Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2004: Committee Stage (Resumed).

NEW SECTION.

I move amendment No. 81:

In page 19, before section 30, to insert the following new section:

"30.—Section 12(1) of the Electoral Act 1992 is amended in the definition of ‘spouse' by the insertion after ‘the spouse' of ‘or partner'.".

We have heard many public pronouncements in recent times on the need to accommodate non-marital relationships. In this amendment we seek to extend voting rights to the partners of Irish diplomats abroad. At present, where a diplomat is posted abroad with his or her spouse, the spouse can vote by post under section 12 of the Electoral Act 1992. However, no provision is made for voting by the partner of a diplomat. This is clearly discriminatory and our amendment seeks to provide this modest recognition in law for such persons given the importance of the right to vote.

The amendment by Deputy Gilmore provides that either a spouse or a partner resident with the elector shall be deemed to be ordinarily resident in the State and therefore entitled to avail of a postal vote under section 12 of the Electoral Act 1992. This applies to a person who is a diplomat attached to a diplomatic mission abroad and the spouse of that person is deemed to be ordinarily resident in the State for registration purposes.

I accept in principle what Deputy Gilmore is seeking to achieve. There are, however, wider issues as to the wording of such a provision and practical issues as to how a registration authority establishes the fact that such a person is eligible for registration as an elector. The inclusion of a partner under the provision would make it difficult to establish the bona fide nature of the arrangement involved. Of course in the case of a spouse it is possible to do so through a marriage certificate. These issues need further consideration and I will have them considered for inclusion in the next appropriate electoral Bill.

The committee will be aware that the Law Reform Commission recently published a report concerning entitlements of cohabiting couples. While I have not read the report, its consideration and decisions to be taken following its recommendations should go some way to clarify matters in this area. I will speak to the Minister regarding such decisions and consider further the purpose of the amendment. The principle of it is, in general, accepted but it is a question of considering the detail. It will be introduced, but not at this time.

I accept what I understand to be a commitment from the Minister that this will be included in the next electoral Bill.

We will give it serious consideration.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
SECTION 30.

I move amendment No. 82:

In page 19, line 10, to delete "theElectoral (Amendment) Act 2004” and substitute “Part 3 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001”.

This is a drafting amendment. This section is to clarify that the form of the ballot paper at a Dáil election can be modified for use on a voting machine. The modification that can be made by regulations is restricted to the accommodation of photographs and political party logos and, when the Bill is enacted, minor changes required for use on the ballot paper on the voting machine.

The only modification intended is the substitution of the instructions in small print at the top of the ballot paper by the name of the poll and constituency in large print. The voting instructions will be available on the voting machine display screen, on an instruction card to be provided to each voter when the person's name is marked off the register, in a leaflet delivered to each house and in the publicity and awareness campaign. This will be an improvement for the voter and I would ask the committee to accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 30, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Deputy Gilmore, you oppose the section.

Yes. The effect of section 30 is to allow the Minister amend the form of the ballot paper by order for the purposes of electronic voting. The Labour Party is of the view that the Minister should not be given discretionary functions in the matter for both constitutional and policy reasons. We suggest that the form of the ballot paper should be set out in a schedule to the Act, as it is in respect of referenda. Therefore, we oppose the section.

Question put and declared carried.
NEW SECTIONS.

I move amendment No. 83:

In page 19, before section 31, to insert the following new section:

31.—The Second Schedule to the Electoral Act 1992 is amended by the deletion of Rule 14A (inserted by section 1(i) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2002).".

The purpose of this amendment is to delete the rule hastily introduced in 2002 which requires that anyone seeking to be added to the supplement to the electoral register attend at a Garda station. This rule is illogical because an applicant who seeks to be included in the register proper does not have to attend at a Garda station. A much more meaningful safeguard than the Garda station rule would be to provide for third party appeals on the supplement to the register which we seek to achieve in our next amendment.

The amendment seeks to repeal the provisions provided for in the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2002 for more secure procedures for applications for entry to the supplement of the register of electors. The revised procedures were introduced to ensure the integrity of the supplement system and it is too early to delete them. The Deputy is correct that it is not necessary if one is being added to the register of electors generally but there is sufficient time to have the matter checked. We are only a few weeks away from the elections and could be inundated with applications if there was no necessity to have an application witnessed by the Garda or proof of residence. This gives the matter greater certainty. If we had more time, we could consider it.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 84:

In page 19, before section 31, to insert the following new section:

31.—"Notwithstanding anything in the Second Schedule to the Electoral Act 1992, any person aggrieved by a decision of a registration authority on an application of a person to be entered in the supplement to the Register, may appeal against that decision to the County Registrar for the relevant county.".

The purpose of this amendment is to introduce for the first time a third party appeals system against decisions not to allow people to be entered in the supplement to the register. This would be a much more effective deterrent against abuse of the supplement system than the existing over-bureaucratic provision under which individuals are required to attend at a Garda station.

Rule 16 of the Second Schedule to the Electoral Act 1992 provides, where an application for entry in the supplementary register is refused, for an appeals mechanism whereby an appeal in writing may be made to the county registrar against the ruling of the registration authority.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 85:

In page 19, before section 31, to insert the following new section:

31.—"The Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001 is amended—

(a) in section 36 by—

(i) in subsection (1), inserting after "Minister." the following:

‘In considering whether to approve such equipment the Minister shall have regard to any report or reports available to him or her with respect to the matter (being a report or reports prepared by a body or bodies which are accredited to or recognised by the European Co-operation for Accreditation) and shall be satisfied that the equipment enables a Dáil election to be conducted in accordance with the relevant enactments (in particular with regard to such matters as the integrity and confidentiality of the voting and vote counting processes).',

(ii) inserting after subsection (1), the following:

‘(1A) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), a voting machine shall not be approved under that subsection unless:

(a) it is designed so as to de-activate automatically, or be capable of being de-activated by an operator under the control of the presiding officer, between each vote cast by individual voters, and

(b) the control unit (or other appropriate device) of it is designed so as to indicate to the operator whether the machine is open for voting and the total number of votes cast and stored on the machine without, in either case, revealing individual preferences of the votes so cast and stored.

‘(1B) Without prejudice to subsection (4), the Minister may from time to time prepare and publish to returning officers guidelines concerning the steps to be taken by them and such other persons as are specified in the guidelines to ensure compliance by them with this Part generally and, in particular, the matters specified in subsection (1) and section 41(4) or, as appropriate,section 10(4) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2004.’,

and

(iii) in subsection (2), inserting after ‘Minister may', ‘, if he or she is of opinion that the public interest so requires,',

(b) in section 38 by substituting the following subparagraphs for subparagraphs (ii) to (iv) of paragraph (ll):

‘(ii) for "obtained a ballot paper" in subsection (1)(b) there were substituted “applied to vote”;

(iii) there were deleted "(otherwise than under section 102)" in subsection (1)(b); and

(iv) for "obtained a ballot paper" in subsection (2) there were substituted "applied to vote" ;',

and

(c) in section 41 by substituting the following subsection for subsection (4):

‘(4) Where an elector has failed to cast, in accordance with subsection (3), his or her vote and has left the polling station and the presiding officer, accordingly, has reason to believe that the voting machine concerned is still open, the presiding officer shall verify, remotely (by means of the control unit), whether that is the case and, if the machine is open, shall de-activate it. Where an elector fails to leave a voting machine within a reasonable time the provisions of section 106(1) of the Act of 1992 shall apply and where, in such circumstances, the voting machine is still open the presiding officer shall de-activate it.'.".

The amendments to the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001 provide as follows: the additional text proposed is intended to clarify and strengthen the provision concerning the approval of voting machines and related equipment. The body to report on the equipment must be one recognised by the European Co-operation for Accreditation. Subsection (1A) sets out requirements concerning the capability and operation of the control unit attached to the voting machine. Subsection (1B) provides that the Minister may draw upon published guidelines concerning steps to be taken by returning officers to ensure compliance with the use of voting machines, especially when the deactivation procedures are used. The textual amendment is to ensure consistency with section 5(3) of the Bill. The amendment at paragraph (b) repeats the existing text of section 31 while paragraph (c) replaces for consistency purposes subsection (4) with the same text as used in section 10(4) of the Bill — amendment No. 37.

I oppose the amendment. As we know, the terms of reference which the Government gave to the commission preclude it from looking at voting systems other than the Powervote-Nedap system. In the amendment the Minister is giving himself the power to introduce a system of voting other than the Powervote-Nedap system provided that the system has been subject to inspection "by a body or bodies which are accredited to or recognised by the European Co-operation for Accreditation". However, he will decide which body or bodies will look at any alternative to the Powervote-Nedap system. This makes a farce of what the commission should be doing. It was set up with a fanfare declaring that it was independent and so on but it is not allowed to consider any system other than the Powervote-Nedap system. It can recommend whether we should proceed with that system but has no function regarding any alternative system, yet in the amendment the Minister says he can introduce an alternative system provided it passes muster with some body which he selects. This renders farcical the alleged independent role which the Government claims to have given to the commission.

This merely strengthens the existing provision for approval of the equipment used. I referred to the European Co-operation for Accreditation. The branches of European national accreditation bodies have been handled separately by the European Accreditation of Certification and European Co-operation for Accreditation of Laboratories concerned with certification bodies or laboratories. These organisations have joined to form European Accreditation which now covers all European conformity assessment activities, including testing and calibration, inspection, certification of management systems, certification of products and so on. One can consult this body on accreditation. Therefore, the amendment does not give the Minister power to introduce another system; rather it is strengthening the provision for approval of the equipment used.

Amendment put and declared carried.
Section 31 deleted.
NEW SECTION.

I move amendment No. 86:

In page 19, before section 32, to insert the following new section:

"32.—Section 63 of the Electoral Act 1997 is amended by the deletion of the words from ‘and satisfies' to the end of the section.".

The purpose of this amendment is to permit postal voting on request as opposed to being provided for on the production of proof that one's occupation renders it unlikely that one will be in the State on the day of polling. This is the legal requirement in the United Kingdom where it seems to work reasonably well. The UK electoral commission has conducted several experiments in seeking to increase voter turn out and ascertained that postal voting is the method most likely to result in an increase in the number likely to vote in any given election. Accordingly, we seek to extend the entitlement to be registered on the postal voters register to anyone who applies as it is much more convenient, given modern busy lifestyles, for people to vote at their convenience over several possible days rather than be required to attend at a particular polling station on a particular day specified by the Minister.

This amendment would mean that a registration authority would have to accept, without any check, an application by a person for entry to the postal voting lists. This would be unacceptable and could lead to abuse. It is not proposed to have unrestricted access to postal voting which is restricted to members of the Defence Forces, the Garda Síochána, diplomatic staff serving abroad, people with a physical disability and those whose employment does not permit them to attend at a polling station on polling day.

The Deputy referred to the position in the United Kingdom but my information is that it is not completely satisfactory. It was possible to do this in 1985 but the position changed subsequently. I believe such an amendment could lead to abuse.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 32 agreed to.
SECTION 33.

Amendments Nos. 87 and 88 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 87:

In page 19, paragraph (a), line 26, to delete “and”.

These are technical amendments to a section which amends section 161 of the Local Government Act 2001 in order that an order can be made in advance of the local elections whereby certain more junior local authority staff can become councillors. Staff currently permitted to become councillors will thereby be entitled to stand for election in June.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 88:

In page 19, paragraph (b), line 28, to delete ““ Where”” and substitute the following:

"Where", and

(c) by the deletion of subsection (4).”.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 33, as amended, agreed to.
NEW SECTIONS.

I move amendment No. 89:

In page 19, after line 28, to insert the following new section:

"34.—(1) A person shall be guilty of an offence if the person, without lawful authority——

(a) takes, destroys, conceals or otherwise interferes with a polling information card, or

(b) presents such a card at a polling station,

which is not addressed to the person in accordance with section 92 of the Act of 1992, section 23 of the Act of 1994, Rule 54 of the Second Schedule to the Act of 1997 or Article 55 of the Regulations of 1995.

(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable——

(a) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €3,500 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both, or

(b) on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €10,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or both.”.

The purpose of this new section is to provide extra protection for the polling information card to avoid misuse. There is such a danger in multi-occupied dwellings in that cards could be delivered and left in an open area.

I have no difficulty with the second part of the amendment but regarding subsection (1)(a), are we to understand the taking, destroying, concealing or otherwise interfering with a polling information card also concerns cards not addressed to the person concerned?

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 90:

In page 19, after line 28, to insert the following new section:

"34.—Within six months from the passing of this Act, the Minister shall arrange for the publication of an updated text of all electoral legislation relating to Dáil elections, European Parliament elections, presidential elections, referenda, local elections, Seanad elections and Údarás na Gaeltachta elections, pursuant to the Statute Law (Restatement) Act 2002, including:

(a) the principal electoral legislation as originally enacted with any amendments thereto;

(b) such legislation as modified for the purposes of electronic voting, with the modifications set out in extenso;

(c) such legislation as applied with modifications to each of the other electoral codes, specifically European Parliament elections, presidential elections, referenda, local elections, Seanad elections and Údarás na Gaeltachta elections, with the modifications set out in extenso;

(d) such legislation as so applied to each of the other electoral codes, with modifications and amendments for the purposes of electronic voting, such modifications and amendments to be set out in extenso.”.

The purpose of this amendment is to highlight two important facts. The Bill is the culmination of a process whereby our electoral code has now, in effect, been ripped to pieces. It is now virtually impossible, without extensive research, to ascertain the full electoral code applying to any given election, let alone where three are being held on the same day, as on 11 June.

The second important requirement would be that provision be made under the Statute Law (Restatement) Act 2002 for the publication of updated texts of amended laws. If ever there was an area where there was a crying need for legislative restatement, it is electoral law. Ideally, we would like to see such a restatement as a prelude to the repeal and re-enactment, in appropriate form, of the entire code of electoral law as it has got completely out of hand.

The amendment proposes a new section which would provide that within six months of the passing of the Bill the Minister would arrange for the publication of updated texts of all electoral and referenda legislation. While I agree, in principle, with this very laudable objective, it would not be practical in the time specified. As time permits, my Department will prepare informal consolidated texts for most electoral legislative codes but the position keeps changing. I will take up the matter with the Attorney General's office to see if the purposes of the amendment can be advanced in terms of the provision of the Statute Law (Restatement) Act 2002.

Is there any target date — even an approximate one — by which this work might be done?

I will look into the matter and give the Deputy some information on Report Stage.

Can we, for example, anticipate that the work might be completed in advance of the general election?

That would give us more than three years.

The time is getting shorter. I am already beginning to feel better about the next general election.

The Deputy might want one sooner rather than later.

What is that expression again? Is it, "whistling past the graveyard"?

We have done that for long enough. It is time the whistles were returned.

There is a lot of legislation in place. It is important that all of it is consolidated. We will see if this can be done in a number of years and will try to have the work completed before the next general election.

It needs to be done. If we introduce electronic voting, we will not have recounts. The Minister of State is familiar with the huddled groups of lawyers pouring over electoral legislation and regulations at a recount. We want to make life as easy as possible for them. It will be very difficult for them if they have to consult and cross-reference several Acts. Electoral legislation needs to be pulled together.

We will try to have the work done within a reasonable period.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 90a not moved.

I move amendment No. 90b :

In page 19, after line 28, to insert the following new section:

"34.—(1)(a) The Local Elections (Disclosure of Donations and Expenditure) Act 1999, other than sections 1(4), 2 and 25, is repealed.

(b) References in—

(i) the Local Government Act 2001, and

(ii) the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act 2001,

to enactments repealed by subsection (1) shall be construed as references to the provisions, if any, of regulations made under section 72 of the Electoral Act.

(2) The Electoral Act 1997 is amended by the substitution of the following section for section 72:

72.—(1) The Minister shall, not later than seven days after the passing of this Act, make regulations providing for the disclosure by members of a local authority and candidates at a local election of donations made to the members or candidates, as the case may be, and the limitation of the election expenses which may be incurred by or on behalf of candidates and political parties at local elections and shall make provisions corresponding to the provisions of Parts IV and V, subject however to any modifications in those provisions appearing to the Minister to be appropriate.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), regulations under this section shall make provision for the following matters:

(a) furnishing of statements in relation to donations, including anonymous donations,

(b) appointment of agents by political parties and candidates,

(c) making of contracts, incurring of election expenses and making of payments,

(d) limitation of election expenses,

(e) period for making claims relating to election expenses and for payment of such claims,

(f) disputed claims relating to election expenses,

(g) furnishing of statements in relation to election expenses,

(h) consideration by the Standards in Public Office Commission of statements in relation to donations and election expenses,

(i) excess expenditure,

(j) election expenses at a fresh election,

(k) inspection of documents, and with such modifications as appear to the Minister to be appropriate.

(3) Regulations under this section shall apply to local authorities generally but may contain different provisions in relation to different classes of local authorities.

(4)(a) Provisions in regulations under this section relating to the specification of limits on election expenses shall correspond so far as is appropriate to the provisions relating to limits on election expenses for the time being applying to Dáil elections and, in making such regulations, the Minister shall have regard to any change in the consumer price index since the coming into force of the limits applying to Dáil elections at the date of the making of such regulations.

(b) For the purposes of this subsection, “change in the consumer price index” means the difference between the consumer price index number last published before the date of the making of the regulations under this section and the said number last published before the date of the coming into force of the limits on election expenses at Dáil elections applying at the date of the making of the said regulations, expressed as a percentage of the last-mentioned number.

(5) Where a provision of regulations under this section corresponds to a provision of section 25 or 43 it may provide for penalties not exceeding those provided for in the said section 25 or 43.

(6) Where regulations under this section are proposed to be made, a draft thereof shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and the regulations shall not be made until a resolution approving of the draft has been passed by each House.

(7) In this section "political party" means a political party registered in the Register of Political Parties in accordance with section 25 of the Act of 1992 as a party organised to contest a local election (whether or not it is also organised to contest other elections).

(3) Section 75 of the Electoral Act 1997 (Local election petition), which was repealed by section 5 of the Local Elections (Disclosure of Donations and Expenditure) Act 1999, stands revived.".

The purpose of this amendment is to introduce spending limits for local elections. This is actually the text of a Private Members' Bill reworded in the form of an amendment for the purposes of this legislation. We now have spending limits for Dáil and European Parliament elections. The irony is that we have no spending limits for local elections, which is anomalous. There are requirements regarding local elections whereby candidates must make declarations to their local authorities of the amounts they spend, and the source of the money. However, there is no upper limit. It is ironic that a candidate could spend a sum which might exceed what he or she would be allowed to spend in a general election.

The proposed new section seeks to have expenditure limits introduced for local elections. I am sure the Deputy will accept that it is too late to introduce such limits for the June elections. Subsection (2) refers to the Minister making regulations by 31 March.

The introduction of expenditure limits at local elections was considered during the passage of the Local Elections (Disclosure of Donations and Expenditure) Act 1999 through both Houses but it was decided not to introduce limits, given the fundamental difference between local and other elections in terms of scale. For example, at the local elections in June 1999, there were 3,085 candidates compared to 42 at the European Parliament elections held on the same day, and 463 at the 2000 general election. Similarly, there are 268 local electoral areas compared to 42 Dáil constituencies and four European Parliament areas.

Experience has shown that local authority candidates do not spend significant amounts of money. Therefore, the introduction of limits would create additional bureaucratic procedures which are not justified in this case. The regime operated at the 1999 local elections and will with minor amendments apply at the 2004 polls. It is a local scheme appropriate to local elections. It is less costly, less bureaucratic and simpler to operate than the scheme for Dáil and European Parliament elections, yet it still embodies the important reporting and disclosure principles for donations and expenditure of the Electoral Act 1997. The minor amendments referred to relate to limitations on donation amounts and opening political accounts.

There is already bureaucracy. Every candidate in the local elections will have to make a return to the local authority. They will have to declare what they spent. All that this would do is cap the amount they might spend. Frankly, that is desirable.

If one considers what has been happening at the tribunals, one sees that many of the more worrying aspects have concerned local authority activity. In a situation where it is accepted that there are spending limits for Dáil and European Parliament elections, there is no justification for exempting local elections. As the Minister of State said, most local election candidates do not spend such great amounts. Their expenditure tends to be on the low side, which is all the more reason for having spending limits. Such limits would prevent someone spending excessively in an election where other candidates were limited in the amount that they could spend.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 90c:

In page 19, after line 28, to insert the following new section:

"34.—The Minister shall ensure that all publications or information communicated to the public concerning electronic voting, including roadshows, is available in the Irish language as well as in English.".

It has come to my attention — I am surprised that the Minister of State is here to respond to it — that the roadshow is not stopping in the Gaeltacht.

Kilgarvan.

I understand that it went to Galway city and then to Clifden, but it did not operate at all in any of the Gaeltacht areas. I am led to believe that some of the information is available in Irish and that the companies providing this service at considerable expense are not able to provide it in Irish in Gaeltacht areas. The Minister, since he represents a Gaeltacht constituency, might be able to explain to the committee why voters in the Gaeltachtaí will not get an opportunity of touching and feeling the machines and having it explained to them like their counterparts.

Representations have been made to me on the same matter from the Galway Gaeltacht.

Is that an area where the Deputy needs support?

No, I get a fair amount, and I will get more now that Pól Ó Foighil has retired. It seems to me that there should be at least some expertise among the PR people to present this show in Irish.

The information and publicity in the campaign must be available in both Irish and English, but I take the point being made by both Deputies, that if one goes from Galway to Clifden a huge area has been missed. The legal provisions for the information in Irish are included in the Official Languages Act 2003. Earlier today Deputy Healy-Rae raised the issue of areas of Kerry not included, and I will certainly bring that to the attention of the organisers.

Deputy Healy-Rae wanted it to stay in Kerry.

Possibly. We were also asked to ensure that in Gaeltacht areas Irish speakers be provided by the local authorities. I will discuss that with the officials in the section. I would be very supportive.

Does the Minister of State accept the amendment?

I do not think it is necessary, since it is available in both languages. It is not necessary to consider more legislative provisions, as it must comply with the Official Languages Act 2003.

If by Report Stage the Minister can tell us what arrangements have been made for the roadshow in the Gaeltacht——

If it will stop in Spiddal and Carraroe.

——agus chuile áit ar fud na nGaeltachtaí. Bheinn sásta leis sin, agus ní chuirfidh mé an leasú.

Bheinn sásta freisin dá dtiocfadh sé ar ais go dtí an Spidéal agus Indreabhán agus an Cheathrú Rua agus Leitir Meallain agus gach aon áit.

Déanfaidh mé fiosrúchán fá dtaobh de go luath, agus labhróidh mé leis na hoifigigh sa rannóg chuí atá ag plé leis seo. Mar atá a fhios ag na Teachtaí, tá mé féin iontach báúil don Ghaeltacht agus don Ghaeilge, agus am ar bith a bhfaighimid go léir deis, tabharfaimid tús áite don Ghaeltacht. Ar ndóighe, mar atá a fhios ag na Teachtaí, ar an meaisín féin, is féidir na rialacha a fháil i nGaeilge. Tá daoine ag tabhairt bualadh bos dúinn maidir leis sin. Is féidir na rialacha a fháil i nGaeilge agus i mBéarla, agus taispeánann sé sin chomh dáiríre is atáimid ó thaobh na Gaeilge de.

Cad é mar atá na rialacha ar fáil trí Ghaeilge? An bhfuil Gaeilge ag na daoine san Ísiltír? Cé atá ag scríobh na rialacha Gaeilge?

Cé atá á scríobh?

Tá siad scríofa——

Deirtear linn gurb iad na daoine san Ísiltír atá ag scríobh na rialacha go léir. Is dócha nach bhfuil aon Ghaeilge acu. Cé atá in ann sa Roinn nó sa Rialtas na rialacha faoin vótáil leictreonach seo a aistriú? An bhfuil baint ag éinne sa tír seo leis na rialacha agus mar sin de?

Níl a fhios agam cé.

Chualamar, agus muid ag caint le déanaí, nach raibh baint ag éinne sa tír seo leis na bogearraí nó na rialacha nó aon rud a bheadh ar na meaisíní ach amháin na daoine san Ísiltír.

Níl rún ar bith fá dtaobh de seo. Níl ann ach aistriúchán ó theanga amháin go teanga eile.

Ar chuala mé an tAire Stáit i gceart ansin go dtiocfadh an meaisín ar ais go dtí áiteanna sa Ghaeltacht?

Ní sin an rud a dúirt mé. Dúirt mé go ndéanfainn fiosrúchán faoi na hoifigigh chuí sa Roinn atá ag plé leis seo.

Maith go leor.

Má tá sceideal de shaghas éigin ag an Aire Stáit an chéad tráth eile agus liosta de na bailte ar fud na nGaeltachtaí ina mbeidh an roadshow ar fáil, beidh mé sásta an leasú a tharraingt siar go dtí an chéad tráth eile.

Táim buíoch.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sitting suspended at 7.50 p.m. and resumed at 8.55 p.m.
SCHEDULE 1.

Amendments Nos. 97, 100 and 108 are cognate to amendment No. 91. Therefore, amendments Nos. 91, 97, 100 and 108 will be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 91:

In page 20, line 5, to delete "as so applied shall have effect as if" and substitute "are amended as follows".

The purpose of this amendment is to try to improve the sense of that section. To insert "are amended as follows" might make more sense than the way the section is worded.

This is a drafting matter. With all due respect to the proposer of the amendment, I accept the Parliamentary Counsel's drafting in this instance.

Who am I to argue with the Parliamentary Counsel?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 92:

In page 20, paragraph (f)(ii), line 32, after “(1)” to insert “the following”.

This is the first of five textual amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 93:

In page 20, paragraph (f)(iv), line 42, after “words” to insert “first”.

This is another simple textual amendment.

We always welcome the simple ones.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 94:

In page 21, paragraph (j)(i), line 20, to delete “under rule 73”.

This is another textual amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 99 is cognate to amendment No. 95 and both may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 95:

In page 23, paragraph (w)(i), line 31, to delete “9.00” and substitute “9”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 96:

In page 27, paragraph (kk)(ii), line 34, to delete “these” and substitute “there”.

This is a textual amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.
SCHEDULE 2.

I move amendment No. 97:

In page 28, line 5, to delete "as so applied shall have effect as if" and substitute "are amended as follows".

I can never understand why the parliamentary counsel always insists on using two words where one would do or, in this case, 11 words where four would do. That is the purpose of tabling this amendment.

Unlike Deputy McCormack, I am not going to argue with the parliamentary counsel's drafting.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 98:

In page 29, paragraph (o)(i), line 23, to delete “sub-article 2(aa)” and substitute “sub-article (2)(aa)”.

This involves two textual amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 99:

In page 31, paragraph (aa)(i), line 36, to delete “9.00” and substitute “9”.

Amendment agreed to.

A correction is necessary to the Bill. There is no sub-paragraph (f) in Schedule 2. Is it agreed that the relevant sub-paragraphs be corrected accordingly? Agreed.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.
SCHEDULE 3.

I move amendment No. 100:

In page 34, line 5, to delete "as so applied shall have effect as if" and substitute "are amended as follows".

This wording was discussed earlier and we present the same argument again.

The situation is the same with me. It is the view of the Parliamentary Counsel.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 101:

In page 34, paragraph (h), between lines 40 and 41, to insert the following:

"(iii) subsection (4) were deleted and the following substituted:

‘(4) At a referendum, both Houses of the Oireachtas may, by resolution, provide for the entry at the beginning of the front of the ballot paper to be used at the referendum of a heading indicative of the proposal which is the subject of the referendum and the referendum returning officer shall call such heading to be printed on the ballot papers.';".

The purpose of this amendment is to restore the provision which applied prior to 1992, namely, that the headings on ballot papers would be prescribed by resolution of the Dáil and Seanad where a heading is to be inserted on a referendum ballot paper. The committee will recall that it was sought to insert the heading "Right to Life" on a particular abortion referendum ballot paper.

The existing law is that the Minister makes a draft order prescribing a heading and this order is then approved by the Dáil and Seanad. However, this approval process is meaningless because there is no opportunity to change the order. If this amendment were accepted a motion would have to be put down prescribing the heading and this motion would be subject to amendment in the usual way, ensuring a more democratic outcome to the process of determining the heading.

This amendment proposes that at a referendum both Houses of the Oireachtas may, by resolution, provide for a title for the ballot paper. The present legislation provides that where it is proposed to include a title to a referendum ballot paper by ministerial order it must, as Deputy Gilmore says, be approved by both Houses. The only difference proposed is that instead of a ministerial proposal the Houses of the Oireachtas may, by resolution, provide for a title. Somebody must take the initiative instead of vaguely leaving it as a matter for both Houses. It is a matter for the Houses, and if there was more than one referendum on the one day we would adopt that course, but as there is only one referendum on that day we consider that it is not necessary.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 102:

In page 35, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following:

"(l) in section 33 of that Act, there were deleted the words ’112 to’ and there were substituted ’112, 113,’, and in section 35(1), there were deleted the words ’After the ballot papers have been mixed in accordance with section 114 of the Act of 1992 (as applied by section 33),’;”.

The purpose of this amendment is to delete the meaningless requirement in the Referendum Act 1992 that the votes have to be mixed prior to being counted. As there are no eliminations, surpluses or distribution and as the vote is simply a straightforward "Yes" or "No" with a simple majority being sufficient, the concept of mixing is totally meaningless and inappropriate in the context of the referendum. Accordingly, we are suggesting that the opportunity be taken to repeal this provision.

The amendment deals with technical drafting matters and proposes an amendment to section 114 of the Referendum Act. Deputy Gilmore says that there is no need for mixing as the referendum is straightforward, but I ask him to agree to leave this until the next referendum, by which time we will certainly include the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 103:

In page 35, paragraph (m), line 36, to delete “2004” and substitute “2004)”.

This is a drafting amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 104:

In page 35, lines 39 to 42, to delete paragraph (n).

This is a textual amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 105:

In page 35, between lines 42 and 43, to insert the following:

"(o) in section 45 of that Act there were inserted after the word ‘by’ the words ‘or on behalf of’;”.

The purpose of the amendment is to redress a technical deficiency in the provisions for bringing a referendum petition. The existing law requires that the petitioner personally signs the petition but this is unusual in terms of court pleading and practice generally and it is almost invariably sufficient that a pleading be signed by or on behalf of the party.

This amendment would provide that a petition could be lodged on behalf of a petitioner. This would open the position of lodging a petition to anybody, which is too wide. If a petitioner feels strongly enough to challenge a result it is not too much to expect that person to lodge the petition himself rather than leaving it to some other body or individual.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 106:

In page 36, lines 8 and 9, to delete "election" and substitute "referendum".

This is a textual amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 107:

In page 36, line 11, to delete "preferences" and substitute "preference".

This is to delete the plural for the singular.

Amendment agreed to.

Before we conclude our deliberations on Schedule 3 I shall be moving a textual amendment on Report Stage to substitute the word "referendum" for "election" in paragraph (o) on page 36.

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.
SCHEDULE 4.

I move amendment No. 108:

In page 39, lines 5 and 6, to delete "as so applied shall have effect as if" and substitute "are amended as follows".

I have made the case in vain on this already so I expect the same answer.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 109:

In page 39, lines 39 and 40, to delete all words from and including "Act" in line 39 down to and including "(2)(e);" in line 40 and substitute the following:

"Act—

(i) there were inserted in subsection (2)(aa) (inserted by section 52(d) of the Act of 2001) after ‘for that purpose’ ‘and the purposes of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2004’; and

(ii) there were inserted ‘postal voter' before ‘ballot papers' in subsections (2)(d) and (2)(e);”.

This is a textual amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.
Schedule 5 agreed to.
TITLE.

I move amendment No. 110:

In page 5, line 6, after "TO" to insert the following:

"ESTABLISH A BODY TO BE KNOWN AS AN COIMISIÚN UM VÓTÁIL LEICTREONACH, OR IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, THE COMMISSION ON ELECTRONIC VOTING, AND TO".

If the Electronic Voting Commission is to have any standing at all, and it is very doubtful whether it does, it at least ought to be included in the Long Title to the Bill. In theory at least, one part of this Bill is devoted to the Commission on Electronic Voting. There are 11 sections which deal with it and yet it is not referred to at all in the Long Title. Again, that is indicative of the low status with which the Government regards the commission.

The Irish version of the title of the commission is already included in section 17. I am advised on this by the Parliamentary Counsel, who is the expert in drawing up Long Titles of Bills. The Long Title of this Bill was prepared by the Parliamentary Counsel and considered satisfactory.

I am not happy with that.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Title agreed to.

Once more I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, and his officials for attending. I also thank the members of the committee for their contributions.

Am I entitled to propose that the committee does not report to the House?

No. We have agreed the Title. This is a formality once we have agreed the Title.

We have agreement on nothing.

We have no difficulty with the Title, but we have profound difficulty with the Bill. How do we express that at this stage?

The Deputy can do so on Report Stage.

I want to express it here.

The Deputy has done so on a number of occasions. Nobody would be in any doubt about his views on the Bill.

Chairman, I would like you to know that we do not like this Bill at all.

That does not come as a surprise to me.

It is the most frustrating legislation I have dealt with since I came into this House 15 years ago because everything seems to have been agreed in advance of Committee Stage.