There are two amendments and might I suggest that, in order to avoid duplication, they be taken together?
An Bille um an Tríú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1958—Céim na Tuarascála. Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1958—Report Stage.
I agree with your suggestion, Sir, but I suggest we go further. The two amendments relate to the principles of the Bill. I suggest that we dovetail the discussion on the Fifth Stage with that on the amendments, and that the outstanding questions be put when the Minister has replied to the debate.
That means one discussion but, as the Senator has said, the two amendments involve the principles of the Bill and the exact type of discussion that would take place on the Fifth Stage. I should be agreeable to endeavour to conclude before 1 o'clock, letting in the Minister to conclude at, say, 12.30.
Before we proceed with the debate may I remind Senators that on the Report Stage, they may speak just once?
Leasú ón Rialtas Uimhir 1:
1. I gCuid I, leathanach 5, roimh alt 2. 3º, fo-alt mar a leanas a chur isteach, is é sin, an fo-alt a scrios an Seanad i gCoiste:—
"2. 1º Is ionadóirí do dháilcheanntraibh comhaltaí Dháil Éireann, agus ní toghfar ach comhalta amháin do gach dáil-cheanntar ar leith.";
I gCuid II, leathanach 11, roimh alt 2. 3º, fo-alt mar a leanas a chur isteach, is é sin, an fo-alt a scrios an Seanad i gCoiste:—
"2. 1º Dáil Éireann shall be composed of members who represent constituencies, and one member only shall be returned for each constituency.".
In the absence of the Taoiseach I have been asked to deal with the amendments appearing on the Order Paper. The debate that has taken place so far in the Seanad has been noted by the Government. The arguments against this proposition and the close division that took place consequent on these debates have also been noted. Nevertheless, the Government are suggesting to the Seanad that the two amendments, which, in effect, will restore the Bill to its form before the amendments were passed here, should be adopted.
The Government do so principally for the following reasons. As most people in the country acknowledge, the years ahead will be very critical years in our economy. It will require from the Government clearly defined national objectives to achieve the expansion in our economy we desire in order to achieve increased production and increased productivity from factory and farm and in order to provide a higher and a continuing higher standard of living for an increasing population. Broadly speaking, these embrace our national economic aims.
The attainment of such objectives in the opinion of the Government, and indeed in the opinion of anybody who looks objectively at the situation, will require forthright and bold decisions by the Government of the day. We believe that the system of election most likely to secure a Government capable of such decisions, a Government which has the necessary capacity to pursue these objectives, is the straight vote system. In order to secure, first of all, sufficient support in the country for such a programme and, consequently, a sufficient majority in the Dáil so that the Government can look reasonably forward to the longest possible term— their full or nearly full statutory term —we believe the single, non-transferable vote system is the best designed to achieve that.
It has been generally acknowledged, not only in the Seanad but in the Dáil and in whatever debates that have taken place outside, that the system we now have—the multi-member constituency and the single transferable vote—creates a multiplicity of Parties. We have heard arguments from the opposite side of the House expressing concern for what have been termed minorities. When those who put forward these arguments were asked to specify what these minorities were, generally they pointed only to religious minorities. We have consistently maintained from this side of the House that no religious minority sought representation in our national Parliament purely on the basis of its professed religion alone. Our experience has shown us that those who profess the minority religions have taken their place, and can take their place, with effect and distinction, in the different political Parties in this country.
It has been suggested, too, that the straight vote system might drive certain organisations underground which otherwise might seek to secure the election of representatives to the Houses of the Oireachtas. Again, we might ask what organisations those who put forward these arguments have in mind? Only one organisation, to my knowledge, can in any way be described as acting in an underground manner. There is one political Party which secured the election of a number of Deputies in the last Dáil who, for their own reasons, refused to take their seats. The Sinn Féin Party refused to send any Deputies to the Dáil and can anybody suggest that it would be because the system would be changed that they might continue in that refusal? It matters little whether the system employed for election is the P.R. system or the single non-transferable vote system as to whether or not these people would send their representatives to the Dáil or to the Seanad. What other minorities, then, have they in mind?
I do not think it can be seriously contended that any minorities will in the system we propose be denied adequate representation. As I have said, the P.R. system, as we know it, and indeed any P.R. system, leads to a multiplicity of Parties. A multiplicity of Parties would inevitably lead to Coalition Governments and Coalition Governments mean, in world experience, and even in our own experience, instability in government. It has been contended that the P.R. system, as it has operated here over the past 37 years, has not led to that instability, but it has been put forward, and I think with complete justification, that that has been brought about, that degree of stability under P.R., as we know it, because of our recent history, because of the fact that our nation was largely divided in political thought as a result of the Treaty split, and for that reason the two main streams of political thought were solidified on one side or the other, and that was the main line of demarcation of political thought.
As time passes, it will be inevitable that that line of demarcation will become blurred in the minds of the younger electorate, who, in a very short time, will form more than the bulk of the electorate. Therefore, it is likely, and we believe inevitable, that under the continuance of the P.R. system, new groups will emerge, groups which can put forward extravagant and unrealistic programmes but which will be reasonably attractive. They will certainly be attractive enough to command a certain amount of support and so to return a certain number of Deputies and Senators to the Oireachtas in that fashion and they might, and probably would, secure some representation in government.
Therefore in the years to come Government in this country will possibly be like, under the P.R. system, many of the Governments that we have in Europe at present. I do not know whether reference has already been made to a criticism of Coalition Governments which appeared in an article in the international magazine, Time, in the issue of 2nd December, 1958. Under the heading “The Trouble with Coalitions”, this article reads:—
"In most Western European nations, these days, no Party commands an absolute majority, and most must rule by coalition. The net effect of coalitions is usually to dull debates, to narrow ambitions, and to blunt the cutting edge of bold politics. Rivalries that would otherwise be thrashed out in the open, are fought out instead inside Cabinet meetings. Cabinets fall unexpectedly, and new ones must be formed."
The article then goes on to deal with Finland, the Netherlands, Iceland and Italy. The references to the Netherlands are particularly topical because, like Iceland, the Netherlands had a period when there was actually no Government in power at all. If such a situation arose here, or in other countries, one could only hope that what could happen would not in fact happen during a period when there was no responsible administration in power. With regard to the Netherlands, the article reads:—
"Premier Willem Drees and his Labour Party (Socialists), who hold 50 out of 150 seats in Parliament, wanted to extend last year's higher taxes for two more years. The Catholic People's Party (49 seats) partner of the Socialists for 12 years, wanted a one-year extension. Down went Drees."
After the period to which I referred, when there was no Government in power, they held an election in Holland and the result of that election produced almost the same representation of the different Parties in the Dutch Parliament. The Catholic People's Party remained the same with 49 seats. The Labour Party was reduced from 50 to 47 seats. The Liberal Party increased from 13 seats to 19 seats. The Communists were reduced from seven seats to three and there were three Protestant Parties which made a net loss of two and a new group appeared on the scene with two seats, called the Pacifist Socialists. Therefore, in Holland, even despite the disagreement of the Parliament, which was brought about by a fight between two Coalition factions, and which was followed by a period in which there was no Government, a subsequent election has produced this result. One might as well say: "The mixture as before." One might ask how will that combination of Parties form a stable Government, having regard to the fact that they fell under such circumstances, in such a short period?
It is to avoid the possibility of such a situation arising in Ireland that the Government have decided to ask the Seanad again to enact the Bill in its original form, that is, providing for the single member constituency and the non-transferable vote. We believe that this system whereby lack of decision can operate and blunt the economic activity and progress of a country should not be allowed to be perpetuated. We ask that the people be given an opportunity to decide for themselves on the original Government proposition, as to whether they want the single transferable vote, multi-member constituency system continued or replaced by the system which will give greater stability and also give to Governments the decisive power to carry out bold programmes of economic expansion.
During the course of the debate on the Vote on Account in the Dáil, I referred to a speech made by a professor of psychology in University College, Cork, which was reported in the Cork Examiner of 4th March, 1959, under the heading: “Decision—the Factor in Life”. I suggested that what he said might well apply to Governments and that the heading could read: “Decision—the Factor in Government”. During the course of the lecture, the learned professor said:—
"The purpose of decision excluded dithering and drift. It involved the confident survey of an issue, the determined selection of a course of action, self-commitment and acceptance of the full responsibility for one's action."
Those thoughts apply very aptly to Government. Unless a Government has, first of all, the ingredients that can make for the application of these principles, the capacity of action, self-commitment and acceptance of full responsibility for its decision, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to make economic progress. We believe very strongly that a Government composed of different Parties will not have the necessary purpose of decision, the capacity for making bold decisions, or feel itself bound by such decisions and to accept the full responsibility for the action taken on those decisions.
Even in our own experience, we know that when things are not going too well, Coalition Governments can break up from within themselves, as indeed they did on the two occasions in our recent history when we had Coalition Government. Coalition Governments can be broken up by the action of very small groups who can act with a degree of irresponsibility and who can take decisive action out of all proportion to the numbers they represent. I need only instance the action of the three Clann na Poblachta Deputies who supported the previous Coalition Government. When the economic draught hit that Government the Clann na Poblachta Deputies, in order to save whatever vestige of political reputation they thought they had, decided to pull out, with the result that the Coalition Government fell early in 1957. It is wrong that small groups should exercise such influence over the formation and the life of Governments. I do not expect anything I say will influence any of the Senators on the opposite side.
We are open to persuasion.
I doubt very much if anybody over there is open to persuasion. I believe that many of the arguments that have been put forward are arguments that were thrashed out within the confines of the Party room, as they were entitled to be. They are being presented here as stated Party policy is so far as the organised Parties are concerned, and it is not likely that my remarks in asking the Seanad to reconsider these two amendments will change the decisions of any of these Parties. However, I have been asked to submit the amendments to the Seanad and I confidently hope that, in the interest of the country, after the statutory period has elapsed or having been accepted by the Seanad, the Bill will be submitted to the people so that they can judge calmly and objectively whether or not it is desirable to change the system. We are asking the people to examine the situation as it is and the situation that can well develop and to make up their minds as to whether or not they will opt for the non-transferable vote and the single member constituency.
I was glad when I saw the Minister for Education here this afternoon and, having heard him speak, I am still glad although rather disappointed. He asked us not to persist in our decision in Committee in regard to these two amendments which are really the core of the Bill, but he did ask us politely and graciously and we are grateful for that.
The Minister made an effort in his opening sentences to answer a question which was asked here several times and to which in Committee no answer at all was given. It has been stated that the present electoral system is a barrier to progress and the Government Party's desire to make progress. However, nobody has told us what precisely they have been prevented from doing by the existence of the present electoral system and what it was they proposed to do if a new electoral system gave them a bigger majority and therefore a stronger Government.
The Minister made some endeavour to meet that point this afternoon. He said, and indeed with great truth, that we are faced with very grave economic problems and that in the near future we will have to make important decisions, that we will need to have clear objectives and that for the purpose of solving these economic problems and accomplishing these objectives we need a strong Government. He did not add a Government with an overwhelming majority in the Dáil.
It is true that we have to make important decisions, but is it not also true that we would have a better chance of solving the economic problems we all feel so acutely by co-operation and national sacrifice, by personal sacrifice and even by Party sacrifice rather than by having our problems decided in a Government Party room and then the decision bulldozed through the Dáil and the Seanad by a Party majority? Surely strong government, in this country in particular, is not the cure for the economic ills which are pressing upon us, it could be said as much to-day, as if we were at war. We are at war with emigration and our position is as grave as the position of any country in danger of invasion and extinction in the national and political sense.
Our electoral system has had nothing whatever to do with any failures there may have been to solve our economic problems. I put it to the Minister and to the House that a change in our electoral system will have nothing whatever to do with the solving of our economic problems. It would be much easier for us to solve them if we admitted they are there and accepted the consequences of the principle which has been laid down by the Taoiseach, that we are a homogeneous community. We are indeed a homogeneous community. Things which divide other countries acutely do not divide us here at all. Would it not be better for us to endeavour to solve our problems by co-operation, rather than in the middle of our economic problems, wasting our time discussing and confusing the issue about a new electoral system, which cannot possibly make any difference to our economic progress?
I suggest that the difference between the Parties is not by any means as great as the Minister suggests. I wonder if some kind of committee sat down to discuss the difference between the Minister and myself, except in age, would they find an enormous difference between us. I doubt that they would. Most certainly if the Minister or any of his colleagues had any proposal which we on this side thought would contribute in any way to the solving of our economic problems we would give willing assistance and make every sacrifice possible to bring their solution to fruition.
That is absolutely true. I have had experience on this question of what divides us. There has been some talk about Holland and the Netherlands here. On one occasion a former Minister for Agriculture in Holland was to be entertained by our then Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Dillon, and the then Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Senator Baxter, and some representatives of the then Opposition, Fianna Fáil. Unfortunately, owing to the date, it did not come off and I was asked to preside at a luncheon given to him at which two then Ministers, Deputy Mulcahy and Deputy Corish, were to attend. I asked especially that the then Deputy Dr. Ryan and the late Deputy Tom Derrig should be asked to attend, too. I did not want to be asked for statistics about agriculture, quite frankly, which I possibly would not have. We sat down to lunch and after a while the visitor said he would like to meet the other Party. I asked what other Party, and he said: "The Party in opposition." I said: "The gentleman on your right, Dr. Ryan, was Minister for Agriculture in the preceding Government and he is in opposition now.""Oh," he said, "I am sorry; the Christian names deceived me." The Christian names deceived him. In other words, he was not as conscious at the lunch of Party cross-purposes as we are in particular types of debate here.
I do not think our economic problems can be solved by strong government. I do not see anything in the kind of government P.R. produces that has prevented grave and serious decisions from being made by different Governments. Governments have been elected under P.R. which have had had to make very important decisions. The Government from 1922-32 made grave decisions. The present Government were in power for 16 years and they made a number of important decisions and I think the Minister will agree the system did not preclude them in the slightest from making these decisions.
As a matter of fact, in the Taoiseach's message to Ireland's friends on St. Patrick's Day, he mentioned a number of national objectives, which they have aimed at achieving over the years. The list included various measures taken about agriculture and the E.S.B.— incidentally, the Taoiseach claims everything for himself, but let us waive that now and simply talk about what has been accomplished—Bord na Mona and various organisations such as the Central Bank have all been achieved under P.R. I do not think anybody anywhere can say that under any other electoral system more could have been done or would have been done. It is quite beside the point to argue that what we want is strong government to get things done. We have had Governments under P.R. which had a sufficient majority—we have at the present moment under P.R. a Government that has a sufficient majority—to get any policy which pleased them into operation.
The Minister said also that it was admitted by all sides that P.R. favours a multiplicity of Parties. It was not so admitted. The very reverse was argued at some length and with considerable cogency from this side of the House and by Independent members of the Seanad who do not belong to any Party. I said myself, and I am quite clear about it, that Parties were in existence before the Treaty and that Parties were in existence before P.R. and that P.R. in this country has not, in fact, led to a multiplicity of Parties.
Neither is it true to say the only minority mentioned in the debate on the Committee Stage was the religious minority. I did not mention it at all myself and I made several speeches. I made an allusion to Labour, Farmers, Sinn Féin and Clann na Poblachta. The fact about Sinn Féin at the present moment, which applies, by the way, to the anti-Treaty Party very strongly, is that the anti-Treaty Party would have been destroyed in 1923 under the direct vote. That would have been a pity; it would have been a disaster. I was against them and I was right to be against them, but it would have been very serious if after the civil war, we had a system of election which kept them from having elected to the Parliament of the country as many Deputies as their strength entitled them to. They would have gone back to the gun again instead of coming into the Dáil.
The Minister has completely confused the issue about the Sinn Féin people. They are following the bad example given to them before, in refusing to recognise Parliament and the Government. They are staying out, but it is quite on the cards they may follow the further example given earlier and come in one of these fine days. What is wrong with this Bill and the two subsections the Minister wants to put back into the Bill is that it would keep them from being elected, not that any system would keep them from coming into the Dáil. It would keep them from being elected and that I submit, Sir, would not be good, whatever views we had. I cannot be accused of being a supporter of those who do not recognise this State, and I never was. I am not a convert to constitutional government, by any means. I have been practising it always. The fact is that we are proposing a new system of election now which would exclude people of that particular type entirely. If we are a homogeneous community in this country, they would have practically no chance of getting in at all, and that would be a very bad thing.
Another confusion in the Minister's speech is that he discusses this question of the electoral system by telling us what is wrong with coalitions. He quoted Finland and Holland, but he did not tell us this, that neither the Finns nor the Dutch are going to abolish their electoral system, to adopt the British system of electing the person who gets first past the post. They are not going to alter the present system to adopt the British minority system. That is what the British system is. It is a system whereby the Party which gets the minority of the votes often gets the majority of seats in the House of Parliament. The Dutch are not doing that; the Finns are not doing that; the Swedes are not doing that; nor are any of the Scandinavian countries which are much more lucky than we in their conditions. None of them has that opinion—not one.
We are told also—I suppose the Minister cannot be blamed for it—that a Cork professor of psychology has been talking on the necessity for decisions. We all know that everything in life necessitates the taking of decisions. I do not think the Cork professor was talking about politics. Was he?
I did not think so. When a Dublin professor of psychology who is also a distinguished person talks about the Irish language, not a word is said about him at all. He is not quoted. It is only the professor whose words can be twisted or taken to be in favour of the Government who is ever quoted.
It is encouraging to see the stock of professors rising, Sir.
Yes, as a member of the class, I can tell the Minister—he was not here during the Committee Stage—that professors are not very highly thought of, and Cork professors, in particular, appear to be in for a very bad time—but, of course, they were not Cork men.
All the quotations from various periodicals are about coalitions. Nobody else is quoted at all. When an endeavour is made here to quote what the British themselves thought about the British system, that is regarded as partisan and one-sided. You must adopt the British system with your eyes shut and with your ears closed. You must not listen to what the British themselves think about their own system.
There is complete confusion between coalitions and P.R. Coalitions do not necessarily proceed from P.R. at all. The whole business of thinking that you can favour this Bill and favour the amendment which the Minister is now moving, by discussing the alleged defects of coalitions is, of course, quite wrong.
The real meaning of this Bill, Sir, is that it is a Bill to make further and better provision for the Fianna Fáil Party. It is a hate Bill—a Bill to give vent to the hatred certain people have —I think the Minister has not got it— for their opponents. It is a Bill to provide, in so far as any electoral system can provide, that the people will be divided. It is a Bill for division of the people. I do not think there is anything at all in it that should be accepted, and I think this amendment should be rejected.
This system is the British "first past the post" system. I should like to give some examples from our own constituencies, to show how it would work. It is a system whereby the person who is first past the post gets in, whether he has a majority or not. It is a very curious thing that we apply it only to membership of the Dáil. We do not apply it, for example, to the election of Cathaoirleach here or of Ceann Comhairle in Dáil Éireann, or of Taoiseach. We have two or three candidates, for example, but we do not say that the person who gets the highest number of votes on the first count gets in. You would not elect a Ceann Comhairle in Dáil Éireann like that. You would not elect the chairman of a county council like that— certainly not. Why, then, should you elect members of the Dáil like that? The answer is this. I think I can give it clearly. Having studied the electoral results of the last few elections, Fianna Fáil have come to the conclusion that it would favour them and for that reason the system of election is being altered to suit Fianna Fáil—not for the purpose of accomplishing an economic programme and not for the purpose of serving the national interest.
There has been no examination or consultation about this. That is one of the principal features of the Government's policy—consult nobody. The Taoiseach made it absolutely clear, in his concluding speech on the Second Stage, that what he wants is a Party united in the national interest. In the language of the Taoiseach, "a Party united in the national interest" means the Party of which he is the head and which agrees with him, which will discuss in camera, that is, in the Fianna Fáil Party Room, legislative proposals and, having discussed them in that way, will present them to the Dáil and have a sufficient majority to get them through unimpaired and unamended. That is what they want.
They did a good deal towards reducing the value of P.R. by raising the number of three seat constituencies to 22, but that was not enough. They want to get rid of the whole lot. There was an intermediate step which they could have taken but they did not adopt it. They could have adopted the scheme whereby they would abolish P.R. but leave the transferable vote in the single seat constituency. They did not do that, because that would not suit them, that would enable the people to exercise a choice. Say that a person voted No. 1 Fine Gael, No. 2 Labour; or No. 1 Labour, No. 2 Fine Gael or No. 2 Farmer. That would not do. That is not the system they want.
The discussion here in Committee, Sir, was very disappointing because evidently nobody on the other side had ever given P.R. a single thought until the Taoiseach said he was going to abolish it. Then away they all went, away the Party organisation and all the people with whom they had any influence, went to root out quotations. They say this is what Deputy Costello said in 1937; this is what so-and-so said; that is what somebody else said. They are full of quotations, all made up to support the Taoiseach—by people who had no idea at all about P.R. before that.
The same line exactly was taken about university members in Dáil Éireann. They did not vote for Fianna Fáil. Therefore, they were taken out of the Dáil. They are in danger of being taken out of the Seanad now, because they have proved just as recalcitrant in the Seanad as they did in the Dáil. Indeed, the Seanad itself may find itself in danger—because that is what happened before. The Senators who are representing the universities and who are opposing the Government on this Bill are not Fine Gael Senators; they are Independents. One can imagine, as they say in Irish, the honey would have been rubbed over them if they had been supporting Fianna Fáil—"beifí ag cimilt meala díobh"—and it would be explained that this was an independent viewpoint in relation to this matter. When the independent viewpoint does not support them, the professors are long winded, unprofessorial and bad.
They have abolished university representation in England.
No one is more pro-British here than the so-called Republicans.
Why did the British abolish it?
The Senator can tell us why.
It would be interesting to examine that.
I have not examined Britain, but I know a good deal about this country. I know why university representation was abolished here. I know what the professors did in the Dáil—I saw it, from certain angles—to assuage old difficulties, to overcome old differences and make us a more homogeneous people. They were abolished because they would not toe the Fianna Fáil line, and so was the Seanad abolished because it would not toe the Fianna Fáil line.
Because it was obstructionist.
Curiously enough, the Seanad was devised in a very curious way, so that it would always support the Government. The plan has not worked, so perhaps this plan of changing from P.R. will not work, either.
I have had some experience in this matter. I have seen government from different angles. I have been a member of a Government. I have seen the Dáil working, from the Chair in the Dáil, and I have seen the Dáil working from the Opposition Benches; and I have seen this House working from both sides. I do not agree with the Taoiseach's view that a Government is much more important than the Dáil, that you must have an all powerful Government to get anything done. That would make the Dáil merely a rubber stamp, for registering and making legal the decisions arrived at by the majority Party in their own Party Room. That is a bad system and one which will reduce the status, the dignity, the standing and the value of the representatives in Dáil Éireann. That system precludes small Parties, and of course Independents. The Taoiseach is against them; I am not. I know that Independents are often unpredictable and sometimes difficult. I know that, for that reason, Governments do not like them. Speaking, however, as one who saw them from the Chair in the Dáil, I have no objection to them. They have a part to play.
I know the Taoiseach's line. He listens most carefully to one, but he never agrees with one. We had an example of that here in relation to a motion on the Irish language. Senator Baxter and I went to see the Taoiseach. We told him what we wanted. We got terms of reference taken down. We suggested seven people should investigate the whole position and I said that the seven people should all know Irish well and, if possible, should have a continental language. What have we? Instead of seven we have 35—the equivalent to a public meeting. The Taoiseach was very nice about it, but he took his own political line.
Now let us examine how this works. Take Dublin South East in the last election: Fianna Fáil got 8,300 votes; Fine Gael got 8,200 votes; Dr. Browne got 6,000 votes. Practically every one of the people who voted was successful in getting someone elected, someone he or she wanted to represent them. Dr. Browne got a seat with 6,000 votes; Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael got a seat each with a little over 8,000 votes. The Fianna Fáil majority over Fine Gael was only 139 votes. That was the difference between the first preferences. Under the proposed system, assuming that support is uniform throughout the whole country, if Fianna Fáil top the poll with one vote ahead of their opponents, in all three cases, Fianna Fáil will get the three seats.
They did it in the example I have given—8,389 to 8,250.
What happened in the election before that?
It does not matter what happened in the previous election. Under the present system, the result was that an Independent could get in. An Independent will not get in at all in the single seat constituency because the only effect of an Independent contesting a single seat constituency will be to split someone else's vote. The elector had the option in the instance I have given of voting No. 1 Dr. Browne and No. 2 Mr. MacEntee. He will get no such opportunity in the single seat constituency.
I did not interrupt. I want to make my own speech. One of the curious features of this debate is that being a professor is regarded as being something derogatory, being a scientist is derogatory and, having been Ceann Comhairle and therefore knowing the procedure in Parliament, is also regarded as being something unfair. I cannot help that.
In the illustration I have given, you could have a situation in a single seat constituency where 8,000 votes would get a seat and 14,000 votes would get nothing. That is the British system in a nutshell.
Take Galway West. In round figures Fianna Fáil got 12,000 votes and Fine Gael got 8,000 votes. Fianna Fáil got two seats; Fine Gael got one. In that situation, if there were three single seat constituencies and if these votes were evenly distributed over Galway West, over Connemara and Galway City, Fianna Fáil would get the three seats unless in one particular area Fine Gael is particularly strong.
But the whole argument here has been that there are no such areas. We are homogeneous. The whole country is much the same. This system is therefore being adopted in the hope that in the immediate future, in the very first election, there will be considerable splitting of votes—there must be splitting of votes—and the Fianna Fáil Party, being the strongest single Party, will get the seats. We were told by Senator L'Estrange what they do when they get in, how they behave in Galway, how they behave in Clare and in other places. We know how they behave when they are in Government. I know that the Taoiseach lives in a rarified atmosphere surrounded by the national interest. He does not know that all the rate collectors in Galway are Fianna Fáil. He does not know that there is no representation for minorities in Clare County Council.
The idea that we should adopt the British system is an over-simplification of our way of life and of our position. The Taoiseach asks why cannot we have two big Parties. Why should we? There is no reason in the world why we should have two big Parties. Why not have one? That, of course, is what the Taoiseach really wants. It seems very simple. Let us have two big Parties. Each Party has a policy. Each Party puts its policy before the country. Party A wins. Party B is there ready to go into office, with its nicely parcelled policy displayed in various shop windows throughout the country. After a while there is a swing. Party A goes out. Party B comes in. But it is not so simple as that.
It is not true of the position in Britain. It is still less likely to be true of the position here because our circumstances are different from the British circumstances. Our history is different from British history. Our Parties are different from the British Parties. First and foremost, it is not true that we are like the British. In Britain there are areas like Sussex where no Labour man ever gets in owing to the nature of the country and the kind of people who inhabit it. A person voting Labour in Sussex is a voter all his life. He is never an elector.
In other areas where there are big factories and a big Labour vote, a voter can be a Conservative and vote Conservative all his life, but he will never be an elector. We are not in that position here. We are not divided like that—urban and rural. Labour and Conservative. Even the relationship between members of Parties here is more friendly and closer despite the efforts that were made in the past by certain people to cause division. I saw the efforts that were made. It was clearly defined policy at one time that Fianna Fáil Deputies were not to recognise anybody but one another. They just did not do it because they could not do it. Indeed, it is to their credit that they did not do it.
There are no well-defined areas here. Everybody knows that the Conservative Party in Britain is a coalition. So is the Labour Party a coalition of two rather different groups. Things happen in Britain which would never happen here. When the Suez crisis was on in Britain a group there had the temerity to disagree with the Prime Minister. No Fianna Fáil group ever publicly disagrees with the Taoiseach. It just is not done. The situation here is not the same as the situation in Britain. Neither are the Parties in Britain like the Parties here. Neither of the Parties in Britain is like the Fianna Fáil Party here. They are much less tightly bound, much less controlled. In some electoral areas in Britain 60 per cent. of the votes elect no one at all.
The purpose of these sub-sections, which it is now sought to put back into this Bill, is to divide our people, split the voters into two big camps so that no one outside will get a look in. This particular moment is the moment internationally where there is considerable co-operation. The era of completely sovereign separate States in the world is tending to go. Countries are giving up their sovereignty for various reasons—for trade, for example, and for other kinds of advantages. At the particular moment when that is so we are asked to get ourselves into two separate camps and sensure that no two groups will ever sit down together.
Long ago, the only thing that drove people together was external aggression. We are under threats which should make us collaborate with one another as much as if we were under threat of war. P.R. or the alternative vote for the single seat constituency ensures that a majority of the votes is necessary to get a candidate elected. I think that should be maintained and that we should have more co-operation, not less.
We could do many things which we have not done before bothering at all with this electoral system. I commend to the Minister for Education—I said it to the Minister for External Affairs —that he should go on a crusade to explain to the Scandinavians, the Finns, the Dutch the wonderful merits of the British system and why they should adopt it. The implication is that if these people adopted it their difficulties would disappear. They would have no Coalition Governments, of course. They would have more facility in solving their economic problems. Transparently, that is not true. The Dutch have made a much greater hand of their economic problems than we have —and they have had economic, external, colonial and physical problems to solve which are far greater than anything that confronts us. They solved them very satisfactorily without having the British system of election and without having the single all-powerful one-Party Government.
We are not divided in this country either by religion or race. We are not like France, for example, where a parliamentary proposal for a small grant to a Catholic or Protestant school might give you a parliamentary crisis. Here, also, neither employers nor labour hate one another. Why should we not be able to discuss our problems calmly and be able to co-operate both in Parliament and Government? We have done that a good deal already. I do not see any reason why we should have the mentality in public life of people who hate the very idea of Irish people co-operating with one another to solve Irish problems.
There are many things we might have done in the past 30 years or more in regard to our Parliamentary Government, apart from the electoral system. We might have discussed whether we could not have improved our Parliament, our parliamentary procedure —whether we could have adopted the committee system, whether we could have a better Second House, whether we could improve the way business is done in the Dáil. Instead of doing that —whether we ought not to have, for example, fewer votes of censure and less obligation on the Government to resign when defeated—this proposal is made to us.
I want to suggest that this House should stick to its decision. We have taken out the two operative sub-sections from the Bill. We have shown that in this House practically all independent thought is opposed to the abolition of P.R. and is opposed to the introduction of the British system of the single seat constituency without a transferable vote where the first person past the post, whether or not with a majority, gets the seat. I think we should be doing a good day's work for the country and for ourselves if we stick to that decision.
Senator Hayes's approach to these amendments is very naive, to say the least of it. He suggested that the members of the Fianna Fáil Party were to be blamed because they did not disagree with the Taoiseach in public. That was an extraordinary statement.
I did not say that.
It was too much to hope for.
It was an extraordinary statement for a seasoned parliamentarian. The Senator knows well that there has to be discussion within any Party as regards the formulation of policy. The collective views and wisdom of the Partly have to be pooled before decisions are made and, when decisions are made, all members of the Party, as well as the Taoiseach, are to be bound by them. That is the Party system of Government and that is the system we have in operation here.
One would think by the way the speakers opposite are dealing with the question of the abolition of P.R. and the substitution of the single non-transferable vote that there is something scared about P.R. I do not see what is sacred about it. As we have mentioned before, it is not a creature of this country. It has not its roots in the traditions of this country. I cannot understand all the fuss and bother about it.
In my view, Fine Gael supporters should be very glad to get rid of P.R. They should not be so concerned about its abolition because the system has not served them too well. There are many constituencies where Fine Gael have not got a seat so that they possibly could not do worse under any system of election than they have done under the P.R. system. Furthermore, Senators opposite have been endeavouring to prove that P.R. is a fair and equitable system. It is nothing of the kind. In many cases in this country it has proved to be a very inequitable system. We can cite instances where the results produced by P.R. were entirely contrary to the wishes of the electorate. Examples of that have been given here, for instance, the example of North Kerry, where three candidates standing for a particular Party between them obtained well above two quotas and secured only one seat. Is it a fair and equitable system of election that produces that result? There are other examples of the same kind where the result of the operation of the system of P.R. did not accord with the wishes and the will of the people.
Senator Hayes was at great pains to tell us that the system we propose is the British system. He used the words "British system" about two dozen times in order to try to convince the people that we are adopting the system because it is the British system.
It looks like it.
It is not because it is the British system that it is being adopted. It was not because it was the British system that it was adopted in the United States of America and it was not because it was the British system that it was adopted in Canada and New Zealand.
Why was it adopted?
Senator O'Leary will be given an opportunity to speak and he ought to allow Senator Ó Ciosáin to proceed with his speech.
He is asking for it.
Even if the Senator does not like his opponents' speeches, he must listen to them.
They have to listen.
We are tired listening.
Senator Ó Ciosáin.
We are asking the people to adopt the single non-transferable vote system of election, not because, as Senator Hayes says, it is the British system, but because we consider it the best system for this country in the years that lie ahead.
For Fianna Fáil.
Senator Hayes suggested that we were doing it because it would suit Fianna Fáil because Fianna Fáil are the strongest single Party in the country. How does Senator Hayes know that? How can he foretell, that, say, after the next election, Fianna Fáil will be the strongest single Party in the country? Nobody can tell. That matter rests with the people. The people will be the judges. The people will decide. I daresay they will decide having regard to the policies put up to them by the respective Parties. If any Party finds itself rejected by the people in the next or any subsequent election that will be due, not to the fact that that Party bears a particular name, but to the fact that it has not measured up to the people's expectations in producing a policy. When Senator Hayes or anybody else in this House suggests that a particular Party will be the strongest single Party, he is adopting a defeatist attitude, as far as his own Party is concerned, which is a very foolish and wrong thing to do.
Senator Hayes questioned us as to what we could have achieved throughout the years, if we had had a different system of election. It is very difficult to reply to that question because it is largely problematical. He also referred to the Taoiseach's St. Patrick's Day summary of the achievements of this country in recent years. There certainly have been very great achievements, but I submit that they occurred when Fianna Fáil had an overall majority in the Dáil. There can be achievements when a Party has an overall majority in the Dáil, but everybody knows that that position could not last and that if Fianna Fáil were not to get an overall majority in the Dáil, it would be better that some other Party should get such a majority. That is all we want; that is all the country wants——
A very simple solution.
——that some other Party should get an overall majority if Fianna Fáil are not the Party to get it. As it has happened, Fianna Fáil have been the Party that have got the overall majority in the past and it was well that they had the overall majority. They were able to go ahead and pursue the national objectives they set before them.
When they failed to get an overall majority and were succeeded by a Coalition Government, the position was totally different. Nobody knew from day to day what the policy of the Coalition Government would be. During the terms of the first and second Coalition Governments Cabinet Ministers were making contradictory statements on matters of policy to such an extent that the people did not know where they stood. The constitutional principle of collective responsibility was lost sight of. It is a very serious thing for any country when the people cannot know from day to day in what direction the Government are heading.
It is in order to avoid such a position that we are advising the people to enact this measure that has been under discussion here for some weeks past, so that there will be always a Government in office here, a homogeneous, Government, a united Government, that will be able to give a lead to the people. The Minister for Education has already mentioned that and has given cogent reasons why the people would be well advised to effect the proposed change. He mentioned that there are critical days ahead of all countries. All countries are facing critical times. As well as that, we are living in a highly competitive age so much so that it is very necessary for this country, as well as any other country that wants to keep abreast of the times, to have a Government able to formulate their plans for the future and complete with other countries in the struggle for markets and so on.
The British market is gone for ever.
I did not refer to the British market; I said "markets." If we find the British market beneficial to us, if we find that it suits us to keep a foothold on the British market, by all means let us do it.
The Senator also referred to the system of election to the Seanad. I was surprised to hear him mention that because the present system is the result of long and protracted meetings of a certain commission which was set up representing all Parties. This whole question of election to the Seanad was examined through and through by an all-Party commission that was set up and if there are weaknesses in the present system of election to the Seanad, then all Parties must take responsibility for that, but, as the Senator did mention it, it can be said at least of Fianna Fáil and a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach that he did not confine his selection to the members of his own Party as his predecessor did confine his selection to the members of the Parties supporting him.
A lot has been said about minorities. Of course, it is right and proper for us to be solicitous about the rights of minorities, religious and otherwise. It seems to me that that solicitude is being carried a bit too far by certain opponents of this measure. The idea that minority Parties will not be represented in a majority Government is fallacious. They will get representation in it, but that representation will be got through one or other of the major Parties. There is nothing wrong with that.
Senator Barry will be given an opportunity to speak later.
There is nothing wrong with that. It will be to the advantage of minority groups to get representation in one or other of the major Parties and make their contribution to public discussion in that way. Nobody, it might be said, has attempted to define minority Parties, either here or in the other House. What minority Parties have they in mind? There are several minorities in this country, apart entirely from the religious minorities. Does anybody think or imagine that every single minority group in this country could get direct representation in a Government? That would be impossible. The only way, as I have said, is for these minority groups to throw in their lot with the respective Parties—whichever one of them they believe in and whichever one they are prepared to work with. Then it can be said they are getting representation here.
As I said at the outset, there is nothing sacrosanct about this P.R. system of election. It is all right in theory. It was, no doubt, the first day the product of a group of idealists who thought they could devise a method by which every shade of thought and opinion in a country could be represented in Parliament, but it has not worked out exactly as they thought. In many cases, as I have already pointed out, it has worked in the opposite direction.
Before I sit down, I would advise those people who think that no Party in this country can ever gain strength enough or ever organise themselves well enough to become the strongest single Party in the country but Fianna Fáil to abandon that line of argument because it is an argument that works entirely against their own interest. They have as much chance— at least, they should have—of getting a dominant position in this country as Fianna Fáil. Why did Fianna Fáil get it? Why did Fianna Fáil achieve the dominant position in the country which they achieved?
Because of their promises.
By breaking promises.
Because they had a policy. Because they represented the national aspirations of the people, in the first instance, and were prepared to work for the national aspirations of the people and also because they were prepared to formulate a policy for the improvement of the economic position of the country as a whole. They did that when they had a majority.
They have a majority now.
They have a majority now—a bigger majority than they ever had. I suggest that the reason they have this big majority at the present time is that the people were so disappointed with the two Coalition Governments they decided in no uncertain manner that such a thing would not happen again.
Fianna Fáil would get cracking. They did not get cracking yet.
Senator Kissane's fears for the future of Fine Gael almost brought tears to my eyes and, had I not seen the smile on his lips, I would have really believed he was concerned for us. What has P.R. got to do with the Government's failure to deal with the problems that are before this country? To me, there seems to be very little connection and I do not think any Government, under any system of election, will have a greater majority than the present Government got over two years ago. Now, apparently, they have suddenly discovered that they cannot go forward with their programme because the voting system is wrong. That, to me, is like a man in a very high-powered motor car, with a full petrol tank, who objects to the way in which the doors of the car were made, and refuses to start his journey until the doors are changed.
If there are bold decisions to be taken, surely the present administration has a sufficient majority, and authority and power enough to take those decisions and get on with the work? It is cynical to allege that their plans cannot be implemented, due to the electoral system. The Bill is purely a cynical and unfair diversion to try to make people forget what they expected from a Party to which they gave such a majority. Any expansion in the economy of the country, and any progress made, can be traced back to the inter-Party Government of 1948-51, and anything that has happened since then was sparked off by the initiative and example they gave, and by the competition they aroused. The achievements of that Government were shown in the statistical figures of things which can be applied as a test to any Government's policy, but the present Government, with their very large majority, have left an enormous amount of work undone.
I shall not quote members of the hierarchy, but we all know that what we have been doing in this Parliament during the past three months has been very much akin to fiddling whilst Rome was burning. The differences that have emerged, and are still emerging during the course of the discussion, are quite clear. I, and others on this side, think that government by agreement must become the pattern in this Parliament, that is, if we retain P.R. Fianna Fáil say: "No, not at any price," but if their proposal is defeated by the people, Fianna Fáil must face a future full of compromise, of agreeing with other groups to form administrations. The day of the overall majority has gone and more than anything else which helped its passing was the cynical behaviour of the administration that secured the largest majority ever. I believe that we shall have several groups agreeing to combine, as happened in 1948-51, and I think that will be the pattern in the future.
The Minister's quotations about Holland have been dealt with very effectively by Senator Hayes. One thing is clear, that is, that there is no sign of the Dutch people changing their system of election. I do not believe that what has happened in Holland during the past 14 post-war years was hindered by their electoral system. They achieved their progress by hard work and by talking less about theory. At any rate, their economic progress is something in comparison with which our progress shows up very badly. If anything, we should copy what the Dutch have done.
In The Sunday Times of March 15th, I read a review of a book Honourable Members written by a man named Richards. It states, in reference to the British system of election:—
"It must be kept in mind that the voting habits of the British electorate ensure that at most elections 450 seats at least can be considered ‘safe.' This means, in effect, that over three-quarters of the seats in the Commons are at the disposal of perhaps 10,000 party activists (in the whole country) who take part in the selection procedures in these safe constituencies.
The Bournemouth poll showed how unrepresentative these party activists may be; and it pointed to the dangers involved in a system which permits a few hundred activists to ‘hire and fire' M.P.s. Clearly the system is tolerable only if the party managers on both sides of the House can convince their most ardent supporters of the wisdom of Bagehot's warning"
—quoted by Mr. Richards——
"Constituency government is the precise opposite of parliamentary government. It is the government of immoderate persons far from the scene of action, instead of the government of moderate persons close to the scene of action; it is judgment of persons judging in the last resort and without a penalty, in lieu of persons judging in fear of a dissolution and ever conscious that they are subject to an appeal."
The gravest danger in what Fianna Fáil propose to do is that they will create that kind of colossus, a back-room Party colossus which will destroy men of independent mind and, if they achieve that, they will do a very grave injustice to the country.
We should refuse to accept restoration of these two amendments. They are, of course, the kernel of the Bill, but the discussions which have taken place in this House have been of the utmost value, and the people are now becoming alarmed. They have come to realise that the proposal of the Government is nothing but a cynical diversion, and a cover for absolute failure to keep the promises they made when they went before the electorate a few years ago.
Again, first of all, I must correct the historical inaccuracies which have been used in regard to the situation that exists here, and in regard to the Bill under discussion. For the record, it should be stated that Senator Hayes, in his attempted parallel between the situation now whereby the Sinn Féin Deputies elected to the Dáil will not take their seats or recognise the Government, and the situation on a previous occasion when Deputies of the Sinn Féin organisation of that time refused to take their seats knows very well that the position is not analogous, and he knows very well the difference which existed between the objections of the people in former years and the objections of the people to-day. In pursuing this line and distorting history in a suave, polite and courteous manner, he is continuing, as I said on the Second Stage, to use the technique of the big lie put across with sugar. I regret that I have to harp continually on that fact, but so long as there is anyone here who knows the facts, the corrections must be made in the interests of historical accuracy and so that those who read the Seanad Debates will not be allowed to get the impression that there was no answer to the fantastic interpretations given by Senator Hayes.
It was said that this was a "hate" Bill, a Bill to divide the people. The last people in the world who should speak of hate are the people on the other side because so far as I can judge, sitting here and listening to them at all stages of this debate, there is one thing characteristic of the majority, that is, the venom which comes through when they speak of the Taoiseach and the Fianna Fáil Party.
Oh, go on.
It is not merely that they disagree with Fianna Fáil policy; it is not merely they think the Taoiseach is not doing the right thing; it is purely malevolent hatred of the Taoiseach and all he stands for. It is utter and arrant hypocrisy for Senator Hayes or anybody else on that side to attempt to insinuate that there is any motive of hatred or division behind the proposal we have put before the Oireachtas and which will be before the people in due course in regard to changing the electoral system.
Sure, we think they are making for complete unanimity.
As an example of the attitude of the Taoiseach, Senator Hayes quoted the abolition of this House on one occasion. He ought to know why it was abolished, but for the record, let it be stated that the abolition of a previous Seanad came because the people of this part of Ireland had given a clear majority to the Fianna Fáil Party, an overall majority in the Dáil, to carry out a certain policy and when the Government were engaged in doing so, the members of this House at that time devoted themselves entirely to completely obstructing the wishes of the people as expressed through the Government and did everything they possibly could to retain the shackles which were fastened on this country by the imposed Constitution of 1922.
It is time these things were said. I am sick and tired of listening to the suavely spoken gentlemen on the other side who, when they want to distort, do it by interruptions sometimes and by way of nicely-mannered, courteous speeches at other times. I feel that if that is to continue——
Abolish us again.
——we shall not get anywhere in the direction Senator Barry spoke of a few minutes ago.
On a point of order, I should like to ask this question: Is the Leader of the House entitled to describe courteous and orderly speech as something we should not have in this House?
Senator Ó Maoláin, to continue.
I want to put that on record.
We were also given a further distortion by Senator Hayes when he spoke of the interview which took place with the Taoiseach in regard to setting up a commission in connection with the Irish language. I was present at that interview and I can say, without any qualms of conscience or fear of contradiction, that the result of the interview was in fact an extension of the ideas which were expressed here regarding the setting up of a commission on the Irish language. My interpretation of that interview is not at all in accordance with the version which Senator Hayes gave here a few moments ago.
It has been said that we are not told what the British people themselves think about their system. Surely the only way we can get the view of the British people themselves about their own system of election is through organised bodies of public opinion in Britain. It is all right for Senators to read a review which appears in an English Sunday newspaper by some individual who probably never had any connection with the political life of the country and who gives his own individual interpretation of the results of elections and of what goes on in the political organisation of the life of the people. But surely if we want the views of the people of England on their own system of election, the best way to get them is to find out what the Parties themselves think about it. The organised Parties in England are quite satisfied with that system. I think they are quite satisfied that it gives them democratic government; they are quite satisfied to accept the fact that the people are entitled to change their opinion, if they are not satisfied with the Government.
The big and the small organised groups in England and Wales and Scotland — including the Welsh National Party which some day hopes to beat the Labour Party in Wales and secure a majority of the seats; the Scottish National Party which hopes to beat all Parties in Scotland and secure a majority of the seats—none of them has sought for any change in the electoral system, except the Liberal Party which now tinkers with the idea that since their fortunes have fallen on sad days, it would be a good thing, possibly, if they could get some system which would ensure decent representation in Parliament. But even the Liberal Party under the straight vote system has shown signs of revival and has been able to win occasional by-elections recently.
Apart from that and a small group of theorists on elections in London, there is no organised body of public opinion in England which seeks a change in the electoral system—ruling out the society which has a vested interest in P.R., the P.R. Society of England. Therefore, to say that we are not told what the British people think about their system is not in accordance with the fact. We are told through the organised Parties in Britain, and they do not see the terrible misfortunes inherent in it that some Senators who have spoken here visualise. It was alleged here that the vast majority of our people know only one system of election—the one we have. That is as much as saying that coming from the complicated system of P.R., they would be unable to grasp the simplicity of the straight vote by which an "X" is put opposite the name instead of a series of figures after many names. It is a poor compliment to the intelligence of our people to suggest anything of the sort.
It was also suggested here that by this Bill we are, in effect, trying to create a situation in which people with a minority of the votes will get a substantial majority of the seats and will be able to put into operation a policy without a majority of the people behind it. All this talk about the majority of votes at elections conceals the facts of the position, which exists not alone here but in other countries in Europe as well. It is well to put it one record that no single Party will normally obtain a majority of votes in a general election under any system whatever. It happened only three times in the past 40 years in Europe that one Party got more than 50 per cent. of the poll. It happened in England in 1931; in this country in 1938; and in Germany in 1953. In England, for instance, under the straight vote, the Party which wins the election usually gets between 47 per cent. and 49 per cent. of the total vote. That, strange to say, is almost the same proportion of the total vote as is secured by the Party which gets a majority of the seats here under our system. However, the vital difference between P.R. and the straight vote is not that the straight vote leads to minority government but that it enables the people to give a parliamentary majority to the strongest single Partly. In view of the uncertainties of the future throughout the world, we believe that is a good thing for us to look for here.
Another matter to which I referred on the Second Stage is that the nations that have adopted the straight vote system have had more frequent changes of Government than we have had under P.R.; but Governments elected under the straight vote usually have been elected in sufficient strength to last for the full term for which they were elected and thus be in a position to carry out their election undertakings. I might add that in contrast to the decisive power given to the people by the straight vote system, P.R., in our opinion, leads to the domination of Governments by minorities. That has been proved by our own experience here in recent years.
It has been said by many Senators on the other side that P.R. is being abolished for purely Party political and partisan reasons, so that the Fianna Fáil Party may be perpetuated. At this hour of the day, Senators opposite who expect us to take them seriously should drop that foolish argument. It is obvious that nobody can foretell with any accuracy how the people in any constituency may look on the situation in two or three years' time. It is obvious that international events, domestic crises and economic handicaps may have a vital effect on the thinking of the people. It is absurd, for instance, to insist that because in 1957, the Fianna Fáil Government secured a majority in 39 constituencies, the people who voted that way then will continue to vote solidly the same way in the future.
If it were true that when persons voted, they became static, then the Fianna Fáil Government would never have come into office in 1932. I demonstrated this on the Committee Stage when I reminded Senators that from 100,000 votes the Fianna Fáil total went up to over 600,000. Why? Because the people changed their minds, decided that the policy put forward was right and that it was time that a Party with a policy, and which knew its own mind, should be given authority to put that policy, into operation. Consequently, instead of 100,000 people, 600,000 people came to the polls to support the Fianna Fáil programme. If, as the Senators opposite insist, people do not change, then Fianna Fáil, having got those 600,000 votes, would have got them again and again for all time. But that did not happen. There was a change; the Fianna Fáil Party was defeated; a Coalition Government came into operation in 1948 and there was another in 1954.
Undoubtedly ochone, for the sake of the country. It is absurd to say, as Senators opposite have said, that one can forecast the future in regard to the total number of votes in the constituencies when the straight vote system is brought into operation. If Fianna Fáil were thinking in terms of pure Party interest and partisanship, as has been alleged, if there was any clear and definite understanding of the fact that votes never change and that once a person votes Fianna Fáil, he will continue to do so for ever, would it not be crazy to change the system under which time after time the Party has secured the majority of seats and an overall majority on three occasions? But Senators opposite cannot conceive of a Party doing a disinterested action. They cannot conceive that anyone would have the real interest of the country at heart and would be prepared to take the risks which the Fianna Fáil Party are taking in recommending this proposal to the Government and asking the people to enact it.
It could quite well happen that far from the 120 seats which visionaries on the other side propose we should get, Fianna Fáil might get very few seats and be a very small Party. Surely if we are prepared to take that risk, the people on the other side should at least have the graciousness to realise that even though they have never done a turn in their lives, except out of self-interest, other people in this country are not built the same way. This Bill has been introduced because we believe a change in the system of election, to the straight vote, will be an insurance policy for the future, an assurance that this freedom which we have secured will survive and that there will be a Government capable of carrying out the task given to them by the people, to govern, and to carry out the programme proposed to the people. people.
It has also been said with a great deal of gusto by several of the speakers on the opposite side that under P.R. young people have a better chance of getting into the Dáil. I looked into that and I was rather surprised to find that neither that statement, nor the argument used by other Senators that the straight vote would result in a House much more fixed and static than it is at present, has any validity. Professor McCracken of Magee College, Derry, in his notable book Representative Government in Ireland—which I commend to the study of Senators on the far side— shows that the average age of members of each Dáil between 1922 and 1948 rose, over the period from 40.9 to 51.3 years. The average age of new members in each Dáil, over the same period, was 43.2 years. Only a few of the members in any Dáil were under 30 years of age.
I should like to know what age group is represented by the proposition that P.R. gives a better chance to young people to get into the Dáil. My idea of young people getting into the Dáil would be those under 30 years but it does not appear to happen. I also came across a quotation from a worthy gentleman whose book has been widely quoted here, Dr. J.P.S. Ross. In his book Parliamentary Representation he has this to say:—
"The average percentage of new members, 23 per cent., over the whole period is lower than the British House of Commons where the average percentage for the seven general elections between 1918 and 1935 was a little under 30, or in the Canadian House of Commons where the percentage has rarely fallen below 40 per cent."
New members, mark you! That was under the straight vote in both Canada and Great Britain and we are told, at the same time, that under P.R., young people have a better chance of getting into the Dáil.
With regard to the other suggestion, that the straight vote will result in a static House, I again quote Professor McCracken:—
"Ten members of the 1948 Dáil sat in the first Dáil. Twenty-two per cent. had over 20 years' experience, 50 per cent. over 10 years and 66 per cent. over four years. Of the total members, 105 or 71 per cent. had first entered the Dáil prior to the preceding general election."
that was 1944——
"Only 26 of these members—a quarter—had ever suffered defeat at the polls after their first election."
This was under P.R. We are told that the straight vote would result in the House being more fixed and static. What could be more fixed and static than those figures which I have given? What could be more absurd than Senators opposite trying to make the case that you cannot have the safe seats which exist——
Give the quotation. The Senator said that members of the House said these things, but I have heard no member saying them.
What did the Senator not hear?
What I heard was that it would, perhaps, change the House completely every time there was a general election.
I refer the Senator to the speeches of Senator Hayes. If he reads them, he will find the references in them.
What did Senator Hayes say?
The first statement was that P.R. gave a better chance to young people to get into the Dáil, and the second statement was that the straight vote would result in a House much more fixed and static than it is at present.
There are people in the Seanad at present because young people beat them in the Dáil elections. Is that not true?
That has nothing to do with it.
It is true.
The single seat constituency puts a premium on safeness, we are told, and on the candidate who will follow the Party line blindly, docilely and obediently. I think Senator Ó Ciosáin dealt with that point to some extent. In this democratic system of ours, political Parties exist because a number of people come together, who believe in a common policy and who want to get that policy accepted by the majority of the people so that it can then be translated into action through their parliamentary representatives and the Government. There is nothing wrong with a candidate accepting what the majority of the Party decides and in following that line in a disciplined manner. That is the way the Party system works; that is the way democracy works and unless you want to have a conglomeration of small independent brigades getting together and agreeing only in so far as whatever they wish to achieve meets their own purpose, then you cannot have it otherwise. The single seat constituency does not put any more premium on that than the P.R. system, which we have been operating for 37 years, has done.
When the Taoiseach turns, we all turn.
It was also stated that once a man is established in a constituency, as a member, it is very hard to move him. I have shown under the static conditions imposed on the Dáil by the P.R. system there are many Deputies who have been returned time after time at various elections but they have been returned because the people wanted them. They would not have been returned unless they had met with the approval of the electors in their constituencies. If it is difficult to remove a man once he becomes a member in a constituency, he must be giving the service the people want and he must commend himself to the electors who have to make their choice. Therefore, I see nothing wrong with it. It is the people's democratic choice that he should be the man for so long as they care to have him.
We have been asked also why did Fianna Fáil not amend the Constitution to abolish P.R. during the three years 1938 to 1941 when the Dáil had power to do it. Surely the answer is obvious to the super-democrats whom we have heard extolling from the other side of the House the virtues of democracy and the dangers of dictatorship of Fianna Fáil.
You were too democratic.
Surely an important question of this nature should be submitted to the people, but as I said on the Second Stage, the Party which ran away from the referendum on three important occasions, although they had put it into the Free State Constitution, cannot conceive that anybody would wish to consult the people in a ballot on a matter of that nature.
It is a pity you did not agree with the will of the people in 1922.
The will of the people—since the Senator has interrupted me—was given a great demonstration in June, 1927, when the Senator's Party went to the people in the election of that year and asked for a mandate to maintain the oath of allegiance to the British King which was in their Free State Constitution. They were deservedly and drastically defeated at the polls by the people, and for the Senator's information, there were 1,145,176 electors on that date. Only 313,844 cast their votes for that programme advanced by the Senator's Party.
That was not the programme at all.
Of the remaining 831,332 electors, 350,277 gave an emphatic mandate for the removal of the oath and 481,055 made it clear that they did not object to its removal. Yet solely to remain in office, the minority of 313,844 imposed its will on the majority of 831,332, and if that is not an example of the Fine Gael brand of democracy, and under P.R., too, then I do not know what the meaning of the word is. It certainly comes very badly from the gentlemen who perpetrated that to speak in the manner in which they have been speaking here to-day. We have been asked also what we have been prevented from doing all these years by the fact that the P.R. system is in operation. The answer is quite clear. We have been prevented from doing nothing——
You have been doing nothing.
We have been prevented from doing nothing we wanted to do by reason of the fact that the electoral system was P.R. That is no argument. That is not the reason we are asking the people to enact this Bill, because of any failure on the part of the Government, through lack of the necessary powers under the P.R. system of election, to carry out the programme. The reason we are asking the people to enact this Bill is that we have had experience of the disaster which can come when a multiplicity of Parties are elected and there is no single Party with a majority of seats. The resultant Coalition Government is dictated to by minority groups and eventually brings misfortune or possibly disaster on the country.
We are introducing this Bill and asking the people to enact it because we foresee that, if the situation which existed here on two occasions, which existed in many countries in Europe and which exist to-day in several others, should develop here again in future and if world conditions and the trend of world political development are uncertain, nobody knows what could happen in the case of instability of government. We believe that with the straight vote system here there will be a majority given to a single Party that will enable it to govern, and that there will be no necessary for the position which arose as a consequence of an indecisive result at an election such as we have had here on many occasions.
We are also told that if this Bill goes through, the people cannot select their parliamentary representatives, that they will be selected by the Party bosses. Much play has been made with that and the phrase "Party bosses" has been used by many Senators on the other side. The parliamentary representatives are selected, in the first instance, by nomination by Parties, except of course in the case of Independents who select themselves. The Parties have different systems of selecting them. In the case of the Fianna Fáil Party, it is by a convention of representatives of the registered cumainn of the organisation. These branches send delegates to the convention and they suggest the names of candidates whom they think suitable. A vote is taken and the candidate is selected.
Tales of mystery and imagination.
And must be ratified by the Taoiseach.
If the worthy Senators on the other side cannot take their medicine, I cannot help them.
From the Party boss.
I would suggest the most obstreperous of them should be provided with cotton wool because they do not like the truth.
I suggest the Senator should continue his speech. Other Senators will be permitted to make a speech and to put their own interpretation on events when their turn comes.
I am listening patiently to the Irish Hans Andersen.
I have no intention of being stopped by the Senators on the other side.
We are enjoying it thoroughly.
I am enjoying educating you. When the straight vote system comes into operation, the people will select their parliamentary representatives, I take it, in the same way as at present, that is, in organised Parties, through the regular process of selection laid down by their Party, which in our case involves a convention of the branches of the organisation and the selection by a democratic vote of the candidate they suggest should contest the election. Therefore, to say there is any question under the straight vote or under P.R. that any such thing as Party bosses would select and inflict the candidate on the people is arrant nonsense, and the Senators who use that argument know that as well as I do, and I wish they would desist from using it.
Every country in the world does it.
We had also criticism of our suggestion that if the people did not find the straight vote workable, they could change it again. One Senator said he believed the Constitution should be the yardstick standard measurement and subject to as little change as possible. We all agree. I have a great respect for the Constitution. I regard it as the fundamental law of this country which should not be amended except for grave reasons. As I pointed out in the debate on Second Stage, when you find a weakness, you must endeavour to remedy that weakness before it causes more harm or before it brings disaster. The people of the United States revere their Constitution and their Bill of Rights and they have more respect, probably, for their Constitution than other people in the world. When they found a defect in their Constitution, they remedied it, and they made 19 or 20 amendments to it. There is no reason in the world why, when we find that a serious danger might face the country in years to come under our system of election, which could bring instability of government, we should not take the opportunity to amend the Constitution in the way in which we are seeking to amend it. There is nothing wrong about it and nothing to be ashamed of in it. The most extraordinary statement I heard in this debate was that this amendment, if adopted, would facilitate a minority getting a majority of seats in Dáil Éireann. Any minority which can command the support of the people under a regular system of election, and secure so much support that it gets a majority of the seats in Parliament is, of course, entitled to form a Government.
Call it a national system.
There is nothing wrong with a minority aspiring to be a majority. Some day, if they do not completely give up the ghost as they appear to be doing, Fine Gael may turn their minority into a majority.
If they become one with Fianna Fáil.
Everything would be right then.
If they stop whinging and crying and stand up and put a policy before the people, and tell the people the truth, then they may command the support of the people in sufficient strength to become a majority.
Get a newspaper and call it "Truth in the News."
One of the innocent Senators opposite asked why do the Parties in England make their selection a year or so before the actual election. That was advanced as a sinister indication of what happens under the straight vote system and something we must guard against because there is evidence of a diabolical situation in that political Parties in England make their selections a year or so in advance of the election. They may do so; they may even do so here; but if they do, I take it, the reason is they either want to get the candidate familiar with the constitutency or the constituency familiar with the candidate, or they want to ensure that their election organisation in the constituency is up to scratch and when the time comes, their candidate will be as well known to their election workers as to the ordinary voters who have the responsibility of deciding whether or not they will allow him to represent them. There is nothing sinister in that. It is just the mechanics of political organisation.
We were also asked the question. "Where are you going with such a system? Remember it could work against you the second time just as it can work for you the first time? Certainly it is the very antithesis of stability." That is exactly what we have been trying to put into the heads of people who say that this change to the straight vote will perpetuate Fianna Fáil. On the admission of one of the Senators who was foremost in that prognostication, we now have it that the system may work for a Party one year but in the following year, it may work against that Party. Of course it may.
Why are you gambling then?
I have no doubt whatever that the people will, from time to time, change their minds on policies and on persons, and that under the straight vote system or any other system, you cannot take it for granted that the people will for all time stick to the same faces and policies. There is no certainty under the straight vote system, as has been suggested by Senators on the other side, that Fianna Fáil will get a particular number of seats and that such and such a person will be elected. I am very glad to see the Senator, who was foremost in his insistence that this was a manoeuvre on the part of Fianna Fáil, has come to the conclusion that he was wrong and that the system might not perpetuate Fianna Fáil and, as a consequence, there might be a Government other than a Fianna Fáil Government.
Who said that?
I do not think it necessary for me to continue on this subject. We have debated it extensively on all stages of the Bill. We have made our views known. We recommend the adoption of these amendments to the House, and we are glad that all the points of view, for and against the system, have been expounded here. It has been alleged that there was no examination and no consultation with the people and that the people were being rushed and were being given no opportunity of hearing the case for and against. Since last October, the people have been discussing this P.R. proposition. Since last October, hardly a day has gone by without some newspaper carrying a report of a debate, a symposium or a letter dealing with it, or a report of the Dáil or the Seanad proceedings. That is quite a long time. Much newsprint and ink have gone into keeping P.R. on the front pages as a live topic of discussion throughout the whole country.
If Senators still insist that enough time has not been given and examination has not been made, then I cannot understand what type of examination they have in mind. If for years past any topic has been discussed as much as this proposal to change P.R. to the straight vote system, I should like to hear it. It has been a topic of discussion everywhere and Senators of the Fine Gael and Labour Parties need not be afraid that the people are ill-informed. From letters to the newspapers which I have read and from people with whom I have discussed it, they appear to me to be better informed than some Senators who have given us lectures on it from the other side of the House. There is only one thing for which I am sorry. It is that the Fine Gael Party, which almost split itself wide open on the issue——
On what issue, Sir?
On the question of the straight vote or P.R. Fine Gael almost split itself wide open on that, and it was carried only by a very slender majority.
You were never able to drive in the wedge, though.
It is a pity they have not got the courage to stand up and say—if there are any conscientious men left in it—that they are not afraid of this change. The minority in Fine Gael who suggested that they should have accepted this Bill were right, that it affords the only hope which Fine Gael might have of ever again becoming a majority Party. When one looks at the figures for the elections under P.R. during the past 20 years, one sees the sad, dismal tale of the downward roll of the Fine Gael Party. It makes one wonder why they have not got the sense to see that, under the straight vote system, if they produce the policy and the leadership, they may have the opportunity of some day becoming the Government here again. The same thing applies to our friends of the Labour Party here in the Seanad; they, too, may become the Government some day——
It is a political lecturer we have now.
——if they produce a policy different from that of Fine Gael and do not depend on the crumbs which fall from the table of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or any other Party. I hope the intelligent men and women in Fine Gael, who attempted to convince the Party that the adoption of the straight vote was good business for them, will continue to agitate for just that; and that, when the referendum is held, those men and women who believe in the restoration of the straight vote as the system of election will not be afraid of the Party dictatorship and will go to the polls, in the knowledge that, by voting for the referendum and for the abolition of P.R., they are voting in secret ballot to do the thing which will be best for the country and also, in the long run, I believe, for the Opposition Party.
I commend those sentiments to the Senators on the other side and I am very glad that I have had the opportunity of recalling the issues to them. I hope, however, that we will hear no more of the nonsensical talk which we heard from one Senator that this straight vote will lead to dictatorship. They had the straight vote in Britain, Canada and New Zealand for a long time, but there has been no dictatorship. In fact, the Labour Party has advanced the case of New Zealand for the last 30 years as an example of the most democratic country in the world. In Canada and the United States, there is no dictatorship; in England, I do not think anybody could insinuate there is dictatorship. To say, as one Senator has done, that the straight vote here will lead to the same thing as happened in Hungary, China and Russia is utter bunkum and the Senator knows it; and I hope there will be no more of that. The straight vote is the best guarantee of efficient, decisive and sound Government. It is the best guarantee that in the future this country will not be dependent on a Government dominated by minorities. It is the best guarantee that democracy will last here, and that is what we want to see happen.
As I came into the House to-day, I could not help hearing the Minister for Education quote the very well chosen words of a Cork professor of psychology. I remember that he began by saying that the first requirement in any problem is a survey of the issue. Right there and then, the first requirement quoted by the Minister has not been complied with. I doubt if there is any country in the world where a major change in the Constitution would first have been announced at a Party feis or convention. The Senators opposite would very rightly protest if Fine Gael or Labour announced such a major constitutional change at a Party feis.
What about Ottawa?
Therefore, the first requirement has not been complied with and the whole result is to show disrespect to the Constitution. There is no system whatsoever which cannot be improved. It is the very essence of democracy to examine, to reflect and to improve. The present system, as we have shown in these debates, can be improved in some ways. We all know that. For instance, we could have continued the process which has been going on down the years since we began our own government. The constituencies have been narrowed, the nine seat and seven seat constituencies having been replaced in many cases by three seat constituencies. That is all aimed at making it easier for a Government to get a majority. Now, there is no reason whatsoever why that process could not have been continued. We have, I think, in all nine five seat and eight four seat constituencies. Had these been replaced by equivalent three seat constituencies, on the last election results, it would have given at least another six seats to the Government. Senator Mullins admitted here a few minutes ago that at no time in the past were Fianna Fáil prevented from carrying out any action, or from putting any scheme into effect, by the fact that they did not have a sufficient majority.
On, no; I did not say that. On a point of correction, I said that at no time were Fianna Fáil prevented from carrying out their programme by reason of the fact that the P.R. system was in operation, when they had a majority.
That is exactly the same thing.
It is not the same thing.
Senator Mullins claims that the "Belfast" voting system would give a better majority to the Government than P.R.; and he says that at no time did P.R. prevent the Government from carrying out their policy. In other words, at no time would the additional number of seats which the Government might have expected to get from the "Belfast" system, have helped the Government in carrying out their policy.
There is no use in trying to reason with the Senator.
I have repeated my challenge on many occasions in this debate. I have asked the Government to be specific, to come down to the facts, to get away from denunciations and catch-cries. I have asked them to list, in each period in which the Government have been in power, the various schemes which they were prevented from carrying out at that time by reason of their not having a sufficient majority. No one has taken up that challenge; and now Senator Mullins says that at no time were they prevented from carrying out their policy.
How then can they read in to-day's paper the condemnation by His Lordship Most Rev. Dr. Lucey in Cork, where he says there was never less work than now, and that there is more emigration than at any time since the famine? I am quoting from the Cork Examiner.
Have the figures not gone down in the past year?
There are fewer people——
There are fewer people on the register. If the Senator studied the figures, he would find that.
Senator Quinlan must be permitted to make his speech without interruption.
He is making his own speech, anyway.
The Minister would not doubt his own Bishop, would he?
Let us see to it that the debate continues as it has gone to-day, so far.
It is quite true to say that the number on the register has gone down a trifle—2,000 or 3,000——
What else could be expected, when at least 40,000 to 50,000 have left the country in the present year?
You do not know; that is only nonsense.
Senator Hogan should not interrupt.
This is Dr. Lucey's statement, and the Government would do well to ponder it:—
"He had no good tidings to announce to the 1,000,000, and more, of our people in exile; there is less work now and more emigration than any time since the famine. Could there be a greater condemnation of our Governments, and especially of the Government that claims that at no stage was it prevented from carrying out its policy? By their fruits you shall know them."
The population of Western Europe under coalition governments has gone up by 13 per cent.; ours has fallen. That improvement has taken place in Western Europe because the people have worked together for the good of their respective countries.
The people in Holland are quite happy under their present system of government. Any other system in Holland is unthinkable. How would the Dutch people acquiesce in rule by one Party—a Catholic Party or a Protestant Party? Rule by all Parties combined, working for the common good, for the benefit of Holland, has put Holland where she is to-day. Anybody who has seen Rotterdam rise out of its ashes cannot but admit that Holland must have had very good government —the sort of government we should love to have here. There is some emigration from Holland, but nothing on the scale that we have here. The Dutch people do not bury their heads in the sand; they try to equip those who emigrate as well as it is humanly possible to equip them. They do everything they can to make these emigrants a credit to Holland. We have not had the courage to do that, but we point our finger at the Dutch.
I never thought the day would come when Denmark would cease to be held up to us as a model. We sent our young farmers over there to see how they do things in Denmark, where the farmers' organisation is setting a headline for the whole world. Of course, the Danish Government adopt the policy of letting the people do things for themselves. They have not got strong government. They have got good government, which is far better. They have a government which knows how to encourage and inspire its people. They get the people to do the job themselves. That is the message of Denmark. I never thought we would live to see the day when people would think the Danish system of government bad, something that was not a model for us. Surely the greatest tribute that can be paid to the Danish Government is the fact that the Danes are proud of their country and are happy to work together for the good of their country. Might I point out that we would have been far better off here if our Governments had pulled together and got the co-operation of all sections of our people in the way the Danish Government do. We might not now have confronting us the dismal picture painted by Dr. Lucey.
Is it not ridiculous that a change in the electoral system in relation to the Seanad calls for a commission of inquiry while a change in the system of election to the Dáil does not? We await the findings of that commission with confidence. I am sure there will be a large measure of agreement on the part of all to carry out whatever changes are suggested. The issue in relation to the Dáil is a major issue. Why is it not approached in the same intelligent, impartial way rather than that there should be a mere announcement at the annual meeting of a Party?
I have been encouraged in the past few weeks in discovering how people up and down the country are thinking for themselves. In the debate recently, the general consensus of opinion was that the Government speakers did not seem to have their heart in the debate on P.R. They did not sound convincing. One of the Government speakers at that debate gave us a lecture to the effect that in a Party all must pull together and one dare not voice a different opinion, once the Party has decided.
Be more specific.
I am merely referring to a reference made. The 100 per cent. compliance by the Government Party in the present issue causes in me a certain sinking feeling, the sort of feeling I used to get when reading of a vote of 99.9 per cent. for Hitler or any of the other dictators.
I have asked the Senator to be more specific about his reference to Party members not daring to disagree.
The statement was that with Party discipline as it is, members are not free to voice an opinion.
I insist that we have the quotation.
Unless the Senator has a point of order to raise, will he please leave the matter to me? The Minister has asked for the quotation.
I think the Minister will accept the statement that that is the duty of a Party.
Is the Senator referring to a statement I made?
I want the Senator to be more specific. May I intervene at this stage on a point of personal explanation?
I shall give the Minister an opportunity of correcting the Senator, if he says the Senator is misrepresenting him. If that is so, the Minister is entitled to have a correction made.
Perhaps the Minister would allow me to make my point first. If he thinks it is incorrect, I shall be happy to give way. The point is that under the Party system in this country, we have relative rigidity and a Party member is not free to come into either House of the Oireachtas, for instance, and oppose Party policy. That holds in relation to the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill.
May I intervene now?
Not until I have finished. It has been stated here and play has been made with the fact that it is known that there were some few —I believe very few: I have no inside knowledge—in the Fine Gael Party.
The Senator is moving on to another point. If this point is to be cleared up at this stage, is the Senator prepared to give way to the Minister in order that the Minister may correct——
I am not making another point; I am elaborating the previous one.
Is it in regard to a statement made in Cork, I take it, by the Minister here present?
If the Senator wants to expand on that, he may do so. Then we can have a clarification if the Minister feels he is not being fairly represented.
It is known that somewhat different views have been held by a few people in the other Parties. As an Independent, I applaud that. However, as far as I can learn and as far as we know in this House and elsewhere, no single member of the Government Party has had any other view. I think that is quite fair. That is what I was alluding to when I made that statement here: in other words, the fact of the known 100 per cent. compliance which I say is an unnatural situation and then the statement in Cork by the Minister which seemed to infer that I do not understand the Party system. I understand it quite well. My point rests on that.
As I say, it is an unnatural situation when you find, in the case of a large Party such as the Government Party, that in the short debate at the Árd-Fheis, no contrary opinion has ever been held, especially when we consider that there are at least 300 possible variations. I give way now to the Minister, if he thinks he has anything to add to what I have said.
I want to clarify it.
The Minister indicated that he wanted to be quoted exactly in what he said. If the Minister feels he has a grievance, he is entitled to intervene and I shall call on the Minister.
I can resume afterwards?
When the Senator introduced this aspect of his speech, he said that a Government speaker at a debate in Cork last week said that a member of a Party dared not display or give voice to a view contrary to that decided at a Party meeting. The statement I made in Cork was that I thought Senator Quinlan, in making his statement or in referring to the Hitlerite régime in Germany and in making certain comparisons with the decision on P.R. taken by the Fianna Fáil Party, did not appear to understand the Party system as it worked. I said that members of Parties were drawn together by certain fundamental beliefs and, on the basis of those beliefs, discussed policies within Party meetings, arrived at decisions democratically, either unanimously or on a majority vote and, having arrived at such decisions, usually acted in unison in relation to their policies or programmes according to these decisions.
I also said that if any member of the Party fundamentally disagreed with these decisions, he was perfectly entitled to say so in public. I said that surely this was the furtherance of democracy. I went on to refer to the fact that it was well known that there was certain disagreement in Fine Gael on this P.R. issue. I said they were quite right in coming out in public into the Dáil and presenting a united front because they were giving voice and support to a decision democratically arrived at. These are the words, almost exactly as I used them.
I do not know that it is in any way at variance with any statement I made. I challenged the Minister in Cork for the exact quotation of what I said. I had not made a comparison between Hitlerite Germany and the conduct of the Fianna Fáil Party. I had remarked that the 100 per cent. compliance—the fact that there was not even the whisper of another viewpoint within the Party— had aroused in me the same sickening feeling as when reading of those almost laughable, one might say, majorities of 99.9 per cent. that all the dictators got in the 1930s.
Deputies Briscoe and Brady disagreed. There is no doubt about that.
I am very pleased with the way the country is reacting. They are thinking for themselves. I think they now see the arguments we have been putting up all the time. I am proud of the stand taken by the university Senators on this matter, despite the fact that, due to it, we may be excluded from future Seanaid. I am proud of our stand and of the fact that we have acted as university graduates who sent us here would like us to act, namely, as independent thinking people.
It is to be noted that our arguments have not been answered and that we have been subject merely to personal abuse and attacks. I think, in that case, the attacks, reported in last week's debates, by Senator Hogan reached an all-time low. These attacks show the country the very weak position in which the Government find themselves. We appealed to the Government the previous day to withdraw this controversial measure, to acknowledge that a mistake had been made and that the proper approach had not been used. Senator Ó Maoláin tells us that the whole necessity for this measure is some vague fears about the future, about the multiplicity of small Parties that may arise here. Yet, Senator Ó Maoláin is completely unaware of the 13 Parties that contested the last election in the Six Counties.
We are not interested in the Six Counties, apparently.
We must insist that the nearest example we have got of how the straight vote operates is the Six Counties. You cannot get away from it. The people of the country are sitting up and listening to the arguments. They know the facts. For years, they have heard Government and Opposition spokesmen lament the gerrymandering going on in the North. For years they have been led to believe that the minority, the Nationalists, have not been properly treated in the North. They have read this publication which shows that two votes are equal to one; in other words, that it takes twice as many votes to elect a Nationalist as to elect a Unionist to Parliament in Stormont or in Westminster. The people of the country have seen that. They are intelligent. They can handle facts and figures and can see a case when it is made.
On the Committee Stage, I pointed out that the Chairman of the Government Party gave these figures publicly at the Inter-Parliamentary Union in September, 1957, when he said, in effect, that the Unionist Group receives 77 per cent. of the available seats and the rest only received 23 per cent. If you do a little calculation on that, it shows that it takes twice as many votes to elect an Opposition member to the Six-County Parliament as it takes to elect a Government member. I want to ask the Government's spokesmen—I have asked them four times already and they have not replied—if they think that situation is fair in the North. There is no use in raising, as Senator Lenihan does, the catch-cry of sectarianism. That is not the issue at stake there.
Cuireadh an díospóireacht ar athló.