Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill 2013: Committee Stage (Resumed)

ALT 1
SECTION 1
Atairgeadh an cheist: "Go bhfanfaidh alt 1 mar chuid den Bhille."
Question again proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. Mar a bhí mé ag rá aréir, cuireann sé olc orm go bhfuil an Bille seo á chur tríd chomh tapaidh sin agus go bhfuiltear ag iarraidh deireadh a chur le Teach daonlathach de chuid na tíre seo atá lárnach san Oireachtas.

Ta an t-Oireachtas déanta suas den Dáil, den Seanad agus den Uachtarán.

D'oibrigh an Teach seo go maith ó 1922 go dtí an lá atá inniu ann, cé gur cuireadh deireadh leis ar feadh cúpla bliain, idir 1936 agus 1937. Tá sé ráite go soiléir ag ceannaire Fhine Gael go bhfuil sé ag iarraidh deireadh a chur leis an Teach seo mar gur thug sé gealltanas roimh an toghcháin dheiridh agus go raibh sé ag iarraidh na costais a bhaineann leis an Teach a ghearradh. Ní fheictear domsa cén dóigh a dtiocfaí costais a chur in áit an daonlathais. Tá deireadh curtha leis na comhairlí baile agus tá an plean sin fáiltithe ag an Rialtas. Cuirfear deireadh, mar sin, le 80 comhairle baile ar fud na tíre, cé go bhfuil comhairleoirí baile áitiúla ag obriú go gníomhach i mbailte cosúil le Leitir Ceanainn, Bun Cranncha agus Béal Átha Seanaidh i nDún na nGall. Cuireadh deireadh le toghchán do bhord Údarás na Gaeltachta. Daoine a bhfuil baint acu le páirtithe an Rialtais atá ar bhord an údaráis anois, daoine nár toghadh ag muintir na Gaeltachta. Seo an tríú chéim. Is é sin deireadh a chur le Seanad Éireann.

Is mór an trua go bhfuiltear ag dul ar aghaidh le Bille den chineál seo. Botún mór atá ann. Cuirimse fáilte roimh an reifreann a bheith ann. Ba chóir dúinn reifreann a bheith againn agus ath-bhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an dóigh a oibríonn an Teach, an éifeacht atá ag baint leis agus an dóigh atá na Seanadóirí go léir tofa don Teach.

Tá go leor ráite ag saineolaithe agus doiciméid foilsithe ag coistí Dála. Bunaíodh coiste bunreachtúil i 2004 agus rinne sé cuid mhór oibre. Bhí reifreann ann i 1969 agus vótáil na daoine go mbeadh vóta i dtoghchán an tSeanaid ag céimithe os na institiúidí tríú leibhéal go léir sa tír. Tá sin go léir curtha a leataobh ag ceannaire Fhine Gael, an Taoiseach, an Teachta Éanna Ó Cionnaith. Tá sé mar gheall ar deireadh a chur leis an Teach in áit reifreann ceart a bheith ann agus deis a thabhairt do dhaoine vóta a chaitheamh trí dóigh.

As regards the legislation before us, it is with regret that we are discussing the abolition of Seanad Éireann instead of discussing the future of this House. I have no issue whatsoever with holding the referendum but, as currently constructed under the terms of this Bill, it is much too narrow. There should have been a proper debate over a period with the public as to what type of Seanad, if any, they want to have in future.

I subscribe to the notion that we have to reduce the burden on the Exchequer but there are many ways of doing so. Abolishing one of the democratic institutions of the State is simply a political gimmick that is too easy to use when money is tight. If that were the case, why did Governments from the 1930s to the 1980s not end the Seanad in those decades when there was less money available to the State? It was because they did not want to attack democracy as a cost-saving exercise.

Before the last general election, the leader of Fine Gael bemused many of his own party membership and members of the parliamentary party by announcing at a dinner that he was going to abolish Seanad Éireann. It may have been popular at the time because people were disengaged from politics, partly due to Ministers in my own party who were in government previously.

The Senator is moving away from section 1 and is being repetitive.

I want to deal with the cost issue.

This section does not deal with that matter. We are dealing with the date.

It concerns the holding of the referendum. There will be other sections on which I can contribute, but many Senators referred to the issue on this section last night. I have examined the costs. The figure being used by the Attorney General was about €13.2 million. When it is just broken down to the cost of salaries and expenses, it comes to about €9.2 million. That figure was given to an Oireachtas committee, but it is not even €9.2 million. When one factors in the taxation that is paid by Members of the Seanad, at a conservative estimate, it is 30%. Some 30% of €9.2 million is about €2.75 million, so the actual net cost to the Exchequer would only be about €6.45 million.

That is what the saving will be by eliminating a Chamber of democracy that scrutinises legislation, delays the enactment of legislation and gives the people an opportunity to contact us on certain issues. If that is what is to be achieved, there are other and similar ways of going about saving €6.45 million. I will not go into them now because I will have an opportunity to do that when dealing with various sections. After what happened in the other House last night, the public may wish to save €6.54 million from that House rather than from this House. Reducing the number of Deputies in the other House would easily save €6.45 million because the cost of a Member of the other House is three or four times greater than the cost of a Member of this House. We would like to ask the members of the public today, by way of a referendum, which House they would like to keep and which House they would like to abolish. It would be interesting to see the result of an opinion poll or a referendum on that question. If we want to base the argument down to the costs, and I listened to what the Minister said last night, let us examine the true costs, or give every Member of this House an accurate breakdown of the figures because the figure of €20 million which is being talked up by the Taoiseach - €100 million over five years - does not stack up according to the Attorney General's figures which were provided to an Oireachtas committee when only the salaries and expenses are taken into account.

If the Irish people decide to abolish this House, so be it, but it is not something with which I would agree and I will be campaigning against that in the referendum. However, irrespective of what happens to us, the staff associated with this House will be, and should be, redeployed in any event and I would subscribe to that. The members of staff of Seanad Éireann, be in any of the offices or otherwise linked to this House, are second to none. They should be redeployed and they will be deployed, therefore, there will be no cost-saving in respect of staff. When the Taoiseach talks about a cost-saving, he is misleading the public and he is also misleading us. He should come into the House to explain himself on that issue before this Bill is passed, if it is to be passed. He should not be forcing the Minister of State, for whom I have the greatest respect, to come in and justify his actions. It is his actions and words that have been put out, but we need to have the opportunity to question that element of the argument during the course of this debate.

I hope the Taoiseach will oblige the Leader and membership of this House by coming in here to debate certain sections of legislation either on Committee Stage or on Report Stage next week. He should come in here and justify his remarks because he and he alone is the man who is walking the plank in terms of getting rid of this House, a House which was established and supported by a man, for whom I have great respect, Michael Collins. I will always have respect for what he did for the country, but the Taoiseach is showing disrespect for the work he did as a result of what he is trying to achieve here.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, back to very familiar surroundings. It is a sad afternoon that we are here discussing this Bill. I will be brief in my contribution on this section. In essence, what we are being asked to do here is to vandalise our Constitution. Shortly after coming to power in Germany, Hitler quickly set about tinkering with the constitution of that country and we all know what the end result of that was. To tinker with a constitution and with democracy is dangerous.

Over the last eight hours or so very valuable contributions have been made, mainly from this side of the House, on how the Seanad came about and the historic figures who were Members of this very proud institution, and that was worthwhile. If a contractor who is in the business of demolition is given a contract to demolish a building of any substantial size, the first thing it does is to take a look at how that building was constructed before setting about demolishing it. The contributions that have been made during the past eight hours or so have been very valuable.

I am grateful to Senator Zappone for outlining in her contribution yesterday what the term "abolish" means. It is worth considering a few of those words again. It is to nullify, to destroy, to abrogate or to do away with. That is in essence what we are being asked to do here in this legislation. Many people have put forward the case for this question being discussed at the Constitutional Convention and Senator Norris put forward a very strong argument that this should happen, but unfortunately he did not get very far. The reason he did not get very far is that the Government ensured that he could not and that he would not. While issues, important in their own right but far less important than our Constitution and our democracy, were discussed including the reduction in the voting age, the reduction in the term of the Presidency among other things, this issue should have been the No. 1 item on the agenda of the Constitutional Convention before we got to the point of asking the people for their opinion.

The effect of the abolition day, which this section is about, will have on our democracy is unthinkable. This House, as others have pointed out, has put more than 500 amendments to legislation since January of this year. If this House were not here, that legislation would now be law and by virtue of the fact that more than 500 amendment were made, it would be bad law.

Senator Ó Domhnaill alluded to the fact that the abolition of this House will result in purported savings of between €8 million and €50 million, depending on whom one listens to or what one reads. However, it has been admitted by the Minister, Deputy Howlin, that there will be no savings by abolishing this House because it will be replaced by a committee of experts who will examine the legislation and make any recommendations for amendments that they consider to be necessary. In recent weeks, we have all seen what happens to people who are members of committees who do not toe the Government line-----

-----they are replaced. They will be replaced by people who will toe the Government line and do what they are told. That is another shock to our democracy.

It is worth reading into the record a few paragraphs of an open letter that a former distinguished Member of this House, a former Minister of State and a man who comes form the Protestant tradition on our Island , Martin Mansergh wrote to The Irish Times in early June. The letter states:

Forty-three of its members are elected after very competitive contests by the people whom the people elect ... city and county councillors, incoming TDs and outgoing Senators. It is a form of indirect democracy very similar to the French system, which ensures there is no conflict of legitimacy between the two chambers.

The only elite element [I ask my colleagues seated behind me to wait until I have finished this sentence] is that of the university seats: the electorate for which should at least have been broadened out long ago, since the 1979 referendum----

The letter continues:

The only elite element is that of the university seats: the electorate for which should at least have been broadened out long ago, since the 1979 referendum, to include all third level institutions.

Incidentally, it was my uncle who put that referendum to the people on that occasion.

He was a decent man and classical scholar.

It continues:

Nevertheless, one of the Seanad's more important functions through the mid-20th century continued to be to give a voice to the minority, represented for instance by Professor W.B. Standford for 25 years, at a time when the majority political and religious opinion was still fairly monolithic. He also defended the State from unfair political criticism from unionist co-religionists in Northern Ireland. Historically, the Seanad will be seen to have played a significant role since in the opening up of Irish society.

While a great deal has changed since then, this State, unlike most of its smaller counterparts in Europe or further afield, is situated in a divided island, with, north of the Border, still very divided allegiances. Ironically, what has always put unionist supporters off a united Ireland has been the fear of undiluted majority rule of a type they themselves practised for 50 years, having quickly got rid of minority safeguards in the 1920-1 settlement.

The proposed abolition of the Seanad by a government with the largest majority in the history of the State would also remove the Taoiseach's nominees, which allowed remarkable people from both communities like Seamus Mallon, Bríd Rogers, John Robb, Gordon Wilson and Maurice Hayes to make a valuable contribution to better mutual understanding as well as to our democracy. One day, a second chamber might provide some of the flexibility that it would make it possible to accommodate communities, which have long been politically separated from us.

They are just a few short, but important, quotations from Dr. Mansergh's letter to The Irish Times .

Professor Barrett and others have said that in abolishing the Seanad the Government will disenfranchise many thousands of people from the Six Counties of our island who were elected to it. Has the Taoiseach considered the effect this will have? At a time when communities in the North of Ireland are striving to live together, we are going to cut them adrift by disenfranchising the only 32 county electorate this country has.

It is an absolute shame.

Yes. It is difficult being in Government. One can often feel insignificant, particularly when a member of a large party, as I was-----

-----and will be again.

That is optimism.

Fianna Fáil is at 29% in the polls, which is fairly impressive.

I appeal to members opposite to think about the effect their voting for this Bill will have, namely, it will disenfranchise people from having a democratic voice. I appeal to the Minister of State, Deputy Hayes, as a former and well respected Member of this House - as I said in my Second Stage speech I was honoured to have served with him here for five years - to try to talk sense into the Taoiseach. The public is swiftly coming to the conclusion that we already have a dictatorship in this country. A number of Members of Government are being forced to vote for legislation they do not support. That is a fact. It is not democracy: it is a dictatorship.

I again appeal to my colleagues opposite to vote against this legislation and save this third of our precious democracy.

What I have to say on this legislation might as well be said on section 1 as any other section. I can assure the Cathaoirleach that I will not repeat on other sections what I propose to say now.

The proposed abolition of the Seanad will cause structural damage to the democracy of this country. Democracy is like a three legged stool in that once one breaks off one of its legs it becomes unstable. This is what will occur if the people opt to abolish the Seanad. It is nothing short of reckless that the Taoiseach and the Government propose to ask the people by way of referendum to abolish the Seanad and not to offer the alternative of reform of the Seanad. It is audacious and ludicrous that this issue was not even considered by the Constitutional Convention. It is ludicrous that the convention will consider issues such as a reduction from 35 to 21 in the age at which a person may become President and a reduction to 16 years in the age at which people can vote, which I think is madness. These issues were given indepth consideration by the All-Party Committee on the Constitution, of which I was previously a chairman. Much of the work undertaken by that committee is being replicated by the Constitutional Convention. The All-Party Committee on the Constitution was the brainchild of former Taoiseach, John Bruton. Its first chairman was former Deputy Jim O'Keeffe, who was a colleague of mine from south-west Cork. However, he was chairman for only a short while because of general election in 1997. The committee was also chaired by the late and great Brian Lenihan.

During its second tranche, the All-Party Committee on the Constitution, which was established by a former Fine Gael Taoiseach and Government, carried out a progress report on the viability of the Seanad. The chairman of the committee at that time was, as I said earlier, former Deputy Jim O'Keeffe, an eminent member of the Fine Gael Party and perhaps one of the longest serving Members in the Dáil. It was unfortunate he did not progress further up the ranks of Fine Gael. While I do not propose to read the full report, I would like to put a few extracts from it on the record. Before I do so, it is worth noting some of the members of the committee included former Deputy Austin Curry, who was a presidential candidate, former Deputy Síle de Valera, a subsequent Minister of State, current Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, former Senator Ann Gallagher, the late Brian Lenihan, the current Minister of State for Health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, former Deputy Derek McDowell, former Deputy Michael McDowell, Deputy Willie O'Dea, former Deputy Jim O'Keeffe and former Senator Michael Kennedy. The committee undertook a great deal of research and consulted with a wide range of people and reports. I will not bore the House with all of the submissions made. However, it is important to reflect on a few of them. As I said earlier, I propose to say what I have to say now and to not repeat it later on other sections. I will probably not even contribute again.

One of the most significant submissions was from one of the greatest public servants of this country, T.K. Whitaker. Other submissions were received from John Robb, John O'Connell, the late Conor Cruise O'Brien, Senator Norris, whom I think it still around-----

-----John A. Murphy, Justin Keating, Tom Fitzgerald, a long-standing Member of this House who recently passed away, Dr. Garret FitzGerald, and a group of Fianna Fáil Senators, among others.

I do not wish to take away from the work done by Mary O'Rourke and others but this is probably the most significant report on the viability and future of the Seanad ever compiled. I wish to read a few paragraphs into the record, the first of which states:

The Committee is persuaded by the argument in Coakley/Laver that the Seanad does make a useful contribution to the democratic life of the state. The savings achieved if it were abolished – it costs about £2.8 million [the figure which obtained at that time] per annum to run – could be illusory because some of the functions it carries out would need to be reallocated to other parts of the political system. Furthermore, there would be a serious loss to the Dáil because the disappearance of senators would make the task of manning the committee system extremely difficult. The Committee also agrees with Coakley/Laver that the Seanad is a resource that could be deployed to far greater effect if it were reformed.

It is important that this point should be borne in mind. The report also states:

Seanad Éireann should be a consultative body where people with knowledge, experience and judgment over the whole spectrum of public affairs should be available in a broadly non-partisan way to help the Dáil to carry out its function more effectively and more efficiently.

I take this opportunity to nail a particular lie which has been circulating during the debate on this matter and which is extremely unfair. I listen to Pat Kenny's radio show quite frequently and I heard this lie repeated on it on a particular morning. I refer to the kite that has been flown to the effect that it costs €200 million to run the Seanad. As we now know, that is completely incorrect. The Library and Research Service of the Houses estimates the actual cost at just over €8 million. As the second progress report indicates, in 1997 the cost was estimated at £2.8 million. The lie which has been circulating must be nailed. It does not cost €200 million, €50 million or €30 million to run this House. It is unfair that certain people are allowed to utter nonsense to the effect that it costs €200 million to run the Seanad on Pat Kenny's programme on RTE Radio 1. Such comments sow the seeds of disdain among members of the public who listen to Mr. Kenny's programme, particularly when they believe that it costs €200 million per annum to run the House. If the latter were true, it would mean that it would cost €1 billion to run the Seanad during its five-year term.

The second progress report also states, "The nomination, electoral and appointment procedures for senators should aim to produce gender balance in the Seanad". The latter is an issue of major significance. Such a balance is fairly accurately reflected in the House, particularly on the Government side. It is also reflected among the Taoiseach's nominees. I recall campaigning with the late, great Erskine Childers when he ran for the Presidency in 1973. I am of the view that the Taoiseach stands as the bravest among those who have held his office in the period since 1973 in the context of the 11 individuals he nominated for membership of the Seanad. The Taoiseach stood aside from the norm in that he did not divvy out positions to people as a reward for political loyalty. He went beyond that, was very brave and appointed some excellent individuals to this Seanad. I am very proud to work with those Senators.

The second progress report further states:

The Committee believes that the legislative function of the Dáil could be greatly improved if legislation were either:

introduced in the Seanad, brought through its first three stages, sent to the Dáil with the Seanad’s observations and taken from a third stage in the Dáil to final decision

or

having been introduced in the Dáil and taken to its third stage there, sent to the Seanad for its observations, returned to the Dáil, and brought to decision there.

The facility should remain with the government of expediting urgent legislation through the Dáil with only formal reference to the Seanad.

The importance of this is that since the report was published, many Ministers have taken the opportunity to introduce legislation in the Seanad. Senator MacSharry indicated that the figure in this regard is as high as 34% to 35% on average. This reflects some of the work I carried out in compiling a report for my party during the past 12 to 18 months.

The second progress report was produced by some very capable and learned men and in it they also state:

The Committee believes that the Seanad could play a major role in ensuring that this important task is carried out. Provision could be made to have MEPs take part in debates in the house, although without voting rights. [In fairness, I fully endorse the moves the Leader has made in this regard]. Relevant EU commissioners and senior commission officials could be invited to the house for discussions on the EU's legislative programme and the Seanad should monitor EU regulations and directives and produce reports for the Dáil on the impact of, and trends in, that legislation. It seems to the Committee that, if the Seanad tackled such a task with imagination, energy and high critical power, it could convey to the people in clear realistic terms what the European dimension adds to our lives and offer sound advice on how the state should seek to shape EU policies.

The House should have more of an input in this regard. I understand that something of the order of 75% of all laws and regulations introduced in this country currently emanate from Europe. Very little debate takes place in respect of EU directives, which are imposed without this or the Lower House really teasing out the benefits or otherwise of them.

The second progress report also comments on matters relating to statutory instruments, policy reports, etc. In the context of policy reports it states, "Such reports should be debated by the Seanad in such a way that the medium and long-term perspectives are developed and sustained which would provide the proper intellectual context for the critical appraisal by the Dáil of the policies contained in Bills". I am of the view that if this had been done by the Fianna Fáil-led Governments which held power from 1997 to 2011 - which I blame for the lack of action in this regard - particularly in the context of economic direction and policy, then the boom might not have developed in the way it did and might have been less expansive in nature. In such circumstances, the subsequent crash might not have been quite so severe.

I have no wish to delay proceedings but I am of the view putting on record some of the conclusions to the second progress report would be a worthwhile exercise. I will conclude my contribution thereafter. I was in the Chair during some of the debate yesterday and I am conscious of not engaging in a filibuster. It is important, however, to place on record the thinking of the then All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, which probably also informed the work done by the committee chaired by Mary O'Rourke. The committee to which I refer included among its members a number of former and current Ministers. Former Taoisigh such as Garrett FitzGerald, John Bruton, Jack Lynch, Liam Cosgrave and others were of the view that the Seanad had an important role to play. I regret that my party did not have the courage, the initiative or the imagination to implement Seanad reform. However, that is no excuse for the current Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, a person for whom I have great respect, deciding in a moment of madness to abolish the Seanad. The abolition of this House will weaken rather than enhance democracy.

The Government has a huge majority in the Dáil at present. I could almost see a dictatorship emerging by virtue of the fact that an inner politburo of three or four individuals within this Administration is dictating what happens. Members of this House and backbenchers in the Lower House have become increasingly less important to the political system.

Such Members are only fodder for the votes when necessary as happened last night and today when Members were whipped into line. Croppy, my boy, must sit down and do what he is told. He has no impact on policy but he is there to vote in order that the Government can drive through its policies and legislation.

I will put my conclusions on record. It is important that this be done. I am coming close to the end. Page 92 reads: "Each of the options outlined in the previous section has considerable merit, although introducing the more ‘radical’ changes will require, as we have seen, some fundamental political decisions." However, these were not taken. The report continues:

Our review of the ways in which the powers and functions of a future Seanad might interact does, however, enable us to make some general points in conclusion. In these we take into account both the comparative dimension and the history of Ireland’s second chamber.

In this regard, the current Taoiseach is forgetting the history of Ireland's second Chamber and the comparative dimensions and the significant work it has done, especially at this time. I am not trying to put a halo around the head of Senator Maurice Cummins. I rarely do that and he knows me well enough. However, I acknowledge that he has given a meaningful role to the Seanad in his role as Leader. Perhaps that was lacking in previous Seanaid. As Members, we all went along in the slipstream.

Page 93 of the report reads:

We feel that the case for the abolition of the Seanad has not been strongly enough made by its ‘elite’ critics, while there is clearly no groundswell of popular opinion in favour of abolishing the upper house. Given the contribution that the current Seanad does in fact make, even if much of this is outside its ‘core’ role as a legislative chamber, we can see little to be gained by abolishing it.

That was a unanimous decision of the committee only a few years ago. The second paragraph on that page reads:

We also feel that the mainstream critique of the current Seanad carries considerable force. Having so little real power, and operating so much in the shadow of the Dáil and government, the Seanad is certainly not fulfilling the aspirations of the 1937 Constitution. Those who defined a role for the Seanad in 1937 anticipated neither the powerful government control of the legislature brought about by a combination of standing orders and the whip system, nor the arcane system of nominating and electing senators put into place by subsequent legislation. This leads us to go along with the view that, while the Seanad should not be abolished it should indeed be reformed.

Page 93, paragraph 3 reads:

Once we are in the business of reforming what in theory is one of the most important political institutions in the state, it scarcely seems worth fiddling around at the edges of the matter. Thus we do not feel that there is a case for tinkering with the existing arcane legislation that defines the composition of the current Seanad, but rather for rewriting this from scratch to define the composition of a Seanad that will best equip it to make a real contribution to Irish political life in the twenty-first century.

We are currently in the 21st century. The important point is that all of what has been suggested - it was the nub of Senator Quinn's Bill as well - could be achieved by a legislative programme of reform rather than having a referendum at all. That was well-captured in the Bill produced by Senators Quinn and Zappone. Let us be honest. There are 60 Members, including the Cathaoirleach. If we are to be truthful, if we let our hearts speak rather than our heads and rather than be whipped into line, all 60 Members would in some way like to avoid the Armageddon or the famous guillotine. We should find out what is happening.

There is a famous story which I will tell about the guillotine. I will be brief. It is somewhat humorous but it shows where we are at the minute. The guillotine was introduced at the time of the revolution in France in 1796. An Irishman, a Frenchman and an Englishman were facing the guillotine for some razzmatazz they had in Paris and they were all sentenced to die. There was a rule at the time that if, for any reason, when the string was pulled and big blade of the guillotine came down, the head was not sliced off, then the convict was pardoned. The Englishman was first up. He said his prayers and his head was put down on the block. The operator of the guillotine pulled the string. For whatever reason, when the blade was two inches above his neck, it stopped and he was pardoned.

On a point of order, this is an amusing historical anecdote, but we have had eight hours of debate on section 1 on Committee Stage. I wonder about it. Can we try to keep the debate a little focused and be respectful of the dignity of the House and the quality of debate we normally have?

Senator O'Donovan, please.

(Interruptions).

In fairness to Senator Bacik-----

Senator O'Donovan, on section 1.

This will be my last-----

He has given us lengthy passages from reports that we have already had quoted.

What about free speech?

Senator O'Donovan, without interruption, on section 1.

This report has barely been mentioned in the entire debate. The reason is that it was done by a different political Government made up of a coalition of Fine Gael and the Labour Party. Earlier, we referred to the report. It is important to show the view at the time of many people in Fine Gael and the Labour Party.

I want to hear what happened to the Englishman, the Scotsman and the Irishman.

Senator O'Donovan, please, without interruption.

I am very surprised at Senator Bacik being such a party pooper.

Senator O'Donovan, on section 1.

I will conclude my little anecdote to show where we are with this guillotine. The Englishman survived. The second man was the Frenchman and something similar happened him. When the string was pulled, the blade stopped short of his neck and he was pardoned. However, the Irishman was rather like the people in the Seanad. This is the point I am trying to make. The man operating the guillotine pulled the string and the Paddy looked up and said, "I see what is making it stick, sir". Basically, he cut his own throat. That is what is happening here.

Exactly. Well done.

I will move on. I am close to finishing. As Senator Bacik is aware, I have respect for her and for the House, but it is important for me to put some of my concluding remarks on the record in this debate.

Page 93, paragraph 5 reads:

Comparative analysis has also drawn our attention to the unique right of the head of government to appoint members of the second chamber. In other countries, while the prime minister may have a role – indeed, possibly a determining voice – in such nominations, the formal appointments are made by the head of state. We therefore suggest that consideration be given to transferring the right of appointment from the Taoiseach to the President, possibly with the requirement that the President act on the advice of the Taoiseach (though alternative arrangements for nominations could also be made).

I imagine Senator Bacik and others would not disagree with the notion of President Michael D. Higgins having a say in the nominations to this wonderful Upper House.

Some of the university Senators might not like paragraph 6, which reads:

Existing provisions for university representation are both cumbersome and of questionable appropriateness. Most of those voting no longer have any connection, other than possibly one of sentiment, with the universities whose representatives they are choosing. If university representation is to continue, therefore, methods should be devised to ensure that university senators represent their universities, rather than giving a special additional franchise to a large and disparate body of graduates most of whom have long departed from their colleges, and perhaps even from the country.

I suppose if we are to be honest, that is a true statement.

No, it is not. It is complete rubbish. I never wanted to represent the university.

Senator O'Donovan, on section 1.

I have only three more paragraphs to read and then I will resume.

I have stood in real elections and served. The lot of them are faceless bureaucrats and penny-pinchers in that place.

Page 94, paragraph 7 reads:

The first major issue to be confronted, therefore, is the social and political basis of the composition of a new Seanad. We have already pointed to some of the peculiar features of this body. It is important, however, also to recall the history of Seanad Éireann. This body came into existence as part of a formal agreement in 1922 between the new Irish government and representatives of southern unionists (though, of course, it might well have come into existence in any case even without this pressure). At least in its early years, it played an important representative role in reconciling this minority to life in independent Ireland. There is therefore a case for looking carefully at the capacity of the Seanad to act as a voice for special groups that might otherwise be kept at a distance from Irish political life, such as representatives of the Irish abroad, of marginal groups within Irish society and, depending on certain very delicate constitutional and institutional matters that it would be dangerous to prejudge, of the two communities in Northern Ireland.

Unfortunately and regrettably the principle set out in the report was never actually realised. Although it was an aspiration in 1922, I do not believe it was ever completely or properly fulfilled. There was some tinkering around the edges.

Page 94, paragraph 8 reads:

The second major issue to be confronted is that of giving the Seanad new powers that do not overlap with those of the Dáil. These might include the review of senior public appointments or the conduct of tribunals of enquiry, as well as a number of others.

Why this was never embarked on puzzles me. Some of the tribunals that cost hundreds of millions of euro with little or no results could very well have been dealt with in this Chamber. Just as with the committee chaired by Deputy Buttimer, this Chamber could have been put to greater use for work on that area. The report also states:

The net result could well be an Irish political system that was more transparent and accountable, which almost everyone (at least almost everyone outside the core executive) would regard as a good thing. We therefore suggest that very serious consideration indeed be given to the possibility of giving the Seanad new powers that do not overlap with those of the Dáil.

That was never done and our party can take some if not much of the blame.

The Cathaoirleach will be glad to note that I am coming to the end of my tether.

The Senator is long past that.

So is the Cathaoirleach.

I made a commitment to make a contribution but I will not do so on the subsequent sections covering the same issues. I give the House a promise on that. This was a wonderful report prepared by many wonderful people. It was left to gather dust which is unfortunate.

It was by, among others, our party, which I accept.

And Fine Gael which was in power for part of the time.

This has been going on since the 1960s.

Fourteen years.

Paragraph 9 states:

The third major issue to be confronted is that of giving the Seanad new powers that would indeed overlap with those of the Dáil - that is, giving it enhanced power over the legislative process. This is intimately tied to the whole question of the legitimacy of the second chamber, and the issue of direct election. It seems to us that a radical shift to direct election is not merited unless the Seanad is also given enhanced powers in the legislative process. Once more, we identify a fundamental issue that must be debated politically - the question whether it is desirable, whatever the situation in theory, to have a working system of checks and balances in the Irish legislative system, given the potential for conflict between the two houses of the legislature that such a system must inevitably imply.

Many people have forgotten that this progress report contained much good material. If the Taoiseach had really reflected on what some Fine Gael icons, including Michael Collins, Garret FitzGerald and John Bruton, and others such as T.K. Whitaker have said, and if he really reflected on the work that was done in the build-up for the past 20 or 30 years, some of it neglected by the previous two or three Governments, he would not have embarked on this road to hell. It is the road to damnation and destroying an arm of the Oireachtas. It is like an amputation - it may never be stitched on again. Many Senators on the other side of the House are dreading the notion of the Seanad being abolished. Whether it is today or next week they have a chance when they walk through the lobbies to show the guts and gumption like the Minister of State, Deputy Creighton, regardless of whether one believes her, to stand up for what they believe in their hearts to be right. Let five or six Senators on the other side do it and we will save this House.

Three Senators have indicated they wish to speak again. I think I will call the Minister of State first.

Yesterday was a long day and night and I listened very closely to what colleagues had to say. The net issue in the Bill is whether the country will have a referendum to allow the people to decide. The fine speeches I have heard on all sides of this debate are really a matter for the campaign. My task is simply to answer any question Senators have on the legislation. However, I wish to make a number of remarks.

Section 1 is the definition section, but of course without the definition section the other sections do not flow. If the amendment is passed by the people in a referendum likely in the autumn period, the abolition day will come into effect. If it falls, the entire Bill falls effectively and there will be no abolition day. The abolition day is predicated as set out in the legislation on midnight before the Dáil convenes after the next general election. Effectively at that point the Seanad will come to an end. As I said in my Second Stage contribution, that is predicated on the will of the people.

Many things were said yesterday and it would be impossible to reply to them all. Senator Zappone, my very good friend, told me that I was a worthy opponent. I do not stand as an opponent; I stand as a member of a Government party which gave a commitment to the people before the general election that we would hold this referendum. This is not like Grattan's Parliament where people are being bribed or Parliament itself-----

How do we know that?

This is not like Grattan's Parliament where people are being bribed. On the contrary we are simply asking the people to take a position on the matter. It is entirely consistent with what our party, the Fianna Fáil Party and Sinn Féin stated in our manifestos. In fairness the Labour Party did not give that commitment and it believed in a constitutional convention. Along with all the candidates in my party, I signed up to that and it was also signed up to by Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil. We will have a referendum on the issue and it is a matter for the people to decide. The fundamental question the people will decide is whether they want a bicameral or a unicameral system.

I have no doubt that all the issues colleagues have rightly mentioned will be matters for the campaign. The only task for the legislation is whether one believes in putting that referendum. The people are sovereign on this issue. I respect the decision of the people and I ask others to do the same. I ask people to concentrate on that issue.

All kinds of allegations have been made about the Taoiseach, including references to Napoleon and dictatorship, which are rubbish. We believe in a written Constitution and stand over it. Senator Quinn made a very valid point yesterday. The reason this country did not go the way of fascist Europe in the 1930s and 1940s was that we had a Constitution and a healthy democracy.

The Civil War came to an end through a very simple communication between W.T. Cosgrave and Éamon de Valera, who incidentally did not want the Civil War and was trying to deal with the problems on the republican side at that stage, through Parliament itself. W.T. Cosgrave asked Éamon de Valera to accept two conditions in bringing the Civil War to an end, first the acceptance of the Army and, second, that a majority vote of Dáil Éireann would represent the sovereign wish of the people. I agree with Senator Quinn on that. I have always argued that Dáil Éireann is the absolute epicentre of the Irish constitutional experience. The 1919 declaration was based through the establishment of the Dáil - a decision made by the 78 Sinn Féin Members at that time to secede from Westminster and establish the Dáil.

Our parliamentary democracy is crucial to what we are about. We have a written Constitution and it is the Taoiseach's absolute objective to protect that Constitution. Any fundamental change of how we do politics here requires changing the Constitution. The Government has already put constitutional referendums to the people and more will follow. We are intent on completing our reform programme. The very first decision was taken on parliamentary inquiries. It was taken in the first six months.

The people kicked it out.

Yes, they did.

Now the Government is trying to get it back.

That is because we have a written Constitution that is bigger than the Senator or me.

I believe the people are sovereign on this issue. That is the reason it will be put to the people.

On the question of the choice of reform, I want to make it clear that there is no provision for a preferendum in our written Constitution. I ask colleagues to read Article 47, which states that effectively the people must decide by way of a majority. For instance, if a question about reform, abolition or retention was on a ballot paper there is no guarantee that a majority of votes in that scenario would comply with Article 47. We could be left with a situation where 40% were in favour of abolition, 30% for reform and 30% for retention. We do not have a constitutional mechanism for a preferendum.

We could have a referendum on an honest choice.

It goes back to a fundamental decision taken by three political parties in the last election to put this issue to the Irish people. That is what we are doing, and it is a matter for the Irish people to determine. The truth of the matter is that there are many people in my party who are fundamentally opposed to this; that is the reality.

Will they speak up?

How democratic is that?

The Minister of State without interruption please.

The Senators heard the Second Stage contributions, but that is an issue for the campaign.

Did the Taoiseach say it?

Is the Minister of State going to fund the campaign?

The Minister without interruption please.

(Interruptions).

It is a matter for the House.

The Bill is a matter for this House.

If people are opposed to it, why do they not stand up and say that?

The Minister without interruption.

The Senator misunderstands the point I am making.

It is a matter for this House to come to a view on the Bill the Government is proposing and the Bill the Government is proposing is a simple Bill; it is a net issue.

It is not a net issue.

The net issue under contention is whether this House will be abolished.

That is rubbish.

I have dealt with Article 47. I have also dealt with the question raised on the preferendum side. I made it very clear to colleagues that that is not an option because of Article 47, which requires a majority of people, on a substantive proposal, to come to a view. That is not statistically and politically possible where there are three or even four options within that.

I believe we need fundamental reform of the other House, and we have started that already. I was a Member of this House. Fine debates are held in this House, and fine debates are held in the other House. It depends on the Members contributing to them. There is a great deal of sanctimonious twaddle from people to the effect that the quality of debate is better here. As Brendan Behan famously said, we are all very popular among ourselves.

The argument here is to improve decision-making in Ireland. That is the reason we have proposed, as part of our reform programme, the very point Senator O'Donovan made in the excellent report to which he referred, which was co-authored by the former Minister for Finance, the late Brian Lenihan, and former Deputy Jim O'Keeffe. He is right in saying it was an excellent report. I will speak about the O'Rourke report in a moment because I have some knowledge of that but what was interesting in the Senator's observations was that the recommendations they made in respect of the new way in which the Dáil and the Seanad should do business is exactly what the Government is proposing. In the proposals we are making, in circumstances where there is not a Seanad, that will lead to significant checks and balances and to a new Dáil system, which will require a four-day week and a change in the way the Dáil does its business. For instance, there will be a new heads of Bill Stage before the publication Stage, which is the First Stage. We will have a Second Stage, a Committee Stage and a Report Stage as normally happens. We will then have a pre-enactment Stage which was proposed by the former Deputy from Cork South-West, Jim O'Keeffe, in the report the Senator mentioned. It is a carbon copy of what the Government wants to do. Within 12 months we will then have a review Stage-----

But without the Seanad.

Correct, because we are supplementing that proposal for the Seanad.

The lame duck excuse.

(Interruptions).

The Minister of State without interruption.

We can have an argument about the rights and wrongs of that but the net issue in this Bill is the holding of the referendum. If people are suggesting that the Dáil will not change fundamentally-----

Deputy Charlie Flanagan did.

-----I would reject that contention.

Tell that to Deputy Flanagan-----

The Minister of State without interruption.

He should stick to the truth.

The Minister of State is replying to the queries raised by approximately 20 Senators who have spoken already.

We will radically reform the legislative process. Colleagues have said that all of the TD's work is constituency work but there is a fundamental change, and I see it among new TDs who have come into the House, not only in the quality of Dáil Deputies but the way in which those Dáil Deputies are engaging in parliamentary activities. The world is changing. The biggest single change was made by the former Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Noel Dempsey, who proposed, and got through both Houses, the abolition of the dual mandate. That was a good move because it now means that colleagues will ensure they concentrate on their parliamentary duty.

The Constitutional Convention is a key reform proposal the Government is already putting in place. I will not go through the list of issues but I understand there is a total of 12 issues currently before the Constitutional Convention. We have a rule whereby the Government must, within a specified period, respond to those issues when they arise. Some of them will lead to additional referendums while others will lead to changes within one or both Houses. To suggest that we are not moving ahead on that reform agenda is simply untrue.

It is not untrue.

On the question of costs, which has been bandied about-----

-----it is not an issue I will raise much in the course of the campaign. I believe it is secondary to the fundamental issue, which is whether we believe there should be a bicameral or unicameral system, but I agree with the Senator on that. The issue is not about cost. The issue is the functioning of our democracy and making sure that the decision-making process is of a quality and a standard we can stand over.

The Minister wants to stop it functioning.

My understanding is that the direct costs relating to Senators' salaries and expenses and staff costs amount to €8.8 million. Indirect pay and non-pay costs of the supporting sections amount to €9.3 million. There is also an annual cost of approximately €2 million in pensions, that is, pensions of former Members are paid by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission. The argument is about a figure in the region of €20 million. That is not a huge issue for me one way or the other because I have always found that people were assiduous in terms of doing their job within the parameters of the Constitution.

I want to make another point about former Senator O'Rourke's report, which I helped to co-author at the time. I ask people to read what I said in the Official Report. It is important for people who are interested in history and economics that they remember what they said. I said on that occasion that if we did not move on the reform agenda we proposed at the time, the case for abolition would come within six months. I listened to some Senators yesterday - not colleagues present-----

(Interruptions).

I ask Senator Norris to hear me out; I did not bully him.

Acting Chairman (Senator Marie Maloney)

The Minister of State without interruption.

Some of the Senators who said in the House last night that they want reform are the very people who tried to stab Mary O'Rourke in the back on the proposal she put forward at the time. The Senators know that is the truth. They opposed fundamentally any aspect of reform in this House. They wanted the rotten boroughs kept - I am not referring to people present - and they had the temerity to come into this House last night and tell us they are in favour of reform some seven years after that report was produced. I ask Senators to read what I said, which is on the record. I said that the case for abolition will come into sharp focus within six months if we did not move on the reform agenda, but nothing happened. I am clear about what happened at that time. In fairness, Mary O'Rourke had a clear mandate from this House but she was knifed along the way by the elements who now present themselves as the great reformists of our time. It is utter hypocrisy.

Including the Minister of State's party.

These are my rather rambling thoughts at present. I am here at the disposal of the House until whatever hour and I am not here by duress. This is a Government policy agreed by both Government parties. We are intent on having this referendum and we will leave it to the good offices of the people and the sovereignty of the people to make up their minds on this issue. Change is difficult, especially constitutional change, and this in no way cuts across the very fine Members of the House who have made an exceptional contribution.

In Basil Chubb's brilliant assessment of Irish politics in the 1970s, he described the two fundamental powers of the Seanad as amend and delay. He described these as the powers of any good talking shop. We need talking shops in the country, and I am on record as stating we need a space where we not only hold the Government to account but also think out new ideas and ensure various groups are represented, but would one produce this talking shop as it is currently constituted? This is the fundamental question of the campaign. This is why in the collective view of the Government we believe it is important to put this issue. On the question of reform, there is no plan B. The objective of the Government is to place this issue before the people. We are intent on having a referendum in order that the people will have their say.

In every generation people have a right to their say. It is an absolute disgrace and scandal that in 1979, a referendum was passed concerning this matter but no Government since, many of which comprised parties from the other side of the House but in some of which my party was involved, has had the ambition or constitutional imperative to respond to it. This generation of people will have their say in the broadest way possible and it will not be an enclave, group or elite. The people will decide this issue and I will go with their judgment any day.

The Minister of State referred to hypocrisy. I remember hearing Ian Paisley speak about "high-pocrisy" and this is "low-pocrisy" if ever I came across it. Almost every spokesperson trotted out is a former Member of the House. It reminds me of Animal Farm, where, after a while, the pigs started standing up on their trotters and by the end of the book, they were indistinguishable from Farmer Jones, the oppressor of the animals. I see many people standing on their trotters speaking rubbish. I wish there was a little bit of honesty and refreshingly facing the truth. It is true this House has not been reformed and it is the responsibility of the Minister of State's party as well as every other party.

I have been calling for reform of the House for 30 years. It does not mean I will give up on it. It would be a disgrace if people wanted to give up on it. I will tell the Minister of State how ashamed his party is. For five and a half hours we did not have a single speaker from the Government side of the House until I rattled their cage and forced one of them out of their burrows. They are deeply ashamed and they have a hell of a lot to be ashamed of. The Minister of State said the Government gave a commitment; well, bully for him. Commitments were being handed around like peanuts. I heard some old one on the television speaking about the commitment given to the pro-life group. Who asked the Government to give such commitments? What was it doing? Every Government has done it. I was here when a Member of the House boasted about the fact another Government of a different complexion gave him a commitment to put in a protocol on abortion in a European treaty bypassing the people. I am fed up with the political parties giving under the counter commitments to secret groups, and all the rest of the rubbish about allowing the people to choose. The Bill is not about allowing the people to choose; it is about abolishing the Seanad. The word "referendum" does not occur once.

The Bill should have provided for two sets of circumstances. The Minister of State spoke about a preferendum. I never once mentioned the word "preferendum" in any speech I ever made. Give the people a fair choice. What the people are being given is a pig in a poke. I can see the poke, as can everyone else, but let us have a look at the pig. Give the people one good look at the pig the Government is producing outside of the nasty little poke which has been constructed for it.

The Minister of State had the gall to mention Mr. O'Keeffe, a decent man and honourable former Deputy. What is the Minister of State doing invoking the spirit of this man?

I was replying to a question.

Let me tell the Minister of State-----

Let me tell the Minister of State about Jim O'Keeffe.

I know about him.

Let me tell the Minister of State about his own hypocrisy and that of the Government. He dared to invoke the convention and Jim O'Keeffe in the House. Mr. O'Keeffe was the author of major consultation papers on constitutional reform.

That is right.

He stated the people should be involved in the nomination process of the President. It was signed off by every party and has never been revoked. Legislation was even introduced. I produced it at the convention; I managed to smuggle it in before the micromanagers got in. The convention is micromanaged to within an inch of its life. A total of 94% of the people at the convention stated the people of Ireland should be involved.

Is the Minister of State listening to me? He is listening as much as the Taoiseach did. The people spoke through the convention and 94% stated the people should be involved. Last Tuesday, the Government turned it down.

The Senator is wrong.

I am not wrong. Tell me how I am wrong.

The Senator suggested I was not listening. I am listening.

I do not give a damn whether you were listening or not. It is all on the record. I am telling the truth.

That is not fair. Do not be silly.

I want to nail some of what the Minister of State said. The convention has been turned into a mockery when 94% demanded this but the Government took three items which had 52% agreement. This tells a story.

Why has the Government already spent €2.1 million on this? Will we have funding for the "No" side of the campaign?

We have not spent €2.1 million.

The Cabinet has spent it. It is in the Book of Estimates. A total of €2.1 million has been spent on legal advice. If the Book of Estimates is wrong, it would not surprise anyone in this country as it has never been right.

This is probably unconstitutional, and I make a direct appeal from here to President Michael D. Higgins to refer the Bill to the Supreme Court on the following basis. I represent a constituency of Irish citizens. The university seats are the only elements which have constituents outside the Republic of Ireland. We have tens of thousands of people in England, Northern Ireland, the United States, Australia and elsewhere. These Irish citizens are entitled under the Constitution to vote. The Government purports to put forward a referendum which does not take any account of them and will deny them a vote and will abolish a constituency in which they have a vote. How constitutional is this? I find it quite an extraordinary attitude.

I do not wish to bring in my experience in a vainglorious way, but I have been quoted as someone who would have made the same impact outside of Seanad Éireann on issues such as gay rights. This is utter balderdash and I will explain why. I have never pushed it out because I did not want to be seen as a freak, but I was voted in from a real constituency with many thousands of voters and I was the first person in the world - on this planet - to be elected as an openly gay member of a national parliament.

Nobody else ever was. I never said it like that before because I did not want to make myself a freak but people should check it out - Barney Frank and all the rest of them. They were pushed out of the closet subsequently. That is an honourable record for this House and it would never have happened in the Dáil. I would have been driven out of it. I strongly resist and object to my career being used as an example to say one can make one's mark without the Seanad. I could never have made my mark without the Seanad.

I did not make that point.

I am not referring to the Minister of State. I am not accusing him. For all his faults, he is a decent man but he is wrong on this issue and is being trotted out and used.

He said it was a simple Bill. It is in its fanny a simple Bill. God Almighty could hardly read it. There are things where it is all repeated in English and not in Irish here, there and everywhere else. It is the classic con job. In respect of section 2, it is like Seán O'Casey-----

We will stick to section 1 for the moment.

I know, but I am talking about subterfuge. I will conclude very quickly. This is not a simple Bill but is a classic trick. The Minister of State is bleating about how the Irish people will be given a choice. Let them have the choice. Why is he objecting, for example, to showing the Irish people what the Government is doing? He said he is defending the Constitution. How the hell can one defend the Constitution by tearing it into flitters? Proposing 71 changes to it is not defending it but mutilating it. I challenge the Government to put down on the ballot paper what those charges are. It is afraid to do so. It will not do it because it does not want the Irish people to see what is happening.

I wish to God I was up on the pinnacle of the temple and the Irish people could hear every word because I want them to get this message if no other. This Government with its austerity, penny pinching and hitting of the old, weak, disabled and carers is the people of Ireland's one free shot and it is an open goal. If the people want to teach the elite group of politicians running this country into the ground a lesson, this is their one chance. Abolishing the Seanad will not be noticed. It will make no difference whatsoever. It would make a difference if we have a chance of reforming it and if we get that chance, we will hold to it and force through reforms. If the people want to teach the Government a lesson, they should get their boots on and take a smack at that goal and that will teach our current lords and masters a lesson.

I welcome the Minister of State back to the House. We sent him more material about our other project and sent some material to Brussels. We are reforming the banking system so we have a lot in common even if we differ fundamentally on this issue. I cannot understand why the Taoiseach wants to abolish this House. As I said previously, I think it is quite a splendid House and I am inspired every day. This morning, Senator Crown's comments about the difference between terminal and treatable cancer were wonderful. Unlike the Taoiseach, I learn here every day. The Taoiseach spent more time on a bicycle last weekend going around the Ring of Kerry than he has spent in the House in the entire past two years. Maybe that is an appropriate metaphor. If this Seanad is saved, the Fine Gael men in suits will say "on your bicycle" to the Taoiseach; he got plenty of training last weekend going around the Ring of Kerry.

In his description of his last day in the Seanad in his biography, one of my predecessors, William Bedell Stanford, paints a picture of what awaits everyone of us if this legislation is passed. He spoke of giving a brief valedictory speech on the last day of the session, receiving kind remarks from subsequent speakers and saying goodbye to friends and colleagues in Leinster House. He wrote of how he cleared out his mahogany locker in the ante chamber like a departing schoolboy, gave a last glance at the pictures of Yeats and Emmet and the carved mantel fireplace of the Irish regiment, went out to what he described as the strange jetty-like granite platform that had replaced the massive statue of Queen Victoria that had been explained to him as a place for anchoring the ship of State in a storm, passed what he described as the always genial and obliging ushers at the gate and turned onto Kildare Street to be a don again and not a Member of Parliament.

Everybody I have met here has been absolutely splendid and I pay tribute to all of the staff, including those who stay until midnight. This is a wonderful place. I believe that if the Taoiseach came here more often, he might appreciate the work done. However, he has chosen to stay away. He promised that when Ireland no longer held the Presidency, he would come but he has not kept that promise either.

Seeing as the Taoiseach does not keep in touch, let us look at some recent events. The Minister for Finance from that chair praised me for doing "the heavy lifting" on bank regulation, something on which the Minister of State and I have worked hard. The Minister for Education and Skills praised Senator Clune and I because we found more errors in the mathematics papers than the State Examinations Commission had apologised for. The Seanad intervened on behalf of 116,000 young people doing the leaving certificate examinations. The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources was in the same chair last week and in agreement with me, asked for the first time in public why we reduced the rate of interest on little old ladies' savings in An Post simply to satisfy the banks. I told him that my view was that solvent organisations like An Post should be able to pay savers more interest as a reward for being well run unlike the banks which, of course, caused so many of us so much bother over the years. He said he agreed with me but lost out at the Cabinet.

Here was a man willing to discuss ideas which I do not think surfaced anywhere before. Presumably, they would have been in the newspapers if they bothered to cover the House. I agreed with the Minister and this gave him the forum in which he could express his exasperation about being outvoted on that issue. As the Minister of State knows, the irony was that the Irish Banking Federation said that it was in favour of fair competition, yet there was none between outfits which destroyed the country and ones which run their affairs properly. The Minister for Health accepted an amendment here that the audit committee of the HSE should have people trained in auditing and accounting. I think that makes a total of 530 amendments - Senator Quinn keeps the scoreboard on that.

That is the tradition that has always been there. In his great book entitled The Irish Free State and its Senate, Donal O'Sullivan mentions Paddy Hogan, who was probably the best Minister for Agriculture we ever had. This was 1923 during the very early days of the Seanad. In one debate, he said that a Bill left the Seanad much improved, especially in section 24, which he considered a very important section. He said the Seanad realised that the Bill did need improvement in that direction and that he considered it a big improvement. He thanked the Seanad for the consideration they showed to him during the discussions.

On 9 August 1923, W. T. Cosgrave expressed his and his colleagues' deep appreciation for the co-operation and assistance of the second Chamber and the useful and constructive criticism given by it to the legislative proposals of the Ministry. Right from the beginning until the past few days, we have been playing a constructive and valuable role in the running of this State. I am proud of it. It is galling that a man who never comes here thinks we do not do anything worthwhile but there we are. To put it mildly, I am far less impressed by the Taoiseach's wonderment and enchantment at seeing second Chambers being abolished 50 or 60 years ago in Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden.

The Taoiseach spoke recently at the European Parliament. That was democratised in 1979. That is a development that deepened and widened our democracy just like this House does every day. He was in Derry the weekend before last at the British-Irish Council summit. In his company were the new representatives of the parliaments of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. I hope the Minister of State talked to and learned some lessons from them. Other people appreciate parliamentary democracy - widening and deepening it.

Looking at the Taoiseach's original statement, we will leave out who caused the Celtic tiger to collapse.

He is the only person who blames the Seanad for that. He is unimpressed because this is an institution of 19th century British democracy. Would he like to know the number of voters when the 19th century began in the UK and when it ended? There were massive increases. That parliamentary system reformed and he might to refer to the fact that many of the great reforms were introduced by Irish men: Edmund Burke, Henry Grattan, Charles Stewart Parnell, Isaac Butt and Daniel O'Connell. In Ronan Fanning's new book on how the Irish parliamentary party developed into independence, he said, to use a phrase by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, they did the heavy lifting. We were so good in the Westminster Parliament they wanted to shunt us out and, unfortunately, due to the intervention of the First World War and the failure to get the Orange community on side, it did not happen. He paints the picture that they could not give the key quick enough to Michael Collins in Dublin Castle because our parliamentarians were so good at holding the balance of power and annoying both the Conservatives and the Liberals, that was what got Ireland its independence. It is somewhat at variance with the more militaristic role, but I do not think the Taoiseach, on deeper reflection, should run down the 19th century parliamentary institutions on which this one is based.

We are both fans of Grattan's parliament and I enjoyed the Minister of State's reference to it. The teaching about Henry Grattan, and it is in Grattan: A Life by R.B. McDowell, is that he was never a Minister. He relied on his oratory. It was so good that people outside called it Grattan's parliament. He never held office. That is what this House does. It is the talking shop, the centre of ideas, as has been stated, and we do not seek power but we do seek to inject into it ideas, like Skeffington said, such as that one should not beat children. What a pity we did not listen to him 50 years before we did-----

-----because the Minister of State has to raise the finance for all the dreadful things that happened. The introduction of the Family Planning Bill was sought by Mary Robinson, supported by John Horgan and Dr. Trevor West. That happened here decades before it was introduced in the other House. We do not guillotine Bills. I praise, as everyone has done, the Cathaoirleach, the Leas-Chathaoirleach and the Leader who has been magnificent. In a sense, demolishing the House he has done so much to build up appears to be a strange way for the Government to treat him in this House.

I want also to say why I believe the Bill is unconstitutional. Senator David Norris has referred to it in relation to our Northern Ireland voters who are utterly annoyed at what has happened. I gather there has been no consultation with the Northern Ireland Executive. How does it regard this Parliament? Certainly, any of them with whom I have spoken have not been consulted. I will say in a while the reason they should have been consulted. We brought in here as a guest Professor George Huxley, an Englishman and a founder of the Northern Ireland civil rights movement who was recently awarded an honorary degree in Maynooth. He has seen the old Northern Ireland and is trying to build the new one. I think it was Andy Warhol who said every person deserves a quarter of an hour of fame. He said now that he has been mentioned by name in the Seanad of Ireland, it will be possible for him as a laudatur Hibernia, praiser of Ireland, to go with serenity to his death bed. We had a Nobel prize winner in economics. Everyone else seems to think it is a splendid house, except one man on his bicycle going around the Ring of Kerry.

This House is about ideas. We get them every day and the Minister of State is welcome to share in them all. This brings me to the great J.M. Keynes who said:

I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas. Not ... But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.

This country surely needs ideas as we attempt to rebuild from the disasters of 2008. That is why I came here. We have worked every day on that and to be rebuked by one's own Taoiseach and to see what he is doing to his own party is a very strange experience indeed. I think it really does require him to reassess the situation. Article 2 of the Constitution, since the referendum of 10 April 1998, reads:

It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish Nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland. Furthermore, the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.

I will return to this article in a moment. Article 3.1 reads:

It is the firm will of the Irish Nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions, recognising that a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island. Until then, the laws enacted by the Parliament established by this Constitution shall have the like area and extent of application as the laws enacted by the Parliament that existed immediately before the coming into operation of this Constitution.

Our constituents in Northern Ireland had voting rights before 10 April 1998. They are being denied them by this. This was their say in the Oireachtas and they value it hugely. I have spoken to both Unionists and Nationalists in Northern Ireland and they said there has been no consultation on that aspect. The Northern Ireland Peace Agreement, Article 1, paragraphs (v) and (vi), reads:

(v) affirm that whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, the power of the sovereign government with jurisdiction there shall be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in the diversity of their identities and traditions and shall be founded on the principles of full respect for, and equality of, civil, political, social and cultural rights, of freedom from discrimination for all citizens, and of parity of esteem and of just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities;

(vi) recognise the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose, and accordingly confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments and would not be affected by any future change in the status of Northern Ireland.

They are Irish citizens entitled to vote in Oireachtas elections and that right is being taken away. The Agreement also reads:

The participants also note that the two Governments have accordingly undertaken in the context of this comprehensive political agreement, to propose and support changes in, respectively, the Constitution of Ireland and in British legislation relating to the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.

The Government is amending the Constitution to undermine people who live in Northern Ireland, having given an undertaking that it would support their situation. The rights they had before we signed the Good Friday Agreement on 10 April 1998 are being undermined by the way the Government is conducting itself.

I want to find other sections in the Agreement that may be of interest. Another section reads: "the Irish Government, to develop consultation, co-operation and action within the island of Ireland - including through implementation on an all-island and cross-border basis - on matters of mutual interest within the competence of the Administrations, North and South". There has been no such consultation on this issue, which is a serious one for people who want to carry Irish passports and want to vote in Seanad elections. The Agreement, on page 14, reads: "Other arrangements for the agreed co-operation will also commence contemporaneously with the transfer of powers to the Assembly." We should have been co-operating with the Assembly on this. It goes on to read:

The implementation bodies will have a clear operational remit. They will implement on an all-island and cross-border basis policies agreed in the Council.

We always agreed before now that residents of Northern Ireland could vote in this election. This Bill changes that. The Agreement also reads: "Any further development of these arrangements to be by agreement in the Council and with the specific endorsement of the Northern Ireland Assembly [this Bill has been nowhere near the Northern Ireland Assembly] and Oireachtas [while it is here], subject to the extent of the competences and responsibility of the two Administrations."

They had votes and we took their votes. We brought them into the NUI in Merrion Square and down to Trinity. We counted them and they elected people here, but that is now being undermined.

On page 14 of the document, it states

It is understood that the North/South Ministerial Council and the Northern Ireland Assembly are mutually inter-dependent, and that one cannot successfully function without the other.

I do not have a legal training but I am reading this into the record, as Senator Byrne is also. He believes that we have valid points. It is a case of having leaped before we looked.

On page 29, it states

If difficulties arise which require remedial action across the range of institutions, or otherwise require amendment of the British-Irish Agreement or relevant legislation, the process of review will fall to the two Governments in consultation with the parties in the Assembly. Each Government will be responsible for action in its own jurisdiction.

I understand, therefore, one has to get the agreement of the Northern Ireland Assembly to withdraw those voting rights. One might get it from people who are as partitionist as the Taoiseach. They might be very pleased. Those of us who support closer links between the two communities, however - as most of my Northern voters do - will be extremely disappointed.

Annexe 2 states:

The British and Irish Governments declare that it is their joint understanding that the term "the people of Northern Ireland" in paragraph (vi) of Article 1 of this Agreement means, for the purposes of giving effect to this provision, all persons born in Northern Ireland and having, at the time of their birth, at least one parent who is a British citizen, an Irish citizen or is otherwise entitled to reside in Northern Ireland without any restriction on their period of residence.

I have raised this point before. Even from the point of view of good neighbourliness, we should now take up these discussions with the people concerned. If the Government side wins - and I do not believe the Minister of State is neutral - they are being deprived of voting rights they currently have and which are protected by this agreement of 10 April 1998, and the two new Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. They will be deprived of those rights in a referendum in which they will have no vote. That should quickly bring the Government to its senses. It should realise the harm it is doing not just in my constituency but also in the other constituencies.

On this morning's Order of Business, we welcomed the appointment of Richard Haass as the US peace envoy to Northern Ireland. We need more and better links with Northern Ireland. We also need to show some respect for people who are Irish citizens there and who vote in the NUI and TCD Seanad constituencies.

I am proud to speak against the abolition day because I do not want it to happen. Abolition day will be a tragedy for this country. It has not been properly thought out and will do serious damage to the constitutional rights of people living in this State. In addition, it will undermine the constitutional rights of people living in Northern Ireland who thought their rights were protected by the agreement of 10 April 1998.

The Minister of State should seriously reconsider the matter. This is a shameful day. People spent so much time and effort in trying to build up contacts between both parts of the island, yet on abolition day we are being asked to abolish Oireachtas voting rights of all kinds for people who live in Northern Ireland.

Abolition day is not for a few more years, whenever the election is held.

That raises the prospect, which we can discuss on another day, of the death-row Seanad.

The long, green mile.

It is pretty hard sometimes to get a Minister to take any notice of what we say - although not this Minister of State - but when we are being abolished it will become a complete charade. I do not see the point in lingering around on death-row. Abolition day is midnight before the next Dáil convenes, but I believe there should be a delay on that. If the opinion polls are correct, there will be a new Taoiseach and a different government, and they should be entitled to convene a new Seanad. The Seanad should not be abolished at midnight before the next Dáil sits and a new government is appointed. Abolition day should therefore be changed to allow voters to sweep out the abolitionists and bring reformers back into office. We should not be bound by the proposed abolition date.

I was very angry to read the text of this Bill but now I am just sad that anybody would waste political capital, Government time and parliamentary time on this matter. With so much unemployment and emigration, we have enough to do without wasting our time abolishing the Upper House, along with all the attendant evils that will bring.

I appreciate what the Minister of State said about the costs involved. According to the numbers circulated to us on 4 July, a Deputy earns €87,258 per annum, while a Senator earns €65,000. That is 134 indexed at 100. The Bill aims to abolish all Senators with an index of 100, and 4.8% of the people who cost 34% more. Even as a cost-saving exercise, with those numbers, it becomes less and less impressive.

I have not made that argument.

I know that is not the main point. The Minister of State thinks the quality of Irish democracy would be improved, but I think it will be undermined. There will be a lot more people like Deputy Peter Mathews trying to contribute in this House, yet they will be excluded by the way the committee system is run.

I have served on the National Economic and Social Council and other State boards. I have experienced them all but nothing compares with this Chamber, including the Order of Business, for how one can get ideas to the Government quickly. I ask the Minister of State not to throw it away. I again appeal to Government Senators not to support this measure. They should come out and support this wonderful Chamber. The Taoiseach is probably unaware of it, but Senators - and more particularly the 42 new Senators - have done a fine job for this country. Of course, the Seanad should be retained.

It is always a privilege to follow my honourable colleague, Senator Barrett. I thank the Minister of State for his intervention which proves what I said earlier about him being a worthy opponent. I do not necessarily want to re-argue that point because Senator Norris might cough or the Minister of State might resist that statement.

The Minister of State argued that the Government had promised to put the choice before the people. There is nothing that I should be opposing there, I suppose, because it is to let the people decide. However, in presenting this Bill, the Minister of State is putting out two messages. One is to let the people decide, but the other is to abolish the Seanad. That is the second message.

The Title of the legislation is the Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill. I have discussed the Title with colleagues and we noted that it could have referred to the future of Seanad Éireann, instead of which it refers to the abolition of Seanad Éireann. It is therefore sending out two messages: "Let the people decide", but also, "We want you to abolish the Seanad". That is what I wish to oppose. That is the first point on which I want to take issue with the Minister of State following his very worthy intervention. I have three other points.

The second point concerns the Minister of State's argument that much of what we have been saying here should be left for the campaign trail, because we are saying the Seanad should be reformed. He says we should not be debating reform because we cannot hold a preferendum; that would be unconstitutional due to Article 47. Many of us have our blue book, Bunreacht na hÉireann, with us today. I read Article 47 a couple of times, which referred me to Article 46. I have read both articles. The Minister of State is arguing that we cannot put three options to the people - that is, reform, retention or abolition - because that would be unconstitutional.

However, my understanding, particularly of two amendments that have been tabled to this Bill, is that they do not call for a preferendum. They are simply amendments to add additional text to the referendum that will be put to the people.

Both of those amendments have been overruled. The first amendment - amendment No. 1 - which I tabled with my colleague, Senator Mary Ann O'Brien, effectively argues that if the constitutional amendment falls and the people vote not to abolish the Seanad, then the Taoiseach is obliged to enact reform. That is simply adding text to the amendment to the Constitution. It is not putting a preferendum to the people.

We are on section 1 and that relates to section 3.

We may not get there.

I am responding to the Minister of State’s intervention. Is that acceptable?

Could I make an intervention?

This is getting to the heart of the issue and such a debate is very useful.

I appreciate what the Minister of State is saying.

I am in the hands of colleagues. The plan is to conclude the debate by 6 p.m. I would like to respond to some of the points colleagues have made and to rebut some of the arguments but I do not know how we are going to proceed. Are we going to go section by section?

We might do that.

Yes, we might do that. Senator Zappone should be allowed to make her point because I can then reply.

Thank you. I figure I should be allowed to, but I appreciate the intercession on my behalf.

I am the Chair and I rule that Senator Zappone is allowed to make her point.

I have tried to be succinct on the amendment that we tabled but, effectively, that is what the amendment means.

The other amendment to which I wish to refer relates to a different way to approach the matter but it is of a similar nature. I refer to amendment No. 12 which I tabled with Senators Quinn, Crown and Barrett, which effectively adds text to the amendment to the Constitution that is being put to the people. It states that if the Oireachtas enacts Seanad reform prior to this term being over then there should be no abolition. That is effectively the gist of the amendment. It is based on reform and a number of criteria. What I am saying to the Minister of State is that I do not think those amendments should have been overruled. They are not about a preferendum; they are simply adding text to the amendment that will be put to the people. I am responding to the Minister of State’s argument that we should not be talking about reform.

That was my second point. The two other points I wished to make were in response to the Minister of State’s intervention about costs. I accept we have talked a lot about costs. The Taoiseach is the one who first raised the issue of costs, which is why we then rebutted those arguments which, in effect, are now dead in the water.

The last point I wish to make about what the Minister of State put forward is the different types of Dáil reform that will be introduced subsequent to the people abolishing the Seanad. He listed in his intervention, as he outlined on previous occasions and in press releases, that the reform includes a pre-legislative phase, a legislative phase and a post-legislative phase and that the Minister will become involved in the latter. It is not just about the time for scrutiny. It is about who is involved in it. In the plan, as outlined, the same people are doing the scrutiny, as distinct from our plan where different people with different expertise would carry out the scrutiny.

One could ask whether we need Dáil reform. I am sure we are all aware of the tweet and the video with the tweet that is going around the country currently about what happened in the Dáil last evening when a male Deputy pulled a female Deputy onto his lap. The comment with the video is largely about whether Dáil reform is necessary.

Not at 5 a.m. in the morning.

Three speakers are offering. They have already contributed on the section. Could we keep contributions brief so as to allow the Minister of State to reply or we will make no progress on the Bill? It is in the hands of Members whether they want to progress the Bill. I urge Members to be brief. Senator Quinn is the next person to speak.

I will be very brief. I wish to follow through on something that was said previously. My point is exactly the same as Senator Zappone made. My concern is that the same people will be doing the scrutiny if we only have one House. I have a deep concern about the issue. I will not spend time on it but the Minister of State might have heard me speak previously about two particular instances I remember in this House. The reason I am influenced by them is that I counted 540 amendments to legislation that had passed through the Dáil and came into this House. Some of the changes were not of substance but others were quite substantial. They related to issues that had been missed in the Dáil. The example I remember best is from some years ago and it occurred when the Dáil had gone into recess for the summer. We were discussing the ban on opinion polls on Committee Stage of the electoral (amendment) Bill. The Government had introduced a ban on opinion polls being issued by newspapers for three weeks before an election.

I remember that one.

The Bill had gone through the Dáil and it had not been noticed that anything was wrong with it. The Dáil had already gone into recess and the point was originally picked up by the then Senator, now Deputy Shane Ross, that polls could be released at midnight before the election. That would have meant there were three weeks without opinion polls and then at midnight before an election television stations, radio stations and newspapers could announce there had a been a big swing, for example, from one party to another. At approximately 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. at night the Leader of the House telephoned the Minister who told him to drop the Bill. It had gone through the Dáil but it was too late for it to go back to be changed and the Bill did not reappear.

I remember well that a second Bill came through the House, the George Mitchell Scholarship Fund Bill, that had gone through the Dáil. It was a very worthy Bill enabling people to come from North America to study peace in Northern Ireland. The Bill stated that they should be allowed to spend money "in this State". I pointed out to the Minister at the time that surely if they were going to study that they must go across the Border. He said that was not possible but then he changed his mind and accepted the amendment. The Bill had then to go back to the Dáil to be changed. They are two minor instances in the past but they happened in the Seanad after the Dáil had passed the Bills. It seems to me that the Government has pledged to reform politics but the abolition of the Seanad is most definitely not reform. If we take a day on which the Seanad will be abolished we will not have a balance and a second opinion on legislation.

I will give some examples which relate to me because they are matters with which I am familiar. In this House in recent years I have been able to introduce a ban on passports for sale. The Minister accepted the Bill but decided to introduce his own Bill. At least I achieved my aim. The Dáil had never introduced such a measure. I introduced a Bill on presumed consent for organ donation, which has now become law in Wales. I gather the Government is now considering the matter but it is taking some years. The initiative did not come from the Dáil; it came from the Seanad. Last year, I introduced a Bill on work permits. The Minister, Deputy Bruton, said he understood what I was doing. He accepted the Bill on Second Stage but said he would incorporate it into his work permits legislation later on this year. I also introduced a Bill on defibrillators, which the Minister accepted. I hope it will become law soon.

None of those Bills was initiated in the Dáil. They came from this House and one person in this House. I also introduced a Bill on construction contracts, which as the Minister of State is aware, we hope will become law next week. However, I am not sure that is the case any longer with what is happening in the Dáil but I hope the Minister of State will convince me that the Bill will become law.

We will get it through.

It is a worthy Bill and the Minister of State has put his heart and soul into it. They were all worthy Bills. I recently introduced a Bill on food provenance. In the latter case the Minister was unsure about his response to the Bill but he was convinced by the various speakers in this House. The reason I mention those Bills is not just because they are the ones that come to my mind, but because they came from this House.

If there is not a Seanad after abolition day, where will they be initiated? That is the point Senator Zappone made. In terms of a double scrutiny, the same people will be doing the scrutiny. We need somebody to give a second opinion and for checks and balances. If abolition day is the day the Minister has planned, that will not happen in future. The same people will be doing the work and we will lose a great deal in terms of our democracy.

I will be brief because of the agreement that Committee Stage be completed by 6 p.m. To clarify the position on the Fianna Fáil manifesto before the last election, which the Minister of State mentioned, our party was in favour of putting a question to the people in a referendum as part of an overall reform package.

That clears up everything then.

The Minister of State seemed to have missed that. Also, he said that the abolition of the Seanad is only the first step in the programme of political reform of the Dáil and of the political system. Political reform will not be achieved by abolishing this House, abolishing the town councils or reducing the number of county councillors elected in rural Ireland and moving them to the east coast. That is not political reform. I wanted to clarify that. I have many other comments to make but I will do that when we come to deal with the different sections. It is important that we move on.

I thank the Senator for his brevity. I call Senator Bradford.

I was getting some looks of admonishment. I hope that in a Chamber where we encourage debate there would not be a restriction on Members' interventions. We have a great opportunity between now and referendum day to reflect more fully. Ten minutes to make Second Stage contributions was not sufficient and I have not been able to engage in the Committee Stage debate but I want to comment briefly on what I have heard about the alternative opinion. The Minister and I, and everybody knows, that there never has been such doubt, concern and lack of faith in politics and in decision-making, and we should not pretend otherwise. As each day passes more people are growing concerned about handing over major decisions to a small selected group of people. Many years ago Government and politics was very different. Collective Cabinet responsibility meant something, and every member sitting around the Cabinet table seemed to have an equal voice. Members of Dáil Éireann actually made decisions, and the democratic process was open and transparent. In the past five to ten years we have a new system of politics where a small number of Cabinet Ministers, with their advisers, almost dominate the Cabinet agenda. They meet in advance of Cabinet and produce decisions that are then rubber-stamped. We are arriving at a different centralised form of democracy. Debate, dialogue and discussion are being squashed and that is beginning to seriously concern the public. I could refer to the Cabinet sub-committee, which apparently does most of the decision-making. I am not sure about the constitutionality of that in terms of the concept of collective Cabinet responsibility but we heard reports of decisions going to the broader Cabinet having already been decided by the Cabinet sub-committee. I am not sure what that means for the constitutional provision of collective Cabinet responsibility.

Between now and referendum day we must decide the question of checks and balances, and alternative proposals. Senator Quinn, Senator Zappone and many others Senators have spoken at greater length and depth than I, but we must not fool ourselves that there is an alternative to having two Houses. The concept of a mini-Seanad lasted about 30 seconds until everybody recognised it was so ridiculous, undemocratic and frighteningly politically patronising that the idea would have to be dropped. We are hearing about experts and pre-legislative committees and so on. It is a question of whether elected politicians are to be allowed to engage in debate and make decisions as we are supposed to do for all our faults - for all our strengths and weaknesses, that is what we were elected to do - or the power is to be handed over to a super-committee of so-called wiser people. That is something on which we have to deeply reflect.

The purpose of a second House or Chamber is to offer a second opinion, to improve, enhance and reflect on debate. That must be at the core of the referendum proposal. Do we hand over the power and all decision-making to a Dáil of 166 Members, 158 or whatever the number will be? However, it is the handing over of power to not only the Cabinet but to a small group of people within government that concerns me. I have got a satisfactory answer to a question I have asked previously, namely, is there any example not only in Europe but worldwide of where less democracy is better and that less intervention and less debating produces better results?

There are examples of many small countries moving from having two parliaments to one parliament.

There are examples and let us consider those countries. I believe the Minister of State is as interested in local government and regional government as I am. We can look to the Scandinavian countries where there is real local government and real parliamentary debate and where they certainly are not handing over cabinet powers to three or four people. Parliament actually means something-----

There is debate, discussion and dialogue and oppositions are not only the people who say "No", but some of their opinions are taken on board. If we want to compare those so-called slimmed down parliaments, let us be realistic and consider what they are doing with their regional and local structures of government. I met the Austrian ambassador a number of months ago and he told me about the 3,000 units of local government they have in that small country. We can twist it any way we want but any country which has decided on a one-parliament route has strong effective and dynamic local government, which we certainly do not have.

What we are proposing now by way of local government reform maybe might make us more efficient from a financial perspective but if want to pretend that our new super council structures of so-called local government areas stretching 100 to 150 miles is local government, fair enough, but it is not.

If we believe in engagement with the people on politics, it is very difficult to say that fewer politicians produce better results. This will be at the core of the referendum debate. Thank God we have moved away from the silly argument about saving €20 million because it was gong to start becoming embarrassing when we could point out how it would be much easier to save not only €20 million but €30 million or €40 million by implementing some of our commitments in our party to reduce the Dáil by 20 Members. It is embarrassing to hear the answer that it would require a referendum to reduce 20 seats from the Dáil, but there is no difficulty in having a referendum to abolish the Seanad.

With regard to these fundamental questions of democracy and representation, let us bring it on, engage the people and accept the result. I am confident that when the people reflect on it they will vote for enhanced, stronger democracy, not for less democracy and these so-called experts, whether it be in the form of mini-Seanad or-----

-----a group of favourite or token experts. Our current form of democracy in all its imperfection is certainly better than having unelected advisers and favoured select interest groups.

I agree with some of what the Minister of State said in his response. I was not here in the Chamber to hear it but I followed on the monitor in my office. I agree with some of the points he made, but his and the Government's biggest failure is that they have not constructed a credible argument for not putting the options of reform to the people. They still have not put forward to me a credible argument as to why we cannot have that.

I was also going to raise the issue of the possibility of a preferendum, but the Minister of State has dealt with that. He referred to the various Articles in the Constitution which he said prevents a preferendum from being held, but that is precisely why we should not rush into making decisions to abolish something without properly thinking things through. What the Minister of State is essentially saying is that we would like to put the option of reform and for people to have that option but it cannot be done.

No. I am not saying that.

I am not saying that the Minister of State would argue that but some people would argue that line.

I am saying some people argue that line. There might be people within the Fine Gael Party or in government who take the view that it would be great if reform could be put to the people, but, really, they have no choice but to put a simple proposition, that is, to keep what is there or get rid of it, and they cannot do anything else. That is where the Government has failed but there is a way around it. If the Government put reform to the people, and only reform, then the choice of abolition would be gone. That is the problem the Government is left with. This is why a mechanism such as the Constitutional Convention would have been the perfect opportunity to tease out all of these issues properly and fairly.

The Minister of State referred to the Constitutional Convention. I sit on the convention and I value it. I believe it does great work. Those on the secretariat have done fantastic work to ensure that every issue set down by the Oireachtas under the remit of the convention has been given absolute and proper scrutiny. They have done a fantastic job. On every issue we have been given presentations from experts and political scientists, including on gay marriage. We have heard from people for and against. The participants of the Constitutional Convention were given all the information and could then make an informed decision. They made informed decisions on reducing the voting age to 17 years, on changes, minor though they are, to the electoral system, on same-sex marriage and on other important issues as well.

The point is that we did it right. We set up the Constitutional Convention. We asked people for their views. We allowed the experts to come in. We discussed properly and forensically all the issues that would be involved in those discussions. It was careful. Then, we ended up making sure-footed decisions. We know what we are doing and it is done on the basis of proper analysis. That is how we should have dealt with the issue of the Seanad. That is the point we are making. The Government's greatest failure is that it has not done that. By not doing that it has ended up rushing us into a situation whereby we cannot have a "preferendum" and we can only put one option to the people. The Minister of State referred to choice. That is not choice and it does not represent giving people a choice. The Government is only giving people the option of abolition. It is not giving people a real choice.

My genuine view is that the mood of the people at the moment is for radical reform of the House. Many people, including myself, believe it is elitist, undemocratic and unfit for purpose, but it is not the cause of all of our problems. People agree that reform of the Dáil is as important, if not more important, but they agree with reform. If an opinion poll was carried out asking people what they would go for if they were given the option of reform or abolition, I believe the Minister of State would be surprised that people would go for the option of reform and proper checks and balances in our system. Anyway, the people are not being given that choice. That is the great failure.

The Government is not being neutral. Senator Zappone made the same argument. The Minister of State made the point that the people will decide. I have constructed an argument outlining how the people will not be given the full opportunity to decide. They are been given one option, that is, to abolish what many see as a rotten borough, something that is undemocratic and elitist, but they are not being given the option of reform. The Government is not being neutral because it will campaign and canvas for a "Yes" vote and campaign for abolition. That is not being neutral and that is not neutrality. My party could end up in the same position. The Sinn Féin position is to abolish the Seanad in its current form. If that is the only proposition put to the people, then we may argue for people to vote "Yes" in the referendum, but the Ard Chomhairle will made that decision.

The army council will decide.

Gerry will look in the mirror.

We can have all these smart comments from Fianna Fáil. That party had ample opportunity to reform the Seanad and to develop a second Chamber that was all-Ireland in nature and genuinely republican.

They are directed from Belfast.

It failed and if Members of that party want to throw mud and smart comments at me, that is fine. I did not criticise their party. They are being very defensive, and rightly so, because they do not have a leg to stand on.

Senator Cullinane does not have a leg to stand on.

If Senator Wilson wants to go back far enough in history, that is fair enough. If that is the road he wants to go down in terms of this debate, then it is a sad reflection on the two Fianna Fáil Members in the House.

I know the road Senator Cullinane is going down.

It is a sad reflection on the two Fianna Fáil Members over there.

Senator Cullinane, will you stick to the subject, please, and not stray?

I am sticking to it. Two of your cronies are-----

You are experienced enough as a politician.

You should be little less partisan, Acting Chairman, and chastise your two Members, who were interrupting me. You should do your job as the Acting Chairman and ensure that I am not interrupted unfairly. If you do your job, I can proceed.

Senator, all I said to you was that you should not allow yourself to be provoked by what you are hearing.

I am not allowing myself to be provoked.

You should also stick to the subject.

I am making a constructive argument and I did not criticise the Fianna Fáil Party at all.

That has nothing to do with the subject at hand. That is the point I am making.

Fair enough, I will proceed.

We did not criticise Sinn Féin.

That has nothing to do with the subject at hand. You were the one who diverted. By the way, the Chair is impartial.

I do not accept that you were impartial there.

I hope you realise that you are straying into very dangerous territory.

That is a matter of opinion.

Are you suggesting that the Chair is partial?

That is a matter of opinion.

Are you suggesting that the Chair is partial?

In the way you handled that. I believe you could have handled it better.

I think you should withdraw that remark.

I am not going to withdraw anything. I am going to move on.

I think you should withdraw that remark.

I am going to move on. I am not going to withdraw anything.

Are you saying the Chair is partial?

I am going to move on. I am not repeating anything.

I am going to move on with my contribution.

I am asking you again. Are you saying the Chair is partial?

I am going to move on. I am not making any comment on the Chair. I am moving on and I am going to stick to the discussion. I am not going to be sidetracked by members of Fianna Fáil.

Senator, I remind you, that is precisely why I intervened.

Yes. Then let me continue. We can continue and get on with the debate.

The Minister of State remarked that democracy would be strengthened and that the quality of our democracy would be better if the Seanad was abolished. I simply do not believe it. We would be getting rid of one undemocratic institution, but we would not be strengthening our democracy because we are not properly reforming the one Chamber that would remain. Senator Bradford made the point that if we are to compare single chamber systems, then we should compare like with like. We should examine countries with a single chamber and the checks and balances they have. They have regional structures and robust local government. In some cases, they have a separation of power with the executive and the legislature. They do not have a country that is run by four or five Ministers. That is not how those countries operate. This will not improve democracy. In fact, I believe it will make it worse.

I wish to make a final point on this section on a matter the Minister of State raised as well. It is an issue of fundamental importance. Since the Government has bounced itself into a referendum on this issue, it is now looking at cosmetic Dáil reform. The Government has not considered the consequences, the out-workings or what it will mean.

The Minister of State referred to four-day week Dáil sittings. I genuine believe that would be a mistake. The Dáil can do its business in three days. It is a mistake because we spent a good deal of time in the Chamber talking about wanting better and more representation from women and people generally, including parents, men and women. There was a Bill in the House yesterday relating to child care, maternity and paternity care. I do not see how a four-day week sittings will attract working mothers from rural parts of the country. They would have to spend four days and three nights here, rather than two nights and three days. I do not see how that would entice more women into our political system. The Government should consider that. I believe when women's groups consider this proposal, they will be outraged that the Government is making it more difficult rather than less of an impediment for women and parents. I am not only talking about women. I am a father of two young children and I do not see enough of them. If I was elected to the Dáil and I was here for four days and three nights, I would see less of my children. That should be a consideration as well. I do not see why three-day sittings are not enough.

I agreed with some of the points made by the Minister of State. I agree that this House is not fit for purpose. Even the people who have put forward the reform Bills have agreed as much. The Taoiseach has said that there is no consensus and that since we cannot agree on the nature of the reforms we should go for abolition. However, I return to the point I made earlier. If the Constitutional Convention had been given the opportunity to examine the issue in a thoughtful way, then we might have had a different outcome. The convention might well have come back with the view that there should be one chamber. However, I imagine that if it did, it would have done so having asked all the experts as it did in the case of all the other issues it examined. It would have considered what improvements should be made to the Dáil and how to make the single Chamber more effective, robust and fit for purpose. We would have attained a far better outcome for everyone. Unfortunately, that opportunity has been lost.

Faisnéiseadh go rabhthas tar éis glacadh leis an gceist.

Cuireadh an cheist: "Go bhfanfaidh alt 1 mar chuid den Bhille".
Question put: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."
The Committee divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 18.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Keeffe, Susan.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Norris, David.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
  • Zappone, Katherine.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Ned O'Sullivan and Diarmuid Wilson.
Question declared carried.
ALT 2
SECTION 2
Cuireadh an cheist: "Go bhfanfaidh alt 2 mar chuid den Bhille."
Question put: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."
The Committee divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 18.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Keeffe, Susan.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
  • Zappone, Katherine.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Ned O'Sullivan and Diarmuid Wilson.
Question declared carried.
Faisnéiseadh go rabhthas tar éis glacadh leis an gceist.
ALT 3
SECTION 3

Amendment No. 1 in the name of Senators Katherine Zappone and Mary Ann O'Brien is ruled out of order.

Níor tairgeadh leasú a 1.

Amendment No. 1 not moved.

Can I speak on the section?

The Senator can speak on the section but the amendment is ruled out of order.

I am aware of that. I have other comments to make on section 3.

We will wait for the Minister.

I apologise. I want to speak to some of the issues in Schedule 3 and I see that that is in section 4. Is that correct?

Yes. That is not a problem. The Senator will be called again when we reach the sections on which she wants to speak.

I do not have anything to say on section 3.

Cuireadh an cheist: "Go bhfanfaidh alt 3 mar chuid den Bhille."
Question put: "That section 3 stand part of the Bill."
The Committee divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 18.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Keeffe, Susan.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
  • Zappone, Katherine.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Ned O'Sullivan and Diarmuid Wilson..
Question declared carried.
Faisnéiseadh go rabhthas tar éis glacadh leis an gceist.
ALT 4
SECTION 4
Tairgeadh an cheist: "Go bhfanfaidh alt 4 mar chuid den Bhille."
Question proposed: "That section 4 stand part of the Bill."

Section 4 refers to many articles of the Constitution as contained in Schedule 3 which must be deleted if the people vote to abolish the Seanad. I oppose the section because I oppose this deletion and I will speak to a number of amendments.

No amendments to the section have been tabled.

I oppose the deletion of the articles contained in the constitutional amendment. Schedule 3-----

We are on section 4

I know we are on section 4.

The discussion on Schedules 1, 2, 3 and 4 will follow the discussion on section 5.

We are discussing section 4 now.

I believe the questions the Senator wishes to ask relate to the Schedules.

Section 4 refers to Schedule 3.

Yes, but we are not discussing Schedule 3 yet. When we get to Schedule 3 the Senator can ask her questions.

The Senator is entitled to raise the issues now.

Section 4 refers to Schedule 3 and my comments are on what is being inserted into section 4 through Schedule 3.

Initially we were going to discuss the Schedules first but the House did not agree to this so we are now discussing section 4.

Does this mean everyone must come back again?

I very much sympathise with the Senator Zappone. The Bill is confusing but I am glad we changed the order. Because Schedule 3 is mentioned in section 4, the Senator naturally thought she had an opportunity to discuss it. The Senator will be able to make her points when we finish discussing the Bill.

The Senator will be able to do so when we discuss the Schedules.

Perfect. I oppose section 4 because it is another sneaky little measure. I am glad most Members on the Government side have withdrawn but I wonder whether we should give them another little opportunity to withdraw in order that they can go straight to the one-stop-shop to announce they will no longer draw their salaries because they have just voted to extinguish themselves. They voted in favour of the Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, who stated we are a waste of time and no use and that money would be saved by abolishing us. I hope some of the Government Members-----

We are on section 4.

Section 4 is a classic Trojan horse and a pig in a poke. Let the people see the pig because this is an attempt to hide it. Every section shall be amended in one mass sweep. Someone will push a button and it will all be gone but the people are not being shown what is being amended. I tabled an amendment which was incorrectly ruled out of order by the Cathaoirleach.

The Senator tabled no amendment to section 4.

I did on this issue. I am discussing the principle.

We are on section 4.

I am speaking to section 4. I will not detain the House because I want the discussion to progress but I wish to make the point-----

The Senator is also questioning the rulings of the Cathaoirleach.

I certainly am and I would like to know where the Cathaoirleach got them from because they defy logic.

I get them from the Constitution.

Rubbish. I do not believe that for one second and I will defy the Cathaoirleach's orders.

The Senator might find out through a freedom of information request.

The Cathaoirleach can throw me out.

We are on section 4.

I do not know how the Cathaoirleach made up his mind but it is revolting to reason. I will not come to that yet. We will not allow the people see what we are doing or publish the amendments. There is just one long block and this is the poke. Let the people see the pig.

Cuireadh agus aontaíodh an cheist.
Question put and agreed to.
ALT 5
SECTION 5

Amendment No. 2 in the names of Senators Norris, Barrett, Quinn and Crown, amendment No. 3 in the names of Senators Mac Conghail and van Turnhout, amendment No. 4 in the name of Senator Walsh, amendment No. 5 in the name of Senator Leyden, amendment No. 6 in the names of Senators Norris, Barrett, Quinn and Crown, and amendment No. 7 in the names of Senators Zappone and Mary Ann O'Brien have been ruled out of order.

With the greatest respect, I am challenging your ruling. It is in defiance of logic. The fact that amendment No. 2 has been ruled out of order as it is in conflict with the purpose of the Bill clearly shows that the purpose of the Bill, as far as Government is concerned, is not to give the people a referendum but to extinguish the Seanad and that is the logic of your ruling. That makes it absolutely plain. This Government is not giving the people a choice at all. It is extinguishing the Seanad.

You can make those points on the section.

I am making them now because you have raised this question and I am challenging your ruling.

I have ruled the amendments out of order.

Will you please explain the ruling in regard to amendment No. 6? I do not accept your ruling for one second. My amendment No. 6 states that each and every separate amendment required by any move to destroy, abolish or in any other way mutilate Seanad Éireann shall be listed and recited in full and printed as such on any ballot paper purporting to provide for such destruction. In what way does that conflict?

It seeks to vary a requirement in the referendum Acts. It is specifically in the Constitution. It is also declaratory in nature.

It does not vary the Acts. That is rubbish.

I have ruled on it already. Are you speaking on the section?

That is nonsense. I do not agree with that. It is allowing the people to see what the Government is doing. How does that vary the Acts?

I have ruled the amendment out of order.

How does it vary the Acts?

I have made the ruling.

On what advice? Did you get legal advice?

I took the advice that was available to me and in conjunction-----

What was that advice?

I will not divulge it to you.

There is more democracy. We have secret advice, which is a load of rubbish.

I have made my ruling.

No one in their right mind would believe it. This does not conflict with the Bill and I object to it.

Níor tairgeadh leasuithe Uimh. 2 go 7 a huile.
Amendments Nos. 2 to 7, inclusive, not moved.
Tairgeadh an cheist: "Go bhfanfaidh alt 5 mar chuid den Bhille".
Question proposed: "That section 5 stand part of the Bill."

This really is the nub of this whole charade. Will the citation be put before the people? Section 5 states: "The several amendments of the Constitution effected by this Act shall be collectively known as and may for all purposes be collectively referred to as the Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution". Is that all the people will be presented with when they go into the ballot box on the referendum day? If it is, it really is a pig in a poke because it does not take account of the 40 references-----

Let the people see the pig.

-----in the Schedules where they will be deleted from the Constitution and consigned to the dustbin of history. If that is the way this Government is going to play this game, shame on it.

The Cathaoirleach wrote to me purporting to rule out of order amendment No. 15 which is related to this and which reads, "and substitute the following: "proposed to allow the people of Ireland to exercise their democratic right to vote whether or not to retain Seanad Éireann or to concentrate all power in one chamber and the political parties who have membership of that House." That is an exact description of what the Bill does. How could it possibly conflict with the principle of the Bill? That is the description, although it may not the one the Government likes but it is an exact description of what the Bill does. I utterly reject the Cathaoirleach's ruling which is founded on nothing at all. The fact the Cathaoirleach has rejected virtually every amendment shows something about we should be very worried.

You are proposing to delete the preamble of the Bill in amendment No. 15.

So what? I am not deleting the preamble. I am substituting something else for it and not deleting it.

We are on section 5.

I am just telling you your judgment is wrong and you have been badly advised.

I have made my judgment.

I would like to know what legal advice you-----

I have made the judgment.

I might take this up further. It shows something that almost every amendment, other than maybe a technical one, has been ruled out of order on the basis of rubbish.

I have made my ruling on it.

I defy your ruling.

It is a pity the sections have been ruled out of order.

It is not the sections but the amendments.

Senator Mooney's question is relevant. What will be presented to the people on the ballot paper? Will the question require a "Yes" or "No" answer to the abolition of Seanad Éireann under the Thirty-second amendment of the Constitution? A little bit more than that is needed. There will be considerable change with this. It is very misleading. What type of information campaign does the Government plan so that the considerable detail of this will be explained?

I wish to highlight two issues of major concern to me. We live in a democracy and the Seanad is a limb of democracy. In the proposal we will present to the people, the safeguards provided by this House are not being added to the other House. I refer, in particular, to legislative delay. If this House is abolished, a Bill could go through the other House with one reading. The Standing Orders of the Dáil could be amended in time so that legislation could go through with one vote. This is very serious. There is no other unicameral parliament in Europe with such poor democratic safeguards. For example, Finland has a three month delay while other countries have the ability to refer legislation to a referendum. Legislative delay is critical and it must be built into the Dáil. It is something on which I plan to campaign if this proposal is put to the people in a referendum. The people will not have the safeguard of legislative delay built into the Dáil. Legislative delay ensures better review of legislation. At the end of the day, legislation has far-reaching implications for people's lives. It changes their lives in many fundamental ways. It is quite normal for a money Bill to have up to a 21 day delay and for a non-money Bill to have up to a three month delay. That must be built into the Dáil but there is no proposal for that to happen.

The second issue is the very serious deletion of Article 27 by the abolition of this House. Article 27 gives the people the opportunity to petition the President for a referendum on an issue of vital national importance. That is a wonderful safeguard that is rarely used but at least we know it is there. In the context of the abortion debate, some sectors of Irish life have spoken about petitioning the President on that issue. It could be the abortion issue today and another issue tomorrow. Let us be careful and not eradicate a House of democracy, although indirectly elected and little understood, until we replace with at least the same.

I would like the people to be offered the opportunity in the referendum to choose reform. I understand we cannot offer reform or abolition but this is still in the hands of the Cabinet and the Taoiseach and they could look at that type of wording. Obviously, if the response to reform is "No", that gives another message. I am very disappointed and I would like the Minister of State to address the issues to which I refer in regard to the very important democratic safeguards built into the Seanad which are not being proposed for the Dáil.

This is a very important section of the legislation. I am glad that Senator Norris and his colleagues have drawn our attention to that fact. This relates to the nuts of the debate, which is effectively a total redrawing of the Constitution. The former Tánaiste, Michael McDowell, is on record as saying that it would be easier for the Government to rewrite the Constitution than to start butchering it in the manner in which it is proposing given that Seanad Éireann is referred to so many times in the Constitution. I think it is referred to something like 40 times.

What appears to be referred to in section 5 is further referred to in section 3, which is reducing the reference to the Oireachtas as just the President and the Dáil. I note that the Oireachtas Library and Research Service, which is an independent section of the Houses of the Oireachtas, has raised a concern in respect of section 3.

According to the Oireachtas Library and Research Service, this article is being substituted with reference to the two Houses of the Oireachtas being removed. It further points out that the term "House" is used in reference to Dáil Éireann when the use of "Dáil Éireann" may be clearer. It further points out that the article refers to felony and the terms of the Bill do not change this. According to it, the distinction between felony and misdemeanour was abolished by section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1997 and further clarification on whether felony is now interpreted according to this proposed piece of legislation as "arrestable offence" - one that carries a five-year prison sentence or more - is now required. That is not provided for in the Bill or explanatory memorandum. The independent Oireachtas Library and Research Service has raised a question here and I think we need clarification on that point before the House is asked to vote on this section. There may be a constitutional question here in respect of that. Before I go any further, I would like clarification but I think the amendment proposed by Senator Norris is really sensible and outlines the point made by a number of political parties, including my own.

This is a grave issue of national importance. The Constitutional Convention was established in respect of the manner in which politics is practised in this country - what the people define as active participatory democracy. However, the Government has decided to axe participative democracy through the Seanad abolition Bill.

I am very grateful for the support of Senator Ó Domhnaill but could he point me to the reference to "felony" in the Bill because I cannot see it? I wonder whether there is a confusion with a briefing on abortion. No? I would be very interested in seeing it.

I have obviously read the briefing document relating to the Bill by the Oireachtas Library and Research Service. On page 17, it raised a question in respect of this particular issue. It is not something I have raised. I am quoting material produced by the Oireachtas Library and Research Service.

Is there a reference to that note? What reference in the Schedule is it referring to?

It relates to Article 5 and the subsequent-----

Section 5, is it?

Sorry, section 5 and how if section 5 was to be accepted, the subsequent determination of that section under the Constitution which relates to criminal sanctions and the connection back to section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1997. It is something that requires clarification. It has nothing to do with any other piece of legislation. We are quite happy to let the Minister of State take a number of minutes.

Let us take our time with this to make sure we all know what we are doing. The first point is that section 5 is the citation of what this Bill will be called. Obviously, it will collectively be known as the Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill 2013. This is a normal section in any Bill that is proposing a referendum. What will follow this is a statement for the information of voters that will be brought before the Seanad next week, as is the case with every referendum. When the referendum Bill goes through, there then follows a resolution passed by both Houses as to the statement that would occur to be put to voters.

A copy of the Bill, which relates to Senator Norris's point, will be available at all post offices and on the Internet. That matter will be taken up by the Referendum Commission. The question is posed as to whether the Government will spend money. The Government will not spend a brass farthing on this. In the normal course of events, the Referendum Commission takes responsibility for informing voters of this and that will happen in this case. The Government will not be carrying out a public information campaign. It will simply be the normal event where the Referendum Commission is asked to do this. We will not have a responsibility in respect of this. Needless to say, political parties will take a position on this and argue accordingly.

The issue of petitions raised by Senator Healy Eames relates to Article 27. We can have a debate on the sections but the sections are not where the meat is. The actual meat is in the Schedules. The Bill effectively says that if it is accepted by the Irish people, the collective references to the Seanad are effectively removed from the Constitution on abolition day. Some of them are just references because if the thing is abolished, it is abolished and, therefore, one must remove the name of the Seanad. There are some issues that Senators might like to come to which one could argue might be of some consequence in terms of the constitutional provisions. One of these is the question of Article 27.

The Bill proposes to delete Article 27 of the Constitution. The procedure under this Article applies only to a Bill, other than a Bill to amend the Constitution, a money Bill or a Bill where the Seanad's time for consideration has been average under Article 24, which is deemed to have been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas under Article 23. Article 23 applies only to a Bill not passed by the Seanad within 90 days or passed by that House where amendments have been rejected by the Dáil and where on foot of a Dáil resolution, the Bill is deemed to be passed by both Houses. Therefore, Article 27 only applies to a Bill where there is a fundamental disagreement between the Seanad and the Dáil in respect of it. I am not aware if that has ever come into being because there is no reference to it ever having happened.

It was a theoretical problem relating to what would happen if the Dáil or Seanad refused to accept each other's word on this. It has never happened. That is why it is being removed.

That is not to say it might not happen.

Not unlike the procedure for determining whether a Bill is a money Bill, this article is, in effect, a way of resolving a dispute between both Houses. However, unlike a money Bill, in this instance, the sole purpose of the procedure is to resolve a disagreement between the Houses. Accordingly, once the Seanad is abolished, there will no longer be a need for this provision-----

I must speak in this sense. If the Seanad is abolished, there will no longer be a need for the article because this was always established where there was a dispute between both Houses. If one removes one House-----

Less presumptuous, Minister.

There is no longer a need for the dispute mechanism, which is effectively what it is.

The Senator made a valid point on Second Stage about a time lag in the new system we are proposing as part of reforming the Dáil. It is important that colleagues hear the ambitious plans the Government has in this regard.

We are talking about a seven Stage process, not dissimilar to some of the examples the Senator gave in his Second Stage contribution when he mentioned Denmark and a few other countries. First, there will be a heads of Bills stage. This is when the alleged experts will be here.

Will the Government give a free vote, as is done in Denmark, on issues like abortion? That would be a big one for the Minister of State if one wants to tell the truth.

This will be where those in the broader society who have an interest in the Bill will be invited in to discuss the heads of the Bill with the committee. We will then have a publication stage, a Second Stage which is the normal discursive Second Stage, a Committee Stage where all of the amendments will be discussed, a Report Stage, and a new stage to be called the pre-enactment stage, where before the Bill becomes law and has to be signed by the President, issues which may be of concern will be teased out. It answers the question that other colleagues asked about who will do this and the time. It was a valid question to ask. I know there is a consideration that there would be some time on that particular Stage where one could review doing the work the Seanad is doing at present.

Will there be new timeframes?

I will deal with that issue. What will follow that is a review stage which will have a time commitment. Within one year of the Bill coming into force, there will be a review of all the legislation to ascertain whether it is working. To answer the Senator's question directly, the checks and balances that one argues at the moment will be supplanted by the next system that we are proposing.

Where is this leading?

The Minister of State to continue, without interruption, please.

I will answer and then the Senator can come back.

This goes to the heart of the question asked by Senator Feargal Quinn. He asked a very good question which I remember well. It involved the opinion poll legislation, which he referred to, which was picked up by the Seanad at the time. It was an Opposition amendment which had been proposed by Deputy Olivia Mitchell where she argued in the run-up to the 2002 elections that limitations should be put on the publication of opinion polls. The Government said it would accept the Opposition amendment - it had not thought it through - and it was picked up in this House. Under the new system that I have just proposed, I have given an example of how we want to run the Dáil-----

It does not exist.

It could exist in the future.

Under that new system, that would be picked up because, as I understand it, one could not rush through a Bill such as that because it would not be an emergency situation. The issue raised by the Senator is one on which time would be required. One could not do what was done then under the new system. The Senator is correct in pointing out that was a classic case where that issue was highlighted in this House. I fully concede that. If the new system being proposed is operational and working to the fullest degree, no Government would be allowed to do that in future because, effectively, it would not be emergency legislation which would have to be thought out, given the time constraints.

I have a couple of queries to put to the Minister of State. The first issue is on section 5, which deals with the citation. Subsection (2) reads: "This Act may be cited as the Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Act 2013." The words used are that it "may" be cited.

Section 5(1) reads: "The several amendments of the Constitution effected by this Act shall be collectively known as and may for all purposes be collectively referred to as the Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution." Is there a danger that it will not even mention the abolition of Seanad Éireann, so that when somebody goes into the referendum they will go to the Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution without actually knowing it is the abolition of Seanad Éireann?

That was the first question I asked the Minister of State but he did not respond. That was the whole basis of the debate.

It later reads-----

I will answer that question directly because it is a straight question. I apologise I did not answer it. What voters will see is the Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann).

Subsection (2) reads: "This Act may be cited as the Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Act 2013." However, the previous subsection (1) reads, "this Act shall be collectively known as and may for all purposes be collectively referred to as the Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution". It does not say anything about abolition of Seanad Éireann. I would like a guarantee. I would like the word "may" to be deleted in order that people coming to vote know they are voting for the abolition of Seanad Éireann.

The second issue about which I am concerned is the promises to reform the Dáil to take the place of the Seanad. The Minister of State promised that a new system would be put in place. Can we get a guarantee that this will happen? How do we get that guarantee? Is it written into the Bill that the steps that need to be taken will be taken, so that we know before rather than after the referendum, assuming the Government wins? Let us suppose the Government is not in power at that stage, and suppose it does not keep its word, how can we get a guarantee that the promises it has made will be kept?

This is more piggery pokery going on. We are not allowing the people to see the pig. I repeat my slogan: let the people see the pig. The Minister of State is most disingenuous. First, he is in this fantasy land where he says the Government will reform the Dáil in some massive way. No one believes that. Not a single person believes that, not even in the Minister of State's party. He should ask Deputy Charles Flanagan who is a senior official in his party. No one believes the Minister of State. We have had all these promises and so on. Did one Minister not say that one gives commitments all over the place, that was then, now is now, that is the way politics works, and we all know that? As for emergency legislation and it could not happen because it is not emergency legislation, I do not know if the Minister of State has read Alice in Wonderland.

Many years ago.

I am sure he will remember the good parts, including when Humpty Dumpty said words mean what I want them to mean, no more, no less. That is the same with emergency legislation. There are rulings all over the place. The Cathaoirleach is a very decent and honourable man but I have challenged several of his rulings when I think they are absurd. We have had situations here under previous Cathaoirligh where I had a motion, that was supposed to be a national emergency, ruled out of order as it was not a national emergency, while Charlie Haughey was declaring it a national emergency in the other House at the very same time. Please do not tell me that one cannot slip through whatever one wants.

The other thing is this reference to a statement. That is wonderful. We will get a statement, but in what way will it be processed? It will go through the Dáil where the Government has a massive majority and it will go through this House where those on the Minister of State's side have already voted for their own extinction. He will not have too much difficulty with his party. It is extremely presumptuous to say, "Once the Seanad is abolished". That argument is not finished yet. There are plenty of fat ladies around this country and the Minister of State had better wait until they sing because they will give him a clout if he does not.

Regarding all the talk about reforming the Dáil, the Minister of State is belly-aching about the fact that the Seanad would not reform itself. We did everything we possibly could do, including the 1979 measure. For the past 28 years every person on these benches has been demanding reform. The Minister of State's party would not do it, and what did it do about the Dáil? Sweet damn all. It is a disgrace. What the Minister of State is saying is live horse and you will get grass, or live pig and you will get grass. Let the people see the pig.

We are trying to see the pig here. I support what Senator Feargal Quinn and Senator Paschal Mooney said, namely, that the citation must include the words "abolition of Seanad Éireann".

It would be very useful if the Minister of State deleted the word "may" and inserted "will".

Gabh mo leithscéal. That is my first point. Second, I appreciate that the Minister of State has come back with a statement that he read into the record, which is a start, about the fact that there will be seven Stages to a Bill in Dáil Éireann. Where is that proposal? Why was that not put into this Bill? This is a very weak abolition Bill-----

That is the Senator's view.

-----because it does not propose how we can improve the other House. It could have been a reforming abolition Bill which would reform the Lower House.

The Minister of State also mentioned that a review stage will be built into the new proposal in the Dáil, whereby all legislation from the previous year will be reviewed. Is that correct?

That is my understanding.

That definitely needs to be clarified because I could see a massive choking up of the business of the House as a result of that. The Minister of State should clarify that matter, as well as telling us where that model came from.

There are dangers in having a unicameral parliament. It would be dangerous for the Irish people to proceed to abolish the Seanad without first ratifying definite proposals in the Dáil. It would be as easy for us to put through a Bill to reform the Dáil in advance of the Seanad's abolition. The Government should be doing that in order to demonstrate its good faith on this issue.

For example, our Constitution allows the Irish people to only have a general election every seven years. Therefore, a general election need not happen for seven years.

In the event of a national emergency.

Yes. We currently have a general election at a maximum of every five years. A Bill to amend Standing Orders in one House, where there is only one House, would have such incredible power. There is no power to rethink these features. I believe the Government is serious but it needs to put some weight behind its proposals. It should enact legislation to reform the Dáil in advance of abolishing the Seanad. The Irish people would then know that the Minister of State is serious. I know he is serious.

The Minister of State has asked me to accept his good faith but, to be quite blunt about it, I do not. Trust has completely broken down between myself and every single member of the Government. I have no respect for them - none whatever - because of what they are doing here. It is an act of appalling vandalism. The amount of disingenuousness and sheer lies is ungodly and a disgrace to the both Houses of Parliament.

I ask the Senator to withdraw the word "lies".

I think you should.

You can think what you like, but I am saying that because it is just wrong. I mean no disrespect to you, a Chathaoirligh.

The Senator is disrespecting the Cathaoirleach.

I will certainly absolve the Cathaoirleach from any of that, but there is no point in denying that there has been massive lying going on all over the place.

I have a serious point to make to the Minister of State. I do not believe for one second that there is any intention to reform the Dáil in the way he suggests. The Government has a massive majority in the Dáil. Is the Minister of State suggesting that these wonderful reforms, which will limit the powers of the Government, will be shoved through with enthusiasm by the Government? That has never once happened in history. Even if the Minister of State gets his malign little wish and is able to destroy the Seanad, we will continue on until the next election, so we may have another two years. If the Minister of State is serious, why does he not give a commitment to bring this before both Houses - even supposing the Seanad is abolished - and then somebody might take him seriously? I do not think anybody will take him seriously if it is just going to be another one of these little solo runs down in Dáil Éireann. The Government has a vast majority so it can just steamroller it through. The proposal should be put to the people. Let them see the pig. Let us have an open discussion here. Even if the Minister of State does manage to abolish the Seanad, we will still be here. That is something useful that we can do over the two years that will probably left after that.

We should get a commitment that they are going to use the Seanad for this final task, although I do not believe the people are stupid enough to let the Government away with this. Why does the Minister of State not give us such a commitment? Let us see the colour of his money, rather than these vague, wishy-washy promises and blather about reforming the Dáil, which nobody believes.

Can the Minister of State show me an example in history where even the most well-meaning government clips away at its own powers? It has never been done. It is a principle in politics that once one grabs powers, even the incoming administration, which may have opposed them, will hang onto them like glue. Therefore, I do not believe the Minister of State.

That was part of the theme of my own contribution yesterday - that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

That is certainly the trend that seems to be being adopted, given the manner in which this legislation will be put before the people. We have at least established that the wording that will be presented to the people may or shall - we are assuming that it will, because I cannot see what else - include the abolition. It will not, however, include the fact that the Government will be butchering and vandalising the Constitution by removing some 40 articles which relate to the Seanad. There will be no reference to that whatsoever in the referendum's wording.

Can the Minister of State outline what the role of the Referendum Commission will be? I am not as au fait with how the commission works. It seems to have changed its modus operandi. Can the Minister of State clarify whether the Referendum Commission will put forward - they are having a chat. The Minister of State cannot hear me when he is having a conversation with somebody else.

The Senator should be assured that I can hear him.

Senator Mooney, without interruption.

What will the Referendum Commission's role be? Will it be putting forward both sides of the argument?

Will that be a requirement, to put forward the pro and anti sides?

Yes. Is that all right?

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. The proposal is to delete so many provisions in the Constitution, yet there are no prescriptive measures to make alternative arrangements that have not been agreed beforehand. We know from other jurisdictions where they have one chamber that they have powerful committee structures in place and greater oversight. The Minister of State has been around long enough and will be aware that our current oversight structures are dysfunctional. This is particularly the case with European legislation. At Westminster, for example, the House of Lords scrutinises EU directives prior to Ministers signing them.

Earlier today, we had a vote on, but were not allowed to discuss, an EU directive on organ transplantation. The measure was not discussed prior to the Minister signing it either. I was informed by representatives of the Irish Kidney Association and other groups that if that EU directive had been done correctly with-----

That has nothing to do with the Bill before us.

We are on section 5.

I am talking about the fact that there are no prescriptive replacements for the Seanad. The Government does not seem to have an idea how it will scrutinise EU directives and have a proper legislative structure for doing so. While we might have a legislative deficit, we have a shocking legislative system whereby EU directives are not scrutinised. There is a proposal to take apart the Constitution and abolish the Seanad's constitutional function. However, I do not see how we will make our legislative structure better as a result of this. In fact, we will create a dysfunctional legislative process much worse.

A total of 594 EU directives were signed directly into Irish law by Ministers.

Senator Daly should speak to the section. We are on section 5.

Will the Minister of State indicate what the Government proposes to do now that it is trying to get rid of the Seanad and there will be no mechanism to properly scrutinise EU legislation or statutory instruments? Political scientists have said time and again that we have a dysfunctional system that does not work. We are taking it apart and removing 75 sections of the Constitution but we do not have a proposed mechanism to do the job better that is currently being done badly by our democratic and legislative system. We are making a bad situation worse.

It was news to me, and the Minister of State might not be fully aware that by the time one adds up EU directives, regulations and statutory instruments, which are entirely the prerogative-----

We are on section 5.

If you will allow me latitude, a Chathaoirligh, my point relates to why we are taking apart our legislative system. We are not introducing any mechanism to replace it. That is a big worry. We are literally dismantling an arm of the legislature. I am highlighting a seriously dysfunctional aspect of the legislative system as currently constituted and I wish to know why we are not discussing the replacement of what it is proposed to remove. What we have currently does not work. The Seanad has the potential to amend the democratic deficit but we seem to be rushing headlong into dismantling it without having a real proposal on how to make a dysfunctional system work better or at all.

The first part of the problem with section 5 might be addressed by circulating the explanatory memorandum, which shows 12 pages of bits chopped out of the Constitution.

Every household in this country must know the extent of the butchery that is going on. It is not something that can be blithely dismissed in a couple of lines that may be cited. This is 75 chunks out of the Constitution. The information is all contained in the explanatory memorandum. We should circulate it to as many households as possible and let people see what is going on.

Hear, hear. Well said.

The real meat of the Bill is in the Schedules. If one abolishes the House, one abolishes the references that exist to the House. Some of those are simply reference points. Others, one could argue, have some standing. I presume those issues will emerge in the course of the campaign.

The question was also asked why we would not put up for scrutiny by the people the new system we propose for Dáil Éireann. We have done that. The Government has put forward those proposals but one does not put them into the Constitution because they are internal procedures for the other House.

It would be easier and quicker to do it.

No, they are internal procedures. That will also form a part of the campaign in terms of the new system we propose. Senator Healy Eames asked about its origin. Previously in the debate we had a very good discussion on the second last report on Seanad reform produced by an all-party committee chaired by the former Deputy, Mr. Jim O’Keeffe, with the late Mr. Brian Lenihan as Vice Chairman. They put forward what was probably the most structured response to the issue to date on what is required in terms for the necessary checks and balances within the legislative process. I encourage Members to read what was said in the report. In terms of the policy position being taken by the Government, what we want to do-----

The Government has ignored it for 20 years and refused to do most of it.

The Minister of State should be allowed to speak without interruption.

-----in terms of reforming the Dáil, is very close to what we propose not just in terms of the various Stages of Bills but also the review. The point I made earlier was misunderstood. The review relates to the committee that will be established, which within a year must re-examine exactly what has occurred following enactment of legislation.

Must the committee meet within a year?

Yes, for each Bill. That is important. We propose that as an alternative. The current issue is the question of the abolition of the Seanad. If the referendum is successful we will then put in place the new architecture that is required for Dáil reform. If it is not then the Seanad will continue. One cannot presume to put in place Dáil reform until such time as the abolition issue is resolved.

The Minister of State should be allowed to speak without interruption.

Senator Norris does not respect me and I do not respect him.

I am sorry, a Chathaoirligh, but we are entitled to know. The Minister of State said it cannot be done until the Government gets rid of the Seanad. That is rubbish. Why not?

Senator Norris can reply to the Minister of State.

Senator Norris has no respect for me so, with respect, I have no respect for him and his boorish behaviour in the past 48 hours.

That is great. It is fine. We know where we stand then. It is a mutuality of disrespect.

Fine. That is grand. Senator Norris can shout, roar and scream like the megalomaniac he is.

The question of information is important. Members are aware that the information campaign some years ago was based on putting forward an argument for and against a referendum. That has been changed and it is now a public information campaign. A High Court judge will be appointed for the purpose and will put the commission in place. The commission has been successful in getting information to voters. As I said previously, funds will be at the discretion of the Referendum Commission to disseminate information - the kind of information Senator Barrett has outlined by way of the Schedules. All the issues will be out in the open, as they always are. I understand the Referendum Commission said some time ago that time was required in order to put forward a good campaign. That is why the Bill is before the House.

Other colleagues have inquired about the date of the referendum. I cannot give it. I understand it is a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to make known. It is clearly the intention of the Government to hold the referendum in the autumn if the Bill is so passed by this House. In the normal course of events this will be a matter for the Referendum Commission, which has become expert at dealing with these matters and making sure that ordinary voters have information.

Senator Quinn asked a crucial question. I can confirm that reference to the abolition of the Seanad will be on the ballot paper. Second, assuming that this House passes it today or whenever, a resolution will come before this House, which is a statement of information for voters. It will go to every single household in the country, to every voter, outlining the statement upon which the proposition is made, the citation of the referendum, and it will be perfectly clear and obvious on that statement, as it will be on the ballot paper that the referendum is about the abolition of the Seanad.

Will that be done by the Referendum Commission?

I will be brief because I am conscious of the time. I wish to clarify a matter relating to the proposed new legislative regulations that will be put in place by legislation or other regulatory means. The seven proposed new legislative procedures-----

They will be Standing Orders of the Dáil.

They will not be in the Constitution so is it correct that at any time they could be scrapped?

If they are Standing Orders of the Dáil they will remain Standing Orders of the Dáil.

They could be amended so there is no guarantee that if we scrap the democratic Seanad that the procedures will remain in place.

If Senator Wilson reads the articles relating to this House and the other House the internal procedures of both Houses are a matter for both Houses, they are not a matter for the Constitution.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. I wish to make a point that I have probably never made in the House previously. I have observed in previous referenda the manner in which the Referendum Commission produces its booklet. It comes out too late.

That does not relate to section 5.

It is a point of information. By the time the information is published parties have made their positions clear and sometimes there is so much information available that people fail to read the balanced argument on time. I wish to make a recommendation in that regard.

That is a matter for the Referendum Commission.

I understand, but we are here to learn and to improve the practice of democracy. It would be useful if the point were relayed.

Does the Minister of State accept that the people would see the Government as far more serious about Dáil and committee reform if the legislation were published in advance? I accept it need not be implemented if the Seanad is not abolished.

If we are here, we are here.

Yes, but why not reform the Dáil anyway?

Absolutely, but I am talking about the safeguards we are eliminating. Can the Minister of State understand the point I am making? The people would be able to take in good faith that the Government was much more serious about Dáil and committee reform if the Bill was published and debated in advance of the referendum.

A White Paper on parliamentary reform should be published beforehand to allow people see the package in terms of the legislation, as Senator Healy Eames said. How will the Referendum Commission communicate with the Northern Ireland and overseas voters who have a strong interest in this? Does the Minister of State have any mechanism to provide for that or is he remaining silent on the topic of Northern Ireland, as he was earlier?

It would be inappropriate for me to tell the Referendum Commission how to do its job.

The Minister of State could tell it and the Taoiseach that there are people in Northern Ireland who are interested in this.

Allow the Minister of State to continue, without interruption.

No. This is an independent body. It is not appropriate for any Minister, even one as junior as me, to give any missile of instruction to the Referendum Commission. It is more than capable of doing its job, with experience built up over the years. It is a sign of the Government's intent on this issue that when the legislation was published on 6 June, we appointed the Referendum Commission that day for the purposes of this referendum to make sure, as its members stated independently that they needed time, that they would have the time. I presume the Referendum Commission will have regard to and note the comments colleagues make on this issue but it is not appropriate to tell-----

It is highly appropriate to comment on the normal situation.

-----an independent statutory body how to do its business.

That is not in question.

I have faith in them to do that. As to Senator Healy Eames's questions about the publication of legislation-----

That is ridiculous. The Minister of State has not answered the question.

The Minister to continue without interruption.

Does the Minister of State not have any thoughts on Northern Ireland?

The Minister of State, without interruption.

He has not answered the question.

We can go back to the issue the Senator raised earlier on the North if he would like me to do that.

I do not have any problem in doing that.

The Minister of State did not do it earlier.

We cannot presume what the people will do in this issue.

The Minister of State already did.

It is a matter for the people from day one to decide what they want to do in connection with the proposal that will be before them in the autumn. It would be wholly inappropriate for the Government to move in advance of a situation where the people have yet to be consulted on the matter. We have set out-----

We need Dáil and committee reform anyway.

-----and I am sure the Senator believes it because she will take my bona fides in this matter, that if the Seanad is abolished, the new procedures for additional Dáil scrutiny, with the seven Stages I mentioned earlier, will be put in place. That is the situation that prevails. It is the policy of the Government, and all the changes in Standing Orders will comply with that.

I apologise to Senator Barrett that I did not get a chance earlier to speak again on the section in terms of his question on voters in the North. If he reads Article 18 of the Constitution, which is the principal Article dealing with Seanad Éireann, he will see that it makes it clear that the question of the franchise and the rights of voting, particularly within the universities mentioned in the Articles, are a matter for law. They are a matter for this House and the other House to determine. On the argument, therefore, about what takes precedence, it is fair to say that constitutional law takes precedence over statute. Article 18 is very clear that the question of the franchise dealing with the two universities concerned, the National University of Ireland and Trinity College Dublin, are matters for the Legislature as to the way they are composed and what is done to them.

There is a broader definition, to which the Senator referred and to which I want to refer also, namely, Article 2, which speaks about the Irish nation. One of the things the much maligned Government has done, which I believe everyone now accepts, is the establishment of the Constitutional Convention, and it is examining this issue, particularly in terms of the Presidency, about whether voting rights would be extended to people who are part of the Irish nation. The Irish State is the Irish State. The Irish nation is a much broader concept. It deals with people living inside the Irish State and those living outside it. One could argue whether people in Northern Ireland who have an Irish passport and therefore are Irish citizens, and belong to the Irish nation, are entitled to vote. To take the Senator's case, my understanding is that one must be a passport holder to vote. For those passport holders in Northern Ireland who do not have degrees from Trinity College Dublin-----

On a point of fact, one does not have to be a passport holder, one has to be an Irish citizen-----

Yes, an Irish citizen.

-----and one has to be a graduate of Trinity College and on the register. Those are the only three criteria.

Representing the rotten boroughs, can I make this other point?

It is not a rotten borough.

Can I make this other point?

It is not a rotten borough.

Just let me make the point, Senator

No. Withdraw that at once. How dare you call it a rotten borough.

The Minister of State, without interruption.

Go on, withdraw it.

Senator Norris, resume your seat.

Not for a second.

The Minister of State is the one who is up to his ears in rotten boroughs and he was damn glad of them.

The Minister of State, without interruption.

The argument-----

How dare you call The University of Dublin a rotten borough.

No. I am referring here to the fact that if one is an Irish citizen in Northern Ireland, one is entitled to-----

So they are the rotten borough, are they? Wonderful.

The Minister of State, without interruption, please.

If one is an Irish citizen in Northern Ireland and one has a degree from the National University of Ireland or Trinity College Dublin, one is entitled to vote in this House.

And that makes a rotten borough.

If one is an Irish citizen in Northern Ireland and one does not happen to have a degree from the National University of Ireland or Trinity College Dublin, one has no entitlement to vote. If Senator Barrett is positing the argument that this is of some great importance in terms of Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland, the great number of whom are disenfranchised from that process because they do not happen to hold a degree from either of those universities, there is an argument to be held there. I am saying to the Senator that if people are really serious about this issue, there is a broader debate which the Government has asked the Constitutional Convention to look at closely and we expect a report from it in due course.

The Minister of State can scuttle off to the Constitutional Convention when it suits him.

It concerns the Presidency and whether people should be entitled to vote therein.

Yes. What about allowing the people to nominate for the Presidency?

The Minister of State, without interruption.

Some 94% were in favour of that.

People are on pretty dodgy ground on this issue where whole sections of the population are excluded from voting.

Tugadh tuairisc ar a ndearnadh; an Coiste do shuí arís.
Progress reported, Committee to sit again.