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.