I move amendment No. 5:
In page 14, to delete lines 39 and 40, and substitute the following definition—
"‘elector' means, as the context may require, a presidential elector, a local government elector, a Dáil elector or a European elector;".
With all of these amendments my purpose is the same. Since they are a symbolic gesture and are not of great importance I hope the Minister will accept them. I ask that when the Minister mentions presidential, Dáil, European or local government elector that he gives more status to the local government elector. The same principle informs the other amendments so I will speak on them all at the same time.
I believe, as I am sure the Minister believes, our Constitution's words, that power comes from the people. The people are all-important and the authority nearest to the people is the local authority whether county council, urban district council or whatever. It is to local authorities that people in the first instance cede their power. They ask the local authority to carry out certain functions when they elect representatives to it. Functions may include the provision of street lighting or the running of the local park. The national Parliament, while important, is undoubtedly further removed from the people.
I have put the presidential elector first because the President is the head of State and is all-important. The head of State, in my reckoning, is not included with the Dáil, European and local government categories of elector. I object to the fact that the European elector is mentioned before the local elector. Local authorities were there long before the European Parliament was ever thought of; my local authority dates back to the 12th century and to denigrate them to the lowest position is unfortunate.
Politicians from time to time speak of power devolving to local authorities. To devolve means to hand down. These politicians feel that power belongs to them and gratuitously they will hand it down to a lower level. That is not the way I see it. Power belongs to the people who freely elect local authority members or members at national level and give them power to carry out certain functions for them. I dislike the word "devolving" and never use it because it contains an unjust implication.
No other country in western Europe is as arrogant as ours or treats local democracy with such contempt. The Fianna Fáil manifesto promised better local government and better national government and therefore the Minister should accede to my request. It is symbolic and not of great significance but it would indicate that the Minister thinks more of local authorities than he appears to at present.