The Minister for Local Government in justifying the system proposed in this Bill with reference to inscribing each ballot paper with the voter's number, said the reason was to ensure that if any voter claimed he did not receive his vote, when in fact he did receive it, the truth could be exposed and he could be shown up. Because of the desirability of having that proof, apparently it is necessary to take steps which make the violation of the secrecy of the ballot possible. I note the Minister has a large number of amendments down to the Bill, all of which are intended to provide for the possibility of any voter claiming that he did not receive his ballot paper. Apparently, the Minister had not thought of that explanation of the provision in this section when he was tabling these amendments. It appears the Minister is now suggesting by these amendments that a person who claims he did not receive a ballot paper can secure a duplicate paper and he will be entitled to vote on the duplicate paper unless at the counting of the votes it appears he has already voted. I would like to point out to the Minister that during the last General Election to the Dáil a number of voters in the University constituencies did claim that they had not received their ballot papers. I have personal knowledge that a large number of them did not, in fact, receive them. On that occasion the same system was followed. The voter's number was, no doubt, placed on the counterfoil but it does not seem to have been any benefit to the voter. It did not help him to establish his claim that he did not receive a ballot paper. It did not alter the result of the election in any way except that those who did not get the ballot paper did not vote. Even in the elections carried out in other constituencies where postal voting is not the practice there is provision made for duplicate ballot papers for voters who claim they did not receive their papers. That is what it amounts to. If a voter enters a polling booth and is told that his vote has already been recorded and he states that he did not recorded it, he gets a pink paper and he votes. The number on the counterfoil has nothing to do with it. There may be some reason to justify that procedure but the Minister has not told us what it is. The actual wording of this section appears to be the subject of some confusion in the Minister's mind. It says here "Any ballot paper on which anything except the voter's number on the back is written or marked by which a voter can be identified shall be invalid and not counted."
SEANAD ELECTORAL BILL, 1928—COMMITTEE STAGE (RESUMED).
took the chair.
The voter's number is not written on the ballot paper and in the first schedule there is nothing about writing the number on the back of the ballot paper. It is really the number of the ballot paper and not the voter's number. The voter's number is on the counterfoil. It is because the number on the back of the ballot paper also appears on the counterfoil on which the voter's number is written that it is possible for any person who happens to pay particular attention to the distribution of the ballot papers and the counting of the votes to be able to know how particular people have voted. I say that would not be possible in the case of a constituency where there is a large number of voters. It would not be possible in the case of an election to one of the University constituencies.
But where there are only two hundred voters it is possible for a candidate who happens to be present at the distribution and counting of the votes to bear in mind the numbers on the papers sent out to a particular voter, and then when the votes are being counted to note the manner in which the votes upon that paper are recorded. If I know the Minister's number on the list of voters happened to be 100, it should not be a difficult matter for me, if I am present at the sending out of the ballot papers, to note the number of the paper he gets, and when the papers are being counted to note the manner in which the Minister voted. It is because there is a possibility of that happening that we are opposed to this provision in the Bill. There is no need for the provision, and the point I am trying to stress is that an election can take place and every possible safeguard that is required can be included, and every legal provision that is needed can be secured without this provision.
Everything but one.
What is the one?
The Deputy is aware of the fact that it is possible to identify a vote cast, but not immediately possible to identify it without the counterfoil. That is at an ordinary election. If the voter's number were taken out of this would it meet the Deputy's case?
It would meet the Deputy's case if, in addition, paragraph (b) of Section 4 of the First Schedule is also taken out, which provides for putting the voter's number on the counterfoil.
The idea of having the number on the counterfoil is for the purpose of subsequent identification in the event of a petition. That is when the pink paper comes into operation. How is identification to be secured in this case? It is quite possible that the word "voters" is unnecessary here, but if that were taken out would the Deputy's objection still stand? Obviously, the subsequent identification ought to be provided for. There is the possibility of disqualification, the possibility of death, and so on. It would be a rather foolish proceeding to have, let us say, the full number of voting papers returned when the full number, minus one, would be the correct number voting. I think if the word "voters" were taken out the Deputy's case would be met.
As regards the word "voters," it is not only unnecessary but wrong and confusing, and will have to come out to make the Bill clear.
I would not say it is wrong, but it is probably not required, and it may lead to some confusion, but it is not necessarily confusing. If it were taken out, I think it would meet the Deputy's case and secure the necessary safeguards.
No. The President states that it is necessary to put the voter's number on the counterfoil in order in the case of a petition to prove that the voter had actually recorded his vote, or that a vote was recorded for him. I suggest that that is not necessary, that you have a provision in the Bill already by which it would be possible to say whether a voter has voted or not, without this provision. The Minister has already explained the procedure with reference to the declaration of identity forms. By the declaration of identity forms you will be able to prove whether the voter has recorded a vote or not. His number will be on that form.
The two are not attached together unfortunately.
An envelope is received in which is the identity form, and another envelope containing the ballot paper. It is by the identity form that you will be able to check off whether a voter has voted or not.
After that operation has taken place there may be no objection tendered, but a subsequent objection may be tendered, and the identity forms will be in one pile and the votes in another. How are you to identify the particular vote to which objection is taken?
In the case of an ordinary election is there not a certain time allowed within which you can object and after which no objection can be received?
Therefore, you should not entertain a subsequent objection.
The identity forms are in one pile and the votes in another. I draw attention to paragraph (e) of Section 4 of the First Schedule: "The number on the back of the ballot paper shall be marked upon a form of declaration of identity and upon a ballot paper envelope." It is quite obvious that you will be able to connect a particular vote and ballot paper with a particular identity form.
Does the Deputy agree that there must be a number on the ballot paper?
Where is the difference?
A number on the ballot paper and the counterfoil, but the voter's number need not appear on the counterfoil.
The name of the individual voter will not be on it.
The number on the ballot paper is obviously the voter's number.
It is the number of the ballot paper upon which he marks his preferences. It may not be his number in any other sense than that it is his paper, but whatever number is on it is his number.
As there is a number for each voter, would there not be a list kept somewhere with the name of the voter and the number of the ballot paper he gets?
The reason I am pressing the matter is because the same procedure is adopted at ordinary elections and has caused suspicion that the voting is not secret. I personally believe that these suspicions are unfounded for the reason that any person who wanted to find out how a particular voter recorded his preferences would have a tremendous task.
A terrible task.
He would have to sort out some 60,000 or 70,000 votes. But it is an easy task to sort out 220 votes. As it is not necessary in either case and causes suspicion in both cases, another system should be adopted. For the purpose of dealing with an election petition every provision required is in this Bill already to show that a particular voter did record a vote, and the insertion of this provision will cause suspicion that a loophole exists by which the particular way in which a voter has recorded his preferences can be made known. That does not affect the members on this side of the House, as we are in favour of open voting, but it may affect the Cumann na nGaedheal members. They may not be anxious to let Ministers know how they vote, and I suggest that in the interests of Cumann na nGaedheal members this particular provision should be deleted.
Do I understand that Deputy Lemass is anxious for open voting?
I am not responsible for what the Deputy understands.
To accept the amendment as it stands would mean that there would be no number of any kind on the ballot paper.
"On which anything is written or marked by which the voter can be identified."
I am not suggesting the deletion of that.
It might meet the Deputy, if instead of the voter's number some counterfoil number were on the back of the ballot paper, and that would meet the situation. In connection with this you have to read paragraph 14 of the Second Schedule, which says that when votes are being counted the ballot papers shall, as far as practicable, be kept face upwards. However, between this and the Report Stage I will consider the question of having the counterfoil number on the back of the ballot paper instead of the voter's actual number.
Would you not conclude that the practice of putting the voter's number on the register upon the counterfoil would not be necessary either?
The putting of the voter's number on the back of the counterfoil will be necessary.
The suggestion made is only transferring the number from the ballot paper to the counterfoil.
How can you work back to the electorate list except you can work back from the counterfoil?
Why is it necessary to work back to the electorate list? As long as you have the declaration of identity, the receipt of which shows that that particular vote has been recorded, it is not necessary that you should also be able to identify the particular vote which each person records.
We are now agreed that the voter's number will not go on the back of the ballot paper, but that the counterfoil number will. I will consider the question between this and the Report Stage. I do not know that it requires legislation to determine whether the voter's number will go on the back of the counterfoil, but I can give an opinion to the Deputy as to whether, under the new arrangement, it will be necessary or not by the time we reach the Report Stage.
I am quite satisfied.
I move amendment 16. Before sub-section (2) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
"(2) Whenever a person to whom a ballot paper for a Seanad election should be sent under the foregoing sub-section states in writing to the Seanad returning officer that more than twenty-four hours have elapsed since such ballot paper should have been delivered to him in the ordinary course of post and that he has not received such ballot paper and that he desires a duplicate ballot paper and declaration of identity to be issued to him, the Seanad returning officer, if such statement is received by him not less than forty-eight hours before the close of the poll at such election, shall forthwith or, if such statement is received by him less than forty-eight hours before the close of the poll at such election, may send by registered post to such person at the address mentioned in the foregoing sub-section a ballot paper and form of declaration of identity which, by being printed on paper of a special colour or otherwise are clearly distinguished as duplicates of the ballot paper and form of declaration of identity originally sent to such person under this section."
This amendment proposes to make provision by which when a Deputy or Senator does not get a voting paper issued to him by the returning officer with in a reasonable time, and complains to the returning officer that he has not got the ballot paper and establishes that fact he should have a duplicate ballot paper issued to him. A case might arise in which, owing to a railway accident, or a fire in the Post Office or some circumstance like that, a ballot paper might be destroyed on its way out.
This amendment presupposes the defeat of Deputy Davin's amendment.
It does really and this amendment can be left over with the other amendments which are supposed to hang on the postal vote decision.
I move amendment 7:—
To delete sub-section (2) and substitute the following:—
"(2) Every Declaration of Identity shall be in the prescribed Form and shall be exempt from Stamp Duty and shall be a Statutory Declaration under the Statutory Declaration Act, 1835, and shall be made in Saorstát Eireann before a Peace Commissioner, Commissioner for Oaths, or Notary Public, to whom he is personally known."
This is an amendment to which I made reference already. The Bill provides that the declaration of identity shall be prescribed in certain form in this country and if made outside Saorstát Eireann shall be made before a person authorised by law of the place in which it is made to administer oaths. I propose the deletion of the second portion of the section and to provide that the declaration of identity shall be sworn in Saorstát Eireann and not outside it. As I pointed out, there are three courses possible in respect of this matter. Either you can make provision in this Bill by which every member of the Oireachtas, no matter in what part of the world he may be, will be given reasonable opportunity of recording his vote, or you can provide that only such members of the Oireachtas as are in the Saorstát on the occasion of the election shall record their votes, or lastly you can have a section in the Bill—this is the most satisfactory of all—to provide that members of the Oireachtas in Saorstát Eireann and members of the Oireachtas who may happen to be in other countries at that time may record their votes. It seems impracticable to provide that members of the Oireachtas in every part of the world, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South America—no matter where they may be—should be given facilities to record their vote. I suggest that the best alternative to that is to provide that only such members of the Oireachtas as are in Saorstát Eireann on the occasion of the election shall vote and not to make provision for giving facilities to those who happen to be in England mainly, as particularly, with the suggested alteration of the date, that would apply practically exclusively to England. That provision was, no doubt, inserted to meet the case of certain Senators normally resident in England and whom it was thought inadvisable to put to the inconvenience of coming to this country to record their votes on the occasion of the Seanad elections.
Personally, I will support, and the members on this side of the House will support, an amendment that will be moved subsequently by Deputy Davin, and which provides that voters must not merely be in this country, but must come to this House to record their votes in person. But we may assume that the usual majority will support the Minister for Local Government, in opposition to that amendment and that it will be defeated.
They may not do it in this case.
They may do it all right, but on the assumption I have made I am trying to amend the Bill and make it a little better than it is. I think this would be a very satisfactory amendment. I would like to hear from the Minister what reasons he has for opposing it—why these facilities should be given to voters in England to record their votes and not given to voters in the United States. It seems extraordinary that if the President happened to be in the United States on another tour next November he would not be able to vote, whereas if he were in England cementing the sympathetic bonds that bind us to the British Commonwealth of Nations he would be able to record his vote. Of the three alternative methods which may be taken, I am convinced the best is that provided in the amendment, and I hope the Minister will see his way to accept it, or else be able to adduce a very satisfactory case against it.
I am interested to find that Deputy Lemass wants to perpetuate partition and to make it impossible for Deputy MacEntee, if he should happen to be in the home of his birth, to vote in this election. He has spoken a great deal about England, but his amendment would make it impossible for anybody in that part of Ireland not now included in the Saorstát to vote. It would apply to the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he went home as well as to Deputy MacEntee. I do not think we need waste very many words upon an amendment which is an entirely hypothetical one. It is practically certain that all through November all of us will be here, and not in the United States or in England.
You may be in the Riviera.
We shall not be in Berlin. We shall be working here, and we need not worry very much about it. Whatever may be said for Deputy Davin's amendment—and a good deal may be said for the idea that we should vote as a public function and as part of our duty as representatives—I do not see that anything would be gained by the acceptance of Deputy Lemass's amendment. It simply may mean disallowing the vote of a Deputy or Senator who happened to be away from the Saorstát and was taken ill. There are Deputies not only on one side of the House, but on both sides, who are absent from the House at the present time. I hope they will not be taken ill. But if they were, it surely would be desirable to allow them to exercise their functions. Let them take the trouble to go to the Commissioner for Oaths or to whomsoever the responsible authority may be. I think it would apply not merely to England, but also to France and Belgium and to Northern Ireland, which seems to me the most important point of all. We should not accept this amendment of Deputy Lemass, moderately as it is urged.
I would like to point out to Deputy Cooper that if he is prepared to insert an additional section including Northern Ireland and excluding other countries, I shall agree with him. I may also point out that there are members of this Party, one member of the Labour and one from the Cumann na nGaedheal Party who are in Canada or the United States. They may be taken ill; I hope that they may not, but if they were should not they be offered facilities for recording their votes.
As the Bill is at present drafted, they would. If I meet Deputy Davin's amendment with regard to the date, there is a possibility that they would not. In meeting his amendment, I thought I was conveniencing the work of the House. But there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the voter in the United States receiving his ballot paper at the time of the issue and having it returned.
The Minister's reason for pretending to meet my suggestion as to the alteration of the date is quite different from the reason that I am going to make for it.
That may be, but I think, when for the purpose of conveniencing Deputies we introduce a system of postal voting, it is absurd to insist that in order to be allowed to vote by post, Deputies shall be inside Saorstát Eireann and that Deputies who for business or other reasons may be in any other country——
Not in any other country.
——in any other country should not have an opportunity of casting their votes by post. We could meet any set of circumstances in reason and it may be quite reasonable to allow a Deputy who was in England or Germany sufficient time to cast his vote when you would not allow a Deputy who was in Australia to do so. To introduce a system of postal voting for the convenience of Deputies and to say that it shall only apply to people inside the Saorstát is absurd.
Why not extend the time sufficiently for the convenience of every Deputy?
Because you have to take into consideration the preparation of your panel and the issue of your ballot papers and, having started your election by the issue of ballot papers, you do not want an unnecessarily long time to elapse before the election is brought to a conclusion.
If you issue the ballot papers within a certain time and if you define that time, would not that meet it?
What is the reason for excluding a person who happens to be in Belfast or in England?
What is the reason for excluding a person who happens to be in America?
He is not excluded necessarily under the Bill for the moment but, for the purpose of touching the convenience of the Oireachtas and the convenience of carrying out the election, if it was necessary to exclude the odd person who might be in the United States, then I consider it would be quite reasonable to exclude him.
The maximum period allowed for the election is 20 days and by extending that to 30 days, would it not be possible to include Canada, the United States and other countries? These would be excluded by Deputy Davin's amendment.
I want them to come to the House, the place where they are paid to attend, or explain to their constituents afterwards why they did not do it.
They should be forced to attend. After all, considering the cost of £300 an hour in the Seanad to the community, the people are entitled to say that these persons should put in an appearance even as electors.
There is nothing about that in this particular amendment.
I agree. That is why I am giving it as an illustration.
The Deputy will be in order on the next amendment in regard to that.
Why not extend it to thirty days? Is there anything sacrosanct in 20 days?
There is something sacrosanct. I think we might have some explanation as to the sacrosanctity of 20 days.
My impression is that this is not going to affect members of this House very much. It will affect members of the Seanad, and if they are wintering at the Riviera it is up to us to bring them home. As I say, it is not going to affect this House. It is these people who have not to answer to any constituents whom we want to get at. The people upstairs have no constituents. That is the motive behind it. Postal voting is arranged so that the same team can be kept in, or a good percentage of them.
Amendment put and negatived.
I think I should be allowed to move Amendment 19 before Amendment 18, because if Amendment 19 is defeated or rejected by the Minister, No. 18 would not in my opinion be necessary. With the leave of the Chair, I therefore move Amendment 19, which is to delete sub-section (3), Personally, I cannot see any justification for the introduction of postal voting for the Seanad election, except to enable people to remain in London or somewhere else away from the meeting place which they are supposed to attend, and at the same time retain their influence over the government of this country. The Minister for Local Government knows that the postal system of voting was introduced as an emergency during the European War to enable people who, for reasons of their own, joined the British Army to take part in elections. I do not see why we should copy the example set by the British Government during a period of emergency when there is no real emergency here in the circumstances under which the Seanad election will take place. It is the personal duty and responsibility of each Senator and Deputy to attend the place of meeting. I do not think that they should be given facilities to remain away, especially on an occasion of this kind.
Some time ago I read a speech of Deputy Mrs. Collins-O'Driscoll at a branch meeting of Cumann na nGaedheal in Dublin North when, perhaps, the Minister for Local Government was present. She encouraged the Government to push a measure through this House which would penalise citizens who did not exercise their civic duty by recording their votes at the Dáil election. I wonder is she going to follow the Minister for Local Government into the Division Lobby in support of a clause which will release her and members of the Seanad from carrying out that very duty which they expect ordinary citizens to perform. They are paid to vote under the Constitution of this country, unless they can give good reasons for staying away, but the ordinary citizen is not paid for voting. Some Senators, a small number I admit, have been absent from all the meetings of the Seanad held during the past three years. It is a national disgrace and a public scandal if this House is going to allow people who refuse to attend to do the nation's business and to criticise in a constructive way legislation going through the Seanad, or Dáil if you like, to remain away and to vote in this election.
That is the object of the whole thing.
The object is to insist on putting back into the Seanad the same type of people as those who will not attend to do the nation's business although they took an oath under the Constitution to do so. We are following this precedent set up by the British Government when it introduced the system of postal voting during the European War. There is no national emergency here. Indeed, so far as I know, the people of the country would not worry whether there was no Seanad election, whether it was carried out by the Seanad and Dáil voting together or in any other way. It is the opinion of the country that the Seanad, as composed to-day, has not justified itself, and that its members have neither justified themselves nor that institution. I quoted figures earlier in the evening to show that, if all the members of the Seanad attended, they would have been paid £4 10s. 0d. an hour. Why should we waste a twopenny stamp or the price of a registered letter on these people who may be away on the Riviera or in Belfast and who are paid £4 10s. 0d. an hour to attend the Seanad and to do the business of the State? The people who will go into the Seanad as a result of the coming election will have considerable influence, if they want to exercise it, over the measures coming up there within the next three years. I appeal to the Minister to set a good example to the ordinary citizen by compelling people who are responsible for legislation to do what they expect other people to do. Deputy Mrs. Collins-O'Driscoll encouraged the Government to penalise those who refused to do their duty as citizens at elections. Why then should we facilitate persons who have not attended the Seanad by sending them ballot papers through the post? I appeal to the Minister to cut this undesirable clause out of the Bill.
I desire to support this amendment, and I wish to point out to the Minister that when there was a motion passed in this House authorising the payment of travelling allowances to members of county councils, there was a special clause introduced that they would have to attend at least two-thirds of the meetings before they would get fourpence a mile one way. Here we have members who are drawing salaries, and special facilities are given to them to stay away on the Continent or elsewhere and to vote from there at the Seanad elections. I think that, in particular, the Minister who in all probability was the promoter of the Bill for paying travelling allowances to county councillors should at least have the courage of the conviction which I am sure he felt when he introduced that Bill and compel them to do their duty by attending the meetings. I am sure he will have the courage of that conviction now and say that members who are getting £1 a day and travelling expenses should at least attend to cast their votes. I am sure that he will realise the unfairness of what he is doing and that he will consent to this amendment.
The proposal to have postal voting for the Seanad election is dictated by the interests and convenience of the work of the Oireachtas solely, and not for the convenience of any particular party or section. Deputies on the Labour and on the opposite benches have taken advantage of the discussion ranging round the Seanad to raise arguments and catchcries of a class or political kind for class or political purposes. We cannot allow ourselves to be drawn away from a line of action that is dictated to us by considering the interests of the Oireachtas.
Would the Minister explain what are the interests of the Oireachtas?
It is to the interests of the Oireachtas that if the Oireachtas were not meeting in the autumn, as the Oireachtas might not, members should not have to come to Dublin for the purpose of carrying out a Seanad election. For the purpose of carrying out a Seanad election, a panel is set up by the Dáil and a panel by the Seanad and the election has subsequently to be carried out. The preparation of a panel by the Dáil and by the Seanad is governed by regulations drawn up by the Dáil and the Seanad respectively. They have nothing to do with the Bill. The Bill prescribes that they shall be drawn up, and if the work of the Oireachtas is in such a state that there need be no autumn session, then the regulations of the Dáil and the Seanad for the preparation of the panel can be framed so that the panel can be prepared if necessary by postal voting, or can be prepared before members separate for the summer recess so that the bringing together of the Oireachtas unnecessarily for the purpose of carrying out the actual voting for the Seanad election is considered undesirable.
Deliberately you use that word?
It is too thin.
There is one other point. Many members of the Oireachtas might not be able to attend on the particular day that would be set aside for the Seanad elections, either through sickness or urgent business. Many members of the Dáil find very often that they are not able to attend on a particular day because of urgent business. It is undesirable when they can be facilitated by being allowed to cast their votes by postal voting that they should be brought away from a sick bed or from urgent business.
Is there any danger of this being extended to the Dáil members?
I do not understand the Deputy.
The Minister stated that many Senators might find it inconvenient to attend. So might members of the Dáil find it inconvenient. Therefore it might obviate all the trouble of walking up and down the lobby recording our votes in divisions if we could be facilitated in the way suggested by the Minister.
Deputies are supposed to vote here on the arguments they hear, and they have to be here in order to hear these arguments. There is another very important matter, too, and that is the secrecy of the ballot. The secrecy of the ballot for a Seanad election, by the Dáil and the Seanad, can be much more easily secured by postal voting than by a system of personal attendance. Rather elaborate arrangements would have to be set up here bearing on the secrecy of the ballot if personal attendance of members of the Dáil and the Seanad were required for the purpose of voting at the Seanad elections. For these three reasons principally, but above all for the personal convenience of members of the Dáil and the Seanad, a system of postal voting is proposed for the Seanad elections.
Would the Minister not consider it wise to have personal voting and leave the poll open for a fortnight? That would entail no inconvenience to any member. They could come here and record their votes.
Would the Minister consider applying the same postal system to the general elections and the local elections? As he is at it at all he might as well make a good job of it.
If it were more convenient for the people generally and the carrying on of these elections for a postal vote to be arranged I could see many good reasons why it should be arranged. It would be much easier for a Deputy in a country constituency to have the voting paper delivered at his house and to ask him within a certain number of days to return it by post than to have him drive four or five miles to a polling booth on a wet day. It is not practical to introduce that in ordinary elections to the Dáil where the ordinary electors of the country are voting.
It seems to me that never I think since this Dáil assembled in September, 1927, has it heard so many excellent arguments in support of an amendment moved against the Government as those contained in the speech of the Minister for Local Government.
The silliest speech delivered in this House.
There is one thing he did say that contains a good deal of truth and explains a good many things. He said in reply to Deputy Anthony that the reason this admirable system of postal voting could not be extended to the Dáil and the reason why the members of the Dáil on ordinary occasions could not receive the special considerations which they do in connection with the election to the Seanad was that members are supposed to vote on the arguments they hear. I think having heard the argument we begin to understand the reason for the present appearance of the Government Benches. Those loyal members of the Party were anxious that even their loyalty should not suffer too great a strain and that they should not be compelled to sit here and listen to the arguments put forward in support of this measure by the Minister for Local Government lest they might for once refuse to obey the Whips and vote as their common sense, as their sense of civic duty would dictate to them in support of Deputy Davin's amendment. I think the Minister himself is conscious of the fact that this proposal cannot be justified.
I am waiting to hear the arguments against it.
If those special facilities are extended to the members of the Dáil and Senate on this most important occasion why should they not be extended on every other occasion? I think that is the logical extension of the Minister's own argument which will defeat it. If it is a good and proper thing to do on this occasion why not extend it first of all to the divisions that take place in the Dáil, why not allow Deputies to register their votes by post? If we did that at least it would have this advantage; it would make life a good deal easier for the Whips of his Party. Instead of continuing in an almost impossible task of keeping together that tenuous majority they would be able to look after their own private affairs and as those of us know who have occasion to debate questions here on their merit they would at least discharge their duty as effectively and efficiently as they have hitherto done since they have come to the Dáil. The Minister said the proposal is dictated by the interest and convenience of the work of the Oireachtas only. We on this side of the House, at any rate, representing a considerable section of the House, and Deputy Davin, on behalf of his Party, representing also a considerable section of his House and a considerable interest in the country, question that and contest it most strongly. We ask the Minister before the debate on this motion concludes to define what are the interests of the Oireachtas and whose convenience it is that this proposal is designed to meet. We, hitherto, in discussing the Senate have laboured under some misapprehension. We have on occasions, referred to it as Seanad Eireann. If this proposal is adopted I think we shall have to extend the term. It looks to me as if it is going to be the Seanad of the United Kingdom. It might even be the Seanad of Europe. It might even become the Seanad of the World, because men who never put a foot in Ireland possibly since first they were returned to that Seanad or have visited the country on very rare occasions would be able by their votes cast, while they were living in the wilds of Kamschatka, to elect members to one of the legislative Houses of this country. I think that is an impossible position. I think we should not operate it. I think that if men are given, if you like, as under the Government proposals they will be given, the privilege of electing members to one of the Houses of the Oireachtas that at least there ought to be imposed upon them the condition of tendering their votes for whatever candidates they select in person. I do not see how, as a self-respecting body, we can do anything else than that.
We know, of course, that the Minister is afraid to divulge the real reason for this. We know it is out of that particular regard which the Minister and the other members of the Government have for a particular class. We know that they look up to the aristocrats of another land. They have already by nomination given them a certain privilege in this country. They wish to continue them to exercise that privilege but they know, at the same time, that the regard which these privileged persons have for the country which has so honoured them is of the slightest and that if even to continue themselves in office they had to come here and tender their votes in person they would probably neglect to cast their votes. Therefore the Minister has introduced a proposal for postal voting in this Bill so that these people, who have never been friends of this country, but of whom the Government would like to make friends of themselves should not be called upon to sully their immaculate feet with the soil of Ireland. Deputy Boland put this in a nutshell. He said if they want to vote let them come home to vote. If the Government Party, in order to secure the election of its panel, wants to have the support of this particular class, let the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, the very able chief Whip of the Government Party, for once enact the rôle of "Little Bo-Peep." Let him bring home his sheep and let them bring their votes behind them. I think that at least the Minister, in trying to justify his proposal, should not have contradicted himself, at least should not have stultified himself. He tried to justify it by some reference to the manner of preparing a panel.
So far we have not seen any regulations for preparing the panel. Most of us assumed that if we wished to vote for candidates for inclusion in that panel we should have to tender our votes in person here in the Dáil. Now the Minister foreshadows that we shall be able to register our votes or to indicate our preferences for a particular candidate for inclusion in the panel through the post. I am afraid that was an afterthought of the Minister, one which he had not well considered, but, at any rate, I am fairly certain that it would be impracticable. To leave that one side for a moment, he did suggest that the panel for the election could be prepared some time, say, during the summer or during the end of the summer session. Why could not the election for the Seanad take place at the end of the summer session also? The only argument with any show of reason in it that he advanced for this proposal, was that the Dáil might not be in session in the autumn. We know that so far as this autumn is concerned, judging by the programme which is put before us, that we are bound to be in session. We are in session to-day and the election has to take place, I think, some time before the 6th of December. So far as this election is concerned, therefore, there is no weight in the argument of the Minister. This present election could take place and the members could tender their votes in person. I would suggest that we should let the future take care of itself. We, here on these benches, are not without hope that better times will bring better measures and better men, and that in a short time and before the next election is due, there will be in power a Government which will not feel called upon to elect a Seanad, but which will tear up that House root and branch and substitute for it some assembly which will have real functions in this State, and which will not be simply a wasteful and extravagant —I cannot say ornament—excrescence upon the State. Why not then leave the future to take care of itself? This election can take place without this postal voting. Only those people who take sufficient interest in this country to come here because they are voters and Senators should be allowed to participate in that election, and accordingly, on these grounds I ask the House, at any rate, to support the amendment proposed by Deputy Davin.
Deputy O'Hanlon has made a suggestion that fourteen days should be allowed, during which time a member of the Oireachtas could present himself here and vote. I think it is a very useful one. I want to say, so far as the statement of the Minister is concerned, I think that the proposal made in the Bill is one of the most ridiculous that I ever heard of coming from a responsible Minister. All parties in this House have condemned, from election platforms and in this House, the apathy shown by electors at election periods. We have had many instances of where less than fifty percent. of the voters presented themselves at the polls. That was condemned by all parties in this House, and this evening we are asked to encourage such a system, and even in the persons of members of the Oireachtas. Surely an example should be shown by Senators and Deputies in the matter of public and civic spirit, and if Senators and Deputies—Senators particularly— do not consider it worth their while to come to this House or to the other House and record their votes they are not worthy to sit in either of the Chambers.
I see no particular virtue in the proposal to fix a period of fourteen days in which Deputies could get their ballot papers and hand in their votes. Why it should be argued that to receive your ballot paper by post and to return it by post is a worse system than to enable you to come up any time within fourteen days and get your paper and vote I cannot understand. Deputy Anthony complains of apathy on the part of voters. His way of getting rid of apathy is to put responsible people like members of the Dáil and Seanad to the necessity of taking a journey from their constituencies, or their places of business, for the purpose of recording a vote which might quite easily be recorded by post. I think it is a proposal that would help to dispel a little apathy if it makes it more easy for busy and responsible people to record their votes.
I do not often feel sympathy with the President. I do not think he deserves it as a rule, but certainly my heart bled for him as he sat there unable, with decency, to leave the House, and had to listen to the extraordinary exhibition of incompetence, stupidity, bad argument and sound common front bench manner of debate which he had to listen to from the Minister for Local Government, this inspired superman who is accustomed to lecture us on these Benches. Just try and measure the brain power which you have opposite. The Minister for Local Government has just told you—I am not saying it about him, he is saying it himself—that he is incapable of devising a system within this building by which 152 Dáil members and 60 Senators can use a secret ballot.
It is impossible. He could not say how it could be done. The secrecy of the ballot would be violated if the people came here. Now that is his statement. It was difficult to obtain a secret ballot within the ambit of his intelligence. And that is the Minister for Local Government. The Minister for Local Government, knowing what this House knows, tells us that things here are decided on argument. Now, he knows that this House knows that he is stating what is false. He knows that. And the poor unfortunate President, hardly recovered from the toil and trouble of his great meanderings, has to come back here and to sit and listen to that meandering by that man whom he is responsible for recommending to the country as a man capable of responsibility and a man proper to put over the functions of an office in this State. We are not to have these people voting by a secret ballot, which he cannot design, because he would not ask help from anybody else. It is against the standard and principle of the superman to ask for help from anybody. Because there might not be an autumn session! When was there not to be an autumn session? Except when they were running stunt general elections. Are we to assume that the ordinary thing is going to be a stunt general election? By what has been the normal experience of this House, an autumn session will be held if legislation in this House is to be discussed instead of being railroaded through as it has been railroaded up to the present. We are asked to do this thing on the chance that there is going to be no autumn session some time—no autumn session nine years hence or six years hence. I forget to what particular position they have reduced it now, but we are asked to do this on the chance that we are not to have an autumn session. Now, those are the ludicrous sort of follies which the Minister on that side of the House has the stupidity to offer to this House. The personal convenience of the general electors and the personal convenience of the electorate do not matter at all. It is the personal convenience of a special electorate. Is this more of the pact and the bargain? The Upper House is disturbed in the function which it possesses. It wants compensation. It is going to vote from the bed. Breakfast in bed for the Senators. Why on earth does he not arrange that the Minister shall have the power as proxy of the Seanad to vote for them and to save them the trouble of opening the envelope? Why they are asked to go to this trouble, I do not know. That would be just as sensible an argument. There are a certain number of these people whom they begged or bribed or bluffed on the other side to pretend to show their love for the new system which is supposed to exist in this country. As a result they begged some of them to become Senators. They begged them to be allowed to be nominated so as to add an air of respectability and responsibility to an otherwise horribly democratic assembly. These people are to be convenienced. That is the sort of argument that is being offered to you, and I say it is a disgrace even to the Cumann na nGaedheal Front Bench.
I do not like following Deputy Flinn or taking any notice of him because I am satisfied that he speaks simply to pretend to the people of his constituency that he is a very useful member of this House. I put it to any person who has any sense of decency whether or not what we have just listened to is worthy of the Dáil or worthy of this country. I do not think it is. I hope, as we grow older, that speeches like that we have listened to will not be made here. They show very bad breeding and the Deputy is not badly bred. The Deputy is well educated and what he has said is most unworthy of him. No Senator was begged, bribed or coaxed to become a member of the Seanad. It is an untrue statement to say that any Senator was begged, bribed or coaxed to become a member of the Seanad. The proposal here is a simple one, that is the proposal made by Deputy Davin. It is not to have postal voting. He wants the members to come here. I recollect within the past few years here a good deal of criticism about bringing up people from the country for one day. They can come any time within a fortnight. But it would mean a very considerable expense to get them to come here. Why is it that postal voting is introduced? Principally to save expense, in connection with any of the other constituencies in respect of which postal voting is allowed—the expense of bringing the person to the place of election. The two universities have got it and voters are not supplied with railway vouchers to come to the university for the casting of their votes. In the same way here, there may or there may not be an autumn session. There might not be an autumn session during the particular week or fortnight in which the election might be held and postal voting would be a convenience in many respects. The Deputy may not have much business to attend to. Other Deputies have.
There are numbers of people in the Seanad who have much more business in the country to attend to than the Deputy has and this sort of cheap scoring, this pretence that certain people are national, simply because they talk loud or big or throw mud at somebody else—that is not nationality. That is a small miserable sectionalism, doing no credit to the person responsible for it or to the place whence he comes or to the party to which he belongs and we ought to have no more of it. It was never propounded from any political platform in this country that I ever heard of, or that was ever anxious to keep up the name or the good fame of the people or any of its sections. The country is composed of many sections and it is no credit to any one section to throw contumely on any other section. The less we have of that cheap sort of talk: "I am a great fellow, a big fellow, I have a great big head and I am a great big man and I can think better than anybody else"—the less of that sort of thing, the better. Most people would say of that type of man that if he were brought before an unfriendly doctor he would be committed to some place.
I am very sorry to see President Cosgrave follow the same line of argument in opposition to the amendment as was followed by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. He asked us to believe too much when he said that the principal reason for the adoption of the postal voting system as against the method of coming here and voting was to save expense. I have here before me a list of the 103 meetings held by the Seanad. I do not know whether the President has any control over the Seanad.
I have here a record which shows that on the 16th March, 1927, a meeting lasted ten minutes; on the 31st March, 1927, there was a meeting held which lasted fifteen minutes. On the 1st April, 1927, there was another meeting which lasted fifteen minutes, and on June 23, there was a meeting lasting five minutes.
Why not provide them with radio sets.
On December, 1927, there was a meeting held which lasted ten minutes. I can go on and give the President information of these meetings which would show that there has been waste, with his knowledge or without his knowledge, I do not know which. Now, there was a reason given by the Minister for Local Government that there was quite a possibility that there would be no autumn session. Did the Minister for Local Government sit at a meeting of the Executive Council which, according to inspired Press writers, was held for the purpose of considering the business of the present session? We have been supplied with a list of the Estimates which as yet have not been discussed. We were told that certain Bills are in the earlier stages, and that a lot of other Bills are to be discussed, and we all know that there is more business here this autumn session than there has been during any autumn session held here. The President knows well that in former years the discussion on the Estimates never went into the autumn session. We have most of the Estimates to go through yet, and the Minister for Local Government was going too far when he asked the members of this House to believe that there was a possibility of an early adjournment, and that we are not to do the business we were called here to do in the ordinary way. He states that the members of the Seanad and the Dáil should not be brought here unnecessarily, for this particular purpose. If the Seanad as an institution, is necessary as a Parliamentary institution in this country, it is equally necessary that the people who have a right to constitute that Seanad should be brought here for that work, and that those who are too lazy to come here should not get facilities. I am glad Deputy Mrs. Collins-O'Driscoll, a member for the same constituency as the Minister, is here now. I am sorry she was not here the last time, but Deputy Mrs. Collins-O'Driscoll, at a meeting of the Cumann na nGaedheal Organisation, is reported to have suggested that the Government should penalise people who refused to recognise their civic duty and vote at elections. I hope Deputy Mrs. Collins-O'Driscoll will not follow the Minister for Local Government into the lobby in favour of those who are against the ideas which she advocated at a meeting of the Cumann na nGaedheal.
Now, with regard to the statement made by the President that it may be possible that members of the House have got more important work to do than coming here, that they have to attend to their own private business, and that they should attend to that before they attend to their public duties, I have only to say this, that when a person comes along and takes an oath— and an oath is a solemn undertaking in this particular case—and is sworn in here, it is quite plain that he swears to serve the people who sent him here, to serve them faithfully and conscientiously. Now, the first principle of service is attendance at the place where the laws are made, and this is equally important as any Bill we have here for discussion, because the very people who are to get on to the Seanad are the people who are to make the laws. It is right, I think, that they should come here and do the work which they are paid to do. The President told us when he came here before this House and made a case against the election to the Seanad by the people of the country a number of things. He pointed out to the members of the Fianna Fáil and other parties who are present that the people had not taken advantage of the opportunity given them three years ago in the election to the Seanad, and he pointed to the fact that only 33? per cent. of the electorate exercised the franchise on that occasion. That was the reason the President gave for the alteration in the law, that was the reason the President gave for allowing the electors to elect the Seanad.
Only one of the reasons.
But a very important one, if I can remember the President's stirring speech on that occasion. Now he is going to allow public representatives who have not a proper sense of their public duty to remain away in London or some foreign place, and he proposes to give them facilities to remain there instead of forcing them to come here to vote. I am hoping that the Ministers will not carry through this proposal for postal voting, because if they insist on carrying it through they will live to regret the day when they were a party to it.
No way out of it.
Amendment put. The Committee divided: Tá, 57; Níl, 65.
Allen, Denis.Anthony, Richard.Blaney, Neal.Boland, Gerald.Boland, Patrick.Brady, Seán.Briscoe, Robert.Broderick, Henry.Buckley, Daniel.Carney, Frank.Carty, Frank.Cassidy, Archie J.Clery, Michael.Cooney, Eamon.Corkery, Dan.Corry, Martin John.Crowley, Fred. Hugh.Crowley, Tadhg.Davin, William.Derrig, Thomas.De Valera, Eamon.Doyle, Edward.Everett, James.Fahy, Frank.Flinn, Hugo.French, Seán.Gorry, Patrick J.Goulding, John.Hayes, Seán.
Hogan, Patrick (Clare).Holt, Samuel.Houlihan, Patrick.Jordan, Stephen.Kerlin, Frank.Killane, James Joseph.Killilea, Mark.Kilroy, Micheal.Lemass, Seán F.Maguire, Ben.MacEntee, Seán.Moore, Séamus.Morrissey, Daniel.Mullins, Thomas.Murphy, Timothy Joseph.O'Dowd, Patrick Joseph.O'Hanlon, John F.O'Leary, William.O'Reilly, Matthew.O'Reilly, Thomas.Powell, Thomas P.Ryan, James.Sexton, Martin.Sheehy, Timothy (Tipperary).Smith, Patrick.Tubridy, John.Walsh, Richard.Ward, Francis C.
Aird, William P.Alton, Ernest Henry.Beckett, James Walter.Blythe, Ernest.Bourke, Séamus A.Brennan, Michael.Brodrick, Seán.Byrne, Alfred.Byrne, John Joseph.Carey, Edmund.Collins-O'Driscoll, Mrs. Margaret.Conlon, Martin.Connolly, Michael P.Cooper, Brvan Ricco.Cosgrave, William T.Craig, Sir James.Crowley, James.Daly, John.De Loughrey, Peter.Doherty, Eugene.Doyle, Peadar Seán.Duggan, Edmund John.Dwyer, James.Egan, Barry M.Esmonde, Osmond Thomas Grattan.Fitzgerald, Desmond.Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.Good, John.Gorey, Denis J.Heffernan, Michael R.Hennessy, Thomas.Hennigan, John.Henry, Mark.
Hogan, Patrick (Galway).Holohan, Richard.Jordan, Michael.Keogh, Myles.Law, Hugh Alexander.Leonard, Patrick.Lynch, Finian.Mathews, Arthur Patrick.McFadden, Michael Og.McGilligan, Patrick.Mongan, Joseph W.Mulcahy, Richard.Murphy, James E.Myles, James Sproule.Nally, Martin Michael.Nolan, John Thomas.O'Connor, Bartholomew.O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.O'Leary, Daniel.O'Mahony, Dermot Gun.O'Reilly, John J.O'Sullivan, Gearoid.O'Sullivan, John Marcus.Rice, Vincent.Shaw, Patrick W.Sheehy, Timothy (West Cork).Thrift, William Edward.Tierney, Michael.Vaughan, Daniel.White, John.White, Vincent Joseph.Wolfe, Jasper Travers.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Cassidy and G. Boland. Níl: Deputies P.S. Doyle and Duggan.
I move amendment 16 the consideration of which was adjourned.
I suggest to the Minister that he should consider an amendment of the Electoral Act giving the same facilities to university electors.
Yes, I will certainly give consideration to it. Whether the University Register is too unwieldly from the point of view of numbers to enable it to be done requires consideration, but I shall have it considered.
A very large number of voters in the university on the last occasion complained that they received no ballot papers.
The addresses were the subject of complaint.
Deputy Fahy happens to be one and I think his address is well known.
That is an important point.
I move amendment 20:—
In sub-section (3), page 5, line 2, before the word "post" to insert the words "registered or ordinary."
This is to enable ballot papers to be returned to the returning officer by registered post if the voter so desires, so that arrangements may be made whereby, through the operation of the Post Office machinery, he can get an acknowledgment from the Post Office of the delivery of his letter to the returning officer. There are consequential provisions, so that if a voter does not get an acknowledgment from the Post Office within a reasonable time that the letter has been delivered to the returning officer he can take steps to approach the returning officer with a view to having a duplicate ballot paper issued. It leads up to an analogous position later on, enabling a duplicate ballot paper to be issued in the case of a ballot paper lost on the return journey.
It appears to me that, the insertion of this amendment amounts in a large degree to a vote of no confidence in the postal authorities. It has been brought to my notice that that lack of confidence is justified. I have here an envelope which bears the printed address: "An Rúnaidhe, Connradh na Gaedhilge, 25 Cearnóg, Párnell, Baile Atha Cliath." The letter was posted in Cashel and the postal authorities sent it to Guernsey in the Channel Islands. The postal authorities there inscribed it: "Not for Guernsey, try Ireland."
And the Free State refused to accept it under that title.
I move amendment 22:—
Before sub-section (4) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
"(4) Whenever a person entitled to vote at a Seanad election states in writing to the Seanad returning officer that he duly returned by registered post to the Seanad returning officer a ballot paper and form of declaration of identity sent to him under this section and that the same do not appear to have been delivered to the Seanad returning officer and that he desires a duplicate ballot paper and declaration of identity to be issued to him the Seanad returning officer, if such statement is received by him not less than forty-eight hours before the close of the poll at such election, shall forthwith or, if such statement is received by him less than forty-eight hours before the close of the poll at such election, may send by registered post to such person at the address mentioned in the first sub-section of this section a ballot paper and form of declaration of identity which, by being printed on paper of a special colour or otherwise, are clearly distinguished as duplicates of the ballot paper and form of declaration of identity originally sent to such person under this section."
This is the counterpart of amendment 16, and makes provision for the issue of a duplicate ballot paper in the case of its being proven to the returning officer satisfactorily that a ballot paper was lost in the post on the return journey.
I move amendment 23:—
Before Section 16 to insert a new section as follows:—
"All postal services (including all registration services) wholly within Saorstát Eireann in relation to the issue and return of ballot papers at a Seanad election shall be performed by the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs without prepayment of the charges therefor and all such charges shall be deemed to be part of the Seanad returning officer's expenses and shall be defrayed accordingly."
This simply arranges for free registration of the envelope containing the ballot paper.
I move Amendment 25:
Before rule 5 on page 8 to insert a new rule as follows:—
Every request for the issue of a duplicate ballot paper shall, when received by the Seanad returning officer, be endorsed by him with the day and hour of the receipt thereof by him and with a consecutive number, and every duplicate ballot paper issued in pursuance of any such request shall be issued in accordance with the provisions of the foregoing rule so far as the same are applicable save that, in lieu of the number on the electoral roll, there shall be marked on the counterfoil of such ballot paper the consecutive number endorsed on the request in pursuance of which such ballot paper is issued and that when such ballot paper has been issued the said request shall be disposed of in like manner as the marked copy of the electoral roll is required by these rules to be disposed of. —Aire Rialtais Aitiúla agus Sláinte Puiblí.
This makes arrangement by which a duplicate ballot paper shall be issued in the same way as the original ballot paper.
I move Amendment 26:
In rule 12, page 9, to delete paragraph (b) and substitute two new paragraphs as follows—
"(b) open each such covering envelope and segregate any of those envelopes containing a declaration of identity issued as a duplicate form of declaration of identity,
(c) take up separately each of the said covering envelopes not so segregated, examine the declaration of identity therein and compare the number on such declaration with the number on the ballot paper envelope in such covering envelope."
This makes arrangements under which the duplicate ballot paper will not be counted if the original ballot paper has actually been received.
I move Amendment 27.
In rule 12, paragraph (d), line 32, after the word "has" to insert the word "been."
I move Amendment 28.
In rule 12, to add at the end of the rule three new paragraphs as follows:—
"(1) when all the said covering envelopes not so segregated have been dealt with under the foregoing provisions of this rule, he shall take up separately each of the said covering envelopes segregated as containing a declaration of identity issued as a duplicate form of declaration of identity, examine the declaration of identity therein (hereinafter referred to as the duplicate declaration) and ascertain whether a declaration of identity in respect of the same person has or has not been previously examined under this rule,
(j) if a declaration of identity in respect of the same person has been previously examined under this rule he shall mark the duplicate declaration ‘vote rejected' and shall attach thereto the ballot paper envelope, without opening such envelope, or, if there is no such envelope, the ballot paper.
(k) if a declaration of identity in respect of the same person has not been previously examined under this rule he shall deal with the duplicate declaration and the ballot paper envelope and ballot paper accompanying the same in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this rule other than the two last preceding paragraphs thereof."
It is provided that where the original ballot paper is actually found to have miscarried that the duplicate will be counted as if it were an original ballot paper. There is a slight error in the amendment. The figure one appears where the letter "i" should appear.
There should be three paragraphs, (i), (j) and (k).
It will be necessary to bring in on Report an amendment arising out of the fact that we propose to change the age of eligibility for membership of the Seanad from 35 to 30. It will be necessary to bring in an amendment involving an amendment of Section 57 (1) of the Electoral Act, 1923.