To add, at the end of sub-section (1) the words "and who shall be either the Registration Officer at the time being for the University Constituency of the National University of Ireland or the Registration Officer at the time being for the University Constituency of Dublin University."
This amendment was put down to enable the House to express its opinion upon the proposal contained in the Bill. It appears to us that of the many extraordinary things in this Bill, the section which deals with the appointment of the returning officer is easily the most extraordinary. It is laid down here that the returning officer for the Seanad election shall be appointed by the Minister. I think I referred to this matter during the Second Reading. It is a bad principle. You have in this election a very limited number of voters of whom the Minister is one. You have political parties contending for success at this election and the Minister is a very important member of one of those parties. When, therefore, we find in this Bill a proposal to give that Minister, who is a voter in the election, who is a partisan in respect of the candidates nominated and who has a very direct party interest in the result of the election, the power of appointing the returning officer we think that proposal is unsound and wrong and that there should be a restriction placed upon that power. The restriction which it is suggested in the amendment should be placed upon that power, is that there should be specified a number of persons occupying suitable positions from amongst whom the Minister must make a selection. I suggested, for example, that the returning officer for the borough constituencies of Dublin or the returning officer for the county constituency of Dublin would be a suitable person to appoint. I suggest in this amendment that the registration officer either for the National University or the Dublin University should be appointed. It would not be possible to suggest the appointment of the returning officers for the University constituencies as they are not persons who would be free to come in and take up work of this kind. The actual work as far as I have been able to ascertain in connection with elections for these constituencies is done by the registration officers and they would be persons with considerable experience of the manner in which elections by postal voting are carried out and that is the method suggested in this Bill.
I think to leave it to the Minister's absolute discretion to appoint any person whom he may as returning officer is a bad principle. Remember there is no restriction whatever on his power, nothing in this Bill which prevents him appointing as a returning officer a person who may himself be a candidate for this election, nothing to prevent him appointing, say, the General Secretary of Cumann na nGaedheal as returning officer for this election. We believe the system suggested in the amendment is a better alternative and will give the Minister for Local Government the right to make the appointment, but it says that the person whom he appoints will be one of the following, and we suggest that the following be the registration officer of either of the University constituencies, or I would not object if it were proposed to include the returning officer for any of the Dublin constituencies. We think, however, that the confidence which voters would have in the secrecy of the ballot and the conduct of the election would be much greater if that suggestion were adopted than if the Bill goes through as it stands.