An Bille um an Tríú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1958—An Dara Céim (atógáil). Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1958—Second Stage (resumed).

D'atógadh an díospóireacht ar na leasuithe seo leanas:—
1. Go scriosfar gach focal i ndiaidh an fhocail "Go" agus go gcuirfear na focail seo ina n-ionad:—
ndiúltaíonn Dáil Éireann an Dara Léamh a thabhairt don Bhille de bhrí go gcreideann sí i dtaobh díchur chóras na hIonadaíochta Cionúire
1. go gcuirfidh sin isteach ar chearta dlisteanacha mionluchtaí,
2. go bhfuil sé in aghaidh ár dtraidisiún daonlathach,
3. gur dóigh parlaimintí neamhionadaitheacha agus rialtas stróinéiseach a theacht dá dheasca,
4. go mbeidh sé níos deacra dá dheasca deireadh a chur leis an gCríochdheighilt,
5. nach bhfuil aon éileamh air ag an bpobal, agus
6. uime sin, leis an gcor atá faoi láthair ar an saol agus ar ár gcúrsaí eacnamaíochta, gur dochar agus nach sochar a dhéanfaidh sé do réiteach fadhbanna an náisiúin,
agus go molann sí ina ionad sin go ndéanfar, d'fhonn eolas a sholáthar don phobal, coimisiún saineolaithe a bhunú chun an córas toghcháin atá ann faoi láthair a scrúdú agus tuarascáil a thabhairt ina thaobh.—(An Teachta S. ua Coisdealbha.)
2. Go scriosfar gach focal i ndiaidh an fhocail "Go" agus go gcuirfear na focail seo ina n-ionad:—
ndiúltaíonn Dáil Éireann an Dara Léamh a thabhairt don Bhille de bhrí nach ndéanann sé foráil le haghaidh vótála de réir na hionadaíochta cionúire agus ar mhodh an aonghutha inaistrithe sna Dáilcheantair aon-chomhalta. —(An Teachta Ó Bláthmhaic).
Debate resumed on the following amendments:—
1. To delete all words after the word "That" and substitute therefor the words:—
Dáil Éireann, believing that the abolition of the system of P.R.
1. will interfere with the legitimate rights of minorities,
2. is contrary to our democratic traditions,
3. is likely to lead to unrepresentative parliaments and to arrogant government,
4. will make more difficult the ending of Partition,
5. has not been demanded by public opinion, and,
6. therefore, in present world conditions and in our economic circumstances will impair rather than assist the solution of our national problems,
refuses to give a Second Reading to the Bill; and recommends instead that for the purpose of informing public opinion an expert commission be established to examine and report on the present electoral system.—(Deputy J. A. Costello).
2. To delete all words after the word "That" and substitute therefor the words:—
Dáil Éireann declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill as it does not make provision in the proposed single member constituencies for voting on the system of P.R. by means of the single transferable vote.—(Deputy Blowick.)

The Government is understandably at a loss to explain why this Bill has been introduced at this juncture in our history. Consequently, many of the arguments put forward in support of it have a purely political bias. The Taoiseach's loss of faith in democracy may have far-reaching effects. The present state of the country has an almost pathological significance. There is political apathy. There is indifference. There is a certain nausea, amounting almost to repugnance, in relation to politics and, more unfortunate still, in relation to the democratic concept of political government and of parliamentary government. Leaving aside the economic position and leaving aside social conditions, there is a widespread loss of interest in parliamentary government. Yet, it is at that point, that the Taoiseach suddenly decides to make this revolutionary change. In that set of circumstances, this may prove to be the last straw which will precipitate our country into unknowable, perhaps unmentionable, forms of government.

The Taoiseach should have had patience. Remember, there are countries with a long tradition of democratic government in varying forms. I take Sweden as a particular example. It is one of the countries I most admire. It has had unbroken peace for almost 120 years. During that time it has been able to evolve a system of government under the aegis of which a magnificent society has been created. Here, through no fault of ours, there is a relatively high rate of illiteracy amongst our electorate. Consequently it is difficult for people in general to decide complex issues, issues which are somewhat similar for those of us who have made a special study of them. It is very difficult for the man in the street to assess the merits or demerits of a particular case, particularly when that case is put, as it is by most of us, with a bias in one direction or another. The cure for this relatively high illiteracy is to improve our education and not to get rid of P.R., especially at a time like this.

The Taoiseach referred to multi-Party Government. I have spoken of such Government in the past and I have no wish now to go back on anything I have ever said about the multi-Party system of Government Multi-Party Government consists of a group of people coming together, people in diverse Parties with different points of view, representing different interests—vested interests, if you like to call them that— and wanting to achieve different objectives, to travel at different speeds in achieving those objectives, having a possible personal animus of one kind or another, and differences in personality of one kind or another.

It is quite obvious that such a group, such a rag-tag and bobtail, coming together after an election and faced with the difficulty of sinking their differences in order to find some broad, agreed policy to be carried out and implemented subsequently, must be subjected to tremendous stresses and intolerable strains. On the other hand, a one-Party Government is in a position to sit down in the interim period between elections to consider the problems facing the Government, both social and economic, and to work out a programme which they can present to the people. They have a common point of view, common objectives and a common loyalty. Because of that, they should be all the more efficient. They should be more efficient in Government than an inter-Party or multi-Party Government can be.

One fact must be faced. Such a curious amalgam as that presented by inter-Party or multi-Party Government, with the differing interests and different points of view, has been accepted on two occasions by our people as against single-Party Government, faced with all the advantages of an agreed and united policy programme long before the election took place. The people decided they wanted this inefficient, multi-Party system of Government. Why does the Taoiseach not ask himself why was it the people chose this inefficient form of multi-Party, inter-Party Government rather than his single-Party Government? They had every opportunity of choosing his single-Party Government. They had every opportunity of knowing how it worked.

Did the failure, from his point of view, not lie in what he was offering to the people? Did the failure not lie in his lack of achievement? Did the failure not lie in his own failure to realise his objectives? Because of that, faced with the alternative and knowing well the intrinsic weaknesses of multi-Party Government, on two different occasions the people chose the inefficient, multi-Party Government; and in that choice on the part of the people there is no room for criticism of the multi-Party system, but there is ample room for criticism of the single-Party system which failed to get the overall majority necessary to carry them into power again.

The need, then, is for an overhaul of that Party's programme, not for getting rid of the system. It does not in any way constitute a case for changing the electoral system in order to make it impossible for a multi-Party system ever to come into operation. If the people want a multi-Party system of government, inefficient and all as it is, if you are a complete democrat, you must accept that they have a right to have it.

One of our difficulties in the forma tion of multi-Party Governments was our attempt to reconcile widely differing points of view, points of view which it transpired were widely different after an attempt was made to get a common ground of policy. From that, possibly, one can learn and eventually it may be possible to get a sufficient number of small Parties who, broadly, have an agreed point of view which would enable them to work together for a limited period. That system has worked in Sweden for a very long time.

The main problem here, of course, has been that we are only now beginning to move out of the period of civil war politics. That was the great disaster. That did stultify the whole political development here in the last 40 years. You have people on opposite sides of the House at the moment, ideologically at one, with the same political philosophies down to the last possible detail, but divided on, again, an abstract issue, a form of words, an oath of allegiance or a treaty or whatever it was, and, because of that, they occupy different sides of this House. That has been said so often that the people are tired listening to it but would the Taoiseach not listen to it? Would the Taoiseach, who played such a prominent part in the creation of that great disaster, not try to leave it that he did not bedevil our future as he bedevilled the future of the young men of his own generation and stultified their efforts to create the socially just Ireland that they went out to work for in 1916? It is clear that, coming to the conclusion of his political existence, no doubt, he is attempting to make sure that these civil war differences will be perpetuated.

Shame on the Deputy. Let him sit down if that is the kind of rubbish he has to offer.

Listen to the Strasbourg expert.

Listen to the jackboot.

What jackboot?

This is a democratic Assembly and we are permitted to talk as long as we are within the rules of order. You have not yet got rid of P.R., the Independents or the small Parties.

The Taoiseach has brains.

Oh, he is a very important person. We have the assurance here from various Deputies on the Government side, Deputy Boland, and Deputy Lemass in particular, that this will eliminate small Parties. I have no fear or worry. Personally, I think there is only one really great consideration. The most important consideration here is the question of the Sinn Féin Party, which has been raised by various Deputies. That is a very valid point to which the Taoiseach should give very serious consideration.

I have had debates with these young men on a number of occasions and on each occasion I have said the same thing to them—that you cannot end Partition at the point of the gun, that if we have to bring fellow Irishmen into a united Ireland at the point of the gun, I do not want them at that price; that what they want to do is to put their political point of view to the people, get elected to Leinster House and then put their policy into operation. Many of us have said that but, more than anybody else, the Taoiseach has said that—that they have no right to use unconstitutional means to achieve their ends, that they should come into this House and use this House as a public forum and put their point of view before the public. They are now being denied that right. That has been reiterated by every single speaker in this House.

The Government have been roaming the world to find reasons why P.R. led to instability and to multi-Party systems of Government. The result of that is that we must eliminate the small Parties. As Deputy Dillon said here last night, there is a unique situation here because of that civil war and it cannot be made responsive to solutions which satisfy other societies. Because it is a unique problem, it cannot have the ordinary solutions that have satisfied other communities.

Is is not true to say that, if it were not for the P.R. system, 26 years ago, you might not have had a group of young men, who were fighting one another in the terrible civil war, deciding that they might come into the Dáil and recognise the parliamentary institution? Is it not conceivable that the group led by the present Taoiseach might never have come into this House, might have continued to fight in the underground movement or in the I.R.A. because all hope had been denied them of coming into this House, forming a Government and acting in a constitutional way in accordance with the rules of parliamentary government?

It seems to me that conditions now are distressingly parallel. Can a person who is so closely associated with the situation, who understands so well the minds of these young men, as he once did, who believed that it was possible to solve every problem by the use of the gun or the gun butt and who has changed his mind and accepted constitutional rule, not have some sympathy for those young men, some understanding of their problem? I, of course, find it difficult to understand their problem because I do not understand the use of force, particularly amongst one's own people, but surely the Taoiseach can understand and can sympathise and should sympathise with these young men and try to get them to leave the Curragh internment camp, try to get the men who were elected here, the abstentionist Deputies, to come in here, put their point of view and see whether they can get sympathy, as Deputy de Valera once got sympathy, once got support, once got his overall majority, which he enjoys to-day, under the P.R. system, which he is now telling them that he is withdrawing from them for no other good reason than that in 1948 a multi-Party Government was formed?

Are we passing a Bill in this House which will lead to a perpetuation of this half-cock civil war? Are we to see a situation developing in which the young men who have accepted his invitation to go before the country and put their point of view will be driven back into the arms of the activists?

Here, instead of reducing the size of the armed, incipient soldiers, anxious to start a civil war or unconsciously starting a civil war, he is giving strength and encouragement to the people in that army. One would imagine that, at this stage, having enjoyed power so long as he has, having enjoyed absolute power for so long, having been King of Ireland for so long, he would be prepared to say that there is now a young generation entering into its own and that this is a decision that is going to make it impossible for them to create an efficient, socially prosperous society. One would imagine that he would say to himself that this is their responsibility and that he would leave it to them to make their political decisions as to what they would care to do.

A point has been made about Partition. It seems to me that the Taoiseach must have given up his hopes of the solution of Partition. Just as the young men of Sinn Féin are to be ruled out by this decision, so the young Unionists who might, in a united Ireland, form a Unionist minority, are to be ruled out. There may be people—it would be regrettable if there were not—there may be members of certain Protestant sects who, in a united Ireland, would like to form such a Party. They are ruled out by this decision. In the Six Counties, there are a fair number of Unionists who believe in the welfare society and nationalisation. They are ruled out. They are given a choice of two Right Wing Parties for as long as we can possibly envisage.

I do not believe the Tánaiste really believes that the Labour Party, in present circumstances, can become the major Opposition. Loyalties are still, unfortunately, not based on ideological differences. I wish they were. There still are, in the country and in the towns, loyalties stemming from the civil war, the Oath of Allegiance and many other such things.

Could the Taoiseach not accept that we are now only beginning what we could have, and should have, done in 1922, if there had not been a civil war, if he had not agreed to take one side in the civil war, if the young, new State, tired and weary of war had not been plunged into a civil war and denied the opportunity in the immediate present, and for 30 or 40 years later, of the normal crystallisation of Parties, Right or Left, Radical or Socialist. Can he not now leave us alone to see this normal development go on?

Clann na Poblachta, Labour and various other Parties are appearing and disappearing. That is not important. All that is important is that various points of view are being mooted to the people and that the next ten, 15 or 20 years is no time at all in the life of the nation. Out of those small groups, some ideal will be given birth to, from which it will be possible for Irishmen to come together and unite and form Parties in the ordinary way.

The failure of Clann na Poblachta was referred to by Deputy Russell. It was an unfortunate thing that it did fail. That failure was, to a large extent, due to the fact that men had come together without realising that they had many fundamental differences between them. If we, young as we were, were used to thinking in terms of the real politics of to-day, it might have been different. What does it matter? We have all learned; we have learned from the failure of that effort.

We are in a most delicate transition period, in a period in which many of us on both sides of this House have many things in common. It is possible and inevitable that we will come to see, more and more, as time goes on, the things we have in common. In time, if we are given time and the opportunity is not frustrated and aborted in this way by the action of the Taoiseach, normal political evolution along one line or the other will come, as it should have come were it not for the civil war.

A point was made about the policy of the inter-Party Government. It is a valid point. To what considerable extent could a number of Parties agree on a policy before being elected? Is it not equally true that over the years no Party has been able to escape from the consequences inherent in the absurd split of 36 years ago, a split which is absurd to me to-day, as a young man. Was it not inseparable from the unnatural differences amongst our people, airsing from the civil war, that no coherent policy was thought out and no plain policy could be given to the people before the election by any Party? We know that over the past 40 years Party slogans and shibboleths have been the substitute for Party policy. One of the greatest difficulties that I could see in the last election was that of finding out what was the policy put forward by the Government. There were slogans in plenty but no policy. There were slogans of one kind or another—"We will get your husbands back to work"—and so on. I am quite sure the slogans on the other side were equally inane. An important point is that neither side ever produces a policy such as you will find in other countries—a planned economy, nationalisation or de-nationalisation, a welfare society of one kind or another, nationalisation of the banks or free enterprise or whatever you like. It is suggested that the great weakness of a multiplicity of Parties was the fact that they could not put forward an agreed policy and in that way the people were misled. It is the great weakness, too, of the Taoiseach's Party, and he is one of the people who has always resented this suggestion that you should put forward a Party policy.

It is he, I suppose, who has wasted more time in the abstract discussion of relatively unimportant details over the past 34 years. The language revival was a most important part of his policy; the question of Partition was debated endlessly and in the most tedious way up and down the country, year after year, without any attempt to provide a really concrete or practical solution; the gerrymandering in Derry, South Down, South Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh, the voting system and so on, were also discussed and it was suggested that if we establish a welfare society down here, if we could get economic prosperity, it would make it relatively easy to go to the Six Counties and say: "Now join us. You will be first-class citizens in a first-class society"

Then we had a long debate on the Constitution. We had a long debate on the formation of a Second Chamber and a civil war about a form of words—one abstraction after another. Meanwhile, we had the people emptying from the country in their thousands, 750,000 people getting different social services, the old people half starved, education for a small section of our people, and we were teetering on the edge of economic disaster and bankruptcy. Now we get this final—I hope, final—abstraction from the Taoiseach with which to occupy ourselves and waste our time and the people's money, for the next four, five or six months.

It is clear that P.R. is being removed because, as Deputy Carty said, of the simplicity of the other system. One would think he was talking about a school for mental defectives rather than a mature, intelligent and active-minded people. Deputy Booth tended to agree with Deputy Carty. He said he was convinced that the people do not know how to use P.R. fully and that they do not use it correctly. Imagine saying that because the people have used P.R. to put back Deputy Booth, Deputy Carty and Fianna Fáil for 20 out of the 26 years, they do not know how to use it correctly. There is a lot to be said for that. Deputy Booth said that 400 Clann na Poblachta votes went to him after the first count in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown. I presume that the Clann na Poblachta vote was an anti-inter-Party vote, because at that time it had left the inter-Party Government and was hostile to them.

Another extraordinary thing which Deputy Booth said was that P.R. favours the extremists every time. I think that hardly needs any comment —Deputy Booth an extremist? The Fianna Fáil Party an extreme Party? It may have been an extreme Party once. In its great days it was a radical and progressive Party, the Party of the ordinary people, and in those days it did great things for Ireland, but it could hardly be said to be an extremist Party to-day.

I suppose I resent this Bill mostly because of the certainty that if it is passed, and if the country accepts it, it must inevitably mean that politics, as we know it to-day, will continue on for many years to come. Politics, as we know it to-day, has led to a state of society that I mentioned earlier, in which a Minister yesterday said that it was agreed that evidence coming from all sides shows that we have failed in the most abject way in the past 30 to 40 years, and that has not been due to instability.

Nobody has suggested that there has been instability of Government, on either side. Everybody is agreed that there has been stability. Deputy Booth was proud of the fact that he was able to shadow-box with the Minister for Finance without having to pursue that shadow-boxing to its logical conclusion. He was giving the appearance of defending a principle and that he would defend it to the last and bring down the Government, if necessary, in the pursuit of that principle. In fact, he said that, because of their majority, there was no danger whatever.

That stable Government was provided under P.R. A strong Government has also been provided under P.R. Why is it that nobody has suggested that what is most needed here is good government? Why is it that nobody has suggested that Salazar, Franco and various other dictators have their stable Governments, their strong Governments and forms of society which none of us would accept here, the complete antithesis of an even socially just society? That, again, is another false premise of the Taoiseach.

I should like to mention one small point in regard to this commission. I think it is rather small, probably too small. I admit the great difficulty of setting up a just commission, but it is clear, on the one hand, that there is a big Government deputation on the one side. Remarks as to the judiciary have been covered by Deputy D. Costello. That is a realistic assessment of the position of the judiciary. There is no good in people humbugging here about whether or not these are political appointments. Everybody knows they are, and whether or not judges carry their politics on to the Bench with them is quite another question. Whether they will carry their politics into the commission is also another question and I would not he able to say——

Why not bring in politics?

No. Why should the Deputy not be able to say whether the judges bring in politics or not?

Does the Deputy think that I should say what he thinks I may say or what I think I should say?

I think the Deputy should come out in the open.

Deputy Dr. Browne is insinuating.

Would the Deputy mind coming out in the open?

I shall make my speech, not the Deputy's speech.

The Deputy is afraid of his life. I object to these statements about the judges being corrupt.

I am not worried.

Dr. Browne, to continue.

On the question of the non-political nature of the commission it seems very difficult to think you can take any Parties on this side of the House and suggest that they can be asked to represent such divergent opinions, such different outlooks, or by expecting them to select people, you are going to get anything like the same agreement or ease of agreement as you will get on the Government side. All the disabilities to which the Taoiseach referred, the formation of a multi-Party group, face the three people who will be asked to try to represent the Opposition on this commission.

The only other thing I should like to say is that if this is non-political— as it has been requested it should be— I wonder would it be possible for us to have a free vote of the House on it? Admittedly, the Árd-Fheis carried unanimously the Taoiseach's decision and no doubt the Parliamentary Party carried it unanimously, but surely one of the functions of this House is to debate an issue of this kind and give Deputies an opportunity of hearing a point of view which I doubt they have heard up to the present. In those circumstances, I would ask the Taoiseach, without much hope of success, I am afraid, if he would consider allowing this to go to a free vote of the House in order to see whether there is the unanimity on the Government Benches we have been led to believe.

I should like to make my position clear in regard to my opposition to this Bill. I regard its introduction as an attempt to assault one of the defences guarding the liberties of the people and in such a case it is the duty of the elected representatives to turn the people's attention to the dangers inherent in this Bill, first of all in the House and afterwards outside it.

I accept what has been said in the past couple of weeks, to the effect that this Bill does no more than give the people the right to say whether or not they want a certain system of election. I also accept the Taoiseach's invitation, given when introducing the Bill, to have such a discussion in this House on the measure as would inform the people outside and enable them to arrive at a proper judgment of this proposal.

I believe that this Bill, if accepted by the people, will do what it is intended to do—remove the representation of sections of our people in the national Parliament. In doing that, it would leave the way open to a further descent into practices which might not be for the general good.

One of the great leaders of thought in a previous generation, Davis, in an editorial in The Nation of December, 1844, at the time of the Repeal Association, when opinion was being organised here to win for the people the right to speak in Parliament of their own, counselled them by saying to them:—

"People of Ireland, yours is a simple task. Call your design by what name you will, it is to exclude English selfishness, from the business of legislation. Those who have all the responsibility of your mighty enterprise are bound to take every precaution against even a remote risk of all bloodshed—to conciliate the greatest number, to attune their course to the feelings of all who will kindly listen or ably lead."

That advice is just as pertinent to this occasion and to leaders of thought at present in regard to the proposed method of election as it was then. We have had many dissertations on this question of election to the constitutional Assembly, but I think everybody agreed that in the two schools of thought, one represents a system of election which would give equitable expression to the sovereignty of the people, and the second is one which while accepting this proposition, also adumbrates that absolute equity must not infrequently retreat before the need for Government.

The various electoral systems devised in democractic states all stemmed from the natural right of the people to speak their minds, to assemble, discuss and put forward a point of view for acceptance or rejection by others. Even the smallest semblance of a viewpoint should be capable of presentation and free discussion in the democratic institutions of the country. But there grew up in time a process of Parties taking over the power of organising such expressions of opinion. By 1875, the power of political Parties elected to the various parliamentary institutions was very striking. At that time and it has continued ever since, Parties have exercised a power of controlling the choice of candidates.

In the past couple of days we have heard here exhortations that the one Party system, as operated in Great Britain or the United States, is an admirable system. I have no doubt that in the circumstances of these countries, it does work out. I am equally aware it has as many defects as have been alleged against the system of election which has been in use in this State since its foundation. In Great Britain, they have the system of the single-member constituency, where the elected representative may represent a minority of the people in a constituency. He certainly cannot be said to be speaking for all the people whom he pretends to represent. In speaking of representation, I have always insisted it means representation of communities and not of individual members of the population.

I suppose in our own ancient system in this country, we had actually such a system without its being defined. The system which has operated in this State, and which this Bill is designed to change, is the P.R. system. There are many forms of P.R.—I understand, as many as 300. I only intend to refer to the form which we have in this country, the form by which successive Dála have been elected here since the foundation of the State. In these Dála there has been what one might call a snapshot of the voting strength of the various sections of the people in the constituencies. The right was given to them to have members to represent them here and it has always been accepted that that and nothing else is true democracy.

Many authors have been quoted here. I have heard Professor Hogan being quoted, and foreign authors were quoted, too, in defence of the one-Party system and the one-member system. Deputy Carty to-day quoted an English political philosopher expressing his point of view that the P.R. system would lead to catastrophe. I shall quote an equally eminent English political philosopher, John Stuart Mill, who said:—

"Democracy must be especially careful that minorities get their appropriate representation."

That quotation is just as striking as any other quotation given here in favour of this Bill.

Examples have been given, and I have no doubt the public will hear much more about them, of the countries where elections under the P.R. system was a failure. It is equally true that there are many countries in Europe to-day which, under the P.R. system, have progressed and become examples of democracy working in fine fashion.

It has been contended that a member elected to this House under the single-member constituency system, or the straight vote, the non-transferable vote, as it was referred to, would be a more representative spokesman for his constituents than, say, the present Deputies are. That is a proposition to which I do not subscribe, that the straight vote system does allow of people being elected, who can be classed as more authoritative spokesmen than those elected under the present system.

Another one of those great English Parliamentarians who is, no doubt, held in very high regard by the English people, Disraeli, wrote a treatise dealing with the British Constitution and with the Reform Bill of 1832. One of his comments was that "in the effort to get rid of representation without election, it will be well if we will not discover that we have only obtained election without representation".

There has been quite a lot of talk about the will of the people, an expression one very often hears, particularly at election times, but in this connection, it is hard to understand why this Bill to amend the Constitution is brought in. What this Bill purports to provide for the people, I believe, will not give us Government that is representative of the people or in the name of the people. It may give us Government by representatives of the nation but it will not give us Government in the name of the people.

The Taoiseach, in his opening statement on the Second Reading of this Bill, referred to a speech by the Leader of the Opposition. The Taoiseach spoke of the inconsistency which the Leader of the Opposition was supposed to have shown by speaking about this question of political passion, in one portion of his speech, and combining with that a reference to the apathy and torpidity of the people. I cannot see any inconsistency in the statement, inasmuch as the introduction of this Bill was certainly due to the Party which forms the Government at the moment and which has taken the responsibility of bringing it before this House. The Leader of the Opposition was referring to the apathy and torpidity of the people which was demonstrated in elections held since the present Government was formed.

The Taoiseach made a further reference to the foundations and he expressed a doubt as to these foundations being sound. It is an amazing thing that a politician, who is so well versed in these matters as the Taoiseach undoubtedly is, would have presumed to build over the years on a foundation which he considered unsound. Surely it is rather late in the day for the Taoiseach to discover now that the foundations upon which he has been building the edifice of this State for the time during which he was the leader are unsound and worthy of change at this stage?

When the members of this or any Opposition Party in this House decide to exercise the right to explain their views on this measure, it is not to be taken that such speeches are in any shape or form obstructions to this Bill to prevent its appearing before the people. By what other means does anybody contend that the people can be informed of all that is involved in this measure, if the elected representatives of the people in this Assembly do not exercise their right, discuss the Bill here in what I had supposed would have been a more calm atmosphere and, they having done so, that afterwards it should be submitted to the people in the knowledge that it had been discussed first in Parliament, and all the pros and cons of the measure fully argued?

There was an amount of play with regard to the countries which adopted the straight vote system and which worked under it. It was held that all these countries built up democratic institutions. I do not deny that. At the same time, I am equally aware, and the people of this country are fully aware, that in a portion of this country where the democratic system is supposed to operate, where the one-member constituency was supposed to operate and where the single non-transferable vote was supposed to operate, it has been prostituted for the sake of gerrymandering and for the purpose of denying to the people in the North their right in the elected Assembly there. That is something that cannot be controverted. All sections, young and old, in this part of the country saw fit, and rightly so, to protest most vehemently against the injustice which was done to our people in the North-East. When I refer to the North-East, I am referring to the system which has deprived the Nationalist minority of their light to a rightful share in that representative Assembly.

That has nothing to do with P.R.

No, it has not, because P.R. was done away with in the North. It was taken from the Nationalists in the North. The safeguard which was put in there previously was denied to the people of the North and because of the system of gerrymandering that has grown up, the Unionists have retained their power.

Gerrymandering has nothing to do with P.R.

It has got to do with the system of Government which it is proposed we should adopt in this part of the State.

We are not adopting a system of Government but a system of election.

The system of election is being discussed on this Bill.

Deputy Jones is entitled to point out that if there were a different system of election in the Six Counties, the position might be different. He is entitled to argue that point.

We had the argument of the Taoiseach who said that, under the new system, it would be possible for the people to vest the Government with power to carry out its programme and at the same time build up an Opposition which would keep in touch with the people to find out what changes of programme might be desirable. He said he thinks that would be the wisest system for all the people to adopt here.

He also said that he knew of the dangers inherent in the P.R. system. He knew that away back in 1919; he knew it in 1922 when the first Constitution was adopted here, he knew it in 1937 when, after a lot of thought, I am sure, he brought in his own Constitution. As he knew all the weaknesses, would it not have been right and proper for the Taoiseach to have pointed out these weaknesses at that time and not wait for so much time to elapse before deciding that the P.R. system of election is not suited to our requirements? That seems to be the genesis of this whole argument and this whole case in relation to this Bill. Something happened which caused him to change his mind.

He mentioned that there were many inquiries as to why this system should not be done away with and that these inquiries commenced in 1948. If these inquiries came in 1948 and if so many-people sought this change at that time and in the intervening years, why was it that the Taoiseach never saw fit to mention it in the 1951 or the 1954 election campaigns? Why did the Fianna Fáil Party at their Árd-Fheis or in any of the constituencies not mention this matter publicly as a matter of public interest, when elections to this House took place in 1951 and 1954? It is hard to understand where this popular demand came from or that it could be so vocal and widespread and not occasion even mention in these two elections.

Another argument the Taoiseach made was that at election time the people are more interested in the kind of Government they will get. That was effectively disposed of here to-day by Deputy Casey, when he said that the people are not so much interested in the kind of Government they will get as in the kind of economic programme submitted to them for their choice. That has been the basis of elections down the years.

Minorities were dismissed here by the Taoiseach when he said that the representation of minorities was illusory. Judging by the membership of this House over the years, it is obvious that the people have seen to it that minorities of every class or creed or shade of opinion would be represented, and those representatives have been sent here as spokesmen of the point of view with which those voters agreed.

Deputy Loughman yesterday evening referred to the number of Deputies who were elected on the first preference votes they obtained. He cited my own constituency. What he did not say was that all the results which he quoted related not to single-member constituencies but to multi-member constituencies. He pursued that a little further to show how transfers had resulted this way or that way. At the same time, there were speakers from that side of the House claiming that people did not know how to vote, that they did not understand P.R. and required a simpler system. Surely you cannot reconcile those two points of view. The Minister for Education was willing to wager that not more than 10 per cent. knew how the system worked. There are many other schemes that work effectively to safeguard the health of the people, and so on, but the people are not required to know how such systems work. The experts who do understand it are provided and the people make their act of faith in that and accept it. No member of this House or of the public who votes in the ordinary way at elections has had the task of going through the ramifications of P.R. All he had to do was to cast his vote and there were technically qualified people there to see that his wishes were respected.

Deputy Carty quoted quite a number of combinations and permutations that a person could use in a three-member, four-member, five-member constituency and so on, which amounted eventually to millions of choices. Who ever saw any voter outside any booth in this country with a paper and pencil working out how many ways he might vote? Did he not go into the booth and do as he was told: vote one, two, three, in the order of your choice?

Is that how the Deputy was elected?

That is how Fianna Fáil Deputies are elected.

The only difference between Fianna Fáil and ourselves is that with them it is one, two, and stop, as the case may be. With us, it is different. We tell them to go down the whole paper. Deputy Bartley said here yesterday they voted quite religiously down all the way for us, or quite universally would be a better word, in case somebody might take another connotation out of it as people are inclined to do in this debate.

This is the greatest political issue the people have had before them since 1937. It is not an issue they have demanded. It is one put before them at the desire of the Taoiseach and with the support of the Party he leads. It has aroused and will continue to arouse a great deal of controversy. The proposer of the motion at the Árd-Fheis wrote a letter published in the Sunday Press of 30th November last, in which he stated: “To argue in favour of strict parliamentary representation at the expense of Government stability is simply seeking to put the cart before the horse.”

It is a very smug expression of thought to say that now Government stability is to be the guiding factor, as far as systems of election are concerned. There have been times, both here and in other countries, where this expediency has produced many tragedies. I have already referred to one. In our own country, we have found this expedient being used with devastating effect.

I have no doubt the Government will succeed in putting this measure through, since they have a strong majority which they sought and obtained at the last election. However, I believe it will create a division which in our circumstances will be most dangerous. The victory which the Party opposite may claim for themselves, if victory it can be called, will be a very poor and hollow one indeed, because they will have succeeded in doing in this part of the country what they claim should not have been done in another part of the country.

An effort has been made by the spokesmen from the Government side of the House to maintain that the P.R. system was imposed on us by the British. I think that charge has amply been refuted here by previous speakers. I think there was documentary evidence to show that the late Arthur Griffith was associated with that system in this country as far back as 1911. It has already been acknowledged that it was introduced into the Constitution of 1922 and the Taoiseach himself says he adopted it and put it into the 1937 Constitution, because, he says, our people knew it-it was the system we knew best and it was the system which gave us fair and equitable results.

I think it was Deputy O'Malley who referred to a discussion of motions before local authorities in regard to this matter and said it was something that ought to be avoided. I agree that if discussions were to lead to such animosity and such heat as can be engendered at a time like this, it would be very unwise to introduce them into the business of the local authority. There was a discussion in the Limerick County Council, as there was in the Limerick City Council. There was just one factor in that discussion, as reported in the Limerick Leader, to which I feel I ought to refer inasmuch as, not being a member of the local authority, I would not have an opportunity of referring to it there. Here is the relevant quotation from the Limerick Leader, the chairman in question being Deputy Collins:—

"The chairman added that when Fine Gael—and he was not introducing politics—was founded away back in 1933 one of its fundamental rules was that it would stand for the abolition of P.R. That was an historical and an established fact."

I do not know how historical or how established Deputy Collins would have that fact, but the established fact is that a draft proposal which did appear about that time, and which was put to an Árd-Fheis of the Fine Gael Party in 1934, was unanimously shelved in favour of the system we have.

Mr. Frank MacDermot does not agree with that proposal.

Has the Minister read his recent letter?

The Minister might refer to it again. It withdraws what he said in his first letter.

I refer to the printed document referred to in the Irish Times.

Mr. MacDermot had the decency to admit and to correct his mistake and to place the correction on record.

There is one further point which concerns this system which it is now proposed to change. It is not in this Bill that the fear has been expressed—it was expressed at that meeting to which I have referred— that this new change of policy would also be made to apply to the local authorities. Here is the relevant extract of the report, as it appeared, in the Limerick Leader:

"Mr. Clery—I am concerned about what implications it will have as regards local elections.

Chairman—You can be assured that it won't have any implications for Local Government purposes. Local elections can only be changed by a special Bill."

Of course, the Bill would be no more special than this one. That is the important point. All it would need would be that the Government Party would bring a Bill into this House to change the method of election—as I think they would logically do if the referendum were accepted by the people. They would logically bring in that system and then that same system would be adopted for the purpose of the local elections.

I suppose this debate will continue to its logical conclusion. Examples will be cited as to why the people ought to adopt the single-member system as against the system they have now. Much play was made here to-day by Deputy Corry with a point made by Deputy Dillon in regard to his views on P.R. But the views to which he referred and which the Deputy expressed here last night referred to the changes which were made in the system of P.R. as it was adopted in the 1937 Constitution and changes that were made later in the electoral areas to which that system applied. That is what brought into this system the weakness to which, at that stage, Deputy Dillon was entitled to object was not the form of P.R. to which he would give his measure of support.

In regard to the technicalities of the commission to be set up, I do not profess to have any knowledge whatsoever as to how this system will be devised or worked. People who are more qualified than I have expressed the view that this commission is not a desirable one. I say I am not qualified. I do not intend to express any opinion on it, but I do on this main question of an Irish Parliament which was designed, and which it was hoped would secure at some stage, the unity of the people of this country. It was hoped that every section of our people could come in here and put their point of view, that no minority in this country was so insignificant that it should be denied that right to go before the people and, if securing sufficient support on the basis of representation as we had it, should be entitled to come in here and put that point of view.

It is regrettable that at this juncture, when the leading politicians on both sides of the House who have been leaders of thought here for the past 35 years, are shuffling off this mortal coil, they should decide to ask the people to change the system by which the representatives of the people have been elected up to now. This Bill removes and puts further back the effort to obtain that desirable state in which various sections of our people could argue their case in open forum, without resort, in any way, to any form of physical violence. It will further put back the day when we might reasonably expect that those who have been divided from us will not fear, coming into an all-Ireland Parliament as a minority, such as they are in the North-East, that they will not get their due measure of representation in such a Parliament. That, indeed, is something which is to be regretted very much. That is something which I believe this Bill is intended to do—to push back the day of unity because we are moving away from a system which the people know.

We are creating fear. We are creating dissension amongst our own people down here and, is it any wonder, having created that, we have left ourselves open to the charge where the people elsewhere would say to us: "You are not able to give representation to your own people; how do you expect to give it to the rest of us?"

It is a pity, in my view, that the level of this debate, on the Opposition side, has been deplorably low. One was not surprised that the Leader of the Opposition questioned and impugned the motives of the Taoiseach and of the Fianna Fáil Party but I, for one, was shocked and disgusted that he, of all people, the Leader of his Party, should impugn the motives and question the honesty of the judge to be appointed on the commission to be set up under this Bill. Beginning with that sort of attack, running through Deputy Dillon's speech in which he flooded this place with lunatic Fianna Fáil T.D.s pelting stones, and long-forgotten Blueshirts, and coming to Deputy Dr. Browne's contemptible attack on the Taoiseach to-day, I am afraid all one can say is that, in a matter as serious as this, the people are getting very little help from their elected representatives in endeavouring to come to a decision on what, as the last speaker very rightly pointed out, is a serious matter worthy of grave consideration.

The only thing Deputy Dr. Browne did say with which I could agree was that he would like a free vote of the House on this issue. I want to say quite plainly that, if there were a free vote, I would vote in favour of the Bill. I would vote to have the present system of election changed and I would do so for certain reasons which I now propose to give.

Under the present system, in which there are multi-member constituencies, several members of each political Party go forward to contest an election. Apart from the Minister for Industry and Commerce nobody has said, I think, that that situation creates tension, sometimes bitterness but always tension, between the members of the political Party going for ward together. That is a fact which every member of the Opposition and everybody here on our side will freely admit, if they want to be honest. However, far more important than that is the fact that, if and when they are elected, they find themselves representing a constituency that in many cases it is physically impossible to represent properly.

For instance, the constituency of which I am one of the representatives, stretches a distance of 90 miles from one side to the other, and it is not possible for a person adequately to represent such an area and to know what is going on in a vast constituency of that size. In my opinion the great advantage, both from the point of view of the candidates and of the people, in substituting for the present system a single member system, is the fact that each Party will be represented by one candidate only and, therefore, those to whom he is speaking will be able to know exactly for whom they will vote in a Party. They will know they are not voting for anybody else and when that man is elected they know he will be responsible for discharging the duties of a Member of Parliament for that particular area. That, for one thing, will lead to an increase in prestige for the members of this House which I hope they would be big enough to accept, though, on the evidence of this debate, I have some considerable doubts on the matter. However, I also believe that that system would throw up a rather different Parliament from that which we have now.

Perhaps, in that connection, it is well that I, as a representative of South Mayo, should draw attention to the exact wording of the amendment subscribed to by Deputy Blowick, the former leader of the Clann na Talmhan Party. The wording is:—

"Dáil Éireann declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill as it does not make provision in the proposed single-member constituencies for voting on the system of P.R. by means of the single transferable vote."

I draw the attention of the House and, in particular, the attention of the people of my county to the fact that Deputy Blowick, Deputy Beirne and Deputy Donnellan who signed it and their Party, are against the present system of multiple member constituencies, and are in favour of single-member constituencies. That, at least, is something which will be of importance to the people of my county when they come to consider the way they will vote on this very grave matter. It would seem then that the people of my county, other than those who support the Fine Gael Party, if they automatically follow Party lines, would vote against P.R.

Cuireadh an díospóireacht ar ath-ló.

Debate adjourned.