CONSTITUTION (AMENDMENT No. 14) BILL, 1928—FIRST STAGE.

I move for leave to introduce a Bill entitled

An Act to amend the Constitution by deleting the provisions now contained therein as to the introduction again in the same session of a Bill initiated in and passed by Seanad Eireann and rejected by Dáil Eireann and as to the reconsideration of such Bill by Dáil Eireann on its own motion.

That deals with paragraph 8 of the Joint Committee's Report.

Is the Deputy opposing the Bill?

I am opposing it technically for the purpose of making a suggestion. I oppose it on the grounds——

Is the Deputy opposing the introduction of the Bill?

I am opposing the introduction of the Bill because I think a wrong procedure has been adopted in carrying out the Report of the Joint Committee which sat to consider the constitution of the Seanad. We have nine Bills dealing with this Report. It may be a very excellent rule of procedure to incorporate the Report in nine Bills, but my idea would be, in order that we might discuss the matter properly, and as nearly all the sections are interwoven and hinge on one another, that they should be introduced in one Bill. I cannot see why, for the purpose of having a proper discussion on the whole Report in regard to the suggested amendments in the constitution of Seanad Eireann, that these Bills should not be incorporated in one Bill. If that is done we will have a very intelligent debate, and it will perhaps save time. I do not know whether I would be in order now in moving a motion on the matter, but I would suggest to the President that he should consider the question of incorporating the nine Bills in one Bill and give the House an opportunity of discussing the amendments together.

In reading over the Report I observe that while there was general approval given to the main recommendations there were many differences of opinion on the several recommendations. As each matter considered generally dealt with one section of the Constitution, I thought it better in order to get a definite decision on each matter dealing with the Constitution, to have a separate Bill for each amendment that is made. The other method would have opened up pretty considerable avenues of discussion and it was with a view to getting the best consideration given to each proposal that we brought in a Bill dealing with each recommendation of the Committee.

The President referred to the fact that there were cross currents at the Committee, that were not divided along party lines, but there were many recommendations which one party opposed in one case and upheld in another. There was a complete absence of what one might call ordinary party divisions. I might suggest to the President that it would be better to carry out that principle by leaving all these Bills to an open vote of the House. That would seem to fulfil the purpose which he had in view in the remarks he has now made in meeting the difficulty which existed in the Committee.

The difficulty I would be in is, that I could not persuade Deputies to vote openly in a matter in which they had voted one way in Committee and another way here.

Deputy MacEntee to make a statement in objecting to the motion.

I understood the President to say that the Bill proposed to give effect to recommendation No. 8 of the Joint Committee. Am I right?

Yes, that is my recollection.

In that event, I suppose we may take the Report as read.

I think I am entitled to draw attention to the purpose of the Bill.

The Deputy is not entitled to argue about a Bill which is not before him. He is simply confined to making a statement why permission should not be given to introduce the Bill.

Exactly. I submit that it is impossible for me to make any reasoned statement——

Hear, hear.

Due to the ribald opposition of the Government.

I submit that it is quite impossible for me, or any other person, to make a reasoned statement opposing the introduction of the Bill without referring to the purpose of the Bill—the purpose of the Bill as disclosed in the Title and in the explanatory statement made by the President. The President said that the purpose of the Bill was to give effect to recommendation No. 8 of the Committee. I wish to make the House aware of the purpose for which the Bill is being introduced, the reason why this House and this State are being put to the expense of printing this frivolous amendment of the Constitution—an amendment which, even if it were a good one and one which could be accepted by the good sense of the House, nevertheless for the very cogent reasons given by Deputy O'Hanlon, might easily have been embodied as a special section or even a sub-section in the Constitutional Amendment Bills No. 12 or No. 13 which have been introduced to-day. In order that the House may decide that the Bill is one which, in the general interest of the public and of the State, it is desirable to print and circulate and proceed with further, we should make ourselves aware of the purpose which, according to the explanatory statement made by the President, is to give effect to recommendation No. 8. The President has referred to that recommendation. The Report is an official report issued by the Joint Committee on the Constitution of Seanad Eireann, and I take it that for the purpose of refreshing the minds of Deputies, who no doubt have read this Report with the closest attention, and bringing home to them what it is desired to do by means of this Bill, I am entitled to read recommendation No. 8, which is as follows:—

The Joint Committee recommends that Article 39 of the Constitution be amended to provide that a Bill initiated in and passed by Seanad Eireann which has been amended by Dáil Eireann shall for the passage of the Bill into law be in the same position as if the Bill had been initiated in Dáil Eireann, and shall accordingly be subject to the provisions set out under the recommendation in paragraph 7 above. The Joint Committee further recommends the deletion of the words: "If rejected by Dáil Eireann it shall not be introduced again in the same session, but Dáil Eireann may reconsider it on its own motion."

There are two references there. The first is to Article 39 of the Constitution, which is as follows:—

The Deputy need not read it as the House must be understood to know it.

Am I to take it that Deputies who have read Articles of the Constitution in debates on other Bills were out of order?

On a First Reading?

On First Reading.

The Deputy need not read the Article now.

I submit it is necessary that I should.

I do not think so.

I submit that while you——

The Deputy must not read the Article.

While you have the fullest discretion, nevertheless, I do not think that you are entitled to rule me out of order until after I have been heard. The line of argument which I am going to develop is one which is very pertinent to the First Reading.

The Deputy is not entitled to develop that argument.

I am entitled to make a statement and I must develop that statement, and the statement must be, at any rate, a coherent, reasonable statement, proceeding from reason to reason, up to the final conclusion, the final conclusion, of course, being that this Bill should not be read a First Time. In connection with that, I would refer you to Standing Order 82 and also to the debate on the First Reading of the Constitution (Amendment No. 8) Bill which was taken on last Thursday. On that Bill I put an interpretation, and I think that you more or less assented to it, that there was no limitation imposed by the Standing Order upon a Deputy in the course of his statement, provided that what he was saying was relevant to the motion—that there was no limitation placed upon a Deputy opposing a First Reading, either in regard to the matter or the length of his statement, provided it was relevant. The President referred to recommendation 8 and recommendation 8 refers to recommendation 7 of the Report. That is a very important recommendation, and I should like Deputies, if they have the Report at hand, to read it. If they have not, with your permission, I propose to read it. I submit that it is quite impossible to oppose the First Reading of a Bill unless we are permitted to refer to those things which are implicit in the motion.

I submit, on a point of order, that as the specific reason given for introducing the Bill was that it did implement a particular Article of the Report, it must obviously be in order that every Deputy should be continuously in possession of knowledge of what that Article meant. I have read the Report with great care but I am not going to charge my memory, and I am perfectly sure no Deputy can charge his memory, with knowing what Article 8 or 7 or 3, or any other Article of it, means. I suggest that it is absolutely necessary. If the President had not given that explanation, had not stated that it was to implement clause 8 of something, perhaps there might be something in it. But the only reason he gave was that it is to implement the particular clause, and it is not humanly possible for us to be expected to remember the contents and meaning of every clause of every report simply by number and name. It would be just as much in order for him to say that it was to implement sub-section 2 of clause 8 of Part I of some Bill, and that we would be expected to remember exactly what the contents and ambit of that was.

The Deputy has read clause 8. Is not that so?

Exactly. I read clause 8, and in it there is this reference: "and shall accordingly be subject to the provisions set out in the recommendations of paragraph 7 above." The reason I wish that this matter should be fully understood at this stage is this: This Bill, though the title of it would lead one to believe that it was only a formal amendment of the Constitution and that the content of it is not very important, makes a fundamental change in the Constitution. We remember with what pride this Constitution was put before the people. We remember the labour that was used in the making of it, the time that was given to it, and we remember how, in order to show how superior it was to all other constitutions on the face of the globe, the Provisional Government I think it was, issued to the people, and presented to Dáil Eireann, a publication entitled "Selected Constitutions of the World."

Is the Deputy going to read them?

No, I do not propose to read them, but I am anxious to show, and I think I am entitled to show, that this particular Bill, from its very title and from the explanation given by the President in introducing it, is going to make what I believe to be a fundamental change in the Constitution, a change which I think was not contemplated at all by those members of the Joint Committee who voted for the change in Committee, and by the Joint Committee itself as a whole when it presented this report. This publication was issued by the Government, and I think it contains something like nineteen constitutions. Nine of these constitutions are monarchial and ten of them are Republican States. Eleven of the nineteen are unitary States and eight are federations.

The Deputy must come to the motion.

I am coming to it.

The Deputy must come to it immediately.

I must come to it immediately; that means that I should have to conclude without stating my reasons for the opposition which I am offering to the Bill.

If the Deputy does not state his reasons he must conclude.

I cannot state them, because I have been subjected to continual interruptions by the President and members of the Government opposite.

I shall protect the Deputy from interruptions when he is relevant.

I am relevant, and the point I want to make is that in the preface to this document this statement is made——

I will not hear any such statement.

Very well, then I will not quote it. I shall rely upon what, I am sure, is common knowledge, the evolution which has taken place in constitutional government throughout the world. When in the early stages of constitutional government throughout the world——

The point here is a very narrow one and the Deputy must keep to it.

The point is a very narrow one, I admit. We are down to this particular point, at any rate: that a change is proposed to be made by this particular Bill, and I am entitled to say that it is a change of importance. The change which is proposed to be made by this particular Bill in the Constitution is one contrary to all modern trend of constitutional evolution; that is my objection to this Bill, and I think I am entitled to state, as fully as I can, and as explicitly and clearly as I can, the reasons I have for taking this point of view.

This Standing Order would not permit the Deputy to develop an argument against the Title of the Bill in order to show that the contents of the Bill were contrary to the trend of modern constitutional evolution. He cannot develop this argument, at this particular stage; he must develop it later on, if at all.

Surely I am entitled, before the House gives leave to print the Bill, if, as I presume, we are a democratic assembly, to show that this Bill is contrary to the very fundamental principles of the Constitution? Article 1 of the Constitution says——

The Deputy must not read Article 1 of the Constitution. He must confine himself to the Title of the Bill.

I submit it would be perfectly impossible for me to state any reasons why this Bill should not be read a First Time if I am not allowed to proceed in my own way. With all due deference to you, I think that I have that right and the right to make a statement. If the statement should be one that should prejudice my case and is so unworkmanlike, or is so loose or prolix that it does not carry conviction to members of this House, the only penalty that can be imposed on me is the penalty that I have failed to carry conviction to members of the House. On the other hand, I wish to make a statement that may convince members, and I submit to you that I am entitled to make it as long as I am strictly relevant.

The statement is not so much to convince members as a statement of the Deputy's own reason for opposing the Bill. This particular Standing Order imposes very great restrictions in this connection.

I submit that the statement I am able to make on the First Stage of a Bill is not a personal statement of my own reasons. It is a statement of the reasons that I think should convince members that it is their duty, as members of the Dáil, as representatives of the people, to refuse a First Reading to this Bill. That, it seems to me, is the purpose of my statement. That statement is not to be made by any Deputy for the purpose of stating his own personal opposition merely, because if you referred to the Standing Order——

I would like the Deputy to make the statement on this motion now, and if he does not begin to make a statement, since he has taken up a quarter of an hour already, he will have to sit down.

I have not been allowed to make my statement. I proceeded to say that this Bill should be refused a First Reading on the ground that it proposes a constitutional change of much greater importance than might be covered by the Title of the Bill, or than might be ascertained from a superficial reading of recommendation 8. I believe, and I have discussed the matter with some Deputies, that some of the Deputies who assented to this proposal never contemplated that it made it mandatory upon the Dáil to pass, within two months after it was presented to the Dáil, a Bill which had been initiated in the Seanad. I think, when I am attempting to prove a case of this description, I am entitled to the fullest latitude and should not be crabbed, cabined and confined within the mere personal discretion of the Ceann Comhairle. I think that the statement I have made is a sufficiently grave one. I note that the President finds many matters to laugh and joke at in this Constitution—this Constitution which he defended by force of arms, this Constitution for which he spent twenty millions of the people's money, this Constitution for which he sent men to their graves. This Constitution, which was a matter of life and death for Irishmen, has become for him the subject for jest and laughter. We are here endeavouring to make operative and real the principle which is enshrined in Article 2:—

All powers of government and all authority, legislative, executive and judicial, in Ireland are derived from the people of Ireland, and the same shall be exercised in the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) through the organisations established by, or under, and in accord, with this Constitution.

We who wish to make that principle a real and vital, a governing and determining, principle in the constitutional evolution of this body are entitled whenever the Executive introduces a Bill which proposes to overthrow and to emasculate that Article of the Constitution—not only Article 39 but Article 2 of the Constitution—we are entitled to oppose that to the uttermost in our power and to state as fully and as clearly as the facilities which have been given to us permit, our reasons for the objection. I submit that if in making a statement upon those lines we fail to carry conviction, that is the only penalty which can be meted out to us; but we should be permitted that.

If Deputies will turn to recommendations No. 7 and No. 8 and Articles 38 and 39, and study them clearly, they will see that this Bill which it is proposed now to introduce will have the effect of placing Seanad Eireann in a privileged position, making it a privileged component in the Oireachtas under the Constitution and making it possible for it to enforce its will against the decision of the Dáil by the mere automatic lapse of time. That is a very serious matter; that is a very serious constitutional amendment to take lightly, even to take so lightly as to go to the extent of permitting a Bill embodying that amendment to be introduced into the Dáil. For those reasons, therefore, I ask the Dáil to refuse permission to introduce the Bill. If I were permitted time I could develop and prove that case, but in deference to the ruling of the Chair I shall not do so. Not being allowed to adduce reasons for my statement, I will content myself with saying that I believe this amendment would very seriously affect the Constitution and I ask the Dáil to refuse a First Reading.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 73; Níl, 38.

  • William P. Aird.
  • Ernest Henry Alton.
  • Richard Anthony.
  • James Walter Beckett.
  • George Cecil Bennett.
  • Ernest Blythe.
  • Séamus A. Bourke.
  • Henry Broderick.
  • Seán Brodrick.
  • Alfred Byrne.
  • John Joseph Byrne.
  • Patrick Clancy.
  • John James Cole.
  • Mrs. Margt. Collins-O'Driscoll.
  • Hugh Colohan.
  • Martin Conlon.
  • Michael P. Connolly.
  • Bryan Ricco Cooper.
  • William T. Cosgrave.
  • Sir James Craig.
  • James Crowley.
  • John Daly.
  • Michael Davis.
  • Eugene Doherty.
  • Arthur Patrick Mathews.
  • Martin McDonogh.
  • Michael Og McFadden.
  • Patrick McGilligan.
  • Richard Mulcahy.
  • James E. Murphy.
  • John Thomas Nolan.
  • Thomas J. O'Connell.
  • Bartholomew O'Connor.
  • Daniel O'Leary.
  • Dermot Gun O'Mahony.
  • John J. O'Reilly.
  • Gearoid O'Sullivan.
  • James N. Dolan.
  • Peadar Seán Doyle.
  • Edmund John Duggan.
  • James Dwyer.
  • Barry M. Egan.
  • Osmond Thos. Grattan Esmonde.
  • Desmond Fitzgerald.
  • James Fitzgerald-Kenney.
  • John Good.
  • Denis J. Gorey.
  • Alexander Haslett.
  • John J. Hassett.
  • Michael R. Heffernan.
  • Michael Joseph Hennessy.
  • Thomas Hennessy.
  • Mark Henry.
  • Patrick Hogan (Galway).
  • Richard Holohan.
  • Michael Jordan.
  • Patrick Michael Kelly.
  • Myles Keogh.
  • Hugh Alexander Law.
  • Patrick Leonard.
  • Finian Lynch.
  • John Marcus O'Sullivan.
  • William Archer Redmond.
  • Vincent Rice.
  • Martin Roddy.
  • Patrick W. Shaw.
  • Timothy Sheehy (West Cork).
  • William Edward Thrift.
  • Michael Tierney.
  • Daniel Vaughan.
  • Vincent Joseph White.
  • George Wolfe.
  • Jasper Travers Wolfe.

Níl

  • Frank Aiken.
  • Denis Allen.
  • Gerald Bolan.
  • Seán Brady.
  • Robert Briscoe.
  • Daniel Buckley.
  • Michael Clery.
  • James Colbert.
  • Eamon Cooney.
  • Thomas Derrig.
  • Eamon de Valera.
  • Frank Fahy.
  • Hugo Flinn.
  • Andrew Fogarty.
  • Seán Hayes.
  • Patrick Hogan (Clare).
  • Patrick Houlihan.
  • Stephen Jordan.
  • Michael Joseph Kennedy.
  • James Joseph Killane.
  • Mark Killilea.
  • Michael Kilroy.
  • Seán F. Lemass.
  • Patrick John Little.
  • Ben Maguire.
  • Seán MacEntee.
  • Séamus Moore.
  • Patrick Joseph O'Dowd.
  • Seán T. O'Kelly.
  • William O'Leary.
  • Matthew O'Reilly.
  • Thomas O'Reilly.
  • James Ryan.
  • Martin Sexton.
  • Timothy Sheehy (Tipp.).
  • Patrick Smith.
  • Richard Walsh.
  • Francis C. Ward.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Duggan and P. Doyle; Níl: Deputies G. Boland and Allen.
Motion declared carried.
Second Stage fixed for Wednesday, 20th June.