Local Elections Bill, 1966: Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

This Bill provides for the postponement until June, 1967, of the local elections which are due to be held during 1966, for the holding of future local elections during the month of June and at quinquennial intervals after 1967 and for some conseqential matters.

The Government considered that in the circumstances of this year it would have been undesirable to hold the local elections in conjunction with the Presidential election. It was also considered that the holding of the elections later in the year would not suit the convenience of voters, many of whom would be absent from home on holidays or in migratory employment during the late summer and early autumn months and because of the difficulty of providing adequate heating and lighting in some rural polling stations in winter months.

In addition, proposals for important changes in the law governing local elections are in course of preparation. A Bill is being drafted to repeal certain disqualifications for membership of local authorities and to set up new legal machinery for questioning local elections by petition. It is desirable that these changes should, if possible, operate in respect of the next local elections. Amendment of certain other aspects of the electoral law, including the extension of postal voting facilities, is also under consideration.

The Bill proposes that the date to be fixed for the poll at future local elections shall be in the month of June. Under the existing law it is open to the Minister for Local Government to fix any date he chooses for polling during an election year. I consider it desirable to limit the period within which such elections may take place and section 4 of the Bill proposes to fix a definite month for the holding of local elections. The month of June appears to be the most suitable one for the purpose. This provision, I feel, should commend itself to all persons and bodies either directly or indirectly concerned with local elections.

Pending the holding of the next local elections under the provisions of the Electoral Act, 1963, it is necessary to make special provision for the holding this year of annual or quarterly meetings by local authorities. Following the introduction and circulation of the Bill I advised local authorities to arrange to hold these meetings this year during the normal period, 23rd June to 1st July, which is the period specified by the Bill, and it is proposed that anything so done by them in anticipation of the passing of the Bill will be validated.

The Bill also includes certain consequential provisions concerning the extension of terms of office of existing members of local authorities, appointments of school attendance committees and meetings of vocational education committees.

This is a Bill to enable the postponement of the local elections for the second time. One would have imagined that the Minister would have given a little more time to the Seanad in telling us his reasons for this postponement. When one considers that in the other House the affairs with which the local authorities concern themselves took many days to debate, and that the Minister took some days, shall I say, to reply to that debate, one should imagine that when the Minister seeks power to postpone the local elections he would have more than a speech of just a few minutes for the Seanad. Perhaps the reasons given by the Minister are sufficient in themselves to enable Senators to make up their minds that the local elections should be postponed again this year but to my mind, at any rate, the Minister is showing scant courtesy to Senators and, if I may use the term, scantier courtesy to the electorate and to the local authorities simply because it is politically expedient for the Minister to do so.

I do not challenge the Minister when he says he has respect for local authorities. He must have respect for them because his position in the Government must mean that he should have respect for them. The length of time the debate on his Estimate took this year and his own experience as a member of a local authority must give him some idea of the importance of local councils. We can, therefore, appreciate that his few short words here this afternoon were not intended in any way to denigrate the local authorities. On the other hand, we appreciate that all he has done is his routine job. These elections were postponed from 1965 to 1966 and it has become politically expedient now to postpone them again until next year and the sooner the Minister gets the job over the better. That has been his attitude here and in the other House.

Frankly, I admire the Minister who apparently does not give two hoots for the Seanad. That type of attitude springs from his supreme confidence in his Party. I must say I admire him for that. Whether that confidence is justified is another matter. I am always inclined to give credit where credit is due and quite obviously the Minister has shown here that he has confidence in his Party.

The manner in which the Minister's Estimate was taken this year shows the enormous importance of local councils. It showed what councils mean to Deputies and incidentally to Senators. When we consider the importance of these councils side by side with the manner in which, for political expediency, elections to them are postponed from year to year, we must quarrel with the Minister. It is one thing to admire his political belief in himself and his Party and another to admire what he is doing here this afternoon.

This casual postponement of the local elections must tend in the eyes of the public to denigrate the importance of local authorities. That is a bad thing in itself because we expect the people to come out and vote. No doubt next year the Minister will exhort them by way of public speech and public advertisement, and by every other means possible, to come out and vote in large numbers. How can he expect them to pay attention to his exhortations when they remember his scant consideration at this time.

This Bill when it becomes law will give retrospective approval to every action taken by local authorities since last June. Very often local authorities have unpopular things to do. One of the most unpopular at the moment, beside the imposition of local taxation, is the refusal to people of planning permission. I know that in my area——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Functions and policies of local authorities may not properly be discussed on the Bill.

I must beg the Chair's pardon. I shall try to relate my remarks to the Bill.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator should try a little harder and the Chair will be happier.

One of the most unpopular actions of local authorities is their refusal of permission to build, yet many people build without permission. They are then brought to court and are ordered to tear down their buildings.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Chair still fails to see the relationship between this and the Bill.

The people are acting illegally but no more illegally than the councils themselves have been acting since last June. This Bill will validate the councils' actions and surely when people see this kind of thing they will be inclined to say: "We will act illegally as the councils have been doing." The Minister is giving bad example to the electorate. By enabling councils, retrospectively, to act illegally he is implying to the electorate by example that they may also do it. Some of them have done it.

I fail to see any valid reason why this Bill should seek to postpone the elections beyond next month. June is a holiday month, a period when people may be away from home on holidays, a time when we attempt to bring in tourists and when farmers and others are at their busiest. It is a wrong time to hold elections. I understand and appreciate the Minister's reference to polling stations, to the fact that in winter schools and halls are without light, but surely the most important consideration is to get the highest number of people to vote. It is wrong that the elections should be postponed to a month when we can anticipate that many of the electorate will be on holidays. As well, the fact that the Minister seeks again to postpone the elections for political expediency will lead the electorate to think that they are not of very great importance.

In his statement in the other House —I could not hear him very well here —the Minister said that important changes in the law governing local elections are in course of preparation. I suggest that when the Minister comes to consider such important changes he should think of many things. There have been many abuses. I do not know if I am entitled to refer to them on a Bill which seeks to postpone the local elections, but there have been many abuses perpetrated by local authorities because of political necessity, because it was politically expedient to do so.

The Minister today is postponing or seeking power to postpone those elections because it is expedient for him to do so. When the Minister in many of his speeches criticises local authorities for the dilatory fashion in which they approach some of their duties, he should not leave himself in the situation in his approach to them particularly in regard to elections in which a voice should be raised to say that he is acting from political expediency. It is obvious on this occasion that the only reason it is necessary to present this Bill is because of political expediency.

I suggest to the Minister, even at this late stage, if it is essential for his own purpose or for Party purposes, to postpone those elections to next year, he should seek a better month than the month of June. I suggest the month of October or late September when the holidays are finished. It is essential, as the Minister will find next year, to issue appeals to people to come out and vote. The majority of people should be given the opportunity to vote and I do not believe they will be given this opportunity in the month of June. I do not consider the month of June suitable for farmers or people who have holidays to consider. I urge the Minister to change the month at this late stage and to postpone the elections, if they must be postponed, to September or early October.

I found it rather difficult to follow the line of argument pursued by the last speaker. In one sentence he criticised the Minister for not holding the elections immediately and in another he suggested that they should be postponed until the month of October.

If they have to be postponed.

From what I could hear the Senator seemed to suggest that there was some type of Party political manoeuvring in so far as the postponing of those elections was concerned. He employed, because of that, some words such as "political expediency" or something to that effect at any rate. I want to make it quite clear that it was decided to postpone those elections for the reasons set out by the Minister in his statement. It is very significant that when it was decided to postpone those elections no objections were raised. There are many people who can be very wise after the event.

I welcome this Bill, however, because in it the Minister says that some important changes governing local elections will be made and that he is considering drafting a Bill to that effect. I admit, regarding local elections in general, that members of local authorities are very important people in their locality because they are living locally and they have a fair idea of what is needed in their areas. It is true that since 1932 those elections have been more or less conducted on a political basis and our Party make no apologies whatever for taking that line. Indeed, so far as elections are concerned, we have probably given more opportunities to the people, both in Government elections and local elections, than any country in Europe to choose their representatives and to choose them wisely. I do not believe there is any country in which elections have been held more frequently because whenever our Party felt there was a need in the public interest to hold elections——

Now is the hour.

——they took the step and always went out to seek election. It is very significant—my memory goes back a fair distance—that before all those elections Fine Gael, in particular, always forecast a victory for themselves. They were going to sweep the country from shore to shore. I remember only on two occasions, in all those elections, on which they succeeded in getting their Party returned since 1932 and Fine Gael dominated Coalition Governments with disastrous effects to the country.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Chair is again in difficulty with regard to the relevance of this.

I want to reply to my friend who more or less criticised the Minister for postponing those elections. He criticised the brevity of the Minister's speech. If the Minister has been brief he has given a very factual statement. I should not like to fault him for not making one of the long-winded type of speeches which came from the Opposition.

This is the second time that a Bill of this type was introduced. I agree that in 1965 there was a valid reason for the introduction of a Bill of this kind and the postponement of the local elections. Due to the fact that we had two by-elections and a general election at that time, and on top of that we in the Seanad had the hardest election of all, the Seanad Election, we did not feel like pursuing elections all through 1965. I am sure, in our hearts, to be quite honest, we felt relieved we were not to have still another election in 1965.

We looked forward to having the local elections in 1966. As has been pointed out, I do not think there was any valid reason for not holding the local government elections in 1966. We all feel that the local elections should have been held on the day on which the Presidential election was held. Excuses were offered as to why we could not have the local elections on the day of the Presidential election but, to my mind, not one valid reason was offered as to why those local elections were not held on that particular day.

We were told we would confuse the electorate. I think no compliment was paid to the intelligence of the electorate when the excuse was made that they would not be able to differentiate between the ballot paper on which the Presidential candidates would appear and that upon which would appear the names of county council representatives. I think it was in 1945 that the Presidential election and the local elections were held on the same day and I do not think there was any confusion on that account. I do not think any reason emerged from those elections as to why we would never again have two elections on the one day.

Perhaps I might add that the two big political Parties who had candidates in that election might have missed the bus by not having the local elections in 1966. We shall have to think up a better reason than that of saying that we would confuse the electorate and that they would not be able to mark their ballot papers if the Presidential election and the local elections were held on the same day. Now the local elections will be postponed until June, 1967, which means we are getting back to the old position we were in some years ago when local elections were held every three years. If nothing happens in 1967 and the local elections are held—and I am not at all sure we will have the local elections in 1967—we might have bigger fish to fry than the poor local authorities. If the local elections are held in 1967, three years after we will possibly again have the local elections, or is it the intention of the Bill that if we have a local election in 1967 we will not have another local election until 1972?

I regret that local authorities and local authority elections have been denigrated. They have become a chopping block. It is a simple matter to come to the Seanad and get through a Bill in a matter of hours to postpone local authority elections. I attach great importance to local authorities but I want to assure the House that I do so not because they happened to put us into Seanad Éireann. I have been a member of a local authority for 24 years. I was first elected in 1942 and have been a member of a local authority since.

I think local authorities do wonderful work. The local public representatives get down to grass roots. They live with the people and the people depend on them. The activities of local authorities affect the life of everyone in a very intimate way. The role of members of local authorities is most important because of the many things they can do to alleviate hardships or inconvenience that may be caused to any individual. I feel sad that at the mere drop of a hat we postpone the local elections. If it does not suit us, then we postpone them again to the year after, always assuming it will suit and that the time will be opportune.

I regret that we had to discuss a Bill of this type again. It is unfortunate that it has to be brought in and I hope the Minister in his reply will be able to give a much more cogent reason why he had to introduce this Bill and why the local elections were not held on the day in 1966 when we had the Presidential election.

I should like to support what has been said by Senator J. Fitzgerald. It is disappointing to us here to be asked once more to postpone these elections. A strong case was made for that the last time and it seemed to me even then that there was not any need to postpone the elections. It is disturbing to find that the only reason now advanced by the Minister for putting them off again is that it would have been awkward to hold them this year during the Presidential election. Yet, we postponed them to this year while knowing perfectly well that a Presidential election was in the offing. How is it this was forgotten if it were such a major obstacle? In a previous Presidential election a referendum was put to the people on the whole system of proportional representation and it was not felt that the two could not be held at the same time. If it were considered inconvenient to hold the local elections at the same time as the Presidential election, there is no reason why they could not have been arranged for this month. This would have been a good month to hold them.

It is obvious to anybody in the country that the very fact that the local elections give an opportunity for testing political opinion is the reason the Government now want at all costs to put them off. They do not want the feeling of the voter to be tested because there are a number of areas in which the Government know perfectly well that the voter, be the election local or general, is dissatisfied with Government attitudes. It is not my belief that a major difference exists between the two large Parties in the Oireachtas. Nevertheless, it seems to me to be obvious that the fear which prompts this Bill today is the fear that the voter might in desperation feel that Fine Gael might not be any worse than Fianna Fáil, which just about sums up the situation.

Consequently, I feel that the word "expediency", as it was used by Senator McHugh, was justified and that is the reason why we are being asked once more to postpone the local elections which the Government feel are particularly awkward just now. In other words, they do not want the people to be given an opportunity of expressing their views. I feel that the Fianna Fáil Party are doing themselves harm by this reluctance, a reluctance to listen to the will of the people. That is what this Bill amounts to—a refusal this year and for nearly another year to listen to the will of the people in relation to the policies, both local and general, of the Government.

I am afraid that this kind of attitude will boomerang on the Party putting the Bill before us. I intend to vote against the Bill although I think the provision that there should be local elections at regular intervals of five years can be well defended. I do not think that the postponement for a full year of the local elections that last year we were promised would be held this year can be defended.

I admire the Minister's judgment. I think the Minister was quite right to postpone the local elections, making a judgment as a Minister of a Fianna Fáil Government. I think he was quite right and he acted in the best interests of Fianna Fáil in again postponing the local elections.

Senators

Hear, hear.

We as a House of the Oireachtas should look at this not really as a political issue but as a democratic issue. I am a very strong believer in democracy and I think it is an essential part of the maintenance of a democratic organisation here that there should be election of local authorities by adult suffrage at regular intervals. The Dáil and Seanad have already agreed that local elections should be held every five years. Local elections were due in 1965 in accordance with the decision of Parliament but the Minister used his majority in both Houses to have the local elections postponed in 1965. It may be that there were good reasons for postponing them to 1966 but it was a postponement to 1966 and not a postponement to 1967, which is now the issue, because we all know, and the Minister better than anybody, that the reason for the postponement is not because of any imaginary confusion that might arise if the electors were asked to vote in a Presidential election and a local election at the one time but rather for Party political interests. This Government knew that the judgment would be against them and they did not want the judgment of the people. All of us in politics must face the issue and go before the electorate—we before our rather limited electorate—and take the consequences. I think it is quite undemocratic and I am glad that Members of the House have risen in protest against this undemocratic action in deciding that for Party political purposes the decision which we already made, namely, that the electorate would get a chance in local authority elections in 1966, should be again withheld from them because the Minister thought it was unfavourable to Fianna Fáil at that particular time.

Even if there was some confusion, even if there was some merit in the argument of confusion in the electorate, which I do not accept, there are many months between June and December. There was a very good September and a very good October for holding local elections.

But a very bad price for cattle.

That is the rub. It did not favour the Party. I admire and commend their judgment. The Minister was very wise and if I were a Fianna Fáil man I would agree with him that the proper thing was to stampede and push this Bill through the Houses of Parliament but as a democrat I do not agree with it. I think it is wrong and I think it does injury to the democratic structure of our society that we should flout the electorate in this way and continue to postpone the local elections.

I am not a member of a local authority. I have great admiration for the people who do the very hard work involved in local representation. But they are representative of the people, they are elected and we have already decided that they should be elected for a period of five years and then go back to the people for a renewal of their authority. But the people have had withheld from them in 1965 and again in 1966 the right to say who their local representatives should be, who the people should be to govern them locally and to do this very important work.

I am opposed to this Bill. I protest most strongly against this idea or this proposal that the local elections should be again postponed because it does not favour the Government now in power. I think it is undemocratic and I protest most strongly against it.

Senator Murphy has put very clearly the reason for the Bill before us this evening. On two occasions the date came up when we should have these local elections. On each occasion they were postponed. In 1965 the Dáil election was only over and of course three months after the Dáil the Seanad election must take place so there was a fairly plausible excuse for the postponement that year.

The Minister now brings in a Bill and beats his breast and says "From now on the local elections will be held in the month of June." He did not say whether they would be held on the 1st day or the last day of June or any particular date or any period in the month of June. Let us face the fact that when the Minister specifies that June is the date of these local elections in future there may be an occasion when postponement would be fully justified and necessary. Then we will have the peculiar situation that we will have before us a Bill contradicting the proposal now before us.

There is nothing new in that. We contradict what we did last year.

I think the restriction of elections to June set out in this Bill makes the situation even more ridiculous and shows more clearly the political expediency which prompted Fianna Fáil to postpone these elections last year and this year.

The Minister made a very brief statement relating to this Bill here in the Seanad. I know that his statement in the Dáil was not so brief. He afforded an opportunity there for various points to be taken up in the debate which his statement here does not present to the Senators.

At the end of October the Minister is bringing in a Bill which would enable him to postpone the elections which should have taken place last June. This is a most peculiar situation. Four months after the month in which the elections should have taken place we have a Bill before us to legalise the situation. That is what it is, legalising the situation that has existed since last June and the activities of the various county councils all over the country and the various decisions which the councils took in the meantime.

If Fianna Fáil were honest with the people they would have indicated early this year that it was proposed to postpone these elections. At the last moment they used their voting strength in the Dáil to prevent people from having an opportunity to elect their county councillors. They did not have the opportunity last year either. It is obvious that there would be very great changes in this country if we did have the local elections last June at the same time as the Presidential election. Nobody saw that as clearly as Fianna Fáil. They knew very well that if they had both elections on the same day that a great change for the better would have resulted from both of those elections.

You did not even win the one we had on that day.

What one?

The Presidential election.

We did not have a monopoly on television.

You had the television and used it and you are at it still.

Sour grapes.

It is all very well using the television——

We are trying to complain about sour grapes.

There are more non-supporters of Fianna Fáil subscribing to licences for television in this country than Fianna Fáil supporters: it is the non-supporters of Fianna Fáil who are keeping the television service going by the payment of their licences. Remember, when Fianna Fáil wanted to take the power of democratic voting from the people of this country they made sure to have the referendum on the same day as the Presidential election because, on that occasion, they believed they would win the election. They did win but, in the process of winning it, they tried by referendum to take away from the people the democratic system of voting which we have at present and which our people decided to hold on to.

I hope Fine Gael decide to hold on to it this time.

In 1932 it was the Blueshirts who were against it.

Do not be looking back.

The Blueshirts ensured freedom of speech.

Business suspended at 6.05 p.m. and resumed at 7.30 p.m.

Though it may not have been relevant, I was saying that at that time the Blueshirt organisation ensured freedom of speech for the supporters of the Blueshirts. They were not allowed to have free speech at that time, as can well be remembered.

That is not relevant.

Yes. We come back now to the Local Elections Bill. I was misled, of course, by the opposite side when I was speaking on this before. Perhaps the Minister could clarify the point regarding whether persons aggrieved as a result of decisions by the county councils since last June can challenge the legality of those decisions now, since apparently the legislation legalising the postponement of the 1966 local elections which were to take place in June is only coming before both Houses of the Oireachtas four months later. There are people who submitted plans for building dwelling-houses, erecting business premises, and other plans which were turned down as a result of the decision since June, and, naturally, those people who were turned down had to change their plans and were at a loss in the enterprises in which they were interested at the time and with which they could not proceed. The question is whether decisions taken in the meantime must be reversed or whether it is necessary to bring in legislation now to legalise the decisions taken between now and last June, since the county councils apparently were not covered by any local elections law and were not legal after the end of June because this Bill now before us had not been passed before the end of June, 1966.

The Minister has written into the Bill the pious hope of having elections every five years, having postponed the elections twice for Party political reasons and Party political benefits. When we look back on the very trivial reasons which prompted the postponement of those two elections, perhaps the Party political purposes are not trivial as far as Fianna Fáil are concerned, but there may be circumstances in future when a quinquennial election will not be desirable or practicable. It may be necessary to have a postponement, which would leave this Bill which we are debating here just a waste of time, because there is no elasticity in it which would permit of a discretion. The wording of this Bill is quite definite. It is hard to understand why it is definite on this occasion when during the past two years the desirability of having these local elections was ignored.

The Minister mentioned that he proposes to have further legislation brought in relating to local elections at a later stage and that there would not be any time to have those proposals presented to and passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas before next June. I should like to hear good reasons from the Minister as to why it would not be possible, when we are considering the Local Elections Bill, to have the kind of legislation which the Minister envisages debated at the one time, because this Bill is really brought in by the Government just to mend their hand. While doing so, they mention that they propose to bring in another Local Elections Bill which will not be effective by next June. If it is not effective by next June the proposals the Minister has in mind, and which may be desirable to be brought in in this new age, cannot be effective until 1972 which would be the next local government election year. I should like to know from the Minister whether it would not be possible for him to bring these proposals for modernising the legislation before both Houses of the Oireachtas in time to be effective for the elections next June instead of talking about something that will not be effective until 1972.

Even as the position stands at the moment, and taking into consideration the result of the election which took place last June, Fianna Fáil are over-represented on all the county councils and corporations and they have been since 1960. The result is that the policies of the Government, even though they are running against the wishes of the people, are implemented by the numerical strength of the Fianna Fáil Party on the various county councils, which are now completely out of date in relation to the results of the last election. That could be a very useful power to have. You could have a situation in which people were clamouring and crying out for houses, and you could have a housing slowdown or stoppage implemented by the county councils through the influence of the Fianna Fáil councillors, taking directions from the Government and from the Department. They could use the county councils to oppose the wishes of the people in relation to the services which they ought to get these days.

We need to modernise our health services. Again, if that issue comes up for debate at a county council meeting the Fianna Fáil Party are over-represented and the result is that the people will not get the services they should have. One example is the postponement of the swimming pools. Many county councils decided that swimming pools should be provided and they have been told by the Department since that they are not going to get them for some time to come. There are also the regional water schemes which are held up for want of finance, and the people in those districts are being kept quiet by the influence of the Fianna Fáil over-representation on the county councils.

The Minister admitted that if the local elections were held on the same day as the Presidential election the nation would have been saved at least £70,000. The housing situation is bad and many people are waiting for houses. If we take the hard figures of the amount of money which will be spent next June, and a lot more with it, on running the local elections, it will cost far more than £70,000, in spite of what the Minister says. Even his own figure of £70,000 would provide small grants for up to 100 houses. That is a very big consideration these days. Of course, there are people who think that is not very important or very big, but the people living in unfit dwellings who could improve their houses with the aid of grants certainly feel that a waste of £70,000 in view of our difficult financial situation, is substantial.

Does the Senator think the elections should be postponed indefinitely?

What I am saying is that we could have saved £70,000 by having both elections last June, and we would have got a very different result as is very well known. We could have new county councils with modern representation. We have the same old county councils still.

They did not do too badly by us at all.

Senator Fitzgerald was a member of the county council for 25 years. I was a member for 14 years so I know what I am talking about when I talk about the work of the county councils, and the work of the various committees. The public should be aware of the terrific amount of work done by county councils. The newspaper reporters are allowed in to the public meetings only, and they have not the opportunity of being present at meetings of the working committees. I was on 13 committees of the Dublin County Council in addition to doing council work. There are other councillors I am sure who have worked on more committees of their own councils than that.

The public in general do not realise the vast amount of effective administrative work that is done by the county councillors they elect. They are doing constructive work on all kinds of committees associated with the county councils. I mention this to draw attention to the importance of county councils and corporations. They are the organs through which the Government administer their various schemes. It would be impossible for the Government to administer schemes of public utility and public assistance, grants, scholarships, and other schemes which come right down to the people through the county councils.

The public do not realise that the county councils are really the Government in their own localities, because it is through the county councils that the Government function in relation to the various schemes in which they are involved. Apart from the Government schemes administered by committees of the county councils, there are, of course, contributions from the rate-payers. Those contributions are also used in connection with the various schemes through the committees on which the councillors sit. I mention these matters to show how important it is to have the people properly represented on the county councils, and to have the county councils made up of representatives who can express the up-to-date wishes of the people.

It might be said that seven years is not a long period for a councillor to sit on a county council but it is a long period for the people to be given no oportunity of expressing their views, first of all, regarding policies and, secondly, in relation to their own local representatives.

People want to change their representatives. Perhaps Parties may want to change from one candidate to another and they get the opportunity of doing that at local elections which are what might be described as minor general elections. Very often we had to deplore the fact that Fianna Fáil turned county council elections into political battles. In years past I took the view that persons independent of Party politics should stand and be elected to local councils but I do not subscribe to that view now. I think now that representatives from various political Parties, major organisations, standing as candidates is the best way of ensuring that policies will be implemented or opposed at local level.

A great change.

We can get very effective administration from organised groups who are represented on county councils. It was a mistake for the Minister, when deciding on the month of June, not to have specified a period within that month during which the elections should take place. He may argue that in previous legislation the date was not specified. The usual arrangement was that the local elections should take place throughout the country on one date or another. There were never more than two dates. The chairmen of councils and the mayors of towns had to be elected before a certain date in June. That problem is not specified here. Only the month is set out. I submit that the Minister should have been more specific about the date.

I also submit that the legislation the Minister brought in at this time should contain recognition of thede facto situation. Instead of the Bill now before us we should have fresh legislation because, if we are to make changes which the Minister and others consider desirable in the light of modern needs, we should have that legislation as soon as possible instead of this stop-gap measure which relates only to June, 1967. In the years to come apparently we shall have another Bill which will be effective in June, 1972. The Minister could have brought in this Bill in the spring of this year and have had it debated and passed instead of introducing it at this stage. I mention that because I feel it is a waste of time debating a Bill of this kind just to fix up a situation that has arisen in relation to elections that did not take place last June. We should have, instead, the kind of Bill demanded by modern conditions.

I should like the Minister in reply to say if it would be possible for him, even when this Bill has gone through as I suppose it will, to legislate in the future so that the quinquennial period starting in June next will be amended by way of improvements which the Department have in mind in the matter of legislation governing local elections, having regard to the increased number of services administered by the various councils through the Department of Local Government. It should not be left until 1972 to improve a situation which the Minister now considers should be remedied.

The Bill is a short one. As a matter of fact, it is a way of fixing the date for the next local elections which may be changed at any time. The Minister could come in next week with a similar measure and have the elections held next month but that is not likely in view of what is happening at present. The Fianna Fáil Party hold more than 400 seats in county councils and that is one of the reasons why the Minister is not anxious to face the electorate. The position might be changed and that position is very important in the matter of making decisions in county councils. It has its importance for the Seanad as well because we are more or less sent in here as a result of votes by various county councils. In my panel alone there are three quotas and the Fianna Fáil Party do not want that situation changed.

It is for these reasons that the Minister has avoided allowing the electorate to make any decision to change the representations on county councils. During the past 18 months there has been great criticism of the Department of Local Government because of the housing shortage. In spite of that, the Minister stated in Dáil Éireann that a number of councils are to blame for delays in house-building. In that situation, he should give the public who require houses an opportunity of casting their votes and electing people who will do the business of the councils in the way the Minister says he wants it done. We might solve our housing problem if the Minister gave the people that opportunity.

The Bill fixes the date for June. I do not know why the Minister picked June. I have no objection to that month: the days are warm and long for people to go out and canvass. However, it is not always easy to pick candidates to give their services free as councillors and it is quite a job sometimes to get what we consider suitable people to go forward. That applies to every Party in the House. I see a way out through the picking of June. Generally speaking, there are two Church holidays in June and I suggest to the Minister that we select these two days on which to hold elections.

A few years ago people would not say that because there were certain regulations laid down about servile worket cetera, but that no longer exists. There is an obligation to attend religious service if you belong to a certain denomination but there is no obligation to abstain from servile work. If there were polling booths in each church area you would find that there would be no difficulty at all about getting people to vote and we would cut out the opportunity of the strong Parties having such great representation. You would have a fairer opinion of the particular candidate which the people would like to select. This is an idea which could be made use of. We should have voting on a Church holiday.

I am disappointed that, so far, the Minister has not made a move to give the people an opportunity to vote before 1967. In Dublin, for example, you have newly built-up areas. The people living in those areas have probably no local representative. They feel this very much because of the grievances which they have regarding rents, rates and various other matters. If you ask people in a new housing scheme in Dublin who their local representative is they cannot tell you.

There are very many people who are anxious to retire as local representatives. Like everyone else, I had to go around the country last year to canvass votes. I met many people in different parts of the country who wanted to retire. They cannot do so because there are counties in which if a person resigns for any reason in nine cases out of ten the Fianna Fáil Party take the seat. We had a representative in the city of Galway and he got a guarantee they would elect a Labour representative in his place. When they got him out they put in a Fianna Fáil man.

We have several other counties where the same thing happens. There should be something in a Bill, if we believe in proportional representation, which would give the various Parties representation on the various committees. If we take the General Council of County Councils and take the Minister's own county, we will find that they have three representatives, Galway have three and County Meath have three and you find that the Fianna Fáil Party have the General Council packed with a majority.

We have a mental hospital in my county and not a single Labour man from County Meath would be put on the Mental Hospital Committee, whereas nine-tenths of the people in that hospital belong to the working-class. If they did not belong to the working class they would be in homes where they could pay. It is a disgrace that Labour representatives do not get representation on the various committees. Something should be put in this Bill which would give them a right to have representation on the various committees.

The Presidential election was mentioned as one of the reasons why the local elections were not held this year. That was an insult to the Department of Education. It was said that if both elections were held on the same day there would be too many spoiled votes. It is a disgrace after 40 years of native Government to tell somebody over 21 years of age that he could not mark a ballot paper in regard to local elections from one to six or mark a Presidential election ballot paper with X or 1.

The number of spoiled votes in the Presidential election was colossal. Those spoiled votes were done deliberately. It was an insult to the intelligence of the people after 40 years of self-government to say that they could not mark two ballot papers correctly on the one day. We marked three ballot papers in one day on a previous occasion. One of those ballot papers was an intricate one. It referred to a change in the Constitution in regard to PR. Despite this, people were able to vote correctly. In regard to local elections the people know those who are going up by their Christian names so they can easily mark the ballot paper correctly. With regard to the Presidential election this year there were only two candidates and the people could easily mark opposite T. F. O'Higgins or the President of Ireland whom they wished to vote for. Those names are known to everybody and everybody knew whom they wanted to vote for. People spoiled their votes deliberately but not because they did not know how to mark the ballot papers correctly.

It has become more or less a monotonous operation for the Minister to defer the holding of elections. I should like him to state definitely that he would hold the elections next year no matter what the situation is, even if the price of cattle goes down still further and the farmers sit longer outside the Department of Agriculture. I should like the Minister to make a statement today on the day that he will hold the local elections.

The youth of this country are entitled to get an opportunity to go forward for the local elections because nine-tenths of the people who are in Dáil Éireann served their apprenticeship on the local councils. It would not surprise me in the least when it comes to next June if the Minister found some excuse for not holding the elections then. The fact of the matter is that last week I got a signal that he may do so because he says he wishes to introduce some amendments so that certain people who are debarred from voting, or debarred from going forward as public representatives, will have an opportunity to go forward. The Minister also stated that there was no hope of having that legislation before the New Year.

I, too, wish to register a protest at the unreasonable and extraordinary delay which the Government have caused in holding local elections. I feel that they have been most unfair in their treatment of the unselfish body of councillors, both urban councillors and town councillors, throughout the country. It is difficult to understand why anyone should deliberately set out, two years running, to postpone local elections. There are people up to thirty years of age in the country today who, so far, have not had an opportunity of voting for the councillors whose deliberations, by and large, affect each and every one of them.

Some time ago I was interested in a speech by a Fianna Fáil Senator who forecast the disappearance of the local councils as we know them at present. I certainly would like to make it known to the Minister that I would be totally against regional councils. The work of the councils at present is successful because it is on a completely local and knowledgeable basis. I certainly can well imagine the way many of the poorer sections of our community would be treated if they did not personally know one or other of the members of our local councils. For that reason, it is most undesirable that the present system should be changed. On the contrary, I should like to see more power given back to the members of our local authorities. At present they are being used as an excuse for the Government in the various ways they have devised to increase the burden of local taxation, so much is done now in the name of local councils and the councillors are completely powerless. In many places their name is invoked but what is done is a managerial function. The amount of work done voluntarily by these very highly public-spirited ladies and gentlemen certainly gets scant recognition and, more often than not, their considered views are certainly not heeded. The amount of money spent annually by the local authorities, and I should imagine in the majority of cases wisely spent, should surely mean that the men who are carrying the responsibility should have the responsibility of spending these moneys and not the County Managers Association as at present appears to be the system.

I was surprised that one of the Minister's excuses for not holding the local elections in the autumn or winter was that there was difficulty in providing adequately heated polling booths. The vast majority of polling booths throughout rural Ireland are the national schools and surely it is not unreasonable to expect heating, and our children are being taught in heated national schools at present.

If it is true that the majority of national schools are inadequately heated, surely this is a serious matter and is one which should be immediately looked into. Every time during the past elections were held in the winter months—elections that were not forced on the Government. The last general election was held early in the spring and I think the time was entirely the choice of the Taoiseach and there was nothing wrong with this then, and I still think the local elections should be held as soon as possible.

I also feel that the sooner certain disqualifications are removed and the way cleared to allow in the few remaining sections of the community who are debarred from being members of local authorities the better. I should like to see a better cross-section of our public as members of local bodies. Perhaps some method could be devised of encouraging at least some representation from the professional people on every council. I think this is most important.

I feel also that when the Minister is considering the legislation he has hinted at today he might include in that some form of training course for new people who will be elected for the first time on local authorities after the next election whenever it is held. I think it is very necessary, and most important, that all the new members on councils, when first elected should be given an opportunity of grasping some of the theories attached to local administration so that they may be better equipped to follow our system of democracy.

There is not much more I wish to say on this Bill. Certainly the Minister gave some excuses for not holding these elections when they should have been held last June in conjunction with the Presidential election. The public are well aware of the fact that the Party reasons for not doing this will cost them a considerable sum next June, or whenever they are held.

The Seanad has a particular history in regard to local government election law in this country. I do not want to go into that but in the 1920's and early 1930's the Seanad had certain views about local government electoral law and it expressed this in a very trenchant fashion in rejecting a number of Bills. It is right and proper here this evening that there should be again a widespread consensus of opinion on this particular Bill introduced by the Minister for Local Government.

This Bill to my mind is a corrupt Bill. It has a nasty odour. It is redolent of Machiavellianism and the Minister asks us to join him in supporting it. We will do nothing of the kind because it is publication in legislative form of the broken promises of the Minister and the Fianna Fáil Government.

When the 1965 Local Government Electoral Bill was enacted the local elections were promised to be held in 1966 and the Minister with that Machiavellian mind which he displays more than any other person in the Cabinet, prevaricating when the elections were to be held, would not answer questions, would not make up his mind. When the Dáil went into summer recess, within a week he was able to go down to Roscommon and say that the local elections would not be held in June this year. Later we had on television the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries who said he could not discuss these matters. He would have to tell the Dáil. He had first to announce them to the Dáil. Then the other night the coy Minister for Health, Deputy O'Malley, said it would not be right to give these details which must be given only in the Dáil when Budget proposals are being framed, having announced his great plan for free education up to the intermediate certificate at an Institute of Journalists dinner out in Dún Laoghaire. This is the kind of cant and nonsense we are forced to put up with. I am trying to illustrate—and I am glad you did not call me to order too quickly, Sir—the Machiavellian approach of the Minister to the local elections.

The Minister now comes in and gives us a one and a half page speech in which he says that one of the reasons for postponing these elections is that "a Bill is being drafted to repeal certain disqualifications for membership of local authorities" and—just listen to this from the Minister—"to set up new legal machinery for questioning local elections by petition". I am sure that is one of the high priorities in the Department of Local Government—to set up legal machinery for questioning elections. It shows a respect for law that I would never have dreamt, if I were dreaming for a thousand years, the Minister for Local Government had. The Minister by this particular Bill shows that he has no respect for his pledged word enshrined in a statute of the Oireachtas. That is what this represents, putting into legislative form the fact that the Minister and the Fianna Fáil Government have broken their promise to the people to hold elections in 1966. Of course, it is not necessary to repeat to this House or to the world outside that we all know it was the credit squeeze, the bad housing conditions, no money for work on roads, no capital for any of the capital schemes run by local authorities, no money for vocational schools—these were the things that were working in the Minister's mind and in the minds of the Government in postponing the local elections. It was for the same reason they put up the outgoing President as a candidate in the Presidential election. They knew the Fianna Fáil Government could not face the people. We were told that not to put forward the outgoing President would mean retreating from what we had stood for and then, a few months later, the Taoiseach said that our Sean Bhean Bhocht politics are all cod. This is what is involved here. Let there be no doubt about this. It is disgraceful and, of course, we must vote against it in this House.

I shall not say a whole lot about this Bill——

After all that.

——but what I do want to say is that we must try to make something of it because here again the Minister is leaving himself room for manoeuvre as to when elections can be held as he thinks at some future time that he will be Minister for Local Government. He says: "Now we will nail our hand to the desk and say the month of June." Will the Minister tell me what will happen if some time in the month of May or the month of June, a Taoiseach declares a general election? Will we have then, willy-nilly, local elections in the month of June. It is obvious that that cannot be done and, therefore, the Minister knows well, in stating the month of June, that if it does not suit, after being defeated in a general election in the month of May——

They would not be there then.

That is a change, of course.

They may. Do not underestimate the capacity of the Minister to see around corners because that it what these Ministers in this Government spend their time at, not on the work of their Departments. One has only to look at the time they spend opening factories down in Cork and washing garages and that sort of thing. This is all for the Party not the business of Government.

The Minister in fixing the month of June knows very well that that cannot work in certain circumstances. He knows that if there happened to be a general election in June in the same year as the quinquennial elections, you cannot have the two at the same time.

There was a postponement of the elections in 1965. I think it is right to say that there were no serious objections from politicians to the postponement——

The postponement to 1966.

Yes, for one year, to 1966. There are two good reasons for that. The first one is that you must take into consideration the fact that the public may get tired of going out to vote twice in the one year. It is difficult enough to get voters out for general elections. I think it would be a bad thing to have a very low poll in local authority elections. It would be bad for democracy if people were to refuse to exercise their vote, even for a fairly justifiable cause. That way lies dictatorship and anarchy by minority. The people were entitled to that consideration. There was also the further consideration that politicians are human beings of flesh and blood and that they had put in an intensive campaign for, perhaps, four weeks and some others of them for another four to six weeks after that, for the Oireachtas elections. A stage is reached where people just cannot, in the interests of their health and their families and of their political Parties, go on. I feel there was an excuse last year.

I want to anticipate what the Minister's reply will be. He said it in the Dáil. He said that Cumann na nGaedheal, of whom the Fine Gael Party are successors, postponed the elections four times between 1922 and 1932. I want to ask the Minister whether the country is in the same state of seige as it was between 1922 and 1931. I do not think, even in present circumstances, that anyone will say that is the position. There was a general election in 1922, another one in 1923, another in 1927. That was four in a period of ten years if you want to take it from 1922 to 1932. If my recollection is correct, there were also elections for the Seanad in that particular period. I hope that the Minister will not get up and say that the present time remotely resembles the period from 1922 to 1932 when half the country would not recognise the Parliament or would not come into the Parliament. I only know this, that the Mafia of those days is now confined to the Minister's constituency in Donegal and when we have not got a nationwide Mafia, I think it reasonable to say that we are living in normal times and that there is no justification, except political expediency, which I do not admire in the Minister. I see in this, as I see in a lot of other things the Minister and the Government are doing, serious threats to our democracy, and to the principles and rights of the people.

The people of this country since 1965 have had a right to change their elected representatives on local authorities and to express their views upon local matters. That has been denied to them and to say that it is to be denied to them again in 1966 and postponed until 1967 is, to my mind, a denial by the Minister of the ordinary rights of the public. Of course, we will oppose this Bill.

I have seldom listened to so much hypocrisy, exaggeration, half truths and nonsense as I have listened to from the members of the Opposition of this House this evening. The first comment one would make on all this loud-sounding talk is that, of course, as political entities and members of political Parties, they are trying to make the best possible narrow political Party use they can out of this Bill while they may. The last speaker really took the biscuit, having probably listened to the other speakers to get his inspiration to try to gild what they had probably blundered through. Yet, of all the speakers. I consider this particular Member to be the least qualified to speak on matters relating to local authorities because, if my recollection serves me rightly, in the 1960 local government elections—in this I may be mistaken or I may not be altogether correct, in which case I am sure I will be corrected—he tried his hand at being elected, with an electorate of about 16,000 in the particular electoral area, and succeeded in getting 182 votes.

I got much more than that.

I do not think there is a lot in it.

He went up to get three out of five in the area and that is what he got.

This is the record of the man who would talk to us in free flowing talk and high-sounding principles about what is involved in the postponement of local elections.

The Minister might go further and say I was defeated in the Seanad in 1951; and I do not mind that, either.

He has experience of being defeated. This probably does justify him in talking on something about which he obviously does not know a lot.

What I should like to deal with is the hypocrisy not only of the last speaker but other speakers as well when they tried to make it appear that the reason for postponing these elections at this stage is other than the reason with which his Party and the Labour Party agreed when the Bill of 1965 was being discussed in this House and in the Dáil. The reasons then were no different from now, so why the inconsistency from July of 1965 to October of 1966?

Why did you not hold them on 1st June? That is the point.

There was never at any time, nor is there any record of its being said that they were to be held on 1st June. In fact, the Seanad should be fully alive to this but they do not seem to be. They seem to be very ignorant of what was in the last Bill or what is in the present Bill, and, indeed, what the law was up to July of 1965 because, in July of 1965, not only was there agreement in general by the two Opposition Parties that there should be a postponement from 1965 to 1966 but, indeed, that it should be extended right up to the 31st day of December, 1966, if it were thought fit by the Minister for Local Government. We did not postpone in July 1965 just for a year; we did not postpone as we are proposing to do now.

There was no specific agreement up to 31st December.

We did not postpone the local elections then for a year but we postponed them for anything up to 18 months, whereas what this Bill proposes to do is merely extend that postponement by less than six months.

The Minister is now talking like a lawyer, not a politician.

Let that be as it may, the fact is that whether the people to whom I am talking are lawyers or politicians, or both, I still say they do not understand what is in this Bill, if they have read it, which I doubt. They do not know what was in the present amended Act and they did not know what was in the law before either of the two amendments came into this House.

That is no tribute to the way they were drafted.

If there was no difficulty about drafting, the Senator would not have existed before he got into this House. But that still does not and will not in any way lead me away from dealing with this hypocrisy. It is nothing short of hypocrisy and political humbugging for Members to talk in an airy-fairy sort of way about denying to the people the right to change their local representatives. If they wanted to check the facts, they would know that, short of dying and resigning, there is not a ten per cent change in their local authorities even when these elections are held and that there are members sitting across there who have quoted themselves as being in their local authorities for 24 and 30 years. Indeed, I know many of them who are 30 and 40 years in the service and their greatest problem today, or at any election, would be to find somebody to go in and do their work to allow them to retire. This is a fact the Members who are talking well know; they know it as well as I do.

Another thing this House surely is fully aware of is that——

There is no shortage of young candidates in the Fine Gael party.

——there is no doubt whatever that this House and the Dáil combined, the Oireachtas, can set these elections when the majority of the Oireachtas decide to set them. They can have them every year, every ten years, every 20 years or, if they decide by a majority of these Houses, they can wipe out local authorities, if they decide that is the right thing to do. So, stop talking about this right as if it were a God-given right that somebody was taking away. These are laws as enacted by the Oireachtas which provide for the administration of local affairs and the Houses of the Oireachtas may as they think fit, by their majority, change the method, change the time of elections, make any other changes they wish, and there is nothing constitutional at stake.

Are we in future to have taxation without representation on local authorities?

If the Senator would contain himself sufficiently long, he may know a little more about this particular matter when I have finished speaking than he displayed when he talked himself. The hypocrisy, again, is shown by the fact that last July when the situation was, politically speaking, such that had there been local elections held at the time the law then dictated they should be held, the Opposition Parties and, particularly Fine Gael, would have been practically annihilated. Is this not the reason those Parties, in fact, in July of 1965 were so agreeable that they should be put back? Is that not the true reason and they displayed themselves the very true reason today by saying that the atmosphere has changed politically and that it is politically expedient for Fianna Fáil to have them this year.

To preserve Fine Gael.

That was in the minds of Fine Gael in July of 1965, in the then political atmosphere displayed by the results of the general election. Does that not clearly indicate the state of mind then, that Fine Gael then had nothing in mind but political expediency and that they have nothing in mind tonight, despite their high-sounding principles, other than political expediency, as they see it?

Why was it we wanted them with the Presidential election?

Further, unless Fine Gael want completely to deny the origins of Fine Gael which were the remnants of Cumann na nGaedheal, they are the last people in this House, the last Party in this House, who should start saying that it would have been a good thing to have held the Presidential election and the local elections on the same day because in 1945, when those two elections were held on the same day, before they came off and when it was evident that they would be held together, the then Leader of Fine Gael stamped this country from shore to shore and from end to end and talked in the Dáil at length in the most high sounding and, indeed, in language which is somewhat reminiscent of what is being used by Senator O'Quigley here tonight——

The first complimentary thing the Minister has said!

——accusing Fianna Fáil of political expediency in holding the two on the same day. Now you may ask: "Why, if Fianna Fáil held them on the same day at that time, despite the Fine Gael outcry against such a practice, did we not hold them in 1966?" The answer is that we learned something from that election, which answers another question raised here tonight. This is clearly demonstrated by the result of that double election on the same day, when the number of spoiled votes was five times higher than it is in the case where one ballot paper only is being used by the electorate in the same polling station.

There was the Presidential election with the referendum.

The Senator cannot get away from the fact that he must either deny his origin or agree with Fianna Fáil that confusion is caused by holding two elections together.

What about the holding of the Presidential election with the referendum in 1958?

The Senator cannot have it both ways. In 1945 the record is there of the clamour and high-sounding principles, and if Fine Gael want now to turn from their leadership of those days they have changed their minds utterly since then, and now believe that what Fianna Fáil were saying was right even though Fianna Fáil believed in doing what it is going on to do as it was right. Let us be clear about that.

We are all mixed up.

Senator Murphy, in fact, sounds more Fine Gael than Fine Gael themselves. I know that he claims he is not, but the fact is that any objective observer listening here tonight would not be able to say, with one exception, of all the speakers who spoke from that side of the House that there was any difference whatsoever in their Party allegiance, and that includes Senator Murphy. The hypocrisy is being continued, and the exaggeration of the loss to the community is being trotted out and added to by Senators who, as they have admitted, have had an opportunity of knowing what I am likely to say in reply because of the fact that I have answered these things already and they can read what I said. Despite the fact that they were forewarned and forearmed on this, I still have not got from that element in this Seanad tonight any telling reason, any good reason, any sound reason or, indeed, any reasonable reason to make any person change his mind in regard to whether or not this Bill should become an Act.

I do not see at all, as has been suggested here, that there is anything wrong with the part of the Bill which deals in retrospect with certain things in regard to our local authorities. In fact, I would say to those who have been making the case that certain action might follow because of this retrospection that they do not quite know what they are talking about and have not read the Bill before coming into the House. The fact is that they are local authorities not by anything I am proposing to have done in this Bill but by the Act of 1965 which gives them the authority of the law under which they are the legitimate local authorities in every respect up to the 31st December, 1966, and the only thing referred to here in regard to retrospection applies to the purely administrative operations of holding the annual meetings to elect mayors, lord mayors, chairmen and so forth, and this is what is meant by the retrospective clauses in the Bill. Anybody taking it in any other way, as some people over there have done, certainly does not know what the law is at the moment under which they are doing what they are doing.

The Minister did not make it very clear in his opening speech.

Senator O'Quigley at least should be capable of reading what is in this Bill, and, having read last year's Bill, he at least should understand what is in it and should have no excuse whatsoever to plead ignorance with regard to misstatements made here about the actual position.

I did not make any complaints about retrospection. The Minister did not make it clear to the non-lawyer in his opening statement.

If Senator O'Quigley would wish to have a general debate on this I also would have been delighted that it should have been a general debate, because a few more home truths could be told to the Senators, but this is not a general debate though it has been made so by those who wish to use it as a political platform in the widest sense.

Getting around to some of the other matters mentioned here which might have more bearing on the actual Bill before us, we have the suggestion about June being the wrong month. I cannot understand what is wrong about the month of June, and what I would say to the House is that no matter which month was chosen, by whomsoever it may be chosen, that month would be wrong in the estimation of quite a number of people. There is no possible way in which we can select a month for any election, local or otherwise, that would meet with general approval, not to mention unanimous approval from the public or from Members of this or the other House. In so far as the next local elections are concerned, then, they are proposed to be held within the month of June, with freedom to the Minister for Local Government to choose a day within that month; and on that point there have been complaints about giving him somewhat more power than he should be allowed to exercise. At the same time, the same speaker just before that trotted out a contradictory statement wherein he did not feel that we should be confined to the month of June because in many cases it might happen that it would be a bad month for holding elections. Then he comes along and says that the Minister should be confined still further because the provision giving him a choice of fixing the election within a space of 30 days would enable him to manipulate something to his own political advantage. That is what underlines the Fine Gael attitude about everything. When they condemn any person, Fianna Fáil or otherwise, in any other Party for doing anything they are merely judging those people as they themselves should be judged, because that is the type of mind they have.

In regard to this matter of Church holidays and Sundays, this matter of Sunday has been tried out before, and I can assure the House that Sundays are not acceptable to the Church authorities of this country, and likewise that Church holidays have no more attraction to them than have the Sundays.

There has been a big change in the last twelve months.

I have listened to the Senator and I may say that I assume that he has more information of changes than the Church authorities and, in fact, than the present Pope has done during all his deliberations in the last twelve months. If it is true we will look to him for confirmation, but unless I am assured that it is true I do not intend to accept these changes that are talked about as being things we should have to accept and have written into this Bill. I still say that Sundays and Church holidays are regarded, by and large, as days on which we might not have those elections. In so far as Church holidays are concerned I do not suggest that those authorities should change their minds, and indeed I might suggest good reasons why they should, but, in fact, they are days we cannot get people to vote—Church holidays. Does not the Senator know, as I know, that the Sundays and Church holidays and any other holidays you like to mention have now in these rather affluent times become days on which there is nobody in his own home district or at least within the area of the local polling station or indeed interested in them? They are disporting themselves in the various ways that they have now available to them and that they can afford under the Fianna Fáil Party Government that they have been enjoying the fruits of for so many years. Do not let us cod ourselves about this.

They all go to Mass, you know.

Do not forget that even though people of a particular religious persuasion go to the church of that persuasion, wherever it may be, they do not go back to where their names are registered. That is one of the problems of having to vote on Sunday or a Church holiday.

More hypocrisy.

It would not suit our people today, and the sooner we realise that times have changed in these affluent days——

"Affluent" is it?

——the better for all concerned.

Is the Minister aware that people in a certain town were sacked because they did not work on Church holidays?

Perhaps the Minister would now be allowed to make his speech without interruption.

Did the Minister consult the Church authorities recently?

As a matter of fact, I did not. One thing I do not like— and it is one reason why interruptions are helpful, though disorderly——

Tell us something you do like.

——is that there were complaints that I did not talk long enough in opening this debate. I am inclined to make up for it by going into many cases at great length and in great detail, but I do not think that criticism was truly based any more than the other criticism? Therefore, I will refrain from doing what I think I would be entitled to do, that is, giving the House full value for its money and going into a long dissertation on various points.

Do not threaten us.

Spare us.

Senators have been talking about a three-year period or a five-year period between local elections, and saying that extending it to seven years is a denial of the rights of the people, a denial of certain things so far as the local authorities are concerned, a denial of something for everyone except Fianna Fáil. Apparently they think Fianna Fáil gain by this in some peculiar way. I must get some of these people who see everyone losing by this postponement except Fianna Fáil to tell me about the gain so that we will not miss it. Let us look at this myth of the three-year period which it is alleged there was between local elections in the past. Over the past 40 years roughly, since the foundation of the State, we had eight local elections which according to my method of calculation works out not at three years as is talked about as being the gap between elections but at an average of five years. According to our law at present it should be five years. For reasons of charity towards the Opposition and particularly towards Fine Gael after the victory in the 1965 election there was agreement that we should postpone the local elections.

For our benefit?

It was agreed that they should be postponed for 18 months and those 18 months are not up until 31st December this year. This year for similar reasons to the reasons which were agreed on last year we are proposing a further six months postponement. We are now saying that these elections will be held not some time in 1967 as dictated and selected by the Minister for Local Government but within the month of June.

Unless there is a general election.

Does the Senator mean that if there is a general election Fianna Fáil for their own reasons after that election might postpone the local elections?

No. What I am concerned about is a new Government having to hold two elections in the one month.

Does the Senator mean that he hopes there would be a Government other than Fianna Fáil and that they would have to perform the ungodly act of postponing the local elections again? If there should be a general election and if there should be a change of Government, as I am sure the Senator devoutly wishes, and if Fine Gael had any part in it they would look rather silly if they went back and read what has been said.

We will have a suitable amendment on Committee Stage to avoid that predicament.

The situation now is that we have not a collapse of the local authorities and we are not likely to have. There is not any question of abolishing the local authorities as has been suggested. The local authorities are still functioning and in their own estimation and mine they are continuing to play a very important role in the operation of our local services. It is my hope that they will continue not only after the next election but also after many other elections, to play an even greater role in the provision of services through the local authorities assisted by the Government through the Department of Local Government for the people of the country. If there should be, as I am sure there will be, a sprinkling of new faces amongst our councillors after this ungodly long period of seven years about which there is so much complaint but which is only half a year longer at most than that which has already been agreed upon——

They were prepared to have six and a half years by agreement and they are now kicking up a stink because it is seven years and telling us all the vicissitudes which will befall us. They cannot square that with the public outside and they cannot square it with their consciences, the possession of which I rather doubt. Let us be quite clear about this. The proposal before us is to put the elections back until next June. The reasons for doing this are no different from the reasons last July 12 months. I suggest to those two Parties who agreed in July, 1965, to postpone the local elections for 18 months——

He is talking like a lawyer.

I have quotations here from the Official Report and if I must give them I will if Senators are not prepared to accept what I am saying.

The Minister has little to do if he could get out a sheaf of quotations like that.

They are just a few short references taken at random from the speeches of the spokesmen of Fine Gael and Labour during the debate in July, 1965. If Senators want me to give the quotations I will be happy to do so and if not I will spare them. I have already given them in the other House. These quotations really do exist and they were not questioned in the Dáil. This is a true rendering of the intention of the Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party—that the 18 months postponement at that time was acceptable to them and that——

Quote? Quote us where anybody agreed to 18 months? Give us one quotation?

Now I take it the Senator will agree that the present law which was an amending Bill in 1965, runs the life of the local authorities——

Give us a quotation to show where anybody agreed to an 18 months postponement?

The Senator will not work that one on me.

Why does the Bill start in June?

I really like Senator Rooney and I shall not get stuck in. There are other places far more important at the moment to get dug into. The fact is that the measure before the House in July, 1965, was a Bill that in essence continued——

Into the year 1966.

——up to and including 31st December, 1966——

Within the year 1966.

——which, taken from the beginning of the debate at that time, was as near as makes no difference to 18 months. Count it up.

There is no need for retrospection.

There is, respecting one item of no consequence—the holding of annual meetings dealing with the election of chairmen and mayors. That is all that the retrospection is concerned with.

If the Bill of 1965 extended the period to 31st December, 1966, everything done in June 1966 was legal.

Because it was not provided for in 1965.

The Bill was never intended to run until 1967.

Senator Dooge is falling into the trap laid for him by his colleagues. Senator O'Quigley's courtroom tactics will not intimidate me in the slightest. For his information, all he has done is make it clearer for me exactly what I intend, even though it has meant repetition. I have been asked to show how 18 months was agreed. I am putting it to the House that the Bill then extended the life of the local authorities elected back in 1960 up to and including 31st December, 1966, which is to all intents and purposes an extension, at the outside, of 18 months.

Tell us of somebody who agreed to an 18 months extension.

Here very briefly is what was said, and reported in volume 217, column 800 of the Official Report. It was said by Deputy Clinton in the Dáil. I understand he was then the shadow Minister for Local Government. He was the first Opposition speaker and this is what he said:

We on this side of the House are in general agreement with the proposals in the Bill.

The Bill was the Bill of 1965 and Senator O'Quigley can check on it. Deputy Clinton went on——

"Nevertheless, I think..."

The Senator surprises me.

We know it all. Carry on

It is conceded then that there was a grievance

Never once for 18 months.

Up to the end of December, 1966, and if the Senator wishes to query the difference between 6 months and 18 months——

What was the date of that debate?

What was the date on which the Bill was introduced? The Senator might wish to know that and when he does he will realise that it was more than 18 months from the date of the introduction of the Bill, at which stage the terms of the Bill were known to Fine Gael, among others. I have quoted the say-so of the Fine Gael spokesman at the time. To be fair to Deputy Clinton, he said they agreed to the general terms of the Bill——

For a year.

They agreed to a postponement to 31st December, 1966.

For another year is what Deputy Mark Clinton said.

If the Senator wishes, it might be 17 months and 28 days instead of 18 months. If he wants that I am with him because I am not one for splitting hairs. That is what the Bill stated. Deputy Clinton said, and I quote:

We on this side of the House are in general agreement with the proposals in the Bill.

Therefore, what I am trying to do is to save the Opposition here from the folly committed by their colleagues in the other House. I am trying to save them from the inconsistency displayed in the other House against an extension of a further six months. The extension is for the same reasons as existed when they agreed to a postponement for 18 months. Surely it is reasonable that if people agreed to a postponement for 18 months for a certain reason, they will agree again, when the same reason exists, to a postponement for 6 months. We had this inconsistency in the Dáil which I had hoped would not be displayed in the Upper House. I had hoped that the Members of the Upper House would realise that the public outside probably expect a little more from the Members of this House than from the Members of the Lower House, particularly as the Members of this House are more remote from the public and, therefore, the public are not so familiar with them and as a result probably think more of them. I had hoped that the Members of this House would show by their agreement that this is the Upper House and that they are more consistent.

We are certainly quicker to see fraud when it exists.

Senator O'Quigley sees in a dim distant way that if there should be a general election and if Fianna Fáil could get themselves partly back in Government he might possibly be in the position now occupied by me and he would have to come along and say: "We must postpone these elections for another year because we have just had a general election."

Question put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 23; Níl, 12.

  • Ahern, Liam.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Brennan, John J.
  • Browne, Seán.
  • Cole, John C.
  • Connolly O'Brien, Nora.
  • Dolan, Séamus.
  • Eachthéirn, Cáit Uí.
  • Farrell, Joseph.
  • Fitzsimons, Patrick.
  • Flanagan, Thomas P.
  • Honan, Dermot P.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • McGlinchey, Bernard.
  • Martin, James J.
  • Nash, John Joseph.
  • Ó Donnabháin, Seán.
  • Ormonde, John.
  • Ryan, Eoin.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Sheldon, William A. W.
  • Teehan, Patrick J.
  • Yeats, Michael.

Níl

  • Conlan, John F.
  • Crowley, Patrick.
  • Davidson, Mary F.
  • Fitzgerald, John.
  • McAuliffe, Timothy.
  • McDonald, Charles.
  • McHugh, Vincent.
  • Murphy, Dominick F.
  • O'Quigley, John B.
  • O'Reilly, Patrick (Cavan).
  • Quinlan, Patrick M.
  • Rooney, Éamon.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Farrell and O'Donovan; Níl, Senators Crowley and Fitzgerald.
Question declared carried.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Next Stage?

You have to amend the section.

There is nothing to amend. We would like you to give it to us now.

We will give it to you next Wednesday.

November the 9th.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday 9th November, 1966.

At this stage I would like to inquire if it would be possible to take the motion on education the next day because otherwise some other merry-go-round of Ministers will have taken place. We are now beginning a new year and the motion is nine months on the Order Paper. It is simply to debate the Report on Investment in Education. Surely if the Seanad have any function at all in regard to education it is to debate this motion. Therefore, I would appeal very strongly that time be set aside at the next sitting on November the 9th to get on with this very important debate.

The Minister is anxious to take this motion but it will depend on the Estimate in the other House. We hope to have him available the next day.

I wish to thank the Deputy Leader of the House for that assurance.

The Seanad adjourned at 9.20 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 9th November, 1966.