This evening a challenge was issued to the backbenchers of our Party to stand up and be counted and indicate what our views are on this amendment.
I favour the single-seat constituency because I have no doubt that it is the easiest constituency to work. I live in the most northerly parish of County Roscommon. The most southerly parish is 70 to 80 miles away from me and it takes an infinite amount of work and trouble to get from one end to the other. My colleague, the Minister for Education, also lives at one end of the constituency. He has to travel those 70 or 80 miles and to go further into our constituency, to Leitrim, he has to travel 40 or 50 miles. My colleague of the Fine Gael Party, Deputy Reynolds, finds himself in much the same position as the Minister for Education. I have no doubt that our constituency would be better if we were all confined to our own particular areas. Deputy Mrs. Burke lives in the centre of Roscommon but, to get into Leitrim, she has a considerable distance to travel. Perhaps ours is an exaggerated constituency from this point of view.
I have listened to previous speakers talking of traditional votes. I am beginning to think that the constituency I represent must be one of the most progressive because it certainly has not this tradition. In the 1930s it gave Fianna Fáil a majority. In the 1940s and the early 1950s Clann na Talmhan had the majority. In the late 1950s and now in the early 1960s Fine Gael have this majority and I hope that as we move into the 1970s Fianna Fáil will come back and we will have the majority then. This, to my mind, is an answer to this argument of the traditional vote. A change must come around and we seem to have had it more than any of the other constituencies.
There is one point I should like to deal specifically with here. It is the question of small Parties. Play has been made of the fact that the small Party will cease to exist in a single-seat constituency. This is a view I cannot accept at all. Again, getting down to local conditions, I feel that particularly in a rural area such as North Roscommon, if a man decides under the present system to go forward as an Independent, he does so by virtue of the fact that he is known locally through business contacts, or athletic contacts mostly. He proposes to seek a seat in a big constituency in competition with many others. He is well known for a number of miles—perhaps ten to 12 miles—around but, when he moves out of that area, in most cases he is unknown. If he proposes to organise the constituency as we have it now, he must cover a distance of at least 140 miles from one end of it to the other, perhaps 40 to 50 miles east and west. He must try to sell himself to about 40,000 voters. No matter how he sells himself to those voters, in the end he will find himself in competition at local level with his political opponent who is going to get twos and threes from people at the other end of the constituency.
If that man were confined to a smaller area catering for, say, 15,000 to 16,000, he would have a number of advantages. The first advantage is that he would be known much better in this area. No doubt most of his relatives would be in this area, unless he was a blow-in. If he proposes to spend money on his election, he will spend one-fourth of what he would have to spend in a four-seater constituency. If he proposes to canvass the area, he has but one-fourth of the area to canvass. He is in direct competition with big Parties who are putting up but one representative. As it is now and as has been the case in the past, an Independent is in competition with the big Parties who have three in most cases and in some cases four people throughout the constituency and they are canvassing their own areas. If he proposes to print literature, he has to print but one-fourth of the literature that would be necessary for the bigger constituency. By and large, the small constituency must give the Independent Deputy an equal chance with his political opponents of even the big Parties.
Anybody seeking a seat in any assembly must get most of his votes in a local area. If he is a man of standing in whom the people have confidence and a man the people think should represent them in Parliament, in the local area he will beat his opponents. By and large, perhaps not at the next election, but after this, particularly in Roscommon where the people change, they will go for the best man in the area and the best man will beat his local opponent in the area and he will have the label from the local people saying: "You are the best man of this lot and the man that we think should go to Parliament." Supposing they transfer, what happens? He beats his man in the local area but a transfer comes to his Party opponent from a man maybe 40 or 50 miles away from him and, as a result, this man who has the confidence of the people is beaten.
This is one of the big arguments against the big constituency with the transferable vote. Everything I have now said about the Independent seeking a seat is true about any man representing a small Party except that the man representing the small Party has some extra advantage. From what I have said here now, those listening to me must agree that it is the local area that will breed the best man, the man with the confidence of the people.
It has been said that political Parties put up various people to represent them, people who have not the confidence of the voters, that the voters vote for them because these candidates are put up by the Party. As I see it, the big Parties will be compelled at local level to pick not alone the Party man but the man who will have the confidence of the people who are not sworn Party supporters and this will be a good thing. Perhaps some of us may be brushed under the carpet in the process but we have to accept that.
Other points have been made here. There is this question of dictatorship. My reading of the rise of dictatorships throughout Europe and in other countries is that most of the communities that have given dictators authority to run their countries are people who seem to have been frustrated by the system of voting and the return of Parties as a result of elections. Whether this arose under PR or under the straight vote, I am not fully informed to state in the House but it is a fair interpretation to say that in all those countries there was a multiplicity of Parties. They assembled in Parliament. Parliament was rather chaotic. Nothing much was done. The people were becoming frustrated and at a certain stage, through emotion or through deep thinking and one thing and another, they finally appealed to what they considered the strongest man of those Parties and gave him support which by force enabled him to form a Government. Sometimes this was got by power; other times it was got by revolutionary force, and it was only when this man became installed that you really had the dictatorship established then by the interference with the vote. At this stage a system of election was brought in by which this dictator decided that he was going to keep his party in power. I cannot think offhand of any country in Western Europe where the system of election that obtained automatically gave that country a dictatorship. The dictatorship arose, as I have said, out of the frustrating circumstances that arose from the election.
This brings me to what is a truism, that there is absolutely no satisfactory system of election. All the systems have their faults. The advantages of PR have been paraded in the House at length and it has been almost impossible to say anything new about it. We are told that under the three-seater or five-seater constituencies it is an admirable system but, to my mind, if the proponents of PR laud it so much to the sky or believe in it to this extent, then why not make the whole country into four constituencies and thereby, under PR, give every minority in the community the opportunity to be represented? If it is right for the five-seater constituency, it is right for the seven-, for the nine- and the eleven-seater. The bigger the constituency becomes, if there is truth in this argument, the easier it is to have those minorities represented. I do not think anybody would seriously propose this in the House. They do not believe in PR as a system of election to this extent; they realise that it must be limited. I always learned that it was limited at the three- and five-seater to get rid of the disadvantages it would have for the bigger constituency.
Earlier in the evening, Deputy Maurice Dockrell made reference to the Six Counties and the effect that the abolition of PR would have on the Six Counties. I feel that his interpretation is not correct. I suppose I should say that I do not agree with it. First, they have accepted this system which is in a gerrymandered situation. If we were in the happy position that we could abolish the Border, the single seat would be an attraction to that community to join us because they would feel that in those parts of the Six Counties where they have their majorities, they would continue to have their majority under the new system. Constituencies are gerrymandered up there. This could be abolished and Nationalists there would get, perhaps, a higher share of the seats but I feel that the straight vote in the small constituency would be much more attractive to those people; they would be much more anxious to come in here when they would have a bigger bloc representing them in this House.
Much has been made of the fact that somebody decided at some stage that if this system of voting was changed and we had the single seat, Fianna Fáil would sweep the country. Somebody said 90 seats; somebody said 100 seats—estimating on the figures in the recent local election. This must be unreasonable thinking because, surely, the Party who get the most votes must get the most seats. We have the Fine Gael Party pointing all along to their increasing strength in the various elections—the local elections and the Presidential elections. If they believe their strength is increasing—it was said in the House that there was but six per cent between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in the last election—a change of three per cent in the vote in the next general election would give Fine Gael the majority. Surely if Fine Gael get 47 per cent or 48 per cent of the votes, then they must get the largest number of seats?
The same applies to the Labour Party. Listening to Deputy Dunne a short while ago, I think it is true to say he was the first Deputy of the Labour Party I have heard who came out and stated that, no matter what the system is, they will get the votes. He followed that by saying that if they got the votes they would get the seats. For anybody who thinks about this that is the conclusion that must be drawn.
Much emotion has arisen around this problem and much unreasoned thinking, mainly because this problem is not considered as the problem which it is—the straight vote versus the transferable vote, the single constituency versus the multiple constituency. It is considered as what is good for Fianna Fáil and what is bad for Fianna Fáil. It is considered as what is good for Fine Gael and what is bad for them, what is good for Labour and what is bad for them. Again, Deputy Dunne closed this argument. He said this House would be here after us irrespective of what we do. We have a duty to do what we think is the right thing. The right thing is to consider this problem on its own merits.
Deputy Andrews stated the obvious —that this is not being decided here in the House. I do not think we look on this as a political problem. As the Minister pointed out on numerous occasions, it arose in the circumstances that constituencies had to be revised. Deputy Andrews pointed out that the people who were going to decide it are the people who are voting. Surely there is nothing wrong in giving them this opportunity to think again on the matter? Some believe they are going to decide against us. We believe they are not.
It has been said that this matter was dealt with in 1959 and, because it was dealt with then, the people have decided forever against it and that it should not be considered now. But nobody seriously believes that this is an argument against holding a referendum now. If this were an argument against holding a referendum now, surely it would be an argument that would give us on this side of the House, with an overall majority, the right to say that the people decided on several occasions they did not want a Fine Gael Government and we should never give them the opportunity of deciding again whether they want such or not? This is the answer to the argument that this matter was decided in 1959.
It was not my intention to speak on this. I spoke because a challenge was issued and now I am included in the count.