Leader he has this to say with regard to tradition:—

"When the late Laurence Ginnell denounced P.R. at a Sinn Féin Árd-Fheis held in the Mansion House before the Black and Tan struggle, I was the first speaker who rose to criticise his views. Under the influence of Arthur Griffith I had become an unthinking supporter of P.R. some seven or eight years earlier. At the time I accepted it as a desirable system, the apparent certainly that Mr. Asquith's Liberal Government would give Home Rule to Ireland was steadily robbing Sinn Féin of much of the support it had previously acquired and I am convinced that Griffith and his advisers clutched at P.R. as a drowning man might clutch at a straw and that they made no genuine effort to weigh up its general merits and defects. The rank and file of Griffith's followers were in the mood to swallow all propaganda in favour of P.R. without hesitation or discrimination, because it had begun to look as if Sinn Féin could never win a parliamentary seat on a straight vote.

Earnán de Blaghd foresaw the evil consequences of P.R. as this further extract from the same article shows:—

"I, for one, did not really think about the probable long-term effects of P.R. until in the mid-'twenties, it became clear to me that, in this country, it would call into being a multiplicity of small Parties and little narrow political sects and that, sooner or later, it would impose upon us a demoralising series of short-lived ramshackle Governments on the French model."

He goes on:—

"As a matter of fact, the end of stability in Government would most likely have come as early as 1927 only that, at the critical moment, Mr. Costello, who was then Attorney General, advised that the actual wording of our first Constitution gave the Executive a right (which it had not thought it possessed) to dissolve the Dáil without its own consent. Free use of the Executive's powers of dissolution has since continued to prevent changes of Government from being effective without reference to the people. The power of dissolution is not, however, a sufficient safeguard. It is only necessary that splitting should be carried a trifle further than it has been, to render it impossible for the electorate, faced with a welter of minority groups, to give any intelligible mandate."

He warned, as a consequence of the thought he had given to the matter and the experience which he had in Government and out:—

"The fact that, by the skin of our teeth, we have heretofore maintained stable and responsible Government is no guarantee that in future multiplicity of Parties can be prevented from producing its normal consequences."

I do not think that anybody who has heard those extracts will have much use for this talk about tradition and, anyhow, the tradition of which Senator Hayes speaks——

I did not use the word. I never used the word "tradition".

Did you not use the word "tradition"?

I never used the word "tradition" in my life.

If you did not——

"It was not me but my brother."

I have some notes of what the Senator said.

That was the sense of it.

That was the sense of it. Coming back to this talk about tradition, in spite of the fact that Senator Hayes says he did not actually use the word, the whole sense conveyed was that it was tradition.

That is a traditional way of looking at it.

I have to insist that P.R. was the trojan horse sent to us by Britain in the Partition Act of 1920, after the overwhelming straight vote victory of Sinn Féin, the intention being, with all due respect to Senator Hayes, to break us up from within. It did not have that effect. Secondly, P.R. was carried into the Free State Constitution—and here we go back again to history—the said Constitution being first published on the morning of the poll in June, 1922, when thousands of electors did not even see a morning newspaper, had not an opportunity of knowing what it was about and went to the polls completely ignorant of what was in the Constitution.

The historical background continues. It was undoubtedly incorporated in the free Constitution of 1937 enacted by the people so that it could not be raised at that time as another of the many side issues by which the combined Opposition Parties tried in vain to persuade the people to reject the Constitution. Senator Hayes thinks that was an evasive thing to do. In fact, he charged the Taoiseach with deceiving the people.

I did not charge him—no.

His friends charged him.

That the Taoiseach deceived the people in 1937 when they put P.R. into the Constitution.

According to the Minister for Defence, yes.

You cannot have it both ways. The Constitution of 1937, as was said by some of the Fine Gael propagandists, got through by the skin of its teeth. Why? Because of the despicable, disgraceful and un-Irish opposition of a combination of groups which sought to use every possible weapon to prevent the people from giving to themselves, mark you, in a referendum, like the one they are asked to hold now, a free Irish Constitution. Remember all the side issues that were introduced at the time, when it was alleged that women would not be allowed to work, trade unions would be suppressed, a dictatorship was about to be set up, and that there would be no freedom whatever for anybody who disagreed with the Government. When all these side issues were introduced at that time and when this mobilisation of every disgruntled element in the country that could be got together was organised by the Fine Gael Party, it was very necessary that a question like P.R., which might have been another side issue, should not be given so great importance that it would impede or possibly prevent the enactment of what was much more important—a free Constitution for the people.

Therefore, P.R. was put into it, but there was also put into that Constitution provision for the amendment of the Constitution and for a change in the electoral system at any time the people so desired, when experience had shown them whether the system was good or bad. When this referendum is held and the Bill approved by the people, there will still be provision in the Constitution, so that in time to come, if the people find that the straight vote system is not the satisfactory thing they were led to believe it was, if they find any serious defects in it, they have still the machinery by which they can change it to some better or more effectively working system. There is, therefore, no question whatever of any attempt being made to deprive the people of any of the rights given to them in the Constitution enacted by themselves in 1937.

It must be remembered, too, in this connection that at no time in 1922, under the Free State Constitution, under the Constitution of 1937, or in the period of which Senator Hayes spoke, the earlier period, did the people get the chance to vote on it as a single issue. I say that the talk of tradition, as Deputy Dillon would say, is all cod. Some Opposition speakers played the role of Rip Van Winkle, I take it, pretending that the proposal came as a bombshell, that it was something which came out of the Taoiseach's head a couple of weeks ago and was foisted on the Government, the Party and the organisation.

To refresh the memory of Senators here and prevent them wasting time making statements which are not based on fact, I should like to say that the Taoiseach, who was then President of Fianna Fáil, spokesman of the Government, the Party and the organisation, repeatedly referred to the matter in public. Let us start on the Constitution debates in the Dáil. In 1937 he agreed with Deputy Costello, Deputy Dillon and Deputy McGilligan of Fine Gael, who all had their doubts about the system of P.R., and he pointed out at the time that the Constitution made provision for amendment by the people, if the doubts were found to be sustained. They were not doubts of Deputies Costello, Dillon and McGilligan only, but doubts of the Taoiseach also. The provision was in the Constitution before its last amendment—the very same as it will be when the referendum has been approved by the people and the straight vote comes into operation. The provision to change that again, if necessary, will still be there.

The Taoiseach in 1938, at Kilrush, County Clare, emphasised in a pretty long speech the dangerous possibilities of P.R. In 1943, at Limerick, he indicated his intention to ask the people to change the system if it resulted in a position where coalitions became the only type of Government resulting from a general election here. At succeeding general elections and at many by-elections he referred to the dangers—so much so that, in 1951, at the general election, one Dublin daily newspaper urged its readers to vote against the Fianna Fáil candidates because if the Party were elected more than probably they would end P.R. Nobody can say that the Taoiseach did not give warning that people were thinking about this system and that many people had their doubts as to its efficacy.

Apart from Senator Hayes, other Senators of the Fine Gael Party were on the warpath against this Bill. I was particularly interested in Senator O'Quigley who, as reported in the Irish Times on 26th January, had this to say:—

"If the Taoiseach had taken so long to make up his mind that P.R. should go, was it not unreasonable on his part and on the part of the Government to expect the people to decide the issue in the hasty way in which they were being forced to do so and without the benefit of even an examination of the matter by a body of experts?"

The hasty manner in which the people were being asked to decide this issue—mark you, the Fine Gael technique again.

This thing has been front page news for the past four months in every newspaper in this country. It has been mentioned time after time on the radio. It has been debated in the Dáil. The Dáil debates have got more than ample coverage in every one of the newspapers. The Seanad is now in process of debating the Bill. What is hasty about it and who are the commission of experts which could be suggested who might deal with this?

I read the debate in the Dáil very carefully to find out who these experts on electioneering and electoral systems were but I did not find them. I found no names that might guide me into an appreciation of whether it was a serious proposal or not. I should be very interested to hear what type of expert commission or what body of experts it is suggested would know more about political activity, political boundaries, constituencies and the running of government than the Dáil to deal with a matter of this nature.

It struck me when I read that, and when I thought of the haste which Senator O'Quigley alleges, that he must have forgotten that his Party, by voting against the First Stage of the Bill in the Dáil three months ago, tried to prevent the Bill from being printed so that the people could read it and consider it for themselves. By voting against the First Stage in the Dáil an effort was made to prevent the circulation of the document so that the people for whom Senator O'Quigley expressed such concern could not get an opportunity of examining these proposals.

On looking up the Dáil Debates I was interested to find that the only other occasion when a Bill of a similar nature was before the House and when there was a vote against the granting of permission to introduce the Bill— in other words, a vote against the First Stage—was 27 years ago when a Bill was introduced by the present Taoiseach to take the King out of the Free State Constitution by removing the Oath of Allegiance. I was interested, again, in Senator O'Quigley and, remarkably so, in the leading article of the Fine Gael daily newspaper which, in almost the same words, had the same idea.

I would love to have one. Would it not be grand?

You have one. And, boy, what a paper! The most excellent suppressors of the truth in the whole of Europe. This is what Senator O'Quigley said on this occasion:—

"With the exception of the Taoiseach, there had not been one member of Fianna Fáil in the last 21 years who had seen any deficiency in P.R."

And this Fine Gael daily organ, a few days later, came out in almost the same words—Senator O'Quigley must have inspired them or they he; I do not know which—with the same proposition.

Are we not entitled to be told the name of the paper?

You are, of course. It is called the Irish Independent.

And that is a Fine Gael paper? I am glad to hear it. I did not notice it particularly.

It is the Fine Gael daily organ. It is not the first time anyone has spoken about P.R. The Taoiseach is not the only one in 21 years who foresaw the dangers and warned the people. In the last 30 years and even before that—even before Fianna Fáil was established— in the days of the Sinn Féin organisation, many people had their doubts about the system of P.R. Resolutions were moved at Árd-Fheiseanna to deal with the matter. There was quite a discussion at many Fianna Fáil Árd-Fheiseanna on the question of P.R. The last Fianna Fáil Árd-Fheis unanimously adopted the motion that the national interest demands the abolition of the P.R. system of election.

Senator Hayes may say there is no demand for this proposal. He may ask who is creating the demand and who are the people behind this demand. The Fianna Fáil Árd-Fheis, representing the biggest, broadly-based national organisation in these Twenty-Six Counties——

——is as representative a gathering of people's delegates as could be found in this or in any other country. When that Árd-Fheis pronounced unanimously that the national interest demanded the abolition of the P.R. system it spoke for a very considerable section of the people of this country. We are convinced that, when the proposition is put to all the people who have votes, they will support it as a result of our belief that it is vitally necessary that, while the opportunity is there, steps should be taken to amend this proportional system of election.

I might also say, in connection with this Fine Gael organ and its attitude towards reporting generally of speeches on this matter and of insertion of letters on it, too, that the Taoiseach and the Fianna Fáil Árd-Fheis and its delegates were not the only people who made long statements on the dangers of P.R. There has been so much talk about its coming out of the Taoiseach's head a few weeks ago and about nobody else having any interest in it and about nobody having mentioned it before that I would remind delegates that another member of the Government, the present Minister for Health, Deputy MacEntee, as Minister for Local Government, on 23rd October, 1947, opening the Second Reading debate on the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, as reported in the Official Report, Volume 108, quoted the following passage from Professor Hogan's well-known book on the subject Election and Representation:

"The fatal flaw of P.R. is that in so far as it tends to the coalition form of Government—and full P.R. and some kind of degree of coalition are actually inseparables— the coalition is bound to be made up of minorities, and must accordingly be lacking in the basic condition of stability and initiative."

The then Minister for Local Government, Deputy MacEntee, said —and I quote for the benefit of Senator O'Quigley and the Irish Independent which apparently never heard of it, and that was 11 years ago, not the other day—at column 925 of the Dáil Debates of 23rd October, 1947:—

"How true this is has been evidenced by the recent history of Governments in Europe since the cessation of hostilities in August, 1945. The adoption of systems of P.R. in France and in Italy have produced a plethora of minority parties in their Legislatures. In consequence those countries have had a succession of Coalition Governments, each of which has endeavoured to maintain its precarious tenure of office by political shifts and bargains among Parties in order to form a coalition so that when they most needed it, countries whose affairs they were endeavouring to administer, were left without that firm and decisive leadership which only a Government with sound and adequate support in Parliament can give.

P.R., however, is enshrined in our Constitution, and while we may frankly recognise its defects as an element in the process of constituting a Government, we must accept it as a principle and apply it for the purpose of securing a Legislature."

Concluding the debate on that occasion 11 years ago the then Minister for Local Government again quoted from Professor Hogan's book, at column 967 of the same volume:—

"While its aim is to secure to every citizen an equally effective voice at the level of election P.R. works out at the parliamentary level in an agglomeration of minority Parties with a consequent perpetuation of Coalition Governments. The upshot is that the electorate is left with a more remote and less effective voice than if, as under the majority system, one of a few Parties were returned to power with a direct, open and comprehensive national mandate."

Surely that ought to be evidence enough and I assume Senator O'Quigley will withdraw his statement in view of the facts I have given. Of course, the Fine Gael daily organ cannot be expected to withdraw its editorial or indeed to publish a refutation of it, in view of the manner in which it has conscientiously and consistently suppressed all attempts to question its statements.

I am tickled to find there is a lady circulating in this country at the moment who is the secretary of the English P.R. Society, which country has not got P.R. itself. She has been fit to enter the lists against the institution of the straight vote in our elections. She has been painting a frightening picture of how Fianna Fáil, the biggest Party, would win many constituencies on a minority vote. Senator Hayes expressed the same idea. This, of course, is nonsense, as Senator Hayes knows, whether Miss Lakeman knows it or not. Since Senator Hayes gave us such statistics as those for Sussex and parts south in England, it might do not harm to remind Miss Lakeman and Senator Hayes that at the last general election in England, under the straight vote, only 37 members of the British Parliament out of 630 were elected on a minority vote, one in every 17.

I am afraid our P.R. system here has not had such favourable results because every general election here sees a larger number of Deputies elected who have not reached the quota. In the 1948 election, for example, when the first Coalition was born, almost one third of the Dáil was elected without the quota. The straight vote system so far as we can see is the one best calculated to ensure that in any constituency, the candidate backed by the majority of the voters will win the seat. Miss Lakeman, of course, as is to be expected, is given plenty of space in the Fine Gael daily organ, the Irish Independent, but Irish citizens who write to the same newspaper to correct Miss Lakeman's misstatements are given no space.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The House has no control over that.

No, but in view of the fact that Miss Lakeman who comes from England on behalf of the P.R. Society——

Would it not be more appropriate if the Senator approached the facts and did not attack people personally who are not able to reply? I think the whole House would appreciate it if the Senator would give us the facts and leave these personalities out of it.

I beg the Senator's pardon. I have used no personalities. I have spoken respectfully of the lady and I insist on my right to say that an Irish newspaper will give space to a visitor to this country to distort the facts about the Irish electoral system and will not give space to an Irish public representative to reply.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The House has no control over that.

No; the House has no control over the paper, but a certain section of the House may have and it is for the benefit of that section that I recall this fact. Letter after letter has been sent to that newspaper in order that the Irish people who read it might be in possession of the facts and letter after letter has been suppressed. We will leave it at that. I should like to add, however, that Miss Lakeman made a statement on 4th December which was published in the Irish Times that she would welcome restriction of the franchise, if it became possible to enforce a suitable test. On December 9th, I wrote to the Irish Times and I asked her three questions. The questions were: (1) What restrictions she would welcome on the Irish people's right to vote, if it were possible for her to enforce a suitable test; (2) does the political Party which is arranging her meetings throughout the country approve of these restrictions; and (3) would she also welcome similar restrictions on her own people in England.

I should like to say that Miss Lakeman has been invited by people in this country who belong to no particular Party. It is a misrepresentation of facts to suggest she is being used as a means of promoting the views of any particular political Party.

I am sorry I must disagree with Senator Stanford. I am aware from the inception of Miss Lakeman's tour of this country that her speeches were sponsored at the outset by a certain political Party in this country and that a certain political Party still takes an active interest in her programme.

There is one political Party taking a very active interest in her now. We should keep to the facts and not personalities.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Ó Maoláin.

That is the position now and I hope that the Independent will, while giving space to all sides in this important matter, see to it that when statements are made of a very serious character and corrections are sent to them, they will find equal space for the corrections.

It was amusing to-day also to read what Senator Hayes had to say in his capacity as honorary secretary of the Fine Gael Party, in his annual report to the Árd-Fheis of his Party which meets next week, considering the statements he made here some time back in relation to this paragraph:—

"It is vital not only for Fine Gael but for the nation that Fianna Fáil should be defeated in its plan to abolish P.R."

"It is vital for Fine Gael," mark you. I thought Fine Gael were completely disinterested in this.

Not at all. Nobody said that.

I thought they were the pure-souled patriots who are going to protect the Irish people from the dictatorship that was to follow the abolition of P.R. Now I find it is a vital interest of Fine Gael to see that the people do not get the opportunity to pronounce on whether they want P.R. or the system provided for in this Bill. Senator Hayes, in his capacity as honorary secretary of the Party, says further:—

"The adequate representation of minorities has always been part of the national tradition."

Did the Senator say he never mentioned the national tradition?

I never mentioned it here in this speech, in the speech I made here.

The Senator will get it in a few minutes. The report states:—

"The adequate representation of minorities had always been part of the national tradition and was preached by every national leader."

The Senator said the very same thing half an hour ago.

I did, and it is true.

What I am interested in, and what the people of the country would be interested in, is the Senator's definition of minorities. There has been a lot of smokescreens about minorities, under the straight vote, going to be deprived of representation. What minorities? Are they religious minorities, clann minorities, sectional minorities or what are they? What would you define as minorities? What basis can be found for a sensible definition of which minorities are to be affected in this way by the restoration here of the straight vote?

Any Party that has not a majority is a minority.

If that is the Senator's definition, he can have it.

The minorities de Valera spoke about in 1927.

I find it hard but I will continue. Capital is being made out of the alleged stability under the operation of P.R. here, and Senator Hayes also referred to stability. I should like to give a few facts in connection with the actual position before anybody swallows that fairy tale. One would imagine that P.R. had no effect whatever on the frequency of elections, or on the average life of Governments, but here are the facts. In 36 years there have been 14 general elections. The average life of the Governments here has been two years and seven months, and on five occasions a Government lasted less than a year.

A Fianna Fáil Government.

A Fianna Fáil Government.

In the past ten years there have been four general elections and four changes of Government, and God knows how many Parties. Here also are a few of the peculiar things that happened under this "traditional system" which we are asked to continue. One candidate topped the poll but was defeated. A candidate in another general election was at the bottom of the poll but was elected. A candidate could be elected to the Dáil without getting a single No. 1 vote. It is claimed that what happened in other countries, according to Senator Hayes, could not happen here under P.R. because we have a different system. It is claimed that other countries have not got the same wonderful system we have, and we are such sensible people that we would escape the evil result of the system. Well, it did happen here, not only in 1948 and in 1954, but away back in 1927, as Earnán de Blaghd pointed out.

I take a great interest in what newspapers say and said and, on that occasion, the Fine Gael organ, then as now, had this to say in a leading article on the outcome of the general election in June 1927. In its editorial on 23rd June, it said:—

"The iron laws of P.R. and the folly of a considerable section of the electorate have combined to create an unenviable task for the Fifth Dáil. The State enjoys the doubtful luxury of seven political groups but is denied the essential of stable government—a single Party to whose whip the majority will respond."

The Independent, of course, will not like to have that matter recollected, or that article recalled, but it is extraordinary how, when the proposition comes from the Fianna Fáil Party to change the system by giving the people an opportunity by referendum to do so, they find that what they said in regard to the electoral position in 1927 does not apply at all in 1959. It is, of course, consistent with their policy all through.

Since there has been so much talk of coalition, and since the Fianna Fáil Party is accused of inventing the coalition bogey, it is no harm to recall what the Fine Gael Party, known then as Cumann na nGaedheal, had to say about coalitions, in the advertisement which they published in the Irish Independent on the 4th June, 1927, and as the cutting which I read from the leading article showed, their fears were fully justified. It was headed: “Coalition Government” and went on:—

"This is what you are voting for if you give your votes to Independents, Farmers or Labour:—

It means (1) bargaining for place and power between irresponsible groups.

(2) A weak Government with no stated policy.

(3) Frequent changes of Government.

(4) Consequent depression in trade and industry.

(5) No progress but stability, security and credit in constant danger.

You cannot escape the responsibility of choosing."

Fine Gael had that to say about coalitions. and the Independent had what I have read out to say about the result of which the Fine Gael warned the country. Do they believe now in single Party Governments and not in coalitions and in the evil fruits of P.R.? We in the Fianna Fáil organisation, Party and Government, want to preserve the democratic way of life here, and we believe the straight vote of the people is the way of doing it as it has done, with all due respect again to Senator Hayes, in Britain, Canada and the United States of America.

We are confirmed in this belief by the experience of those countries which adopted P.R. in some form or another, and in which democracy failed. Amongst those countries, for the information of Senators, were Italy, Germany, Austria, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Yogoslavia and Czechoslovakia.

Russia and China.

And we know that democratic government has run into difficulties in most of the other countries that operate P.R. We shall be told, of course, by, possibly, Senator Murphy of the marvellous achievements of P.R. in the Labour-run Scandinavian bloc but before Senator Murphy goes into too many eulogies on that matter I should like to refresh his mind on the case of Sweden which is one of the most quoted countries where P.R. resulted in successful stability of Government and where they have had it in operation for quite a number of years. In Sweden, at the present moment, an official Government Commission is considering, amongst other things, the possibility of instituting the straight vote and the abolition of P.R.

Why do you not set up a similar commission?

Well even in the past months, in case Senator Hayes says our knowledge of world history is poor——

Extremely poor.

——we have seen the collapse of Coalition Governments in Italy, the Netherlands, Iceland and Finland, all of which operate a P.R. system of election. In spite of Senator Hayes's denials we all know what happened in France and how the crazy system brought the nation to near disaster and bankruptcy.


It could happen here and when it does happen we may not have a de Gaulle.

You will have a Castro.

I have one more quotation to give and it is from Abraham Lincoln, the 150th anniversary of whose birthday we celebrate next week. We agree with him when he said:—

"A majority is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does, of necessity, fly into anarchy or despotism. Unanimity is impossible; the rule of the minority, as a permanent arrangement is wholly inadmissible; so that rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left."

I should like to conclude but I have not dealt with Senator Hayes, with the big lie. I have all my papers mixed up. What was it that he said?

I have some of it here; I could read it out.

"Jaundiced points of views" was one of the phrases he used. His knowledge of European history is so acute that he even denies that Mussolini and Hitler came to power through the rottenness of P.R. He insinuated in his remarks that one of the aims of this Bill was to wipe out the Labour Party and he then proceeded to pay them great tribute. There is no intention whatsoever to wipe out the Labour Party or any other Party. Fianna Fáil cannot wipe them out; it is the people who will do any wiping out that has to be done on the straight vote system.

If the Fine Gael Party had sufficient confidence in themselves and in their programme, if their representatives are able to attract the support of the people and if they have a policy which commends itself to the people they— and the Labour Party—have an equal chance and the Fianna Fáil Party, too. No Party has a guarantee of what could happen under the straight vote and sensible people like Senator Hayes —I was going to say "and imbeciles like Senator L'Estrange", but I shall not—should drop that talk about "riveting a dictatorship on the people," that this Bill is a purely Party interest and that it is being put before the people "purely in the interests of Fianna Fáil."

How could that be so? Nobody knows what the outcome of the next general election will be. It will be for the people to decide and it is sheer hypocrisy to try to secure political gain by saying that small Parties are going to be wiped out by this Bill. Parties will be wiped out only if their policy does not command the support of the electorate, or if the candidates put forward are not sufficiently attractive to the electorate to secure a majority of the votes in the constituencies for which they stand.

Senator Hayes also referred to the fact that there were three Parties in England and he said there was nothing more certain, in the next British election, that if the Liberals get ten seats they will surely defeat the Conservatives.

That is not what he said.

Is that not right?

Well, the Senator said something like it. I am asking why three Parties in England, under the straight vote system, should not make the Senator pull in his line a bit and change his tune about the intention of this Bill to wipe out all Parties except one. In England there was the Liberal Party——


Ranchers pipe down. Senator Hayes forgets that prior to the emergence of the Labour Party as a strong Government there was the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party in Britain. In the early days of the Labour Party emergence, between 1903 and 1907, they had only a few members in the House of Commons. They went slowly and gradually they began to lose their inferiority complex. They began to stand on their own feet and to command more support for their policy. Eventually they gravitated to forming a minority Government and then a second minority Government and, finally, they commanded such support that they got an overwhelming majority under the straight vote system in 1945. Undoubtedly they had to wait for it and to prove that their Party were a serious political force, that they had a policy and were prepared to stand over it. There is no reason why the Labour Party here, if it ever becomes serious and if it produces a serious policy, if its policy can command the support of the people and if its candidates are sufficiently attractive, should not have as good a chance as Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil or any other Party.

"Shameless and partisan"; "this Bill is smug hypocrisy"; "every appeal to the lowest instincts of people". These were other phrases used. I ask Senator Hayes does he not feel ashamed of himself? "We are cooking up and improvising all sorts of arguments...""One would imagine that proposals of this nature would have been carefully examined." And Senator Hayes protests because a commission was not appointed for this purpose. He wanted to know why the people were not informed and he said a shoal of red herrings had been drawn across the track of the debate. Undoubtedly that happened: Senator Hayes was himself a classic example of a Party Leader who spoke for nearly an hour on almost everything but the Bill.

Senator Hayes knows very well why P.R. was accepted in 1921 and why there was no word of protest against it, and he should not attempt to use that argument in the context in which he used it——

Would Senator Mullins enlighten those of us who do not know this reason, because to keep the secret between himself and Senator Hayes is not——

Senator Hayes said so many things that it would take a whole speech to deal with them. Others will speak and I shall listen—I hope—attentively to them. The House directly elected by the people, and which this Bill directly concerns, has decided after almost three months of debate and by a substantial majority that the people should be given facilities to pronounce judgment on the proposal to replace the P.R. system we now have by the straight majority vote system and single member constituencies. I submit the Seanad should not stand between the Dáil and the people in this important matter since it is not a question of making al law; it is a question of allowing the people to do so, if they wish. I feel that the vocational Senators about whom we have heard so much in recent times and the uncommitted members of the Seanad who are pledged to no Party or policy will not wish to stand between the people and their right to have this referendum. I hope they will help us to get this Bill passed and so let the people decide for themselves, and give themselves straight voting as they gave themselves the Constitution, if they so desire.

As one of the uncommitted members of the Seanad to whom Senator Mullins has referred, I should like to state my reason for speaking and voting against this Bill. When the original proposals to change the electoral system appeared, I did not feel very strongly one way or another. I have sufficient knowledge, I hope, of constitutional matters to know that there is a good deal to be said for both methods of election, for the single seat election and for P.R. as we know it here; but having carefully read the debate in the Dáil which took such a long time—I read it very carefully— I came to the definite conclusion that on this occasion this referendum is not necessary, is not called for, and that the real question we have to discuss in this debate is not so much the relative merits of the single member constituency and P.R. as the propriety of plunging the country into a referendum at the present time.

As an uncommitted member of the Seanad, without any attachment to any political Party, I must say I was certainly greatly impressed by the case made by the Opposition in the Dáil. The long debate there had an educational effect on at least one person. I have no doubt it had an equal educational effect on a large number of voters. My reason for feeling that the referendum should not be held is that I think changes in the Constitution should be as infrequent as possible. It is a very grave disturbance, really, to the stability of the State to have constitutional changes. In the history of the United States, there have been only about 20 amendments in nearly 200 years. The Constitution, I think, should not be amended until there has been a great deal of discussion and enlightenment of the public regarding the issues and a widespread dissatisfaction with the existing system. I do not think either of these conditions is present to-day.

There has been a good deal of discussion in the Dáil and outside it, but I do not know that the ordinary Irish voter is particularly conversant with the issues involved. There has not been, as far as I am aware, any widespread dissatisfaction with the existing system. Until a couple of months ago, I was quite unaware that the major political Party was contemplating this change and certainly, if they did intend to spring this change on the country, they kept their counsels very much to themselves. As a constant reader of newspapers, I did not come across any evidence that I remember of any desire for a change. This whole campaign has blown up in the past three or four months, although, of course, it is quite easy for Senator Mullins to find quotations from statements made at long intervals by different people criticising P.R. My real objection to this Bill is not so much to the type of representation which it attempts to bring in but to the referendum itself. I think the referendum is unnecessary; it is distracting and disturbing to the country.

I do not suggest or state that the Government are animated in this matter by a desire to make Party capital or to advance their own Party, but I do say that a great many other people suggest and say that, and if any large section of the population believe that, it is a very serious state of affairs. If the people believe that the Constitution will be made a subject of Party politics—I do not myself accuse the Government of doing that—and if the people believe that the referendum is a move in the Party game, it would mean that the Constitution has been thrown into the Party political field and that other Parties in power at a later date might possibly be tempted to bring in referenda on other matters. In other words, it would mean that the Constitution, which should be very sacred and very stable and very seldom subject to public debate, would become almost a sort of shuttlecock in the game of Party politics.

That is one reason why amendments to the Constitution should only be proposed when there is grave dissatisfaction with the existing system, when there is widespread demand for a change and when the public has been thoroughly educated up to the issues involved.

I do not wish to enter into a discussion on economic affairs at the moment, beyond saying that the Government themselves by the publication of this White Paper and of Mr. Whittaker's excellent document, have admitted that the time has come for grave consideration of the country's economic future. That is admitted by everybody. The outside world is changing. The Free Trade Area is being discussed. Our difficulties are certainly not growing less and I would have thought that the first duty of a Government this year, a Government with a strong majority, with some years still to run, would have been to tackle those problems in a realistic way. I cannot help feeling that this great political constitutional debate in which we are taking part to-day really is a form of distraction from issues that should not be postponed. This question of the type of election, the matters in the referendum, are matters which could wait; they are not pressing, whereas the economic and financial position of the country cannot wait; it is pressing.

As I said, the relative merits of different types of electoral systems are a matter on which there is a great deal to be said on all sides. Nobody can pontificate and say that one system is better than another. Any book on constitutional law contains a great deal of discussion regarding the different methods of election. I think it rather unfair to ask voters, most of whom are not very enlightened in these matters, to come at short notice to a decision on this difficult question, that this difficult question, on which there is so much difference of opinion amongst constitutional lawyers and political theorists, is to be decided at short notice in a few weeks from now by a simple counting of heads of millions of people who have not had any great instruction in the issues involved.

The question will be surrounded by various emotional arguments in the Press, in the Dáil and in the Seanad. The people will be told that one system was imposed on the country by the British Government. They will be told the other system was imposed on Northern Ireland by the Northern Ireland Government. They will be told that this proposed referendum is made to keep the Party in power in office indefinitely. In other words, there will be many irrelevant emotional arguments on these very difficult questions, and large numbers of people who have not studied these questions, who are not very much interested in them, will be called out to vote on a difficult issue, bemused and befuddled by all these emotional arguments. I do not believe that that is good for the country and I do not believe it is good for the stability which is one of the arguments put forward so strongly by the Government in favour of the single member constituency.

An unnecessary referendum on the Constitution is something making for instability, not for stability. A referendum of this kind could be justified only if there was a very strong prima facie case made for it, if the Government were able to come to the Dáil and Seanad and discharge the onus that is upon them of providing a strong prima facie case that the present position should be changed and, if that was so, that the public could receive a longer course of information and education on the issues involved than they are receiving now.

The whole thing is being rushed. It is only a couple of months since it first came into the newspapers. It has been rushed through. If this House defeats it, it will be rushed through in 90 days. The referendum will be held quite soon and then the country, on this referendum, will have frozen another clause into the Constitution. That is a matter to which I want to come back, that the country is not only changing the existing Constitution but is making a new one, putting a new clause in the Constitution that cannot be changed without another referendum. We have been told that the only chance that there will ever be of having a referendum is while there is this strong Party majority in the Dáil. In other words, we are told by the Government spokesmen that it is extremely unlikely that another referendum on the electoral system will ever be possible and then the country is being asked to freeze either P.R. or the reverse into the Constitution.

I return to the form in which the question is put. That is one of the strongest arguments against having the referendum in its present form. Senator Mullins has made the obvious and fair point that in voting against this Bill the Seanad is voting against the right of the Irish people to decide their own future, that all the Bill asks is that the people should be allowed to vote on these matters and that by voting against the Bill we are depriving the Irish public of deciding their own fate and in that way we are doing something that is undemocratic.

It is perfectly true that it will be the public who will decide this issue in the referendum. The Oireachtas has a duty also and the duty of the Oireachtas is to decide, firstly, is the referendum necessary? Is there any reason to believe that the existing system is bad? Has there been any widespread public dissatisfaction with P.R.? Secondly, is there any reason why the referendum should be held now, at this particular moment? Why has the matter just become urgent now when there was no talk about it six months ago? All at once it becomes a major political issue. Thirdly, which I think is very important, is the form of the question that is being put in the referendum a proper question for a referendum? I wish to say something on each of those three points.

In regard to the necessity for the referendum, one asks has the existing system manifestly failed? Has it failed to produce reasonably successful Government in this country? I think the answer to that is in the negative. One asks is there a popular demand for the referendum? The answer to that is certainly in the negative. The unanimous resolution of the Fianna Fáil Party does not in itself constitute a popular demand. There has been no sign of any popular demand in letters to the newspapers or anywhere else until this agitation suddenly grew up, a political agitation. One asks has the system of P.R. suddenly shown new defects? Why now, in 1959, should we be asked to change the system which has been accepted by all Parties since 1937, which has worked for 22 years without any challenge? Of course, there has been criticism of it as there would be of any other system, but all at once, it seems, it has become a menace and a danger to the country. Is there any evidence of that? Personally, I do not see it. I think it is up to the Government spokesmen to convince us that that is so. They have an onus to discharge and it is up to them to make a prima facie case.

As regards whether the present is the best time to have this referendum, I have already said that there are other matters that I would have thought should engage the Government's attention. The economic and financial position disclosed in their own White Paper is not very satisfactory. A great many things are waiting to be done and I think everybody will admit that these problems of economics and finance are not going to be solved in the slightest degree by any change in the method of voting, that a change in the method of voting, merely to rearrange the constituencies, is not going to improve our balance of payments or our Budget in the slightest degree.

The curious thing is that, if the Government are so dissatisfied with this system of election, its change should not have appeared in their programme before the last election. It is a matter of certain mystery to me. I have not yet been told the reason. I hope the Taoiseach in replying to this debate will explain why a system which was apparently quite satisfactory in the election of 1957, which succeeded in bringing him and his Party into office with a large majority, should suddenly begin to show great defects. If the system is so obviously bad, surely the reform of the electoral system should have figured in the programme before the election. But it did not. There was a complete silence. It is now suddenly sprung on the people. It would almost make one wonder what the motive is, why a system which seemed to work all right up to a couple of years ago, now becomes so suspect and so objectionable that the country has to be distracted by having a referendum in the middle of—I will not call it an economic crisis—but in a period of severe economic strain.

The third question to which I should like to call attention is the actual form of the question, which I think is most unsatisfactory. I suppose somebody is going to say I am not in order now.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach


Are we not discussing the Constitution?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

We shall have another Bill.

I knew this point would be raised. I bow to the Chair's ruling. I want to suggest that the form of question is an essential part of the discussion on the referendum. If I am told that it cannot be discussed, then I shall not discuss it but it seems to me, if I may say so, that it is rather unduly limiting the discussion on a very important constitutional matter.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I do not want to restrict the discussion at all. I want to give the opportunity to the House to have the whole position fully clarified but I do not want discussion of the two Bills together.

Could Senator O'Brien not develop his point?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Yes, for the purpose of clarification.

I suggest, with all due humility, that it is an important point. The voter is not simply being asked to decide whether P.R. should go or not; he is being asked to decide three things at the same time: "Are you in favour of P.R.; if not, are you in favour of the single member constituency with the single non-transferable vote; and are you in favour of a constituency commission?" May I suggest that that is one of those portmanteau triple questions to which it is very difficult to answer "Yes" or "No"?

I want just to make an analogy and then pass from the matter. Suppose there was a referendum on our monetary system and suppose the form of the referendum was: "Are you in favour of cutting the link with sterling and of tying Irish currency with the dollar and of having an exchange rate decided by a certain type of central bank?" That is a triple question, and I suggest it is an unfair question to ask. I shall pass from that.

Is that not perfectly in order?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach


That is the nature of the Bill.

That is what I thought but I thought somebody would try to stop me saying that. If you think of that analogy I gave, you will see it is really asking an uneducated voter in the country a very difficult triple question. He might be in favour of leaving the pound but not in favour of joining the dollar; he might be in favour of joining the dollar but not in favour of having the exchange rate decided by a certain type of central bank. But here the people are being asked to give an answer to something which really requires a great deal of expert study.

I wish to follow up a point made by Senator O'Quigley and referred to by Senator Mullins—the need for some expert study of this matter. Of course, Senator Mullins ridiculed the idea that difficult constitutional law points should be the subject of expert study. At the same time, I think those of us who, perhaps, have more experience of dealing with these matters might not feel so much inclined to oversimplify the issue. If the referendum was simply confined to: "Are you in favour of abolishing P.R.?" and if the public were to say "Yes", then I suggest there are other alternatives rather than the single non-transferable vote in the single seat constituency. By putting the question the way it is being put, there is being frozen into the Constitution a new fundamental law. The question should be put: "Are you in favour of abolishing P.R.?" and if the public says "Yes", then there should be set up a commission of experts—constitutional lawyers and students of political theory—who will be able to deal with such questions.

Even if there are single member constituencies, why should there not be a transferable vote? There is a very large number of people in England to-day who believe that the English political system would be greatly improved if there was a single transferable vote in a single member constituency. This extraordinary situation, which Senator Hayes has predicted, could not then happen—that a third Party, the Liberal Party, by splitting up the two major Parties could succeed in misrepresenting the wishes of the electorate. That is a matter that could be discussed by an expert commission. The single member constituency is one issue, but the type of vote in that constituency is another issue. That is a matter that could be calmly discussed.

Assuming that the public decide to abolish P.R., another matter that could be discussed—although it does not really require a referendum—would be having some form of P.R. in three member constituencies. On that I should like to quote from the book Senator Hayes quoted from—an excellent book by Mr. J.F.S. Ross on the Irish election system. I am quoting from page 77:—

"...with the present Irish election system, the degree of proportionality between votes received and seats secured depends to a considerable extent on the size of the constituencies; the larger the constituency, the more nearly does it approximate to giving P.R.—the smaller the constituency, the less nearly does it do so. Never having employed very large constituencies, the system as actually operated in Ireland, has always appreciably favoured the big Parties... as against the smaller Parties and the Independents. Clearly it would be possible to increase this bonus to the large Party—and that without any change in the Constitution—by redistributing the seats in the present four and five member constituencies and reducing all constituencies to their minimum size of three Deputies each.

To those who regard proportionality as the cardinal virtue of an election system, any such action would be anathema—they would far rather see the size of the constituencies increased. But to those who feel that, in spite of all arguments to the contrary, single Party majority government is strongly to be desired, it has a good deal to commend it."

There are two alternatives to the system proposed. The system proposed is one of making hard and fast single member constituencies with the single non-transferable vote that is being frozen into the Constitution. We are told that this is the last time it will ever be possible to have a referendum on the system in the Constitution; and yet we are freezing in a system which is very much objected to in England to-day, where it produces this very unsatisfactory result that the Liberal Party is able to put up 180 candidates, win ten seats and completely distort the feelings of the electorate regarding the two major Parties. I suggest that this question is most unsatisfactorily framed because the public are being asked to decide three different issues all at the same time.

Senator Mullins ridiculed the idea of an expert commission dealing with the method of election, but there is at the present moment an expert commission sitting on the method of election to this House. I cannot see why, if the method of election to this House is to be discussed by an expert commission, the method of election to the Dáil should not be discussed equally well by that commission.

Why should we freeze the Constitution a second time? The result of this referendum will be to freeze up the Constitution at a time when we are told it will never be possible to alter it again. If the public reject the Government's proposal, then we shall have P.R. tied around our necks for ever; if they accept the Government's proposal, then we shall have the single member, non-transferable vote seat tied around our necks. It seems to me it would have been far better to have one simple question and to leave the difficult reconstruction of the voting system to an expert commission which could report to the Oireachtas which would then be master in its own House.

Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.

Before we adjourned, I was dealing with the question as to whether this referendum is necessary and as to whether the form of the question is suitable. I wish now to say a few words about the merits of the proposed change. Ultimately, this matter is really one for the people in the referendum and not for this House, but, at the same time, it was fully discussed in the Dáil, and a discussion in the two Houses of the Oireachtas, reported in the newspapers and commented upon, may help the people to make up their minds and provide much needed education on this very difficult question.

So far as I can gather, there are two arguments in favour of the single member constituency and the non-transferable vote. One argument is that it makes for strong government; the other is that it makes for stable government. I should like now to deal with these two arguments in turn. First of all, I must confess to being a relic of possibly a better age or, possibly, a worse age, but I was brought up in the very strong tradition of Liberalism, a tradition in which we were always taught to distrust strong Governments. Governments can do a great deal more harm than good, and weak Governments are generally better for the people. The first argument, then, that the single seat constituency and the non-transferable vote will make for strong government is not, in itself, a convincing one for me. I shall try, therefore, to demonstrate what happens when Governments are too strong, because Governments can be too strong as well as too weak.

The whole tendency of constitutional development in the days of Liberalism was to fetter the powers of Governments and to provide checks and balances on their absolute power. The American Constitution was very largely drafted by people who had suffered in Europe from strong Governments. The American Constitution, which embodies the single member constituency and the non-transferable vote, is full of checks and balances and there is probably no country in the world where the power of the Executive is more fettered than it is in the United States. A strong Government may very easily degenerate into a tyrannical Government which cannot be adequately criticised and which cannot be unseated or put out of office by constitutional means. Such a Government may easily degenerate into a tyranny of the majority in Parliament. As I shall indicate in a moment, that majority in Parliament does not necessarily coincide with the majority in the country. A small majority in a Chamber such as the Dáil could become a very tyrannical form of Government, if it were strong enough and could not be either checked or removed.

I think it correct to say—it is a matter of history—that most European revolutions have been against strong Governments and not against weak Governments. The reason for that is that strong Governments can be removed only by revolutionary means. There is no question at all, on the showing of the Government speakers in the Dáil, that a strong Government is more likely to emerge on a single member constituency system with the single non-transferable vote. One of the remarkable features of this type of election is that it is possible for a minority in the country to obtain quite a substantial majority in the Parliament.

I should like to quote again from this valuable book on the Irish election system by Mr. Ross, page 66:—

"There are, then, divergences from proportionality in the Irish election system; but they are as nothing in comparison with those that the British single member system produces. In 1945, for example, the Socialists received less than half of the total vote (48.7 per cent.), yet gained five-eighths of the seats (62.3 per cent.). That means that they got 27.8 per cent. more seats than were due to them on their voting strength. Even that deviation from proportionality, however, is mild in comparison with that suffered by the Liberals in 1950 when, with 9.1 per cent. of the votes, they gained only 1.4 per cent. of the seats. That meant that they were deprived of 84.2 per cent.—over five-sixths— of the seats that their voting strength should have given them."

If one envisages a Government with a strong majority in the Dáil, possibly returned by a minority of the electorate, a Government of that kind, with five years' security of tenure, could do a great deal of harm to the country if it decided to pursue some policy which possibly was not very wise in itself. If a Government, with that strength and voting power in the Dáil and with that security of tenure, took it into its head to nationalise the banks, or bring in some measure of that kind which might be of very doubtful benefit to the country, it could push it through without anyone being able to stop it. In that way the country would really be subjected, not to a tyranny of the majority of the people but to a tyranny of the majority in one House of Parliament. If that were a well-drilled Party, with a really good cohesion in the Party, it really would mean that there would be a tyranny of the Party.

One of the great objections to the single member constituency with the single non-transferable vote is that it would give immense power to the political Party which happened to secure the majority of seats in the Dáil, even if it did not have a majority vote in the country. I do not wish to weary the House by quoting too much from this one book, but I would ask the House to bear with me while I give one more quotation. It is from page 78:—

"The thoughtful elector... will certainly take into account the fact that the present Irish system leaves far more power in the hands of the electors, and far less in the hands of the Party machines, than does the British system. If he regards the general run of electors with something like contempt, he may think that that is a point in favour of the British system: if he distrusts the power of the Party machine, he will take the opposite view. What does stick out beyond all doubt is that the Irish electorate needs to think very carefully before it makes up its mind whether to accept or reject whatever proposals for changes in the election system may be placed before it."

If there is a system of single member seats with the single non-transferable vote, the electors will simply have a choice of Parties; they will no longer have a choice of persons. One of the advantages of the present system here is that there is a choice of Parties and a choice of persons, that the elector can choose anybody he likes irrespective of Party and can give his preferences apart from Party likes and dislikes. There are people in the country who are not very strongly in favour of any of the larger political Parties. They can exercise the franchise by voting for good Independent candidates; whereas if there is a single member constituency the Parties will be all-powerful at election times.

One sees that in England to-day. One sees, in the disputes about the selection of candidates for the Conservative Party for the next election, that the Party machine is extremely powerful and that the individual electors in those constituencies have very little choice except to vote for the Party nominees. It is a remarkable fact that since the abolition of university representation in the House of Commons there has not been one single Independent member in the House of Commons. Every single member in the House of Commons to-day belongs to one of the three great Parties. One of the arguments in favour of university representation was that the universities returned Independents. I think it very desirable in this country, from the point of view of the political future, that Independents should be able to have a reasonably good chance of being returned to the Dáil.

I myself am in a position to know what is stirring in the minds of the younger people, graduates of the two universities, who are taking a considerable interest in politics to-day. They have many study groups and are taking it all very seriously and they do not wish to be attached to any of the major political Parties. It would be very desirable indeed that some of these young men should enter the Dáil, but the only way they could possibly do so under the single member constituency system would be by attaching themselves to political Parties. Under P.R. a good candidate of that kind would have quite a good chance of getting into the Dáil and it would be very good for the Dail to have some Independents of the younger generation to let the Dáil know what the younger generation are thinking.

I certainly think that, if the result of this change is to exclude the Labour Party from the Dáil, it will be most disastrous. The trade unionists in the country are entitled to political representation. They have played a very useful part in Irish politics. They have enabled the workers' point of view to be put in a constitutional manner and it is highly desirable that they should be able to organise a Parliamentary Party and enter the Dáil.

The real fact of the matter is that, if this change takes place, the country will be governed by one or other of two vast coalitions. We have been told over and over again by the Government side in this debate that it is all right to have a coalition if the deal is done before the election, but that, if the deal is done after the election, it is most undesirable. If there are only two great Parties fighting for seats, the deal will be done before the election. The trouble is that there will be two great Parties without any real difference of policy, as the only policy each Party will have will be based on personalities and on patronage and each Party will be fighting an election simply to put the other Party out.

In the United States of America the two great Parties there are coalitions. Each of those Parties contains large elements which are naturally very unsympathetic, but they line up at election times in order to capture all the patronage and all the power which a successful election gives. In the United States, in a rough way, the alignment of these two Parties dates back to the civil war. I certainly would regard it as wholly undesirable in this country if Irish politics were ever to consist of two Parties whose only difference really lay in the side which their ancestors took in the Irish civil war.

I think the civil war issue has been dying out of Irish politics. It is talked less about now than it was. The newer generation, as I know from first-hand experience, are very tired of the whole thing. The only thing which has really prevented that from being a greater danger has been the emergence of the Labour Party, the Farmers' Party and some Independents under P.R. who are not really interested in what happened 35 years ago. What I would be afraid of is that if we had single member constituencies here, the elections would be fought by two Parties, the two major Parties, which would have sought all the support they could get before the elections and would be very largely based on personalities and on patronage and would tend to perpetuate the cleavage which took place in the civil war and which is still the fundamental cleavage between the Government and the Fine Gael Party in Irish politics to-day. So that even assuming that strong Governments are desirable —which I do not admit—they can do great harm and if there is a strong Government there is a need to have checks and balances in the Constitution. In the United States, the President has a veto. The two Houses must agree on legislation. In Great Britain, the House of Lords has had its powers greatly diminished but it can still hold up a Bill for the greater part of two years.

Now I am coming to a point which I think is of great importance in a debate of this nature in this House, that is, that if this change takes place, the powers of the Seanad should be strengthened. In every country in the world where there is the single member constituency, the Second Chamber has more power than the Second Chamber here. When one comes to think of it, in the past 30 years, the powers of the Seanad have been gradually whittled down. It is now sought to increase the powers of the Dáil, to build up a Dáil which will have large majorities. It, therefore, becomes very important, I think, that if this change is made, the question of the relation between the Dáil and the Seanad should be faced at the same time.

The Constitution of a country is rather like a living organism. One cannot take a man's head off and perform an operation on it and then put it on his neck again and assume that nothing will happen to his arms, his legs or the rest of his body. One cannot tamper with an organism, or a single part of an organism, without setting up reactions throughout the whole organism. I suggest that the Constitution is made up of a system of checks and balances and that the various parts should be able to balance each other to prevent undue power in any section of the Parliament or of the people. I think the power of this Chamber has been unduly reduced in the past. I certainly do think very strongly that if you have single member constituencies, with the possibility of large majorities in the Dáil returned by a minority in the country, it will be absolutely essential in the interests of the liberty of the individual citizen to give this Chamber far greater powers than it has to-day.

That brings me back to what I was saying before about the necessity of studying the alternatives open to the country as against P.R., that, when P.R. is rejected, a whole new series of problems will open up. One is: what is the best type of constituency; another is what is the best type of vote in the constituency; and another is what power should the Seanad have? At the present moment, there is a body investigating the method of election to the Seanad. I cannot see why a similar body should not also investigate the powers of the Seanad. As I said earlier this evening, that body which is investigating the method of election to the Seanad could very well investigate the method of election to the Dáil.

If it were not for the form of this referendum which freezes either P.R. or the single member constituency with the non-transferable vote into the Constitution, if one part of the Constitution is being changed, then the whole of the Constitution ought to be studied as an organic unit. I referred already to Mr. Whitaker's excellent book on economic development and to the Government White Paper which is based on it. I suggest that possibly something similar in the constitutional field might not be harmful—if some constitutional lawyer would draft some document which would help to educate people up to the issues involved and the Government would issue an official White Paper such as they issued in relation to economic development. That at least would give the members of the Dáil and Seanad, the public and newspaper readers, a chance to study these matters with the time and detachment and information they require.

Instead of that, a new fundamental law is being frozen into the Constitution, whichever way the referendum goes. A new fundamental law which, as we have been told by Government spokesmen, it would be very difficult ever to change, is being frozen into the Constitution by an electorate who are bemused and befuddled by all sorts of emotional arguments such as: "Did the British impose P.R. in 1921?" or "Did Lord Brookeborough remove it some other year?" and "What about France and what about de Gaulle?" Really it is rather difficult to get a rational answer on a referendum from a couple of million people in an atmosphere of that kind.

To sum up what I have been saying about the first alleged advantage of the alternative system, strong government may be too strong and may result in tyranny of the majority in the Dáil. This will really mean tyranny of the Party which controls that majority. That Party, under this system, will be essentially a coalition without any cohesion or political or social programme, a coalition of "ins" and "outs" based largely on the personalities of the leaders and based largely on their desire to get patronage and power. Unfortunately, following the American precedent, it may find itself divided on the lines of the civil war. The two existing major Parties will no doubt become the spearheads of the two sides in this new system of election and those two Parties are divided, as we know, very much on personalities which date back to the issues of the civil war years ago.

As I said, the Constitution is an organism. It should not be interfered with in this rather arbitrary and rather casual way without all the possible implications being considered, and above all, the powers of the Second Chamber should be seriously investigated before the Dáil is turned into an irresponsible House with a large majority, not answerable to anybody except the Party that controls the majority for possibly five years.

The second argument being advanced in favour of the change is that it leads to stability. That is a word which has been bandied about in the Dáil a good deal and used by different people in different senses. If "stability" means stability of law and order in a country, that we should have a society in which the rule of law prevails and in which every citizen should have the protection of the law and freedom of individual liberty, subject to the law, well, the existing system has secured that quite well. I do not think that anybody can say that this country has suffered from any grave oppression of the individual, so if "stability" means that, I do not see that there is any need for a change.

If stability means there should not be constant changes in the Executive, in the administration, then, of course, obviously stability is a good thing. There again I do not think the experience of this country has been that P.R. has led to great instability. The lives of Irish Parliaments have not been very long, but that is because there have been dissolutions from time to time which, looking back, seem to have been quite unnecessary. Many of these Parliaments would have lasted much longer if the Governments of the day had not exercised their power to dissolve. Even as it is, the life of the Irish Parliament—the figure of 2½ years has been given—is longer than the life of the American House of Representatives. It does not compare at all unfavourably with the life of the House of Commons. There have been but three Prime Ministers in this country during the past 36 years.

The French analogy is not really a valid one. Under the Fourth Republic there could be changes in administration without a dissolution of Parliament. It was that which made it possible to have constant manoeuvring of Parties for power. If the French had had to fight their seats and face their electors every time there was a reshuffle, there would not be anything like the instability there was. One of the fatal weaknesses in the Fourth Republic was that the Government were not in a position to seek a dissolution. That is an entirely different system from ours. The analogy does not really apply.

If by stability is meant strong government, then what I have said about strong Governments applies to stable Governments. The trouble about a Government that is so stable that it can carry on indefinitely is that, first of all, it may do objectionable things. It may push through measures that, in the absence of a strong Second Chamber, would do a great deal of harm to the country. The alternative danger is that it may rest on its oars. Since it has not got to face the electors for several years, it may very easily lapse into stagnation. If stability means stagnation, then I certainly do not think that is a very good thing in these times and in this country.

One of the weaknesses of a Parliament in which the Government has a strong majority is that the stronger the Government majority is the weaker is the Opposition minority. I think everybody will agree that a strong Opposition is desirable in the interests of Parliamentary Government. If the Opposition is weak, if it is under-represented, it will not be able to make its weight felt. Parliament will get out of touch with public opinion. If public opinion has not got a large number of people to oppose the Government constitutionally and rightly, the Government may find itself getting more and more out of touch with public opinion. That might easily lead to a dangerous situation.

If the Government cannot be criticised and defeated in Parliament, there is always the danger that people will resort to unconstitutional means for unseating it. Some of the most apparently stable Governments in Europe in the present century have been dictatorships which looked as if they were simply rocks and yet practically every one of them has fallen. The reason is that, not having sufficient constitutional opposition, unconstitutional opposition grows. As I said before, it is always strong Governments that suffer from revolutions and not weak Governments. Strong Governments are subject to revolutions because they cannot be removed without revolution.

If the young people in a country find that they cannot enter Parliament and cannot get representation for minorities, they may well resort to extra-parliamentary action. They may regard the whole Constitution as something which does not interest them. That is not healthy for any country. If there has been a feeling of that kind growing, if the Government has been so strong and if the Opposition has been so weak that public opinion could be ignored in Parliament, there is a danger, when the election does come, that the pendulum will swing too far. I wish to quote from page 67 of Mr. Ross's book:—

"It is not only the magnitude of the departures from proportionality exhibited by the British system that arouses criticism, however—it is quite as much their erratic nature, their unpredictability. In 1950, for example, the Socialists secured nearly as high a share of the total vote (46.3 per cent.) as they did in 1945. But their share of seats in the House of Commons fell from 62.3 per cent. to 50.4 per cent.: that is, instead of getting a 27.8 per cent. bonus of seats, they only got one of 8.8 per cent.—a very different matter. In the following election, only a year later, their share of the vote went up from 46.3 per cent. to 48.6 per cent., yet their share of the seats went down from 50.4 per cent. to 47.4 per cent. The really startling comparison, however, is between 1945 and 1951. In 1945, as already noted, 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 practically the same proportion of the total vote only gave the Socialists 47.4 per cent. of the seats, and a Conservative government came into power.

It is this unpredictability and irresponsibility in the British election system that arouses criticism, quite as much as the fact that it is not a highly proportional one. The Irish system does undoubtedly favour the larger parties, and makes things rather difficult for the smaller parties and for independent candidates; but it never indulges in the flightiness, the wild hazards of the British system. There is an element of chance in all election systems— that can hardly be avoided, because so many incalculable factors are involved—but the Irish system is very much steadier and more dependable than the British system."

In other words, the Government which carries this strong majority in the House, a majority not justified by the votes of the country, may actually cause a certain amount of unconstitutional agitation. Even without going that far, it may create a violent swing of public opinion which may lead to the pendulum swinging too far in the election. The threat of unconstitutional action by minorities that cannot speak in Parliament and the violent emotional swings of people with some real or imaginary grievance, do not seem to me to look like a very stable sort of Government.

Stability does not mean really that merely the same people remain on the Government Benches year after year. That is not stability. That simply means that one looks at the same old faces for years. What political stability really means is a certain stability of Parliament—not stability of the Executive. That has been very well put by Burke who says that stability means "change in continuity and continuity in change". On that definition of stability, I should have thought that P.R. was more likely to succeed than the alternative. In the first place, the swings at elections tend to be less violent and, in the second place, the existence of minority Parties in the Dáil prevents the difference between the two major Parties being so acute as it otherwise would be. The difference is blurred, and, in order to placate these minority Parties, a certain amount of compromise in government is essential. These minority Parties act as a sort of bridge between the Government and the Opposition.

I should like very briefly to summarise the points I have tried to make. In the first place, the referendum is unnecessary. The onus of proving it necessary is on the Government. I do not think that the Government have discharged that onus of proof. The Constitution should only be changed at long intervals when there is a strong demand for a change and when there is time for everybody in the country to work out in their own minds all the implications of the change. The referendum is a distraction from urgent economic problems.

The Seanad know that every time the Minister for Finance has been in this House since the election of 1957 I have made a very strong appeal to him to make use of his large majority and his long period of office to face up courageously to the pressing economic and financial problems with which this country is beset. I have made that point here several times. I am not saying the Government are not doing something on that front; the White Paper and Mr. Whitaker's document are all valuable contributions. However, I think this vast constitutional debate is an unnecessary distraction which, whether it is meant to or not, will take the people's minds off possibly more urgent problems.

Then the form of the question is unsatisfactory. It is a triple question that is almost incapable of being intelligently answered "Yes" or "No" If there were three questions, possibly they could be answered "Yes" or "No" but it would be an extremely difficult question for the pollsters and experts to try to find out what the people really want. The form of the question has all sorts of implications which can be understood only by people with a good deal of knowledge of politics. It is a question which, of its very nature, cannot fairly be answered "Yes" or "No".

The alternative, set forth in the referendum, to the present system is not necessarily the best. If the present system is abolished, the Dáil and the Seanad should have the opportunity of studying alternative systems. There are a great many alternatives to the present system. The way this referendum is put is that either the present system or the alternative will be frozen into the Constitution. As we have been told by the Government many times, the reason this referendum is now brought in is because it would be practically impossible ever to bring it in again.

The Irish people are being asked at short notice, without much consideration, to freeze the Constitution for future generations. The Constitution is an entity; it is a whole, like a human body. One part cannot be hacked off without repercussions on the remainder. In particular, the powers of the Seanad are relevant. If the Dáil is to be strengthened in this matter so should the Seanad. Therefore, the commission which is now investigating election to the Seanad might possibly be asked also to investigate its powers.

The alleged arguments in favour of the alternative system are not in my view good ones. Strong government can do more harm than good. It may lead to tyranny by a Party. The Party may simply be a continuation of civil war splits, with all sorts of incompatible Coalitions and bargains made before an election. We have often been told in the Dáil by Government spokesmen that they have no objection to Coalitions if all the bargaining is done beforehand whereas in their view a Coalition with bargaining after the election is something too terrible to contemplate. I have not followed the logic of that.

The final argument in favour of the proposed change is that it makes for more stable government. Again, I do not think that that has been proved. By modern European standards, the Governments of this country have been stable. We have come through 36 years of the most extraordinarily difficult times. We have come through the post-war period of the 1920s, we have come through the depression of the 1930s and we have come through the second Great War. We have come through all that period with, on the whole, a very stable Government in the country. If we had an alternative type of Government with infrequent elections and strong majorities in the Dáil there is the danger of unconstitutional opposition and violent swings that would lead not to stability but to instability. Therefore, I do not think the Government have discharged their onus of proof or made a prima facie case for this referendum.

For these reasons, I intend to vote against this measure and I would ask Senators to do likewise.

This is a question of immense complexity. We can judge it in terms of figures, statistics and history or practical politics. It is really impossible to prove anything definite one way or the other. It is a balance of probabilities, in most cases. However, there is one shift of emphasis which I should like to make. I want to try to shift the emphasis of the argument from Party and Government to people and Parliament.

We tend in this House, in the Oireachtas, and throughout the country in general, to think rather too little of Parliament, of the value and prestige of parliamentary government, and to think too much in terms of the Government that is in power and of the Government that will be in power next time. That is a weakness in this country—it is a weakness in other countries too—this emphasis on the Government.

For example, at a recent conference of the inter-Parliamentary Association in London, where one would expect matters of interest to Parliaments to be brought forward, almost every major matter discussed was a matter of governmental policy, thereby frustrating much of the value of these inter-parliamentary gatherings. It is a bad sign here and throughout the country that we constantly talk of Governments and rarely of Parliaments.

A good Parliament is prior to a good Government. It is essential for the welfare of the country that we should have excellence in Parliament. Good government will follow. Constitutionally, in fact, that is so; we tend to forget that the Taoiseach is elected by the Dáil. He is a function, so to speak, of Parliament, not a thing in himself, as it were. The powers of the Ministers are ultimately dependent on the sanction of the Dáil. It may seem a truism, it may seem wrong, but I think it is worth bringing home more to the people of Ireland that if we could strengthen our parliamentary tradition and weaken our governmental obsession we would be doing better for the country. The supreme Government of the country is the Parliament—not the particular Party which comprises the Executive. I think it is better political theory and truer to the broad tradition of European politics to say that the Parliament ultimately is what matters.

In a democracy such as we have, the essential thing is that a Parliament must be representative. We also must have good members in it, if we can, but the quality of the parliamentarians is a personal matter. To be representative, to put it in a truism, the majority should be voted in by the majority in the country and the minority should have representation according to their proportion in the population.

Beyond any shadow of doubt, leaving aside questions of Government, P.R. gives the nearest to the best representation in Parliament. It is much more likely to allow the majority to govern and to put in a reasonable proportion of representatives of the minority. On the other hand—and we can see this in practice—the system being proposed in its place very often brings it about that the representatives of a minority govern and that the representatives of the smaller minorities are completely eliminated. From a parliamentary point of view and the democratic point of view, that seems to me to be doing violence to the principles we value most highly.

I speak as a member of one minority but I want to speak on behalf of minorities in general. I think, for example, of the Sinn Féin Party. It is an excellent thing that representatives of that Party were elected to the Dáil. It is most regrettable that they have not used that representation fully. Unfortunately if this proposed change is brought about they will probably not have representation at all, and the likelihood, as previous speakers have said, is that they will resort even more to unconstitutional means. That is the clear nemesis of lack of minority representation in Parliament.

Although I will not go into details of argument here and I do not put forward charges of bigotry—it is a matter of practical politics—having considered the matter very carefully, I believe that members of religious minorities will have less chance of nomination if this change is put through than they have at present. I could bring forward reasons to support that but I will not. I can only say it is my considered opinion. I know that another spokesman of the religious minority has taken a different view. But I also know that the very large majority of that group which I have spoken to believe that the change will mean smaller representation for their minority, not as a result of any question of bigotry or anything of the kind, but as a result of the nemesis of the practical politics. The new machinery will screen them out whereas the old machinery gave them a better opportunity. Therefore, judging from the parliamentary point of view, which I value most, this change, if it goes through, will be a change for the worse.

What about Government then, in contrast to Parliament? We have had some new terms of abuse invented in this country within the last 20 years or so. One is "coalitions". This has been analysed probably almost ad nauseam already. But let us be quite clear about it. The word “coalition” is a neutral term. It can be good; it can be bad; or it can be indifferent—just as a political Party is a neutral machine of Government and can be good, bad or indifferent. There is no need to quote specific examples from history where the word “coalition” has been an honoured term for effective government, and there is no need for me to quote in this House examples of good government by coalitions in this country. Any person who denies that is refusing to read the recent history of our own country.

Why should we not have representative Governments as well as representative Parliaments? We are not irrevocably wedded to one-Party Government. This is too big a question to go into now—it has been suggested elsewhere —but in Switzerland you have P.R. in the Government; and if the proposed commission had been given the right terms of reference which many of us would have liked, they might well have produced some kind of parliamentary system which would not be liable to be called British, or Irish, or anything else, but which would have produced a better form of Government than we have now, representative Government in which all the Parties would be represented according to the desires of the whole electorate, not by a simple majority.

I emphasise, then, that no intelligent man will take the word "coalition" as a term of abuse or a proof of incompetence.

The word "stable" has also become a term of praise or abuse. But once again this is purely a neutral term. "Stable" is never to be equated with good. Stability can be the stability of dictatorship. It can be, as Senator O'Brien recently suggested, the stability of stagnation. What I fear most in this country is the stability of stagnation. Personally I think what the Taoiseach fears, though it is dangerous to read his mind, is that when he leaves the Party there will be political chaos and that the country will irremediably suffer as a result of that. In contrast I would welcome a complete reshuffle in the Irish Parliament, in the Irish parliamentary system and in the Irish system of Party politics, a reshuffle and a new deal.

A Senator


We are bandying words here, if we call it anarchy. It is simply a matter of judgment, a matter of foresight. I can only state my own convinced opinion, that we need some flexibility, that we need some fluidity. Out of that new form, new Parties could crystallise which would approximate more closely to the desires of progressive people in Ireland. It has been said before in the debate, and it should be said again, that young people and progressive-minded people in this country are not satisfied with the present Party divisions. They would welcome fluidity. They would welcome a reshaping of our political system. P.R. would help towards that by its mathematical nature. The other system will stabilise, but I am afraid it will be the stability of stagnation. I suggest, then, that this is not a good change for Government any more than it is a good change for Parliament.

What about the people, the third element we have to consider? Ultimately it is the people who matter. Why should any intelligent elector prefer a narrow choice to a wide choice? We are an intelligent people normally. We are a shrewd people in judging the practical implications of a change or a new proposition. How can we prefer to have our choice narrowed? If I go into a restaurant with a group of people and I see on the menu three rather plain, old-fashioned, over-cooked dishes, under the proposed system of choice the chances are that even though the majority of us want one of those dishes but a group of 40 per cent. get together against us, the majority will not even get one dish it wants. We will have to take one of their choices. Under the P.R. system I have a choice of 12 or 14 dishes and if a quarter of us, or so, group together we are bound to get one or two of our own choice. Why on earth should I choose the old bacon and cabbage of the table d'hôte, when I can have a reasonable meal under P.R.? I cannot see how the Irish people can envisage any possible improvement from that change?

It has been said before, and I agree, that it is an advantage to have a choice of persons in elections. I am glad that personalities enter into our politics a good deal, though it has its dangers. When I and a good many other electors vote under the present system we are judging three things. We ask: What policy does this man recommend? What Party does he belong to, if any? And what kind of a person is he, judging from his career? Very often it is the third that matters and it is no bad thing in a small country, though I think in a big country it would be more dangerous. That personal element will be almost completely eliminated by the change of system, certainly in the city constituencies, and I regret it. I rejoice in the fact that we Irish, on the whole, are individualists. Anyone who wants to clamp down a uniformity on us is going against the national genius—I am convinced of that—and going against the national talent. This system will clamp down a uniformity that will do us harm. If it is imposed on us it will make us less Irish in the best sense of that word.

I suggest, too, that this will be a bad change for the candidates themselves, for young and enterprising candidates. They are going to find it much harder to get the first chance to bring themselves in. And the occasional crackpot and crank will find it almost impossible under the proposed change. If the prophet Isaiah were to go up under this proposed change he would not get a nomination. He would be ruled out as being too eccentric. At present, if a Party puts up five or six candidates they can include one prophet Isaiah or one eccentric, and if that man grips the people he can get in, and the country will be the richer by it.

I noticed with interest that most significant quotation by Senator Hayes, to the effect that in 1919, when the Taoiseach was almost 40 years younger, he found P.R. a fair system: "P.R. is a fair system giving political balance." I support P.R. because I think it is on the side of the younger people, of the progressive people. I reject the other system because I believe it is hardening of the arteries, and I believe it will do us harm. We want the younger ideas, the younger energies, very gravely, at the moment.

We have heard too much in this House —I have heard it again and again—of the proverb: "The old dog for the hard road." It is a dangerous proverb in politics. The Irish political road wants remetalling; it wants resurfacing, and not a crowd of old dogs walking up and down it every year. I would emphasise that if this change is made, the old dogs will be on the hard road again, and the young people will have very little chance.

I suggest then that the proposed change is good neither for Parliament, nor for Government, nor for the people. But what about the Parties? On the whole the issue has been fought on this level. Once again, Parties, political Parties, are neutral things. I do not mean to be insulting; I mean to be detached. I mean to be fair. Parties can be for good or they can be for bad, like any machinery. They are not divinely appointed, and they are not diabolically appointed as a few would suggest. We might be better off in this country without political Parties. We might be much worse off without political Parties. But, even if we want to do the best for the country with the Parties, this change will not help us I am thoroughly convinced.

The Fianna Fáil argument is this: the change will produce two strong Parties, or rather one strong and one fairly strong.

A Senator

Surely there is one strong Party now?

I think they have their own ideas about that. We do not have to look more than 100 miles to see the blatant refutation of that view. What result has the abolition of P.R. had in Northern Ireland? —one monolithic strong Party and a mixum-gatherum of lost children in the wilderness, you might say. There is no effective Opposition, nothing of the two strong Parties idea. It just has not emerged, and that is the true test that you have for this country because they are Irishmen like ourselves.

It is the same with P.R.

The stability of England and the stability of America are not the result of the system. It is the result of their history. In Ireland we have our "scientific control" in Northern Ireland, and this "scientific control" has proved beyond doubt that the other system does not produce two good Parties. It produces one great monolith and a number of little gatherings in its shadow.

If a change has to be made, and I do not think any change should be made, I think it astonishing that the Government have not at least canvassed the possibility of a compromise, a change between P.R. with many-member constituencies, to a single member constituency with the transferable vote. I do not think this would be as good as what we have. But I do say, with all the emphasis I can command, that if the Government want a two-Party Parliament the way they will most certainly achieve it is by that compromise method. It will not be achieved by what they are suggesting.

Senator O'Brien pointed out that the change will probably eliminate the Independents and that it will probably lead to coalitions before the elections instead of afterwards. I think I could add it will mean no effective Opposition. It probably will mean that the present Opposition will be reduced to one-third of its strength at the moment. That will not be for the good of the country. It will lead, as we have seen, to Government by a minority very often, and we have seen the appalling results of government by minority in South Africa where you have the system that this Government want to bring in. We have seen a most shocking policy, a most unchristian policy put through there, by a Government that did not command 50 per cent. of the vote.

It is not the same system there and the Senator knows that.

If Senator Ó Maoláin will explain to us the fundamental differences in this system I shall be grateful to him. I am looking for the truth. I am looking for the best policy in this matter, and if he can change me I shall be grateful to him, and that is by means of the truth.

It comes to this: this proposed change is not for the benefit of the political Parties in Ireland. I am reluctantly brought to the further conclusion, because I have no prejudices against any Party, that it is for the benefit of one single Party in this country, the Fianna Fáil Party. I regret to be led to that conclusion. I have a high opinion of that Party in many ways, but I believe they are self-deluded in this matter. The only way in which their proposition could be accepted would be on the hypothesis that the Fianna Fáil Party is the good, the whole good, and nothing but the good for Ireland. I accept that they have good aspects, many of them. But I cannot accept that totalitarian view of theirs.

I have tried to argue and tried to be detached, as my political status demands in this matter. I am convinced that Parliament, Government, people, and all but one Party, will be disimproved by this change if it it put through. So I earnestly hope that both the House and the country at large will reject the proposed change.

Níl fhios agam cad fá an bhuile seo go léir maidir leis an mBille seo. Níl dá dhéanamh againn anseo acht caoi a thabhairt do na daoine a rá cadé an modh toghcháin is fearr leo, cadé an gléas toghcháin is oiriúnach dóibh féin san aimsir atá le teacht. Dar ndóigh níl locht le fáil leis sin, cé acu a beidh acu fan ghléas sin. Fágfaimïd fá na daoine sin a rá an rogha a dhéanamh cé acu glacfaidh siad leis an gcóras atá againn anois nó nach nglacfaidh siad. Is ceart dúinn na daoine a chur ar a n-aire i dtaobh an ghnotha seo sul a dtabharfaidh siad a mbreith. Tá sé buailte isteach in ár n'aigne nach bhfuil an córas vótála atá againn anois go maith agus tá sé socair againn an vóta neamh-aistrithe a chur in a ionad.

Is é an fáth atá againn leis an tuairim sin ná gurab é ár dtuairim go bhfuil baol ann le h-imeacht aimsire go mb'fhéidir go mbéadh a lán dreamanna poilitíochta ann agus go mbeadh an Rialtas lag dá réir. Tá cuid de na cainteoirí ag gearán mar gheall air sin agus á rá go bhféadfadh Rialtas a bheith ró-láidir. Níl annsin ach seafóid. Caithfhidh an Rialtas bheith láidir nó lag, éifeachtach nó míéifeachtach.

Nï mar a chéile éifeachtach agus neart.

Níl siad i bhfad óna chéile.

Is fearr stuaim ná neart.

Tá mé tar éis éirighe chun mo chuid cainte a dhéanamh agus muna bhfuil an Seanadóir sásta éisteacht liom níl aon leigheas agam air. Tá a lán somplaí den chineál Rialtais a thiochfaidh as an ionadáíocht cionúireacht as agus de na rúdaí a fhéadfaí teacht as agus is dóigh liom go bhfuil 'fhios ag na daoine féin faoi sin agus is dóigh liom go mbeadh muintir na tire i n-ann a fhoghlaim as na somplaí sin. Tá 'fhios againn go léir cad a thuit amach i dtíortha eile de dheascaibh na h-ionadaíochta cionúireachta. Ní toradh fóntach a tháinig as. Tá 'fhios againn, leis, cad é an toradh a bhí annseo nuair nár éirigh le h-aon dream poilitíochta teacht isteach chun Rialtas a chur ar bun. Ní h-aon toradh fóntach a tháinig as ach, fé mar is eol do mhuintir na tíre, níorbh é leas na tíre a tháinig as ach a h-aimhleas.

Is é an rud is tábhachtaí in aon tír, bíodh sí beag nó mór, ná Rialtas seasmhach a bheith i mbun cúrsaí Rialtais, Rialtas go mbeidh iontaoibh ag na daoine as. Dá mba é a mhalairt a bheadh ann ní bheadh aon rath ar an tír. Ní fhéadfadh dul chun cinn ceart a bheith ann nó ní fhéadfadh na daoine féachaint rómpu. Sin é an fáth go bhfuilimíd ag tabhairt comhairle do na daoine dian-mhachtnamh a dhéanamh ar an gceist a bhaineann leis an mBille seo mar gurab é a leas nó a n-aimhleas atá ann. Is fúthu féin atá réiteach na ceiste agus is aca a bheidh an focal deireannach.

I have listened to the speeches made on this measure but I must say that there was nothing in those speeches that would convince me that we are not doing the right thing in asking the people to make a decision for themselves as to what they consider will be the best electoral system in this country in the years that lie ahead. There is nothing wrong about asking the people to do that. I, for one, do not see anything wrong with it. If there is a volume of opinion in the country— and no doubt there is, and that volume of opinion is not confined to Fianna Fáil—that there are inherent dangers in the P.R. system of election, is it not right and proper that the people should be given an opportunity of passing judgment on that themselves?

We have been told here by some Senators on the other side of the House that there is no demand for this referendum and that it is not necessary. That tune has been played all through the debate here to-day and the debate in Dáil Éireann. Anybody who says that there is no demand for this in the country must be out of touch with the people——

There is a great deal more demand for work.

——and must not have any association with the elections or with canvassing up and down the country because, if he had, he would know very well that there had been several complaints about the operation of this system of P.R. I think it can be truly said that a good many people in the country do not understand the system fully. For instance, if you ask people what happens to a candidate's surplus when he is elected or what happens to a candidate's votes when he is eliminated, they may not be able to tell you or, if you ask people in the country how the quota is arrived at under the system of P.R., they may not be able to tell you. I often say to myself that that would be a good question for Question Time on Radio Éireann. As I said, there is to my knowledge a great volume of opinion in the country that this whole question should be re-examined.

Reference has been made to the Fianna Fáil Árd-Fheis. The proposal was put forward there and accepted unanimously, and one would think from the speeches we have heard that that was of no significance whatever.

Are the people in the Fianna Fáil organisation not entitled to a hearing? Are the people who support the Government not entitled to a hearing? Should their opinion not be taken into account? I submit that this desire to have the question of P.R. re-examined is not confined to Fianna Fáil at all and that there are people, of all shades of opinion, who think that the time has come when this should be done, when the whole electoral system should be re-examined. There is nothing wrong with having it re-examined. Even if we go no further than to say there is a difference of opinion between us as to whether the electoral system should be changed or not, how is this going to be resolved?

In all cases, if there is a dispute between parties, if there is a conflict of opinion, is it not usual to refer the matter to an independent tribunal? That is exactly what we are doing here, through the medium of this Bill, except that the independent tribunal is composed of the people of the country. Could we get a more impartial or better tribunal than the people to go into this matter? One would think from the speeches we have heard here and elsewhere that some tyrannical power was doing something behind the backs of the people, something in which the people would have no say. One would imagine from the sound and fury which have accompanied these speeches that we were adopting an undemocratic procedure, doing something behind the backs of the people, or doing something over their heads. We are doing nothing of the kind. We are solving this matter in the only constitutional way in which is can be solved—by referring it to the people in a nation-wide referendum.

Senator O'Brien referred to the frequency with which our Constitution is being amended. He said that it is a bad policy to amend the Constitution, the fundamental law of the land, too often. We are all in agreement with that, and it is because those who framed the Constitution in 1937 believed that that they made it an inflexible Constitution. This is an inflexible Constitution and it can be amended only in one way, by referring it to the people. It was possible, within a period of three years after its passage, to have it amended by the ordinary processes of law, by the Oireachtas, but after that, it had to be referred to the people. This is the first time the Constitution of 1937 is being referred to the people in a nation-wide referendum. Could anybody say that that means that the Constitution under which we live is being amended too often? I do not agree with that. I do not think it is the case. Senator Stanford seems to object to this term "stability" and Senator O'Brien took up much the same attitude. Has it come to pass that there are reasonable people who do not want stability?

No. Now, now!

What they want can be gathered from their speeches.


Stability is not stagnation.

They said it was a neutral word.

Whether neutral or not, stability means stability and it means settled conditions in a country. Why should there be any objection to having settled conditions in the country, if we can achieve that position? Is that not what Governments are for, to promote settled conditions and the welfare of the people? How could the country's resources be developed and the welfare of the people be promoted, if there is not stability?

There were quite settled conditions during the Famine.

Was the Senator around then?

There were settled conditions during the Famine.

You could not say there was stability with people dying on the side of the road.

You could regard unemployment as stable.

Does the Senator wish to debate unemployment? If he does, I am perfectly prepared to do so.

It is a form of stability.

Where you have not got stability, you cannot have national progress. I think that is accepted by every thinking man and woman.

I do not think a professor of Greek would accept it.

We are not discussing the Greek language now. We are not discussing the Greek language or Greek philosophy. We are discussing Irish philosophy and what the Irish people require. The Irish people require stability of government, stability and progress, and the reason we are advocating the acceptance of this measure is that we believe that the people are entitled to stability and progress.

Senator Stanford and other Senators who spoke mentioned the possibility of certain elements not getting representation here and, of course, reference was made to the possibility of unconstitutional methods being adopted. That is a very foolish line for responsible parlimentarians to take. It is a foolish thing even to anticipate.

Are we to close our eyes to it?

It would be better by far if those who spoke in that strain would refer to minorities as a whole in a general way and discuss whether or not minorities will get proper treatment under this new proposal. Senator Ó Maoláin has dealt with the question of minorities and he asked what the Senators mean by minorities here. So far, he has got no reply. I am afraid we have become very solicitous suddenly about these minorities and I do not know why. Perhaps it could be the position of the nation will be jeopardised if we lean too far on the side of the minorities? Remember the majority have rights also and are entitled to place in the sun.

As regards strong Government, we are now being told by some Senators that there will be a danger of too strong Government. Do they believe that? That question has been dealt with before. There is a report by a Royal Commission in Britain in which many things are mentioned. That Commission was set up in 1908 to deal with the question of P.R., but they did not call it P.R. They called it the "alternative vote," and what they meant was that the voter would have the opportunity of giving a second preference as well as a first, but it appears they did not want to go beyond that. That matter was examined by the commission and the comments found in the report are very unfavourable to P.R. Here is what it says:—

"The alternative vote is based on the assumption that the second best is as good as the best which is not only illogical but a practical absurdity. The absurdity and the anomaly is the more pronounced the more numerous the candidates are."

From what is the Senator quoting?

I am quoting from the report of the Royal Commission set up in Britain in 1908 to examine this question.

I beg your pardon.

Of course when I say it is a British commission, the Senators opposite will not listen.

What is meant by "the best" in that context? I am not quite clear about that.

I think the Senator will get a copy of the report in the Library. That is the best way to deal with it.

I had hoped the Senator would have obliged by telling us now.

It says: "The alternative vote is based on the assumption that the second best is as good as the best..." and the best vote is the first preference vote.

The single non-transferable vote? Is that what is meant in that context?

It was called "the alternative vote", but if the Senator likes to have it this way, it is the single alternative vote. It is a second preference vote. These people, in other words, advocated a second preference, as well as a first.

Would the Senator tell us what were the terms of reference of this commission? Were they to deal with the non-transferable vote or the alternative vote?

I have not the terms of reference here, nor am I bound to give them. All I am bound to give is the source of the quotation.

I am aware of that, but I am merely asking if the Senator would do so, as a matter of courtesy. The single non-transferable vote and the alternative vote are two different things.

But the principle is the same.

And the results will be the same.

No—two different things.

This is what I would call a limited form of P.R.

No; it is not P.R. at all.

Then there is no use in talking to the Senator.

They are two different things—the alternative vote and the single non-transferable vote.

I am making my speech in my own way. I did not interrupt and I cannot understand why it is when we get up to speak here, there is a barrage of interruptions.

An Leas-Chathoirleach

The Senator must not be interrupted.

The people are being given an opportunity of making this decision for themselves. Nobody who has spoken so far on the other side and nobody in the Dáil, went so far as to say the people should not be given that opportunity, but at the same time, their attitude towards this proposal may be construed in that way, as a desire on their part not to give the electorate an opportunity of deciding what electoral system they will have in the future. No other interpretation can be put on it.

Senator O'Brien said this Bill was being rushed through the Oireachtas without justification. Reports of the Dáil speeches have been before the people for the past three months and is it the opinion of the Senator that they should get more time or that more time is necessary? The people will yet have plenty of opportunity to consider and meditate on the matter and form their own conclusions. I see nothing hasty about what is being done.

The Senator also said that if we believed in this change ourselves, we should have mentioned it at the last general election. I do not think that an important constitutional issue like this should be mixed up with the ordinary affairs of life and even the Senator himself later in his speech mentioned that. He said a referendum is a distraction from the ordinary problems of life and it certainly would be if such problems were mixed up with it, but they are not. This issue is being put to the people as a simple, straightforward issue and it is the people who will decide and nobody else. We should all be happy to abide by whatever decision the people, in their wisdom, make. Nobody can say there is anything undemocratic about that; it is the very essence of democracy.

I must come back to the question of what are called minority Party groups.

Senator Stanford said the young people should be given every encouragement to play their part in our political life. Everybody agrees with that. I agree with it, but what is to prevent those young people from coming into the organised Parties where they could do more effective work, where they would be better organised, where their work would be more constructive than it would be outside the Party. When we talk about minorities, what size should a minority be, before it should be catered for in a legislative assembly? Is it one, two, three; or how many should it be? That is the question.

Has the Senator any suggestions?

It could happen that there would be an even balance between the big Parties and that one or two representatives would have influence and power far beyond the representation they would have in the country. Is that right, either? If there is a minority of two or three who might not represent one-tenth of 1 per cent. of the votes in the country, is it right that that insignificant minority should be able to hold up legislation or put forward proposals which, by right, would not be acceptable to the majority? We should consider that. That has been the case here in this very country.

References have been made to the working of the P.R. system in other countries, but we should consider it also here. We have had two periods of coalition Government and we saw that certain members of the Coalition were prepared to take steps to promote certain legislation and the excuse offered afterwards was that they could get no unanimity in the Cabinet for this.

I shall quote in a minute; I am coming to it. Senator Hayes said there could be progress with minority Parties in a Government. Now, the classic example was given to us in the first Coalition here. We were told by a certain Minister in that Coalition Government that legislation was in course of preparation to give the people a scheme of social benefits—a comprehensive scheme, it was called—and that it would be ready at such and such a time. It came to the time when he actually told the Dáil it was ready. That scheme never saw the light of day during the lifetime of that Coalition. Is that progress? Is that not a classic example of what can happen in a coalition? I would say that that Minister had a full intention of going ahead with that legislation, but apparently he was prevented from doing so by his colleagues in the Cabinet. That is what happens in a coalition Government and that is what happens as a result of the P.R. system.

I think the time is ripe for a re-examination of the whole position of P.R. especially as it is likely to affect this country. It has been in operation abroad for a number of years and, as has been pointed out, it paved the way towards disintegration in Government, towards weakness and vacillation, until the time came when government could not be carried on at all.

Italy is one country. Italy has been mentioned already here. P.R. was brought in first in Italy in 1919 and as the years went by, it became more and more difficult to carry on Government in Italy. In the end, the position became so chaotic that a dictatorship sprang up, a dictatorship which the people of the country did not want, but it seems that there was no alternative. This has been discussed before and I do not want to go into it at any length. The same thing was repeated in Germany. It followed almost the same pattern in Germany, as the result of the operation of the P.R. system in that country.

They have gone back to P.R. post-war, in Federal Germany, in spite of their experience.

They have not had an opportunity—they have been trying to regain the unity of the country.

The same as ourselves.

That is what has happened in their time. A dictatorship was set up in Germany and as a result disaster fell on that country and fell also on other countries. In fact, I think it could be said that, as an indirect result of the P.R. system, European history has taken a different course from that which it should have taken.

We are not accepting that.

I am putting it forward. Furthermore, I am perfectly satisfied that it is correct. If they had had democracies operating in those countries, the people themselves would have a whip-hold on affairs all the time and the disasters which occurred afterwards would not have occurred.

People may say there is no need to make this change at present. Is it when these things happen that the change should be made? Would it not be too late then? There is an old saying in Irish: "Ní hé lá na gaoithe lá na scolb." It is quite applicable to this. There is no use in securing the roof of the house when the storm blows: it is before the storm blows that that should be done.

There seems to be an objection here also to strong government. That very theme was dealt with by this commission I refer to. Senator Hayes suggested that this idea of changing the electoral system from P.R. to the single seat with the non-transferable vote should not be carried until a commission has been set up.

A nebulous one, to work in a mist.

What could a commission do? He spoke of a commission of experts being set up to examine the whole question, with constitutional lawyers, and so on. Senator O'Brien also mentioned it. One could not get better experts than the members of the Oireachtas, the vast majority of whom are better versed in these matters than anyone outside, as they have been close to these problems for years and so are in a better position to evaluate the position than most other people. The matter was dealt with by this commission, the British Royal Commission, and here is what it says on this question of strong government:—

"The exaggeration of majorities is, as a rule, no evil. Excessive majorities, of course, may occur, but they bring their own corrective action against tyranny in increased independence. They are at least preferable to insufficient majorities. The advocates of the transferable vote remind us that the object of a representative body is to represent, but the object of representative government is not only to represent but to govern."

I should like to emphasise the last words of that statement—to govern. I beg to differ from Senator Stanford in what he said. I think government in this country is more important than representation.

Unrepresentative government.

The commission were dealing with the position in Britain. They were examining this proposal for P.R. They go on:—

"As a matter of fact, the idea that small Parties are not at present represented is fallacious. The single member system has operated as it was intended to operate. With some 650 constituencies electing something over 1,300 candidates, every variety of opinion obtains representation. For example, there are anti-vivisectionists and temperance reformers in the House as it is; and it is better for stable government that Conservatives or Liberals holding these views should be returned than that men should be elected on this ‘plank' and owe no allegiance except to the Party which will assist in the introduction of legislation on one subject. The quota method might possibly introduce a few men of general distinction who would otherwise not find a political home, but it would at the same time open the door to as large a number of men of narrow sectional opinions. As to interests, it should not be forgotten that a member represents his whole constituency and not only those who elected him and of whose identity he is generally unaware."

There is no need to set up any commission here because the ground has been well examined already by this commission. Even though it is a British commission, there is a lot of valuable information to be had from its report. As I said, the commission was set up for the purpose of examining whether it would be advisable to change over from the straight, single, non-transferable vote to P.R. The British Government of the day did not exactly turn down the pressure being brought to bear on them by a certain group in Britain. It is now called the Proportional Representation Society of Britain. But they had recourse to this expedient of setting up a commission and every aspect of this matter was examined. I have given several extracts from their report.

There has been reference here to dictatorship and the suggestion has been made that there is every danger that the change over from the P.R. system to the single non-transferable vote will pave the way towards dictatorship. How could that happen? As long as you have free elections in the country, there can be no dictatorship. It is the hallmark of freedom that the people have an opportunity of having free elections. All through the debates here and elsewhere, I noticed the opponents of this measure have been trying to associate dictatorship with the straight, single, non-transferable vote.

Let us throw our minds back to what happened in Britain. I am prepared to study what happens in Britain and elsewhere for the purpose of finding out what is the best thing to be done here. I notice also that these people who refer to Britain refrain from referring to the United States of America. The same system is in operation there and in other places as well. These opponents of the Bill do not say at all that we are imitating the people of the United States, but that we are imitating the British. That is a very childish argument. As the Taoiseach himself said, if they have a good method of building houses over there, should we shut our eyes to that, if we thought the same method suited here? If they had a good drainage system over there, would we not be wise to study it and see whether it would suit the requirements of our own country? If they had a good breed of cattle over there, likely to thrive here, would we be wise to say to ourselves: "We will have nothing to do with those cattle because they happen to be reared on the lands of the British?" This is a most nonsensical argument.

We never said that.

Did we not listen to the leader of the Senator's Party here, Senator Hayes, saying this was the British system we were adopting here? Of course, what he was trying to do was to put forward something that might capture the imagination of certain people in the country. It is better to have this whole matter discussed and debated on its merits. There could be no dictatorship under the system we are asking the people to take unto themselves, so long as there are free elections. There was a general election in England after the war. Mr. Churchill was the leader of the Conservatives at the time. Mr. Churchill and his Conservatives went to the country with a halo of victory around their heads after the most terrible war ever fought. What happened? They were swept out of office. If that could happen in that instance, how can anyone say that there is danger of dictatorship under the straight vote system? If anybody could have established a dictatorship, one would imagine it would have been the leader of the people, the man who led them successfully through war, but he did not succeed in the subsequent election. He was swept out of office and he had to take his place in opposition.

It was a coalition Government that won the war in England.

That is nonsense.

If we are now to proceed by way of question and answer——

Let the Chair decide—Senator Ó Ciosáin.

There are many defects in the P.R. system. It is hard to find a system which has not some defects as it is hard to find anything perfect in this world. We cannot, of course, achieve perfection, but we should go as near it as we possibly can. The P.R. system is far from perfect. As I have said, it makes for multiplicity of Parties and instability of Government. In addition to that, there is a certain element of chance in the P.R. system. When people go to vote, they are as a rule very careful as to how they cast their first perferences; they are not so careful in the casting of the subsequent preferences, and that could have the effect of depriving a Party of a couple of seats. To the extent to which that is possible, there is an element of chance in P.R.

The system can also produce freak results. It is not the equitable system some would have us believe it is. Supposing there are three candidates and A. gets 40 per cent. of the votes, B. gets 31 per cent. of the votes and C. 29 per cent.; C. must be eliminated before B. can be elected. Remember, a good many second preference votes on A.'s paper may have been cast for C. but C. was eliminated and was therefore denied the benefit of those votes. Likewise, C. is denied the benefit of second preference votes on B.'s paper. That is an illustration of how the people's wishes can be defeated under P.R.

Another defect is that many people do not understand the system. There is still another defect: where you have plurality of Deputies, there is duplication of effort and dissipation of energy, each striving for the same end and all of them covering the same ground. We have all had experience of that. We know of people travelling along the same route to achieve the same purpose, making representations in the Dáil about the same things and writing to Departments on identical problems, with civil servants sending out the same replies to half a dozen different Deputies. It is far better to have one person responsible. It will fix the representative with more responsibility. It will make him more easily accessible to the people; they will know where to find him. There will be no duplication of effort. He will not have as much travelling to do and he will be able to concentrate all the better on what he has to do. That is an aspect that should be taken into account.

In conclusion, there is no finality in this Bill here. The people will have the final say. We are, at least, trying to give them that opportunity. The issue is simple; the issue is plain. In every country in which P.R. has been in operation, it has created difficulties and has thrown up Governments not truly representative of the people. It has created numerous Parties. Some of these have disappeared from the scene after a short time, but not before they have created difficulties and not before they have queered the pitch of the people whom they were supposed to represent.

The great Republic of France, to which reference has been made, is an illustration of that, if illustration is needed. France has been in the throes of elections far too often for her own good. At the moment, Italy is in the news because of governmental difficulties, difficulties due to the fact that the Government there were composed of too many and too divergent groups, all striving to get more representation than they were perhaps entitled to, with resultant bargaining behind the scenes. So desperate did the position become that the Prime Minister, Signor Fanfani, resigned from office after a reign of seven or eight months. Not only did he resign, but he decided to quite politics altogether. However, he has been recalled by the President to make another attempt at forming a Government. His task is not an enviable one.

Ag Críochnú dhom, measaim gur ceart caoi a thabhairt do na daoine pobal bhreith bheith acu. Má tá roinnt dár muinntir mí-shásta leis an mó toghacháin atá acu fé láthair, nach cóir leigint dóibh réiteach na ceiste bheith acu? Níor chuala éinne atá i gcoinne an Bhille seo á rá nach ceart caoi réitithe a thabhairt dóibh. Cad é an díobháil a dhéanfaidh sé ós san atá an t-údarás. B'iad féin na máistrí. Níl ionainne ach seirbhísígh dóibh, ach sé ár ndualgas ár gcás a mhíniú dhóibh. Tá sé sin déanta go maith cheana féin, ach míneofar a thuille é sara mbeidh an pobal-bhreith ann.

I listened to three very excellent speeches opposing this measure. After such convincing speeches, I am rather hesitant about adding my voice. I notice that the three people who spoke before me opposing the Bill were three university professors and if we are not in the near future taken up with the abolition of the Seanad, it would not surprise me if we were to deal with the abolition of university seats.

I have to say that the Labour Party oppose this measure. We oppose it because it seeks to do an injustice to substantial minorities of the community in this State. We oppose it further because it is not designed to promote the common good. It will benefit nobody. It has not been called for and it is not needed. Thirdly, we oppose it because if the measure were passed and if the referendum were successful for Fianna Fáil, it would create lasting and bitter disunity among the people.

In regard to the first point, I think there cannot be any doubt in the minds of Senators that P.R. is designed to give representation to minorities. I use the words "substantial minority" deliberately because it is obviously quite impracticable that small, unimportant minorities could be provided for, but P.R. is designed to give representation to minorities such as the Labour Party, Clann na Talmhan, Clann na Poblachta, when they were a stronger force than they are now, and such minority groups also as Sinn Féin, who got a few seats in the last general election.

The Taoiseach this afternoon used very convincing words about the merits of P.R. He says it gives a certain amount of stability—a beautiful word which has been bandied about here today—and on the system of the single transferable vote, you have fair representation of Parties and to abolish P.R. means that you will not get fair representation of Parties. The Taoiseach spoke about a multiplicity of Parties. He is trying to paint a picture that government is becoming impossible in this country owing to the vast number of Parties with nothing in common, but I have found it difficult to find where this multiplicity of Parties exists, except in the imagination of Fianna Fáil.

Where is the multiplicity of Parties? Which are the Parties that are surplus to fair representation in this country at the present time? Is it the Labour Party that is surplus or is it right that it should be there to represent the people who, wisely or unwisely, elect Deputies with that point of view to Dáil Éireann? Is it the Clann na Talmhan Party with its two Deputies, I think, or where are the other Parties which are surplus? Is it Sinn Féin which does not sit in the Dáil? What other Parties are there?

Where is the multiplicity of Parties that is spoken of? Perhaps it is the Party calling itself the National Progressive Democrats which is, in practice, two Independents coming together? Is that another Party which is surplus to requirements here and must be swept aside? I know that Deputy Dr. Browne who is, I think, one of the founders of that Party, can be regarded by some people as a nuisance. I know he was rejected by Fianna Fáil after he had been nominated by his constituency council or whatever is the title of the appropriate body. Still, he went forward as an Independent and was elected. The people sent him there. Have the people the right to send such Deputies to Dáil Éireann, and, if so, surely it is wrong that that right should be taken away from them?

What alarms me is the prospect of dictation by the Party machine in politics, if P.R. is swept away. We talk about the straight vote in Britain, but any of us who know anything about what happens in Britain know that the elector has practically no choice whatever in regard to the person who goes to Westminster to represent him in the House of Commons. Down through the years, seats have become safe Labour seats or safe Conservative seats. There are very few seats which are marginal and which change from general election to general election.

I know what happens; I know what happens in the Labour Party. I know that people are sent along to a selection conference, a constituency council or whatever it is called in Britain. The selection conference in most cases have no contact whatever with the constituency. They are either the nominee of the trade union, a co-operative group or some such body like that. They go along and the group sitting in some hall in some room in the constituency decide that Mr. "A" will be their choice in the general election. If it is a safe Labour seat, he goes from that to Westminster even though he has no knowledge of or no contact with the constituency he is supposed to represent. I am not saying that they do not do a good job or that it is anything against them that they have not that local contact. In practice, it turns out that it is the Party machine which dictates the representative from that constituency— some small group sitting down months or years before a general election make their choice and if it is a safe seat for one or other of the Party, that person is certain of election to Westminster.

That is what is suggested under this measure. That is what is proposed and recommended by Fianna Fáil to the electorate of this country. The Taoiseach says that the change will result in an Opposition being built up which will almost certainly replace the existing Government. He goes on at column 993, Volume 171, of the Official Report to say:—

"That is the way the system has worked in every country in which it is in operation."

I need not go outside this country to find an example. I have contact with the northern part of this country and really, am I to be put in the impossible and unbelievable position of saying that the Opposition in Northern Ireland will almost certainly replace the existing Government there? What, in the name of goodness, have they done in the past 30 or 40 years? How is it they have not replaced the existing Government there and how is it that they do not seem to be within measurable distance of achieving that situation?

That is a sectarian position and it is not a parallel.

"That is the way the system has worked in every country in which it is in operation." Those are the Taoiseach's own words, speaking on the Second Reading of this Bill in the Dáil.

The Senator does not call the Six Counties a country, does he?

It is no more a country than we are a country.

It is a very dishonest parallel and the Senator knows it.

It is no more a country than we are a country. We are both parts of the one country temporarily, I hope, sundered, but eventually to be reunited.

Get it clear. It is not a country——

If Northern Ireland is not a country——

We are not talking about this country. We are saying that Northern Ireland, as the Senator calls it, is not a country.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Murphy.

In the same column, the Taoiseach goes on to say:—

"Again, speaking in the light of experience, those countries which have most successfully built up democratic institutions are the countries in which there is a single non-transferable vote."

I hate to upset Senator Ó Maoláin again by going north and saying Northern Ireland is the nearest example that we can find, but am I, or is the ordinary elector, to accept that Northern Ireland is a more democratic country or section of a country than the section here?

It is not.

It is not. Senator Lenihan agrees with me that it is not, but those are the Taoiseach's own words. If that is correct, the Six Counties should be more democratic and should have more successfully built up democratic institutions than the Twenty-Six Counties.

That is a sectarian position and it is an entirely different matter, and the Senator knows it.

Come to the others now. The Senator will have to do better than that.

Again, is Northern Ireland more democratic than Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Holland—you know them all off by heart?

There is no female franchise in Switzerland.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Lenihan will have an opportunity later of making his speech.

And I hope he will make a speech.

Switzerland is no parallel. There is life membership of the Government there.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Murphy.

It will be hard to convince the ordinary people around the country that we are less democratic than our colleagues across the Border. I wonder does my colleague from Donegal quite agree with that comparison? I said that this measure was not designed to promote the common good and I will develop that a little later. I also said it was not called for. I notice that the Fianna Fáil speakers are a bit touchy about being reminded that when there was a general election, they made no mention of a policy to promote legislation to abolish P.R. Why? Surely if they believed that P.R. was bad, they should have had the honesty to tell the electors that if they went back as a majority Government, they would promote that legislation. Why did they not do so? Is it that they have suddenly discovered the shortcomings of P.R.? Earlier this afternoon, Senator Ó Maoláin told us they knew it all along, that they knew it when they were promoting the Constitution in 1937, but they did not like to say so at that time as they found it difficult enough to induce the people to accept the Constitution against the wiles and plots of Fine Gael, without introducing the subject——

And the Labour Party.

And the Labour Party. I am a bit young; I do not know all these things. I am only going on what——

The Senator will learn.

——Senator Ó Maoláin told us this afternoon. Again, why did they not tell the people, if they are so honest as they are fond of telling us and as we hope they are, that if they were elected in the last general election, they would promote legislation to abolish P.R.?

They did not want a distraction during the election.

Another distraction! What is the necessity for this distraction at this time? Have you nothing better to do than to indulge in this distraction of abolishing P.R.? You have no reasonable excuse because the result of the last general election gave Fianna Fáil what I believe was the biggest ever overall majority in Dáil Éireann. P.R. certainly worked to the benefit of Fianna Fáil. Maybe it is that you are not satisfied with the majority you have in Dáil Éireann or maybe it is that you want the whole 147 seats? Maybe you want one-Party representation in Dáil Éireann?

And a couple more in the Seanad, too.

The same in the Seanad, too. Maybe you will and may be you can get them. Why not have the honesty to say to the people that what you aim for is one Party only in the Republic of Ireland and that Party to be Fianna Fáil? You know, however, and we all know, that the real reason for this is that you are satisfied in yourselves that if you were to go to the country again, under the existing system of election, you would be decisively defeated.

Who told the Senator?

Will you go?

Who told the Senator?

Will you go?

Come back to the Bill.

I do not care; you are satisfied. Why change the rules of the game? If you are satisfied that you will not be decisively defeated, that the people will still believe you and will still send you back with an overall strong majority, with stability, as you call it, why change the rules of the game?

It is not a little game, you know. It is something more important than that.

Why change the rules of election? I refer to a game because, like most young men here, I suppose I have experience of dealing with children. From dealing with children, you find perhaps one little fellow who tends to be the boss. He will make up a game; he will lay down the rules; but if a couple of goals are scored against him, if the game goes against him in any way, if he does not always win, that same little boss will change the rules of the game. That is just what you are doing and you know it in your own hearts and souls.

Oh, no, we do not.

Oh, yes, you do. If you think you could still get this overall majority without the Taoiseach to lead you, why do you not let the system remain in existence as it is?

Why do you not let the people decide?

The speaker is looking for interruptions. He addressing you, Sir, meaning us. If he does that, we have to answer him occasionally.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I hope the Senator will take the hint.

I do not object to these interruptions. I am looking for information.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator should address the House through the Chair.

I suggest the Senator does not adopt the precedent of the other House and make this a bear house altogether.

He is only playing a little game for himself.

I am sure Senator Ó Donnabháin does not mean to call me a bear. At least, I have not a sore head yet.

You are a very childish little boy.

Senator Lenihan is giving a very childish performance.

Another excuse that the people opposite give us is that in any case it is the people who will decide. To reinforce that argument, the Taoiseach, referring to the people, is reported as saying, at column 992 of the Official Report, Volume 171:—

"They will be asked to vote on a separate and distinct issue."

Note well these words: "No other issues will be brought in to cloud what is at stake." Would a Presidential election could what is at stake or are you having further doubts about your chances in this respect? Are you going to hold the two votes on the one day?

I challenge you, if you are sincere, if the Taoiseach is sincere in what he said about no other issues being brought in to cloud what is at stake, to hold these two votes at separate times. Postpone this referendum on the Constitution until the election for President has been concluded if you are really sincere in what you are saying about the people being allowed to decide this as a separate and distinct issue.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

We do not want to debate that issue at this moment.

I am not debating it. I am debating the referendum which has been called for and arranged under this Bill now before us. I am suggesting that that should be dealt with separately and that no other issue should be brought into it.

Like probably a lot of younger people in politics, I had hoped that the bitterness of the civil war was passing out of the body politic in this country. I paid particular attention to, and indeed welcomed. what the President had said in the past few years in this direction. In all earnestness I say now that if P.R. is abolished and if the minority Parties seeking representation in the Dáil are to be denied a voice in Dáil Éireann, and maybe a voice in the Government, there will be very great bitterness amongst those people. What will the views of my own Party, the Labour Party, be if this measure is successful and if, as a result—which is very probable—the Labour Party will have no seat whatever in Dáil Éireann?

That is not true and the Senator knows it.

What will be the views of the people supporting and voting for Sinn Féin? What will the views of the people supporting and voting for Clann na Talmhan be? These people will believe, and rightly so, that they have been cheated. They will bitterly resent the injustice done to them.

Again, to come back to the games, they will know that the rules of the game have been changed so as to exclude them. If it is an injustice, as I sincerely believe it is, to deprive these groups of their representation in Dáil Éireann, it is no less an injustice if it is approved by the majority of the electors, a majority which I am afraid will be whipped up to vote for "de Valera for President."

The Taoiseach once remarked—I have heard it thrown at him on a few occasions—that the people had no right to do wrong. I do not know in what context he used that phrase but if he meant a wrong in the moral sense—to do somebody or some group an injustice—then the people had no right to do so and a majority had no right to do a minority a wrong but that is what is proposed in abolishing P.R.

This Constitution has been adopted and one of its fundamental and most important parts is P.R. If a majority of one or a majority of thousands decide to take away the rights of the minority, that is still an injustice. I agree with the Taoiseach that, in that context, the people have no right to do wrong. It is wrong to rob the people of their representation. It is wrong to rob the Labour Party of their representation in Dáil Éireann. It is wrong to rob Sinn Féin of their representation in Dáil Éireann, if that Party care to use it. It makes it no more right or no more evil if it is approved of by a majority of the electors in the Republic.

What secret rights or what special rights have they got that others have not?

I am not saying these particular Parties, but any other Parties that spring up have a right to seek representation.

Sure, and they are entitled to.

You have no right to change the rules so that they will be excluded ever after—and you know that is what will result. That is why you are designing this change. You know it in your hearts and souls.

The Labour Party have the means to face up to that situation.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Lenihan should allow Senator Murphy to make his speech without interruption.

The Labour Party will fight this injustice by every democratic means. We do so not simply to save the Labour Party—which we think we are entitled to do—but also to save democracy from being replaced with a mere sham in this country.

I was struck by the solicitude of the Senators opposite for the Labour Party during the debate here this afternoon. I remember that very popular song at the moment, Tom Dooley. They were very solicitous for the Labour Party. Glowing pictures were painted about the probability of the Labour Party, under this new system, acquiring an overall majority and being the Government of this country.

Who painted the pictures?

You know, of course, that one of the results of this proposal will be that the old lines of the civil war division will be continued. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, and you are making very sure that it will be Fianna Fáil first all the time.

Fine Gael say not; they say they will cease to exist.

What? The Senator is raving.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Murphy, without interruption.

I refer Senator Hayes to Deputy O'Higgins.

I have said the Labour Party will fight this. To come back again to the song, Tom Dooley, I wonder if Fianna Fáil will extend their solicitude for the Labour Party a little further by arranging to invite Deputy Norton and his colleagues to breakfast prior to execution at Phoenix Park? The Labour Party is not in favour of being wiped out. In other words we are not in favour of this measure. We are opposing the passage of this Bill and we are appealing for the support of all fair-minded people who would perhaps not vote Labour but who still think that Parties and groups such as the Labour Party are entitled to representation in the Parliament of this country.

As one of the younger people here, I had hoped I would never have to participate in a debate such as this, a debate on a measure designed to load the dice against opposing political Parties. I said earlier that in my view this measure was not designed to promote the common good and I have no doubt that it will not put one more worker in employment or induce one would-be emigrant to stay in Ireland.

It will not ease by a degree the lot of the widow, the orphan or the poor old age pensioner. I say this older generation, this generation of old campaigners should go in peace. You have had your day. You have, I am sure, in earnestness and good faith worked for the country but it is a bit impertinent to try to arrange things for the future. You should leave that to the younger generation.

We are leaving it to all the people over 21.

Let them face up to the problems without your attempting to dictate how the country will be run when you have departed. I was intrigued, in reading through the measure itself, with this body called the constituency commission. I see for a start the President, who is not or will not be in any sense of the term a non-political personage, will choose the chairman of the constituency commission; then the Taoiseach, whoever Fianna Fáil have in mind, will appoint three from his own side, and the Chairman of Dáil Éireann who will probably be a member of the Government Party——

The Labour Party. At the moment he happens to be Labour.

Mr. Walsh

Thanks to Fianna Fiál.

There is no guarantee that, when you get the 120 or 130 Deputies, the Opposition will be able to spare someone to put in the Chair and that you will not put your own person in. That person, in all probability a member of the Government Party, will choose from the Opposition three more to form with the other four the constituency commission. That body is given the ridiculously short time of six months to prepare a report. Seriously can you imagine that any commission could divide up the constituencies in the Twenty-Six Counties in six months and present a report within that period? What will actually happen of course is that the commission will get the plan already prepared by the Party in power and in six months must approve or not. It then goes forward and if they do not approve it, if three of the people hand picked from the Opposition do not approve it, they cannot do anything about it. They cannot even present a minority report.

I would like to know what "suckers" would go on this sort of commission at all. Anyway, remember that under this arrangement you will be dealing, as you anticipate yourself, with two Parties, one Party in power and the other being what you call the alternative Government. If you have 15 or 20 Fine Gael Deputies or even supposing there are 40, 50 or 60 Deputies, will you tell me what interest either of those sides will have in arranging constituencies so as to give a chance to a third Party to secure elections?

What third Party?

That is quite a relevant question because if you have your way there will be no third Party at all.

That is not the purpose of rearranging the constituencies.

Not alone are you rearranging them for yourself but you are going to say what kind the Opposition will be, one a little to the right and one a little to the left. That is what the Minister for Health has been telling us.

He is back to the "you's", although we have replied to him. Give him the job and I defy him to do anything wrong.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Ó Donnabháin ought to know better. Senator Murphy should address the Chair.

Even if Senator O'Donovan gave me the job I would not have it because it is designed simply to tie things up, to parcel things out between two Parties and to exclude everybody else. Senator Ahern asks about the other Party. He is quite right; there cannot be any other Party under such a system. It would be like the situation in the United States, the Democrats and the Republicans with the historical background of being the two sides in the civil war. That is what you are arranging here for the future. It is an injustice to the people to deprive them of the choice they have at present. It is an injustice to attempt to wipe out the minority Parties, and whether a majority of the electors are misguided enough to do that injustice, it still is an injustice, and that is why the Labour Party say that this measure should be opposed. They think it is wrong, that it will prevent a realignment of political Parties in this country, that it will continue the division and the bitterness of the civil war, that it will lead to more bitterness amongst the people whom you are, in effect, disfranchising under this proposal, and that it will not be, in the long run, in the best interests of the country.

We are appealing, as I said, to all fair-minded people to agree that the rules of the game, the method of election, should be allowed to continue as existing up to now, the method which Fianna Fáil inserted in their own Constitution, the method which the Taoiseach 22 years ago, said was fair and which gave fair representation to the people. We agree with him in that respect. We say that even though we are a minority Party, we still have the right to play our part in the Parliament of the people. We think you are doing an injustice by attempting to deprive us of the rights we have at the moment.

Again, I think that Fianna Fáil are attempting to cloud the issue with the Presidential election. We are not, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, as you reminded me, discussing the Presidential election, but we are entitled to ask that even if they persist in this proposal, in their wrong headedness, that they leave the people to decide it, and not cloud it with some other issue. We think they are surely wrong in involving it with a Presidential election, where they have the Taoiseach as one of the candidates. We think that in those circumstances the people will not have the opportunity of looking calmly on this question of the amendment of the Constitution.

I am very sorry, indeed, that in the Dáil the Government did not agree that this question of P.R. and an alternative to P.R. should be examined by some expert commission. I think that Senator O'Brien has rightly shown us this afternoon that there is more involved in this referendum than simply the abolition of P.R., that there are other questions being put to the electorate and that, in effect, you are giving them an unfair question. I have no hope whatever we can convince Fianna Fáil that in the best interests of the country, in the best interests of themselves and their good name, their good name in history, they should not persist in this attempt to abolish P.R. They should agree that they have played in this attempt to abolish P.R. played their part, and in my opinion, a very good part in the building up of this country and they should be prepared to accept that. If the tide runs against them, if they are to be ousted from office they should accept in good spirit the decision of the electors. They should not, seeing fully and knowing that if there is another general election under the existing method, they will be decisively defeated, persist in their wrong-headed effort to change the rules, to change the system of election. Fianna Fáil, I think, will not depart from that line which has been laid down by their Chief. I wish very much that they would.

There is no line laid down by anyone.

Of course, there is.

There is not. Please correct that.

Listen to the man.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Please permit Senator Murphy to continue.

Senator Carton does not belong to any Party.

Between the lions and the bears, one would imagine we were in the Zoo.

All the cubs are dying off in the Zoo.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Murphy.

Our appeal is to the fair-minded people, the people who have voted for Fianna Fáil——

And will.

——and who will vote possibly again, but who are fair-minded people——

And they will vote for Fianna Fáil.

——and who will recognise the right of a person to his point of view.

They will vote for Fianna Fáil.

Senators are interrupting all round, a Leas-Chathaoirligh.

You leave them alone.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Murphy.

I am speaking of the fair-minded people who will agree it is wrong, who will agree that it is not in the best traditions of the Irish people to rob the other section, the minority with whom they do not agree, of their rights and, under the Constitution as it stands at the moment, those people have a right to representation in Dáil Éireann. They have a chance in the constituencies as they are arranged at the moment, if they have sufficient weight behind them, of securing election, or at least of securing representation in Dáil Éireann. The classical example— Senator Ahern will know this—would be Cork City.

Cork East where we have two out of the three. Tell us about that.

I think they have five Deputies in Cork City and as general election follows general election, there is just a sufficient body of people with a Labour viewpoint to elect one of those five as a Labour Deputy. Now, what you are going to do is to parcel it up and make sure that those people will not be enabled to elect any Labour candidate to Dáil Éireann.

There is only one in the city of Dublin under P.R.

There is only one, but, unfortunately, when P.R. is abolished, there will be none.

That is the idea.

There might be more.

You would think that Fianna Fáil had a sufficient majority at the moment to steamroll anything through the Legislature. Labour is not looking for too many crumbs.

Labour should not be looking for crumbs; they should be looking for a majority.

Not being satisfied with that position, you want to wipe the Labour Party out of existence, to wipe Clann na Talmhan out of existence, and you want to wipe Sinn Féin, in the parliamentary sense, out of existence, too.

Cuireadh and díospóireacht ar ath-ló.

Debate adjourned.
The Seanad adjourned at 10 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursday, 5th February, 1959.