I am glad that the President approves of that. As the Constitution wrecker, par excellence, his approval is worth having. The President will remember when this Bill came before the House on Second Reading he endeavoured to score a point by indicating to us that by opposing it we were running the risk of allowing the filling of casual vacancies to remain exclusively in the hands of the Seanad instead of, as he proposed, in the hands of the Dáil and Seanad together. We did not admit, at that time, that our attitude was in any way illogical. We opposed the Bill, as we opposed all the Bills that the President introduced, because we disapproved, and still disapprove, of the entire scheme of constitutional reconstruction, which the Select Committee set up by the Dáil and Seanad proposed. On the occasion, therefore, of the Committee Stage of the Bill, when it is possible to put in amendments, we can indicate the particular view we hold upon particular matters and in favour of ensuring a straight vote in the House for or against these views.
Of course I think it is not unlikely the President will take the opportunity of telling us again that if the amendment is defeated that in opposing this section of the Bill we will be again risking the restoration to the Seanad of the sole right of filling casual vacancies. However, we are prepared to take the risk of appearing to be inconsistent on a matter of that kind because if we ensure the rejection of the Bill by the Dáil it will necessitate the revision of the entire scheme which is embodied in all those multitudinous Constitution Amendment Bills. Of course in order to prevent any wrong notion concerning our attitude towards the whole question of the Seanad's existence it is well, I think, that I should reiterate that in the present constitutional position of the State there does not appear to us any reason whatever why a Second Chamber should be in existence, exercising the powers which the present Seanad exercises or the powers it exercised before this zeal for constitutional reform overwhelmed the Government. That we do try to effect casual amendments in that scheme is not to be taken as representing any alteration in our attitude.
We had the opportunity here, in connection with the Bill introduced by Deputy Thrift, of pointing out that as we are not sufficiently strong to carry our main objective by abolishing the Seanad altogether, we intend, whenever we get an opportunity to decrease its powers, to lessen its effectiveness and to reduce its cost to the people. The purpose of the amendment I am now moving is to ensure that in respect to the filling of casual vacancies, at any rate, the fullest possible control shall be exercised by the Dáil in relation to the Seanad. The Dáil, of course, rejected previous propositions which came from this side of the House designed to provide that the ordinary normal elections for members of the Seanad which take place every three years should be left, exclusively, to the Dáil. Now in fighting the same battle, more or less, in respect of casual vacancies, we are, as it were, defending the last line of defence. We are hoping that even at this last stage it might be possible to induce the Executive to throw some little sop to democracy. It might be possible, I say, although we have very little hope that they will do so. The Executive are, no doubt, committed in many ways, to maintain the Seanad and to increase its powers to impede the course of legislation, and it is not likely that they will abandon their commitment in consequence of any arguments that I can put forward. They are not open to argument and they are not open to conviction.
I would like, however, to suggest to such Deputies as are here present, and who have read this Bill, and who have any interest in the matter, that there are considerations to be taken into account in connection with the election for casual vacancies that do not apply to the ordinary triennial election. We pointed out on the occasion of the introduction of previous Constitution Bills and the Seanad Electoral Bill, that as the period for which a Senator is elected is nine years, it is inevitable that at least one general election for the Dáil must take place between the beginning of such a Senator's term of office and its conclusion. A general election for the Dáil at any time may result in a change of the Executive and an alteration in the policy of the majority of the House. It may do that at any time; but it is almost inevitable it will next time.