An Bille um an Tríú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1958—An Coiste (D'atógadh). Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1958—Committee Stage (Resumed).

D'atogadh an diospóireacht ar an Leasú seo leanas:—
2. I gCuid I, alt 2. 3º, línte 8 agus 9, "fá bhun dáil-cheanntair amháin i n-aghaidh gach tríocha míle den daonraidh ná" a scriosadh, agus i líne 10 "fiche míle" a scriosadh agus "cúig mhíle fichead" a chur ina ionad;
I gCuid II, alt 2. 3º, línte 13 agus 14, "less than one constituency for each thirty thousand of the population or at" a scriosadh, agus i líne 15 "twenty" a scriosadh agus "twenty-five" a chur ina ionad.—(George E. Russell.)
Debate resumed on the following amendment:—
2. In Part I, Section 2. 3º, lines 8 and 9, to delete "fá bhun dáil-cheanntair amháin i n-aghaidh gach tríocha míle den daonraidh ná", and in line 10 to delete "fiche míle" and substitute "cúig mhíle fichead";
In Part II, Section 2. 3º, lines 13 and 14, to delete "less than one constituency for each thirty thousand of the population or at", and in line 14 to delete "twenty" and substitute "twenty-five".—(George E. Russell.)

When I reported progress, before questions, I was dealing with the Taoiseach's intervention, where he pointed out the factor of having to draw upon the membership of this House for personnel to fill Cabinet, Ministerial and Parliamentary Secretaryship rank. Those critics who feel that the House is over-represented, of course, also contend that there are too many Ministries. The answer to that point would be that it would be possible to combine certain junior Ministries and so meet that contingency.

That, to my mind, has a lot to commend it, but another point I would wish to make is, as I said already, the State being still in its formative years we have to experiment somewhat with the personnel of this House, in order to find the persons best fitted to lead the various Departments of State. Even the public are inclined to experiment and it is another argument in favour of postponing any decision to reduce the membership when one recalls that even at the last general election one-third of the outgoing House failed to secure re-election. Consequently, if we are to have experienced legislators in this House, in order to give time to its newcomers to learn more about the administration of the House, it would be well worth while to maintain the present numerical strength at least for another decade. It would be well then if we did maintain the membership at least for another decade.

Comparisons have been made with smaller countries having a very heavy density of population. They can, of course, afford to have more members in proportion to population than can our country which, unfortunately, is not as populous as it was 100 years ago. We must bear the geographical point in mind, as it has been borne in mind even in Britain where they have a very dense population and where they have a representative on their commission who is an authority on the geographical set-up in that country.

Consequently, it is vital that we should have taken into account not alone the factor of population in deciding the outlines of constituencies and the membership of the House, but also that we should bear in mind that in rural constituencies Deputies are called upon to do a great deal of travelling in order to maintain that contact with the electorate which is desirable, if they are to reflect public opinion.

The question of economy has been mentioned and Deputy Flanagan has made a point in regard to the impact on Deputies from the point of view of expenses and the difficulties they have to contend with. Those people who are critical of the allowances which Deputies receive pay no cognisance to the fact that in other countries members of Parliament are assisted in many ways which we here cannot afford. Yet no credit is given to us for that fact.

I wish to conclude by referring again to a point mentioned by Deputy Russell, and every other Deputy who has spoken since, in relation to the demands on Deputies by their constituents to maintain frequent contact with various branches of the Departments about matters which, in very many instances, are completely unnecessary. How often do we find, when we go to a Department, say, in relation to a grant for the reconstruction of a house, that the person has even neglected to inform the Department that the work has been completed? It should not be left to Deputies to do that kind of work. How can it be possible for a Deputy to devote attention to proposed legislation and listen to and participate in debates, if, at the same time, he realises that the man who is representing the constituency with him, having no interest in the legislation, is visiting the Departments for his constituents? The following week when he returns to his constituency, he will be told that he is the man who is most active. Worse still, is the man who attends periodically and the person who gives more attention at local authority level. He is a better representative in many parts of the country than the man who specialises in the work of this House.

These are the defects which exist at the moment, but they have been caused in no small measure by the fact that for a long period the public have been misled into the belief that they have not got rights unless they go to some Deputy to secure what is a right for them. If Deputies are overloaded with that type of work to-day they have brought it on to their own shoulders. In our present situation, it is desirable to maintain our present membership, but I do not think that in the years to come such membership would be desirable. A time at which we are emerging from a formative period of our history is not the time to reduce the numbers in the House. You might be affected in the personnel available to fill Cabinet rank and the attendance in the House and attention to legislation. There is also the very important point mentioned by Deputy Dockrell in regard to getting the best type of Deputy to sit on the various committees of this House.

I am grateful to Deputy Russell for drawing my attention to my figures. I am encouraged to realise that my figures made an impression on him because we will be returning to figures of that kind in their proper proportion when we come to deal with the article as a whole. It only shows how little I have been prepared to receive the idea of the reduced size of the constituency which Deputy Russell contemplates and which he upholds in his general support of the Bill.

I would ask him to realise that, as Deputy Manley said, in the first place, this is not the time to deal with a question of this particular kind. I would ask him to appreciate the remarks that Deputy O'Sullivan made on this matter, because a time when you are proposing to take from the people the chance of a fairly reasonably wide selection of Deputies, and forcing the person who is anxious to be a member of this House on the one hand, or the person who is anxious to have a say in the membership of this House on the other, to belong to and support one of two monolithic political groups, a time when it is proposed to do that by law, contrary to the whole spirit of our people, and the spirit of our country, is no time for saying that as well as restricting their choice, we will create further difficulties with regard to representation by reducing the numbers.

It has been very definitely and pointedly underlined by both Deputy Manley and Deputy O'Sullivan what the objections are in relation to tampering with numbers. So far as the terms of the amendment are concerned, it deals with the question of the acceptance of the one-member constituency. I suggest to the Deputy that in asking us to accept the one-member constituency, he should not ask us to accept a reduction of the numbers and a restriction of the people's choice as well, and that whatever interest he has in the general question of the numbers of members in this House, it should be left to a more suitable occasion for discussion.

I should like to assure the House that any suggestion I might make, or any amendment I might propose, is certainly not designed to imperil the democratic foundation of this State, as suggested by Deputy Dockrell. I think we could usefully reduce the numbers of this House by at least 25 to 30 Deputies and at the same time secure our democratic foundations, provide an adequate and competent House and provide for sufficient Ministers. I think we have too many Ministers at present. As the Taoiseach has pointed out, an opportunity for discussing this question will be given, I presume, when the Minister for Local Government introduces the necessary legislation to decide what in fact will be the number of constituencies and I am quite prepared to wait until then to put forward my views in regard to the question of maximum representation in the House.

Tarraingíodh siar an leasú, laoi chead.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Tairgeadh an cheist: "I gCuid I agus i gCuid II, go bhfanfaidh Alt 2 mar chuid den Sceideal".
Question proposed: "That in Part I and Part II, Section 2 stand part of the Schedule".

This is the section in the Schedule which proposes in two of its paragraphs to effect, if accepted by the people, a fundamental change in the electoral system we have known in this country for the past 36 years. It is proposed in this section to abolish the system of proportional representation as we know it and to abolish the multiple-member constituencies which are implicit in P.R., and instead of that system, which is purely Irish in its tradition, which is pertinent in every respect to our traditions and outlook over the past 36 years, it is proposed to introduce a system which is purely English in its tradition, historical association and its outlook.

We are asked in this section to undo the things done by successive leaders of Governments here in the past 36 years and in place of the system of P.R., to adopt a system which is current in England. Politics certainly make strange bed-fellows. It is pertinent, perhaps significant, that the Taoiseach is now doing what Craigavon did in the North some 25 years ago and doing it, I suggest, for precisely the same reason.

Does the House realise that, in 1922, Ireland, north and south, east and west, elected its public representatives under the system of P.R. freely adopted by our people? From 1922 on, the Parliament in the South of Ireland and the Parliament in the North also were to be elected by P.R. P.R. was scarcely tried in the North: a few years sufficed to convince the Unionist Party that it just would not do and steps were taken in the middle Twenties in the North to abolish P.R. and to adopt instead the British system. One of the first people to object to that was the Taoiseach and he was joined by every other leader of public opinion in the South. We said to the North—I think with sincerity, certainly with vehemence— that the abolition of P.R. there was an effort to establish dictatorship in that part of our country by a political junta. How well the charge has been proved in the years that have elapsed! The same political Party has remained in office in Stormont for the past 36 years, immutable, unchangeable, a fixture in the northern landscape. Do we say that kind of immutability is desirable? Are we now to eat bitter bread here and slavishly follow the example set for us by the northern leader a quarter of a century ago?

It has been said that this proposed change is in the interests of stability. I wonder when people use words like that, whether they realise what they say or attach any particular meaning to such words. Is stability to signify no change in Government or should it mean stability in the institutions of the State itself? There has been no change of Government in the North in the past 36 years, but I do not think we would regard the set-up in the North or the Government experience which they have had as being good. The change in the North has had the effect of enshrining in Government offices there the same Party, the same men, the same outlook and the same leaders. Were it not for other matters behind the Unionist Party, that kind of regimented rule would long since have led to disruption. Down here, if we are to have, with this change, the entrenchment of a political Party and the banishing from this House of legitimate political movements, then I fear that disruption will very quickly follow.

The Taoiseach has talked about stability. Even using that term in the same way as he does, let us remember that over 36 years here in the South, we have had only three Prime Ministers, Mr. W.T. Cosgrave, the present Taoiseach and the Leader of the Opposition. There is an experience of stability, if you like, in the Taoiseach's terminology, which certainly must make us the envy of other countries, notably Britain, where in the same period—I forget the exact figure—I think they have had some seven different leaders of Government. In fact, over the past 36 years P.R. has stood the test and has proved its worth, so far as we are concerned.

This proposal in this section of the Schedule is, in my view, a very dangerous one. We can understand that all of us may have differences in opinion or in views as to what is best for the country. That is understandable and legitimate in any democracy. No matter what differences we may have had in the past in this country, there was surely one thing that we all appeared to be agreed upon—that P.R. was the best system of election for this country. It was put in the 1922 Constitution freely by the Irish Constituent Assembly sitting to enact that Constitution. In 1937 it was put by the present Taoiseach into the present Constitution and proposed by him to the people and enacted by the people. Accordingly, in so far as that particular system was concerned, up to last August or September all sides of this House and all shades of political opinion were agreed that this was the best system for this country.

The first indication of a change came with the inspired leak in the Press last August, followed by the Taoiseach's Press interview. Many of us thought that that was just a bit of midsummer madness induced by the lack of sun at the time. But there it was, the first indication that any political personality here had very serious views challenging the system of P.R. Now, the Taoiseach was entitled to change his mind. It is one of the rights of all of us to do that and it is a right that the Taoiseach has frequently exercised. He was entitled to change his mind, and he was entitled to say that in 1937 he made a mistake and that he made a mistake in 1925 when he protested against the Unionists taking this step. I wonder can he be so certain now, when he proposes to the people in this Bill not only to remove P.R. from the Constitution but to put in its place the English system of election.

Could he not have salved his changed conscience by merely removing P.R. from the Constitution and leaving it to the Oireachtas, as representing the people, to define the manner in which its membership should be elected and to change its mind from time to time? Why should the Taoiseach, having proven that he wobbles on this issue, having demonstrated that he has held different views, suggest now that out of the Constitution should come P.R. and in its place should be put this English system?

Let us see what is involved in this. If this referendum is accepted by the people and if the British system is written into our Constitution, it will never be changed again, no matter how it works—and we do not know how it will work. No matter what the experience may be in the future, no Government elected on the single member constituency, on the English system, will change from that to P.R. Therefore, let us see what is involved in the Taoiseach's proposal, the proposal of a man who has had two views on this, a man who for all his political life up to this has fought and stood for P.R. That man is proposing now that, instead of the present system, we should enshrine something that he regarded as hateful up to this. I think that is going too far and that, as the Leader of the Opposition already described it, it is asking the people to take a leap in the dark. We have no means of knowing how the British system would work here. We have had experience of P.R., but no means of knowing how the alternative might work.

We could have understood the Taoiseach saying that it was a mistake in 1937 and in 1922 to fetter and tie our hands in relation to our electoral system; and if he merely suggested removing fetters, taking P.R. out of the Constitution and letting the people, by the manner in which they elect a Government decide through the legislation passed by the Dáil the manner in which the electoral laws should be framed, that would have been an understandable case to make. Instead of that, we are asked to enshrine something in the Constitution about which we know nothing. We are asked to do so while we on this side of the House have the gravest misgivings with regard to the possible results.

It is not sufficient for the Taoiseach or the Minister for Finance or the Tánaiste or others who have said soft words about this proposal, to assure us that they intend others no harm. That is just not good enough. We know that this change, since it is proposed by the Leader of a political Party, must be intended by him to benefit his political Party. We know well that if this proposed change had operated in the last election or the previous election or recent elections, this Dáil would be composed now almost entirely of Fianna Fáil Deputies. We know that no one can control the future and we know well that future contests have yet to be decided. If the last election ur previous elections were fought on this system, here in this Dáil, those looking down from the gallery would think they were at a meeting of the Fianna Fáil Party.

The misgiving we have in relation to a system which could produce that kind of result is the effect it may have on the country itself and on the people outside. This is Ireland, with all its faults, all its weaknesses and all its magic. It is not England or America or France or anywhere else. We have no large concentrated centres of population. There are very few areas in the country that historically stand for any political side of the House. Generally, what the people are thinking in Donegal they are also thinking in Cork and if the political wind is blowing in a particular way in Dublin it is also blowing in the same direction across in the West. Accordingly, under the British system, a win by a political Party in this country is likely to be a clean sweep everywhere. Now, that does not happen in England, because British history, British geographical features and distribution of population ensure otherwise.

Ever since the days of the Wars of the Roses in England there have been clearly defined areas where the Whig and the Liberal—now the Labour— outlooks are enshrined. The same remarks can apply to well defined Tory —now Conservative—areas in Britain. The result is that in British general elections, although a strong tide may be flowing in favour of the Labour or Conservative Parties, the defeated Party has a minimum representation of some 150 members in Parliament. It is because of that peculiarly British circumstance that this kind of system grew up in Britain. It is English, dyed in the wool, red, white and blue, nothing else. We are asked to mix the colours and run the green, white and gold into the red, white and blue. It cannot be done. To apply it to this country may set a spark to a fuse, and the explosion may harm more than the Taoiseach's political opponents.

I should like to ask the Taoiseach, even at this eleventh hour, not to go ahead with this final step, to have second thoughts about it, to realise that if this Dáil were ever composed of some 90 per cent. of one politcial Party, outside the Dáil there would be an angry tumult, growing gradually. Decent minded people, representing decent sections of opinion, who are denied admittance into Dáil Éireann, people whom we should encourage to regard this House as the centre of their political existence, decent movements of this kind denied admittance into the Dáil, will be driven underground to the detriment of the nation.

Reference has already been made to the trade union movement, represented in this House to a large extent by the Irish Labour Party. The Irish Labour Party was in this House before Fianna Fáil. It played its part in the formation of this State and was at one time the constitutional Opposition here, helping in dangerous days to build this Dáil and the institutions of this State. The Irish Labour Party have had their leaders in the past speaking on behalf of the workers of Ireland. There is no need to mention great names, but the names of their leaders are enshrined in the reports of this House—leaders fighting here the fight they believed in and the cause they worked for.

I want the Taoiseach to consider what the position might have been in the formative years of the '20s if we had a system which banged the gates of Leinster House on "Big Jim" Larkin and all the other fine leaders of the Irish Labour Party. If they had been denied admission here and forced by our electoral laws to disregard the Irish Parliament, does the Taoiseach believe that this House would now be accepted as it is by those who at that time were arrayed against it? What could have happened then can happen in the future if this disastrous step is taken. If now, some 36 years later, at the instance of a man who admits he was wrong in the past, at the instance of a man who produces this as his own idea, the country were to adopt a system known only elsewhere, the effect of which might be to deny adequate representation to legitimate political movements in this country, then I feel our own institutions would very rapidly be endangered.

Political stability does not merely mean a saneness in Government. Political stability means, as Edmund Burke defined it once, change in continuity and continuity in change, the Deputies over there taking their place in due course on this side of the House and the Deputies here going over there— orderly change, fashioned in accordance with the wishes of the electorate, but the same institutions and organs of the State continue. That is proper political stability and that is the kind of stability we have had in the last 36 years. If an electoral system is so designed to produce the same team, the same Government, the same political oligarchy in charge, then disruption and explosion will occur. I would suggest to the Taoiseach in the interests of the country that, if he does not have any regard to the past 36 years, let him think of the future. This Dáil must continue and those who serve it must continue to work for it. The Taoiseach should have regard to the years that lie ahead. I would urge him now not to take a step which is potentially disastrous for the people of this country.

I do not know whether Deputy O'Higgins thinks he is going to make every Deputy who supports this amendment of the Constitution run away and hide his head simply because the Deputy elects to describe it as the English system. The British people have many good things. A number of them have roofs over their heads. I do not think we should refuse to put roofs on our houses simply because the British have them. We should drop that sort of childish argument. Let us approach this proposition on its merits like reasonable men and not try to close a discussion or prevent people talking by cheap propaganda of that kind. The fact is that we are proposing to change the proportional system to the direct voting system which is in operation in Great Britain, the United States, Canada and a number of other countries.

And the North of Ireland.

And the North of Ireland. Deputy O'Higgins pointed out, and I wish he would draw the proper conclusions from this fact, that under the proportional system, Fianna Fáil as a political Party has succeeded in forming the Government for 21 or 22 years out of the last 27 years. We know that one of the things the proportional system does it to slow down the rate of change. We know that if a Party gets 50 per cent. on one occasion under the proportional system it is not likely to go below 45 or above 51 or 52 per cent. on the next occasion. The rate of change is slowed down. As Deputy O'Higgins pointed out, the direct voting system has the effect—this is something we must all admit—of exaggerating the change in the pattern of the people elected. With a slight shift in public opinion there may be a very big change in the percentage of members elected for the various Parties.

One of the things the direct voting system does above all others is to make for reasonable stability in Government. It does not throw up Governments that can never be changed and Governments so weak that they can never act effectively in the national interest. Such Governments ultimately go out of existence and the people grasp at something that will give them effective Government. Perhaps they may even grasp at dictatorship in the hope of stability.

Under the proportional system a number of Parties can be elected. If the proportional system operated here as it has operated in many countries on the Continent, we might have not two or three main Parties but eight, nine, ten or 11 almost equal Parties. The difficulty of such Parties forming a Government can be seen from the experience we have had ourselves on a couple of occasions. We remember all the trotting around there was in order to achieve the necessary compromise for the formation of a Government. We have seen that, too, on the Continent in the last ten or 12 years. We have seen the very stable and unemotional Dutch without a Government for four or five months. We know that the situation became so bad in France that the whole institutions of State simply collapsed.

It is a different system.

We all know that what Deputy Costello said in 1937 on this issue is absolutely true. At column 1345 of Volume 68 of the Official Report he said:—

"Under the system of the single transferable vote we are bound to have a large number of Parties...."

That is quite true.

"We always understood that the real defect under any system of P.R., and particularly the system of the single transferable vote, was that it led, in circumstances where there are no big economic issues before the country, to a large number of small Parties being returned, making for instability in Government. That is inherent in the system of P.R. and the single transferable vote."

Now we are trying here to get agreement to an amendment of the Constitution which will have the effect of safeguarding the people in the future from the inherent defects in the P.R. system. It is sheer stupidity to say that the Fianna Fáil Party are changing the system in their own interests.

Is that not the system that brought the Party here?

It is the system that has made Fianna Fáil the Government of the country for 21 years out of 27 years.


If we were merely thinking of the interests of Fianna Fáil—this is my honest belief—we would continue with the P.R. system. We are the Party which has benefited most under that system.

Does the Minister think that is bad for the country?

As the Party which has done best under the P.R. system, we think the country will not benefit from that system in the future and that is why we are pressing these changes now.

A very touching reason to give!

I want to put a proposition to the Labour Party and to the Fine Gael Party. We have a reasonable number of them here; we can examine this now.

More than the Minister can say for his own side.

We can all agree with Deputy Costello that under the P.R. system there is bound to be a number of small and middle-sized Parties. If membership of this House is split up into a number of small Parties and no one Party is sufficiently strong to form a Government, what will we do? What has happened in France and in other countries can happen here.

What happened in 1951?

Will the Deputy please keep quiet?

Order! The Minister for External Affairs is in possession.

If, after the next general election, we have a number of small Parties returned under whatever system is in operation, will the Labour Party coalesce with any other Party in order to form a Government?

Would the Minister have entered into an agreement with Deputies Dr. Browne and Dr. French O'Carroll if he had a majority?

Will the Labour Party coalesce or will they say no Government can be formed unless they or some other Party get a majority?

Deputy Dr. Browne never will coalesce again, anyhow.

On two occasions, notwithstanding the fact that before the election the Labour Party, Clann na Talmhan and Clann na Poblachta indicated that they would not form a coalition in order to form a Government——

That is not so.

——they did, in fact, coalesce after the election.

Our job was to put you out.

If the Labour Party, Clann na Talmhan, Clann na Poblachta, and whatever other Parties are here, are prepared to coalesce after an election, if there is no single Party with a majority, why cannot they get together to form that coalition before the election and let the people know what type of coalition it will be? I do not have to educate——

God forbid!

——the members of the Opposition as to what can be done under the direct voting system in order to procure a majority through two smaller Parties as against a big one. They know it has happened in England and elsewhere, that there are election agreements made between two Parties—they do not hide the fact—that they will form a Coalition if they get a combined majority.

Take my own constituency, County Louth. Roughly, the situation is that at the last election there were 12,000-odd votes for Fianna Fáil and there were 14,000 votes against Fianna Fáil. It so happened that even though Fianna Fáil got only 12,000-odd votes, Fianna Fáil got two out of the three seats. If anybody can divide the County Louth constituency so that Fianna Fáil, with 12,000 votes, will get three seats as against 14,000 Opposition votes, I should like him to try his hand at it. In County Louth there is a certain number of Labour votes, a certain number of Fine Gael votes and a certain number of Fianna Fáil votes. If Labour and Fine Gael, after an election held under the direct system, are prepared to coalesce, they can come to an election agreement. Let us, for ease of reference, call the constituencies, North Louth, Mid-Louth and South Louth. In County Louth there would be three Fianna Fáil candidates. Naturally, being the large Party, we would put up three Fianna Fáil candidates, one in each constituency. It could be agreed that Labour would put up a candidate in either North, South or Mid-Louth and that Fine Gael would put up a candidate in each of the other constituencies.

I thought we were the surplus Party.

The fact that they had to combine to fight the election would make it easier afterwards for them to coalesce. If Fianna Fáil did not get a majority or if Fine Gael or Labour did not get a majority on its own, it would make it easier for them to combine to have a coalition.

Why should not Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael do the same?

The Minister is a noble, altruistic soul.

Will Deputy Norton answer the question? If, after the next general election there is no single Party in this House able to form a Government on its own, will Labour say "No" to Fine Gael?

What will the Minister say if he has not a majority on a straight vote?

Can the Deputy not let Deputy Norton answer the question?

No. Let the Minister answer that question. It was put to him before. If no Party gets an overall majority with a straight vote, what will Fianna Fáil do?

I take it that Deputy Norton, as he did before, would form a Government with Fine Gael?

The Minister for Health says: "Do not put your foot in it."

My second question is: Why do they not let the people know ahead of time? Why sit here mute when they are being asked a simple question? Do they want to let an election go through and then have another coalition?

Shades of 1951.

It would be better for the Minister if he had been mute in distant places recently.

The Fine Gael Party are going around at present trying to pretend that at the next general election, inevitably, there will be a clean sweep by Fianna Fáil——

On the contrary.

——that because Fianna Fáil has a majority in this Dáil, inevitably, it will get a three or four to one majority in the next Dáil.

The people cannot be so stupid as that.

Once is enough for them.

I do not believe the people are so stupid as that.

Then the argument is that Fianna Fáil will not get a majority and, in that eventuality, will Deputy Norton form a coalition with Fine Gael?

What would the Minister do?

What they did in 1951.

What do the unemployed think of this?

Deputy Norton's silence after all these questions is significant, I must say.

The Minister is a master strategist. Why does he not keep his heart on his chest and admire it?

The Deputy is mute of malice, I think.

It was a pity the Minister was not mute of malice recently when he was in distant parts.

Do not trot that across here. Deputy O'Higgins said that all the Parties in the House had agreed up to now that the P.R. system was the best system for this country. I read out Deputy Costello's few remarks on the P.R. system. He certainly condemmed it as strongly as he could. Deputy Dillon went even further.

I thought the Minister might forget it.

At column 1714, Volume 108 of the Official Reports— I am quoting this because Deputy O'Higgins said that all Parties had agreed that the P.R. system was the best that could be got—Deputy Dillon had this to say about it:—

"Personally, I think P.R. is a fraud and a cod."

If it is a fraud and a cod, it cannot be the best possible system for this country. He said that it ought to be abolished. He said:—

"I believe in the single member constituency, with the transferable vote."



Deputy Costello, as I quoted before, did not believe in the system of the transferable vote. Deputy Costello said:—

"We always understood that the real defect under any system of P.R., and particularly the system of the single transferable vote, was that it led, in circumstances where there are no big economic issues before the country, to a large number of small Parties, etc."

Deputy Dillon thought that P.R. was a fraud and a cod; he believed in the single member constituency with the transferable vote, so that the man who gets the support of the largest number of people living in the constituency will represent the constituency. In that same speech he said: —

"Under that system you would get a clear majority in this House, with a good strong Government, and with no doubts about it after a general election."

Deputy McGilligan said, as reported in column 1070, Volume 67:—

"It was always held that with regard to P.R., which this country adopted, we had adopted the worst possible system."

How does Deputy O'Higgins square those statements, made by leaders of his Party, with his statement here to-day that all Parties here had agreed that P.R. was the best possible system?

That was only in 1937. In 1927 the Fine Gael Party, then Cumann na nGaedheal, issued advertisements which were quoted here by the Taoiseach in his concluding speech on the Second Reading showing what they thought of coalition Governments which are inevitable, as Deputy Costello pointed out, under the system of P.R. Those election advertisements, that were issued by Cumann na nGaedheal in 1927 and quoted by the Taoiseach here, said:—

"Your fight in this election is a fight for Government."

They go on to say that the people should vote for a Government. It indicated that if they voted for small Parties they would set up a Coalition. The advertisement pointed out what a coalition meant. "Bargaining for place and power between irresponsible minority groups" was one of the things it would lead to. "A weak Government with no stated policy." There would be "frequent changes of Government and consequent depression in trade and industry". There would be "no progress. Security and credit would be in constant danger."

We believe that the direct voting system will get rid of a multiplicity of small Parties in the Dáil: that it will force the existing Parties to combine so that the natural tendency will be a reasonably strong and stable Government opposed by a reasonably strong and integrated Opposition. If this country wants to make progress, political discussions must be carried on in a responsible atmosphere. No one can discuss any question of great political importance to the future of our people if there is only one responsible Party in the Dáil—one Party that must, because of the fact that it is going to be the Government or hopes to be the Government on its own, take responsibility for everything it says and every piece of policy it proposes.

It is a disastrous situation—we know it here over the years; it is known in other countries—that when you have one responsible Party, two or three irresponsible Parties will attack you from the extreme right and the extreme left and you cannot hear your ears with the clatter. The best thing for effective and healthy political discussion in any Parliament here or elsewhere is that there should be two responsible Parties or one responsible Party and two or three Parties that can coalesce and which are a natural Coalition. During elections, they should let the people know they are going to coalesce so that when a member of the Opposition speaks, the people can have some assurance that they are not just making a petty point against the Government in order to give it trouble. They should really mean what they say. They will be expected to make some effort to put their policy into operation after an election.

Deputy O'Higgins said that if we had the direct voting system at the last general election, the Dáil would now look like a Fianna Fáil Party meeting I can give him the figures in relation to my own constituency where we have, under the system of P.R., two seats with 12,000 votes and the combined Opposition got one seat with 14,000 votes. I have no doubt that in many other parts of the country something like the same thing happened.

They cannot be combined under the English system.

What cannot be combined?

The Minister says the combined Opposition got 14,000 votes in his constituency. They could not be combined under the English system.

Before Deputy O'Higgins came in, I explained the matter. Take Australia. Australia has a very large Labour Party. It has a Conservative Party.

Australia is a queer example for this Minister to take.

It is known that the Country Party and the Conservative Party will always combine to form a Government. They have been doing that for years. In the constituency where there is a Conservative member, the Country Party do not put forward a candidate. The voters of both Parties unite to support whatever candidate is put up. Let me take the case of Louth which I know pretty well. We got 12,000 votes and two seats and the combined Opposition got 14,000 votes and one seat. If Louth were split into three—north, south and middle— there could be an arrangement between Fine Gael and Labour or between Fine Gael and ourselves or between Labour and ourselves to combine.

The Minister said we were untouchable.

I mentioned that in order to get you to see the point.

We are getting on.

If Labour and Fine Gael agree to form a Coalition after the election, they could always make an election pact. They could agree, say, that in North Louth there would be a Labour man put forward and Fine Gael would get behind the Labour man and with the help of the Labour votes defeat Fianna Fáil.

Do not go back on your alternative.

Was that what happened Fianna Fáil in 1951?

It is not going to happen to Fianna Fáil the next time. I am only telling you how you could do it.

Was that what happened Fianna Fáil in 1951?

If the Labour Party really want to get into a Government in which they will have some power and in which they will not always want to be as mute as mice and do a bit of collouging round the corridors, I should be delighted to see——

You out of the Dáil.

——a system of election coming along that would give them the same opportunity of coming up as the Labour Party did in England. In England in 1918, there was only a handful of Labour members. The Liberal and Tory Parties had 99 per cent. of the seats. After a few years, the Liberal Party went down and the Labour Party came up. The Labour Party in this country had more seats 36 years ago than they have to-day—twice as many.

That is due to the Leader of the Party.

That is since Deputy MacEntee left the Socialist Party of Ireland, of which he was once a proud member.

I was beside James Connolly.

I wanted to remind Ministers of an historical fact.

Having thought over it now, would the Deputy tell me whether he is prepared to coalesce with Fine Gael after another election?

When the Minister sits down, I shall do my best to enlighten him.

I will sit down then.

The Minister made the case for the Taoiseach I take it and for the Party who have some views on P.R. In June, 1957, this statement was made in this House.

"The system we have we know; the people know it. On the whole it has worked out pretty well. I think that we have a good deal to be thankful for in this country: we have to be very grateful that we have had the system of P.R. here. It gives a certain amount of stability, and on the system of the single transferable vote you have fair representation of Parties."

The speaker went on to say:—

"I think we get, probably, in this country more than in any other country, better balanced results from the system we have. If you take the countries where P.R. exists, you get better balanced results than you get in the other countries. I think we get the benefits of P.R. in reasonably balanced legislation here better than in any other country that I have read about or know anything about."

Who said that?

Wait now. The speaker went on to say on another occasion:—

"He would never say that minorities would be denied representation and if the object of those who advised the abolition of P.R. was to wipe out minorities they would get no support from him."

Now, the gentleman who delivered that speech was none other than the Taoiseach.

Could we have the column and date?

The debate on the Constitution Bill, 1937. There is a statement of political faith from the Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party at that time, and yet in the face of that positive statement, the nailing of the flag to the mast, as it were, the Minister for External Affairs put on some buffoonery act here and said that the Fianna Fáil Party never believed in P.R. and, in fact, it was a danger to the country, a danger to the future of the country, after the Taoiseach had assured the country, with all the responsibility of his office behind him, that we get better balanced results from P.R. than from any other system, that we should be thankful for having better balanced results and better balanced legislation and that we would have nothing to do with a proposal to wipe out minority representation in this House.

He is getting old.

As I said on another occasion, Emerson at one time said: "Inconsistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Our poetic Minister for Health will no doubt remember that poetic quotation from his salad days.

That is not from a poem.

I did not say it was from a poem. The Minister at one time talked about birds' nests and I have quoted that often in this House. So the very Party that has told us that P.R. is the sheet anchor, that it gives us such excellent results, better balanced results, that we get more out of P.R. than any other country of which the Taoiseach knows and gives us better balanced legislation, now comes along and says exactly the opposite.

How can we trust a Party that does that? In 1937, they say these are the virtues of P.R., and in 1958 or 1959, they say: "Look, all we said then was really a pack of lies. We do not believe it now. We are completely opposed to P.R. and never seriously meant that P.R. had all the virtues which we then alleged it had." How can we trust a Party like that? Surely it is not unreasonable to say that people who have changed their minds in such a devastating way, and have gone from a northern position to a completely southerly position, are reliable advisers for any section of our people? The fact of the matter is, and the Tánaiste let it out during his contribution to the discussion and the Taoiseach hinted the same, and the Minister for External Affairs is now being thrown into the vortex to make it clear that so far as Fianna Fáil are concerned——

To make it clear, did you say?

I can put "clear" in inverted commas. So far as Fianna Fáil are concerned, they believe in a two Party system of parliamentary representation. They want to maintain a permanent Fianna Fáil Government, and they want to try to maintain a permanent Opposition, and the permanent Opposition, in my view, they want to maintain, is a Fine Gael Opposition. They do not want to see an independent Labour Party survive in this country. They do not want to see an independent Farmers' Party survive in this country. They do not want to see any kind of Independent Party. Anybody who rears a Party and sustains a Party down through the years, does not get the admiration of the Fianna Fáil Party. Their attitude is: "Forget about your principles; get into the crowd; get into the herd; it does not matter if you do not agree with those you are advised to join, if your political principles are different, if your whole philosophy is different—get into the crowd, into the herd. Try to get seats." That is the mentality of the Fianna Fáil Party.

The Deputy got into Government on that basis, did he not? He did not remain an independent Party.

Of course we did.

And he does not want to be an independent Party. That was his difficulty——

Of course we do.

Not at all. You intend to coalesce.

We intend to remain an independent Party.

And coalesce.

What is the meaning of "coalesce"?

It is an irregular marriage.

The sort of marriage the Minister for Health sought with the farmers in 1947. It was the Minister for Health did that for the Taoiseach.

The clear purpose of the Fianna Fáil Party is to try, as I said before, to rivet themselves in office so long as they can, to hold on to the power to dispense favours and hold on to power to look after all their political friends, and keep complete control of the reins of Government.

The net situation that suits them is one Opposition and in that one Opposition, they do not want two Parties. They want only one, and quite clearly they want a Fine Gael Opposition Party. As I said I do not believe the Fianna Fáil Party want an independent Labour Party or an independent Farmers' Party. Their attitude is: "Get into the herd; try to get seats and stay there, but do not try to rear a third Party with an independent point of view in this country. You have to take your stand under either of two umbrellas. You must be elastic in your views and try to fit yourself into either of these Parties, but you cannot form a third Party. In the view of Fianna Fáil, you are not wanted in this House."

The Minister for External Affairs quoted at length what Deputy Costello and Deputy Dillon said in 1937. I am not concerned with what they said in 1937 and it is not my business to explain their point of view in 1937 or to-day. Apparently, however, they were wrong in 1937. The Government then said they were wrong but, in spite of the weaknesses which they alleged flowed from P.R., the Government nevertheless inserted the full P.R. system of election in the new Constitution. At that time, the Taoiseach commended P.R. in the fulsome words I have just quoted.

Now the Minister for External Affairs, having been a member of the Party which rebuked Deputy Costello and Deputy Dillon for what they said, allegedly unreliably, in 1937, discovers because it suits the book that what was said by Deputy Dillon and Deputy Costello in 1937 was perfectly correct.

The allegation is that P.R. makes for a multiplicity of Parties. There is no foundation whatever for that under the method of P.R. which we operate in this country. With such a preponderance of three member constituencies, nobody has a chance of securing a seat in Parliament, unless he can command, in a constituency, at least 25 per cent. of the electorate's votes and that is not a very small minority—25 per cent. of the votes. What number of Parties have grown up here as compared with 1922 under P.R. In that year, we had a Fianna Fáil or a Sinn Fein Party outside the House. We had a Cumann na nGaedheal Party inside the House. We had a Labour Party and we had a Farmers' Party. You had four Parties in 1923.

And a mass of Independents, each of them constituting a separate Party.

I think the Minister for Health is in debt to his imagination for his facts. There were a few Independents——

They are always necessary to call each side's bluff.

In 1923, 36 years ago, we had four Parties in the House. After 36 years of P.R., has the number of Parties increased very substantially? You can count the number of Parties in the House to-day and you can see what multiplication has taken place since 1923. P.R. has not produced a multiplicity of Parties here. If you rate a Party as a body with, say, at least ten members, then there has been no increase in the number of Parties in 1959 as compared with 1923. In face of that, how can it be alleged—I see that the Minister for Health is bursting to say something. Everything he says comes from the Book of Revelations so I will defer to the profundity of his knowledge.

In what class would Deputy Norton put Clann na Talmhan and its leader, who is a colleague of his? Are they unclassed?

That is a senile observation.

The President's Minister should be more responsible than to be guilty of such a silly observation.

Tell Deputy Donnellan where you would put him.

Careful now.

I was saying, before this infantile interruption, that, if you judge Parties as bodies which constitute not less than ten members, and compare Parties to-day on that basis with the Parties which existed in 1923, how, in face of the position as we know it to exist to-day, can the Taoiseach and the Minister for External Affairs allege with justification that P.R. produces a multiplicity of Parties in the sense in which Ministers of the Government have sought to portray a whole variety of Parties, every one of which had been created out of misuse of P.R.? The plain fact of the matter is that that argument will not render any service to whatever case the Government want to make for this Bill.

The Minister for External Affairs talked about a situation in which you get a Government Party elected and you have an Opposition. He thinks that will be the result of the single non-transferable vote. But suppose you get a situation under the single non-transferable vote in which a third Party holds within its grasp the sufficiency of votes necessary to elect one Party to the Government. What is to be done in these circumstances? The Minister for External Affairs wants to know what everybody will do, but he will not tell us what the Fianna Fáil Party want to do. In these circumstances, are the Fianna Fáil Party to refuse to take office, unless they get a guarantee that they will be allowed to function and that votes will never be used against them to unseat them whilst they are in Government, or is their attitude to be: "Unless we get a majority, the other two Parties can get together and form a Government"? But apparently, according to the Minister for External Affairs, that would be a sinful, shameful practice. If three or four independent Parties fight the election, once an election is declared, and if, as a result of the election, no single Party has a clear majority, then a Government has to be elected or you can have another election. What will the Minister for External Affairs do?

I take it that you would coalesce?

What would you do?

There is no purpose in going on with these infantile assumptions.

You say it would be sinful for us not to do it. Would it be sinful if the Labour Party did it?

Stand on the sideline.

Would you coalesce after the election? Answer the question.

What would you do?

The position is that no Party has a majority as a result of a single non-transferable vote, but a Government has to be elected. P.R. cannot be blamed for it. Somebody has to go into office to function as a Government. What is to happen? The Minister for External Affairs says it is a shameful, loathsome thing to coalesce because you have not indicated beforehand your intention to do so.

When you had the intention, why would you not say it to the people?

Talk has recently paid the Minister for External Affairs bad dividends.

It has paid very good dividends to the country.

The Minister would have been a hot starter for the Presidency, if he had watched himself.

That does not answer my question.

I want the Minister to answer questions.

The fact that Deputy Norton does not answer is also significant.

I am asking the Minister for External Affairs if it would be a loathsome, shameful thing in this situation, brought about by the single non-transferable vote, for two or three Parties to get together and to form a Government. He says it would be—

I did not say it would be but I said you could tell it. Why do you not tell the Labour Party now? They have said you are not to do it. Are you telling them now that you would?

Is the Minister telling the Fianna Fáil Party what he would do in the same circumstances?

This discussion is too adult for the Minister for External Affairs. There is no purpose in putting further questions on the matter. I will come back to the main subject which is that the principal purpose of this Bill is to establish a two-Party system of parliamentary Government in the country—a group which is in the Government and a single group in opposition. The purpose of this Bill is to endeavour to wipe out all independent Parties, except the Fianna Fáil Party and the Opposition Party. I believe that the Government desire Fine Gael in Opposition rather than any other Party. That is the whole purpose. It is to make war on Clann na Poblachta, Clann na Talmhan and the Labour Party and to instal Fine Gael as the Opposition.

And then to eat them up.

You are better at that. You almost swallowed Labour.

Fianna Fáil would be dangerous sleeping partners if you were in the House with them alone, and it is a wise caution——

P.R. halved the Labour Party and cut it in two.

No, Deputy Norton's leadership cut it.

You do not want to become any bigger. You are afraid to be independent.

Fianna Fáil will not become any bigger, anyway.

Deputy Norton should be allowed to make his speech without interruption.

The Party which in 1937 said that P.R. had all the virtues now discover that P.R. has no such virtues. The simple Minister for External Affairs says that, in fact, Fianna Fáil have now discovered that P.R. has given them undue advantages; that one of the main considerations behind this Bill is to shed these advantages and to give other people an opportunity of benefiting from what they have secured down through the years.

For the good of the country.

Tugadh tuairisc ar a ndearnadh; an Choiste do shuí arís.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
The Dáil adjourned at 5 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 13th January, 1959.