In Committee on Finance. - Presidential Seal Bill, 1937—Committee Stage.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 3 stand part of the Bill."

With regard to sub-section (2) of this section, paragraph (b) states:

the presidential seal shall be affixed to instruments made by the President, and to no other instruments, and shall be so affixed by direction of the President and not otherwise;

When discussing this Bill previously, I think the President indicated that it would be for the House to say what documents might have to have the presidential seal, and that he thought that would be a matter for legislation. Are we to understand that the President has the right to decide what documents are to have the presidential seal, or what is the real meaning of the words "instruments made by the President."

The clear meaning is that a particular document will not have the presidential seal affixed unless the President gives authority to do so. The class of documents to be sealed will be determined either by legislation or by the Constitution. On looking over the Constitution, I found that there are a greater number of documents than I thought where the presidential seal has to be affixed. The difference clearly is between a particular document and a class of document. By legislation you can only indicate the class of document which could be sealed, but, in the case of a particular document, the will of the President would come into operation. In other words, no unauthorised person would act.

Does the President consider that adequate? He will remember that on occasions it is necessary for the Presidency, so to speak, to be conducted by a commission. There is provision, in case a President died, whereby the Chief Justice, the President of the High Court and others would act as a commission. Should not the words be "the President or a person or a commission acting as President".?

If the Deputy will examine Section 3 carefully, he will notice that there are three parts in it. The first part covers the position in which there will be a preliminary commission acting. The second part deals with the case: "Whenever and so long as there is an elected President in office, exercising and performing the powers and functions of his office." When the President is there, and is able actively to perform the functions of his office, then the seal shall be affixed on his direction only. Section I covers a case where there is a preliminary commission. Sub-section (3) covers cases where there is a commission acting, after the first President is elected.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 4 agreed to.

I move:—

To insert before Section 5 a new section as follows:—

All expenses incurred in the execution of this Act shall to such extent as shall be sanctioned by the Minister for Finance be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas.

The amendment is purely a formal one to provide for expenditure incurred under the Act. Otherwise the Minister for Finance would have no authority to incur the expenditure necessary to procure the seal.

This gives an opportunity for another little canter on the subject of the seal. When dealing with the Financial Resolution, Deputy O'Neill intervened with the suggestion that if we were going to have a presidential seal, the question ought to be left open to artists, architects and other interested persons, to design something which would be representative of the best we had to offer in that kind of art. I think that is rather a good suggestion. The President said that we have an outline of a seal and that we could do something with it, and the Minister for Finance made the apt suggestion that we should substitute a loud speaker for the harp. What has the President in mind? I agree with him that all this codology we have been going on with does not amount to much, and that it does not matter two fiddle-dee-dees, as he could get on with the seal he is using at present, and get another for the Taoiseach. Does the President take that view? What I am afraid is going to happen is that there will be a kind of composite instrument devised by two or three well-intentioned civil servants, who will seek to save 3/6 on the preparation of a seal, from whatever old impression may be available in public offices at present. That would be a mistake. Unless you are going to take the seal of the President of the Executive Council there ought to be a completely new seal cut. If we are to have a new seal then it should be a fairly presentable object. We cannot have that unless we have some kind of public competition.

Naturally we have considered the question whether it is desirable to have a new seal or not. On the old republican seal there was originally a harp. The seal of the Executive Council has a harp as the main part and round the harp there are certain words, "Ard-Chomhairle" and "Saorstát Eireann." I cannot remember the actual wording of the letter-press around the seal. The seal as a whole is a good seal in the opinion of members of the Executive Council and we see no reason why, from the point of view of design, it should be necessarily altered.

We think it would be unnecessary expense, and that probably at the end we would get nothing that would be more suitable. The intention is to leave the harp as the symbol and to change the wording from Saorstát Eireann. The central design of the harp will run through the seal.

I think that is rather a good idea.

Why then should we invite competition for designs when we have what seems to be a perfectly good design already?

I just want to say a word on the form of the seal. There are two types of seals. The Departments have got a seal which is merely impressed on paper. That is called their seal. There is no sealing wax used. There is the other type of seal. You pour sealing wax into a bowl and attach to the document a ribbon. I take it that the President's seal will be in the latter form?

No. We do not propose to have it in that form.

The Governor-General's seal, for instance, was one in which sealing wax was used. Is the President departing from that form of seal?

I have no idea of what sort of seal that was. As well as I remember, I never saw a document sealed with it.

When I got my patent of precedence, as well I remember, it was one on which sealing wax was used.

I cannot say anything definite on that, but in any case it is much better, in our opinion, to have a seal that will be impressed upon the instrument itself.

In other words, a common stamp.

In our opinion it is just as good a seal as any other type of seal.

Has the President's attention been drawn to a recent statement in English newspapers circulating in this country to the effect that the actual seal will have to be made in England: that it cannot be produced here in Ireland?

At the moment I am not able to say where the die will be made.

Is it possible that it will be made in England?

If we cannot get it made here, it is quite possible that we will get it made wherever it can be made.

Has the President consulted the Department of External Affairs with a view to ascertaining whether there is any precedent elsewhere for a seal to be used for this purpose being of the impression type as opposed to the wax type?

I have made enquiries with regard to all types of seals, and I have come to the conclusion that the most satisfactory type of seal is that which is impressed on the document itself.

That was not the question that I asked. Would the President say if there is any precedent for a seal of this kind being of the impression kind rather than of the wax kind?

I did not make enquiries in that sense. I made enquiries with regard to the various classes of seals used, and we have come to the conclusion that this is the most useful kind of seal.

Does it matter a damn?

I would point out to Deputy Gorey that it is very important, in view of the statement of the President that he does not know what the words on the seal of the Executive Council are.

As an exercise I might work it out.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 5 agreed to.
The Title agreed to.
Bill ordered to be reported with amendments.