The Fifth Stage of the Third and Fourth Amendment Bills are being taken together.
An Bille um an Tríú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1968: An Chéim Dheiridh. Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1968: Final Stage.
I want to make it entirely clear on behalf of the Fine Gael Party that our view is irrevocably and unmistakably that these Bills should not pass now and we hope they will not be passed by the people. That certainly would be our recommendation to the people when these Bills are put before them in the referendum.
There are certain matters which one would like to deal with in this debate on the Final Stage of these Bills, but I have no intention of tracking down every charge that has been made and dealing with it at great length in the manner the Minister has adopted for his own reasons in the debate on these Bills. However, I want to make it clear that if the Minister and the Fianna Fáil Government wanted at any time to know what the Opposition's view was upon any matter, there is a simple means of communication which has been known for a long time—a letter; in modern times, there is the telephone; and in the more sophisticated parliamentary system we have, there is such a thing as the Whips. That is the way in which parliamentary Parties communicate with one another and in which agreement on various matters is achieved. When the Minister talks about wanting to please the Fine Gael Party and to meet their views and so on, he is endeavouring to be funny, but he is in fact only being very boring. I do wish he would stop it, but I do not think he is capable of preventing himself because being a bore seems to be a congenital condition.
The Minister has not spoken on the Fifth Stage.
I am talking about what he said on the Second Stage and ad nauseam since then. The reason I suggest to the House we ought not to give the final reading to these Bills is that there has never been any demand from anybody for them. There has been no demand since 1959 from any public bodies; there has been no demand from TDs. I have never read, from 1959 down to the time this report was published, any criticism of the Constitution in relation to the limiting of boundaries or any criticism of proportional representation. The reason is simple and obvious: the Fianna Fáil Party do not like talking about or reminding themselves of the defeat which they suffered in 1959 or reminding the people they suffered that defeat. There is, of course, one demand, the organised spontaneous demand at the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis. That is the same kind of thing you get at the Supreme Soviet when it assembles. There are certain things put down and everybody knows in advance they are going to be accepted. That is what happens at the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis.
That is not what happens, and the Senator knows it.
We know how the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis is managed from top to bottom. There has been no demand for this in press articles by political commentators or anybody else. If the Minister had them, he would have produced them.
They are on the records of the Seanad.
The second point is that if the Government were concerned with amending the fundamental law of this country and if they wanted to get the maximum support behind reasonable proposals, they would have had consultations in advance. They would have published a White Paper; they would have put forward their proposals and invited discussion on them. If they wanted to get majority opinion in favour of a change in our fundamental law, they would have come to the other Parties in the Dáil and consulted with them. They did not do that, and they did not do it because they knew their proposals would not meet with a favourable response. They knew also that the reason they were embarking upon these proposals was not for the purpose of improving the Constitution or improving our organisation of public affairs but solely for the purpose of Party advantage.
For the benefit of the Fianna Fáil Party, the Minister will continue to propagate the untruth that this Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill is a necessary consequence of the High Court action which was taken by Senator O'Donovan in 1959 or 1960. He will continue to say that, and he will be wrong in that, as he is in saying that that action was brought by the Fine Gael Party. I want to repeat once again it was not brought by the Fine Gael Party, or financed by them in any way. Moreover, the Minister referred to the fact that there was a Fine Gael solicitor, as there was, a Fine Gael senior counsel, as there was, and a Fine Gael barrister, but he omitted to refer to the fact that there were two other counsel who were not of the Fine Gael Party——
It was the same thing.
They were Mr. Sean MacBride, now the distinguished Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists, and then titular head of the Clann na Poblachta Party——
It was the same thing.
——and Mr. T.J. Conolly, senior counsel, who is not a member of the Fine Gael Party. The Minister wants to justify his own argument. He is wrong and he knows he is wrong, but he will continue to repeat that mis-statement notwithstanding correction. He will continue to say things he knows to be untrue. I am telling him that this action was not taken by the Fine Gael Party and that the consent of the Party was not sought for it. It was taken by the then Senator John O'Donovan, now Professor O'Donovan, on his own initiative, and financed by himself. It was taken at his own considerable risk of being penalised on costs as we saw subsequently when another citizen of the State brought an action and the Attorney General of the day sought costs against that individual.
The Minister has a fetish about crossing borders and breaching county boundaries. He has a neurotic approach which I am quite certain is not the approach of those people who found themselves in constituencies outside their own counties as a result of the revision of the constituencies in 1961 or 1962. The geography of this country is such that there are towns and villages and hamlets which straddle the county boundaries. I have never heard any complaints that people have suffered a grave injustice, to use the Minister's mis-description, because they found themselves in this position.
On the contrary, I think that where constituencies straddle two counties, or where towns straddle two constituencies, the people have the best of both worlds because when the inhabitants of those towns want anything done they can call upon the Deputies in both constituencies to help them. I cannot see to what difficulties that gives rise. It may have some temporary effect upon the local sentiment of people who want to remain in their own county, but I have never heard any large volume of complaints from people because they find themselves in constituencies different from their ordinary administrative counties.
The fact is that the Fianna Fáil Government without any compulsion or any High Court action, broke into county after county in 1935 and attached parts of some counties to other constituencies. There was no High Court action and there was no British Government. There was nothing but the Fianna Fáil Government who were trying to redeem the promise they made to reduce the number of seats from 153 to 100. This brought about the dismemberment of many counties. Like other promises they made they did not fulfil their promise and ended not with 100 seats but with 136. In those days the Fianna Fáil Party saw nothing wrong with that. They did not think they were creating the alleged injustice about which the Minister spoke so eloquently and in such an impassioned manner in this debate.
The Minister also tried to assert that the administrative counties could not be taken into consideration according to the High Court in framing the constituencies. He said that knowing very well that the Supreme Court in their judgment and decision upon the Electoral Act subsequent to the Act which was set aside in the O'Donovan action said that such matters as boundaries, rivers, lakes and physical features could be taken into consideration. The Supreme Court held that, even thought under the last revision of the constituencies there was not exact parity between all the constituencies, nevertheless, a deviation from the national average was permissible. They did not say—because it was not their function and because they were not asked—what the deviation should be. They made it quite clear in their decision—I will not quote it because I have already given it—that the county boundaries could be taken into consideration.
It is dangerous to foster the notion that the physical convenience of Deputies is of paramount importance, or of such a degree of importance as to warrant a change in the Constitution. I regard the paramount function of Deputies of Dáil Éireann not as attending to the trivia of public affairs but as being engaged in the solid work of dealing with the economic and social condition of the people and devoting their time and energies to appraising plans prepared by the Government, formulating their own plans, bringing to the notice of the Government various matters which, in their opinion, require to be taken into consideration in framing schemes and formulating legislation.
Those are the things that matter, not writing letters to the Department of Local Government or the Department of Social Welfare knowing well, as happens probably in the majority of cases, that the letter will have no effect whatever upon the ultimate decision of the Minister or the local authority concerned. They send out a copy of the letter they receive from the Minister to indicate that they are working on behalf of their constituents. It was admitted by some Senators here that that work is utterly useless. That is not the real function of Deputies and it is not the real function of Senators either. Their function is to appraise Government measures, to stimulate the Government into action, and to help the Government and their colleagues in the Dáil to bring into effect the kind of measures which will make this a better country in which to live.
That is the primary purpose for which people elect Deuties—not to act as a kind of political crutch to get them jobs, grants or a whole lot of things which the people themselves and the Deputies themselves very frequently know their supplicants are not entitled to. That is the kind of pretence that may delude people into thinking that a particular Deputy is a great Deputy and that he will never let you down. We all know that goes on. But that kind of work or activity does not improve the economic or social conditions of this country in the slightest degree. It does help—and it is the mainspring of that activity—to have such a Deputy returned with a high poll at election time.
Another reason it is dangerous to permit this kind of notion to get abroad—that Deputies are there to attend to these trivia of public life—is that that will encourage the continuance of inefficiency in administration at both central and local level. There are numerous cases in which, because of inefficiency and lack of communication on the part of central government officials, local government officials, officials in Bord Fáilte, officials in the ESB and other public servants, people do not get their rights. I believe it to be the duty of the Government and of Deputies to rectify that situation. God knows, we employ and pay enough public servants—and pay them sufficiently well—to ensure that the public, whom they are intended to serve, are properly served. However, there is no indication at all on the part of the Minister or of his Government of any intention to improve efficiency in the public service. They have established a commission to inquire into the civil service. By the time that commission reports, and by the time the report has been considered by the Department of Finance and has been examined by all the other Government Departments, the report will have been out of date for five or ten years. We know what happens to all of these commissions.
The only basis on which the Minister says he requires these smaller constituencies—and why there must be greater representation, if you please, for the people of the western counties —is that it is necessary for people to keep in touch with their Deputies—to have the Deputies continue to pretend that they are doing the kinds of things which are productive of nothing. That is the Minister's proposal. In my view, it is a most pernicious proposal and idea that that state of affairs should be encouraged to continue over the coming years.
In relation to this Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, while the Minister, with one hand, says he is for the principle of one man, one vote, and that his Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill is designed to achieve that end, he says the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill is not designed for that purpose. The record is against him on that because, on the Second Reading in this House, he expressed the hope that the alterations and changes proposed in the Bill would bring about an endorsement by the Seanad—and, of course, by the people—of the principle of one man, one vote, and that this was one of the effects of the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill.
We say that the principle which must be guarded and safeguarded is the principle of one man, one vote. You are not having one man, one vote if 16,000 of a population in one area is as good as 23,000 in another area. That is what the proposal is intended to achieve— to say that 16,000 of a population in one area can elect a Deputy as against 23,000 in another area. The important point in all this debate is that there is no guarantee whatever that this deviation from the national average—which is intended, or alleged to be intended, to benefit the western or the poorer counties—must be used to benefit them. It can be used to benefit some of them but it need not necessarily be used to benefit all of them in any particular revision of constituencies. It does not have to be——
Only to respect county boundaries.
Only to respect county boundaries—and county boundaries need not necessarily be respected under the terms of the Bill, or the Constitution as it will then be. This is a pretence that the Minister gets on with —that this is designed to help the poorer counties with falling populations——
I never said that.
——but, in one county, one of the poorer relations we may have in the west of Ireland, we may find a Deputy representing 20,000 and we may find, in another constituency in the same county, if the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill goes through one Deputy representing 16,000. We may find the figure up to 23,000 in one part of the county and as low as 16,000 in another part of the county. Of the whole lot, in that kind of situation, one could say that this provision of the Constitution had been operated so as, on the overall, to provide the maximum number of Deputies permitted under the Constitution. That can be done. There is nothing to prevent its being done.
Take County Mayo with, say, six Deputies with the new population: six Deputies even with the existing population. One can have the situation where, in one part of the county, the number per Deputy is 23,000 while, in the next constituency in the same county, it can be down as low as 16,000 per Deputy. How that is intended to benefit the whole of that county, I do not quite follow. At any rate, as between the people in that county, in that kind of situation, it is perfectly clear that the principle of one man, one vote, will not be observed.
If the Minister and if the Fianna Fáil Party were really interested in maintaining the principle of one man, one vote, and if they were interested in providing a system whereby the West, with its declining population, would get at least as good a representation, on the basis of electors, as other parts of the country, the Government would not have introduced this Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill in the manner in which they have introduced it. I think the House—and, in time, I think the country—will be very grateful to Senator Garret FitzGerald for his masterly handling of the figures relating to the number of electors. Senator Garret FitzGerald has shown the variety of ways in which it is possible to achieve almost the same value for every vote cast in a general election by relating the constituencies not to population, as is suggested in this Bill, but to the number of electors on the electoral register—and that has not been gainsaid by the Minister. By doing that, he ends up with a situation in which there is a slight bias in favour of rural Ireland. That being the case, we say: "All right" to that: we quite agree with that. But the Minister then says: "Well, we could not do that"—for what reason? They could not do that because the method of compiling the electoral register is not as efficient as the method of compiling the quinquennial census of population. Of course it is not as efficient and of course it is one of the aspects of inefficiency of local administration to which I have just referred. That is the kind of inefficiency that is permitted to continue.
I recollect, when we had a Joint Committee of both Houses of the Oireachtas on electoral reform, that a considerable proportion of the time of the Committee was devoted to endeavouring to ensure that the electoral register would be compiled more efficiently than it has been up to the present time. I have seen no evidence that it has been compiled more efficiently. Nothing effective has been done by the local authorities in any of the places in which I canvassed at by-elections to improve the electoral register. One finds the most glaring examples of people having been omitted from the register, people having been knocked off the register and people who died many years ago being left on the register and yet the Minister says we could do nothing about it. Of course we can. There are ways and means of doing something if the Minister wants to do it. If the Minister wants to have equality for the rural vote and for the urban vote, then we have to achieve that and uphold the principle of one man one vote by relating the number of Dáil Deputies to the total electorate on the register of electors and by dividing up the constituencies on the basis of the number of electors.
Again, it is an absurd argument, and it shows how badly off the Minister is, to say that the electoral register is compiled every year and you would have to have a new electoral law, a new drawing up of constituencies every year if there was a change in the electoral register. That argument is almost too puerile to deal with but I must deal with it. Of course, it would not be necessary. You can provide in the Constitution if you are drafting the Third Amendment Bill on the basis of the electorate that it shall not be necessary to amend the electoral law more frequently than once every ten or 12 years. I suggest that ten would be in order in the case of the electoral register because ten years is designed to take account of the quinquennial census of population. That can be easily provided and if the Minister wanted to have one man one vote and if he is genuinely concerned to equate the rural vote with the urban vote, he would go for the number on the electoral register as the basis on which to determine the number of Deputies and the number of constituencies and to delimit the constituencies in accordance with the electoral register.
Another fundamental objection which I and the Fine Gael Party have to this Third Amendment Bill is that the single-seat constituency will deprive the population in that constituency of a choice. The richness in life is when you have a choice; you are rich when you have a choice and you are poor when you have no choice. The poor people have to go to the county home because they have no choice. That is the hallmark of poverty. We try to enrich ourselves by having a choice of clothes, by having a choice of schools, by having a choice of hotels. The present proposal is to compel every citizen in the new small constituency to go to the one Deputy. That deprives people of a choice which they have at present because they can go to one of at least three Deputies. Now we say: "You will have only one choice" and this occurs at a time when we are dissatisfied with the dispensary system foisted on us by the Board of Guardians a long time ago. It was set up and was financed by the Poor Law rate and even years after its establishment, with no British Government to bully us and with no High Court action hanging over us, our people still operate with this lack of choice if they happen to be poor. The Fine Gael Party have long since advocated the abolition of this hallmark of poverty where you have no choice. The Fianna Fáil Party latterly in their White Paper on the health services——
Perhaps I will not have time to discuss the White Paper on health in an hour and a half.
——want to get rid of this and give a choice of doctor. They are saying this while at the same time they are saying: "You will not have a choice of Deputy, whether he is Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or anything else." When one sees the contempt Fianna Fáil have for Fine Gael and Labour Deputies it is shocking to think that they are condemning their minority in the constituencies to the demeaning position of having to wait on a Fine Gael or Labour Deputy when they want something raised in Parliament. That is if they really believe what they say about the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party. Getting away from that altogether, the truth is that under the present system in the three seat constituencies, and there cannot be anything less than three seat constituencies under the Constitution, you have a choice of two Fine Gael, two Fianna Fáil——
The Senator said that the people did not go to the Deputies at all.
I am saying that if they want to go, they have a choice and if a committee, whether it is a committee of a residents' association, a Fianna Fáil cumann, a Fine Gael branch or a trade union council want to consult a Deputy they do not have to go to one Deputy; they have a choice. The Fianna Fáil proposal is designed to rob people of that choice. I believe our system of giving a choice is a better one and is a better system than the British Government's system. Mark you, when you come to look at the British Constitution the political commentators will say there is no rational basis for many of the institutions and conventions which are to be found in the British Constitution. I cannot recall the name of one political commentator but I do recall that my professor of politics in the university used quote him as saying that the only explanation for the British Constitution was "it growed like Topsy". There is no rational explanation for it and there is no rational explanation for a minority in any country having the power because of the electoral system that operates to elect and determine the government of the country. That is what happened in Britain and I do not like it and I do not think it should happen here.
We should try to get nearer to having the majority elect a government under proportional representation. So far as the Third Amendment Bill is designed to bolster up the declining fortunes of the Fianna Fáil Party in the west of Ireland and in so far as the Government try to buttress up the decaying counties of the West by saying "We want to give you more representation", I want to issue a strong warning to the people in the West, to which I referred in my speech on Second Stage, that this Bill is designed either to meet a temporary situation of a declining population, in which event there is no need for it because it is only a temporary situation, or it is designed to meet a permanent feature of life in the western counties, that is a continuing decline in population. If it is for a temporary situation there is no need for the Bill because the population will increase in the course of nature but the Government evidently have written off the west of Ireland and they say that in their judgment the western counties are condemned to a declining population, that there is no possibility of that decline being reversed and, in order to meet that situation and continue to give these people, at the same time, the same representation as they have at present, it is necessary to introduce this Bill.
I say to the people of the West to reject this proposal because, by accepting it, they will be giving approval to the Government's view that they are inevitably doomed to extinction. Because of that, even though the pretence is that it is designed to help the West, this is a clear case of the Trojan horse. If this Bill becomes law and if this change is made, it will be said in future years: "Sure, did not the whole of Ireland, and not just the Government alone, accept this in 1968? Did they not accept there would be a declining population and was that not the reason they introduced the amendment to the Constitution?" This will be the plaint. That will be the explanation given by the economists and the socialists. It will also be the explanation given by the politicians in the Fianna Fáil Party to the West in the years to come.
So much for the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill. I would now like to say something about the Fourth Amendment which, to use the words of Senator Quinlan, is intended to abolish proportional representation. That is the primary purpose of it.
Those are the words of Deputy Blaney in 1959.
I am sorry for the incorrect attribution. In discussing the question of proportional representation, there are many approaches that one could adopt. Had a different system been introduced in 1922, not the transferable vote which we have operated since 1923, I suppose there would be the same opposition to changing that system in 1959 and 1968 as there is now to changing proportional representation. We have grown up with a particular form of proportional representation. It suits our circumstances and no speaker so far has demonstrated that proportional representation has retarded our economic and social progress in the slightest degree.
It is well to recall that, in 1959, the Taoiseach said that proportional representation up to that time had not impeded economic progress. Since then we have had the First and Second Programmes for Economic Expansion. I do not know of any way in which proportional representation prevented either the drafting or the implementation of those programmes, in so far as either of them has been implemented. I do not know of any way in which the Free Trade Area Agreement negotiated with Britain was in any way hindered by the existence of proportional representation. Neither has proportional representation hindered the country in its application for membership of the Common Market. I have yet to hear that the Commission in Brussels, in discussions with the Taoiseach, or President de Gaulle in discussions with the Taoiseach, has attributed Ireland's unpreparedness for participation in the Common Market to the existence in our Constitution here of proportional representation. Proportional representation has nothing to do with any of these.
We have had Governments here with all the electoral support and all the Dáil representation they needed to put through economic or social programmes. Proportional representation has had nothing whatever to do with any failure on the part of the Government to achieve the measure of economic and social progress to which the country is entitled and which the country wants. It is well to bear in mind that there was no constraint upon President de Valera in 1937 to put proportional representation into the Constitution. But he did put it in and he had close on four years in which to change his mind. He could have had all the second thoughts he wanted about proportional representation up to some time in 1941. Of course, in 1938, proportional representation gave him 76 seats out of 137 and, when proportional representation gave him that kind of representation in Dáil Éireann, there was nothing wrong with it. When, however, Fianna Fáil's fortunes began to decline in 1943 and he got only 66 seats out of 137, then it was a case of a bad workman quarrelling with his tools. It was not the Fianna Fáil record, or absence of it, that had reduced the number of seats from 76 to 66; it was proportional representation. From then on he saw nothing but evil in this system which he himself had written in in more rigid form—that was the mentality of President de Valera; he was never a man of flexible views— and with the precision of a mathematical formula into the Constitution of 1937. He made several changes in the Constitution vis-á-vis the then existing Constitution, but he retained proportional representation, the system of election the British are supposed to have imposed upon us.
There was nothing to prevent this change being made in the 1937 Constitution. Apart altogether from the fact that this system has been approved by the people, we have all of us grown up with it. It is part of the history of the political institutions of the new State established in 1922. Proportional representation has given this country stability, the stability President de Valera spoke about in 1937 when he was introducing his Constitution. It bears repetition:
The system we have we know. The people know it. On the whole it has worked out pretty well. I think that we have a good deal to be thankful for in this country. We have to be very grateful for the system of proportional representation because it gives a great amount of stability...
We started off this State, this political institution, in somewhat disastrous circumstances. Senator Ó Maoláin took me to task, and so did the Minister——
And will again.
——and apparently has a mind to do so again today on the question of 1922. All I have to say about it is that the people of my generation are thoroughly ashamed of the way in which the generation of 1922 conducted themselves. We are thoroughly ashamed of the way in which they behaved themselves.
So well you ought.
As far as I am concerned, I do not intend to go into a debate on that time. I have my views, and so has every other person, as to who was to blame. The truth is that we were born, and this State was established, in those circumstances and because of the religious minority, and the political minority as they were in 1922, PR was the system which turned out to give us the stability about which President de Valera was able to speak so eloquently in 1937, and it has continued to give us that political stability. Senator Stanford is now able to say on behalf of the religious minority that they have nothing to fear, that they do not want any special representation.
On behalf of the religious minority?
He has that right.
So has Senator Yeats.
I merely said that he spoke on their behalf. Whether he has that right is a matter to take up with him. The reason they have not any fears at the present time is precisely because of the composition of the first Seanad, subsequently abolished by Act of Parliament by Deputy de Valera, and because of the system of PR which ensured to the religious minority in this country that if they ran in the large five or seven seat constituencies they could always get representation in Dáil Éireann.
Because of that, we have had stability, we have had no grouses or even a shadow of a complaint from the religious minorities as far as political representation is concerned. But do not forget there always is the problem of the Border with us and as long as we have the problem of Partition we shall have people in this country who believe there is a particular means by which to end Partition. The appropriate means for these people is the lawful and constitutional way—they realise it now— through parliamentary representation; and as long as PR is here we can always say to that dormant minority, which is always less dormant than one would suspect: "Go and get yourselves represented in Dáil Éireann and achieve a majority in Dáil Éireann if you think you can get a majority of the people to accept your views."
They have done that. They are out of Parliament and we have peace and tranquillity in this country, no small blessing when you look at the strife-torn cities in America and throughout the world. Domestic peace and tranquillity are the first essentials for any progress, and indeed according to the political theorists they are the first purpose of the existence of the State. There are different ways in which different peoples achieve law and tranquillity. Communism is one system. The Americans have another system, we have another, and of all three, our system is preferable and I attribute that to the continued existence of PR.
I am not at all sure that if the people of this country were to get rid of PR, as they will be entitled to do, we could look forward with the same assurance to the same degree of tranquillity and peace we have known in this country for many years.
I have not wasted time in reading the history to be found in the volumes of the Dáil and Seanad debates on PR in 1959 and I am not in the happy position of the Minister of having fleets of civil servants to do the reading for me and to draw my attention to various passages, but if one reads the principal speeches of the principal speakers —the then Taoiseach, Deputy de Valera and the then Minister for Education, now Taoiseach—on the demerits of PR one will learn all about giving three votes or multiple votes to one man. The whole complaint of that period against PR rested on the tendency of PR to cause a splintering of Parties, leading to instability and to this abhorred form of Government which Deputy Lynch referred to as inter-Party but which many Fianna Fáil speakers prefer to refer to as Coalition Government.
That was the whole case against PR —that it led to Coalition Governments and that this was an unmitigated disaster from which the Irish people should be spared. I emphasise this because, as I have said, all the facts are against that case made by the Government against PR. From 1959 to 1968, so far from PR tending to lead to a multiplicity of Parties, to a splintering of Parties and to the election of crackpots as Independents, we find in 1968 that we have three main political Parties and no fringe Parties— Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour, numerically in that order—and that the whole case made against PR in 1959 has fallen flat because the statistics speak out strongly and eloquently against that case.
I will not go into the merits or demerits of inter-Party or Coalition Governments because the Taoiseach in 1959 realised the work that had been done by them. The system as we have operated it in this country has, as Deputy de Valera said in 1937, given stability and I see no great merit in extreme changes. I do not think anybody looking at our neighbour across the water in contemporary times can say there was any great merit in wholesale nationalisation by one Government and attempts to defeat it by the next. That does not pay dividends and nobody can point to the benefits that have been conferred on the stability or the strength of the £ or on the stability of the British economy by the fact that they have had these violent fluctuations in policies from one extreme to the other.
What PR does is to prevent any Party, even the Party with the largest following, from becoming too strong. We all know that when any Government become too strong, they abuse the power which is given to them. That is a lesson which history teaches us and it is summarised in various ways such as "Power tends to corrupt" and "Absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely". You will find 50 other quotations and numerous other instances in the pages of history which indicate what happens when people have too much power and get too far removed from the people.
May the Chair interrupt for a moment at this stage? It is agreed that the Minister will get in at 9.30. It is now 8.40. There are four other Senators in addition to Senator O'Quigley anxious to take part in the debate before the Minister gets in.
I shall finish by 8.55.
That will leave very little time for the other speakers.
I am afraid there was not much indication of this earlier in the evening, but we waste time.
The House has come to a firm decision as to the procedure. Senator O'Quigley, to continue.
Proportional representation keeps a Government on a tight rein and does not allow them to break loose and if a Government keep in touch with public opinion and have good and acceptable policies for the people, they need never have any fear that they will be prevented from putting these policies into operation. I would like to know of any valuable piece of legislation that any Government in this country have been unable to have implemented in recent times because of lack of voting power in the Dáil.
When we talk about PR producing great stability, if we want to look across the water at the system which is so much admired by the Minister for Local Government and the Fianna Fáil Party who have got a national inferiority complex about the British, we find that in 1964 Mr. Wilson with his Government had a majority of five, I think, in the House of Commons out of 630, so that the straight vote system does not give the kind of stability we are told it gives. Of course in the following election, he did get a bigger majority, but as I have said, I see no great merit or virtue in having large majorities such as the present Government in England have.
Might I point out at this stage that when people talk about the electoral system in America, one of the things they completely ignore is that they have an election for President every four years and they have an election for a change of one-third of the Senate every two years and the Congress every two years, which is a different kind of system altogether from the system we have here or in Britain. There is a constant keeping in touch with public opinion in America through this Presidential election every four years and the election to the other Houses in the method they have worked out, every two years. Therefore, there is no comparison whatever between the two systems because of the different time periods on which they operate.
Getting away from the merits or demerits of the system as a system, but at the same time realising that it is a system that has operated not unsatisfactorily, and in fact I would say satisfactorily, here over the past 46 years— it is well to remember that it was only 37 years old in 1959 but now it is 46 years with us—getting away from that, we must have a practical look as politicians at what these amendments are intended to achieve. I said here earlier today that it would be puerile to ignore the fact that these amendments are put down by a political Party in Government and a dominant aim of the political Party, when it did not seek to consult any other political Party, is that these amendments are designed to assist the declining fortunes of the Fianna Fáil Party and if Party is to be before country, then for that reason alone, one has to approach these proposals suspiciously. We know of course that in 1959 the Amendment of the Constitution was proposed because a certain change in personnel was about to occur. In modern times these proposals are being put forward because another change in personnel has occurred and the popularity of the present Government is a declining commodity.
These proposals must be resisted because of the fact that Fianna Fáil have been in office almost continuously since 1932, with the exception of two breaks, and have been continuously in office for the past 11 years. Because of these circumstances and because of the way in which they have operated the business of government, all the indications are, and certainly the hope of the Fianna Fáil Party is, that in the next election they would get 95 seats and upwards of 144. That is what these proposals are designed to do and I for my part am not prepared to commit the government of this country to the Fianna Fáil Party with as many as 95 Deputies in Dáil Éireann. I am not prepared to say to people in 95 single-seat constituencies: "The only Deputy you can go to is a Fianna Fáil Deputy". I am not prepared to do that because we know that the Fianna Fáil Deputies continually create the impression, where people are entitled to grants, to pensions, to licences, to welfare allowances of any kind, that it is because they have approached the Fianna Fáil Deputy and because a Fianna Fáil Government are in power that a person is getting a grant, allowance, licence, job or anything else.
They are not all Ollie Flanagans.
They threaten them.
Senator Flanagan from South Mayo was county surveyor for many years. I am sorry he is not here to hear me. He was county surveyor for many years in County Mayo and it is well known throughout the length and breadth of County Mayo that while he was county surveyor, only Fianna Fáil people got jobs on the roads or jobs of any kind that were in his gift.
This is a charge made against a Senator not in his political but in his private capacity, and it is not in order.
It is typical.
It was mentioned before in this House. This is not the first time he was told about it.
Senator O'Quigley has said it several times.
I will leave it. If we had this new system with 95 Fianna Fáil Deputies and 50 other Opposition Deputies, it would be impossible for an Opposition to continue to carry on effective Opposition and as surely as there is no effective Opposition, Government will become corrupt and instead of Opposition to the Government in Parliament in a lawful way, what one will find is the extra-parliamentary representation one saw in the streets of Paris last May and which one will see again next October when the students come back. One sees all around the world where there are ineffective Governments.
That is the kind of situation that a 95 Fianna Fáil TD Government would bring about in this country. That is the kind of situation to which the people want to be alerted. We will have marches; we will have strikes; we will have unrest if the people have not an effective Opposition to deal with an arrogant Government. What I have said before I repeat and every Fianna Fáil Deputy, Senator, Minister and county councillor knows that what I say is true, that they get on constantly with intimidation of the unfortunate poor and underprivileged of this country by telling them: "If you do not vote for Fianna Fáil you will lose your job; you will not get your pension; you will lose everything." That is the kind of mental intimidation that is pursued throughout the length and breadth of this country.
When I tell that to the Fianna Fáil Party, they will say that it is outrageous and that they do not believe it. When they see it in its grosser forms they will say it is Boland and Blaney. We did have a strong Government in this country from 1938 when there were 76 Fianna Fáil Deputies out of a total of 137. The first repressive measure that was introduced was the Wages Standstill Order in 1940 against the working population, and that was followed in 1941 by the Trade Union Act which was designed to prevent people from choosing the union to which they wanted to belong. Deputy Lemass brought in the Trade Union Act in 1941 to marshal the people into the trade union his appointed people would establish. That was the right of freedom that was guaranteed under the Constitution. It was limited by the Fianna Fáil Government at a time when a war was raging outside our shores. Our Fianna Fáil Government took the right to form whatever trade unions they wanted.
Again, and the Minister will say, I suppose, it was a Fine Gael team who did it under section 3 of the Trade Union Act, not alone did we see these repressive measures, the Wages Standstill Order, 1940, the Trade Union Act of 1941 but we saw the teachers on the streets of Dublin in 1946 and we saw Mr. MacEntee as Minister for Finance refusing to honour the award of an arbitration board for the civil servants. We had the civil servants marching in Dublin, Cork, Waterford and all around the country until they got justice.
That is Fianna Fáil at their worst. That is Fianna Fáil power and that is how they would exercise their power, in the same way as they exercise their power over the farmers. We know the consultation that would go on. The people would be told: "Take it or leave it; we know, we are in Government." That is the attitude that will be adopted with the formalisation of the new proposal for universities.
I understand the Senator agreed to finish his contribution at five minutes to nine; he has one minute left.
All of this strong government that Fianna Fáil want adds up to one word—arrogance. A Government are merely arrogant when you can get rid of it. They are tyrannical when you cannot and under the straight vote system, you cannot get rid of them and Fianna Fáil invite us in this democratic way by referendum to get rid of democracy and have this tyrannical Government. I hope in 1968 the Irish people will, as in 1959, very decisively defeat these two Bills.
Before calling on anyone else, the Chair would like to remind Senators that the Minister will be called on at 9.30. The Chair would like to have an indication of those who would like to speak in the intervening period.
Senator Flanagan rose.
Before I call on anyone, I wish to know how many wish to speak.
Senators Quinlan, Rooney and Murphy rose.
I understand that Senator O'Quigley, when I was absent from the House, cast a reflection on me as a public official, as a man who operated under different county councils of different political persuasions, mixed county councils, over a period of 42 years. He made a suggestion, or remark, that nobody could get employment under me unless he was of a certain political persuasion. I think that a reflection on my character and I invite Senator O'Quigley to repeat these remarks outside the precincts of this House. I invite him on any platform in any town or in the county council chamber in county Mayo. I invite him to repeat that remark before his colleagues of the Fine Gael Party who are Members of Dáil Éireann and I will deal with him.
I wanted to make that personal comment. I think it is scandalous that a man who professes to be an educated man should abuse his position here as a Member of this House to cast an aspersion on another Member when he has absolutely no right, no foundation and no justification for it. I challenge him to prove this remark.
A low-down cur.
I would demand a public inquiry.
A low-down cur.
The Senator has made a personal statement. The remarks made have already been ruled as disorderly and there will be no further discussion on it.
So much of the time of the House has been taken up by Senator O'Quigley that I do not propose to delay the House very long. When the Senator did speak for so long, it is too bad he did not avail of the time to depart from his normal procedure. We have had this type of slander and innuendo and it is too bad that we should have this from a front-bench Member in this House.
I should like to speak on the two Bills. The Third Amendment Bill deals with the question of tolerance. I have listened to remarks made by Opposition Senators in opposing this Bill and I am still unable to find out the purpose or the reason for their opposition. I should have thought that it was abundantly obvious that a tolerance of this kind was clearly essential, that it was impossible to devise satisfactory constituencies without some sort of tolerance. Without some sort of tolerance, to try to achieve exact mathematical accuracy is simply not practical. Many other well-established and highly-regarded democracies have tolerances which go far beyond what we will now have in this country.
I would like to refer Senator Quinlan to his favourite country, Denmark, which of course has provision for tolerance in which account is taken of the number of electors, the density of population and so on. Norway and Sweden also have a provision of this kind. Great Britain has a tolerance which goes far beyond anything proposed in this Bill. Australia has approximately a 20 per cent tolerance. Canada has just enacted a provision whereby they have a tolerance of up to 25 per cent. New Zealand has a similar provision. It is correct to say that any democratic country from which one can get information has not merely a provision for tolerance in regard to constituencies but one which goes considerably beyond what is in this Bill. My only objection to this Bill is that this one-sixth tolerance provided is possibly not sufficiently wide enough to deal with the problems that will arise.
How much is two-sixths?
I am not at all sure that it goes far enough. However, it is clear that some tolerance is desirable. As I say, the tolerance in this Bill goes nothing like so far as it is in those other highly-respected democracies. Some of the Opposition come in here and say that this is breaching the one man, one vote principle and tending towards dictatorship. That is rather childish and has no basis in fact. We had a good deal from Senator O'Quigley, including the question of the choice of candidates. He said there would be no longer a choice of candidate. Under the straight vote, to my mind—I think a number of people will agree with this—far more important than the ability to choose a candidate is the ability to choose a Government.
Surely that is the basic reason we have elections in this and other democratic countries? We have elections to choose what Party will form a Government and govern the country for the next five years. An election system in a democratic country is only effective, is only efficient and is only satisfactory in so far as it achieves that basic end. This is far more important than the relatively minor one, at local level, of choosing candidates and of deciding who will be returned to Parliament. The basic point which interests people and affects them in their whole way of life is: "what type of government will be there for the next five years?"
Senator O'Quigley asked what evidence there was, or who suggested that the policies carried out in this country for the economic administration of the country were ever affected in the slightest degree by the system of election. I should have thought that was obvious. I should have thought it was quite clear during the greater part of the 1950s that progress in this country was practically non-existent. This was caused mainly by the instability of government. In the ten years up to 1958 the average rise in income was one per cent per year. In other words, it was just stagnation. Progress, in so far as it existed at all, was almost non-existent. It is not only we on this side of the House who say that economic progress and social progress in those years were effected by the Coalition Governments.
You know that is utter nonsense.
I remember reading the Irish Times articles week after week by Garret FitzGerald, who then was not a Senator. I was very interested reading those articles because they were well written, very interesting and not biased as he had not then embarked on his political career. Week after week he made this perfectly correct point that economic progress had been hamstrung by this situation which existed in this country of Coalition Governments and general instability. For example, he wrote on 28 May, 1964 in the Irish Times:
The papering over of wide political differences between Fine Gael and its left-wing partners led to weak Governments susceptible to pressures from too many different angles.
I would have thought that was a fairly obvious remark. We know that the situation in the 1950s was that no Government were in a position to carry out any long-term coherent political programme. It is that kind of thing we want to avoid in the future.
In the next election, if it is to be held under proportional representation, I would ask Opposition Senators to consider for a moment what alternative there is to Fianna Fáil? Supposing Fianna Fáil were returned with, say, 65 seats, and Labour and Fine Gael combined were in a position to form a Government. Does anybody want that? Do Fine Gael want it? Do Labour want it? Do the people want it? I think it is quite obvious they do not. Two Coalition Governments were so disastrous from every point of view that nobody in the country would get up on a platform and say: "Vote for me for I am in favour of a Coalition Government". Nobody wants that type of thing.
Labour supporters would like to see a Labour Government. Fine Gael supporters would like to see a Fine Gael Government. Fianna Fáil supporters would like to see a Fianna Fáil Government. Nobody wants a Coalition. Yet, it is obvious, as things stand under proportional representation, that the only alternative to Fianna Fáil is a Coalition Government. Senator O'Quigley said that no country should allow a minority to choose a Government. However, it usually happens that under 50 per cent is sufficient to form a Government. It has only happened once that Fianna Fáil got 52 per cent of the votes. Every other Government since 1922 got less than that. The Cumann na nGaedheal Party got as little as 27.4 per cent of the total vote at one time, yet they formed a one-Party Government. No practical person in this country would suggest that Fianna Fáil are going to get an overall majority of the votes. They got 46 per cent, 47 per cent or 48 per cent, on the occasions when they formed a Government.
The one thing about the straight vote is that it enables the bulk of the people to choose a Government. Proportional representation deliberately, by its very nature, encourages governments by minority. Why should a Party that gets perhaps 10 per cent, 15 per cent or 20 per cent of the votes be in a position to tell the Government what policy it is to carry out? That, to my mind, is hardly democratic. The only democratic way of forming a Government is to ensure that the greater part of the population wish to elect that particular Government. That is the very state of affairs which proportional representation is deliberately designed not to create. It is deliberately designed to create the position where Governments are formed by minorities.
We had the old hare raised by Senator O'Quigley about religious minorities and the problem of the Border. It has been said here over and over again, and one can say it again, although Senators like Senator O'Quigley and Senator Quinlan will still not believe it, that proportional representation has nothing to do with the situation in Northern Ireland. I am prepared to concede that the Northern Ireland Government in abolishing proportional representation did so for the worst of reasons. That may be so and I am prepared to concede that it may well be so but the point is—and it is not just my point; it is commonsense to anyone who studies the position well and writers such as Professor Hogan of Cork have made the same point, as quoted by Senator Nash—that because of the situation in the North, people of one religion tend to live in one area and people of the other religion tend to live together in another area and the situation there is such that the existence of proportional representation would make no practical difference to the Nationalist minority. That is the plain factual statement and no amount of talk from Senator Quinlan or others can make any difference to that.
What about Derry?
I should like to make one remark, to give my own personal viewpoint, which does not stem from anyone else or any other group. Senator O'Quigley said how the religious minority in the early days of the Free State were able to rely on proportional representation, and so on. My view on that would be that this was a typical case where proportional representation, where it had any effect, had a divisive effect. What was needed after 1922 was that any members of the religious minority who might not approve of the new State here, the new authority that had been set up, would immediately decide to take part in public life in the Parties to which the masses of the people belonged and a situation which actually encouraged them to stand on a minority basis was, to my mind, divisive and entirely undesirable. Fortunately, it was used only to a very small extent and, as Senator Stanford rightly said, is now no longer relevant at all to this issue.
Now, we have people saying over and over again that the straight vote would bring about dictatorship, a Fianna Fáil dictatorship, that Fianna Fáil would be in office forever. This is simply ridiculous. It seems to me that it is nothing but impudent nonsense to describe such great democracies as Great Britain, the United States of America, Canada and New Zealand as dictatorships. They are not dictatorships. They are amongst the best regarded of all the world's domocracies. In none of these countries, in no country that has the straight vote, has it occurred that one Party has stayed in office forever.
The Government have been 35 years in office in Northern Ireland.
You co-operated in setting that up.
Northern Ireland is not a country.
Senator Yeats, without interruption.
No matter how often one repeats, no matter how often Professor Hogan and others may write, that the Northern Ireland situation is not affected one way or the other by proportional representation, we still have the catcalls from Senator Quinlan.
Fianna Fáil recognise them, anyway.
I would ask Senators not to interrupt. There are a number of speakers still wishing to speak and interruptions will only delay the discussion.
I will finish quite rapidly if I were allowed to. In all straight vote countries, there is a regular change from one Government to another under this system of election. It seems to me there are arguments on both sides. Clearly, you can put up an argument in favour of proportional representation. We on this side of the House believe that for this country the straight vote is the most satisfactory system of election. It will not lead to dictatorship. It will lead, for the first time, to there being a real alternative to Fianna Fáil. It will mean that either Fine Gael or Labour can become an alternative Government in a way that they have never been able to before. For this reason, Deputy Cosgrave, Leader of the Fine Gael Party, who wants some day to be Taoiseach of a Fine Gael Government, agrees with us that the straight vote is the most satisfactory form of election for Ireland. It will, as I say, for the first time, establish a real alternative to Fianna Fáil. Since no one in any Party wants anything but one-Party Government, a Government composed of members of a particular Party, so that they can carry out their own policy without being pushed from behind by some small minority, I have no doubt, really, that the combined efforts of those people in the various Parties in this country who want to see their own Party's policy carried out will be sufficient to ensure that there will be a majority for this proposal.
We are now engaged in the final stages of the debate in the Oireachtas before the issue goes before the people for decision. We have been engaged in a needless exercise. Months of parliamentary time has been taken up in dealing with legislation for which this Government had no mandate. The Fianna Fáil Party did not go before the people in the last general election and ask for a mandate to promote legislation to abolish PR. There was not a mention of PR and the desire of a Fianna Fáil Government to abolish PR during the last general election. This exercise, this waste of parliamentary time, has not put one more worker to work. It has not prevented the emigration of even one individual. Nobody is any better off as a result of this waste of parliamentary time. In fact, the unemployment figure which we get weekly shows a steady, persistent rise every week compared to the corresponding week in the previous year. No mention has been made of that. No effort is, apparently, being made by the Government to deal with that problem. They show no concern for the problem of the unemployed workers. All they are concerned with is this plot to try to abolish proportional representation. All that will be accomplished by this effort—unsuccessful I trust—will be the creation of suspicion and disunity amongst the whole community at a time when we as a nation more than ever before need to be united to face the challenge, whether there is a Common Market or not, which we will have to face, the improvement of the efficiency of industry and agriculture. Now we are dividing the country, dividing our people, on a vain and needless issue when every effort should be made by the Government who have been entrusted with the leadership and the power, at the last general election, to promote the efficiency of agriculture and industry and to bind the people together in order to face the challenge of the future.
All this has been for the purpose of trying to change the rules, trying to change the system of election, in order to keep Fianna Fáil in office at a time when they find, or they think, that the tide is turning against them. It is an effort to abolish proportional representation, an effort to abolish a system which we know, which we understand and which has worked effectively in this country.
We have heard a lot during these hours of parliamentary debate about the merits and demerits of proportional representation compared with the supposed merits and demerits of the British system of election as it will operate in Ireland. I say "supposed" because this is a venture in the dark. It is not good enough to say that simply because this is how it operates in another country in a completely different situation this is how it will operate here in Ireland.
We have, as I have said, heard all these arguments. What is vain about it and what is foolish about it is the fact that we are not in the position of setting up a new State. In that case it might be appropriate to debate which system might be better than the other, which system might be more effective. What we are doing is proposing to change a system which has operated successfully, which has enabled this country to develop a parliamentary democracy and which has maintained that parliamentary democracy, in spite of tremendous pressures since 1922.
We may cast a glance perhaps at other countries that have won their freedom since we did, see how they have operated, compare our experience and be thankful that we have been able to maintain and develop a parliamentary democracy in what was a newly-emergent nation in 1922. After centuries of domination by Britain, we got a measure of freedom then. We have expanded that since and built up a parliamentary democracy we can rightly be proud of. Many other countries which have won their freedom since then have not been able to maintain parliamentary democracy and have slipped, one after the other, into forms of dictatorship.
Now we are being asked to abandon the system that has served our interests so well, to take a leap in the dark and say: "If we adopt the British system, this might be the result." Senator Yeats has tried to persuade us that this is in the interests of the Fine Gael Party, that it would bring Fine Gael on as an alternative Government to Fianna Fáil, that there are always swings under this system, and that one would be in and the other out. I suppose the regret amongst the Fianna Fáil Party is that Fine Gael have not joined with them in this conspiracy to wipe out the Labour Party, because that is what it is. It is a conspiracy to deprive minorities of representation in our Parliament. If it succeeds, it will make Parliament less representative of minorities than it has been in the past. It will inevitably mean that these sizeable minorities will look for expression outside Parliament, which will be bad for democracy here.
It is a step back from democracy. We all know this. There is no point exaggerating the argument and saying it is dictatorship. It is not dictatorship if we change the system, but it is a step back from the more perfect form of democracy we have in this country. I am confident that the Irish people, with their love of freedom and regard for justice and fair play, will give the answer to this Government and will retain the system of election which they know and understand and which has worked well and will continue to work in the Republic of Ireland.
In the time remaining I can do very little except take one or two high points. It is obvious the Government are out to fight the next general election on the referendum. Why not wait until the general election, until the people face a general election when it comes and they will make their decision? I have every confidence that the electorate will see it in that light and will see that a general election is to be fought when a general election comes around and that this present effort to rig the electoral system is nothing short of a power grab.
The figures that have emerged here confirm the estimate given by the distinguished professors of political science who created such concern on Telefís Éireann when they showed that the result of their conclusions was that, for a vote less than they got the last time, the Fianna Fáil Party under the straight vote system would get from 90 to 95 seats, whereas under PR they might get from 60 to 65. That indeed is a nice bonus and deserves to be called a power grab. If you want to prove it, look across the Border and you see 38 out of 52 seats, 75 per cent of the seats, held by the Unionist Party. If we were to take a consensus of Seanad Éireann as to what percentage of the population in the North of Ireland the Unionist Party represent, we will be charitable and say 55 per cent. Is that not reasonable? But they get 75 per cent of the seats. That is in line with what has been estimated here.
The most pernicious feature of all in this change is that we are introducing a system that would exploit and magnify class differences and prejudices. At the moment the country is changing. The rural part is declining, the number on the land is declining and in a few years time the rural vote will be less than 25 per cent of the total vote. At that stage any Party unscrupulous enough and ruthless enough to exploit the city vote, the 75 per cent outside the rural community, with an average of 40 per cent of the vote and preserving the three-Party system we have, with the split vote that already exists, any Party capable of getting 40 per cent could get at least two-thirds of the seats and therefore emerge with an overall majority. To get that they could antagonise the rural vote and use the rural people as a whipping boy, although they might have scarcely got a vote from them.
On a 30 per cent vote you could have a group take over in Dáil Éireann. If such a group took over, they might get in by the straight vote but you would not get them out by the straight vote. Any group seizing power in those circumstances will hold on to it. I have every confidence that the people will hold fast to the freedom they have, to their right to decide both between people and between Parties when it comes to an election. If they want to vote Fianna Fáil, they want a choice between the three candidates they have got at present. If they want to vote Labour, they want the choice the Labour Party have promised them in future elections.
The mark of an educated nation is not the mark of servitude to Party bosses. Our people will see to it that that does not come about. Our increasing standard of education means our people are more politically aware of the issues and will be able to make the proper decision at elections. There is no need to put them into the straitjacket of the straight vote and try to ensure that a 30 per cent or 35 per cent minority, if properly exploited, would have an opportunity of fastening themselves on the people of Ireland.
Our hope is that the people will hold on to what they have got. They have an ingrained sense of fair play. They accept the value and effectiveness of ensuring that all reasonably large groups are adequately represented in the national Parliament, where they can combine as intelligent representatives to provide a Government for the Irish people from Irish people democratically elected a majority in Dáil Éireann. We have to remember that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It has been said so many times here. The present stage, after they have been in power for 12 years, is not the proper time for the nation to entrust the extravagant power to Fianna Fáil that would be got by the straight vote. Consequently, I am opposing both Bills and will do what I can to alert the people to the dangers in them. I have every confidence in their judgment which I believe will be a resounding defeat for this power grab.
Senator Murphy, if I understood him aright, appeared to ascribe the delay since these Bills were introduced into the Dáil on 21st February, 1968, to the Fianna Fáil Party. Just why the Government should decide to introduce proposals for a referendum and then delay them he did not explain. Neither did he advert to the fact that as soon as these Bills were announced, the Leader of the Labour Party announced their intention to fight them "line by line and comma by comma". Neither did he advert to the fact that on the Second Stage of the two Bills, which were taken together in the Dáil, 15 of the 19 Labour Deputies were constrained to contribute, and that their contributions amounted to a repetition of the arguments that had been used at the outset. Nor did he advert to the fact that on the Second Stage of the two Bills in the Dáil 21 Members of the Fine Gael Party contributed also. As he knows, 21 is very close to the actual number it was possible to muster in order to defeat the Leader of the Fine Gael Party in the famous all-night session when he advocated support for the proposals we are putting before the people.
Senator Murphy attacked the Government because, as he said, they had no mandate to enact legislation to abolish PR. The Senator knows quite well that the Government cannot enact legislation to abolish PR and therefore the question of having a mandate does not arise. The Constitution provides that this cannot be done and there can be nothing dictatorial in regard to these two Bills. Apparently, Senator Murphy is suggesting that there should be new procedure laid down for amending the Constitution. It is at present provided that the Constitution can only be amended by a referendum of the whole people. Apparently, Senator Murphy now wants us first to go to the people and ask them for a mandate to ask them to amend the Constitution. First, we go to them for a mandate, then come back to the Dáil and Seanad and pass the two Bills, then go back to the people and ask them for a mandate to enact the necessary legislation to amend the Constitution. I think I never heard such nonsense proposed before. I cannot see how the question of a mandate prior to a referendum arises since the Constitution cannot be amended without a specific mandate, a referendum.
The fact is that since it has proved impossible for the combined Opposition Parties to defeat Fianna Fáil under PR they would like to have had the issue confused by this question which can only be decided by the people as a separate issue. In any case, part of the reason for making these proposals was what resulted after the last election when the long recounts showed up the disadvantages and defects in the present system and showed how the element of chance decides the issue in a close result.
Senator Quinlan wants to know why we could not wait for this to be decided until the general election. The Senator knows we cannot do that. He knows that Deputies in Dáil Éireann can see that their constituencies are out of line with the constitutional requirements as interpreted by the High Court at the instance of Fine Gael. He knows these Deputies have already raised the question of revision of constituencies. He knows that at this time the constituencies do not comply with the Constitution and that it is possible to enforce a revision of constituencies on the present terms. He appreciates that if the Government did that before the next general election there would be this widespread breaching of county boundaries, this widespread inflicting of injustice on a large section of the people in many parts of the country and that consequently there would be a feeling of frustration and resentment towards the Government and it is because he appreciates that that Senator Quinlan wants that to be done.
He knows that when this had to be done on a much smaller scale in 1961 the Opposition unanimously, in both Houses of the Oireachtas, demanded that the Constitution be amended and attacked the Government for not moving to amend the Constitution straight away and asked that this should at least be done when we came back.
As I pointed out, we did not do it in 1961 because it was too close to the date of the general election and there was not time. We did not do it after 1961 because this situation, unjust as it was, had been established, because the people had voted in these constituencies into which they never wanted to go for certain Deputies. Deputies had been elected to represent them and the position had been established. Political party organisations, for instance, had adjusted themselves as much as possible to the new situation and for that reason we did not move to have the amendment at that stage. Another general election was held on the basis of these unfair, unjust and unrealistic constituencies. When the 1966 census of population was published it became immediately apparent that what had happened in 1961 would be as nothing to what would happen now.
Six areas only, not seven.
Every county in the country except one must be affected and the one would escape, possibly, for this time only. Every Senator knows that and it is because they know that, that they are so annoyed that the Government did not go ahead and do it and give them this extra plank for their platforms at the next general election.
The debate we have had in the House has been the best example I have seen in my experience of hit-and-run delaying tactics. In the Dáil we become accustomed to Deputy Dillon who comes in to thunder for an hour or so and cannot bear to wait to listen to any reply to his ponderous pronouncements.
That is a matter for the Dáil.
Yes. He then gathers up his papers with a flourish and flounces out of the Dáil before anyone has time to reply but at least in regard to these Bills in the Dáil Deputy Fitzpatrick did make some effort to provide continuity——
I might point out to the Minister that it is not in order to refer to proceedings in the other House even in a congratulatory way.
We shall not refer to it then. Here the tactic was to send in team after team to offer abusive opposition to Fianna Fáil, to make scandalous, cowardly attacks on individual Senators and individual Ministers and then precipitately to run out of the House before these low-down insinuations could be answered because there was this arrangement between all the elements of the Opposition that this should be done and there was always somebody else to stand in——
I think that charge is most unjustified. There was no arrangement made by any of the Labour Party to make cowardly allegations against individuals or Ministers, and I hope the Minister will accept that.
The tactics were quite obvious from Fine Gael to rugged Independents and the thing was to make dirty allegations and run out of the House. Where is Senator O'Quigley now or Senator FitzGerald?
I am here anyway.
They made personal charges. They based their case on personal abuse because they could not argue on principle against these proposals and when they had made these charges, they ran out of the House——
Can the Minister make that charge against any member of the Labour Party—that they made dirty and unwarranted allegations against Ministers and individuals?
I was all the time in the House.
What has Senator Murphy just done? What has he been doing? What have Senator O'Quigley and Senator FitzGerald been doing all through this debate? The whole case was a case of abusing Fianna Fáil as a Party and as individuals, insinuation of dirty, scurrilous motives and then flight before the charges could be answered. We had the crowning example of that in the disgraceful and cowardly attack by Senator O'Quigley on a Senator of this House in his professional capacity, in that Senator's absence.
Senator O'Quigley tells us that the Fine Gael view is that these Bills should not pass now or that they should not be passed by the people. I wonder is there a Fine Gael view at all. Is it not a fact that the Leader of the Fine Gael Party favours our proposal? Is it not a fact——
It is not a fact. There was a majority against it.
This is a rhetorical question; I am not asking Senator Carton. When the Leader of Fine Gael cannot speak for Fine Gael, I do not think Senator Carton can speak for them either.
The Minister is trying it although he does not belong to Fine Gael.
This is a known fact that, while Senator O'Quigley says the Fine Gael view is that the Bills should not pass, the Leader of the Fine Gael Party's view is that the Bills should pass. Is it not a fact that, in April, 1965, when Fine Gael decided to get rid of their then Leader and when Deputy Cosgrave was elected as Fine Gael Leader, at his first press conference the people interviewing him considered it a relevant question to ask him had his views changed in regard to this matter, and that he indicated to them that far from his views having changed, he now hoped, with his new stature as Leader, to bring his Party to appreciate the merits of this proposal?
The Minister is not referring to the fact that his former Leader enshrined PR in the Constitution?
Is it not a fact that in the famous all-night session it was only a majority of one that defeated the Leader's viewpoint?
The Minister is repeating a remark which he withdrew on an earlier debate in this House.
I do not think I withdrew it at all. Certainly it is a fact that it was only a narrow majority that agreed, and we have been told by members of Fine Gael who were present that the majority was a majority of one.
Is it not a fact that the view of the Fine Gael Party—I am not referring to the Party in the Oireachtas but the Fine Gael Party as a whole—is gradually coming around to accepting the Leader's view, that the real Fine Gael true blues appreciate that Deputy Cosgrave is in the true Fine Gael tradition and the Cumann na nGaedheal tradition in his attitude to this proposal, and that it is he who has not changed?
Senator O'Quigley claimed that the Supreme Court set aside the High Court's judgment in regard to it not being permissible to take account of administrative boundaries. The Supreme Court did no such thing. The Supreme Court endorsed the revision of constituencies that was based on the High Court decision. It is quite true they did say that it was a matter for the Oireachtas, in the first instance, what account they should take of administrative boundaries and the other considerations we have specified in the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill. That is so, but they did say that such revision of constituencies was properly referable to the courts for decision; and such a revision of constituencies had been referred to the courts, and there was no indication given that the Supreme Court disagreed in any way with the decision of the High Court in this matter. Even if it is a fact that the Oireachtas can make a revision of constituencies in the first instance, the Supreme Court also made it clear that this could be adjudicated on by the courts.
No doubt people like Senator O'Quigley who specialise in this type of constitutional wrangling would see nothing objectionable in the Oireachtas, first of all, making a revision of constituencies, this being referred to the courts and coming back to the Oireachtas, and eventually a revision being decided upon after a long and expensive process of trial and error. As far as we are concerned, we think it is essential, since the job of revising the constituencies is a practical one, that we should know in advance exactly what the position is. In any case, if the position is as Senator O'Quigley has now been maintaining it is, that the Oireachtas is already entitled to take these factors into account, then what we are proposing in the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill is to do no more than clarify the position and make it definite; in other words, if what he says is true, we are doing no more than making it unnecessary to go to the courts after a revision of constituencies has been made.
There is no question of the physical convenience of Deputies being involved in this proposal, as Senator O'Quigley alleged. What is involved in the proposal for single-seat constituencies is not the convenience of Deputies but the effective representation of the people. The people are not getting a fair deal in the matter of representation from their representatives at present. There is duplication and triplication. There is this built-in factor in the present system of unnecessary representations being made, and this results in the neglect or inadequate presentation of important constituency matters. While I agree with Senator O'Quigley that the vast majority of representation work done by Deputies and by public representatives generally at present is completely unnecessary, and that it is bad for the public morale in that it tends to engender in the public the belief that these things can be got in accordance with the efficacy of the representations made by the public representative, at the same time it is a fact that there are many things that do require the public representative's attention, many constituency matters which may appear small to people like Senator O'Quigley but which are quite important in so far as they affect the individuals concerned.
Senator O'Quigley says that there was no demand for this since 1959. I quoted for him the demands which were made by members of the Opposition Parties in both Houses of the Oireachtas in 1961, the demands that were made to amend the Constitution in order to get rid of the requirement to perpetrate injustices on the people by what was described by the Opposition Deputies as the butchering of the established administrative areas such as counties. There was a definite demand for this in 1961 and, in fact Senator O'Quigley himself is on record —and I have quoted him in that regard——
Can the Minister say how many Deputies in the Dáil?
If Senator Rooney will look at the Seanad Report for last Friday week, he will find some relevant quotations. Practically every Deputy who spoke, certainly every Deputy who was in an area that was affected, and practically every Deputy near to an area that was affected——
Yes, an affected area.
If Senator Rooney has the time, these quotations are available to him in the Seanad Debates. I appreciate his only purpose now is to try to ensure that the agreement that was entered into will not be honoured.
So, there was a definite demand for the proposal in the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill.
With regard to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, I gave quotations to show that after the 1965 election there was at least a general assumption in the papers that something would be done to get rid of the system of election which produces long and unedifying recounts—not long counts but long and unedifying recounts—which discloses the importance of the element of chance, which discloses in a close situation that it would be just as realistic to toss a coin in order to decide who should be elected.
There is an electric computer to do it.
So prevalent was this view that when these people were interviewing Deputy Cosgrave when he was elected as Leader of Fine Gael, the first question they thought it appropriate in the circumstances to ask him was had his attitude changed, because there was this assumption that something was going to be done.
Then we had the long deliberations of the informal committee which was set up to study the Constitution and whose proceedings were supposed to be confidential. I do not think they started off from the word go to disclose information as to their proceedings, but I know that various members have purported now to disclose what happened after undertaking not to do so. I know that. I do not think they did it from the start, but from the beginning every political commentator assumed that they would spend a lot of their time discussing the electoral system because the defects in the electoral system had become so apparent to everyone that any intelligent observer would assume it was one of the first aspects which would come under discussion. In fact, the report they produced did seem to substantiate the assumption that considerable time was spent on that matter.
On a point of order——
On a point of disorder, on a point of disruption, on a point of breaking the agreement——
Is it in order for the Minister to cast imputations on members who served on the committee on the constitution?
I have not heard any imputations cast on any individual member.
The Senator knows that.
As well as that, there was the fact that a number of units of our organisation at the Ard Fheis from different parts of the country, possibly influenced by all the comment there was in the papers, put down a resolution demanding exactly what we are proposing with regard to the electoral system. There was substantial demand, I do not say a unanimous demand because there is no way of finding out if there was unanimous demand or majority demand except by what we are proposing, that is, a referendum.
With regard to the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, Senator O'Quigley based his case on the assumption that this was a question of Dublin versus the West of Ireland. It is not. It is a question of complying with the demand from all sides of the two Houses that what Deputy J. A. Costello described as this constitutional infirmity should be remedied. It is a fact that it is the counties in the western area generally, but not only in the western area, which would be most seriously affected, and would have their representation most unjustifiably reduced if this amendment were not carried.
The objective is as stated in the Bill to avoid breaching the county boundaries and to take reasonable account of such factors as the extent and accessibility of the constituencies. The allegation now is that this is an attempt to secure for the West of Ireland in particular, and for the rural areas in general, representation to which they are not entitled at the expense of Dublin—a deliberate, cynical and totally unnecessary attempt to divide this country on the basis of the urban population versus the rural population. It is a false and dishonest argument.
I suggest that we take the Dublin area as the city and county of Dublin and the Borough of Dún Laoghaire, and the West as Donegal, Clare and the province of Connacht. I suggest this area because whatever about the county boundaries I think most people who have any appreciation of practical politics would agree that it would be undesirable in adjusting the counties with one another to cross the physical boundary of the Shannon river. I agree with Deputy FitzGerald that County Kerry is also in the West but no one, except someone like Senator FitzGerald, would consider adjusting County Kerry with a county like Clare on the other side of the Shannon Estuary. He looks on this as purely a question of figures and I suppose that the Shannon Estuary between Kerry and Clare is something of no importance to Senator FitzGerald, that there is nothing much involved in it, but I think most reasonable people think that whatever about adjusting county with county it is not realistic to make an inter-county adjustment across the river Shannon.
It has been alleged today by Senator O'Quigley that what is proposed will be unjust to Dublin and will confer undue representation on the West. If we compare the two areas we find that the area of this western area is 6,212,045 acres. The area of Dublin is 227,754 acres, so the West is 2,730 per cent of the area of Dublin. The population of the western area is 589,389 and the population of Dublin is 795,047. In other words the population of the western area is 74.1 cent of the electorate in the Dublin The number of voters on the basis of the 1967-68 register is 365,740 in the western area, and the number of voters in Dublin is 446,781, that is, 81.8 per cent of the electorate in the Dublin area. The number of Dáil seats in the western area is 33 and the number in Dublin is 34, the percentage being 97.
This the Opposition say is a monstrous injustice on the people of Dublin. It is an affront to the sacred principles of democracy, the remedying of which cannot wait even until the normal date for revision of the constituencies in 1973, in five years time. It cries to high heaven for immediate rectification. I have been badgered in the Dáil by Deputies from both Parties to rectify this monstrous injustice immediately. The Dáil seats must be reapportioned on the basis of the only relevant consideration being the total population. The relative areas of Dublin and the West are unimportant. The area of the West is 2,730 per cent of the Dublin area but has not Deputy Ryan described the trials and tribulations of the intrepid Deputy who has to travel across the vast expanse between Kimmage and Rathmines to cover his constituency, and contrasted this with the ease and comfort of his colleague Deputy Lindsay who, in covering the area from Belmullet to Foxford, can take time to study the flora and fauna and the habits of frogs in their natural environment?
The population of the West is 74.1 per cent of the population of Dublin and in the interests of democracy Dublin must get at the expense of the West the representation to which it is entitled by virtue of this population, assessed as it is by counting people who are resident in the area on one particular night such as children in institutions, wherever their normal place of residence, mothers and their new-born babies in maternity hospitals and nursing homes, wherever their normal place of residence is; students at universities and colleges, wherever their normal place of residence is; patients in hospitals, wherever their normal place of residence is; overnight guests in hotels and sailors on ships in Dublin Bay whether they are even aliens or nationals.
They would not even be 10,000.
On the basis of the census figures of population complied in this way, and assuming the Fine Gael-procured High Court decision allows a divergence of five per cent, Dublin must get an increase of at least four seats and the West must get a decrease of at least three seats. This assumes, limiting the decrease to three seats, the complete ignoring of county boundaries as any attempt to respect them would mean an even greater reduction. In other words, the Opposition maintain democracy demands that the representation must be at the very least 30 for the West and 38 in Dublin as against the present 33 in the West and 34 in Dublin. But, on the basis of the electorate, and assuming the same divergence of five per cent would be permitted and assuming, again, the maximum ignoring of county boundaries, the representation would be 32 for the West and 36 for Dublin. Surely, then, this is the most that is called for, bearing in mind the disparity in the areas of the two regions concerned? Under the proposals in this Bill, since it is a requirement that the maximum divergence can be utilised only for the purposes laid down in the Bill, the principal one of which is the taking account of county boundaries, it is just conceivable that it might be possible to retain the present 33 seats in the West but it is more likely to be 32 seats, that is, the actual number that would be justified by the number of voters.
In the Dublin area, the absolute minimum that could be allocated is 35. It is practically certain that there will have to be at least 36 because of practical difficulties in regard to the accuracy with which the population figures are available and because the maximum divergence could be operated over the whole of the Dublin area only by having a fairly uniform and fairly high divergence in the opposite direction over the rest of the country and this would not be possible because of the requirement in regard to county boundaries which it is proposed to insert into the Constitution.
Therefore, this Bill will not do more than produce a result closely approximating, in so far as these two areas are concerned, to the principle that was put forward here of one man, one vote, and as it was interpreted here. In other words, it will do no more than equate for the country as a whole a rural vote with an urban vote—and this, irrespective of any account of the area and the terrain—whereas the present position clearly confers differential voting power on the Dublin area and also differential voting power that the people have not asked for and do not want.
I do not think most people would see anything grossly wrong in a distribution of seats of 32 to the western area and 36 to Dublin or 32: 35 or even the retention of the present representation of 33 and 34 even though the electorate in the West of Ireland is only 82 per cent of the Dublin electorate, in view of the fact that, as I said, the area is 2,730 per cent of the Dublin area. So, despite the cynical and irresponsible and malicious efforts of the two Opposition Parties to induce Dublin antagonism to the West— merely because it happens to be their own pet aversion—I do not think they will succeed. I do not think that Dublin people covet any more than their due representation. In fact, I would say that, if there were a proposition that involved a slight weighting of representation because of the comparative remoteness and the vastness of the area, they would not demur.
The overall effect of this proposal is clearly to do no more than to relate in a general way representation to the number of the electorate. The comparative table is as follows: Dublin, 446,781 electorate; 227,754 acres; 34 Deputies at present. Under the proposed Bill, there would be either 36 or 35 Deputies as against 38 if a revision is carried out, as has been demanded by the Opposition under present circumstances. In the West, 365,740 electorate; 6,212,045 acres; 32 Deputies or possibly 33 under this proposed Bill— there are 33 at present—and a maximum of 30 if the demanded revision is carried out as at present.
As I said, of course, this is not simply a question of Dublin versus the West. This is a gimmick the Opposition tried to utilise just because, as I said, the West is their own pet aversion. In fact, as far as we are concerned, we have a majority of only one in the Province of Connaught and a majority of two in the Dublin area. There is no reason whatever to allege that it is there that we have our strength. It is not a question of that. It is purely and simply a question of a fair deal for the people in the country as a whole, a fair deal for the public representatives so that they will have reasonable areas to represent and reasonably stable constituencies which will not be changed every five years, and also a fair deal for Party organisations that are composed of people doing voluntary and valuable work.
I think it is admitted generally that this system that was enforced by the Fine Gael manoeuvre in the High Court in 1961 of the detachment of portions of counties and their transfer into other counties is undesirable. I admit that places like Rooskey and Lanesboro' exist and that people have been accustomed to the fact that these places straddle two counties and the River Shannon. But it is not just small areas like Rooskey and Lanesboro' that are involved, as Senator O'Quigley tried to pretend. Substantial areas were involved in 1961 and even worse on this occasion. What about the substantial area in County Louth which had to be transferred to County Monaghan? It involved the town of Ardee, which does not straddle the border of Louth and Monaghan. The area in Waterford which had to be transferred to Tipperary was substantial. The area of Carrick-on-Suir, which Senator Garret FitzGerald advocated should be transferred to Waterford, is also substantial.
What happened in 1961 was bad enough but this continuous shuffling of people from constituency to constituency, in and out of constituencies, as successive elections is something that will prove frustrating to them, to their representatives and to Party organisations. We would have a position, for instance, that people who voted in one constituency in 1965 would have to be changed in 1967. Half-way between one election and another, they will find themselves in another constituency. The elected representatives will find themselves representing a different area and they will have to vote in different constituencies in 1970. Then, presumably, another change will be required after the 1971 census. Of course, this is only a minor exercise in figures to people like Senator Garret FitzGerald but we believe—and we agree with the views expressed by the Opposition in 1961—that the people are entitled to know where they are; that Deputies are entitled to know their constituency for a reasonable length of time without chopping and changing and handing over territory to one another with the adequate representation of the area suffering in consequence. We believe that political organisations are entitled to some stability in this regard also. The question then is merely one of justice to the people and in the words of Deputy J.A. Costello the remedying of a constitutional infirmity.
I am convinced that all Deputies and Senators know this but because Fianna Fáil proposed it they decided to oppose it in the full knowledge that for mean Party purposes they are seeking to perpetuate what is an injustice. They know that the requirement of the Constitution to butcher the boundaries of County Donegal, to transfer a substantial portion of Donegal to the constituency of Sligo-Leitrim or the transfer of a substantial part of Sligo-Leitrim to Donegal is not required by any democratic principle because Donegal has sufficient voters to justify the retention of its present representation. They know also that in Clare there is more than the national average of voters per Deputy at present; they know that Kerry has sufficient voters to justify its present representation and that Cavan has sufficient voters to justify its present representation, but in order to gain mean Party advantage they want the present position maintained.
They know that if this Bill is not passed so far as Dáil representation is concerned County Leitrim must disappear as a separate entity. Whereas now, as a result of the 1961 decision, it is divided into two, it must be divided into at least three, and possibly into four if this amendment is not passed. The people of Leitrim believe that they are entitled to representation as a county and we are suggesting that the people should amend the Constitution as was demanded before. I do not think I need go any further into the question of the Constituency Commission being proposed only in the one Bill. I explained that at sufficient length already today.
Senator O'Quigley is opposed to adopting what he calls this legalistic approach. He objects, in other words, to the Minister for Local Government taking competent legal advice as to what is permissible. Apparently he would like the Government to draft a Bill without reference to its legality and let people like Senator O'Quigley argue it out at so much per day in the courts, then come back to the Oireachtas and then give the lawyers another field day in the courts until eventually we would arrive at a solution. The figures I quoted showed that a wholesale shifting of population from county to county will be required if this amendment is not passed. This has been described as butchering and dismemberment by members of the Opposition and it is true that I also used these words in the Seanad but if I had been writing them instead of speaking them I would have put them in quotation marks because they were quotations from Opposition speakers. It is a fact that some of those who were moved in 1961 would probably go back to their own counties for a temporary period but in most cases this would have to be compensated for by a movement of population from some other part of the county.
The figures show, while the present system confers differential voting power on the people in substantial areas as opposed to others, that, in fact, the result of what we propose would not be very far from what the Opposition interpret as one man, one vote, and would do no more than roughly equate the value of the rural vote with the urban vote. It is true that in 1935 a Fianna Fáil Government, in revising constituencies, did this without having been compelled to do it by the courts, but it is also true they never did it since because it was in 1935 that the people's frustration and resentment at this kind of treatment became apparent. No Government attempted to do it since, nor did anybody advocate it until such time as the Fine Gael Party got the courts to rule on the matter and insist that it must be done.
The attitude of the Opposition to the Third Amendment Bill is unnecessarily to try to divide the people on the basis of the urban versus the rural population. It is quite clear what their decision is in regard to one section of the community, that they intend to court it in order to get their votes. Deputy J.A. Costello made it perfectly clear when he contemptuously referred to the rural vote as "the cow vote".
With regard to the Fourth Amendment Bill, I think it was Senator FitzGerald who said that before making a proposal such as this we should get the agreement of all political Parties for a change. As far as I could see this was his only real objection to our proposal. In all this it is clear that under no circumstances will Fine Gael agree with Fianna Fáil on anything. He admitted that in the Committee on the Constitution every effort was made to reach agreement on the single seat with the transferable vote. Is it not the position that we have, in fact, got the agreement of the Leader of the Fine Gael Party on what we propose and also of a number of prominent members of the Party, I do not know how many, I took it that there was a majority of one against it? However, we have the agreement of those members of Fine Gael who have confidence in the future of the Party, but the less confident members whose sole interest is in their own seats and who have not got the backbone to stand on their own feet, and are content to scrape in either on a distribution of surpluses or on votes gathered here and there over a large constituency, outvoted the Leader of the Party at this famous all-night session. If Deputy Cosgrave cannot get his Party to agree with him how can Senator FitzGerald expect us to get his Party to agree with us?
With regard to the Labour Party, Senator Murphy has indicated on more than one occasion that they are reconciled to their permanent role as a minority Party. Nobody could expect a Party which has not got the will to win to agree to a change from a position which as far as possible safeguards their position as a permanent minority with their highest ambition either to achieve a balance of power position of a Coalition with whatever Party is prepared to go along with them. Surely Senator Murphy made an admission that they can never hope to make their policy acceptable to the people. This is a remarkable attitude particularly now when according to the newspapers the latest of many new policies is in the process of gestation. It is apparently realised in advance that, whatever hope there is of getting this new policy accepted by a majority of the delegates to the Labour Party conference, there is no hope of getting the public to accept it. I must say I wonder was it in case the delegates to the meeting dealing with the new Party might be influenced by it that the admonition to vote "No" was removed from the skyscraper building here in the city.
It is quite clear, I think, that the position we are asking the people to establish is one in which the people will be able to choose between alternative governments. Fianna Fáil will obviously still be on the one side and, on the other, will be Fine Gael or Labour, or a Coalition, or whatever new Party, or Parties, may emerge to fill the gap left by the ineptness of the present Opposition Parties. As far as we are concerned, we have no fear of conditions in which the people can see the choice clearly before them. To say there is any intention of Fianna Fáil performing a rescue operation on either of the Opposition Parties is quite ridiculous and nobody on the Fianna Fáil side ever made any such statement. No one can help them except themselves and, judging by the craven Fine Gael response to their leader's efforts to revive them, their future does not appear to be too bright.
I want to say quite clearly now that, when Senator Garret FitzGerald alleged I promised them success in the second next election if this legislation is passed, he was saying something that he must have known to be untrue, because I never said any such thing. I do not think the Irish people are prepared to accept Fine Gael at the next election, or the second next election, in their present state. All I said was that, if the Irish people ever wanted to get rid of Fianna Fáil, this proposed system would give them a very effective way of doing that. I certainly never said anything approaching what Senator Garret FitzGerald alleged I said and I challenge him to produce any such statement by me.
I did imply that this system would provide a possibility of Fine Gael success at some time in the future, but this would, of course, depend on some very far-fetched assumptions. First of all, it would depend on the unlikely event of Deputy Cosgrave succeeding in overcoming the inferiority complex of his Party and instilling some backbone into it. Secondly, it would depend on the unlikely event of Fine Gael succeeding in their continuous search for a policy acceptable to the people, a search which shows no more signs of being successful now that it's directed apparently, from University College, Dublin, instead of from the Law Library, as heretofore. As far as I am concerned, nobody can assure Fine Gael of success either now, or at any time in the future, and I certainly did not purport to give any such assurance and I do not think anybody else in Fianna Fáil did so either.
Maybe somebody did try to assure the Fine Gael Party that they would be successful in the second next general election and maybe Senator Garret FitzGerald is thinking of Deputy Cosgrave. Maybe Deputy Cosgrave tried to assure the Party of this all right, but so far from my assuring Fine Gael of success, the reverse is the case. Time and time again I have claimed that to attempt to forecast what will happen under the circumstances we are proposing would be an idle exercise indeed. I even disclaimed having sufficient knowledge of how the people would vote on which to base a gerrymander, as it was alleged I intended to do. The furthest I have gone is to say that the seven by-elections we have had during the term of this Dáil, in which the issues were somewhat similar to those in a general election, though not exactly identical, indicated as clearly as it is possible to indicate that, in the next general election, we are as certain as it is possible to be of being returned as the Government under proportional representation, but, as to what would happen under the changed circumstances we propose now, nobody can say what the result may be because the constituencies are not yet known and neither are the candidates in the different constituencies. We have had, however, the clearest possible indication from the seven by-elections, six of which we won against the combined efforts of the Opposition and a diversity of tactics, that we are as near as possible, under the present system, to certainty of being returned as the Government.
I do not think I need go into any further detail in regard to these by-elections and the clear indication they gave because the indication is, I know, just as clear to Fine Gael as it is to us. What may happen after the next general election is completely unknown, as far as I am concerned, and I would not waste my time trying to forecast the future, certainly not beyond the next general election. It depends on too many things. It depends on our performance as a Government. It depends on there being more realism in Opposition policies. In depends to a large extent on the success or failure of Deputy Cosgrave's efforts to instill some confidence into his own Party. My own opinion is that it is a waste of time to indulge in long-range forecasting. It was not I who said that this proposed system, or any other system, will perpetuate Fianna Fáil. It was not Fianna Fáil who said it was inconceivable that at any time in the future either Fine Gael or Labour will find it possible to convince more people than we can in a majority of these 144 single-seat constituencies. It was not Fianna Fáil who said that in no circumstances is there any possibility of an alternative Government to Fianna Fáil except a Coalition. It was the Opposition who said all these things.
Senator Garret FitzGerald spent a considerable time trying to justify this famous forecast of his with regard to what would happen under the straight vote. It will be quite obvious to anyone who examines what he said that he lost himself in explaining the intricacies of his method of working. He was at pains to justify them although nobody was calling them into question. It is the basis on which he founds his whole process that is important and his basis was completely unjustifiable and, therefore, quite irrelevant. What is much more important than all Senator FitzGerald's percentages is the question of who will oppose whom in individual constituencies and how will those constituencies be delineated. It will obviously affect the result if the Taoiseach and Deputy Barrett oppose one another in the same constituency in Cork. In Laois-Offaly I suppose the Fianna Fáil candidate opposing Deputy Oliver Flanagan would not be held to have as good a chance as the Fianna Fáil candidate opposing Deputy O'Higgins. Senator Rooney's prospects of being elected in County Dublin would hardly be as good if he were opposed by Deputy P.J. Burke as they might be if he went forward in a constituency in which Deputy P.J. Burke would not be a candidate.
I would rather oppose the Minister.
He might have a better chance if he were opposing me. But these are all relevant considerations and they are considerations unknown to Senator FitzGerald, or anybody else, who indulges in this time-wasting effort of making long-range forecasts. The Commission has not yet been set up to draw up the constituencies and the candidates have not been picked for the different constituencies.
I had been dealing with the position in Laois-Offaly. This may very well explain why Deputy Oliver Flanagan is so much in favour of this proposal and why Deputy O'Higgins is not. Deputy O'Higgins would, I think, be reasonably inclined to retain the present system under which he can be elected on the surplus of his more popular colleague and under which he can see prospects of a Coalition Government of which he would be likely to become a member: in circumstances of a Coalition, he can obviously hope to be a Minister as long as he has his colleague, Deputy Flanagan, to bring him into the Dáil.
It is obviously a very relevant question, on which no information was available to the forecasters, as to who will oppose whom, but to base the projection on constituencies that can have no possible relationship to the constituencies that will be established under the Bill is, of course, nonsense. Instead of dealing with local electoral areas where the population varies from 3,603 to 51,792, it is essential to have information about the actual constituencies as well as about the candidates. As well, the issues at local elections are completely different. In that case, there is no danger of a change in Government and it is safe to think only of local questions and of personal preferences for individuals. The candidates at local elections are completely different as well, and the issues are not national ones. It is a completely different thing in a general election.
As far as I can see, the advantages of single-seat constituencies were not seriously disputed. It was more or less agreed that the Deputies elected would be better able to represent the constituencies, better able to keep in close contact with their constituents. In addition there is the fact that they would have less organisational work to do with smaller areas to cover and this, of course, would leave them with more time to perform their fundamental functions as Members of the Oireachtas, as legislators.
Instead, the Opposition based their arguments on the contention that the present system was designed to provide representation for minorities, on the basis that the only alternative to Fianna Fáil Government is a Coalition and that the present system is one that makes more feasible a situation likely to result in a Coalition Government, that these proposals in the Bill would operate against such conditions and, thirdly, that this was a proposition of Fianna Fáil—that Fianna Fáil were inherently evil and that therefore this is wrong, despite the fact that this was official Fine Gael policy up to 1959.
Obviously of course if the electoral system is designed to ensure representation for minorities, it must also promote the formation of Parties on the basis of minority interests. It therefore must inevitably, unless it fails in its design, result in a similar type of situation here to what other PR systems have produced in other countries. It has not done it yet, but everybody knows why not. There is the fact that the political divisions here were in the first instance formed on the lines of Free Staters versus Republicans—of those who sold out in 1922 and those who——
We have some Army Ministers in the Cabinet now.
It persisted for a considerable time and, damaging as it was at the start, it did at least save us from having our political system on the same out-of-date lines as they have in Britain and, temporarily, from the worst splintering effects this system is designed to produce. As well, we had the solidarity of Fianna Fáil and the fact that Fianna Fáil succeeded in retaining the confidence of the majority of the people. That was due, of course, to the broad basis of our Party and the realism and comprehensiveness of our policies. Another reason was, of course, the remarkable capacity of Fine Gael for consuming small Parties. However, as I said, it is inevitable that this system will develop here in the future as it has done in other countries.
There are, then, the advantages of the single-seat constituencies, and I have made it clear that so far as I am concerned the main purpose of this proposal is to obtain these advantages and to get rid of the disadvantages, the evils and the danger of multi-member constituencies. I do not propose to go into these reasons again because I have already put them on record here and in the Dáil. I do not consider it necessary for me to go into them again, but one thing I am called on to do, in view of the fact that this alleged argument has been repeated here so often, is to deal with the non-removal of the system of PR at the time of the enactment of the 1937 Constitution.
The 1937 Constitution was the culminating stage in the first period of Fianna Fáil Government. It was the natural conclusion to a whole series of steps taken by Fianna Fáil to erode the status of the Irish Free State which was established by the Treaty of 1922 in the manner we all know so well. I think most Senators know of the determined last-ditch effort that was made by the Opposition Parties to hang on at least to this last vestige of foreign control in this country. Every possible argument was made to try to ensure that the people would not enact for themselves this new Constitution. Every effort was made to arouse opposition to each individual Article in the Constitution: and the mere fact that the Fine Gael Party of that time happened to be campaigning against PR would not, of course, have been sufficient to counter the effect that a proposal to remove it would have had on those who wanted to retain it. The fact that a proposal to remove PR in the 1937 Constitution would have been in compliance with part of the Fine Gael policy did not, of course, go any part of the way to overcome their inherent opposition to the enactment of a Republican Constitution here but it would have given one more argument against at least one Article of the Constitution, and the Articles were not voted on separately. The Constitution had to be dealt with in the same way as this, by one question, either for or against.
Did you not bring back the King?
Therefore, Fianna Fáil would have been foolish in the extreme to have given that extra argument to the Opposition which might conceivably have resulted in the retention of the Irish Free State Constitution which might have defeated the culminating stage in Fianna Fáil's first period as a Government.
Did you not bring back the King with the External Relations Act?
I do not think the External Relations Act is relevant but——
As far as the Republic is concerned, yes.
A Republic of 26 Counties.
——Senator Rooney is now referring to the latest way in which the Fine Gael Party proved their complete unreliability on any national issue. In 1925, first of all, they ratified the Boundary Agreement. They had it registered as an international agreement. They passed that infamous Agreement by a majority of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Then when they got back again they made it more difficult to do anything about remedying their act of treachery in 1925. So far as we are concerned the 1937 Constitution achieved its fundamental objective of getting rid, for all time, of any vestige of British domination in this part of the country that was not given away by our predecessors——
You brought back the King.
——and by those who are opposing us on these proposals here.
The only other aspect of this Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill I want to refer to is to point out once again that in addition to getting rid of the disadvantages of multi-member constituencies and gaining the advantages of single-seat constituencies this Bill also does something else important and that is that it proposes to establish for the first time here the principle of one man, one vote, the principle of treating every voter in exactly the same way. Although I have made it clear that this is also one of the effects of the proposals here nobody has attempted to contradict that argument because, of course, I made it absolutely clear that the present system which is cynically described as the single transferable vote is, in fact, a system that confers multiple votes on some unidentified members of the community but which decrees that the majority of the voters will have one vote only. That is another important thing that this proposal does —it gets rid of this undemocratic discrimination.
As far as I can see the position now is that this long filibuster, this long attempt to keep this proposal from the people which has persisted from 21st February until the end of July has now come to an end, that the Opposition have not been able even by the deployment of all their forces, including rugged Independents, to delay it any longer and now the people will have to decide. I am quite convinced that the only effect of all this delay has been to produce a change in the attitude of the Fine Gael Party. I am perfectly convinced that even if there was only fractionally less than 50 per cent of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party in favour of the attitude of the leader of the Party by now a substantial majority of Fine Gael supporters throughout the country have come around to the viewpoint of their leader; they appreciate that in the unlikely eventuality of it being possible to instill some backbone into the Party at some time in the future that this is a system which will give them an opportunity of eventually forming a government of their own.
Will you be back again in 1978?
That does not mean for one moment that I am suggesting that at any time the people will be, in the words of Deputy Dillon, so daft as ever to elect a Fine Gael government, but in the unlikely event of their continuous search for a policy eventually producing something that a reasonable percentage of the people can be induced to accept and in the unlikely event of their present leader succeeding in instilling some backbone into them, then this system will make it possible for them to become a government.
You will be back again in 1978.
It is being admitted that under present circumstances it is not conceivable that the Fianna Fáil Government could ever be replaced by a Fine Gael Government or by any other single Party Government. The whole approach certainly in the Dáil and partly here also was an appeal, a pathetic appeal, for a continuation of an electoral system that makes the formation of coalition governments a feasible proposition, behind the backs of the people. Of course the system we propose will not in any way prevent the people from choosing a Coalition Government if they want it but it will make it more difficult for a confidence trick to be played on the people. It will make it more compulsive for the Opposition to put that proposal to the people and then if the people want a coalition government they can choose it at elections under the clear-cut condition that we propose. I agree there is no reason why they should not have a coalition government if they want it but I do think it is necessary, in order to conform with the principles of democracy, that they should be told that in advance of the elections.
I have no doubt whatever that the people will make those two electoral reforms and that the Dáil and Seanad will be much more effective bodies as a result and the people will have the satisfaction of knowing at election time that they can perform their fundamental democratic function of choosing their own government. We believe that is the purpose of elections.
Cuireadh an cheist.
- Ahern, Liam.
- Boland, Gerald.
- Brennan, John J.
- Browne, Seán.
- Cole, John C.
- Dolan, Séamus.
- Eachthéirn, Cáit Uí.
- Egan, Kieran P.
- Farrell, Joseph.
- Fitzsimons, Patrick.
- Flanagan, Thomas P.
- Honan, Dermot P.
- McGlinchey, Bernard.
- Martin, James J.
- Nash, John Joseph.
- Ó Conalláin, Dónall.
- Ó Donnabháin, Seán.
- O'Reilly, Patrick (Longford).
- Ormonde, John.
- Ryan, Eoin.
- Ryan, James.
- Ryan, Patrick W.
- Ryan, William.
- Sheldon, William A. W.
- Teehan, Patrick J.
- Yeats, Michael.
- Carton, Victor.
- Conlan, John F.
- Crowley, Patrick.
- Davidson, Mary F.
- Dooge, James C. I.
- Fitzgerald, John.
- McAuliffe, Timothy.
- McDonald, Charles.
- McHugh, Vincent.
- Malone, Patrick.
- Murphy, Dominick F.
- O'Quigley, John B.
- O'Reilly, Patrick (Cavan).
- O'Sullivan, Denis J.
- Prendergast, Micheál A.
- Quinlan, Patrick M.
- Rooney, Éamon.