Committee on Finance. - An Bille um an Tríú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1958—Tairiscint. Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1958—Motion.

Tairgim an rún atá im ainm ar an gClár:—

DE BHRÍ go ndearna Dáil Éireann, ar an 29ú lá d'Eanáir, 1959, an Bille um an Tríú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1958, a rith agus a chur chun Seanad Éireann, agus gur dhiúltaigh Seanad Éireann dó ar an 19ú lá de Mhárta, 1959,

Go gcinneann Dáil Éireann ANOIS AR AN ÁBHAR SIN leis seo, de bhun ailt 1 d'Airteagal 23 den Bhunreacht, go measfar an Bille um an Tríú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1958, mar a ritheadh ag Dáil Éireann é, a bheith rite ag dhá Theach an Oireachtais.

I move:—

THAT WHEREAS the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1958, was, on the 29th day of January, 1959, passed by Dáil Éireann and sent to Seanad Éireann, and was on the 19th Day of March, 1959, rejected by Seanad Éireann,

NOW THEREFORE Dáil Éireann, pursuant to section 1 of Article 23 of the Constitution, hereby resolves that the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1958, as passed by Dáil Éireann, be deemed to have been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Fé mar atá léirithe sa rún sin, cuireadh an Bille seo chun an tSeanaid ar an 29ú Eanáir, arna rith ag an Dáil é. Bhí sé faoi dhíospóireacht sa Seanad ar feadh tréimhse fada, agus ina dhiaidh sin diúltaíodh dó. Mar sin, de réir Airteagail 23 den Bhunreacht, tig leis an Dáil, más mian leis an Dáil, rún a rith faoina measfar go bhfuil an Bille rite ag dhá Theach an Oireachtais. Sin é an fáth go bhfuil an rún seo á thairiscint.

Má ritear an rún, féadfar, ansin, de réir Airteagail 46 den Bhunreacht, an Bille a chur ós comhair an phobail chun breith an phobail a fháil air. Sílim gur ceart é sin a dhéanamh.

Nuair bhí an Bille á phlé againn anseo léiríodh tuairimí an Rialtais, agus níl aon athrú ar na tuairimí sin de bharr na díospóireachta a bhí anseo nó sa Seanad. Táimid ar aon aigne go rachaidh sé chun leas na tíre an t-athrú seo a dhéanamh sa modh toghcháin agus, mar sin, molaim an rún don Dáil.

As I have said, as set out in the terms of the motion, this Bill for the amendment of the Constitution was sent to the Seanad on the 29th January, having been passed by Dáil Éireann. It was discussed in the Seanad. First of all, the Seanad agreed to the principle of the Bill on Second Reading. Then it was altered considerably in the discussion in Committee and, finally, the altered Bill was rejected in Seanad Éireann.

Now, according to Article 23 of the Bunreacht, when a Bill has been rejected in the Seanad or has not been considered and sent back to the Dáil, if a resolution is passed to that effect, Dáil Éireann can cause it to be deemed to have been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas. This is a case in which, I think, it is right that such a resolution should be passed.

The Bill has been discussed over a period, roughly, of six months, in the country, in the Press, here in Dáil Éireann and in Seanad Éireann, and nothing that has transpired during that period has changed the attitude of any member of the Government with regard to the desirability of altering the present method of election and putting in its stead a system of single-member constituencies and the nontransferable vote.

This is a measure which intimately affects the Dáil more than the Seanad. Of course, the Seanad has its duties and its functions but, fundamentally, the Bill affects the Dáil more intimately, inasmuch as it affects the manner in which the elections to the Dáil are to be held, and, accordingly, I think the Dáil is entitled, not merely in accordance with the terms of the Bunreacht, but in the nature of things, to pass this resolution so that the people may pass judgment upon the Bill.

If this motion is passed, the matter can be put without any further delay, as quickly as may be, to the people for their judgment. I know there is an amendment but, to me, the amendment seems merely putting the matter on the long finger. During the discussions, libraries have been ransacked and all the information available—and there is a good deal of it available—on this particular matter, has been gathered for use here. The people have now had an opportunity of informing themselves on the merits of the question, and I think, therefore, that it is time that the people be given the opportunity of definitely deciding.


Na focail uile i ndiaidh an fhocail "go" sa chéad líne a scriosadh agus na focail seo a leanas a chur ina n-ionad:

bhfuil an Bille um an Tríú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1958, tar éis beach taíocht thromchúiseach leanúnach a tharraingt i nDáil Éireann gur dhiúltaigh Seanad Éireann dó, agus gur cúis imní agus easaontais i measc an phobail é,

Go gcinneann Dáil Éireann ANOIS AR AN ÁBHAR SIN leis seo gan beart de bhun ailt 1 d'Airteagal 23 den Bhunreacht a dhéanamh go dtí go bhfaighfear tuarascáil ó Chomhchoiste de Dáil Éireann agus Seanad Éireann, a cheapfar chun scrúdú a dhéanamh ar iarmairtí sóisialacha, polaiticiúla agus eacnamaíocha na n-athruithe sa chóras togcháin atá beartaithe sa Bhille um an Tríú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1958—an tuarascáil a bheith le tabhairt ag an gComhchoiste tráth nach déanaí ná an 29ú lá de Lúnasa, 1959."

I move:

To delete all words after the figures "1958" in line 2 and substitute therefor the words:

"has given rise to serious and sustained criticism in Dáil Éireann, has been rejected in Seanad Éireann, and has caused disquiet and division among the people,

NOW THEREFORE Dáil Éireann hereby resolves to postpone action under section 1 of Article 23 of the Constitution until a report shall have been received from a Joint Committee of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann, appointed to examine the social, political and economic implications of the changes in the electoral system proposed in the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1958—the Joint Committee to report not later than the 29th day of August, 1959.

If the amendment is accepted, the resolution would read as follows:

THAT WHEREAS the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1958, has given rise to serious and sustained criticism in Dáil Éireann, has been rejected in Seanad Éireann and has caused disquiet and division among the people,

NOW THEREFORE Dáil Éireann hereby resolves to postpone action under section 1 of Article 23 of the Constitution until a report shall have been received from a Joint Committee of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann, appointed to examine the social, political and economic implications of the changes in the electoral system proposed in the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1958—the Joint Committee to report not later than the 29th day of August, 1959.

The Taoiseach, in moving his motion, has merely characterised this amendment as intended to put the matter on the long finger and, therefore, it is to be assumed from that that he suggests that there is no merit in the amendment and that it ought not to be passed. I think that is a fair interpretation of the Taoiseach's cryptic observations, short as they were.

His exact words.

I would direct the attention of Deputies to the fact that this amendment is carefully framed so as to enable the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill to be referred to the people under the referendum within the time limited for that purpose by the Constitution. There is, therefore, and there can be, no question whatever of putting this amendment down merely for delay or to put it on the long finger, as the Taoiseach has suggested. Had that been our object, we could have contented ourselves with speaking on and voting against his own motion or putting down an amendment of a different character.

The whole purpose of this motion is to carry out in a different way the object we had from the very beginning of the debate on this issue, namely, that there should be a certain pause of fairly long duration during which the electorate would have time to consider this very important matter and time within which to become fully informed so that they could ultimately make an intelligent decision on the issue. No issue of such paramount importance has come before the people for very many years—no issue so important as the issue contained in the proposals now before the House. From the start I have felt that it was urgently necessary that the people, who are being called upon to exercise one of the most democratic pieces of machinery that could be conceived, should have every opportunity of being fully informed and of knowing what they are doing.

From the start we have pressed for an inquiry into this matter. We have pressed for a full discussion. We have pressed for all the arguments for and against to be put forward, thoroughly examined and, the implications of the proposals having been investigated, the results of such investigation made available to an intelligent electorate. I cannot help coming to the conclusion, after the protracted debate on this matter in both the Dáil and Seanad, that the one thing the sponsors of these proposals are most afraid of is that the issue should be brought before the electorate at a time when the electorate would have had an opportunity of informing themselves of what was afoot and making an intelligent decision thereon.

From the start of this debate, when we were arguing this matter, pleading for time and asking for an inquiry, the cry was heard from the far side of the House: "You are standing between us and the people." That was supposed to be a politically popular cry; we were preventing the people from making a decision, a decision which they were "leppin' and rarin"' to take in favour of the proposals. All we fought for during all those weary weeks was that we should bring before the people all the information available to us and put it at their disposal to enable them to appreciate what they were being asked to do and to realise the important implications for them and for the country as a whole.

The Taoiseach has said that anything that has happened since has not changed the minds of the Government. It would, indeed, be a most startling revolution in the history of Ireland to date if the Fianna Fáil Party changed their minds on this or any other matter. We did not expect they would. It is, however, relevant to consider—it has been noted in the country—that every Party is against these proposals and the only Party in favour of them is the Fianna Fáil Party.

When these proposals were first put forward, they came suddenly and unexpectedly. At the outset the people were not very interested. They wondered what was afoot perhaps. They were inclined to take the attitude: "What is it all about? What does it matter to us what kind of system we have?" We fought. We succeeded in gaining time to bring home to the people the full implications of these proposals. I think it is only right now that I should record on behalf of my Party and on my own behalf the great debt that the people owe to the Seanad for having given an additional breathing space to enable this matter to be more fully discussed. The debates in this House and in the Seanad were on a very high level and have done something to enhance the reputation of our Parliamentary institutions.

When we came to consider these proposals first I thought that it could hardly be that Fianna Fáil were introducing them merely to gain Party political advantage. In the past, an old colleague of mine—the Taoiseach knew him very well: the late Professor O'Sullivan—used to hit the desk and say: "They can do anything" when we were inclined to take the view that Fianna Fáil could not, or would not, do something. With that experience in front of me, I still felt that Fianna Fáil would not go down to such real depths at a time when they are on the downgrade despite the high place they achieved after the last general election. I still felt that they would not try to mould the future in such a way as would give them a stranglehold on the political life of this country for many years to come. Cynics held a different view, even at the start. My own private opinion was that it was just the Taoiseach letting another bee out of his bonnet; he hated Coalitions; he hated anything that defeated his Party; there was something wrong in anything that defeated Fianna Fáil; there was something wrong in our national life when Fianna Fáil were defeated. That was my innocent approach. I ought to have known better.

Now that we have heard the Taoiseach over the weekend it is abundantly clear (1) that the Taoiseach wants to convince the public that these proposals are necessary for the national well-being, and (2) he equates the national well-being with the well-being of the Fianna Fáil Party.

That is nothing new.

I quote from theIrish Independent of April 27th, the day before yesterday. Speaking at a convention in Monaghan, this is what the Taoiseach said:—

The referendum is more important than a general election.

He goes on to say he hated making any changes in the Constitution, and

"would not have proposed this change only it was fundamentally necessary for the nation's well-being."

Hear, hear!

I could understand that as an exercise in political flapdoodle because a political Party always tries to persuade a gullible electorate that whatever they do is for the national wellbeing. It was an easy sort of "flap" and one to be expected from the Taoiseach from the point of view of his eminence as Prime Minister of this country; what he is doing is in the national wellbeing. But he did not content himself with that.

He went on to say that it was "because Fianna Fáil could not count on obtaining an over-all majority at any future election under the present electoral system that they had decided to change the system under which their members should be elected in the future". He let the cat out of the bag there; the reason they decided on this change was because Fianna Fáil would never again get an over-all majority. Now we know precisely why these proposals are made and why they are being promulgated and pressed before the people. I further emphasise what I said, that the Taoiseach apparently regards as the national well-being that Fianna Fáil should have an overall majority.

His Deputy, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, made an eloquent speech in this House yesterday in which he said that he was longing to see this Parliament a deliberative assembly. Can anybody imagine that if the proposal now being put forward were, by any misfortune, carried by the people this Parliament would rise above anything but an instrument for regularising decisions made by the Government in the council chamber in Government buildings? The whole proposal is to get an over-all majority for the Fianna Fáil Party as against one small Opposition. The whole proposal is to get what I described in the town of Fermoy as a political monstrosity, to get one big Party that will be able to do what it likes for a period of four or five years and to have an Opposition composed of what the Taoiseach already has described as a mixum-gatherum.

The suggestion has already been made in the course of the debate that there must be only two Parties and that the Labour Party, the Farmers, Clann na Talmhan and Clann na Poblachta must get together and see somehow how they can form one Party. Then we would have what I have already described as a political monstrosity as an Opposition and as a proposed alternative Government. It is in order that the people should have an opportunity of considering these matters and fully realising what is afoot that we have put down this motion to give a further breathing space and to have an examination of this matter from its political, social and national aspects.

The Taoiseach has said that the libraries of Europe were searched for arguments for this debate. I have said that again and again and I think the Taoiseach was quoting me when he said that. The Minister for Health discovered some Frenchman——

No, he was a Swiss.

Mr. Costello

All right then, a Swiss. He apparently wrote in French because the Minister was so delighted that we had ransacked the libraries of Europe for arguments after the proposals were brought in. The Minister for Health apparently knew sufficient French to know the French title because he quoted that but then he proceeded to give us the view of some Englishman on what the other man had said.

You will not get away with that.

Mr. Costello

I thought myself that it was the last straw when the Minister for Health had to do that to build up a case for this proposal. I make this comment about the Taoiseach saying that the libraries of Europe were ransacked for arguments against the proposals: they could have ransacked the same libraries and got the same arguments, the same facts and drawn the same conclusions in the year 1937. This is a matter on which the Irish public should be intelligently informed —that all these arguments and documents and facts were available from the libraries of Europe in 1937 with one exception, the sole exception of the gentleman discovered by the Minister for Health. I think the people are entitled to know why, when the Taoiseach took this strong stand in 1937 saying that not merely was he going to enshrine the principles of proportional representation in the Constitution but to copperfasten a particular system to the exclusion of all others, the libraries of Europe were not availed of then.

I quote what the Taoiseach said then:

"The system we have is a good one. It has worked well. The people ought to be very grateful for the fact that we had this system."

Now he wants this country to vote in favour of those new proposals without the country having sufficient time and opportunity to consider the very drastic implications of these proposals. No wonder the people of the country are becoming cynical when the Taoiseach has said that the reason Fianna Fáil want this is that they want an over-all majority.

He says this, having heard the arguments in this House and in the Seanad and unimpressed by the fact that, as week followed week and month followed month, there was in this country a tremendous upsurge of interest in this matter. We have not known, since the establishment of this State, such a great amount of interest in any proposal once the people were aroused to the importance of what was afoot and the implications that would follow. We have had study groups, symposia and debates of every kind, class and description in universities and other bodies. That is a manifestation of public interest that is very welcome particularly when, before these proposals were brought before the people, we had to complain of general apathy and disillusionment. I can say that these proposals have had the merit of arousing the people to their duty and to an interest in public affairs.

It is also interesting to recall that, at not a single one of these groups, as far as I am aware, was there a vote in favour of the proposals of the Government. At this stage, when the people are taking an intelligent interest in this matter, and looking for guidance, perhaps the Taoiseach will grant a few months' grace which would enable the matter to be gone into more fully? We should also recall the fact that there should be a tribute paid to those Senator professors who, after the discussion in the Seanad, issued a public statement calling for the establishment of a Proportional Representation Commission. While, perhaps, it would not be possible to agree entirely with the terms of that resolution, we can certainly agree in principle with what it seeks, that there should be an inquiry in this matter, that there might be some question of defects in the present system and that there might be a better system that we could use.

The motion that we have put down is in line with the principles of that recommendation and we heartily endorse the principle of what they suggest without being bound by the machinery they suggest. I should have mentioned before that it is now abundantly clear that this was merely a political move to get an over-all majority for Fianna Fáil, but he said: "No. It is because Fianna Fáil cannot get it that these proposals are being put forward." I do not know how the Taoiseach slipped up on that.

I did not slip up, as the Deputy would know if he heard what I said.

I fancy if he is replying to this debate, or if not on some future occasion, he will read into that statement what nobody on earth except himself could possibly read into it and will probably say that what he meant was that Fine Gael should get an overall majority and not Fianna Fáil. At all events he was borne out by the Tánaiste, Deputy Lemass, because he said that once the Taoiseach goes from his position in public life as Taoiseach there will arise splinter parties. He practically said, if he did not say it in so many words, that Fianna Fáil is going to splinter or split up. I have not got his exact words but he said there were going to be splinter Parties. Fine Gael will not splinter; Labour will not splinter and Clann na Talmhan will not splinter. The only Party that will splinter is Fianna Fáil. Therefore, the Tánaiste said we must have these proposals brought into operation.

We have reached the stage of "unsplinterability".

Mr. Costello

At least we have it clear now that that is what is implied and what was said. I do not think it was said with tremendous force but it was suggested this was all a political manoeuvre. We know now that it is, and at least the people will know that.

Leaving all that aside I want to deal with this matter from a serious point of view. So far as I can measure the feeling of the people, they are displaying a tremendous concern and they want to know what this is all about. Many of them are interested from an intellectual point of view. Some of them, at the start of this debate, were inclined to the view that we are all engaged in some exercise in political dialecticism or some sort of consideration of political machinery. They know now it is going to affect themselves and they want to know how. One of the suggestions I am making is to put the question to each individual voter and ask him to inquire: how does this affect me? I do not think the people are concerned with the question as to whether Fianna Fáil will get an overall majority in the future or not but there is an uneasy feeling arising, if it has not been given clear expression amongst the people, that they are being deprived of something which is intangible but which is nevertheless of great value. They had the right to vote in a certain way through the years, that is, those who have been sufficiently old to vote in numerous general elections, those who are sufficiently young who have voted only in the last few elections and those who will vote in future elections and in the referendum.

These people have the feeling that there was something in the vote as it existed under the principle of P.R. It is all very well to say that they had only one vote, but they could exercise a preference. They had a feeling, and rightly so, that when they voted 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on, they were doing something which they liked to do, and that is being taken away from them. They were enabled, where there was a three-seat constituency and certainly where there was a four or five-seat constituency to make a selection as between candidates of different Parties but over and above that they were enabled to make a selection out of their own political Party to which they had allegiance. Everybody knows that where there is a four or five-seat constituency part of the manoeuvre during the general election was that each party put a man up from different parts of the area. One man was elected in order to have another man elected. Votes were collected from various parts of the constituency and the voter had the feeling that when he was voting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and so on, he was exercising a preference as between Parties and as between individuals in Parties. It is coming home to the people that they are being deprived of that something that is valuable.

I do not intend to go through all the arguments that have been advanced here, in the Seanad and elsewhere, as to the relative merits of the different types of P.R. or the British system, but I do press upon Deputies that there is a kind of conviction that there is an effort to rush the Bill. I have already pointed out in the course of many of the speeches I have made that once a decision is taken on this very grave issue it will be one that will remain for good or for ill for many years as the electoral system in this country. Neither the Dáil nor the Seanad nor the people have the right —if they have the right they ought not to exercise it—to take what I have already described as a leap in the dark instead of making the fullest inquiries into what is proposed and what the effect will be if these proposals are carried into effect.

The Taoiseach talks about the national well-being. I urge upon him that it is his duty and the duty of his colleagues to see that the people are fully informed so that they may give an intelligent decision, knowing the implications, knowing what will happen in the future if they vote either "yes" or "no" and knowing they will affect very seriously generations to come in a way we cannot yet foresee.

Such importance do I attach to the argument that we are not able to say what will be the effects of this proposal that I repeat what I have said so often: conditions in this country are entirely different from what they are in England, South Africa, Australia and Canada where the British system is in operation. Ransack the libraries of Europe if you like, quote Swiss professors, as the Minister for Health might be disposed to do in the newspapers from time to time, but the outstanding feature of this is that nobody knows what the effects will be on the future of the country.

Except your professors.

We know the conditions are entirely different in Ireland and I have already quoted what they are. The British have this system over the years. They know how it works and they know it works for two reasons: (1) because of the peculiar history of the country industrially and politically; (2) because they have a long tradition behind them. We have had no experience, since the establishment of this State, of the working of this system. But I do know that there are no such pockets of population scattered around the country to which can be attached the label of any political Party, whether it be Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour or anything else. Again I emphasise my belief that nobody knows what will happen with this; there may be some very frightening results from it. It may very well be that the consequences of these proposals, if ever unfortunately put into operation, would have tremendous results for the country.

I want to repeat what I said in concluding on a previous occasion. There was no public demand for these proposals. They were unexpectedly promulgated by the Taoiseach at a Press interview. He and his Government, over the years which they have been in office, have set up commission after commission to enquire into this, that, and the other thing—some of major importance and some of relatively minor importance—but in a matter of this kind, where the people are asked, and where it is obviously intended that they should be pressed, to make a decision without adequate information and merely on political considerations, there is no question of an enquiry being set up.

We asked for that on the Second Reading of this Bill and it was declined. We were told when we were discussing this matter in the Dáil— and I suppose the Seanad were told the same—that we were wasting time, that we were preventing the people from giving a decision and that we were standing between the Government and the people. As long as we could here in the Dáil, we did that and did it in the interest of the people. I believe the people are grateful for it because our democratic institutions of Dáil and Seanad have secured far greater respect from the people than they had before the debate on these proposals. The people are interested now; there is genuine interest throughout the country. They are still puzzled and in some respects perplexed. Some have indicated their predilections for this present system and some for a change; and when those who were in favour of the change had matters pointed out to them, they said "We had not thought of that", and they changed their minds in favour of the present system.

It is because we know that there is quite a substantial body of people in the country who have an inquiring mind, who want to know the truth and exercise an intelligent interest in this matter, that we want more time. Without in any way preventing the Government from getting this Bill passed into law within the constitutional time, there should be this further inquiry in order to give further information to the people who want it. I believe that the effect of this debate here will be for the good of the people as a whole. I believe that even amongst some of the followers of Fianna Fáil throughout the country there is a feeling that the issues involved in these proposals transcend political considerations.

Hear, hear.

The issue here is one of such tremendous importance that it ought not to be approached on a purely Party political basis.

Hear, hear.

That is the way Fianna Fáil have approached it from the beginning of this until the Taoiseach let the cat out of the bag when he said that Fianna Fáil could not get a majority. The Irish people know very well what they are at. They know perfectly well the real motives behind this. While the Taoiseach may try to equate the national well-being with the political well-being of the Fianna Fáil Party, he and his Party may very well get a surprise. I have no doubt now what the real purpose behind this Bill is. I have every doubt that it will be achieved, even if these proposals are brought into operation. The Fianna Fáil Party—I shall not put it any further than that—are not as near the apex of political power as they were two years ago. There is a little downward curve along which they are slipping.

I have always declined to be a prophet, and I shall not make any prophecy, even where prophecy might be coincidental with my wishes. The Taoiseach does not know what will happen—neither does any of us—if these proposals are put into operation. There is a general election in four or five years' time and God only knows what type of Government or Parliament we will get; and I am gravely concerned with the fact that the result of this matter will be the end of political democracy and democratic freedom in Ireland.

Cuidím leis an leasú agus labhróidh mé níos déanaí.

I should like first of all to deal with the rather bowdlerised quotation, which the Leader of the Opposition used in the opening stage of his speech, when he endeavoured to make the case that the reason why Fianna Fáil were anxious to submit this issue to the people was that we wished to secure ourselves in office as far as we could for the future. That allegation of Deputy J.A. Costello is not borne out by the portion of the Taoiseach's speech at Monaghan which he did not read.

I knew the Taoiseach would get round it but I did not think the Minister would try.

I am proposing to read it out in order to show how hollow is the suggestion Deputy Costello made.

The more hollow it is, the greater noise it will make.

The Leader of the Opposition could scarcely keep his face straight when he was speaking on his own motion.

I was so amused at the Taoiseach giving himself away, and in anticipation I was enjoying how he would get out of it.

There is no difficulty in getting out of it because it is here. Here is what the Taoiseach did say:

It was nonsense to say that the introduction of the single vote system would ensure that Fianna Fáil would remain perpetually in office. As had been demonstrated in other countries with the same electoral system, no Party could stay in office for any length of time unless it had a practicable and workable policy. This would also lead to a good Opposition with a workable alternative policy. That contrasted sharply with the wild promises of the Opposition.

Is that there? It is not in my copy.

I was quoting from theIrish Independent of Monday, April 27th. I gather that apparently a special edition of this newspaper was sub-edited for the benefit of Deputy Michael O'Higgins.

So the reporters are wrong again.

I am quoting from the newspaper.

The last word from the quotation in my copy is "coalition" not "opposition".

I am sorry if I said "opposition". It is "coalition".

The hardworking reporters are wrong again according to the Ministers in the present Government.


No, but the Minister misread the paper. I hope he has not being misreading some of the foreign books.

I should like to get back to the amendment which Deputy Costello forgot about.

There is a manner in which Deputy Costello should be referred to in the House——

Yes, and this is coming from a Minister from whom one could expect anything.

It has not been the custom invariably to refer to the leader of the Opposition in that way. It has been common practice to refer to him indifferently as Leader of the Opposition or by his own name as a Deputy and Member of the House.

I am not greatly concerned and I am sure the Minister did not mean anything by it.

This is a jolly sort of discussion.

We are getting on very nicely.

I hope we shall. If members of the Opposition would only take their own amendments seriously. That is not what they are doing now. Otherwise they would not be tempting me to indulge in this chitchat across the house.

We could not take the Minister seriously.

The Minister for Health.

Some people must have had a good day at Punchestown.

We do not even go to dog racing.

I was saying that the Leader of the Opposition—I must be careful—did not address himself to the terms of his amendment. We are asked here to resolve that a joint committee of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann should be set up to consider the social, political and economic implications of the changes in the electorate system proposed in the amendment. I did not hear Deputy Costello indicate what were the social implications of these changes nor what were the economic implications. There are political implications, the implication that if the changes are made the people will be able to have some assurance that as the result of a general election there will be a responsible Government here.

One would have thought that having been at pains to put down a reasoned, if unreasonable, amendment, the Leader of the Opposition would have addressed himself to the grounds upon which he was seeking to have this Joint Committee set up. He might have told us how the Joint Committee would work and how different it would be in its deliberations from the deliberations which have taken place here in Dáil Éireann and in the Seanad over a very prolonged period.

This proposal to amend the Constitution is not being sprung on people. The Bill was introduced in Dáil Éireann on the 12th November last year. It got its First Reading and was permitted to be printed by the will of the majority of this House against the wishes of the Opposition who opposed the First Reading in order that they might prevent the people from learning what amendment the Government proposed to the people should be made in the Constitution. We succeeded in having the Bill printed and putting our proposals to the people despite that opposition and 167 or 168 days have elapsed since that time. During the greater part of that period, the proposed amendment of the Constitution was debated here at length. It was carried by a very large majority of this House.

It then went to the Seanad and the Second Reading of the Bill was carried there. The principle that the Constitution should be amended in that way was accepted by the Seanad and it was only on the Fifth Stage of the Bill that, by the narrowest majority, the Seanad rejected the Bill in the form in which it had been sent to the Seanad by this House.

Take the Taoiseach's team out of it and what would happen?

It is an extraordinary thing that when we sought to amend the Constitution of Saorstát Éireann in order to remove the Oath, in order to abolish the Governor-General, in order to abolish the appeal to the Privy Council, our proposals met with the same fate at the hands of the Seanad.

I thought you removed the Oath by swallowing it.

It is very regrettable that even today Seanad Eireann should try to stand between the Irish people and their right to consider a proposal to amend the Constitution. Because that is what is involved here.

The Constitution Amendment Bill has been debated as I have indicated at great length. The Leader of the Opposition sneeringly referred to the fact that a great deal of research had been engaged in by members on both sides of the House as to the political implications of the existing method of electing this House and the basis upon which this House will be elected if the Constitution amendment is passed. What is this Committee which they propose to set up going to do other than to re-ransack the libraries of Europe in order that the six academic politicians who have taken upon themselves, as I said elsewhere, the role of prophet, might further educate themselves as to the implications of what it is proposed to do? At the end of that time what benefit would the nation or the people have derived from this further exercise of research on the part of the six University representatives, some of whom claim that we should bring in foreign experts, if you please, a Frenchman, a German, and even a member of the English House of Lords, to tell the Irish people how they should elect their own Parliament?

I would have thought that that sort of slavish abnegation of the responsibilities of Irish citizenship would long ago have disappeared from our public life. But there we had some of these academic politicians asking that we should bring in an English peer, a French politician, a German politician, to tell us how we should elect members to the Irish Parliament.

And a Russian.

We brought in a man from Iceland to show the Irish how to fish.

They are bringing in industrialists too and all the money in the country is going to them.

When Deputy Coogan learns manners I shall proceed with my speech.

Not manners according to your standards surely.

Deputy Coogan might cease interrupting. The Minister.

I am not so enamoured of the Russians as the Deputy appears to be. I never wanted to have a totalitarian state in this country. I never wanted to see a monolithic state.

Is this relevant?

Let us get back to the Third Amendment of the Constitution.

I am concerned with electing a democratic Parliament in this country which will be able to select a Government which will have authority to govern and which will be a responsible Government, a Government which will not be able to fob off its responsibilities by saying. "We could not find agreement among ourselves to do the things which we promised the people before they elected us."

The Leader of the Opposition, endeavouring again to distort the meaning and significance of what the Taoiseach has said elsewhere, said that the Taoiseach in some way thought that there was something wrong with the national life when he was defeated. Are we to take it that Deputy Costello did not think, when he was defeated in 1951 and again in 1957, that there was something wrong with the national life?

Indeed, I did not.

You did not?

Not at all. The electorate were quite entitled to elect me and quite entitled to fire me out.

Is that an admission that in 1951 and in 1957 the people did right to get rid of Coalitions?

Not at all. They were entitled to go wrong if they wanted to.

Is that the admission that the Leader of the Opposition wants to go down on the record?

Not at all. The people are entitled to go wrong and they went wrong and I have no complaint about it.

No, no. That is not the question I put to the Deputy.

I said the people were entitled to do wrong and they did wrong.

They did right when they put Fianna Fáil out.

The people did wrong to get rid of Deputy Costello but, nevertheless, Deputy Costello did not think—I am sorry—the Leader of the Opposition did not think there was anything wrong with the national life when the people were doing wrong. Is that the point?

Of course not. The country is entitled to go wrong.

The Taoiseach said the people had no right to do wrong.

You were in your cradle then. Now stay in it.

Were you ever in a cradle?

The Minister for Health is a senile delinquent. We know that.

Again, another ground, apparently, for objecting to this change is that the straight vote makes it easier for a Party to secure an overall majority. Is that one of the grounds of the opposition to the change—I think it is—that it makes it easier for a Party to secure an overall majority and, therefore, as I have said, to govern with authority, to govern with a certain degree of security, to carry out a policy over a period of years which can be effectively realised? If that is one of the grounds upon which the Fine Gael Opposition object to the proposed amendment and wish to hold it up from consideration and decision by the people, I gather then that the Leader of the Opposition and the Fine Gael Party do not want ever to secure an overall majority. Are we to take it that that is the situation now in Irish public life, that the Party which, in 1927, were urging the people to vote for them and against coalitions, the Party which have been pretending that they have been the sole alternative, the real, effective alternative, to Fianna Fáil, have now thrown up the sponge and that they do not want to secure an overall majority, that they do not want ever to be in a position to form a Government consisting of their own Party, that they wish to be dependent all the time upon a number of smaller Parties in the Dáil who, at the time of election, can go out and ask people to vote for them, for a policy which would be diametrically opposite to that which Fine Gael have been associated with in the past and probably with which they would be associated in the future? Is the conclusion which the people have to draw from the position which has been taken up by the Fine Gael Party in relation to the motion that, despite all the bright young men they are supposed to have around them, the bright young things on their back benches, they despair now of ever being able again to form a Fine Gael Government in this country? If so, then they are bankrupt of hope and, of course, they are bankrupt of hope because they are bankrupt of policy.

Again, in the course of his speech the Leader of the Opposition had a few sneers to offer in relation to "mixum gatherum Oppositions". He was suggesting that we were anxious that there should be some sort of coalition Opposition. The last thing that we want to see in this country is a coalition Opposition or a coalition Government because we cannot have the sort of stable, authoritative, effective Government which this country wants if you are not going to have a united Party as the alternative to a united Government.

I must remember to refer to Deputy Costello as the Leader of the Opposition or Deputy O'Higgins will be getting up protesting. It is rather strange to find the Leader of the Opposition, who has been twice Taoiseach in a Coalition Government, finding fault with a coalition Opposition. It is quite illogical. We are logical because we say: "A plague on coalitions, no matter what side of the House they are on. A plague on coalitions. A plague on Governments which are composed of the representatives of several contending Parties, because such Governments can never be united".

We have had several samples of that. We had it notably in the period from 1948 to 1951, when a number of completely incompatible Parties, with policies which were quite inconsistent with each other, formed a Government in order to put Fianna Fáil out and, within three or four days after three years had elapsed, exploded because of internal stress and dissention.

We had the same sort of thing happening, and we know it happened, in the year 1957 when, without daring to face the Dáil on the Estimates which were going to be put before it, without daring to have a debate on the Vote on Account, the last Coalition split.

I do not think that we can progress in this country if we are going to be governed in that sort of way, and the purpose of the amendment which we are asking to be permitted to submit to the people at the earliest possible moment is to secure an electoral system which, whatever other merits or demerits it may have, at least has this advantage, that it tends to repose power in the hands of that section of the people which is most numerous and most united. It cannot, of course, guarantee any Party in office because the last word under the Constitution lies with the people, and if the Party in power on the day of the general election is not able to render an account of its stewardship acceptable to the people, and if it has not a policy to put before the people which will be accepted by them, if its candidates and those who constitute its Government have not the trust of the people, then that Party will not come back. It will be easier for the people, much easier for the people, to provide themselves with an alternative under the straight vote system than it has been shown to be under P.R.

We have no desire to monopolise government in this country and, even if we had the desire, we could never make that desire effective. There was a time when Cumann na nGaedheal outnumbered the Fianna Fáil Party in this House. There was a time when a Cumann na nGaedheal Government was in office in this House. From 1927 to 1932 the Cumann na nGaedheal Party were in office. We were in Opposition. The situation changed in 1932. Why did it change? It changed because the people lost confidence in Cumann na nGaedheal. It changed not because of the system of election but simply because the people had obviously lost confidence in Cumann na nGaedheal; they decided that Cumann na nGaedheal were not the sort of Party they wanted to have in charge of their affairs, and they decided to make a change.

They confirmed that decision in 1933. In 1937 they were undecided what to do. In 1938, the year after, they again decided to give us an overall majority. Then the war broke out and we continued through until 1948. In 1948 the people decided to make a change. Why? They decided to make a change because—let us face it frankly—of the degree of misrepresentation, scandal-mongering and character assassination which was indulged in by certain political Parties. The people lost confidence in the Fianna Fáil Government because of that campaign. The same thing happened in 1954. We were out. We were out, not because of the system of election but because of the simple fact that we could not get the support of the majority.

Hear, hear! Does that not answer all the Minister's own arguments?

But we always had hopes that, one day or other, the people would turn to us again. That is the difference between the Fianna Fáil Party and the Fine Gael Opposition. We had hope, and confidence, and courage. We had confidence in ourselves and confidence in the people.

What about the Fine Gael Opposition? The Fine Gael Opposition seems to be in the grip of a strange despair. Despite all the brilliant talents they continually tell us they have in their ranks, they are not yet in a position to stand on their own legs in the political life of the country. They cannot go before the people and say: "Here is our programme. We are putting that programme through. We do not care whether Fianna Fáil is with us or against us. We do not care whether Labour is with us or against us. We do not care whether Clann na Talmhan is for us or not. This is the Fine Gael policy. We are putting it to the people. We know the people will give us a majority when they understand our policy." That is not the position the Fine Gael Opposition has taken, and it marks the difference between that Party and ourselves. We are the Party with the courage and the confidence and the wisdom. Why does Fine Gael not pluck up courage and not depend on the crumbs that fall from the tables of other political Parties? Why do they not stand on their own feet and fight their battles on their own ground?

That is one thing Fine Gael will be able to do if the people—as they will—accept the Constitutional Amendment which we are proposing. But the whole thing rests with the people. The vote will be theirs. With the straight vote system, the power will be theirs. They will be in a much better position to control their Government than they are under this system of P.R. We will get away from this idea of Coalition Government in this country and we shall have single Parties. We shall have a single Party united Opposition and a united Government. If the Government do not do their duty, then the people will turn to the united Opposition and give them a chance.

In that way the people will have more control over the Government because they will be able to fix responsibility for the things which the Government does or the things the Government fails to do. They will be able to fix responsibility for all those matters in which the Government may fail them. It will not be possible for the Government to say: "We would have done this if it had not been for some other Party inside the Government." That is the situation we want to bring about in this country. We want to make the people the real masters and not have politicians deciding, after an election, who will hold office and what the policy will be. We want the people to know in advance what the policy will be and who are likely to constitute the Government. That is the sole issue.

Why should we defer a decision on this issue? Why should we delay putting it to the people? Why should we delay further? This motion which is down here will not produce any change. The proposal is to set up a Joint Committee of the Dáil and Seanad. The proposed amendment of the Constitution has been discussed here in open day, in open session, by a committee of the whole Dáil. It has similarly been discussed in the Seanad. Does anybody think that, if a Joint Committee were set up, it would make any difference? Does anybody think any further fact will be elicited in relation to the system of election which will change the vote of one single member of the Oireachtas, those members of the Oireachtas having already pledged themselves by their votes to certain views?

The whole matter has been thrashed out here until it is threadbare. There is no aspect of this problem about which every member of the Dáil and Seanad is not now well-informed and about which the people are not also well-informed. What is the point, then, in our setting up this Joint Committee except to send the fool further —to try to withhold from the people their right to decide in this matter? Is not that the purpose of this motion? Why are the Opposition afraid? Deputy Costello says he will not prophesy but he has a feeling that the Constitutional amendment will be defeated. I think differently. I am not a prophet either, but I am very much more confident than Deputy Costello is, because I want the issue to go to the people. Apparently the Fine Gael Opposition, responsible for this motion, want to withhold it from the people. For what purpose? What use will it serve? Why not let us put the issue to the people? Whatever they decide, let us accept it.

The motion as tabled by the Taoiseach is a Parliamentary way of saying that he has no intention of taking any notice of what happened in the Seanad. In non-Parliamentary language, it could mean: "I do not give a damn what you think. I am going to go my way."

To the people.

This attitude of the Taoiseach and the Government should be considered by the people as a warning to them of the evils that are to come should they surrender the privileges they now hold under proportional representation at the coming Referendum. The indecent haste with which the Taoiseach has seen fit to put forward this motion can be attributed only to the urgent desire that there should be no possible chance but that the Presidential Election and the referendum will take place on the same day, thereby taking advantage of the well-known name of de Valera to induce as many as possible to vote for the abolition of proportional representation, perhaps against their better judgment.

This indecent haste, without even a suggestion of consideration of the view of the Seanad is, to my mind, the crowning blow to the prestige of the Seanad and to whatever respect it was held in throughout the country. It can but confirm the opinion of the people that the Seanad as part of the Houses of the Oireachtas is of no use whatever and serves no purpose for the country. If it is the desire of the Taoiseach that that impression should be created it is strange that he has not taken the step of abolishing the Seanad as he did before.

By doing this the Government seek to hide the fact that all but the Party-elected Senators and Government nominees in the Seanad in open vote, have voted against the proposed change. In fact, even one member of the Party that voted with the Government made it quite clear that she was voting against her own conscientious beliefs. All of us realise that it was only a sense of gratitude to the Taoiseach for the nomination that induced her to vote as she did.

She said that she did not wish to keep the decision on the matter from the people.

I do not desire to discuss the views of anybody in another House. She is quite entitled to whatever views she holds but I am entitled to my interpretation of her action.

What is the Labour line in connection with the motion and the amendment? I think the Labour Party at all times have indicated that they have been opposed to any change in the system of election. They have indicated at all times that they believe that the proportional representation system has been the fairest and the best suited to this country. Our speakers, during the debate on the original motion, enumerated various points in favour of proportional representation and the things that would result from any change. We indicated that the larger Party in the country, if the straight vote system was adopted, would naturally get an advantage because of the fact that even with a majority of the votes being cast against them, when these votes were split up amongst the parties in Opposition, the largest Party would naturally get Government. It would be possible in that way that a Party getting only 40 per cent. of the votes could quite possibly secure 90 per cent. of the seats in Parliament.

I would commend to Deputies and the country in general that they should read carefully and study the series of six articles on proportional representation that appeared in theIrish Times of recent date. I would suggest that they are enlightened, unbiased and impartial——

They are not impartial.

They indicate what has happened since 1918 to the present day. There is sufficient in them to convince anybody but those who hold a vested interest in Fianna Fáil as to the advisability of retaining the proportional representation system. I was aware that the moment I mentioned theIrish Times I would be attacked on the grounds that it is the organ of the Imperialist group in this country. I admit that the Irish Times is the organ of a certain minority group, both religious and political, but I see no reason why anybody should suggest that because of their views, either religious or political, they cannot assess and analyse facts and figures as well as anybody else.

They do not state the facts. I can prove that they are wrong.

If theIrish Independent produced those articles they would be accused of political bias. In what paper do you want them produced— the Irish Press?

In a Labour paper.

Possibly Labour would also be accused of being biased. We see no good in the direct vote system and are all in favour of proportional representation. I would think it highly desirable that the views of a minority group or of minority groups should be sought as to the system of election to this Parliament so that the views of the minority should be truly heard. I have no intention of quoting from the various articles because they need careful study but I would recommend them to each thinking Deputy.

I should like to quote a point made in the first article in which it was said that the Proportional Representation Society submitted that certain things would result from a Government elected under the proportional representation system. The points of advantage to be gained were set out as follows:—

(1) That Parliament and other public bodies would reproduce the opinions of the electors in their true proportions;

(2) That under proportional representation the majority of the electors should rule and that all considerable minorities should be heard;

(3) Give electors wider freedom of choice of representatives;

(4) Give representatives greater independence from the financial and other pressures of small sections of communities;

(5) Ensure to parties representation by their ablest and most trusted members.

Those are five laudable points. Those are points which I suggest all of us should seek to establish and it is the view of people who have given consideration to this, not only in Ireland but in many countries of the world, that P.R. with the single transferable vote and the multiple constituency, is the method best fitted to do that.

The motion of the Taoiseach is in direct contradiction to that. It is an effort to say that the direct vote and the strong government that will result from it, leading to the suppression of minorities and the negation of democracy, is what we should adopt. I do not propose to repeat any of the arguments I or my colleagues in the Labour group made on the original Bill when it was before the House. The Government has already made up its mind, irrespective of what I shall say this evening. By the exercise of the majority they hold in this House they will make sure this motion is carried. They intend that by no chance will the opportunity to have the clash of elections on the same day be missed. They realise that it is to their Party's advantage that this should be done.

I cannot refrain, however, from enumerating what to me are a few of the points the electorate should consider as being against the proposed change. By restricting the electors to the single non-transferable vote the Government as the largest Party will have the advantage of the vote that will be split between the combined opposition in most constituencies. The election will be contested by two or three candidates in opposition to the Government. Unless by agreement, Fine Gael, Labour, Clann na Poblachta or Clann na Talmhan agree not to contest certain constituencies, unless by the backdoor method of previous arrangements, the Government are almost assured of being returned in each area. In this Bill it is proposed so to divide the present constituencies that it will be practically impossible for any minority groups to have sufficient numbers in any one area to return a candidate to the Dáil. In this way the Government will ensure that any small Party attempting to have their voice heard here in furtherance of their policy will be denied the opportunity.

It is being claimed by Fianna Fáil that the P.R. system is a British imposed one. In the articles in theIrish Times which I mentioned it was made clear that the leaders of Sinn Féin, of the old Irish Party, of Labour and of the various other minority groups in the country at that time, having examined the proposed system, welcomed it and felt that it would give such good service to the country that the British Government was petitioned to permit its introduction in Sligo in a local government election for a specific purpose, so that minority groups would have the right of self-expression and a say in the conduct of their home affairs.

Fianna Fáil also claim that P.R. leads to uncertain government. They claim that Coalitions are almost inevitable under P.R. but the history of the changes of Government in Ireland since the foundation of the State as compared with Great Britain, lends no substance to that claim. The real reason that Fianna Fáil forced elections at certain times even when they had clear majorities was because they saw there was a political advantage at the moment and the friends of that day could have been discarded in the sure knowledge that the quickness and speed of an election would give them the advantage they nearly always received.

In the Labour Party we make it quite clear that we are opposed to this motion for the simple reason that we believe in the P.R. system of election until such time as a better system of expressing the rights and views of the people is shown to us. We believe it is the fairest, the most democratic and the most understood system we could have.

The Minister for Health spoke in connection with a statement issued by certain university Senators. I have seen that statement and it is a significant fact that these independent university Senators, elected by the votes of the educated graduates of the universities, who in no way can be called Party hacks of any Party in the Oireachtas, unanimously decided that before a change would take place at least consideration should be given to the effects on the economic, social and political life of the country in complete contrast to the indecent haste with which the Government are seeking to force this measure through the Dáil.

Without in any way pledging my Party I can make this statement, that while believing in P.R. until such time as a better system is shown to us, we in the Labour Party are quite willing to have a commission set up representative of all groups to examine and consider that subject and we shall give serious consideration to whatever findings they bring in. In this way should the referendum be held following the findings of that Commission, the electorate will at least have the advantage of voting in the knowledge that they have the views of the people suitably qualified to examine the position before they elect representatives to this House.

While I always enjoy listening to the Minister for Health, I think, perhaps, it was a pity he should have been the principal speaker for the Government in relation to this motion because—he probably would be the first to admit it himself—he does not always put things in the least controversial manner. As far as I am concerned—and I think I can talk for the Party which I represent when I say this—I would prefer to see both the Taoiseach's Motion and the Fine Gael amendment discussed in an atmosphere of calm and deliberation. It is necessary that all of us should recognise that in dealing with the proposed change in our election system, we are dealing with a matter which is grave and which will have very grave consequences on the people of this country for many a long year to come. It is precisely because we see the gravity of the issues involved that we on this side of the House feel that there should be some reasonable type of examination of the issues involved, and the possible consequences of them, before this question is submitted to the people, if it is to be submitted to the people at all.

As far as I can gather, the Fianna Fáil approach to this matter is that they made up their minds first that P.R. had to go, that having decided that P.R. was to go, they then decided it was time enough to think of what would replace it. The only thing they can think of to replace it is the British system of election. The arguments for and against the proposed change—as far as they are seen by members of this House and members of the Seanad—have been expressed and are on record. But I think it is true to say that this question was introduced by the Taoiseach into the political arena on the plane of political controversy. The Taoiseach called on the members of his won political organisation to take off their coats and work for the abolition of P.R. It is in the atmosphere of that call by the leader of the Government to his political supporters and to his active political organisation that this question was first introduced to this House for discussion. Any question that is introduced in that kind of atmosphere, affecting as it does not merely the political Parties but the ordinary people of this country, must as a matter of course be considered by the political Parties in this House as a political question.

It is perfectly natural that every formal political Party should have its views on this question proposed by the Government, but in so far as any independent view can be obtained from amongst the ranks of the members of this House—independent as distinct from Party political considerations—that view has also been expressed. It is significant—and the significance of this should not be lost on the Government—that only two out of the nine or 10 Deputies who were elected to this House with independent status could be found who had a word to say in favour of the Government's proposal. So that, in so far as this House by its composition was capable of expressing independent views on the Government's motion, those views have been overwhelmingly against the Government's proposal.

We ask in this motion that there should be an opportunity of giving proper consideration and more detailed examination to these proposals. We think it is only fair that the people, before they are called on to give a decision in a matter of such gravity as this, should be given the opportunity of that kind of detailed, calm consideration and examination. After all, year in, year out, Government after Government in this country are setting up committees, commissions and tribunals of one sort or another to examine a variety of different topics and proposals. We have a Television Commission. We even have a Commission to examine the Seanad election system. We have a Liquor Bill Commission, a Youth Unemployment Commission, a Milk Costings Commission and a host of other commissions of that sort.

We are not even asking the government to go that far and establish a commission or tribunal outside of the Oireachtas, but we are asking them to set up a select joint committee, consisting of members of the Seanad and the Dáil, to give this question proper examination. We are suggesting to the Government that it is in the interest of Parliamentary democracy, and in the national interest, that the Government should not do what they have done— that they should not take a decision to smash our election system before deciding what they want to replace it. It is quite clear that was the approach of the Government to this question.

As I read it in any event, the Press Conference given by the Taoiseach when this matter was first dragged into the light of day demonstrates that that was the approach of the Government to this question. I want to quote from theIrish Times of September 9th, 1958, in connection with this Press interview. This report reads:

Asked whether the direct representation would be along the lines of the system used in the British days, with representation to the Universities, including Trinity College, he said that the new method would be worked out after a decision was taken on P.R.

In other words, the Taoiseach was in a position then to state that the decision would be taken on P.R. first and, having taken a decision on P.R., a decision would be taken as to what was the method to replace it.

I assume that the decision he was referring to was the decision of the Government, because we are now in a position where the Government are to put the matter before the people for decision. In putting the matter before the people for decision they are recommending the alternative; they are recommending that as an alternative to the Irish election system, the people should adopt the British election system. But the quotation I have given —I take it it is an accurate one?— does show that as far as the Government and the Fianna Fáil Party were concerned, the approach was to set up the target first, knock it down and then decide what was to take its place. I do not think that that gives us any evidence of proper or careful examination of the proposal which has been put before us now by the Government. It seems to me to be evidence of the will to destroy without an examination of what is to be re-erected instead. It seems to me, too, that the Government, while willing to destroy the Irish election system, gave no adequate examination in regard to what was to take its place. The best they could do was to turn their eyes across the Irish Sea and to recommend to the Irish people that they should jettison the Irish election system and replace it by the British system because they tell us that the Irish system was imposed on us by the British. It sounds daft to me, but that is one of the arguments that Fianna Fáil have been urging on this: that we should get rid of the Irish system and replace it by the British system because the Irish system was imposed on us by the British.

In the same Press interview, I think the Taoiseach must have had in his mind the necessity for the kind of calm consideration and approach to this decision that we on this side are urging on the Government, when he made it clear that it was not intended to confuse the issue by having any other issue before the people at the same time.

In the same paper, theIrish Times, of 9th September, 1958, on the same page, the Taoiseach went on as follows:—

Mr. de Valera said that the referendum would be held separately from any other issue, including the election of a President.

Was it not quite clear that, at that stage if there was to be a decision taken on this question of the electoral system, that was not going to be confused with anything else, that the people would be given an opportunity of coming to their decision without the introduction of any other issue, including the election of a President?

The Taoiseach's remarks in introducing his motion were not very lengthy. They seemed to me, to some extent, to decry the work of the Seanad. He argued that this proposal was one which more intimately affected the Dáil than the Seanad and he seemed to go on from that to convey that therefore the Dáil were entitled to pass this motion and have the matter put before the people. Let us see how the Government looked at the obverse side of the coin. There was a certain agitation for a change in the electoral system for the Seanad; there was no agitation for a change in the electoral system for the Dáil. In the case of the Seanad the Government simply set up a commission and had that call for examination and change in the Seanad electoral system examined without referring the matter to the Seanad. If the type of argument put forward this evening by the Taoiseach is valid, surely the proper course for him to adopt in connection with the Seanad commission would have been to say that this is a matter which affects the Seanad rather than the Dáil and should be dealt with by the Seanad?

Let us remember that whatever powers the Seanad have—and my personal belief is that one flaw in connection with the Seanad that gives rise to a lot of the criticism we hear is that the Seanad have not sufficient powers —were given to the Seanad by the Irish people when they enacted the 1937 Constitution. It is not good enough that the Taoiseach or anyone else should come into this House and, not merely try to ride roughshod over a decision of the Seanad but in doing that, try to ride roughshod over a decision of the Irish people as expressed in their enactment of the 1937 Constitution.

When this matter was discussed in the Dáil previously, there had been talk of allowing the people to come to a decision and the Taoiseach today described the Fine Gael amendment to this motion as only putting the matter on the long finger. He expressed the view that the people have had an opportunity of informing themselves of the merits of the proposal. Already I have said, and I repeat in this context, that so far as we are concerned we would like to see this matter being approached calmly and deliberately, and properly and thoroughly examined by the House, the Seanad and by the people, if it goes before the people for decision.

I do not believe that the introduction of this proposal by the Government in the atmosphere in which it was introduced will give the people an opportunity of approaching the matter calmly or coming to a considered judgment on it. Each one of us knows that the entire strength of the Fianna Fáil party machine will be thrown into the fray against proportional representation. We know that all the wealth of the Fianna Fáil organisation will be thrown into the fray to abolish proportional representation; we know that all the power of the Fianna Fáil string of newspapers will be thrown into the fray in an endeavour to abolish proportional representation. We now know that all the influence of the Taoiseach himself and all the support he can command for his personal position in the affections of those who support him will be thrown on to the scales on the day on which this referendum will be held because it is quite clear that the Government have made up their mind to hold the Presidential election and the referendum on the same day.

When you have a powerful and wealthy political organisation taking off their coats at the invitation of their leader to try to get the people to smash the existing election system, does anyone think the proposal will be calmly considered by the members of the Fianna Fáil Party? Does anybody think there will be any deliberative approach to this question within the ranks of that Party and not only in the ranks of the Party but in the ranks of the Fianna Fáil organisation throughout the country?

It is an extraordinary thing that when this matter was discussed at the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis and when the rallying cry went out from the Taoiseach to his Fianna Fáil supporters to take off their coats and help in the fight to abolish proportional representation, so far as I am aware not a solitary voice was raised in opposition to him. To me that is a very terrifying thing. If Mr. Khrushchev held a meeting in Red Square in Moscow and put a proposal to alter fundamentally the Soviet Constitution, he could not have got any bigger majority in favour of it than the Taoiseach got among the Fianna Fáil supporters assembled in the Mansion House. It would surprise me if at a meeting in Red Square, in Moscow, there would not be one voice raised in opposition to a radical proposal to alter fundamentally some aspect of the Soviet constitution but it can happen here in Ireland. It can happen in the Fianna Fáil Party and we are told then that the people are getting their opportunity of informing themselves on the merits of their proposal.

I wonder what discussion took place inside the ranks of the Fianna Fáil Party that, within a matter of a month or two months, they were able to come to a unanimous decision on a radical change in our electoral system, that they were able to decide that they and theirs were entirely wrong in 1937 when they enshrined the principles of proportional representation as the electoral system in that Constitution. No doubt, the Taoiseach and other leaders of the Fianna Fáil Party in 1937 exhorted their followers to take off their coats and work that the 1937 Constitution would be voted on and accepted by the people and now they are being asked to take off their coats in order to gut the 1937 Constitution and take out of it one of the fundamental matters which the Fianna Fáil Government at that time insisted should be enshrined in it.

The Minister for Health, when he was speaking on this motion, asked if Fine Gael despaired of ever again forming a Fine Gael Government and he went on to make the case that when Fianna Fáil went out of office they did not go out of office because of the electoral system and that they had the hope that the people would come back to Fianna Fáil again. That confidence does not seem to be there any longer. The Minister for External Affairs, for some reason or another, was put in charge of the internal affairs in connection with the debate on the Bill and took charge of the debate when the matter was first brought before the Dáil. My recollection is—I do not pretend to quote him—that one of the arguments which he adduced in favour of the Fianna Fáil proposal to change over to the British electoral system was that if it was not put through the Dáil at this time there might never be another opportunity of doing it. What was the implication in that argument— that Fianna Fáil now had an overall majority, that they might never again get an overall majority unless they were able to change the rules between this and the next general election?

The people change the rules, not Fianna Fáil.

Where is the vast volume of confidence which the Minister for Health was exuding a few minutes ago? If we are to accept the case made by the Minister for External Affairs as representing fairly the Government point of view, is it not the position that they concede that it is unlikely that Fianna Fáil will ever again get an overall majority from the people of Ireland unless they can change the electoral system? Is there any doubt about that? Was not that emphasised and underscored by the remarks of the Taoiseach, which were quoted here by the Leader of the Opposition and which appeared in theIrish Independent of the 27th of this month?

The Minister for Health gave a quotation from that speech. I propose giving another:

The Taoiseach said he hated making any changes in the Constitution and would not have proposed this change only that it was fundamentally necessary for the nation's well-being. It was because Fianna Fáil could not count on obtaining an overall majority in any future election under the present electoral system that they had decided to allow the people to decide on what form members should be elected in future. They considered that to be their duty to the country now that they were fortunate in having a majority in the Dáil.

I think that, in slightly different words, is precisely the same argument as was advanced here by the Minister for External Affairs.

The Minister for Health, when he was seeking the way out of that speech by the Taoiseach, quoted another portion of the speech. I think the particular quotation he gave was this one:

It was nonsense to say that the introduction of the single-vote system would ensure that Fianna Fáil would remain perpetually in office. As had been demonstrated in other countries with the same electoral system, no Party could stay in office for any length of time unless it had a practicable and workable policy over which it could stand. This would also lead to a good Opposition with a workable alternative policy that contrasted sharply with the wild promises of a coalition.

I think, inadvertently, the Minister translated that into "Opposition". I know it was a slip on his part.

It is not for the purpose of commenting on that that I am reading that quotation again but in order to show the kind of confusion that seems to have arisen in the ranks, not only of the Fianna Fáil Party, but the Fianna Fáil Cabinet, in presenting their arguments in connection with this change because, in the very next column of the same paper, we have the Minister for Finance quoted as saying at a Fianna Fáil convention in Aughrim:

People were told that Fianna Fáil wanted to perpetuate themselves in office but the Fianna Fáil leaders were dropping a system that could put themselves in for the rest of their lives and taking a chance on a system that might put them out if the people wanted another form of Government. Was that not democracy?

In other words, the Taoiseach in one column is quite blunt in saying that they are recommending the change in the electoral system because Fianna Fáil could not count on obtaining an overall majority in any future election under the present electoral system and the Minister for Finance, in the next column, tells the people that Fianna Fáil were dropping a system which could put themselves in for the rest of their lives and taking a chance on a new system.

The same type of confusion is evidenced in reports which appeared in theIrish Independent of Thursday, the 9th of the present month, where we have the Minister for Health, speaking at a Fianna Fáil meeting in Dublin— the exact venue, apparently, is not disclosed—and the Minister for Lands speaking at a Fianna Fáil meeting in Tallaght. The Minister for Health is reported as follows:—

"One of the principal arguments used against the reintroduction of the straight vote as the basis of their electoral system was that it would tend to give greater power to party bosses and party machines, said Mr. MacEntee, Minister for Health and Social Welfare, at a Fianna Fáil meeting in Dublin."

The quotation continues:—

Quite the contrary was likely to result, he said. P.R., in whatever form it was applied, was the system which tended to make for boss control. Under it constituencies were so large and the expense of contesting them so great that the average candidate must have substantial finances to fight them at all."

The Minister for Health was there making the case that there was nothing in the argument that the British system, which he calls the straight vote, gave power to Party bosses. But in the next column, in the same paper, the Minister for Lands is reported as saying:—

"The great advantage of the single vote system lay in the fact that Party discipline, always essential in effective Government, would be maintained, but subject to the new condition established that the Deputy from each area should be sufficiently independent to be capable of invigorating his own Party."

There, you have two members of the same Party, sitting in the same Cabinet, going out over the same weekend to give their arguments as to why the British voting system should be adopted by us in preference to the Irish system. We have the Minister for Health placing his argument on the basis that P.R. and not the British system gave power to Party bosses and we have the Minister for Lands basing his argument on the ground that Party discipline, always essential, would be maintained if the British system of election were adopted.

In connection with the speech which I have quoted from the Minister for Health there is an argument which should be, I think, very close to his own heart. If any member of the Government is to be let out loose to make the kind of argument that the Minister for Health made when he was speaking at this unknown venue in Dublin, I think the last person to do that should be the Minister for Health because, whenever this question of Party control being tightened arises, whenever any attention is directed to that particular question and that particular problem, everybody's eyes immediately turn to the constituency of Dublin South East and to the state of affairs that existed there on the occasion of the last General Election.

It is public knowledge that up to the time of the last General Election, and for some years before it, the Fianna Fáil candidates in that constituency were the Minister for Health and his then colleague, Deputy Dr. Noel Browne. It is common knowledge that the Fianna Fáil Party chose to continue the candidature of the Minister for Health but decided that they would not have alongside the Minister, standing as their candidate, Deputy Dr. Noel Browne. What would the position have been under the British system in that particular state of affairs? It was made clear that many supporters of the Fianna Fáil Party, and presumably a number of members of the Fianna Fáil organisation in that constituency, wanted Deputy Dr. Noel Browne, as their candidate. What could they have done had the British system been in operation here? Could they have invited Deputy Dr. Noel Browne to stand as an Independent candidate? If they did that, their dilemma was a horrible one for they had to split the vote and, by splitting the vote, they gave the seat to someone else.

In the words of the Deputy, it would be truly horrible if the seat were to go to Fine Gael.

It went to Fine Gael, anyway.

The Minister will not divert me from my point.

He is a bit worried now.

Under the system of proportional representation we have here the Fianna Fáil supporters in that constituency who wanted Deputy Dr. Noel Browne to represent them in the Dáil were able to invite him to stand as an Independent candidate. They were able to go over the heads of the Party political bosses who drummed him out as a candidate of the Fianna Fáil Party. They were able to elect him to represent them in this present Dáil. That emphasises one of the vital differences between our present election system, proportional representation, and the British system.

Under the system of proportional representation the elector who goes in to cast his vote is a genuine elector. He is not merely a voter. He has a job to do. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, when speaking earlier on this motion, the elector under our present system has a choice not merely between political Parties but even between candidates in the same Party. In every constituency throughout the country Fianna Fáil put forward two, three, or four candidates—whatever number is suitable to the particular conditions of the constituency— and every Fianna Fáil supporter throughout the country, whether or not he is actively inside the ranks of the organisation, is enabled to decide by his vote which, if any, of the Fianna Fail candidates will go into the Dáil to represent him. He is an elector in the true sense of the word. He is not merely a voter endorsing or rejecting a single candidate put up by his political Party. What happened in the constituency of Dublin South East is an excellent example of what our present election system means as compared with the British system.

I want to examine briefly now some of the other arguments which have been advanced by the Fianna Fail Party in recommendation of their proposals, proposals which have been rejected by the Seanad and are now back here for discussion again. I have referred briefly to the argument used, and used seriously, by members of the Fianna Fail Party that the P.R. system was imposed on us by the British. Leaving aside the fact that the only substitute which Fianna Fáil can find for it is the British system, it is necessary, I think, to record again the fact that the present election system was enshrined in two Irish Constitutions, and the second of those—the Constitution of 1937—was drafted by Fianna Fail and submitted by Fianna Fail to the people.

The Government also argue that the present election system is complicated and confusing; people do not understand it; it is difficult for the ordinary Irish voter; he does not know what he is doing when he goes in to vote at an election. Now, the Irish people are an intelligent people. Proportional representation is an intelligent voting system and, as such, it is well suited to an intelligent electorate. But the Fianna Fáil Party newspaper pronounced its judgment on this question a considerable time ago, long before Fianna Fáil decided that the system was so good that it must be enshrined in the Constitution they were recommending to the people in 1937.

TheIrish Press of the 24th January, 1933, had this to say:—

"The English Press correspondents sympathise with us on having to work so complicated a system as proportional representation. It is wasted sympathy, for the system is simple to understand and easy to carry out. It is based on the excellent idea that we have a greater preference for some candidates than others. Under proportional representation the voter not only has the pleasure of voting first for the candidates he likes most of all, but he also can vote for all the others in the order in which he likes them."

We were told more than a quarter of a century ago by the Fianna Fáil Party newspaper that there was nothing difficult about proportional representation. Every Deputy will admit that, by and large, the Irish people and the Irish electorate are reasonably intelligent. When it was stated in 1933 that our present election system was simple to understand and easy to work it should not take a novitiate of a quarter of a century to discover that it was hard to understand and difficult to carry out.

I notice that the Taoiseach and some other Fianna Fáil speakers have taken to referring to the British system which they are asking us to accept as a straightforward system. The Minister for Health still continues to refer to it as the straight vote but the Taoiseach has gone a step further and refers to it as the straightforward system. That is very clever politically because it tends to deflect the minds of the people from the fact that what the Government is recommending is the British system. I do not say that because the X-vote system is a British system it is necessarily bad. I do not want to be taken as saying that because a thing is British it is necessarily bad but it might embarrass certain elements in the Fianna Fáil Party that they should now be called upon to embrace the British system of election after having been told to burn everything British except their coal.

It is clever politically to refer to the proposed system as the straightforward system. It seems to imply that there is something devious or crooked about the present system. I think it is worth while, if the Government is not going to accept the amendment tabled, that we should endeavour here and now to give some examples of this matter. There are two things involved in this referendum. We are being asked to smash one system of election and to vote for another system and I want to see how straightforward the British system really is.

I have said that the Irish electorate are intelligent and so they are. Fianna Fáil argues that the British system is a simple one and that simplicity is a virtue. Simplicity may be a virtue but we are not simpletons and I do not think it is necessary to legislate for simpletons when we are talking about the Irish electorate. The mechanics of the British system may be quite simple but I think what is far more important is the question of whether the system is a fair one or not. Surely it is not right that the test of the electoral system should be one of how simple it is. Surely it is far better that the yardstick which should be applied is how fair is it.

Even the Minister for Health will admit, I do not think he could argue against it, that the British system may lead to and is likely to lead to minority government. A Deputy elected under that system can be elected by a minority of the voters in any given constituency. You can get a result where one candidate, representing one of the major political Parties gets 11,000 votes. Another candidate representing another major political Party can get 10,000 votes and a candidate of a third Party can get 9,000 votes. Under the system which the Government is now asking us to adopt the person who secures 11,000 votes becomes the sole representative of that constituency although there were 19,000 votes cast against him.

The Taoiseach, speaking at a Fianna Fáil convention in Sligo, on the 6th April said:

The only thing that could be said against that system, which he called a straightforward system, was that a person could be elected without getting a majority. Say that one person got 40 per cent. of the votes, another 35 per cent. and another 25 per cent. The person who got the 40 per cent. of the votes would be elected even though the combined vote of the others was greater. Why should they add the 35 per cent. and the 25 per cent. together when it is quite possible that the views of the persons casting these votes would be more opposed to each other fundamentally than to the person who got the 40 per cent.? If the views of these people were taken it is quite possible that they would rather vote for the person who got the 40 per cent. of the votes.

That is what we have been telling the Government for the past three or four months. Under the present system the views of the people casting the 35 per cent. and the 25 per cent. of the votes are taken into account. You have the people who go out first. The No. 2 preference votes of these people is taken into account and, in a general election, you are able to ascertain with absolute accuracy what the people who voted for the person getting 25 per cent. of the votes thought of the other two candidates in the field. The Taoiseach need have no doubt that, in that way, the views of the people as expressed in their second preferences will be counted and become effective.

Fianna Fáil argue that the emphasis should be on effective Government rather than fair representation. As I understand their argument they think the important thing is that you should have what they call effective government and I think what they mean is strong government and that that is of greater importance than the question of fair representation in Parliament. I want to pose this query to the Deputies opposite: is it possible to have effective government if you do not have fair representation? Is it possible for a government to be effective in the full and true meaning of that word if that Government is not backed by a fairly representative Parliament, a Parliament which fairly represents the people?

Many better men than I shall ever be on both sides of this House fought and a number of them died so that we could have in this country of ours a Parliament which would fairly represent the Irish people, that we would have an Irish Parliament into which the Irish people could elect their representatives in a fair and equitable manner. Before we achieved that we had a Government in Ireland, a strong government for 700 years. The only thing about it was that it was not an Irish Government elected by a fairly represented and representative Irish Parliament.

We must look very closely at this argument about effective government and while we may feel embarrassed at producing an argument that appears to be emotional or sentimental I do not think we should disregard the sufferings and the sacrifices of those who went before us to establish an Irish Parliament that would be fairly representative of the Irish people and would give and Irish Government that would be drawn from the representatives of the Irish people.

I heard the Minister for Defence, using an argument with regard to votes wasted under the present system of election. We should record and note the fact that under the British system of election every vote cast for a candidate who is not successful is a wasted vote and plays no part, good, bad or indifferent, in the affairs of the Parliament or in electing a government. It is possible under the British system of election for a person to go right through his adult life voting in election after election without his vote ever playing the smallest part in the affairs of Parliament or of the Government of that country. In some of these constituencies where you have either a Labour or a Conservative seat you may have elections which are merely token elections, and the voter who votes for the candidate who does not succeed can go right through his adult life casting his vote and never having a person elected from his Party to represent him in Parliament.

Under our system here by reason of the fact that you have more than one seat per constituency we ensure that does not happen and that in this country the minority views will be represented and expressed in Parliament. In the illustration I gave some minutes ago, of a contest where one candidate gets 11,000 votes, another 10,000 and another 9,000, is taken, I believe it is not possible for the person elected under those conditions to go inside Leinster House and fairly claim to represent all the people in his constituency. It is ludicrous to put up that kind of argument.

Take this example. You can have a situation where a Government, let us say a Fianna Fáil Government, go into an election with a wage-freezing policy and a standstill order behind them, and that will continue to be their policy. You may have that policy opposed by the Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party, and there are three candidates in a single seat constituency. That may be the sole issue in the election: yet by dint of getting one vote more than any other candidate the Fianna Fáil candidate supporting a standstill wages order can go in as the representative of that constituency although there might be nearly twice as many votes cast against him and against that policy.

That can happen under the British system which Fianna Fáil are asking us to adopt and every vote cast for the candidates who do not get in is a wasted vote. Under the British system, the so-called straightforward system of voting, you also have the possibility, and I think the probability in the course of time, of safe seats arising. You have it everywhere you have that system of voting in operation. You certainly have it in the North of Ireland and in Great Britain. The development of the safe seats means that you will have a situation where perhaps over vast areas of territory there will be no election at all. There will be no contest at all, election after election, and whole belts of country may be completely disfranchised as has occurred in the North.

Other speakers have pointed out some of the other dangers of the change. The Minister for Health seems to throw down a challenge that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition should be dealt with on the basis of producing arguments that there would be economic, social and political questions involved. I think he conceded that so far as the political questions were concerned, they were involved. Other speakers have pointed out that six Senators representing the two universities, Dublin University and the National University, had, after an examination of this question, publicised their views.

As an example of the type of consequence which it is suggested by this amendment should be examined by a Committee of the Dáil and Seanad it is worth while recording the various dangers they saw. I wish to quote what these six Senators stated:—

"We are convinced from our many investigations that the proposed change to the miscalled straight vote system would be disastrous on the following grounds:

(1) It would lead to an excessive Government majority with an Opposition almost as powerless as the present Opposition in the Six County Parliament.

(2) This would result in intolerant and dictatorial Government and might ultimately evoke as a reaction an organised extra-parliamentary Opposition.

(3) It would cause division and Party strife rather than a cooperative approach to our economic and national problems in the coming decade.

(4) The single seat constituency would inevitably narrow the voter's choice at elections and would greatly increase the power of political Parties as such. This would undoubtedly lower the quality of Dáil representatives since unquestioning obedience to the Party leaders would then be the first demand made on any candidate.

(5) The proposed system sets the stage for class warfare between town and country and makes it possible for a majority to command 40 per cent in the urban constituencies and, getting little or no support in the rural areas, due to its deliberate anti-rural policy, to get a majority in Dáil Eireann. Such a Party might have the support of as little as 25 per cent of the total electorate, and yet the miscalled straight vote system would enable it to impose its doctrines on the remaining 75 per cent of the population."

Those are five solid arguments produced after an examination by six individuals who, as Deputy Kyne said, could not by any stretch of the imagination be described as Party hacks. University Senators elected by the University Graduates and drawn from different Universities are able to come together and pass that kind of judgment on the Government's proposal. Surely the Government must feel that the time has come to think again about rushing headlong into a Referendum campaign at a cost of £80,000 or £100,000 to the people of this country?

Those are some of the consequences which might result from the change the Government is proposing. No one can see into the future and no one can be a prophet about this or any other matter of this sort. But surely it will be recognised by everyone that the Leader of the Opposition is quite right when he condemns this move? Because it is, in fact, inviting us to take a leap in the dark, to rush headlong into a change in our election system without knowing how it will work out.

The University professors referred to the danger of lowering the standard of the type of Deputy elected if the change is brought about. I have heard Fianna Fáil speakers—from the Tánaiste down, I think—recommending the Fianna Fáil proposal on the ground that it will give us a better type of Deputy. I would give a lot to have been at the Fianna Fáil Party meeting when this change was urged on that particular ground. I can imagine any Fianna Fáil Deputy you like to think of wandering into the Fianna Fáil Party Rooms and saying: "Listen, boys, we had better get rid of P.R. so that we can get a better type of Deputy than we have in this room." Even on that, I think it is purely a question of a leap in the dark; it is purely a question of guesswork. My own guess is that you will probably have every Deputy who is in the Dáil at the moment contesting the next general election. You will probably have many of them elected. I do not believe that Fianna Fáil seriously contemplate that if they can get this change accepted by the people, they will drop any of the "boys" and replace them by a better type of Deputy.

Are they serious in putting forward that argument? If this change is accepted and if there is a particular type of development in this country, is it not very possible that you will limit your choice of candidate to two types: either the professional politician—the man who is in politics on a whole-time professional basis—or else the very wealthy man, the man who can afford to be in politics because he has the income or some source which would enable him to give his time to politics without having to concern himself with making a living? Either of those developments is possible under the British system if it is accepted by the people here. In any event, I do not see the validity of the type of argument which supposes that one Deputy, representing say 10,000 people, would be any better than three Deputies representing 30,000 people.

I notice that those who spoke on this subject for the Fianna Fáil Party recently seem to have given up what the Leader of the Opposition described as the ransacking of libraries all over Europe to get arguments in favour of the change. I notice they have given up referring to France, Germany, Italy and various other countries throughout the world. It is about time they did that because it is important that we should remember we are dealing with Irish conditions, with an Irish electorate and with an Irish political system, and that many of the factors which apply to the larger European countries have no relevancy whatever to this country. Any politician of note in Ireland is as well known in Cork, Limerick or Galway as he is in Dublin. You do not have the same growth of purely local or zonal Parties in this country as you have in the larger European countries and elsewhere.

The fact of the matter is that in Ireland—and I think one of the Fianna Fáil Ministers conceded it recently when speaking—we have not had the multiplicity of Parties which, it has been argued, is one of the outcomes of P.R. There is a number of Parties here but there has not been any great multiplicity. The principal Parties in this Assembly ever since it was established are still here: the Fianna Fáil Party, the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party. By and large, that has been the pattern right down through the years ever since Fianna Fáil, as one of the major political Parties here, decided to come into the Dáil.

Fianna Fail have been basing their arguments principally, I think, on the fact that they dislike Coalition Governments, that P.R. has already resulted in Coalition Governments in this country and that each of those Coalition Governments replaced a Fianna Fáil Government. I am not surprised that Fianna Fáil do not like Coalition Governments, but I think we have to go into the argument a little bit deeper than that. I do not think it is necessary to argue on the merits or demerits of Coalition Governments at all. As far as we on these benches are concerned, we are prepared to accept the Fianna Fáil challenge, no matter on what ground it is made. If they want to argue politically about the work and the achievements of the two inter-Party Governments in this country, we are prepared to meet them on that basis.

I think we should go much deeper into the argument put up by Government speakers when they recommend the jettisoning of proportional representation because it leads to coalition governments. Surely, if they think over that argument they will agree that it is essentially an arrogant, intolerant and entirely undemocratic type of argument. I dislike Fianna Fáil Governments and, so far as I am concerned, I shall endeavour to persuade the people to share my dislike of them in the next general election but is not that a very far cry from saying that if I were in a position to do so I would be entitled to advise the people to legislate so as to make Fianna Fáil Governments impossible? Yet, is not that what the present Government are doing? Are they not saying we dislike coalition Governments and we are in a position now, because we have an over all majority, to steamroll a measure through the Dáil, to ride roughshod over the decision of the Seanad, to try to persuade the people to legislate—because that is what they are doing—to amend the Constitution so as to make coalition Governments more difficult if not impossible?

Is there any democracy about that argument? And is not that the principal argument that Fianna Fáil have produced in support of these proposals? I hope there are some Deputies in the Fianna Fáil Party who will think over that argument and consider the full import and effect of it. I am quite sure that it has not occurred to them that there is anything odd about the line of argument they have been pursuing but if they ponder on it they will find that there is a grave danger in that argument. They may find they are pursuing an argument which may some day boomerang very severely on their own Party.

Fianna Fáil argued that proportional representation does not give stable government and that the British system does. I think the validity of that argument can be called in question quite simply by looking at the records of Governments in this country since the State was established. Those arguments are already on the records of the House and I do not want to repeat them at this hour. I would urge, as did the Leader of the Opposition, that even now at the eleventh hour the Government should come to their senses. They should realise the gravity of the step they are taking and asking the people to take and they should consent even now to a proper examination of the proposal. I am willing to wager anything I have that if any commission is established, even a commission drawn from this House and from the Seanad with a majority of Fianna Fáil members on it, you will not get any strong recommendation from any such body that these proposals should be proceeded with.

Even if you did get a recommendation of that type would it not be worth while to get a thorough examination of the possible consequences in every field and in every direction of this radical and grave step which the Government are asking the people to take? Is there any reason why the Government or any other Party in the House should hesitate to face an examination of that sort? Why should they hesitate for a moment in bringing the results and the report of such an examination before the people? It is not practical politics to expect the ordinary voters through the country to examine these matters for themselves. They have not the facilities nor have they the libraries of Europe at their command; they have not got the wealth of experience which would enable them to come to a clear and decisive judgment on these questions or even to understand fully what is involved in the Government's proposals.

I do not understand why the Government should hesitate, if they believe in their case, if they believe the arguments are with them, if they believe that the arguments which they can adduce are so weighty as to carry influence outside of Party loyalties and considerations, to have a calm, considered and unprejudiced pronouncement on this matter.

I shall conclude by recommending to the Members opposite consideration of some advice given by the present Minister for Health some years ago when, I am sure, questions of the election system and P.R. were very far from his mind. As reported in the DublinEvening Mail of February 28th, 1949, when he was on the Opposition Benches here, under the heading, “Mr. MacEntee on Public Morality” under a sub-heading, “Perverted Democracy” the advice is as follows:—

It is natural, he continued, for a man to use his individual strength and resources to advance or protect what he regards as his own rights and possessions. It is natural for the strong to use their strength to achieve their own purposes. If, therefore, in a democracy the strong are called upon to renounce any resort to that force which is natural to them, then it is essential, in order that this renunciation may continue to be made willingly and permanently, that those who exercise power in the State in the name of the majority should act always with justice and fair play towards all sections of the people alike.

If this condition is not observed then democracy will degenerate into tyranny exercised by a few in the name, but ultimately not with the consent, of the many.

That is in fact what is happening in all those countries which have fallen under Communistic domination; countries where tyrants, by a perversion of democracy have created the very abomination of desolation, under which they deny their just due alike to God and man.

If, therefore, we were to preserve our democratic system here it is imperative that those who exercise authority in the State should be balanced in their judgment and calm, considerate and unprejudiced in their public pronouncements.

We appeal from these benches for the calm, considerate and balanced judgment of the Government, of the House and of the people on this question.

The last speaker emphasised more than once that our people are an intelligent electorate. If they are an intelligent electorate, as we on this side of the House agree that they are, why not give them an opportunity of deciding what to them is one of the most important issues that there can be?

The system of election is enshrined in the Constitution. A good deal of play has been made on that by Opposition speakers in so far as they tried to suggest that we considered P.R. such a perfect system that we enshrined it in the Constitution. Deputies on the opposite side of the House know as well as we do that any electoral system that may be devised must be enshrined in the Constitution. Otherwise, it would become the plaything of various political Parties and Governments who from time to time could make it an adaptable tool to suit their own needs. Any system must be enshrined in the Constitution so that the people will have the sole right to say whether or not they want a particular system. What we are doing now is merely giving the people an opportunity to decide whether they are satisfied with the present system or wish to adopt the system which we are putting before them.

The people are a better tribunal, a better commission, than anything the Opposition have to propose. The amendment proposes that this matter should be submitted to a commission who will tell the electorate what they should do. If a small body is capable of giving a decision on such an important matter, surely the entire electorate are better qualified to do so. We are simply giving the electorate the opportunity to decide.

The Leader of the Opposition said here this evening that if the electoral system is changed now it can never be changed again. There is a more serious issue than that. If the system is not changed now, the possibility of changing it may never arise again. If a number of Parties came into this House, a conglomeration of small Parties elected under P.R., owing their existence to P.R., none of them having an overall majority, no matter how corrupt the system may become under that conglomeration, they certainly will not abolish the system to which they owe their existence. That is one of the main reasons why we are now in a position to give the people the right which is theirs, the right which is given to them under the Constitution, to make that decision now.

The protracted debate in this House on this matter leads one to appreciate how impossible it would be to secure that opportunity for the people if the Party desiring to give the electorate the opportunity had not the necessary overall majority. We are in a position now to see that the people get the right of deciding whether the existing system should be continued or not. As Deputy O'Higgins said, we have an intelligent electorate. If they are intelligent, they are competent to decide rather than leave the matter to a small commission selected from any section or interest of the people. We are merely asking that the people be given that opportunity. So far, that opportunity has been denied them as far as it is humanly possible for the Opposition to do so.

Deputy O'Higgins alleges that P.R. is eminently suitable for this country. I do not know how anyone can claim that it is particularly suited to this country more than any other country. My opinion is that it is not suited to this country, that we have a tendency to create splinter Parties out of every little huff that may occur within a particular Party. P.R. certainly tends to give support to that type of thing.

Deputy O'Higgins gave the example of three candidates in a constituency, one of whom gets 11,000 votes, another 10,000 votes and the third 9,000 votes, the man who gets 11,000 being elected despite the fact that there were 19,000 votes cast against him. They were not necessarily cast against him. The Deputy has in mind a case where there are three candidates, two of them advocating diametrically opposed policies and coalescing after the election to form a Government, each of them putting his policy or programme, if he has any, in abeyance. That sort of thing will not work under the straight vote system. Why should it? People will have to come together before an election and tell the people what their programme and policy is. They will not be allowed to present themselves under various guises for the purpose of collecting votes and then coming together when the election is over. That is what Deputy O'Higgins had in mind when he pointed out that a person can be elected with a minority of votes. If we are to base our arguments on election monstrosities of that type, we could point out hundreds of them under the P.R. system, particularly in by-elections, as has been referred to here frequently. The system which he describes would certainly not be anything worse than in a by-election——

There is nobody blushing.

——where a candidate can be elected with a minority of the votes, and has been frequently, under P.R. That type of argument certainly does not hold water and will not sway anyone. All Deputies have been elected under P.R. and the chances are that most of us will be elected under either system again. Why should we do like the last speaker did—tell the electorate what they must do? It is the people who tell us how they will have their representatives elected. We are merely giving them the opportunity of doing that. We came in here under the P.R. system. If there is one thing that has been established during this protracted debate it is the fact that the straight vote system gives stability in Government. While the P.R. system, on the admission of the Opposition, throws up Coalitions.

Which conferred great blessings on this country, thanks be to God.

I am prepared to go to the people on the argument Deputy Dillon is putting forward. I am prepared to ask the people: "Do you want Coalitions, on the one hand, or do you want stability of Government on the other hand?"

They are not alternatives.

They are the alternatives in this issue. That is one thing to which all this argument boils down ultimately.

The Opposition have wasted a lot of time trying to prove stability in Government is not good.

The last speaker tried to prove that stability tends towards dictatorship and a weak Opposition. Towards the end of his speech he tried to make us believe that coalition is good government.

Hear, hear!

The country had two doses of coalition.

And doubled their exports and trebled their value.

If they wish to have a third, that is their affair.

Hear, hear!

I would not mind contesting the referendum on that issue.

The Taoiseach can always go up to the Park. He did it before. He can always adjourn to the Park. At night.

Order. Deputy Brennan.

The Leader of the Opposition, speaking earlier to-day, tried to raise up all sorts of ghosts calculated to scare the electorate. He painted wild pictures of the catastrophe it would be if the system of election were changed. He even tried a little bit of make-believe. He said it would not be representative Government if the straight vote system were adopted. It would not be democratic Government. A country divided into 150 or 160 constituencies, each electing one representative by a majority vote——

I thought the intention was to reduce the number of Deputies.

——would not have representative Government?

The Deputy is putting the number up.

I took the figure for purposes of illustration. The Deputy is sufficiently intelligent to know that the number is regulated by statute.

I thought the Deputy was breaking the bad news.

Whether the number of constituencies increases or decreases is governed by population trends. If the argument is that a representative with an over-all majority is not representative in the true sense in a House comprising 150 or 160 representatives, all elected with over-all majorities to represent their own constituencies, if that is the argument which will prevail in the Opposition campaign, I do not think we have anything to fear with regard to the result of the referendum.

Would the Opposition explain to the people, since they are so anxious to put this issue before a commission, a small number of selected people, what is wrong in letting the people decide the issue for themselves? They are getting an opportunity now which they may never get again. If that is the only argument on the Opposition side, there is no point in delaying the House week after week advocating that a small body should decide instead of the whole electorate.

A small body should inquire.

Every adjective in the superlative that could have been used has been used to describe the gravity of the issue before the House from the point of view of the Opposition. Surely, if it is as grave as all that, the people are the proper people to decide.

After adequate inquiry.

We are giving the people that opportunity. I know the decision they will take, and nothing that has been said in this debate will in any way influence anybody in favour of what the Opposition maintains. It is only natural that a particular section of the Opposition should be in favour of the continuation of P.R. Fine Gael must have completely despaired of the future.

There is a lot to be said for the Party system. I have yet to meet a Party that would go out to the people and tell them that a Party system was a bad thing and ask them not to vote for Party candidates. The ambition of every Party is to become sufficiently large to get control of Government. Every Party is delighted if it can double or treble its strength in an election. We are told by the Opposition that the ideal is multiplicity of Parties until every faction and every fraction and every pressure group has representation here. That is, according to the Opposition, the ideal type of Government; the more factions represented here the better the Government will be. That is a silly argument. I do not profess like the last speaker to tell the people what is right and what is good for them. We will leave it to the people to decide.

I do not wish to cover all the ground that has been covered so often already. We have had reiteration of points and arguments flogged all over the House for weeks. It all boils down to a simple argument in the end: the P.R. system favours multiplicity of Parties and consequently Coalition Government, which is synonymous with weak Government, and the straight vote system favours stability—stability being regarded by the Opposition as strong Government. If the people decide in favour of P.R. then they want frequently recurring elections. If they do that, they will decide in favour of a situation in which a small Party of two or three can overthrow the Government overnight. On the other hand, do the people want Government which will continue in office for the full statutory period?

That is the issue purely and simply. It does not in any way infringe on the democratic rights and liberties of the people. It does not interfere in any way with the institutions of the State. The only thing it does is to ensure that we shall have strong government instead of the mixture of Parties we have had in the past.

It has been said that we want to change this system because we were piqued over the two Coalition Governments. We were not piqued. I remember when the second Coalition Government took office. I said—I was speaking from those benches over there— that it was the best thing that had ever happened Fianna Fáil because the people never knew what was in the system until they tried it. I was confident that, in a very short time, we would be back on the other side of the House with a bigger majority than we ever had in the past. One did not have to be a prophet to see that. One could easily see the impossibility of such a Government carrying on when one saw the incompatibility of the Parties which formed that Government.

The electorate are being asked to continue a system which allows that sort of thing. We have never seen Coalition Governments at their worst in this country. It has always been the case of the largest Party in the House versus all the others. That is the system we have had. I think it was good enough but if we had a system where every Party in the House was prepared to coalesce, could you visualise what the situation would be then? What type of Opposition could you have then? You would have absolutely none.

It all depends on who would be Taoiseach.

It is a situation that I would like to see you put before the people of this country. If democracy is to combat dictatorship it had better not lean towards weak government. There is no better manner of protecting democracy than by giving to the people a system of voting whereby they will be assured of reasonable stability in government. I am not pretending that the straight system of voting guarantees stability on every occasion but we are certain that it is more likely to give stable Government than the present system.

Because it does not make for splinter Parties. We are accused of having a personal interest in the straight vote system but we could answer those who say that by saying that any Party which believes in the future, and has confidence in its future can go before the people with an acceptable programme. I would say to Fine Gael that if they have any hope of coming back as a single Party Government it lies in the straight vote system.

Did the Deputy not begin as a splinter of a splinter? Was Fianna Fáil not a splinter of Sinn Féin when it came in here first?

We began as a Party.

I thought the Party split and that half of it came in and half of it stayed out.

In 1918 it was a straight vote.

Yes, and some people voted 56 times.

Does the Deputy wish to put it on record that he claims that the 1918 election was not a correct indication of the opinion of the people?

In my opinion it was not and I wish to have that on the records of the House.

Deputies should be fair to Deputy Brennan and allow him to make his speech.

We are trying to help him.

The only other allegation made, which does not stand up to argument, was that small Parties would not get a show under the straight vote system and that it would be difficult to bring a Party along. Sinn Féin developed a Party in 1918 under a straight vote system although Deputy Lynch has said that they did not get a fair majority. Any Party can come along under the straight vote system, provided they are a genuine Party with a genuine programme. We were accused of being "huffed" when we were put out by the Coalition. We were not.

The Taoiseach was, and he said that he hated Coalitions.

We were satisfied on that occasion that it gave us a new lease of life in Fianna Fáil and that it would give the public time to see the defects of the Coaltion. I remember a Party being defeated in this House and they did not take it too well. I remember an occasion when a Party was defeated here and we almost had a second Germany. Any Party seeking office here should be prepared to leave office when defeated and allow other people to take over. On one occasion a Party went at the telephone poles with cross-cuts and cut them down. We are quite prepared to take a seat on the opposite side of the House any time the people think that we should be there, and I am quite confident that we could come back again.

We are accused of working for the straight vote system because it suits our Party. That is because we have faith in the future of our Party. It is not because we despair of the future. We are asking that the people be given an opportunity to decide what the Deputies opposite say is an important issue. It is the people who are to decide. Let us not keep the issue unnecessarily from them any longer. Give them the opportunity to decide; they are the real tribunal to decide such an issue.

If the speaker who has just concluded is so confident that the Fianna Fáil Party could put its record before the people at any time, surely there should be no occasion for the change that it is proposed to make. If they are so confident of their policies and have such confidence in their Party, they should be assured of remaining in Government for a long time. This question arises from the fact that the Taoiseach, in the first instance, decided that he would change the system. He then got his Party unanimously to agree that it was a wise and desirable thing to do despite the fact that for 40 years the people of this country have known no other system of election.

We are now told that it is desirable that they should change it because the proposed change, which is now being called a straight vote, would give the people better service by representatives from the individual constituencies, by the Parliament to which they were elected under the system or the Government that will arise from it.

We have been accused of holding up this measure and a suggestion has also been advanced here that the people do not understand the P.R. system. Now suddenly they have become wise, and in a short space of time will be able to understand the various changes that are to take place in the electoral system, and they will vote wisely in the future. There was no demand of any kind for this change Nobody demanded it. Various elections took place even since the Taoiseach and his Party left office in 1948 after a long spell in power. We did not hear any mention whatsoever of the dangers then arising or the change that was to take place. Much discussion has already taken place on the merits of P.R. as against the straight vote. The question of representation of the people is being weighed against stability of Government. Deputy Brennan said, a moment ago, that the electorate are intelligent and that, therefore, this matter can be left to them, at this stage. Surely the electorate are entitled to be informed of the position by the Government Party and the representatives of the various Parties and to have the arguments put before them before we ask them to change the existing system. It is not a question of doubting the intelligence of the electorate but of informing them on the merits and demerits of the two systems.

Under the present system the number of Deputies in each constituency ranges more or less from three to five; even in the smallest constituency, it is possible for a substantial minority to secure representation in Parliament and elect a spokesman to speak for them here. If Parliament means anything, if the people who rule have any rights, it is because they are ruling the country for the people, by the people and every substantial element in the country have a right to put their views here in this Parliament.

Again, there is no necessity to take this argument into the realm of heat or passion. There is no necessity to revert to what happened in the past. We have had almost 40 years of self-government and we should look at the system from the point of view: "Is this system of Government which has been exercised since this State was established as good a system as, for instance, the system the northern counties have enjoyed since P.R. was taken from them in 1927?" Let us take the two ends of our country. Has not the form of Government here been stable? Has it not been just as stable as the Government in the Six Counties with the important difference here that minorities have been able to exercise their right of sending representatives here, whereas in the other part of the country a minority has not been able fully to exercise the rights it should have?

The amendment proposes that a commission of inquiry be set up to weigh the arguments for and against. After a time we could obtain, and the people could be given, the considered opinion of that commission. It is futile for anybody to say: "Leave it to the people." Members on this side of the House have been accused of not understanding the system by which they are elected here. That was said when a previous stage of the Bill was before the House. The suggestion was thrown across the House that Deputies themselves do not understand how they are elected, but, even if they do not, at least they were sent here by people who knew which Deputy or which Party they wanted to send here, and who knew the Government they wanted for the time being.

Evidently on this question of the dislike of Coalitions, as Deputy M.J. O'Higgins pointed out the argument is —and I quote him—"arrogant and undemocratic". I have heard criticism, on another occasion, that under the single vote in the single member constituency the good Deputy or the good candidate will be elected. I pose this question: if in the 150 constituencies, or the 147 or 140 constituencies, the good candidate beats the Party candidate where then are coalitions? That stable government is necessary is an argument which I think has been overused in this House inasmuch as I do not agree that there have been unstable Governments here at any time. Perhaps the Coalitions have not been liked— they are even called Coalitions, and we continue to call them Coalitions, but they are as entitled to be called Governments as any Government that has ruled in this country. They were not Coalitions in the sense suggested by Deputies opposite. They were the Government of the country, elected by the members of the House who, in turn, were elected by the people, and the people approved of that when the issue was put to them in 1954. They endorsed that system and returned again an alternative Government to the Fianna Fáil Government.

When this Bill was before the Seanad and in this House before we had quite an amount of digression, but it is not fair to say that this taking apart and examination of the measure, and pointing out of what may happen, and the danger if the people should be persuaded to make this change, which have caused what I may call, fear or heat, is holding up the Bill here, and is keeping from the people something which they have a right to decide. We all know that the people have the right to decide this issue. Nobody disputes that, but the people are entitled to hear the pros and cons of any measure that is being presented to them by the Legislature.

The various arguments put up in the House represented the views of the various Parties in it. It might be said that in the Seanad some speakers put the Party viewpoint forward, but there was also the vocational viewpoint put forward in that House. It is most important for the country to realise that at the present time those who could not be classed as politicians saw a danger in this measure, so far as the people were concerned. They were not speaking as Party spokesmen. They were representatives elected by the universities of this country, which are not dependent on the suffrage of the people in that sense. They brought to bear on this measure the knowledge which they had gained from having studied the laws of the straight vote system operating abroad, and comparing them with the laws regulating the system in this country as they have operated up to the present.

The criticism offered cannot be classed otherwise than as intelligent criticism. It certainly cannot be classed as Party criticism, or criticism from the point of view of Party preference. Despite the fact that some people seem to think that the sooner we place this measure before the people the better it will be, there is a certain amount of uneasiness for the simple reason that the people are still confused. They are being asked to accept the straight vote system instead of the P.R. system. Instead of putting it to them in that form, it would be fairer to say to them that they are being asked to decide whether they want to retain the system which they have had, and under which they have voted for so many years. Practically everybody in this country, under the age of 61 or 62 years, has voted under no other system, and the young people who have become eligible to vote within the last ten or 15 years have been using the present system intelligently. There is no doubt about that. They have been using the system intelligently and the figures are there to show that the amount of illiteracy is negligible. It is very much lower than in other countries which vote under the straight vote system. Any Deputy who has contested a three-seat constituency, with one or two other candidates from his own Party, knows that the voters exercised the transfer of preference votes intelligently.

It has been said that this is something which transcends politics. It is something that will affect the lives of the people in this country, not alone in this generation, but in the next generation. I think any Deputy would be less than truthful if he did not answer the question: if the change were made and if you had a Dáil elected under the straight vote system, would that Dáil be likely to give freely back to the people the system they now have, if the people thought that the P.R. system would suit them better? It is fallacious at the present time to say that the opportunity could never occur again. The Fine Gael Party is being taunted that they must have no confidence in themselves, but surely it must be Fianna Fáil who have no confidence in themselves if they think they would not have the opportunity of introducing this change again, or bringing such a Bill before the House again? It is they who have no confidence in themselves.

The change in the system of voting would lead to the people being given only one choice. I mentioned before, and I make no apology for mentioning it again, that I do not agree that the person elected with 40 per cent. of the votes in a constituency, or even less than that, could be said to be truly representative to speak for the people in his constituency. There is no use in saying that the other 35 per cent. or 30 per cent. might be going left or going right because it is assumed that the individual with 40 per cent. of the votes is the middle of the road man.

We believe that the proposed change will not give the people a better type of representative but will give them a less representative Deputy to plead their interests in the House, and we believe it will not give the people the improvement which the Fianna Fáil spokemen say it will. It will not do anything to solve the problems which we have and, if anything, in its own way it will lead to more intolerance.

Much play has been made about the Constitution and its sanctity. We are told that every line of the 1937 Constitution is so sacred now that nobody can interfere with it, one way or another. I am a long time in this House and I can remember the activities which surrounded the enactment of that Constitution in 1937. Is there any Deputy on the opposite side who did not speak at every cross-roads possible, bawling, shouting and screaming about the terrible thing that Constitution would be and how it would ruin the country? Is this not the same old thing over again and is it not the same old theme? There is not a single Deputy on that side of the House who fought to prevent that Republican Constitution being brought in who will not be out at the cross-roads during the next seven weeks endeavouring to ensure that the people will keep the P.R. system of voting.

This Bill is not a decision on P.R. because no line in that Constitution could be changed without a direct appeal to the people of the country. It is the people who have to decide the matter and not the members of the Dáil. I cannot see what objection or what dread the Deputies over on that side of the House have in regard to leaving the people to decide this question. Everything that one could possibly think of was dragged into the debate. We were told about a leading article in theIrish Press. What is the leader writer in any paper? He is only one man working for hire, nothing more and nothing less. If he writes well enough he will help to sell the paper, therefore he has to write things which he thinks will most please.

We had quotations here, quotation after quotation, from Deputy O'Higgins, of what this person said, what that person said and what the other person said. Is Deputy J.A. Costello not entitled to change his mind? Is Deputy Dillon, who said that P.R. was the production of a bunch of half lunatics, not entitled to change his mind now? Will he not be going around during the next few weeks saying that this production of a bunch of half lunatics is something that should be retained for the safety of the Irish people? Is that not what Deputy Costello, who condemned P.R. with bell, book and candle, is doing?

And the Taoiseach too.

And Deputy Casey who did his best to stop the Constitution from being put through.

Deputy Casey was not here at that time.

I cannot see what objection Deputies have to the straight vote system. If you wanted proportional representation properly carried out you would need to have a ten-seat constituency and not a three-seat constituency. If you want to have minorities properly represented, you will need to have the constituencies sufficiently large so that every minority can get in. What is going to happen then? Why were the constituencies cut down to three-seat constituencies? I remember in 1954 when our standing was at a very low ebb I had the honour of representing the only constituency in the Twenty-Six Counties which brought in an extra man to this House. How was it done?

I remember when my colleague over there, Deputy Barry, headed the poll. I remember Deputy P.J. O'Gorman coming along and cheering. He came over and said: "We have done a wonderful thing. We have dethroned the king"—meaning that I had lost my position at the top of the poll. I told him in very plain language: "I am pleased, Paddy, at any time to change the top of the ladder for the two rungs nearest the top, if that means two places for my Party."

But the Deputy was disappointed.

My job was to get two men in and I did it. I was the only person in the Twenty-Six Counties who did it. What happened afterwards? Deputy Moher beat Deputy P.J. O'Gorman by 19 votes and those 19 votes—which were third and fourth preference votes—decided what Government would be here for the next five years. That is the way it works. Then you have the system of the straight vote being worked by every big Party to-day in any constituency. You will not see them coming down to Cobh and putting up two men for Fine Gael, or two men up for Fianna Fáil. They go to one end of the constituency for one man and to the other end of the constituency for the other man.

Deputy Corry was worried when his curate was elected.


If Deputy Corry would address the Chair on the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill we might not have these interruptions.

I cannot address the Chair when I am being consistently interrupted by the Deputy over there who says he was not born at that time.

The Deputy should pay no attention to interruptions.

Deputy Casey might conduct himself.

The curate is getting into trouble now; he is going for a parish.

This is what has caused a lot of the annoyance which we find here. I saw on that occasion that a small number of votes decided that one end of the constituency would be without any Fine Gael representative. I have been studying this matter for a long time and, in fact, at one time I examined my conscience because I found myself following the same viewpoint of Deputy Dillon and I decided that proportional representation had been brought in by a crowd of half lunatics. The closer you examine it, the more you see that you are going to have far better representation under the straight vote system because the man who is elected in a single-seat constituency has got to work or otherwise he will go out, no matter what Party he belongs to. No Deputy will tell me that if a candidate under the present system does not pull the bulk of the votes from within 15 to 20 miles radius of his own home, he will be elected.

You are sacking the curate already.

I have a good mind to come up and have a "go" at opposing the Deputy. If I do, it will finish him.

The Deputy is doing a good job.

Deputy Casey might allow Deputy Corry to speak without interruption.

The curate is almost gone now.

I succeeded in enlightening the people in my constituency and I always succeeded in being elected.

Cuireadh an díospóireacht ar ath-ló.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 30th April, 1959.