Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 27 Mar 1968

Vol. 233 No. 9

An Bille um An Tríú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1968: An Dara Céim (Atógáil). Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1968: Second Stage (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following amendment:
Go scriosfar na focail go léir i ndiaidh "Go" agus go gcuirfear ina n-ionad:—
"ndiúltaíonn Dáil Éireann an Dara Léamh a thabhairt don Bhille ar an bhforas gur togra atá neamh-dhaonlathach go bunúsach an togra sa Bhille suas le 40 faoin gcéad de bhreis ionadaíochta sa Dáil a thabhairt do roinnt saorá-nach thar mar a thabharfaí do shaoránaigh eile."
To delete all words after "That" and substitute:—
"Dáil Éireann declines to give a Second Stage Reading to the Bill on the grounds that the proposal in the Bill to provide some citizens with up to 40 per cent greater representation in the Dáil than other citizens is fundamentally undemocratic."
—(Deputy Cosgrave).

(South Tipperary): When speaking last night, I was dealing with the proposed alterations in our electoral system as they will affect my constituency. We have been challenged by commentators why individually we did not say how the changes might affect our particular areas. There has been a strange lack of comment in that respect from the opposite side of the House. If a number of Fianna Fáil Deputies stood up and really spoke the truth, a lot of them would say: “I am going out under this new system.” I could pinpoint several Fianna Fáil Deputies who would disappear under the new system, and they know it.

Are you not coming with us?

(South Tipperary): Yes, I am going as well. I said that last night. Somebody said that Deputy Kyne said he would remain, but Deputy Kyne told me that he was satisfied that he would go as well. It has been disputed that Deputy Kyne said otherwise, but he is quite satisfied that under the new dispensation he would walk the plank as I would.

And some of our fellows would go, too.

(South Tipperary): Yes, but you would put them back in the Seanad, would you not?

The Taca boys would go in instead.


(South Tipperary): How is the Seanad elected?

That does not arise.

Have your people not got control of the county councils?

You have eleven today, more than one-fifth of them.

(South Tipperary): Legislation would be introduced to have the local authority elections work on the same basis as you would work the Dáil elections. You would have a tremendous volume of votes. Would there be any Senators left except Fianna Fáil Senators?

We cannot discuss Seanad elections on this Bill.

(South Tipperary): The system of election for local authorities does arise. I dealt with that last night. The system of election to local authorities could be altered.

The system of election to local authorities does not arise either. We are discussing the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill.

And the electoral system.

Election to the Dáil.

(South Tipperary): And the Dáil deals with the electoral system in regard to local authorities and it is a matter for the Dáil to alter legislation as regards the system of election to local authorities.

The Dáil deals with a good many matters which may not be discussed on this Bill.

(South Tipperary): The Dáil so far has not dealt with one very important matter. Last night I examined the reasons advanced by Fianna Fáil for altering our electoral system, but there was one reason that escaped them and I am amazed because it is an old chestnut. I do not know why they did not come forward with this new reason—to solve Partition. After all, we have the straight vote in the north of Ireland and we have our boys doing a shuttle service up and down, and why have they not advanced the reason that if they altered the electoral system here, the north of Ireland would come in with us tomorrow morning? I am helping them——

They do not mention that any more. They do not talk about Partition.

It is a dirty word.

Partition does not arise on this Bill.

It has not, for a long time.

(South Tipperary): I am helping the Government Party because I have examined all the reasons they have advanced so far. They have been helpful to us. They are very anxious that we should have a good Opposition with a view to forming an alternative Government. I feel it is my duty to help them and give them an added reason for altering the electoral system. The abolition of Partition would, in the heel of the hunt, be an excellent reason to advance. You would synchronise our electoral system with that in the north of Ireland and I would imagine, with a few more journeys between North and South by the various Ministers, that if we altered the electoral system, we would just have the North.

In any event, last night I was dealing with the situation in my own area, South Tipperary and Waterford. As we stand, we have three Fianna Fáil Deputies, two Labour and two Fine Gael Deputies. That was until the death of the late Deputy Lynch: seven seats: three, two and two. I am convinced that under the suggested system of tolerance voting, they could so arrange matters that in both South Tipperary and Waterford, Fine Gael and Labour would not get a single vote in any of the four seats in South Tipperary and the four seats in Waterford. I have no doubt at all about that in the case of South Tipperary. Fine Gael has fair support in South Tipperary. On average, we get 13,000 votes. Labour has possibly 7,000 votes. Does anyone suggest it would be either fair or just to deprive 20,000 people in South Tipperary in our lifetime—I do not know how long any of us will live, but certainly during the next ten or 12 years—of representation? Does anyone think it would be either fair or just to put those 20,000 people into a position in which they could never effectively participate in an election? I should not like to see Fine Gael do this. If Fine Gael were to adumbrate a policy such as this, I should immediately suffer a crisis of conscience and I would have to decide whether or not I should leave Fine Gael.

The safest thing in any democracy is to allow people to express opinions. There is an old-fashioned institution in London called Hyde Park Corner. I do not know how many Deputies have visited Hyde Park Corner. It is a most amusing place. There one will hear the most extraordinary people expounding the most extraordinary ideas.

That happens here, too.

(South Tipperary): It happens here, too, and the Deputy himself has climbed on the band-wagon. The Deputy is entitled to do that and I would defend his right to do it up to the hilt.

Do not help me, for God's sake. You make such a bad job of the Government's policy you would ruin me.

(South Tipperary): Which side of the House is the Deputy on now?

I am Independent.

(South Tipperary): Hyde Park Corner is an example of democracy in operation. There the most extraordinary crackpots can stand up and air their views. There is nothing wrong in that: it is a safety valve. In any democratic society people should be given an opportunity of expressing their views.

That will operate under the system of the straight vote.

(South Tipperary): No system should be evolved which will either silence or suppress people. Why should we introduce a system which will drive people underground? We know what has happened in other countries. The safest system is to allow people to express themselves. As people grow older, they change their views. Look at our universities. Young men do the most unstable things and these same young men ultimately become the most stable members of the community and the leaders of society. This is a process of growing up. Our system here allows Parties to grow up. It is part of an educational system and our people, although we are backward in many ways, have apparently grasped the system. They use it and they like it. They are able to distinguish between individuals and Parties. We allow them to do that. But, under the proposed new system, we will tell them that they must vote in one small area for Mr. A, in another small area for Mr. B and in another small area for Mr. C. We will deprive them of choice. Backward as we are, are we to become even more backward still?

I do not pretend that our system could not be improved but I believe the principle underlying it is the right principle. There may be defects in the system. I am no specialist in proportional representation, but, whatever the defects may be, they could have been examined by the Committee. But they were not examined by the Committee. The system could be improved. Not one suggestion has come from the Opposite Benches to show how the system could be improved. All they want to do is to abolish the system and introduce in its place something alien to this country, the British system. We are told in one and the same breath that we must abolish proportional representation because it was imposed on us by the British and that we must adopt the British system. Are 20,000 people in South Tipperary to be disfranchised under such a system? I have given the statistics for South Tipperary. Other Deputies can give the statistics for their particular constituencies. In that way we would have a staggering total of people disfranchised under this proposed system.

It has been suggested that we could have the single seat with proportional representation. That would be something like a by-election. It is incorrect to talk of the single-seat with proportional representation because there is no such thing. There is the transferable vote, but that is not proportional representation. I have heard many Fine Gael Deputies and one Labour Deputy say that would be a good idea. I do not know how many Government supporters believe that the single seat with the transferable vote would be a good thing. I think many of them still believe that. They have the notion "proportional representation is the thing we want and if they make single seats, what harm, that is fair enough, so long as we have proportional representation". That is a dangerous situation and it is dangerous thinking.

I am satisfied that if Fianna Fáil had to make a choice between the question of single seats and proportional representation — and they want the single seat and the abolition of proportional representation — they would opt for single seats, whatever form of election you would have. From their point of view, in so far as they could secure more seats, in that way they would be right and it would probably delude a lot of people in this country that this was a fair compromise. There could be no more unfair compromise. The single seat with so-called PR— because it is not PR—is a delusion and a trap and a trap which might ensnare many Fine Gael people up and down the country. I do not know how many Fine Gael Deputies it might ensnare because it has not been discussed but I am convinced that it would trap an awful lot of honest, well-thinking Fine Gael people all over this country.

I am dealing now specifically with it because it has been the most dangerous suggestion that has ever emanated in this House, even from the narrow Fine Gael viewpoint. I will try to explain it. It is not necessary to explain it, probably, to many people in this House although, possibly, some Fine Gael Deputies still do not understand it and certainly the rank and file of the Fine Gael people up and down the country, as far as I understand from going amongst them, do not yet understand its significance. They are convinced that this is a fair compromise, that we will have PR, that it will give Labour and other minorities a chance to survive and get representation and as regards the single seat that there is not very much wrong with that.

It must be apparent to anybody that as you cut down the number of seats in constituencies, you are interfering with the question of proportionality. Proportionality is inverse to the number of seats in constituencies. Down through the years the number of seats has been reduced to the constitutional minimum of three in a large number of constituencies. I do not know whether there was much opposition here from Labour or from Fine Gael during the various Electoral Bills that went through, reducing the number of seats in the constituencies. Deputy Corish would know that better than I. I do not know what attitude was adopted here but I presume that Labour must have objected to the reduction of seats in every constituency.

Deputy Corish lost the toss for Wexford.

No; I won it on a solitary vote.

He got the extra one.

(South Tipperary): It is clear that not alone Labour but any minority Party, Independents, any new Party that might arise, would reject the notion of single seats in any circumstances and it is, therefore, obvious that, from the Fine Gael point of view, if the question of single seats with the alternative vote—because that is all it is—is promulgated, there is very little future for any Opposition on this side of the House in that proposition.

For example, take it that there are 144 seats. If we accept the fact that Fianna Fáil will get 100 of these seats in the first count, it is probable then that Fine Gael will get, say, 28 or 30; Labour, nine or ten. Let us envisage the position that there is a transferable vote system in operation. Where is this Party going to get its transfers? With Fianna Fáil first in 100 constituencies, there could be second or third in only 44. I could not tell you in what number of these they would be second or third. The minorities would be second or third in, possibly, 100 seats. Therefore, the great reservoir of transfers, from the Fine Gael point of view, would have to be the minority Parties. That is in the order of things. If, therefore, the minority Parties refuse—I think they could not do otherwise—to accept the notion of single seats with so-called proportional representation, where are Fine Gael to go?

They could, for instance, vote straight but the Fine Gael Party have already rejected that. They could not very well vote for the minorities because the minorities would not be giving them transfers because they had already been let down by Fine Gael. They could do a deal with Fianna Fáil. They could do a transfer arrangement with Fianna Fáil but in so far as Fianna Fáil would be in front four times out of five, it would be a oneway street and all that would come out of it would be that Fine Gael would give all their transfers to Fianna Fáil and Fianna Fáil, even with the best will in the world, would be in no position to help Fine Gael because they would be in front four times out of five. All that would eventuate, probably, in the complete obliteration of Labour. A situation could arise where Labour could not get a single seat in this House. Does anybody want that? Do even Fianna Fáil want that? Mad as they are, I doubt if they are that mad.

I, therefore, see no future whatsoever in the amendment which the newspapers have promised us from Deputy Norton. I cannot speak for Fine Gael. I am just a member of the Fine Gael Party. The Fine Gael Party have not discussed Deputy Norton's amendment. It has not appeared on the Order Paper as yet. I do not know how it would be worded but I have tried to analyse it from the Fine Gael attitude as objectively as I could. Several other members of the Fine Gael Party may have different views from the one I have put but I see no future whatsoever in that amendment and no value to be got from it, from the narrow Fine Gael viewpoint.

The Deputy will appreciate that the amendment is not before us and there can be no discussion on it until the next Stage.

(South Tipperary): I appreciate that the amendment is not before us. I wish to deal, not with that amendment, but with the question of proportional representation as adumbrated in respect of single seats. I wrote a short article recently in a local newspaper in which I used the term “single seat with PR”. I did that deliberately because I felt it was the only way to get my ideas across to the people. The correct term is: single seat with the alternative vote. The Irish people have become so accustomed to proportional representation and understand it so well that when you are speaking to them, you have to use that kind of terminology, even though it may be incorrect.

If the Deputy does not mind me interrupting, it is used in Article 12 of our Constitution in relation to the election of President. It says that the election shall be by secret ballot with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.

(South Tipperary): I do not doubt that the Deputy is correct. The Deputy was a member of the Committee examining this and he probably knows many aspects of it I do not know. The Deputy will agree with me that the principle of proportional representation was enshrined in the 1923 Constitution, but, later on, in the 1937 Constitution, Mr. de Valera copperfastened it as the existing system. He was challenged at that time and advised from this side of the House not to make it so watertight, just to leave it as the principle of proportional representation, which would give this House a certain latitude to improve or amend it. So long as only the principle was enshrined, that could be done.

You cannot be for it in one case and say you are against it in another.

(South Tipperary): The point I am making is that only the principle of proportional representation was enshrined in the first Constitution but the present system was copperfastened in the 1937 Constitution. That places your Party in its present dilemma.

Dilemma ! You are being led from behind.

We are being led anyway.

Your leader is not in favour of it.

Who is your leader?

Several well-known members of the Fine Gael Front Bench are in favour of single seats.

At this stage Deputy Hogan is in possession.

I know it is hard for you to argue.

We do not have to listen to featherbrains or nitwits.

(South Tipperary): I confess that last night I was down in the bar having a drink with a very friendly, likeable Deputy of the Fianna Fáil Party. Of course, I cannot give his name, but he was definitely 100 per cent against the abolition of proportional representation. He told me so.

I would draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that private conversations outside the House are not relevant to discussions in the House.

(South Tipperary): I beg your pardon, Sir. One forgets oneself.

Ignore the interruptions and get on with the job.

I did excuse myself for interrupting.

That does not excuse interruptions. They are disorderly and unmannerly.

(South Tipperary): Deputy Molloy and I are good friends. We get on well together.

He is not a bad fellow at all. He swims well, anyway.

(South Tipperary): From the point of view of proportional representation, let us take the simple example of the last by-election in Wicklow. There was a case where the Fianna Fáil candidate, Miss Nancy O'Neill, secured something over 30 per cent of the votes. Under the new system the Government are proposing, she would be the Deputy today. Something over 60 per cent of the people would have come to the polling booths and voted and felt dissatisfied that their first, second, third and fourth preferences were being ignored. If that is democracy, I just do not understand the term. Why should the candidate who secured not more than one-third of the votes be the elected Member? Deputy Molloy is a member of many committees. He probably is a member of Galway County Council. I know county councils have not many appointments to make now but, if there is an appointment to be made there, what system do they use?

There have not been any appointments in my time.

(South Tipperary): The only appointments they can make now are those of rate collectors. If there are three or four names, those names are put before the council and everybody votes. The lowest is eliminated and the second count is taken. Then the next chap is eliminated. That is the system we have adopted as far as I know since the inception in South Tipperary and I think it is the system in every county council.

It is a Government we are electing, not a committee of a debating society or anything like that.

You have a poor opinion of rate collectors so?

(South Tipperary): The people do not elect a Government. I dealt with that last night. If the Minister thinks that is the function of the electorate—

Of course, it is. The whole purpose of the exercise is to provide a Government.

(South Tipperary): No. If that is the predominant consideration, then we must adopt the American system and have two elections—one to elect a representative House and the other to elect an executive. Here we are trying to have the best of two worlds. We have adopted the British system where we have one election to elect a house of representatives or Dáil and that body elects a Government. If that system is believed to be improper, then it is up to the Minister and his associates in the Government to suggest an alternative system.

There is no suggestion whatsoever in this report which has been submitted to us here that the existing system should be altered. Many arguments could be advanced in favour of the suggestion that we could do something better than have our President as a mere rubber stamp, and interviewing VIPs from other countries. We could have an executive president as obtains in the US, a president who works and gives a return for the money he receives. If the Minister thinks that is a proper suggestion, he is in a position to put it forward. So far, he and his Party have failed to put forward that suggestion. Much could be said for it.

In so far as the electorate have to fulfil a dual function of electing a representative assembly and through it, an executive, I think the PR system should be the paramount consideration. I disagree entirely with the notion of the Fianna Fáil Party that the primary function of the electorate is to elect a Government.

I take it that the Fine Gael Party want to be the Government. Do they not?

That is begging the argument, and begging the issue.

(South Tipperary): That is a side-tracking remark.

I will deal with it later.

(South Tipperary): It is like the two-package deal.

Surely the Deputy is not serious in saying——

I will not allow any interruptions at this stage.

(South Tipperary): Is Deputy Molloy not acquainted with the American system?

I am acquainted with many systems. I am referring to the system which operates here where a Dáil is elected which elects a Government—unless the Deputy wants to change other Articles of the Constitution.

(South Tipperary): I do not know what Deputy Molloy is trying to suggest.

How can an assembly operate that cannot elect a Government?

These remarks are disorderly. I will permit no more interruptions. Deputy Hogan, to continue his remarks to the House.

(South Tipperary): I was trying to get around to the question raised last night by Deputy Andrews. I am sorry he is not here. I told him I would try to explain something to him. I think he was genuinely looking for information and I am delighted to convey the little information I have to him. He had the notion that the single-seat system, the by-election system, was proportional representation, and that even using the alternative vote was still proportional representation. Of course it is not. It is nothing more than the single seat with the transferable vote system. Deputy Costello mentioned this in the House and expressed his opinion that our by-elections here have all been unconstitutional. From a lawyer of his eminence, one must take notice of that observation. If PR is, as it is, enshrined in the Constitution, then the by-election system which we operate here, if it does not subscribe to the notion of proportionality within a reasonable degree, is unconstitutional, I presume. The single-seat system even with the alternative vote does not give proportionality.

Did the Deputy look at Article 12.3º and what it says about the election of a President?

(South Tipperary): I am glad the Deputy is back.

I came back because I heard the Deputy was talking about something I was alleged to have said and which I deny having said.

(South Tipperary): In my own simple fashion, I should like to subscribe to the education of the Deputy on one small matter. I know there are many matters on which he could help me and I am sure he would. On this simple matter, I think I can help him.

I am always open to being educated.

(South Tipperary): Who is not, and who does not need to be?

Read Article 12.3º on presidential elections before you go any further on this point.

(South Tipperary): If proportionality is an essential factor in our system here under the Constitution, then it is quite probable that all of our by-elections could be described as unconstitutional. I will give the Deputy some examples. In one election in Britain, the Labour Party got almost a two to one majority of the seats on 48 per cent of the votes. That was under the system which we operate in by-elections, and which would operate under the new scheme proposed by the Government. In that election, 177 members were elected with fewer votes than the combined Opposition. In the last election in Britain, Labour got most votes in Lincolnshire and Rutland, but they won only three seats, whereas the Conservatives won six seats. In two consecutive elections in Leicester, the Conservatives got more votes but won only one seat to Labour's three. If proportionality is enshrined in our Constitution, it would seem that the arguments advanced by Deputy Costello are well-founded.

What about the Fine Gael man who headed the poll under PR and did not get elected?

(South Tipperary): Mr. Mannion.

And poor Mr. Sherwin.

Deputy Molloy will never have that trouble of heading the poll.

Deputy Donnellan is on a descending graph in Galway and he knows it.

The Minister visits my constituency occasionally anyway. He pays trips down there.

I pay many trips to Galway.

And he is very welcome.

He was welcome before he was a Minister and before he was a Deputy.

His presence in Galway would be an asset to me more than anything else.

I wonder could Deputy Hogan be allowed to proceed?

(South Tipperary): I was a bit embarrassed by all the interruptions.

They are not helping the Deputy in his contribution either.

(South Tipperary): They are friendly interruptions from Deputies like myself who depend for their survival on PR. Therefore we have something in common on both sides of the House.

It is very unworthy to approach this matter from a purely personal point of view.

What politician does not?

(South Tipperary): I was very intrigued by some of the leading speakers on the Government side of the House when they set up— particularly the Minister for Industry and Commerce—as an argument that they wanted and were very anxious to secure a first-class Opposition as a possible alternative Government. That was really altruistic. I think it was the Minister who said it would be—I may not be reporting his exact words— simply catastrophic almost if Fianna Fáil remained in power for too long. They have been in power for 30 out of 36 years. They have won ten of the 12 elections, I understand, in those 36 years: I am speaking from 1932.

Deputy MacEntee asked the very pertinent question which we must all ask ourselves: "Why are Fianna Fáil in power so long and why have the Opposition not succeeded in putting them out? It is a very simple question and there is a very simple answer. It is that the Opposition are not united.

A coalition is what you want.

(South Tipperary): I am speaking about an Opposition.

You would be kept there under the straight vote and you have not the guts to admit it.

The Minister should remember the time Labour put Fianna Fáil into office, and then Clann na Talmhan.

(South Tipperary): I do not want to be personal, but, in his earlier years, I wonder if the Minister would have got there under the straight vote.

It does not matter.

I would. Anyhow it is not the point. You might be well rid of me.

(South Tipperary): We have nothing personal against you whatsoever. We probably could get worse. That is a very pertinent question to ask: Why have the Opposition never been able to put Fianna Fáil out of office?

Proportional representation.

(South Tipperary): It is not. The answer is simple. There has not been a unified Opposition.

The people do not want to.

(South Tipperary): No, the people would welcome a unified Opposition. Fianna Fáil are now urging us to provide a proper Opposition. I believe we are not providing a proper Opposition. It may seem disloyal to say that we are not already a proper Opposition.

That is a fair admission.

(South Tipperary): Every Fine Gael Member will speak here, and from every platform in the country, of the day Fine Gael will provide an alternative Government. We have been trying to do that for 36 years and have not succeeded.


(South Tipperary): Labour have been trying to do it for even longer, but for at least 36 years. They also maintain they will eventually become an alternative Government.

With 22 Members.

(South Tipperary): I do not think it is possible for us, in the foreseeable future—with the traditional type of voting we have in this country—to mount an alternative Government. I must equally say the attempts of Labour are also futile.

Hear, hear.

(South Tipperary): Yet, I believe the interests of this country will have to be served by a proper Opposition.

What are you doing about it? What plans have you got?

(South Tipperary): I am going to use you now.

Good: go ahead.

The Deputy must address the Chair.

(South Tipperary): I shall speak to Deputy Norton through the Chair. Deputy Norton proposes to put in an amendment here. He is still worrying about how to word it. His terminology, as announced in the newspapers, is incorrect, as I have explained to him. I have tried to explain why, from the point of view of the Opposition here, it is not even worth mentioning. I have elaborated on it so that the people will understand the futility of it.

I admire and respect Deputy Norton. He is the son of a very illustrious father whose memory I also admire and respect. Deputy Norton still has a function in this House, a very important function—not to produce this amendment. He can try to secure a united Opposition on this side of the House between Fine Gael and Labour.

I am not mad.

Very near it.

(South Tipperary): I see nothing sacrosanct in the Fine Gael Party as an entity. We must not carry our notion so far as to think that our entity as a Party is sacrosanct. I see nothing sacrosanct in the Labour Party as an entity. I believe the overriding consideration is the national interest. Whatever any amalgamation may call itself, and whatever it may evolve into, I believe it must provide a united Opposition from this side of the House.

Fianna Fáil mention the word "coalition." They say it is dishonest to have a coalition after an election. They say the people should be told beforehand if there will be a coalition, if there will be a fusion of Parties. Fianna Fáil say the people should be told this beforehand and not afterwards. I agree that definitely Fianna Fáil have a point there. The forming of a coalition after an election is, I think, improper.

Hear, hear.

(South Tipperary): Any amalgamation and any fusion of Parties should take place before an election. The people should be told that. I believe it would enhance the electoral possibilities of such an Opposition. I would ask Deputy Norton to use his good offices in this connection. He is still a man with influence and respect in this House and outside it. Here and now, I would ask him to depart from his notion of submitting an amendment which people up and down the country are questioning why he is doing it. He is leaving himself in a position of being misinterpreted. There would be no misinterpretation if he used his good offices and his still powerful influence to secure a common front on this side of the House, a common opposition. There should be a two-Party Opposi- tion. The splinter Parties have gone. I do not think the splinter Parties will come back.

Hear, hear.

(South Tipperary): Fianna Fáil are urging us to provide an Opposition. I believe they do not mean what they say. I believe they would be terrified if, tomorrow morning, a united Party were founded on this side of the House.

(South Tipperary): At the next election, Fianna Fáil would then go out of office. I believe it would be a good thing for this country if there were such a system——

Go and do it. Why are you talking about it?

(South Tipperary):——by which Parties could go out and in. Fianna Fáil are not proposing that. They are preaching that but in effect are producing a system which will copperfasten themselves in office for our lifetime.

I do not know what influence Deputies opposite may have with Fine Gael or Labour but the Minister for Industry and Commerce is very anxious that there should be a unified opposition. He is a divisive factor on the far side of the House but perhaps by some quirk of fate he might be a unifying factor on this side. May I invite him to use his undoubted talents for division in the opposite way and he may find he is equally talented for unifying, if he is sincere, if he believes in the national interest that a unified Opposition should be provided? If Fine Gael and Labour Members also believe that a unified Opposition is essential to the national welfare, every member of Labour and Fine Gael should do something about it.

Hear, hear.

Off you go.

(South Tipperary): We made a first move in Wicklow. It was a simple electoral manoeuvre by which a united Opposition succeeded in expressing their viewpoints and in defeating Fianna Fáil, this powerful monolithic Party which believes it will be permanently in office by the simple manoeuvre of divide et impera.

Who is the leader? Deputy Cosgrave or Deputy Corish?

(South Tipperary): I imagine that Deputy Colley could become the Leader.

You have more manoeuvering in Fine Gael than Slattery's Mounted Foot. The only difficulty is to decide which of you is Slattery.

(South Tipperary): I can assure the Deputy that I know nothing about the manoeuvering.

I accept that.

(South Tipperary): Secondly, I am completely outside it, and what I am stating here now is purely my own personal opinion and has nothing to do with Front Bench manoeuverings of Fine Gael or Labour. I know nothing about these things.


Could the Deputy be allowed to proceed with his contribution?

(South Tipperary): I am in the happy or unhappy position that Fianna Fáil Deputies are very anxious that I should proceed and my own Deputies are very anxious that I should sit down. Deputy Norton who is the only outsider at the moment is intrigued.

I am on your side.

(South Tipperary): I am very happy that that is so. I have expressed agreement with the Deputy who has said that he believes in the two-Party system. I believe in it now in present circumstances. We cannot continue as we are doing with a disunited Opposition.

Hear, hear.

(South Tipperary): But I do not believe that what we want should or can be achieved by the electoral alteration now proposed which will achieve the direct opposite, a one-Party system. It will achieve the annihilation of the Labour and the mutilation of Fine Gael.

You do not even believe in yourselves now. How can you make a statement like that? Figures prove you have some support. Why do you not stand on your own feet?

(South Tipperary): If Fianna Fáil are in a position to gerrymander constituencies——

Is there not an independent Commission?

In my left eye.

(South Tipperary): The Deputy was here last night and I was trying to educate him but he is still beyond my reach. He is an intelligent Deputy and capable of making a substantial contribution to our debates but he chooses to adopt a negative attitude——

I am adopting a very positive attitude.

(South Tipperary): I do not know whether he has spoken or not——

I am waiting for the Deputy to sit down. This is a real case for the limitation of debate.

(South Tipperary): I presume he will speak, and I wonder for how long and how many points he will raise.

I shall make a short succinct contribution to the point.

(South Tipperary): If the Deputy would tell me when he is speaking, I should like to come back. He was very patient in listening to me and I am sure I have bored him on occasions. The point I am making is that we have been in Opposition for 36 years in Fine Gael and Labour. Other Parties have come and gone. The only occasion when Fianna Fáil were put out was when there was some union or merger in the Opposition. You may call it inter-Party or Coalition; you may deride it if you like; you may say it was done after the election, that it was a dishonest and improper way of doing it. You may describe it as the most immoral thing in the world but the basic fact is that during those 36 years, no single Party on this side has been strong enough to change the Government.

That is our argument, thank you.

(South Tipperary): I believe that is wrong and I accept the Fianna Fáil suggestion that we should provide a unified Opposition.

Under the new electoral system.

(South Tipperary): Under the present system.

You cannot do it.

Was it not done twice already?

(South Tipperary): If tomorrow morning a united Party was formed on this side of the House under the present system of election, I believe that 18 months from now when the general election comes along, Fianna Fáil would walk the plank. I think it is in the national interest that that should be done. I believe the identity of no Party is so important that it should override the national interests. I believe the national interest demands that we should provide a united Opposition, whatever way it may come about——

By coalition?

(South Tipperary): The Deputy speaks of coalition because, through publicity arrangements, that is used as a derisive word.

No, it is in the dictionary.

(South Tipperary): The Deputy is bringing in another dictionary.

Your former Leader was very fond of the dictionary.

(South Tipperary): Surely the Deputy will accept my notion and perhaps provide it with a name.

I could not.

(South Tipperary): Surely he would accept the notion of a unified Opposition? Does the Deputy not see that as the right thing?

Unity means agreement, does it not?

(South Tipperary): It means a measure of agreement. It does not of necessity mean unanimity. Take even the smallest Party: take ourselves. Fine Gael are a relatively small Party. We have our left wing and our right wing.

And so have Fianna Fáil.

(South Tipperary): Yes, and in the Labour Party, there would be extremes of right and left. You have your black and white and you have your grey.

Where does the Deputy stand, right or left?

May I point out that we cannot proceed with the debate on the lines of interruptions and constant questions across the House?

(South Tipperary): I must apologise on behalf of my interrupters. I will conclude my remarks. I made the points I wanted to make and I feel I have secured one friend in the House. I may mention him by name, Deputy Norton. Deputy Norton has got a new approach and I believe he is with me in the broad concepts which I have outlined. Again I would appeal to Deputy Norton to use his influence to provide us here with what the country demands and what the country would welcome tomorrow morning, a united front on this side of the House.

I believe there is a new awakening and I believe that, not alone in the camps of Fine Gael and Labour but elsewhere, there will be a new awakening of non-committed people who are standing on the sidelines waiting for some means of reversing the downward trend, of ending the stagnation which we have endured over the past 36 years, the impossible position we found ourselves in that we could not provide an alternative Government. I believe we can provide an alternative Government through a united Opposition in this House under the present electoral system. I want that electoral system to be maintained and I advocate unity on this side of the House to maintain it.

I think it is a pity that the debate on this important matter which we are submitting to the people should have degenerated into partisanship, because the Government are open to constructive thought being brought to bear on these matters which are before the House with a view to devising a system of election here which is acceptable to our people and, at the same time, for future generations of Irish men and women, will guarantee an effective Government.

The basic purpose of all organised society is to secure a government. That is the whole reason initially why men came together to organise themselves into society and to elect a head. There have been various forms of society created over the years, totalitarian forms of government. Out of men's mature consideration and out of the centuries gradually has emerged the democratic form of government. The whole challenge facing democracy today is to ensure, along with preserving the essential liberties which man has evolved for himself out of the democratic system, that, at the same time, the democratic system would yield effective government.

We have seen how the monolithic communist system has guaranteed effective government of a type which would not be acceptable to free men and women, but it has given effective government in Soviet Russia and other countries throughout the world. We want to make sure that we can at the same time preserve the democratic liberties and yield effective government. In this respect I think the election system is of paramount importance.

The proportional representation system of election evolved out of the thinking of various Victorian thinkers of the last century who regarded parliament as a debating chamber rather than a means of providing effective government. That system of election is based on a fundamental philosophical misconception of the whole purpose of organised society. It is based on the misconception that the purpose of electing people to parliament is to yield an exact statistical representation. That is the secondary purpose of elections. That is the secondary purpose of having an organised democratic society. The primary purpose is to have an election system that will yield an effective government when the election is over.

Although certain Victorian thinkers in Britain advocated proportional representation, including John Stuart Mill and Thomas Hare, who thought up this in the first instance, the British people out of their maturity garnered over the years never thought of adopting this system. It is pertinent in this context to read what was said in the British House of Commons in 1924 by the then Leader of the Labour Party, the late Herbert Morrison. Although the Labour Party was the third biggest Party in the British Parliament, it was the minority Party in the British House of Commons, as the Irish Labour Party is in Ireland today. Did Herbert Morrison or any of the Labour Party leaders at that time seek to secure the shelter of PR as a means of securing statistical representation for themselves in Parliament? No. They accepted the challenge of the straight vote and proceeded to go ahead and organise themselves on a national basis, eventually becoming the Government Party in Britain.

I quote what Herbert Morrison said at column 2022, volume 172 of Hansard, 1924, when a discussion took place on a Private Member's Bill in relation to the introduction of PR. Speaking on behalf of the Labour Party, at that time the minority Party in the House of Commons, Herbert Morrison said:

Proportional Representation is a philosophy which is not unnatural to small new parties struggling to get a footing in the electoral field, and not having much staying power or pluck to fight. It is also perfectly natural to decaying political parties, who are doomed to extinction in the course of time, and who can only retain their position by elevating the power of the minority and subjecting the power of the majority. It is perfectly natural to them, but it is not natural to strong men and women who want their country to be governed wisely and firmly, and I hope, therefore, that the House will not accept that type of government.

Herbert Morrison continued to struggle and organise the people of Britain who were attracted to the Labour philosophy along with the other leaders of the Labour movement in Britain, and saw the day when he in 1945 took his place in the Labour Government.

I think his remarks were very apposite to our present situation. We have here in the Labour Party in Ireland a Party who do not appear to have much staying power or pluck to fight. We have in the Fine Gael Party a decaying Party doomed to extinction and seeking to hold their representation in the House only for the purpose of debating rather than governing. This, of course, is the fundamental issue in this proposition of ours. I put it again, as we have already put it, to the leaders both of the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party: are they seriously interested in the essentials of politics? What do they regard as their function in this House? What do they regard as their purpose in fighting elections?

I would put it to them that the whole purpose of every one of us being in politics is to achieve power through Government and in the achievement of power through Government, to do the greatest good we can, which according to our lights, should be done, for the greatest number of people. We all have our ideals. They are the basic motivation of anybody going into politics but the purpose of going into politics is not merely to come in and debate and talk about politics as if it were some academic exercise removed from the realities of life.

If there is any purpose in the Dáil, the whole purpose is that strong men and women, having common ideals, seek to achieve power and when in power, seek to do the best according to their ideals. This system of election can enable an alternative national Party, whichever of the alternative Parties here—the Labour Party perhaps, or the Fine Gael Party—under the system we propose, to guarantee that, because it is a complete admission of failure on the part of Labour or Fine Gael to suggest that that system would result in a permanent Fianna Fáil Government. It has not happened in Great Britain. We have seen the Whigs and the Tories, the Liberals and the Conservatives, fighting out their great battles over the centuries. We have seen the Liberal Party going into decay and being replaced by the Labour Party. We have seen the Conservatives challenging for power and the people sometimes accepting one of the Parties and then, when the other Party offers a challenge and presents a broad programme before the people and appeals to the national consensus of opinion, we have seen the people rejecting the Government and accepting that other Party. The system is operated in that other great democracy, the United States of America. We have seen two great national Parties evolve, challenging each other for power on the basis of suggesting to the people a broad programme on which they seek to secure acceptance from the people.

It is a completely different system.

We have seen the people making their decision between the two. Mark you, when one considers that vast continent of democracy, the United States of America, and when one considers Great Britain itself, and the numbers of people involved in these countries in this great democratic process, one finds it very hard to believe how we in Ireland, with three million people, cannot channel our various aspirations and points of view within the broad stream of two national Parties challenging for the soul of our people and challenging for support from the people. Two national Parties can absorb the political energies of the people in the United States and in Great Britain and I fail to see how two political Parties, or three national Parties, if the Labour Party come forward as the Labour Party has in Great Britain, and supersedes one of these national Parties, cannot contain and stand for the aspirations for progress which arise in the minds and hearts of the people.

This is a fundamental thing which has been ignored by Fine Gael and Labour speakers. It is the sort of thing that was uppermost in the mind of Father Fergal O'Connor when he made an interesting contribution along these lines in using this kind of argument recently. It was borne out a few moments ago by Deputy Hogan. Proportional representation in our society has led to stagnant politics, politics in which there is not the cut and thrust of challenge and change. It has led to that form of politics over the years, led to the sort of politics where under this system at present the only alternative to Fianna Fáil is a form of Coalition, in which the Labour Party quite plainly state here they do not wish to participate. This is the only alternative to Fianna Fáil Government.

Again in the next election, if we have the system of PR, we will have all the old arid arguments again of for and against Coalition. We have heard these arguments for long enough. I should like a better type of politics; let us have an Opposition Party challenging us on our policies, putting forward candidates of character and challenging our candidates in single seats, and if accepted and we are beaten, taking office in Government and pushing forward their points. That would put the onus on us to put ourselves in order and to come up with a better personnel as candidates. This is the very guts of politics. You will never get it under PR because PR of its very nature tends to stagnation and defeats change. There is an in-built resistance to change in the PR system of election.

We all know that various Deputies are elected to the Dáil under that system who might well suffer defeat under the single-seat system. The single-seat system would improve the calibre of the people in this House as well as putting the onus on Deputies to be progressive. It would improve the political Parties who challenge for government. You would have candidates of a calibre who would win under the single-seat system rather than be carried in on preferences under proportional representation. These are the facts that we have plainly seen, in my view, under PR: too much stagnant politics and not enough challenging politics. We will continue to have that under PR.

The situation is now worse than it used be because quite plainly from recent Labour Party statements, they will not participate in a Coalition Government so that after the next election, in the event of Fianna Fáil not securing an overall majority, you would have Fine Gael as the second Party and the Labour Party as the third Party and refusing to go into a Coalition. There you have all the basis for anarchy. You have a stalemate position in which the Parliament elected by the people will be frustrated from electing a Government. The only alternative would be another election with possibly another stalemate, resulting eventually, after a number of elections, in the position that we will succeed on the negative argument that there is no alternative to us. Is that the kind of stagnant politics the politicians want in the 60s, the 70s and the 80s?

Today, for good or ill—I think for good—the Government are playing a stronger part in the whole economic and social development of the community. This is the great new achievement of the 20th century. I feel it is an essential thing in modern life because we were faced with the challenge of the totalitarian system, the challenge of the communist system, and the onus was on the democratic countries to work democracy and to avoid the dangers of the 20s and the 30s when democratic government failed because they did not participate in managing the economies of their countries. They went to the wall, became bankrupt and so, in the post-war period, more democratic governments have taken a stronger hand in running their economies in order to prevent any more the hunger marches, the mass unemployment, the suffering and misery of the 20s and the 30s. That very fact has meant, since the war, strong central government and that depends on strong and effective political Parties, depends on a strong electoral system which will return strong and effective political Parties who can compete for power from the people and on achieving power, exercise effective government.

This is the sort of democratic politics that are the right politics in the 60s and in the 70s. This is the sort of politics that neither Fine Gael nor Labour are willing to face up to—the sort of politics that evolve under a strong and effective Government based on strong and effective nationally organised Parties, such as you have in America, now in France, and West Germany where they are getting rid of the transferable vote system, in Canada and New Zealand. That is the sort of politics we want.

I was challenged on one point I made on television. I stated that our system of proportional representation did not exist in any other country in the world. That is quite true. I think it was Deputy Esmonde who challenged me. Our particular system of proportional representation, involving, as it does, a choice of personalities on the ballot paper, exists in no other sovereign country in the world. It is in operation in Tasmania in regard to the Lower House only, but it is not used as a system of election to any sovereign parliament in the world.

There is another system of proportional representation, which is known as the list system, which is used in a number of continental countries, for example, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Austria. Under that system, the voter puts an X opposite the party list, but it is not a system that allows the voter to make a choice between personalities in the same constituency. We know what goes on under our system. We know the sort of skulduggery that goes on between members of the same political Party, the sort of competition that exists between the Deputies of all political Parties. We know—let us face it—that elections are not as straightforward as they should be. We know that the system is not as clean a system as the single-seat system under which each candidate is alone representative of his political Party and fights for his seat on his personality and policy against single lone representatives from other political Parties. That is a far cleaner, a more open and a more rational system.

As I said, our system of proportional representation, based on competing personalities within the same constituency, does not operate in regard to elections in any other democratic sovereign parliament in the world. These facts must be brought out into the open because what we want to see here are broadly-based national Parties. That will be the correct way in which to govern in the years that lie ahead. We do not want dictatorship by a minority, such a dictatorship as we had during the two Coalition Governments. Is there anything democratic in a situation such as that which existed under the last Coalition Government in 1957 where, because members of a three-man Party, the Clann na Poblachta Party, decided to withdraw their support, the Government broke up? That is not the majority calling the tune. That is a small minority calling the tune. There was a similar situation in 1951 when the first Coalition Government broke up, again because of division within the smallest Party in that Government. That is democracy gone mad. That is a situation in which a small splinter minority can upset the Government at will.

The basic weakness of coalition government is that you have in that government members who are not loyal to one common party but loyal primarily to the parties that put them there, rather than to the government, and, if the party that put them there, as happened in 1951 and 1957, decide to withdraw support, those particular members of that party are responsible to the party itself and not to the majority view of the government of which they are members. That is the basic weakness in the coalition system. However, we do not have to deal with that argument now because the Labour Party have made it a main plank in their programme not to co-operate in coalition with Fine Gael again but rather to pursue some vague socialist shibboleth.

Other matters raised in this debate have been, in my opinion, of a dishonest character. The Six Counties have been bandied about here. The argument has been that, because the straight vote system operates there, that per se is the cause of the Unionist domination in the Six Counties. Unionist domination has nothing whatsoever to do with that. Unionist domination in the Six Counties has been and is based on naked sectarianism. It has nothing to do with the system of election. In the 1920s they had proportional representation in the Six Counties. An analysis of the results is rather interesting. In 1921 and in 1925, under proportional representation, the National Republican and Sinn Féin group got 12 seats and the Unionist group—there were a few Independent Unionists—got 34 seats. In 1929 they changed over to the straight vote system and it is interesting to recall that, in that election, the Republicans actually dropped a seat from 12 to 11; but they got it back again under the straight vote system in 1933. In 1933, under the straight vote system, representation went back to what it was under proportional representation in 1921 and 1925. In 1933, the Unionists got 34 seats and the Republicans and Sinn Féin 12 seats. There was not one whit difference in representation. That should discount for all time this highly dishonest argument of trying to equate Unionist domination of politics in the Six Counties with the system of election.

Here there is no inbuilt sectarianism. We are a fairly integrated community. There are not great divisions of ideology or class. Were there two broadly-based political Parties here, there could be no question, in our circumstances, of one of these broadly-based political Parties gaining power at every election, unless, of course, that Party was doing its stuff for the electorate and continued to command the allegiance of the electorate. That is a very difficult thing to do but, short of that, under that system inevitably, in a country in which there are no inbuilt loyalties of ideology or class—most of us come from the same sort of stock and the same sort of milieu—you have the ideal community on which to build two national Parties, broadly-based, one in government and the other challenging for government. There would be no inbuilt prejudice in voters.

If we were the Government and if we were not doing our stuff, the voters would have no difficulty in rejecting us and putting in the other broadly-based national Party because, fundamentally, there is no deep ideological chasm existing and, between these two broadly-based Parties, there would be no deep ideological cleavage and the percentage of the people in the middle, so to speak, would have no difficulty in crossing the bridge and rejecting a Party they considered was not doing its stuff and electing in their place the other broadly-based national Party. That is precisely the way in which politics would develop under this proposed system and that is precisely the way in which they should develop in order to give us a healthy political environment.

A great many people over the years —I shall not go into quotations—who have contributed much to the parliamentary life of this country and who represent different political Parties have thought in exactly the same way as we are thinking now. I shall not go into what Deputy Dillon said or Mr. Frank MacDermot, writing the other day in the Irish Times; he was a member of this House in the 1930s. Suffice to say that many leaders of Fine Gael are on record as holding the same opinion as that in which Deputy Cosgrave believes now. I accept that these statements typify the real beliefs of influential men seeking to achieve the right thing for this country.

Deputy Norton put down an amendment which deserves mature consideration. There are arguments for and against. But, at least, this amendment and any other amendments that any people here may wish to offer should get consideration because we are seeking to evolve here a system of election which will be acceptable to the people and that can yield an effective Government. The present system has failed on the count of yielding an effective Government. The present system will continue to lead to dormant and stagnant politics. It is for that basic reason that I would suggest that we should give very mature consideration in this Assembly——

Are you now saying that you are an ineffective, stagnant Government?

I am talking about the system of politics.

But you are in government.

I am talking about the system of politics.

You control an absolute majority in this House.

I am talking about politics; I am not talking about government. Thanks be to God, we have an effective Government who have provided this country with government in spite of proportional representation and because of our broadly-based and effective Party organisation, we have been able to achieve Government in spite of proportional representation and——

You are stagnant, moribund and ineffective—you have said that.

——in spite of stagnant politics coming from stagnant politicians in the Fine Gael Party who have no longer any will or capacity to provide government but who are solely interested in coming in here and securing their seats and not offering anything in the nature of a constructive alternative Government to Fianna Fáil at the present time.

You are a cod.

Can the Minister tell us what de Valera said about it years ago?

Jacques Maritain, a famous French Catholic and Thomist philosopher, also had something to say about proportional representation. I quote from an article he wrote in the New Republic of 1942——

Aristotle also had something to say about it.

——published in Paris. He was talking about the systems of election and the contribution they could make towards having a higher sense of purpose in politics and a higher sense of idealism in politics, and so on. He wrote:

In order to eliminate, in addition, every attempt to introduce the Trojan horse of PR into the democratic structure, let us note that just as the common good is not a simple sum of individual goods, so the common will is not a simple sum of individual wills. Universal suffrage does not have the aim to represent simply atomic wills and opinions, but to give form and expression, according to their respective importance, to the common currents of opinion and of will which exist in the nation.

What year?

1942. Political Parties should reflect the common currents of will that exist in the community and the election system should not be a divisive election system that gives rise to small Parties and that gives rise to stagnant Opposition. Instead, the election system should represent on as broadly-based and on as national a basis as possible the broad currents of opinion that exist in the community so as to ensure that people can come together within broadly-based national Parties and hammer out a common programme and, through that broadly-based organisation, achieve government and stay in government for the full statutory period and, as I say, let the people then decide at the elections whether or not they have done a good job.

I feel that the people will come down to mature consideration of this matter. There has been much fog thrown around the matter so far by the destructive nature of Opposition speeches. But, the people will come down to mature consideration of this matter. The referendum is an educative process and we here in Parliament have a duty to participate in that process and have a duty to avoid any mud-slinging, any destructive criticism, in fact, which clouds the basic issue.

The basic issue presented to the people is this: Do they want challenging politics that can give effective government or do they want a continuation of the system where men compete against one another in constituencies for the purpose of coming in here solely as representatives and not as people who want to make any contribution to Government? That is the issue in this. If you want Dáil Éireann as a debating chamber, if you want it as a version of the Literary and Historical Society in UCD, if you want it as some form of local parish pump committee or council, if that is what you want Dáil Éireann as, fair enough; proportional representation will always give you that. It will give you representation all right, but if you want challenging government to face up to the problems in the future then you will have a system of election such as the straight vote that not alone performs the secondary function of representation but performs the primary function of effective government.

Proportional representation puts things the wrong way, puts emphasis on statistical representation, provides people to come in here and have nice debates but frustrates the capacity of these people and the capacity of the Parliament to which they are elected. It frustrates the capacity of the representatives and of Parliament to provide a Government. We think that in the world of today and the future the emphasis must be on government and we must have an election system that will yield government, while providing at the same time the necessary modicum of representation that is important. But government must come first and representation second in our order of priorities. Proportional representation reverses the order and gives an unnatural order of priorities.

I feel that the people will come around to this point of view when they emerge from the clouds of Opposition talk, when they get away from the scare headlines and the scare commentators. When they get down to the guts of this whole problem and the guts of what is involved in this matter, the people will see quite clearly that the right thing to do in 1968 is to vote for the election system that has proved its worth in the great democracies of the world and can prove its worth in Ireland in the future by giving us national and effective government.

There are very few things I want to say about this question of eliminating proportional representation except what, perhaps, a lot of Deputies have said up to now, that there are more important issues facing the country at the present time and the Government are only trying to consolidate their position by means of the straight vote.

It should be obvious to everyone that the people gave a decision in 1959 and it is a disgrace that any Government should come into this House after such a short period of time and demand that the people be asked to make a decision again. There are too many more important issues facing the country. There are housing problems, health problems, considerable employment problems which could be occupying the attention of Ministers and the Government.

There is, definitely, a case for retention of the present form of PR we have by means of which minorities have direct representation. There is no doubt about that. PR prevents artificial parliamentary majorities which exercise a sort of tyranny over minorities for as long as they are in office. PR was originally devised as an almost infallible means of averting the tyranny of parliamentary majorities and as a means of securing a Parliament which would reflect with mathematical accuracy the differences as well as the unities in public opinion. With the majority system, the large Parties would need to widen their policies to appeal to the widest possible electorate and they will be tempted to make promises which they could not or would not fulfil. With the majority system, there would be very little difference between the policies of the large Parties. That is one other aspect.

There is also, of course, the danger under the majority system of the large Party not only staying in office until ripe old age but, perhaps, continuing in office long after they have declined into a state of dotage.

We might say that the case for the majority system is strongest where we have an electorate manifold in character but not like what we have in Ireland—a homogeneous community and a uniform pattern of life, which is not at all suited to the majority system. The Minister for Education has mentioned the great democracies in the world that have adopted the majority system with success, but in every case he mentioned, they are communities which are manifold in character and not homogeneous as is the case in this country.

At present the Government are a little confused. First, they are calling for a change in the electoral system for representation in the Dáil. Next, in reply to a question of mine, they said they had no proposals for altering the electoral system for the election of President in this country. They are to hold on to proportional representation for the Presidency and are to have it eliminated for election to the Dáil. They have not given an answer on this.

The Minister says that as soon as the public are aware of what is involved, they will definitely go for the change to the majority system. We all know that the public can be confused. Sometimes the difficulty besetting the ordinary citizen is that of distinguishing between what is false and what is wrong, what is fact and what is propaganda. It is vital that it be aired here and that considerable time be given for debate on it so that the people can finally know what is in the best interests of the country and of the people.

There is a case in point with the majority system that, if we had precisely equal electoral constituencies, under the majority system we could have two Parties in an election campaign, with one holding only 51 per cent and yet securing all the seats. In theory this could happen. While, in practice, it is very unlikely, the inference is that a Party can gain power without having the support of the electorate under the majority system. A Party could actually have under half of the total poll and still not secure a single seat. This is possible under the majority system. It is the case of a disparity decidedly to the advantage of the larger Party.

In Ireland we have 18 three-seater constituencies, which is as near to the majority system as to the proportional representation system. It is by means of this that the Government have remained in office for such a long period. It has become obvious to them that, if they consolidate this a little more, they will retain office for the lifetime of every member of the present Fianna Fáil Party. As I say, there are 18 three-seater constituencies, which is almost half. With the changes brought about by the 1935 Electoral Act, that has been to the advantage of Fianna Fáil. That is why they have remained in office for so long. There is not much proportionality in the 18 three-seater constituencies. It is obvious that they looked at this and decided that, if they could consolidate the position a little more, they could remain in office until a ripe old age.

This matter is being discussed in the cities and country and it should be obvious to Fianna Fáil that the opinion of the public is against changing the present system. The people want to know why there is need to consult them again after such a short time. The Government and Fianna Fáil know this, and Deputy Norton's amendment will serve as a face-saver if they accept it when the public reject wholeheartedly what is in the referendum.

The question is also being asked whether, if Fianna Fáil are rejected on this issue, they will give a guarantee that it will not be brought before the Dáil for the next 20 or 30 years. You cannot keep consulting people on an issue. Remember, 75 per cent of the electorate voted against it. The same 75 per cent of the present electorate were against it, because only about 25 per cent have been added on. That is sufficient reason for not bringing it before the public again after such a short period.

In Britain it was shown how a Party with a minority of votes in the country continued to be privileged over a long period with a decisive majority in Parliament. It also showed how the majority system paid the leading Party an enormous premium in parliamentary seats. There is no question of Fianna Fáil saying that it is giving a chance to other Parties to take over. Perhaps it might in the next 50 or 60 years, but not in the lifetime of the present Parties. There is no hope whatsoever of this happening. It is an effort by the Government to consolidate their position and to see there is no attempt, as they know is taking place at the moment, to consolidate the Labour Party with the support of the unions and so offer a strong alternative to them. They want to nip this upsurge of the people's enthusiasm for the Labour Party in the bud. I must give them credit for seeing the writing on the wall. If the Labour Party with the support of the unions and the working-class people—who know that only the Labour Party can give them the support and social justice they need —can consolidate their position, the Government realise that unless they nip this in the bud they will have no hope of fighting off the resurgent strength of the Labour Party in a few short years to come.