Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 26 Jun 1968

Vol. 235 No. 12

An Bille um an gCeathrú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1968: An Tuarascáil agus an Chéim Dheiridh. Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1968: Report and Final Stages.

Tairgim leasú 1:

I move amendment No. 1:

I leathanach 7, líne 38, "ag comhaltaíbh a cinntear amhlaidh a bheith i bhfreasabhra" a chur isteach i ndiaidh "dligheadh";

I leathanach 11, líne 7, "by members so determined" a chur isteach i ndiaidh "law".

This amendment arises out of amendments moved on Committee Stage by Deputy Fitzpatrick, which sought to secure that the three Opposition members of the Constituency Commission would be appointed by the Opposition Deputies from among their members instead of being appointed by the Dáil on nomination provided for by law. The Deputy stated that, while he accepted that the intention was that the Opposition should have the right to select three representatives on the Commission, he felt it necessary that the provision in the Bill should be amended to provide a constitutional safeguard for the Opposition of the day from the Government of the day who might, by their majority in the Dáil, secure the nomination of representatives unacceptable to the Opposition. While I could not accept the amendment which would provide for appointment of the Opposition members by the Opposition, for reasons which I have already explained, I suggested the Deputy's case might be met by inserting the words "by such members" between "nomination" and "provided" in the relevant subsection and promised to consider an amendment on those lines on the Report Stage.

I am advised the matter can most appropriately be dealt with by adding the words "by members so determined" in subsection 2. The official amendment, which provides accordingly, will require that three Opposition nominations will be made from the members to be determined by law to be in opposition and "by members so determined". I trust this meets the Deputy's point.

Do we understand that this proposed Commission, which, I am sure, will never come about, is to be set up and is to consist of seven members, three from the Government, three Opposition nominees and one independent? Am I right in that?

I should like, first of all, to mention that the debate on this Bill has served some useful purpose.

We are not debating the Bill. We are debating a simple amendment.

We are debating the setting up of a Commission and the making available to the people of information. You, a Cheann Comhairle, will remember that on the last occasion on which we discussed these amendments, I mentioned the Minister's endeavour to stifle discussion when he refused——

That does not arise on this amendment.

——to allow Telefís Éireann to have a discussion on this and the Telefís Éireann programme was changed to "Prices and Incomes."

Would Deputy Murphy allow me to read the amendment to him, in view of the fact that he does not appear to have himself read the amendment?

We are speaking about the Commission.

If Deputy Murphy persists in his attitude, I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.

No, Sir, I am in order.

The Deputy is not in order and he knows he is not in order.

How does the Minister propose to set up this Commission? Surely the establishment of the Commission can cover a very wide field in the debate——

That does not arise on the amendment.

——and the people should know what is happening.

This is not a Second Reading debate.

We have Fianna Fáil changing their minds now.

The Deputy must not continue along those lines. I must ask him to resume his seat. He is not relating his remarks to the amendment.

(Cavan): With great respect, he has not been long on his feet.

He has been out of order since he rose.

Opposition Parties appreciate that, possibly at the instance of the Government, there is a move afoot to curtail discussion as much as possible on this measure, and I was just referring to their move in regard to Telefís Éireann and to the fact that they have changed their minds since we discussed the matter last week. I think it is no harm to put that on the record.

The Deputy is completely out of order.

I do not know anything about Telefís Éireann.


The Minister looks in only when the clergy are on television.

No: I never see them either.

I am reasonably well conversant with the procedure of the House, but we seldom or never had on Committee Stages of Bills passed so much interruption from the Chair——

The Deputy may not criticise the Chair.

This is a very wide measure.

It is not a wide measure. We are discussing an amendment which permits the Opposition to select their own nominee on the Commission. That is the only question before us.

I was just mentioning that it is a wide measure; it is a measure to change the whole system of election.

Will the Deputy mention the amendment, just for the record?

Now, Sir, the Government will nominate three members of this proposed Commission, which, I believe, will never come into existence because, a Cheann Comhairle, I think it is reasonably well known that this effort on the part of the Government is futile.

The Deputy must not begin to ramble again. Would he keep to the amendment before the House? It is a simple amendment.

We know from previous experience that, so far as the Fianna Fáil Party are concerned, whenever an opportunity arises of constituency changes, they use it to the fullest extent possible.

This does not arise on the amendment. I clearly pointed out to the Deputy what the amendment means.

It is proposed to have three Government nominees and three Opposition nominees. Who is the chairman to be then? Will this Commission determine by majority vote? I understand, that if there is a failure on the part of the Commission to submit a report, the Chairman's report will be final and binding, so, to my mind, this Commission makes little difference because the Government of the day will have a majority vote on the Commission, and if we have three Opposition members and if they put forward suggestions, they can easily be outvoted. Seeing that you are rather impatient, Sir, I do not propose to hold you up on this——

The Chair is not impatient at all.

——at this time much longer other than to say that this proposal to my mind means little or nothing. Fianna Fáil are going to rig the constituencies.

This has nothing to do with the constituencies.

I have the greatest respect for the Chair. I know you know that very well yourself.

(Cavan): On the Committee Stage of this Bill, I referred to Article 32 which it is proposed to insert. I pointed out that the Bill as it stands is, as Deputy Murphy has pointed out, a very far-reaching measure which seeks to change the whole electoral system here from a multi-seat transferable vote system to a single-seat non-transferable vote system and that the Government, in introducing such a measure, appreciated that the electorate would regard it with great suspicion and would approach it with great care. In order therefore to satisfy the electorate that they had not as much to fear as might appear on the surface of the Bill, the Government included in the Bill this article with which we are now dealing to provide a Commission to arrange the new constituencies and indeed to arrange constituencies at 12 yearly periods thereafter.

The composition of this Commission is very important and it is laid down in the subsection that it shall consist of a Judge of the High Court or the Supreme Court, of three Members of this House to be nominated by the Taoiseach—I am not sure whether it is Members of this House or Members of the Oireachtas——

A High Court Judge is nominated by the Taoiseach as well. That does not get you anywhere.

He is not. Can the Deputy not read? He is not nominated by the Government.

(Cavan): Seven Members anyway. I am not too sure what “Member” means. I take it it is a Member of this House. The subsection provides that it shall consist of a Judge of the High Court or Supreme Court, three members nominated by the Taoiseach—we take it that they will be three Government members—and three other members who the subsection intends should be members of the Opposition and appointed by the Opposition.

I was not satisfied that the subsection as drafted ensured that the three Opposition members would, in fact, be members of the Opposition and, more important still, would be appointed by the Opposition. I put down three amendments, one dealing with the appointment of the Chairman, one dealing with the appointment of the Government nominees—and with these two amendments I was not really so concerned—but I put down a third amendment to ensure that the three Opposition members would be members of the Opposition and would be appointed by the Opposition. The Minister saw, I think, the force of the point I was making and he decided to consider it and he did introduce at this stage an amendment with which we are now dealing. When I first read this amendment, I came to the conclusion that the three Opposition members would be appointed by the Opposition but I am not satisfied that that is the case, having regard to what the Minister says. The relevant part of the subsection reads:

...and three shall be appointed, from such Members of Dáil Éireann as are determined in accordance with law to be in opposition, on nomination provided for by law.

I thought that "by members so determined" might refer to the appointment and indeed, I think it is open to that interpretation, but the Minister obviously has put the other interpretation on it, that they shall be appointed by Dáil Éireann. One would need to read the whole section. It says:

A Constituency Commission shall consist of seven members appointed by Dáil Éireann...

Yes. I think it is clear now when you go back to that part of it that the three Opposition nominees are also to be appointed by the entire Assembly here. I still think that this is not adequate to ensure that the three members representing the Opposition will in fact be members acceptable to the Opposition. I concede that the four words added by the Minister in response to the point raised by me and in response to the amendment put down by me appear to improve the position considerably. If I am satisfied that these three members can only be appointed by the Dáil on the nomination of the Opposition and that the Opposition will have the right to the nomination as determined by law, will have the right to nominate three members and submit them to the House and that the House will not have the right to appoint anybody to represent the Opposition other than these three members, then I think that the amendment goes a long way to meet my point.

As I say, I am satisfied that the subsection as it stands still means that the seven members, including the Chairman and the three members representing the Government and the three Opposition members, will be appointed by the entire House. I hope that the subsection means, and I confess I think it does, that the judge to be appointed by the House to act as Chairman must be a judge nominated by the Chief Justice and that the three members, who, I take it, are intended to represent the Government side of the House must be three members who are nominated by the Taoiseach and that, in the unlikely event of this measure becoming law, it would be necessary to introduce a Bill to provide machinery to decide what Members of the House would be regarded as the Opposition and that having introduced that machinery and decided what Members of the House would be regarded as the Opposition, those Members would, when the occasion arose, meet and select presumably—it would be their own fault if they did not—three Members from among themselves and submit that those three would then be submitted to the House as the nominees of the Opposition to serve on this Commission and that the House could not appoint anybody else. If that is the correct interpretation of this subsection, and I think it is, then I say it is satisfactory enough.

Deputy M.P. Murphy rose.

I must point out to Deputy Murphy that this is the Report Stage. Deputies may speak only once.

Sorry: I was about to say that I listened to Deputy Fitzpatrick——

The Deputy will have an opportunity on the Fifth Stage.

Excuse me: I overlooked the fact that we were not in Committee.

Sé an rud atá ag déanamh tinnis domhsa maidir le leasú mar seo ná cé hé an Freasúra sa Tí seo agus conas a socrófar na difríochtaí atá eatorthu nuair a thiocfaidh an tráth chun na daoine d'ainmniú ar an gCoimisiún seo. Tá mé ag éisteacht leo le cúpla mí anuas agus deallraíonn sé domhsa gur dream do-shásta iad. Ní bhaineann sé linne pé rud a dheineann siad le chéile. Is léir go mbeidh drochfhuil eatorthu agus go mbeidh sé ina chogadh eatorthu.

A leithéid de ráiméis níor chuala mé riamh.

Ní thuigeann tú é.

Go deimhin, tuigim.

Is trua liom, a Cheann Comhairle——

Nach fíor é go bhfuil na difríochtaí seo eadraibh?

An bhfuil tú cinnte?

Tá, agus idir lucht na bPáirtí féin.

Is trua liom go léiríonn an Teachta O'Connell an cineál béasa atá aige nuair a chuireann sé isteach ar dhuine nár chuir isteach air riamh.

Níor chuala mé riamh thú ag caint.

Tá an rud seo ar siúl aige ón lá a tháinig sé isteach sa Tí. Ba chóir ciall a bheith aige. Ba chóir dó a mhíniú, in ionad bheith ag cur isteach orm, na difríochtaí atá idir an dá aicme. Ba mhaith liom tagairt phearsanta a dhéanamh don rud a adubhairt an Teachta——

(Cavan): Is this a personal statement?

Tá an Teachta Ó Ceallaigh in ordú.

(Cavan): Is this relevant on this amendment? I submit it is not.

Tá mé ag rialú go bhfuil an Teachta in ordú ar an leasú.

Tá sé ag tagairt don Fhreasúra agus conas a ainmneófar na daoine atá san bhFreasúra.

Is annamh a chuirim spéis i——

(Cavan): This has nothing to do with the amendment, good, bad or indifferent.

Tá mé lán-tsásta le leasuithe an Aire. Is dual dó, ó thosach, bheith macánta.

Tá cúpla pointe go mba cheart dom tagairt a dhéanamh dóibh. Maidir leis an bhFreasúra, mar adubhairt mé, caithfear na daoine atá san bhFreasúra a léiriú i mBille speisialta a tabharfar os cóir na Dála. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil na difríochtaí so eatorthu ach sin fadhb nach foláir dóibh féin a réiteach.

I do not know whether Deputy Fitzpatrick, in fact, is accepting or is agreeing with this amendment or not but the only purpose in bringing it in is to meet the point that Deputy Fitzpatrick raised in so far as it can reasonably be met. Deputy Fitzpatrick says that this does not mean that people will be appointed by the Opposition and, of course, that is so; they will not be formally appointed by the Opposition but I pointed out on Committee Stage that it is essential that the whole Commission should be appointed together, that is, should be appointed at the same time but, in fact the Dáil will not have any discretion in regard to the members to be appointed. It is clearly laid down that the Chairman shall be appointed from the judges of the Supreme Court and the High Court on the nomination of the Chief Justice, that three shall be appointed from the Members of Dáil Éireann on the nomination of the Taoiseach and now that three shall be appointed from such Members of Dáil Éireann as are determined in accordance with law by members so determined to be in opposition. In other words, it is quite obvious from the subsection that these three members that we are dealing with now must be nominated by members who are determined by law to be in opposition and that the Dáil merely performs the formal act of appointing the seven members nominated in the manner laid down in this subsection.

And who is going to nominate the three Opposition members?

I have explained that two or three times already.

Explain it again, please.

I have apparently failed to explain it to Deputy Murphy. I plead incompetence to explain it to Deputy Murphy. I do not think it is possible.

Do we take it that any Member of the House who is not a member of the Government Party is, in fact, a member of the Opposition?

A Bill will have to be introduced here to provide a method of determining who is in Opposition and who is not and also to provide a manner in which those members so determined to be in Opposition will decide on the nomination of three people to this Commission.

As I say, the only reason for proposing this amendment is to meet Deputy Fitzpatrick's point. I do not know whether it suits him or not. It is immaterial as far as I am concerned because the intention is, at any rate, to provide by law that this will be done and it is merely to meet Deputy Fitzpatrick's point that it is now being inserted in the Constitution. I do not see any real need for it, since the law will provide for it at any rate, but it is there. If it suits Deputy Fitzpatrick, that is all right, and if it does not, I do not mind. Deputy Fitzpatrick is right that when the referendum is passed, the Bill will be——

(Cavan): That will be the day that will never come, a Bill you will never see.

Early in the next session.

Cuireadh agus d'aontaíodh an leasú.

Amendment put and agreed to.
Tairgeadh an cheist: "Go nglacfar an Bille, mar a leasaíodh é, chun an breithniú deiridh a dhéanamh air."
Question proposed: "That the Bill, as amended, be received for final consideration."
Deputy M.P. Murphy rose.

Deputy Murphy's remarks will be relevant on the following Stage.

I resent that reminder from the Ceann Comhairle.

There can be no discussion on this Stage.

I have been a Member of this House since 1951 and am reasonably conversant with the procedure, and I have never yet heard the Chair advise a Deputy on rising to speak as to how he should address his remarks.

I want to point out to Deputy Murphy that what he is going to say will be relevant on the next Stage.

I resent your advice.

The Deputy should welcome it.

The Chair has no function in this matter to advise me as to what remarks I should make.

Cuireadh agus d'aontaíodh an cheist.

Question put and agreed to.
Tairgeadh an cheist: "Go rithfidh an Bille anois."
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

On this question, there is procedure laid down here for every Member of the House and I am most surprised at the remarks of the Chair and repeat that I resent such remarks. Earlier on, when Deputy Fitzpatrick was commenting on the advantages of the Minister's amendment, I was rather surprised that Deputy Fitzpatrick should be such a simple man. I would be the last person in the House to regard him as such a simple man as to accept there is anything in this section as far as the Commission is concerned. This Commission was not included in previous measures. Everyone knows it was included in this measure to give a nice coating to it. The Commission means nothing. It will give Fianna Fáil an opportunity during the election campaign to tell the people: "If the straight vote is adopted, we have enshrined in the Bill that an independent Commission, consisting of three members nominated by the Government and three nominated by the Opposition, with an independent chairman, will arrange the constituencies." That may go down well with people who do not understand what is behind the Fianna Fáil mind. There are seven members on this commission. It is clearly set out in the Bill that, if there is disagreement, the chairman will have the right to submit within four months a report as to how he thinks the constituency should be divided, and that report is binding. I do not want to reflect on anyone, but I am quite satisfied that, irrespective of how this Commission is established, it will be completely under the control of the Government because they are bound to have at least four supporters on it.

Let us hope that what is in the Bill and what is not in the Bill will not matter. I will repeat that what is in this Bill is an endeavour to keep Fianna Fáil longer in office than the people want them. Fianna Fáil are not satisfied with the present electoral system. They feel they are on the way out and that, if they can get the people to change the electoral system, they may be able to hold office a little longer. I have no doubt the people will be wise enough when it comes to voting on this referendum. This proposal will not be defeated by 33,000 odd votes as was the referendum in 1959. I venture to prophesy it will be defeated by 133,000 votes. Then the capital expenditure of £100,000 plus hundreds of thousands in incidental expenses will have gone down the drain and we will be back to where we started, with a loss of valuable time by this House, by State officials and by all concerned.

(Cavan): Broadly speaking, the Bill we are now asked to pass contains two proposals. One is a proposal to establish single member constituencies. The second is to abolish the peculiarly Irish system of proportional representation, which has served this country efficiently, effectively and fairly since the foundation of the State, and to replace it by a system known as the straight vote or more technically and properly described as the spot vote. This Party are entirely against these two proposals. In my opinion, neither the Minister nor the Government have any mandate from the people to put the country to the expense of a referendum which is estimated to cost between £100,000 and £150,000 to decide the issue.

What about the incidental expenses? That is just the expenditure by the State.

(Cavan): Exactly. This Government have no mandate to do that. This Government were elected in 1965 having obtained approximately 47 per cent of the votes cast and 50 per cent of the seats. It was elected then as a minority Government. During the campaign conducted on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party before the last election there was not one solitary word spoken about the proposal which has wasted the time of this House for several months past, which is going to throw the country into political uncertainty for the next six months and which is going to cost, as I said, £150,000. There was not one syllable of that spoken in the Fianna Fáil election campaign. Furthermore, if the Government had attempted to introduce this Bill as one of their first measures after their election in April, 1965, they would have been decisively defeated in this House.

What about the by-elections?

(Cavan): That is my next point. They would have been decisively defeated, the people would have been spared the cost of £150,000 and the time of this House would have been better occupied in dealing with matters of national importance the people required attended to. As Deputy Cunningham has remarked, what about the by-elections? What has happened in this country since 1965 to give Fianna Fáil a mandate to introduce this measure about which they never spoke a word in the last general election? I want to tell Deputy Cunningham what has happened.

On this stage I wish to draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that what we are debating is just what is in the Bill and irrelevancies cannot be introduced.

(Cavan): With respect, Sir, I accept that principle. I am saying I am disagreeing with what is in the Bill and I am putting it forward as an argument that the Government have no mandate to introduce it. With the greatest respect, I say I am within the confines of order on this Stage.

Except in so far as by-elections are not concerned at this stage.

(Cavan): My next few sentences are calculated to establish that the Government know they have not got a mandate and that the by-elections did not give them a mandate and did not alter the position since the last election. I do not intend to deal with it in detail. Deputy Cunningham posed the question: “What about the by-elections?” I pose the question——

I take it I can deal with the by-elections, Sir?

I have already said by-elections are not in order.

I love dealing with those by-elections.

(Cavan): I do not want to quarrel with the Chair's ruling, but if I can establish to the House that this Government have no mandate from the people to put them to the expense of £150,000 by introducing what is contained in this Bill, I submit, with the greatest respect, I am in order. All I want to say is this. Through accidents of fate, by-elections occurred in certain constituencies which favour the Government. Notwithstanding that they occurred in these constituencies, the Government won them on a declining vote, demonstrating to the Government that the people were turning against them and prompting the Government and the Fianna Fáil Party to change the electoral law to cope with that fall in favour which the Government admits——

I can deal with the Deputy's assertion that the by-elections occurred in constituencies favourable to the Government, if the Deputy wishes.

I have already pointed out that discussion on by-elections is not in order and that what is before the House is just what is in the Bill.

I claim the right to reply to what the Deputy has been saying about the by-elections.

(Cavan): I shall leave the by-elections by saying that the Government vote went down all over the place and, taking the by-elections as half a dozen plus one, while they won six of them, their prestige was walloped in every one of them.

The Deputy realises that what is before the House at this stage is the question of the straight vote.

Is that a definitive definition?

And the single-member constituencies—what is in the Bill.

(Cavan): I have said all I wanted to say about by-elections. It is clear that the Government had no mandate after the last general election. They always talk about putting policies before the people at a general election. Where did they put this policy before the people at the last general election? I am against the straight vote because it is undemocratic and can work to put into office a Government who have not the support of the electors. In order to demonstrate that, I propose to take a constituency with an electorate of 10,500 because that is a number that has already been taken by the Minister. If one candidate gets 4,000, another 3,500 and another 3,000 votes, the candidate with 4,000 votes gets the seat, although he has got 1,000 votes less than half the votes cast, 1,500 less than half the votes cast, and although it is almost manifestly——

That is not right either.

The Deputy has his figures a little tangled.

I think you can get the message anyway.

(Cavan): Have I got the message across to Deputy Booth?

I think I know what it means but it does not make sense even then.

(Cavan): I want to show that the candidate with 4,000 votes has nothing like half the votes. Yet he gets the seat just as the Fianna Fáil candidate would have got the seat in Wicklow, although that candidate did not secure a majority of the votes or anything like it.

It would be much fairer than that the fellow with 3,500 votes should get the seat.

(Cavan): It would be much fairer if all votes became effective. The Minister has been arguing that if the votes of candidate C with 3,000 has his second preferences counted, there is no reason why the second preferences of candidate A with 4,000 should not be counted. The Minister knows that is absurd. What PR means is that a person's vote should become effective, that it should be used on until he either backs the winning candidate or is fighting the winning candidate face to face. That is what PR does. It operates to make the vote effective and in that respect it is fair.

That is what I proposed and the Deputy would not support me.

(Cavan): One thing strikes me about Deputy Norton. I sympathise with him that he had a little mishap through no fault of his own last week when his amendment was taken at a time when, apparently, he did not expect it and was not here to move it. What amazes me is that I opened my post yesterday morning and again this morning expecting to see that Deputy Norton in his enthusiasm would have made good the trick the Minister played on him last week by putting down his amendment on Report Stage today, as he was perfectly entitled to do. Then he could have moved it and spoken on it for two hours. But I cannot understand the Deputy's attitude, his enthusiasm for this amendment and his apparent anxiety to force it on all and sundry and his accidental absence when it was taken on Committee Stage and his failure to make good that omission by putting down the amendment on Report Stage.

I shall explain that in a few minutes.

We shall await the explanation with great interest.

I expect you await all my speeches with great interest.

(Cavan): They will become fewer.

That is merely wishful thinking.

(Cavan): When the Deputy is endeavouring to project himself as a national figure——

I never used those words. The Deputy may get that impression.

(Cavan):——and when he has a platform, he should use it.

I never said that. I am sorry if I gave that impression.

(Cavan): I intend to conclude this speech——

Before the Deputy does so, would he tell us did he support his Leader in the vote in the Party? Was he with or against his Leader?

(Cavan): The Deputy is trying to project himself as a national figure but he is, in fact, running about in political nappies without a clue as to what is going on. He missed the boat last week and had not the—I do not know what word to use; I do not want to be offensive—to put it right.

At this stage could we have the Deputy on the Bill, please?

(Cavan): If the little boy over here behaves himself, I shall get on with the work. I have said that the Fianna Fáil Party know, as a result of the presidential election, the local elections and the by-elections that their popularity is falling and for that reason they propose to introduce this so-called straight vote system because they hope that in the next general election they can obtain an unfair advantage, as has been demonstrated by political commentators and by the staff of Telefís Éireann.

That is a joke.

(Cavan): If the Minister and his Party get their way, they hope, after the next general election, with less than 40 per cent of the votes, to get 95 seats. That is what they have in mind and I am satisfied that the Irish people do not want that and that it would not be good for the country to give the Fianna Fáil Party or any Party 95 seats out of 144 in this House. That is what the Government Party hope they will be able to do, but I am satisfied that the people in their wisdom will not fall for it. At a time when Fianna Fáil in one way or another have got control of many institutions of State and when they are encouraging such doubtful organisations as Taca to thrive, it would not be good for the country——

The latest is a big grant for a hotel to Taca.

(Cavan):——that it would be dangerous to give this Fianna Fáil Party at the next election 65 per cent of the seats in this House. It would lead to a lack of interest—if that word is strong enough— in public life, a lack of interest in politics. It would do what Fianna Fáil hope they will be able to do, that is, establish here a one-Party dictatorship. That is what they have in mind, but the people appreciate that. If there is any necessity, in order to establish stable government, to do what Fianna Fáil are asking to do, then there might be something to be said for it, but we know from experience that it is not necessary and that a case cannot be made for this straight vote system on those grounds.

I could understand the arguments being put by the Minister if we were embarking on the present system for the first time. That is not the case. We have had ample experience of this system; it has worked and worked well. No case has been made on the failure of the present system to justify the straight vote, single-member constituency proposals contained in this Bill. We are told that this spot vote system will lead to stability. The opposite is the danger. In Canada, where the straight vote system operates, they are now in their fourth election is six years. Is that stability?

Is it one-party dictatorship?

(Cavan): Is that an argument in favour of the system which the Minister asks us to accept?

What about Italy, France and Belgium?

(Cavan): Did Deputy Crowley contribute to this debate? The people who contributed to this debate are really remarkable, but the people who did not contribute are more remarkable still, because I do not think that any of the Fianna Fáil nominees on the Committee have contributed to this.

At least two. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Colley, and Deputy Andrews did anyway.

(Cavan): It must be a long, long time ago.

The Deputy has been holding it up for a long time now.

(Cavan): I think Deputy Andrews contributed more at Party meetings than he contributed in the House, and perhaps Deputy Crowley, too. However, I deny that this proposal will lead to stability. It is well known that under the system which the Minister proposes an increase of one per cent in the votes of a Party can mean an increase of six or seven per cent of the seats for that Party; that is not stability. On the other side, as small a drop as one per cent can mean a drop of six or seven per cent of the seats of that Party. I am against this proposal, too, because it introduces what the Committee on the Constitution calls the wasted vote phenomenon.

I should like to draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that what is before the House is what is in the Bill.

(Cavan): I bow to your ruling, but, with respect, I suggest I am entitled to point out the shortcomings of what is in the Bill, because otherwise it would be impossible to have a discussion on it. I am pointing out that the straight vote—or what I prefer to call the crooked vote or the spot vote—leads to what the Committee on the Constitution described as the wasted vote phenomenon. That reference can be found at page 24, paragraph k, of the Report and I should like the Minister, in replying, to deal with what the Committee called the wasted vote phenomenon. The Committee thought that a vote should be effective, that it should pass on until it got into battle and either won or lost. Here, if the Minister has his way, the vote will get lost perhaps early on without having gone into battle, without having played any part in electing a candidate, and I say that is unsound.

One of the biggest arguments against this straight vote proposal is that it can lead to the formation of a Government who do not enjoy the confidence of the majority of the people. For that proposition I can rely on the Committee on the Constitution Report, pages 24 and 25, paragraph q. I think it is highly relevant to read a short extract from that Report, because it does demonstrate the weakness and the danger of the proposal which the Minister is putting before us, the straight vote in the single-member constituency. This was an argument put forward in support of a change of the electoral system. It reads:

One of the most serious objections raised in the past against the first-past-the-post system as an alternative to PR was that it could give rise to a government which does not have the support of the majority of the electorate. This arises out of the fact that a member is elected simply because he has been given more votes than any other candidate, even though he may not have secured more than 50 per cent of the total poll.

That proposition, I submit, was accepted by the six Fianna Fáil representatives on that Committee. It is clear from that that it is a dangerous proposal that is contained in this measure and that we are asked to pass and recommend to the people.

Now, as well as those fundamental objections to this measure and to this proposal, there are other objections which, although they may not be fundamental, are very important. In the single-seat constituency which is proposed in this measure, supporters of the defeated candidate are left without representation. In a multi-member constituency, that is extremely unlikely to happen. In a single-member constituency, it is certain to happen. These supporters of the defeated candidate, if they have a genuine grievance, perhaps against the Government of the day, which they want to ventilate in this House, have no representative in their constituency and in this House to ventilate it.

They must do one of three things: drop their grievance, go out of their constituency to another to raise it, or employ legal means to bring it to light. The Minister may argue that it is open to the people who do not support the Government candidate to go to the Government TD in their constituency to ventilate their grievance. Supposing a person wants to ventilate a Government scandal, what sort of reception will he get from the Government TD in his constituency? That is not the position at present. He has, or it is most likely that he has, an Opposition TD to represent him.

I have another objection to the single-seat constituencies. This lends itself to the safe seat. It lends itself to the big Party plant. The Government or the strong Party arrange a constituency or a number of constituencies with strong Government support, and it is not the Party candidate the people want whom they will get. They will get the candidate whom the political bosses want to send down. This cannot happen in a multi-seat constituency because the electorate will differentiate between the candidates of a particular Party in the way they think they should differentiate, and they will vote for the candidate or candidates they think best suited to represent that constituency.

In this age when the Party opposite, the Fianna Fáil Party, have become so drunk with power, we should not provide conveniences of this sort for them which, in effect, are traps. If I had ever any doubt about the necessity for curbing the Fianna Fáil Party, if I had ever any doubt in my mind about the inadvisability of providing an electoral system here which would give the Fianna Fáil Party the opportunity of entrenching themselves in power with a dangerously strong majority, that doubt vanished when I saw in the by-elections—and in this way, Sir, I think the by-elections are relevant in a general way—the amount of money that was spent in seeking power, when I saw the people who were brought in literally in their hundreds, in expensive attire, in fabulously expensive motor cars, from hundreds of miles away——

If this is relevant, I take it I can discuss the people Fine Gael brought in for the purpose of disrupting not only the by-elections but the whole campaign, the people who were imported from other parts of the country. I take it this is relevant and I can discuss it also?

The Chair has pointed out on a number of occasions that while references may be made, it is not in order to enlarge the scope of the debate on this stage of the Bill.

I propose to deal with the personnel employed by Fine Gael and the manner in which they were employed.

(Cavan): I noticed on a few occasions since the by-elections that if there is anything that gets under the Minister's skin, it is a mention——

I am all in favour of discussing the by-elections.

The Chair must point out that by-elections are irrelevant to this discussion.

(Cavan): I want to say that, in my opinion, this measure which provides for single-member constituencies and the nontransferable vote lends itself to corruption, to the buying of power by money and patronage. The size of your constituency is reduced. The number of the electorate is reduced. In my opinion, this proposal in regard to small constituencies, manageable by men like the Minister, lends itself to the purchase of power. I am against that, and I have seen examples of it. It lends itself to the creation of a situation in which in a few years time, after a few elections, democracy will have been driven underground and Taca and Taca tactics will reign supreme.

Finally, there is no necessity to pass this Bill to ask the Irish people what they think about PR or the single-seat constituency because we asked them in 1959 at very considerable expense, and they then gave a very decided answer. I am convinced, again from my canvass at the by-elections amongst other things, that the people on this occasion will give an equally decided but much more decisive answer to the question which the Fianna Fáil majority in this House, which they did not enjoy as a result of the last elections but which they won by fate since then, has forced them to put to the people.

I should like to take this opportunity to refer to the incident last week when the amendment which I had on the Order Paper was taken at a time when I was not here. As reported in the Official Reports of 19th June at column 1252, on the Order of Business, the Taoiseach said:

It is proposed to take Nos. 7, 8 and 9. If not already reached, it is proposed to interrupt business at 6 o'clock to take No. 9 and to resume the Order of Business at 7.30.

When the business was interrupted at 6 o'clock, I naturally assumed that the Order of Business would be as stated by the Taoiseach and would not be resumed before 7.30 p.m. When I came back at 7.20 p.m. I found that the business had commenced again at 6.45 p.m. I feel that this was not only discourteous but a mean and shabby attempt by the House to abuse the privileges of a single Independent Deputy. I am not altogether surprised at some people who for the past few months have been shouting about democracy and the rights of small sections of the community and protecting minority interests but last week nobody seemed to speak up on behalf of the interests of the people I represent. I should also like to say that the Chair should have adjourned the House——

(Cavan): I do not think this is the Bill.

Deputy Fitzpatrick referred to it.

The Deputy asked for an explanation and if he does not like it——

(Cavan): I commented on it.

Surely what is relevant for Deputy Fitzpatrick is relevant for other Deputies?

I feel I have been done a grave disservice by the House when the House did not adjourn. The Chair should have protected my rights as well as those of others and should have adjourned until 7.30 p.m. The least the Chair owes me on this occasion is an apology. It is not often that the Chair is in the wrong but 7.30 p.m. was quite clearly stated as the time to resume business, and when I came in business had commenced and nobody had communicated with me. Since my amendment was before the House, I was done a great disservice. Whether I get any satisfaction or not is of no importance, but I want to have this on the records of the House, that the minority group I represent has been abused. Whether or not Deputy Fitzpatrick scoffs in the rude, churlish manner he has adopted in this debate does not interest me in the least. I assume from the silence of the Chair that the Chair does not altogether disagree with me.

The main purpose of this Fourth Amendment Bill is to replace the present inefficient and unsatisfactory multi-seat constituency with the more compact and manageable single-seat constituency. The second purpose was to replace the present transferable vote, with its element of chance, by the straight vote. The motive behind these changes is to forestall the impending political stalemate which will befall us in the immediate future, most probably after the next general election. If, as seems almost certain, we emerge from the next general election with no Party with an overall majority able to form a government on their own, I believe our future will be pretty bleak. Deputy Corish, speaking recently on behalf of the Labour Party, stated clearly that they will not take part in a Coalition unless they are the majority Party in such a Coalition. It is difficult to blame the Labour Party for reaching their decision. It is true that in politics the minority Party in a Coalition Government tend to be absorbed by their larger partners. On the two previous occasions when the Labour Party were in a Coalition, they were reduced in numbers in the following general election.

I do not wish to interrupt the Deputy but I would ask him to come back to the Bill.

The Chair was lenient with the last speaker and I think he could allow me to develop my point because whether or not we have a Coalition after the next general election is surely a very vital part of this Bill, as the whole purpose of the Bill is to avoid political stalemate. I was saying that the Labour Party on the two previous occasions when they were in a Coalition Government came out on both occasions greatly reduced in numbers. If they were to take part in such a Coalition again, it is inevitable that this should happen to them again and the question naturally arises why should they, unless of course they see themselves merely as vote-fodder for the Fine Gael Party or unless some Labour Deputies put personal advancement before party and no genuine socialist could think of doing so.

On the other hand, the Fine Gael Party have degenerated into political harlots and they are prepared to offer anything to anybody, provided the price is right, and the price is coalition. However, there are no takers. Therefore we are faced with the problem of a minority Government with no real authority, a Government who must in the increasingly difficult days ahead plan for economic advancement, social progress and entry into the EEC and face all the complex problems to which this will give rise; a Government who must not only have confidence in itself but a reasonable opportunity to carry out its programme and command the respect and authority of the people. It must be obvious to any fair-minded person that unless we change our system of election, we are not going to get this type of Government in the future. I am not interested in keeping Fianna Fáil in office in perpetuity. It is one of the maxims of commerce that competition is the life of trade and I believe it should be so also in politics.

The straight vote and the single-seat constituency would in a very short time lead to a two-Party system which would offer the people a real choice of Government and Opposition. While the tide flows with the Government, we would have strong government and the present disgruntled incoherent Opposition would be welded into a strong coherent Opposition. As for myself, I have made my position clear. I believe in the single-seat constituency and in the straight vote. The reason I tabled my amendment was two-fold. First, I felt it was something which should be discussed in this House and it was obvious that none of the political Parties intended to give this House an opportunity to discuss it or give the people outside an opportunity to consider it. I was also afraid that people might not, at this time, be prepared to accept both measures and I thought it wiser to make haste slowly. I was confident that my amendment was a winner and that the people would have been glad to accept it. I was prepared to urge on the Government and the Opposition Parties the desirability of adopting my amendment so that we would not lose an opportunity to reform. I still think that would have been the path of wisdom. However, the die is now cast and those interested in reform and the future progress of our country must be prepared to work to bring this about. For myself, in my own limited way I intend to do whatever lies in my power whenever I can to see that the referendum is carried out and that the people get an opportunity to move forward.

I am sorry that this has developed into a battle of Fianna Fáil versus the rest. I had hoped that the members of the Fine Gael Party might have listened to the sound advice of their Leader and adopted his opinion on this. However, it is one of those situations with which Irish politics seem to be so bedevilled, a victory for the small minds and the selfish interests.

A silly point has been raised time and again by the Opposition and it was raised once more today by Deputy Fitzpatrick and Deputy M.P. Murphy. It is the point about the cost of the referendum. The cost will work out at approximately 2/- per head. All through our history, we have had patriots prepared to give their lives and proud to shed their blood in the cause of an Irish Constitution. Yet, this petty point is raised by Opposition Deputies: they do not think it is worth 2/- per head to consult the people about the Constitution for which so many were proud to pay with their blood. This argument about cost is one of which they should be ashamed. Perhaps, when they think it over, they will cease to advance this silly argument.

Deputy Fitzpatrick, although invited to do so, refrained from telling us whether he voted with or against his Leader on this issue of the straight vote. If he voted with his Leader, quite obviously he is in favour of this Bill. If he is against the Bill, then, equally obviously, he is one of the people who has no use for his Leader's point of view. It is a pity he was not a little more forthcoming, as forthcoming as some of the Fine Gael representatives have been on television recently.

I was asked why I did not seek to put my amendment down again on the Order Paper and have it discussed again. The reason is a simple one. I felt it had already had a sufficient airing and been sufficiently discussed. It is obvious that, whatever individual Deputies may think, they were not prepared to accept it in deference to their Party rules. It served its purpose. I do not choose to give myself more unnecessary publicity. Neither do I wish to hold up the business of the House. If I were, as Deputy Fitzpatrick suggested, trying to build myself into a national figure, I would have tabled my amendment again. I am not responsible for the publicity my amendment got. There is no Press behind an Independent Deputy and no one can accuse me of having a capitalist Press behind me.

I hope that those who favour the straight vote, even those Opposition Deputies who have remained discreetly silent in the House on the issue, will use whatever influence they have to ensure that the people are not deprived of this reform. We would not, of course, want them to clash with their Party leaders, but we hope they will use whatever influence they have to see that the people get what they want, namely, the straight vote and the single-seat constituency. I hope they will explain to the people that this is their opportunity to vote either for reform or chaos. Bearing in mind the position in France, I hope they will vote for reform.

Whether or not the people want this—and Deputy Norton seems to think they do—they are going to have this referendum thrust upon them. I may be minister-preting Deputy Norton's remarks, but I understood that part of the case he made for his own amendment was based on a warning which he uttered, as I understood it, to the Government that they had not a snowball's chance in hell of forcing the straight vote through the people at a referendum.

I never used that expression.

The Deputy may not have expressed himself quite so colourfully, but he did make the case, I think, that the reason he was putting forward his amendment was as a compromise and, if the Government went on with their so-called straight vote proposals, they would be defeated by the people.

I said that three minutes ago.

If that is Deputy Norton's view, then I thoroughly agree with him. It will be defeated by the people. It was defeated by the people a comparatively short time ago. As a politician, I am naturally interested in these proposals from a Party point of view and, when I spoke here on the Second Reading of this Bill, I endeavoured not to argue the case from a Party point of view, because I believe it goes a great deal deeper than that. Certainly the political future of individual Deputies is not a matter of any great importance. No matter how much any of us may think that we are indispensable either to our Party or in this House, the fact is that that is not what is important in considering the proposals in this Bill.

Many of the arguments advanced in favour of these proposals were advanced mainly on the grounds of the convenience of individual Deputies: it was difficult for a Deputy to manage a large constituency; he had to travel many hundreds of miles in the course of carrying out his duties as a Deputy; he had to withstand not only competition from within but competition from without and everything in the garden would be lovely if we could only get rid of multiple-seat constituencies and put Deputies in small constituencies, easily-managed, and with no opposition.

I do not think this House should regard a proposal as fundamental as this on the basis of the convenience of Deputies. This goes a lot deeper than that. What is important, both to the House and to the country, is that we should endeavour to preserve true democracy in our election system and we should not sacrifice on the altar of convenience or political expediency either fairness in our election system or fairness of representation in this House and, as far as I am concerned, arguments in favour of these proposals based on the convenience of Deputies should not carry any weight either in the House or outside it. I feel quite confident that they will not carry any weight in any event outside the House.

What are the proposals? They have been described as the straight vote. I will not attempt a definition at this stage but I certainly do not accept the description of the straight vote as being fairly applicable to these proposals. What we are being asked to do by the Government is to adopt an election system under which a Party may get a substantial majority of seats in this House, although with a substantial minority of the votes in the country, and no argument, to satisfy me in any event, that that is not so has been made by the sponsors of these referendum proposals. Various figures have been suggested as examples of what can happen under the existing system or under the alternative proposed in this Bill. I want to give this example of what may happen under the Minister's proposals. Admittedly, it is an extreme example and I am taking it deliberately as an extreme example to show what can happen and to show how vast numbers of people in this country may be completely unrepresented in this House, may have no opportunity of having their views expressed in this House if these proposals go through.

I understood from the Taoiseach's speech when he introduced these measures that what was contemplated was an electorate of something in the region of 12,000. The calculation I have made is on the basis of 12,000 people actually voting in an election. If you take a case where there are four candidates contesting a single-seat constituency as envisaged by this legislation, we may have a situation where one candidate gets 3,002 votes, where the second candidate gets 3,001 votes, where the third candidate gets 2,999 votes and where the fourth candidate gets 2,998 votes. There you have a situation where the seat will go to the candidate who gets 3,002 votes although 8,998 voters in that constituency have voted for other candidates. How could such a candidate, if elected under this proposed system, fairly claim that he properly represents the views of the majority of voters in that constituency or that he is there by a consensus of opinion in the constituency that he should represent them? No such thing.

He is there with 3,002 votes cast for him and nearly 9,000 votes cast against him. With a little more than one-third of the valid votes in that constituency, he can become the sole Deputy, the sole spokesman for every voter in that constituency. That is certainly, as I conceded, an extreme example. You will get different variations of those figures all of which will be true but they all point to the basic flaw in the system the Minister is asking the House to recommend to the people. The fact is that you may have in this House, if this system is adopted, a Party with a minority of votes getting a substantial majority of the seats.

One of the arguments advanced in favour of the change this Bill proposes is the old argument about the necessity for stable government. I think that those who talk about stable government in that sense believe what they say but that they are talking not merely of stable government but of their concept of strong government. I am the first to admit that under the system proposed in this Bill, you may get strong government. I do not think you will get strong government in the sense that that Government will be effective to carry out the wishes of the people who elected it. Under the new system, if it comes into existence, I think you will get powerful government. I think you will get government that will be able to push through this House any legislation they like merely by counting heads as the Fianna Fáil Party are doing now, steam-rolling legislation of this type through the House. They will be able to do that certainly if the so-called straight vote comes into being. They will get powerful government in that sense but it will not be representative government; it will not be a Government representing fairly the views and the wishes of the majority of the people.

Deputy Norton, I think, saw the position clearly enough when he foresaw that if the system the Government want to foist on the people is adopted, it will lead to a two-Party system and will crush out of existence any minority representation in this House, whether it is a minority represented by the Labour Party or a minority represented by a breakaway Labour Deputy such as Deputy Norton. Deputy Norton sees the position clearly enough, that you are going to crush out minority representation and you will do it and that is one of the features I object to.

I do not want to interrupt the Deputy——

All right; if the Deputy does not want to interrupt me, just keep quiet.

Do not be rude.

That is exactly what is likely to happen if this system is adopted. Another of the fundamental flaws in this system is the very fact that it does not permit of minority representation. I am not talking about religious miniorities; I am talking about political minorities. If you have a single-seat constituency, you can only have one voice speaking in Parliament from that constituency. You cannot have any other views or any other voice represented here in this House. Of course you will not have minority representation. Deputy Norton is quite right if he believes that.

Do not misrepresent what I said. Speak for yourself and do not be so silly just because you have been in trouble with the Party recently.

(Cavan): Cry baby.

I do not mind Deputies telling the truth, but when they have to get down to telling lies to provide themselves with political arguments, I think it is contemptible.

If I am misrepresenting Deputy Norton——

The Deputy is.

——correct me. I give him permission to do so.

You are not in a position to give me permission; that is the function of the Chair. Continue.

Deputy Norton made the case and I believe he was right that if this is forced through——

Deputy Norton said quite clearly that he did not accept and did not believe and did not want the Labour Party to be extinguished. Perhaps you were not here. You are often not here. It is a pity you do not follow in the Official Report what is said when you are not here and then you would not be misrepresenting me.

Will you "hould your whisht" for a minute. I understood Deputy Norton agreed with me——

You misunderstood.

——when I said that he foresaw that this could lead to a two-Party system.

In any event this will not be your problem. You will not have a constituency.

(Cavan): On a point of order, I appeal to the Chair to allow Deputy O'Higgins to continue.


Surely I cannot be expected to sit here and hear myself being misrepresented? Deputy O'Higgins is in a minority group in a minority Party.

I said before and I will say it again that Deputy Norton believes it will have the same effect.

At this stage perhaps interruptions would cease and Deputy O'Higgins be allowed to continue.

I quite agree.

If Deputy Norton cannot possess his soul in patience while I am speaking, he is at liberty to leave the House, but so long as he remains in the House, I suggest he stops acting the ignoble part of the flea on the dog, doing little good and no harm. I agree with the view which I understand to have been expressed by Deputy Norton that this system proposed in this Bill if it is adopted is likely to lead to a two-Party system, and that means that minority representation, whether it comes in the form of the Labour Party or a breakaway Labour Deputy such as Deputy Norton, is going to disappear from this House. I do not think it should be the policy of any Deputy or of any Party in this House to partake of that kind of operation with their eyes open.

I could understand people saying: "Well, this will only be an accidental result of it," but to my mind, Deputy Norton was quite right to bring that aspect of the matter before the House, that it is going to lead to a situation where you will have a two-Party system and no more. As I say, one of the fundamental weaknesses in this proposed system is that in each individual constituency you can have only one voice speaking in the Dáil. You cannot have minority representation in a single-seat constituency.

I do not know whether Deputies opposite have fully considered the implications of that. Have they fully considered the implications of a situation which may arise where one of their number is elected to this House with 3,000 or a little more votes and over 8,000 votes cast against him? Have they considered whether or not such a Deputy can really represent the views of his constituency in the House? Can he talk with any confidence about the people he represents?

I heard Deputy Norton talking a few minutes ago about the minority he represents. I am at my wit's ends to discover what that is. As I understand the position, he was elected as a Labour Deputy and I doubt very much if the Labour supporters in his constituency regard him as representing their interests.

They still write to me. I will be there next time, when you are gone from Wicklow.

Where is he going to?

And I will do my best to get the Deputy a seat when Deputy Sweetman retires, if he carries out his threat.

There are a few things I should like to say. I have heard that kind of taunt from the Government benches before and, judging from the remarks of some of the Deputies as recorded in the Dáil Debates, they look forward to my early political demise.

It is inevitable.

I have no doubt that that is a prospect that would fill many of them with glee and the reason for that is that Fianna Fáil are not at all happy about, not at all enamoured of, my record in the constituency of Wicklow but it is one which I am proud and will be proud to put before the people of Wicklow at any time because in that record is the fact that when I first went there in 1961, I found two Fianna Fáil Deputies in possession and after the 1961 election, there was one Fianna Fáil Deputy less.

Surely this is irrelevant on the Bill?

Another point of that record is the fact that now, instead of two Fianna Fáil Deputies, there are two Fine Gael Deputies in the constituency.

Would Deputy O'Higgins come back to the question of the single seat and the straight vote?

If the system being proposed by the Government were to be adopted, that situation could not arise. We could not have two Fine Gael seats out of three in the county of Wicklow for the simple reason that there would be only one Deputy for each constituency.

I do not blame the Members opposite for taunting me with regard to Wicklow. I am proud of my record there. I am proud of the fact that because we have a multi-seat constituency in the county of Wicklow, we have reduced the Fianna Fáil representation and we brought the Fine Gael representation from nought to two. I am proud of the fact that in that constituency also in a straight fight such as is proposed in this Bill, the Fine Gael candidate was able to trounce the Fianna Fáil candidate during the Presidential election. However, as the Leas-Cheann Comhairle points out, that is not entirely relevant to the Bill except in so far as it illustrates the difference between single-seat constituencies which are proposed and the multi-seat constituencies which we have at the moment.

I do not think this argument about strong government is a good argument. I do not think the argument about stable government, which I think is intended to mean the same thing, is a good argument and the reason is that I do not believe that you can have really effective government without fair representation in Parliament, and if you have a situation where you have the big battalions coming in here with a minority of votes, while you will have strong government numerically, you will have power concentrated in the hands of a single Party; you will have a powerful number of seats concentrated in the hands of a single Party but I do not believe that that will be strong government because it will not be effective government and it will not be representative government.

Another flaw in these proposals is the danger that you will have the emergence of what I regard as an evil in any democracy, the evil of safe seats, that you will have a situation arising where everyone knows that one political Party is so strong in one of these pocket-size constituencies that there is not much point in challenging the candidate of that Party and that eventually you will have the situation arising where a person will be able to go through his entire life in a constituency from babyhood to adulthood, to old age, to the grave, without ever casting a single vote because it will be regarded as a safe seat; it will be uncontested and the people in that constituency who are against the holder of the safe seat will not ever have an opportunity of voicing their views in the ballot box.

There is coupled with that another flaw. We have heard of wasted votes. Surely, under the system which the Government are proposing, every vote cast unless it goes to the candidate who wins is a wasted vote? It is completely wasted. It plays no part in Parliament; it plays no part in the formation of a Government for the country. At least, under our present system no one can deny the fact that every vote counts in an election.

Some count twice.

It would be possible, again, under the system the Minister is proposing, for a person to vote in every single election without that vote ever being of the slightest use so far as the formation of a Government was concerned and so far as giving expression to the views of that individual in Parliament is concerned. These are some of the defects, as I see it, in the system which the Minister is proposing.

I want to refer very briefly, in conclusion, to views that were expressed by individuals who, I think, would certainly be regarded as having less of a political mind on this topic than I have when it was brought before the people less than a decade ago. I do not know whether Deputy Norton was of voting age or not at that time. I do not know whether he was taking the same interest in constitutional matters then as he is now. But if he was of an age nine years ago to take an interest in politics and in the voting system, he will probably remember that this matter was the subject of examination and scrutiny by six university Senators who examined the proposal being put before the people at the time and gave their views with regard to it. They certainly would be regarded as being less politically-minded than a person such as myself.

The Deputy should at least be serious.

I want to remind the House of the views they expressed. I do not get the Minister's point.

Do not treat the matter in such a jocose fashion.

Does the Minister regard these views as a joke?

I regard the suggestion that they are not political as a ridiculous joke.

I do not know whether the Minister was following what I was saying very closely or not.

I was saying I do not think they would be regarded as being so politically-minded as myself.

That surely was intended as a joke?

Not by me. If the Minister sees a humorous side to it, do not let me begrudge him his moment of enjoyment. As soon as he forces this Bill through the Dáil and forces it through the Seanad, his moment of enjoyment will finish. The six university Senators examined these proposals and gave their views as to what they saw happening if these proposals were adopted. I want to record these views here, particularly for the benefit of new Deputies such as Deputy Norton. Some of the old-timers like Deputy Booth will probably have heard them before. The Minister was probably not even in the House at the time. If he was, it was at least in his green and salad days and he might not have digested these views.

The suspense is killing me. Are you going to get around to saying what is going to happen?

Perhaps Deputy O'Higgins would give us the reference? He is quoting from some document.

Certainly, I would not have the Minister disappointed for anything. If the Minister wants to check the reference, let him look up the Dáil Debates of 29th April, 1959, at column 1366.

Would Deputy O'Higgins care to explain whether or not the six university Senators were Members of Dáil Éireann in 1959? How could the views of six Senators be on the records of this House? Is it not obvious that this is some other reference Deputy O'Higgins has given?

You are keeping poor Deputy Booth in suspense. I want to give him the gist of what is here.

I think the Dáil is entitled to the correct reference if Deputy O'Higgins is quoting the views of six university Senators who are not Members of the Dáil.

I am quoting the views of six university Senators——

I contend that these views could not be on the record of the Dáil.

Whether they should be on the record of the Dáil or not, let me assure the Minister that they are on the record of the Dáil and I am quoting from them at column 1366 of 29th April, 1959. This is what the six university Senators had to say.

Six university Senators could not have expressed any views in the Dáil Debates on whatever date Deputy O'Higgins quoted because they were not Members of the House. Only Members of the House can contribute to the Dáil Debates. It is obvious Deputy O'Higgins is not quoting what he is purporting to quote.

They are the views of the six university Senators recorded here in the Dáil Debates. This is a mystery to the Minister. May I explain it to him? Sit down now and I will explain it. The six university Senators examined these proposals when they were put forward by the Fianna Fáil Government at the time. The six university Senators published their findings. Lest the Deputies opposite might at that time have overlooked them, I quoted the views of the six university Senators.

So Deputy O'Higgins is quoting himself? That is what I thought.

Their remarks were quoted by me and are now on the records of this House at column 1366 of the Dáil Debates of 29th April, 1959. Does the Minister now understand?

Deputy O'Higgins is quoting himself. I understand that.

You have put poor Deputy Booth out of the House. I was most anxious he would hear this, but at least Deputy Norton is still here.

I do not mind the constant repetition of my name but I know it is irritating Deputy Fitzpatrick. Just for his sake, I would ask you not to keep mentioning it. He is attacking a Bill he really believes in.

This is what the six university Senators had to say. I hope Deputy Norton is listening:

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 Éireann.

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.

There are five solid arguments set out against this system after an examination carried out a little over nine years ago by six university Senators.

Would the Deputy tell us what Deputy Cosgrave said about that? Did he read that to him?

As far as the members of this Party are concerned, let Deputy Norton remember this: they will act as a Party. If Deputy Norton had continued to act as a Party man, his voice might find better reception on the benches in this House.

In what way would the university Senators describe that?

Now I intend to deal with this. The Minister may regard the whole thing as a huge joke——

I certainly do not.

——but let me warn him that the joke will be on him when it goes before the people. The university Senators have pointed out a number of reasons why they would regard the system the Minister is proposing as disastrous. One of the points they made referred to a matter that has been mentioned here before and I want to refer to it again. It is the fact that, if the referendum proposal is adopted, it will concentrate power into the hands of the political Party bosses as to who will be the candidate for the Party in any constituency and the Party supporters in the constituency will not have any choice. Whether they like it or not, they will either have to vote against the Party or accept the nominee put forward by the Party. The university Senators have summed that up in the fourth part of their statement on the previous occasion when they said that the single-seat constituency would inevitably narrow the voters' choice at elections and would greatly increase the power of political Parties as such.

The arguments are all against the Minister's and the Government's proposals. I do not want to delay the House any longer: I want to see these proposals go before the people so that they can deal with them. The Minister may feel that he can ooze confidence about the outcome. I doubt if he can. If I were asked to advise the Minister for his own good and that of his political Party, I would tell him now, that even at the eleventh hour, he would be a wiser man to drop these proposals.

I do not propose to delay the House but I think I have a matter of some significance to which attention might, with advantage, be directed in connection with the final stage of the Bill. Deputy O'Higgins has covered wide ground. I had occasion last week to discharge the agreeable function of congratulating a new Deputy on his maiden speech. He is a young man newly entered into our public life, a married man with a young family. We of the older generation are often rebuked for our failure to communicate with the later generations. The Minister for Local Government would do well to reflect on this extract from Deputy O'Malley's speech to which I direct the attention of the House. It is contained in volume 235, at column 1158. In the course of a general contribution on the Finance Bill, Deputy O'Malley had this to say:

People of my generation, particularly, who have never seen political anarchy in this country, who were born after all those troubles were over and who do not realise how disastrous they can be, should be grateful to a Government whose Ministers have over the past ten years or so maintained our economic progress so well in spite of difficulties all round us that we are politically as stable as any country in the world, far more so than our much wealthier, larger and more powerful neighbours whom I have mentioned.

The long-term benefit of that situation, our political stability, will be immense because political stability more than anything else is what foreign industrialists will look for in a country. They now regard it as more important than grants, loans or other facilities. No matter what grants or loans the American or German or any other foreign industrialist will get, he does not want to come into a country where he will run the risk of being faced by a situation like that which exists in France today.

Deputy O'Malley continued to deal with other aspects of that statement and concluded at column 1159 by saying:

There is a lot of cribbing in general in this country, particularly among younger people, about the cost of things and so on, but I would point out to them—and I think it is something worth reflecting on by people of my generation who did not see political trouble— that it is no good living in a country where stout costs 1/- a pint if you are liable to get shot when you go out to drink it.

If those were my words, I think they would have been attributed to the excessive conservatism of advanced middle age. Coming from the source they did, they should be a reminder to the Minister that the impression made on the minds of the youngest recruit of his own Party is that of deep thankfulness for the atmosphere of political stability in which he grew up, married and established his own family. He compared that political stability favourably with the political situation in any other country in the world. I have heard Fianna Fáil boast of the fact that a feature of that stability has been the long term during which they constituted the Government of the country. I find in that no reason to complain; I glory in the right of our people to do wrong and if the people wish to choose Fianna Fáil every time they do, however harsh the consequences for them may be, it is the vindication of the sovereign independence of the Irish people, even though the Minister for Education may feel from time to time in London that its vindication, in retrospect, is a mistake. I rejoice that we have that independence and that we here today constitute a Dáil of three Parties and four Independents rightly described by Deputy O'Malley as one of the most stable political societies in the world.

I believe that to be in no small measure due to the decision taken by our people nine or ten years ago on this very issue. I do not hold that everything that was relevant and true of 1938 is necessarily relevant and true of 1948 or 1958 or 1968. Only a fool in public life feels himself bound to apply in 1968 that which might have seemed expedient 30 years ago. But only a fool would fail to see the evidence of his own eyes that, in a troubled world, we have in Ireland stable political institutions, with no excuse for any person, however ill-intentioned, to mislead the young on to the streets of our cities or towns or roads, there to erect barricades to achieve that which everyone, young and old, knows is abundantly available to all through the instrument of the vote and the ballot box.

Why has all that to be put in peril now? Why has all that precious political stability to be thrown into the cockpit of Party politics in a frantic effort to have it swept away? Do the facts not speak for themselves? Is this not a sordid plot on the part of a power-hungry minority in the Fianna Fáil Party to destroy the Labour Party? Are we not all old enough in politics to know the further we penetrate to rural Ireland the deeper Party loyalties become, but in our urban population Party loyalties tend to weaken? Still there are those who change from Fianna Fáil to Fine Gael from black to white, but the Party managers of Fianna Fáil believe the Labour Party to be the real and present threat to their hope for enduring political domination—and so this foolish, irresponsible action.

I wish the Taoiseach, who I do not believe approves this course of conduct, would show the strength of character which he ought to have to say this farce must stop; there are more important matters to which the Oireachtas should apply its mind than this renewed attempt to assassinate the Labour political movement in this country. I am no supporter of the Labour Party. I do not agree with many things for which the Labour Party stand, but I am certain that the voice of organised labour is entitled to be heard in this House, if it wishes so to be heard. I apprehend that if the attempt is made to take that right from them, those who would wish to send them here will lose faith in the genuineness of the Parliament of Ireland. Other countries have had that deplorable experience, and it has not gone unobserved by the youngest member of the Fianna Fáil Party.

I do not expect to change the mind of the Minister for Local Government, but I think it right, on the occasion of the last discussion on this Bill before this House, to bring these matters not only to the attention of the House but to the attention of the country, and to reiterate on the floor of Dáil Éireann on the last occasion available to me my advice for what it is worth: I advise everyone in this country to vote "No", "No", in the coming referendum.

I am simple enough to believe in the meaning of democracy as it was taught in my time. Democracy, as I understand it, means government by the people, and from "government by the people", I interpret, further, government by the majority of the people. The measure which the Government are now foisting upon the Dáil and will, by virtue of their numbers, successfully foist on the Seanad, is a contradiction of the term "democracy", in so far as it implies that vast tracts of country can be disfranchised, can be without representation in Parliament, which after all is the seat of government by the people.

The people were consulted as late as 1959 on this question as to whether they preferred to retain the system of PR which has been in operation here from the beginning of the State, or whether they would opt for the kind of system that operates in Great Britain and the similar system that keeps out of the Parliament of the Six Counties of Ireland a large number of Nationalist members. In 1959 the people rejected—some say by a small majority, but when one considers the ballyhoo that was associated with that campaign, the majority was significant —the advice of the Fianna Fáil Party and Government when they asked the people to abolish PR. They told the same falsehood then, that they wanted to get rid of it because it was British-imposed. The same falsehood is being repeated now in spite of the fact that the Constitution, upon which they very often tend to rely and from which at other times they tend to shy away, has enshrined in its provisions the system of PR, and that was enshrined under the direction and guidance of someone who gave a strange political maxim to this country when he said the people have no right to do wrong. Obviously this maxim in its application is now being extended again, because it would appear that the Fianna Fáil view today in 1968 is that the people had no right to do wrong in 1959.

If I believed even remotely in the single-member constituency with the non-transferrable vote, I would, in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, reject it because I would not trust any Commission set up by the Fianna Fáil Party to operate any demarcation fairly, that is, without making their own Party advantage their primary consideration. There is and has been for some years back dissatisfaction in this country. There are many rumours of corruption in high places. These rumours are growing in intensity and in some cases they are backed by reality. It is in circumstances such as those that I would ask the people to become more than extremely aware of their rights, and not to barter an atmosphere of comparative freedom under PR for the straight vote system which would ensure Fianna Fáil not only in power but in power absolutely with the tendency then extended by what they would minister-pret as the authority to be more corrupt still.

I do not want to see single-member constituencies represented by Fianna Fáil members of the kind I have experienced in the past, when fathers of families were refused work because they did not vote for Fianna Fáil candidates at parliamentary and local elections. I am opposed to a system that proposes to disfranchise the people who for 30 odd years were strong enough in all the constituencies to vote against Fianna Fáil despite the handouts and corruption that existed. It is true that these handouts and that corruption have assumed a more sophisticated touch in recent times. It is now the dinners with the £100 per plate. Does anyone think that these people have banded themselves together for love of this country, when one sees the various contracts being given, the various consultants being employed and consults the names on the lists and recognises the names of the people who are subscribing to the Party not because they want it to thrive for the good of the country, but because they want it to thrive for their own personal and professional advancement?

That is the kind of country you would have under the system which is being proposed by the Government at present. Who would ever have thought that under the heel of handouts and corruption, there could ever be this great swing and change these people offer as an argument in support of this proposal? In our six north-eastern counties at the moment, people are disfranchised. If they had the multi-seat constituencies system, they would be able to take their place, for the time being at any rate, and make their contributions in the Stormont Parliament in greater numbers, and vast areas would not go unrepresented, giving rise to the frustration and irritation that beset our people in that area.

Why do this Government want to go over to the British system now, the system which keeps the Unionists in power in Northern Ireland for ever and will continue to do so? Is it not because they hope the same system here would keep them in power for their natural lives and, they would hope, their children after them. Even if this system were to be operated fairly, or an attempt were to be made to operate it fairly, I would not trust the Fianna Fáil Party to do it. One cannot trust a Party who say one thing at home and another thing abroad, whose Ministers speak with two voices, depending on their geographical location. At any given time I do not trust a Party who seek to prove they have a monopoly of patriotism, a monopoly of everything good, and who would deny any minority, be it Fine Gael, Labour, or Independents, or even religious minorities, the right to speak out and contradict them. I do not trust people of that calibre. I do not think they can be trusted.

Coupling the straight vote system, or whatever you like to call it, with a Commission is, as Deputy Murphy said, offering the people a bitter pill with sugar-coating, but the sugar is not even very sweet. We are not even told what members of the Opposition would be on the Commission, or how it would be composed. We know selections would be made. A Supreme Court judge or a High Court judge would be the chairman. There would be three members of the Fianna Fáil Party presumably, and, presumably, three Members of this House not of the Fianna Fáil Party. Let us put it at that level at the moment. If the three members not of the Fianna Fáil Party objected strongly to some line of demarcation proposed by one of the three Fianna Fáil members, and objected so strongly that they had to walk out, what would be the position of the chairman? A member of the judiciary would be put in a venal position in relation to the three members of the Government Party, the Party that probably appointed him. There are very few others.

A Commission, bad and all as it would be with Members of the House making up six members, would present an intolerable position for any member of the judiciary, and would put him in a most unenviable position vis-à-vis litigants coming before him, would render him innocuous in the presence of jurors to whom he would be expected to give advice from time to time, would make him the laughingstock of the people when he purported to enunciate a legal maxim or a legal principle that was to govern their lives. If the Fianna Fáil Party have not got that respect for the ordinary voters, by trying to trample on them with this measure so soon again, let them have respect for that other integral part of our democratic life, the judiciary, and not try to make them the pawn of their vile ambition. Maybe that is too much to expect. Maybe that is something that never entered the heads of this corrupt Government, this Government who so violate the wishes of the people without a mandate, without a whisper of it in the last general election, and now seek to thrust something down the throats of our people for which they never sought the power to do. Our people will not give it to them. Fianna Fáil will get it here and in Seanad Éireann by virtue of numbers, by virtue of the numbers this Constitution they are trying to change has given them with their nominated eleven in Seanad Éireann.

This Government and the Party supporting them cannot have it both ways because sooner or later the tide must turn and sooner or later this Government and their members will realise that authority rests finally in the people. Sooner or later this Government will be made to realise by the people that the authority they have got from the ballot box is not a power complacently to be used or flagrantly to be abused but that authority is a service which connotes equality of opportunity and the same privileges for all. It is for those reasons that we in Fine Gael recommend the people to reject these proposals by a firm "no" to both Bills, and particularly to this one. If they do not, they will find themselves beaten down again, beaten down again by the Fianna Fáil Party who are, as I have often said, the second evil in the history of our country, the first being the Famine which banished our people or caused them to die by the roadsides. The Fianna Fáil Party have depopulated our country and banished them again, and now they want to put the heel of totalitarianism down on the very throats of a people whose great desire all down the years was to be free. Leave them free. I exhort them from this House to exercise that freedom by rejecting these proposals.

Over the past few weeks we in the Labour Party have taken very little part in this debate because we felt that the quicker the matter was put before the people for a decision the better it would be for all concerned. However, since it has been made obvious by the Government members, and particularly the Taoiseach, that it is not proposed to put the amendments before the country until the late autumn, and I assume by that he means some time well into October, there does not appear to be any great rush to have them brought through the House and therefore I want to say a few words on the proposal. I do not understand from whom the Government got the idea that the people wanted this change. I do not understand why the Government should try to put through the Dáil and Seanad and to have put before the country some time this year a proposal to change the system of election and, consequently on that, a proposal to change the constituencies. I know that over the past few weeks the Minister for Local Government has been making comments here which could only be described as an attempt at blackmail.

He has been threatening individual Deputies in the Opposition Parties, including myself, that if he did not have his way and if the people rejected the proposals to amend the Constitution, the Government would then divide the country into constituencies to suit themselves. He is holding this out as if it were something he thought about for the first time. We know that the last time an opportunity arose the Government did just that and they made a very bad job of it. Deputy MacEntee, who was then Minister for Local Government, succeeded in manipulating them so that Fianna Fáil succeeded in losing five seats in the ensuing election. The present Minister for Local Government has been telling everybody that if the people do not vote the way he wants them to vote, he will change the constituencies in such a way that it will affect individual Deputies and he has promised me that he would put the portion of County Meath in which I live in with County Louth and when I——

Can we deal with the Third Amendment, Sir?

No, the Third Amendment does not arise— just what is in the Bill.

I will keep within the rules of the House.

As long as I can deal with it also.

The Minister will not browbeat me in the way he browbeat the members of the Fianna Fáil Party last week when they tried to vote against him.

He is not going to get away with it.

That is certainly not in the Bill.

I propose to prove that what I am saying is within the ambit of the Fourth Amendment because what the Minister says is that he will change the constituencies and put portion of Meath with Louth, that he will see that that will be done and that I——

That was discussed on the Third Amendment; we are now discussing the Fourth Amendment.

I have been listening for several hours to the debate and it is unfair that the Chair should be asked by the Minister to intervene. I know that this is hurting him but he does not even know what I am leading up to.

On a point of order. I did not ask the Chair to intervene. I merely asked if it was in order to discuss the proposals in the Third Amendment as Deputy Tully was discussing them.

When the Minister stands up, he will talk not alone about the Third Amendment but about various other things which are not before the House this year in order to waste time, as has been done for the past three or four weeks because he was not anxious to get this before the country. It does not matter a damn to me or to the Members of the Labour Party what way he manipulates constituencies because we will still be here when it is all over. I would like nothing better than to be in the same constituency as the Minister and I would show him whether he is as tough as he thinks. There is only one way to deal with a bully, as the Minister has shown himself to be, and that is to beat him at his own game. I do not mind whether he divides up Meath with Dublin or Louth or anywhere else; it would suit me and I hope the Minister will be satisfied when it is finished.

The ridiculous argument the Government have been making is that they are doing this for the purpose of giving the Opposition an opportunity to become the Government. If we had not over the years seen and observed the antics of the Fianna Fáil Government, manipulating everything they possibly could in order that they and their supporters would get the best out of everything until they were shown up, then we could understand the arguments. But, in view of the fact that we realise the Government will move heaven and earth to get what they can for their own, we all know that the suggestion of the single-seat constituency and the system of voting they want to set up is being made with one intent only, that is, so that they can people this Parliament with the lackeys they have latched on to themselves and their Party, particularly through Taca, the people with the money and ambition, but no brains, whom they can send down the country to make the representatives of the people.

The Taoiseach led us up to it. He said: "It is all right. We will not impose on the good people who will be coming in here"—and he looked around at the people who represent Fianna Fáil, and concluded—"We must have a better type of Deputy." Some of us would agree with him on that, but the way he would get a better type of Deputy would be by selecting him. How? From the headquarters of the Fianna Fáil Party. The extraordinary thing is that it was some time before it dawned on the older members, in particular, of the Fianna Fáil Party exactly what the Taoiseach meant when he said he did not think Deputies should be bothered with day-to-day to-daymatters affecting their constituents, that a great many of these things could be dealt with by constituents themselves taking the matter up with the particular Department, as if it were the easiest thing in the world for poor old John Murphy, who has not got his old age pension for five or six weeks, to get on the phone and ring the Department, and achieve the same result as does a Deputy who makes an inquiry of that kind.

The Taoiseach was giving a warning that, when the new constituencies were set up, as he thought they would be, these gentlemen, representing various parts of the country, would have no time for looking after the John Murphys. Their time would be spent here in this House, basking in the reflected glory of what a few on the Front Bench of the Government Party might be doing. He said that no longer would we have the democratic representation we have had and no longer would we have ordinary men and women selected by a constituency conference and elected to Dáil Éireann by the votes of the people. It would be the Northern Ireland system. The Government would pick the candidate, the fellow with the money who could support the Party, and they would put him into a safe seat and, when he was returned, he would not be bothered with the ordinary day-to-day work that Deputies now do. He would not be bothered! He would not know even how to begin because all these people know is how to make money, and make it in a hurry and, having made it, all they want then is power.

Fianna Fáil, realising this, believe they can cement themselves into power by doing what they suggest under these two measures. Most extraordinary of all, the impression has been given by certain people that the Government are doing this in order that the best use may be made of the votes of the people. Again and again the Minister has alleged that, under the present system, some votes have more value than others. The Minister, of course, knows that is all cod. The Minister knows quite well that the present system of election is a fair system. Mark you, it was not a system introduced by the Labour Party. Not alone was it introduced by the Cumann na nGaedhael Government but it was subsequently taken over by the Fianna Fáil Government under the leadership of the present President, who had nothing but good to say for it. Indeed, on more than one occasion he quoted the fact that this was protection for the democratic system in this country and thanked God that we had this democratic way of election. Now the Minister for Local Government comes along and says that is not so at all; the President did not know what he was talking about.

I am quite sure the Minister and some of his colleagues do not approve all that was done over the years by the man who held office for so long as Leader of the Party, but to try to push down the throats of the people in this House, and subsequently the throats of the people all over the country, that the system Fianna Fáil are now trying to introduce is the right system is just something which will not be swallowed. We had earlier the argument advanced that there was no objection by Deputy Seán Lemass, the former Taoiseach, to this matter being put before the House. I am rather interested to notice that Deputy Lemass has not himself come in here and made a statement because he is the one person who could clear the matter up; he is a person for whom I have the greatest respect, although I have been in opposition to him for many years. He made it clear—again this is something denied by members of the Fianna Fáil Party—at a meeting of the Constitution Committee that he did not think it was right that we should try to have this change. He said there was no point in talking about it, or discussing it, or making a recommendation on it, because it was less than nine years since the people gave a decision on it. Yet, we now have the present Government coming along and saying there is a demand for this change and that there is a wish now to have this change made.

It is true that the last time the matter was decided it was decided by a relatively small majority, but the significant feature is that, while that majority was small, the majority in favour of the then leader of the Fianna Fáil Party for the Presidency was obtained on the same vote. We will now have two votes on the referendum and I am quite sure that every effort will be made to make it as confusing as possible for the ordinary voter, to prevent the voter from having a clear idea as to what he is voting for or against. I want to warn the Minister that, when the voting is over and when the decision is taken, he will be the one man in this House who will have reason to be sorry because he is the person who has been bulldozing this through the House, and not only from the Front Bench of the Government; he has made statements outside the House and he has got his stupid lackeys to go down the country to write stupid letters to the local papers, attacking individual Deputies in regard to matters about which these stupid lackeys know nothing. I would respect the Minister very much more if he fought his own battles here and were man enough to stand up and say: "This is what I believe. You are wrong in this and you are wrong in that," but, when he has to go behind backs and use anonymous letters—the person who is unknown in an area is anonymous and, therefore, the letters he writes are anonymous—to bolster up an untenable position, the picture becomes clear because this is the sort of thing which betrays the man behind the proposal to change the Constitution.

The one thing the Minister is trying to dodge here is the fact that though the Commission he proposes will be set up to draw up the lines of demarcation of the new constituencies, this House, by a simple majority, a majority of one, can reject what the Commission recommends. Therefore, it does not matter whether his amendment this afternoon is accepted; the amendment does not matter a snap of the fingers because what the Minister intends to do is to try to get control by hook or by crook, and preferably by crook. We in the Labour Party have no wish at all to prolong the agony here. We do not mind if the vote is taken tomorrow. As far as we are concerned, we have no division on this. We are all of the one mind. Fine Gael have been accused by the Minister and his colleagues of not being at one on this. I can say, and it is something I say with reluctance, that numerous members of the Fianna Fáil Party in this House have expressed the view that they did not think it was a wise thing to go on with. The Whip went on and then it was dangerous for them to disclose this view. They might not be selected the next time. It is true, however, that numerous members of the Fianna Fáil Party have expressed the view that as they were the curates, the second Deputy or the third Deputy to be elected in a particular constituency, it would not do them any good. The strong man who was bringing them in might not be on hand to lend them a helping hand and therefore they might find difficulty in getting back into this House. For that reason they felt that it was best to leave well enough alone.

As far as we are concerned we see in this an attempt by the Government to emulate the Tory Government in Northern Ireland, where, because of the fact that they have what they call the straight vote, 27 constituencies have not been contested for very many years, almost since the set-up of the breakaway State because they could not be contested in the circumstances. There is no representation for minorities there and no representation provided for. The Fianna Fáil Government felt that now or never was the time. If they cannot get away with now, they will never get away with it when the voting day comes and, as I said, the quicker it comes the better we will like it; the Minister will find that this time, not for the first time, he has bitten off more than he can chew.

The Minister, Deputy Harte, Deputy Healy and Deputy P.J. Lenihan rose.

When the Minister speaks, the Minister will be concluding. If any other Deputy wishes to speak——

He has put down one of them.

If Deputy Healy or Deputy P.J. Lenihan wishes to offer——

They both offered.

We will follow the Deputy.

The only one I saw offering was the Deputy behind me. That is why I sat down.

The Minister told him to sit down and he sat down. We all saw it.

I just wish to put on the record of the House that I do not wish to cut in on Deputy Healy or Deputy Lenihan, or to prevent them from intervening in this debate. I feel that the normal procedure of the House should be recognised. Deputy Lindsay spoke for Fine Gael before Deputy Tully.

When the Deputies offer, the Chair will call on them. Deputy Healy did not persist so I did not call on him.

I think the true reason is that the Minister for Local Government has now changed his tactics.

I have not.

He told Deputy Healy to shut up.

I did not.

Yes, and he sat down. We saw it.

I think the Deputy misunderstood.

Let us have the truth from a so-called Minister.

There is no truth in that.

If Deputy Healy says there is no truth in it, I will accept that Deputy Healy did not hear the Minister. I accept that.

Would Deputy Harte please speak on the Bill? We are not discussing the calling of Deputies.

I just wish to put on the record——

The courts are over now.

——that the Minister instructed Deputy Healy to shut up.

Would Deputy Harte stop this business?

Are they in from the courts?

They are in from the courts long ago and, thanks be to God, we have barristers who get briefs. They are not briefless barristers in any case.

They will need them after the next election.

Some Deputies might have had a brighter future in a different Party.

If Deputy Harte would concentrate on supplying clean meat to his constituents, he would do much better.

The only man who was proven to have sold stinking meat was Doctor Ward who was a member of a Fianna Fáil Government.


Would Deputy Crowley please cease interrupting and allow Deputy Harte to speak on the Bill.

I would ask you, a Cheann Comhairle, to ask Deputy Crowley to withdraw that remark. It is a reflection on my business, and incidentally, you were present on the night that allegation was made by the then Minister for Agriculture.

Would the Deputy please leave the Chair out of this?

Did you hear the allegation?

The Deputy has nothing else to say.

I do not see that it is any reflection on Deputy Harte.

The allegation was made by Deputy L'Estrange.

Make your speech.

I will make my speech but I want you, a Cheann Comhairle, to give a ruling on whether it is in order for Deputy Crowley to allege that I have supplied bad or rotten meat.

I never said that.

Deputy L'Estrange said that.

I mentioned the case of Doctor Ward which was proved in court.

That is not what was proved.

Slimy bacon.

Could we have Deputy Harte, on the Bill?

I will continue with the Bill when you ask Deputy Crowley to withdraw that remark.

I do not see that it is any reflection on Deputy Harte and furthermore Deputy Harte made a reflection on Deputy Crowley.

I never mentioned Deputy Crowley's name.

There is a difference between a political reflection and a personal innuendo.

You mentioned it here last week.

I believe that Deputy Crowley's remark needs an explanation and I demand that you ask him to withdraw it.

I am not asking Deputy Crowley to withdraw it.

Deputy Harte has nothing else to say. He is just filibustering, waiting for the lawyers to come in.

One has arrived now.

If Deputy Crowley is getting his rotten information from the Minister for Agriculture let me state here and now that the Minister for Agriculture was in a position to inquire into the situation for which he alleged I was responsible. He declined. He is a mouse of a man and we know he is. That is where the Deputy got his information. He was disappointed that the Fine Gael Party did not accept him.

Now who is saying "rotten"? Does he mean meat?

If Deputy Crowley does not cease interrupting, I will ask him to leave the House.

Now, big boy, that shook you.

The truth is bitter.

If Deputy Crowley persists, I am asking him to leave the House.

I would ask you to allow him to stay.

That is a matter for the Chair and not for Deputy Harte.

I would just make an appeal to you to allow him to stay.

If Deputy Harte has nothing to say on the Bill, I would ask him to resume his seat.

Who is the new member of the Labour Front Bench?

If this Bill passes through this House and if the Government have their way, they will do everything in their power to avail of this last opportunity to seize absolute power because this is the only thing which the Minister for Local Government as the spokesman and the person most responsible to the Fianna Fáil Party aspires to—absolute power—and absolute power corrupts. This is why the Minister is anxious to push this legislation through the House. This is why he seeks to have the power at some future date, when the political scene is ripe and more advantageous for his Party, to go to the people and say: "This is what we want you to do", so that he can claim power absolutely. Absolute power corrupts.

A schoolchild said to me a few days ago: "When Fianna Fáil talk about the straight vote, what do they mean? Do they mean `straight' or `strait'?" There is a subtle difference. This is the thinking of a schoolchild. It spotlights the thinking of future generations. What does the Minister mean? Is it the straight and narrow he is talking about? Is this the straight vote he refers to or is it straight in the sense of fair play? Is it straight and simple that he means to convey to the House and, if it is, how can he explain that last week the Canadian Government were elected under the straight vote system for the first time in eight years as a majority government? How can the Minister explain that between 1910 and 1951 four Governments in Great Britain were elected on minority votes; four Governments, who received less votes than the total Opposition received, were elected as the majority Party in the House of Commons? Is this democracy?

The Deputy is wrong there.

I do not claim to be correct all the time.

The Deputy is not right.

From 1910 to 1951, unless my information is incorrect, four British Governments were elected with a majority in the House of Commons, despite the fact that they received a minority popular vote.

Where does the Deputy get that from? I should like to hear the source of the quotation.

Would Deputy Allen cease interrupting?

Deputy Allen has yet to make his maiden speech. We now know the reason why.

I will give you a wager of ten to one on that. Take me up on that. I made it years ago.

If the Deputy is going to interject, he should do so intelligently.

Get your facts right.

If Deputy Allen persists, I will have to ask him to leave.

Do not, because it is not that often that he comes in. Some of the ushers wonder who the stranger is sitting in the back benches of the Fianna Fáil Party at times. In 1951, the Labour Party lost office in Britain, despite the fact that they increased their popular vote and received more votes than the Conservative Party. This is a recognised fact. If this is the system of democracy which the Minister claims is more pure, simpler and more democratic than the present system we have, then I do not follow his argument. Set against that, we have had Fianna Fáil Governments elected as minority governments, with 70-odd seats, maybe one or two seats less than the overall majority but, as against that, they have received 48 to 51 per cent of the votes. It has always been a fair return per Fianna Fáil Deputy from the system of proportional representation. No Fianna Fáil Deputy can dispute that the fairest system to the Fianna Fáil Party has been proportional representation. The former and founder Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party preached the fairness of the system of proportional representation and he has been repeatedly quoted by members of the Fine Gael Party and of the Labour Party during this long debate and I do not propose to go into these quotations again.

It has been established beyond reasonable doubt that the former Leader, the occupant of Aras an Uachtaráin, is on record as having said that no other system could give a more fair return than proportional representation. This was his line of thinking right up to the time he lost power in 1948. Subsequent to the formation of the first inter-Party Government, he changed horses. He then believed that proportional representation would not be as kind to the Fianna Fáil Party in the future as it had been in the past.

Last week, in the debate on an amendment, I mentioned that one of the tricks of proportional representation is that a government in power and, particularly, a Minister for Local Government who has the complete and absolute authority to draw the boundary lines of constituencies, can decide that a three-seat constituency would suit their Party in an area where that Party has one percentage more of the votes than 50, that they must get two seats out of three.

Would the Deputy——

If Deputy Allen stays there long enough, we may entice him to make his maiden speech. At least, he may have a few points that he could make. This has been the thinking of the Fianna Fáil Party in the past: in an area where they have something more than 50 per cent of the votes, if they make that area a three-seat constituency, they must come out with two out of three seats but if, on balance, the Opposition Parties have something more than 50 per cent of the votes, then by all means, they must make it a four-seat constituency inasmuch as when four Deputies are returned to the House, the voting power of the Opposition can be neutralised. This has been the pattern of Fianna Fáil administration. This has been their thinking in regard to proportional representation. This is the democracy which the Minister boasts of — abuse of the proportional representation system.

If it is contended that instability is wrong, how can any Deputy reasonably argue that you can have anything but instability from results in a four-seat constituency? Unless one Party has over 75 per cent of the votes, you will have a 50 per cent return from each constituency.

Immediately after 1948, when Fianna Fáil could see the writing on the wall, they believed that sooner or later their past would catch up with them and they began to think that proportional representation could be the stick that would beat them eventually. So they started to preach the advantage of the straight vote. As his legacy to that Party, their Leader, prior to the presidential election campaign of 1959, decided that proportional representation would be an issue in a referendum conjointly with the presidential election. As Deputy Tully has pointed out, Mr. de Valera was elected as the President of this country with a majority of 120,000 votes, despite the fact that the proportional representation proposal was defeated by 30,000 votes. These are the figures as far as I can remember them.

The argument has been put forward since then that had the Fianna Fáil Party listened to certain members within that group and, instead of going for the straight vote, had gone for the single-member constituency with the transferable vote, they would have got it through. All this time this cancer has been gnawing at the people who claimed that the straight vote was the only thing that could get through and the only thing that could perpetuate the existence of the Fianna Fáil Party.

These are things we know. Anyone who cares to examine or listen to political discussion within the ranks knows that since 1959 the Fianna Fáil Party have been divided on whether it is right to have the straight vote or to retain PR. We know that in 1959 certain members of the Party expressed the view within the ranks of the Party that if they put to the people the system of the single-member constituency, with the transferable vote, the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party might take it as a compromise, in view of the fact that the Opposition Parties at that time believed that Fianna Fáil were strong enough, having a candidate running for the Presidency on the same day as the referendum was being contested.

These were the things at issue in 1959. Despite that the Fianna Fáil Party stuck to their guns and were defeated in the referendum. Since that time, this movement within Fianna Fáil has been continually whispering that the leaders who took the decision in 1959 were wrong and should have gone for the single-member, single transferable vote system. It has been put on record that the former Leader of the Party, Deputy Seán Lemass—Deputy Andrews who was present can deny or confirm this—attended meetings of the Committee considering revision of the Constitution and is on record as saying that, unless the Fine Gael Party accepted the single transferable vote, the Constitution should be left alone. That is no secret. Everyone knows the way the Fianna Fáil Party have been thinking since 1959. Last week we had Deputy Norton tabling his amendment. We know who inspired that amendment. A certain Minister of the Fianna Fáil Government canvassed my personal opinion in regard to a change. Some members of the Fianna Fáil Party have taken exception to the fact that I have named them. I do not propose to name this Minister because it was in private conversation.

I take exception to the remark that a Fianna Fáil Minister would consider the Deputy's opinion important enough.

That is a matter of your opinion. That does not influence me in the least. A Deputy coming from a sheltered background like Deputy Andrews does not realise the importance of commonsense.

As propounded by the Deputy?

Order. Deputy Harte.

A Minister of the Fianna Fáil Government tried to elicit my views on the single-member, single transferable vote. This was not too long ago. This was the feeling of the Fianna Fáil Party. They were sounding. They received a rebuff. If Deputy Norton's amendment were put to the House, Fine Gael would vote against it. A fortnight or three weeks ago, during my absence, the Minister tore the constituency of South-West Donegal apart. He went to great pains to explain to the House what would happen in Donegal if something was not done to change the Constitution. He forgot to say that the reason why——

This does not arise on the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. We are dealing with the Bill before the House.

Would the Chair explain why it does not arise?

It is on the Third Amendment.

I am asking the Chair a question and it is not in order for the Minister to give his views.

The Chair has told the Deputy how he is out of order. It does not arise on the present Bill, the Bill we are now discussing. It would arise on the other Bill.

This only deals with single-member constituencies and the method of voting.

Can the Chair explain why I am out of order?

The matter of divergence arises on the other Bill.

I have addressed my question to the Chair.

The matter mentioned by the Deputy is not contained in this Bill.

Can the Chair say——

The Deputy is not going to cross-examine the Chair.

Excuse me, Sir, I do not wish to appear to do so at all. You say I am not in order?

That is right.

Why am I not?

I have already told the Deputy twice.

I do not follow.

It is not contained in this Bill before us. It was contained in the Third Amendment.

What is not contained?

What the Deputy mentioned.

What have I mentioned?

If the Deputy does not know what he has mentioned, I am not going to tell him.

I had not mentioned anything.

Hear, hear.

I was only leading up to it.

The Deputy was talking about what would happen if the constituencies have to be revised under the present system. That is relevant to the Third Amendment.

The point I was trying to make was that under the present Constitution, six Deputies are elected from County Donegal. Two constituencies each return three Deputies. Under the Fianna Fáil administration, the population of Donegal has fallen drastically from 124,000 to 108,000.

The Deputy said that last week.

I will say it again because it is true.

And the Deputy will lose his seat.

No; Deputy O'Donnell is coming to Dublin.

The Minister insists that if the referendum is not carried——

Yes, the Third Amendment.

It does not matter which amendment. If the referendum is not carried, the Minister says Donegal will be reduced to a five-member constituency.

I quoted the Deputy as saying that should happen.

Look, I know the Minister is ignorant, but there are people in the Public Gallery. Watch it. The Minister maintains that if the referendum is not carried, Donegal will be reduced to a five-member constituency. This would give a surplus of 8,000 votes. Those 8,000 votes would have to be transferred into North Leitrim and this would have the effect of depriving Deputy O'Donnell of his seat. But the Minister forgot that Deputy O'Donnell would not be the weak member in that constituency. I submit that the Minister for Social Welfare might be the weak member, and that, instead of Fianna Fáil returning four out of six, they would be returning two out of five, with the Ceann Comhairle being returned automatically.

I want to point out to you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that Deputy Harte is discussing what will happen in the two constituencies of Donegal if the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill is not passed and that therefore I presume I have the right to deal with that situation also.

The Chair directs the attention of Deputy Harte to the fact that what is before the House in the present Bill is the question of single-member constituencies and the single non-transferable vote. Nothing else is before the House in this Bill.

I appreciate you were not here, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, for the earlier discussion between the Ceann Comhairle, the Minister and myself. I maintain that within the ambit of the amendments to the Constitution I am in order. I feel at this stage I should be allowed to put on record that the Minister for Local Government is not confusing anyone in Donegal and that his threats to the people of South-West Donegal are falling on deaf ears. What they are being asked to do in these amendments is to decide whether the Fianna Fáil administration has fulfilled its promises and has served them reasonably well over the past 30 years by allowing the population of that county to reduce from a stage when it was able——

What is before the House on this Bill, the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, is the question of the single-member constituency and what is termed the straight vote.

The Minister was arguing a fortnight or three weeks ago that if these proposals were not carried, if the single-member constituencies were not accepted by the people the result would be—am I in order in following through that argument?

The Minister has not spoken in this debate so far. The Deputy is in possession and the Chair is pointing out that what is before the House is the question of the single-member constituency and the single non-transferable vote.

I submit to your ruling.

Having dealt with it.

No. I should like to go into it in more detail but we shall meet at Bundoran or Ballyshannon.


If this amendment is carried, we shall have a situation where not alone will people electing Deputies to represent them not have a choice in selecting the type of candidate who should represent their Party but the hard core of the Party's supporters within the framework of a constituency organisation may be deprived of the selection of that candidate. By way of example, in a constituency such as my own, three Members are elected. I am not concerned with the machinery of the Fianna Fáil Party. They select a number of candidates under the present system to represent them in a general election and Fine Gael, with whom I am more concerned, will select two candidates. At present Fianna Fáil elect two Deputies and Fine Gael elect one. If the Fine Gael supporters in North-East Donegal and the Party organisation there are dissatisfied, they have a democratic right to elect the other candidate contesting the election with me. Fianna Fáil believe this should not be done and that single-member constituencies should be designed to elect one member to represent them.

I can visualise the situation where the general headquarters in Dublin of any Party will direct a local organisation to select a particular candidate and an outstanding candidate living in the constituency where his Party is not in control of the votes may have to move outside the constituency to be elected. It is for this reason that I do not agree with the Minister for Local Government or Fianna Fáil in their attempt to abolish PR and it is for the same reason I think this Bill should be defeated. For this reason also, this generation should look at the political scene and ask what guarantee would any future generation have if the amendments of the Constitution proposed by the Government are carried when the referendum is put to the people, what guarantee would there be that an electoral dictatorship such as the Minister for Local Government would wish to have, would not result? What guarantee would there be that their democratic rights would not be interfered with to a greater extent than is proposed in these moves to amend the Constitution?

There are many things that could be said against these proposals. It is the attitude of Fine Gael that the sooner this Bill is dealt with in the House and the sooner the Minister puts it to the people for decision——

Was the Deputy not told to hold it up?

This is another fallacy. This is the type of conduct we must tolerate from the Minister for Local Government. A fortnight ago he spoke for seven hours about nothing while his Party were being torn asunder deciding whether they should accept Deputy Norton's amendment or not. Immediately afterwards an announcement was made by the Taoiseach that there was an unanimous decision. Someone has said that there is a new definition of "unanimous", that it means equally divided in the Fianna Fáil Party. We know that they were equally divided.

This would seem to be irrelevant.

It is just as irrelevant as the Minister's remarks to which I have been replying. I want to say in conclusion——

Hear, hear.

Deputy Andrews is a smart Deputy, one of the briefless barristers of Fianna Fáil.

Tell us about the views of Deputy Cosgrave. The people in the Gallery who were mentioned would like to hear them.

Deputy Cosgrave is an honourable Deputy, something I cannot say about Deputy Andrews.

Nobody denied that.

Deputy Cosgrave has put on record his personal views.

What we are concerned about is what is in the Bill.

Why did he not vote?

(Cavan): He was paired with Deputy Seán Lemass, the man who said this was as dead as the dodo.


Deputy Harte, on the Bill.

I was concluding only for Deputy Andrews becoming slightly sarcastic. One of the reasons I oppose this Bill is that it is Deputies with bright ideas like Deputy Andrews who have to walk about ten feet that they want elected, Deputies who have been reared in an atmosphere sheltered from the outside world, who have never known what it is to go hungry or to walk to school. They were driven to school in motorcars. That is the protected life he had as a child. I do not want Deputies like that elected and that is why I am opposing this measure. That is the type of Deputy Fianna Fáil want to get into the House, the mohair executives who control the Fianna Fáil camp. This is what the Minister aspires to.

Look to your left.


Would Deputy Harte come back to the business before the House?

The starving Deputy from Donegal.

This is the type——

Interruptions from any side of the House are disorderly.

Sorry; it is very difficult to be silent.

(Cavan): Especially for Deputies who are not prepared to speak on the measure.

Deputy Andrews has not spoken——

I have spoken a number of times on the amendment.

(Cavan): The Deputy did not tell us about the Committee's report.

I told the Deputy he was speaking falsely.

I want to conclude by saying that my attitude to this measure is that the sooner it is passed through the House and put to the people for decision the better I shall like it. For this reason I am not speaking at any great length and possibly it is for this reason that Deputy Andrews is in agreement with me. Why has not Deputy Andrews——

The Chair must draw to the attention of the Deputy the fact that this is irrelevant. He should confine himself to the Bill.

The sooner this Bill goes to the people the better.

In this debate Deputy Norton was upbraiding the Fine Gael Party for complaining about the expenditure involved in the passing of this Amendment by way of referendum. Deputy Norton can take it that no Member of the Fine Gael Party would object to the expenditure of this money, if one sound, convincing reason for the passage of this Bill through the Oireachtas were forthcoming in the course of the debates to which we have listened over an extended period. A remarkable aspect of this debate and of the passage of this obnoxious and abhorrent measure through this House has been that never once from either the front or the back benches of the Fianna Fáil Party was there any argument adduced which was not adduced in 1959 when the Irish people were asked to express their views on an exactly similar measure. Taking up that invitation, the Irish people decided they were dead against the 1959 measure.

One would think that a responsible Government Party proffering a similar measure after the end of such a short time would come forward and say to this House: "There are new reasons which have emerged since 1959." No such new reason have been given to this House. No such new reason have been offered by way of argument to the electorate to whom this measure will be submitted by way of referendum later on. The same old spurious reasons are being given to the House.

Like the Deputy's.

Interruptions of all kinds will have to cease.

Deputy Crowley's interruptions do not affect me.

The Chair will not allow any further interruptions.

I am thankful for that, Sir. We still have the same old arguments about stability, that we cannot achieve stability under PR. There are two ways of looking at stability. Do the Government mean, by that, stability from the point of view of maintaining a Government in this House? If they do, the history of this House since 1945 gives an absolute answer. Far from having unstable government from the point of view of the length of life of Governments in this House, we have had a remarkably stable atmosphere here since the general election of 1944. The Government elected in 1944 lasted three years and seven months; the Government elected in 1948 lasted three years and three months; the Government elected in 1951 lasted two years and ten months; the Government elected in 1945 lasted two years and eight months; the Government elected in 1957 lasted four years and six months.

Deputy Norton is again commencing his interruptions. They say that when a rook either deserts or is deserted by a rookery, it flies by itself, making strange sounds which may be mistaken for caws because it is nervous and feels alone, and this possibly is the psychological background to the mutterings we have been hearing from this part of the House ever since discussion commenced on this Bill. I hope that the psychological reasons will be removed or that the sufferer will remove himself if he cannot behave like a gentleman. I do not like being cawed at by lone, rejected rooks. I was about to say, when Deputy Norton commenced to interrupt, that the 1961 Government lasted three years and five months, and since April, 1966, this present Dáil is in session. Can any Deputy from the Fianna Fáil Government side suggest that that does not represent stable government?

If, on the other hand, the Fianna Fáil Party mean that PR does not bring about stable government, I should like to point out that if you examine the history of the British House of Commons over the past 120 years under the straight vote, which Fianna Fáil now press for, you will see that at least half of that period has seen coalition governments in the British House of Commons. I am not unique in making the suggestion in this House that PR can achieve stability. I quote from volume 67/68, column 1343, of the Official Report of 1st June, 1937, in which the then Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party, Deputy de Valera, talking about the PR system, used these words:

...we have to be very grateful that we have had the system of proportional representation here. It gives a certain amount of stability.

None of us this side of the House who are pressing on the Irish people the necessity to retain PR has suggested that 100 per cent stability is possible. We make only the same claim as was made from that side of the House by the then Leader of that Party when he said PR gives a certain amount of stability.

Another reason adduced here during these debates by the Government Party —a reason which is quite familiar, because the same reason was being adduced in 1959—for the rejection of PR is that it is difficult for the people to follow, that the Irish people cannot express their preference through the involved process of PR. That might have been, and probably was, a valid argument in 1922 and around then when the PR system was first introduced, but it is not now, and the official statistics show it is not now. The official statistics show how accustomed the Irish people have become to using PR now compared to 1922. In testing the Irish voters' ability properly to use PR, the only normal standard one can apply is the percentage of spoiled votes in general elections. In 1922 one might have been dismayed by the fact that 3.08 per cent of the electorate spoiled their votes and that in 1923 3.66 per cent of the electorate spoiled their votes. Let us progress down the years, without going through each general election, to more modern times. In the 1961 general election, only .96 per cent of the electorate spoiled their votes, and that .96 per cent was by no means people who did not know how to vote. As anybody who ever attends a count knows, there are certain thoughtful souls who simply write rude messages to show they think nothing of any political institutions. In 1965 the percentage of spoiled votes was a mere .91 per cent.

Where in those figures can the Government find any single prop for their argument that PR should be done away with because the Irish people do not know how to use it? I venture to suggest that the percentage of spoiled votes here is no greater than in any other country where the straight vote is operated. Again we heard the old familiar argument that people do not approach the polls because of the PR system. That is not true either. The history of our general elections throughout the years shows that more people now are attending the polls than in 1922, when there was perhaps more reason why people should attend at the polls, and there were certainly more stirring events to be decided.

In 1922 only 62 per cent of the electorate exercised the franchise; in 1923 only 61 per cent of the electorate exercised the franchise. Far from interest in political affairs waning because of the baleful influence of PR, we are glad and rejoice in the fact that the Irish people are now more than ever politically conscious, and conscious of the importance of their rights as voters, and as cogs in the electoral machine. In 1961, 70.6 per cent of the electorate voted and in 1965 75.1 per cent of the electorate voted. So we can dispose of the main argument adduced by the Government to try to see that this Bill goes through the House. We are asking the people to say that this is abhorrent and obnoxious.

I do not want to repeat the statistics that have already been used in the course of the debate today. I should like to say that the system which the Fianna Fáil Party are now advocating will produce results which are the very negation of democracy. Deputy Harte and Deputy Fitzpatrick gave the figures, but I should like to repeat one historical example of the injustice which the single-seat system can wreak on the electorate which occurred in the British general election in 1924 in the Southern Counties which were predominantly Conservative.

There were 82 seats available in the Southern Counties and 1,500,000 people approximately voted Conservative and 1 million approximately voted Labour. That means that 50 per cent more voted Conservative than voted Labour, to decide who would fill the 82 seats. The result was that 81 of the 82 seats went to the 1½ million voters and only one seat went to the 1 million voters. I do not want to see that happening here. The Fine Gael Party do not want to see that happening here. Any ordinary sane and sensible Irish man or woman does not want to see that happening here. Whatever the Minister might do, and whatever those behind him might do, I am perfectly satisfied that when this Bill is submitted by way of referendum to the Irish people it will be rejected with the contumely it deserves.

I am satisfied that even the inadequate reasons which have been adduced by Government speakers are not the real reasons why they are bringing this measure before the House again. The reasons are to be found in the fright the Fianna Fáil Party got in the last presidential election and the rebuff they experienced in the local elections. The writing has been on the wall twice already. Before they can progress into general election level, the Fianna Fáil Party are now trying to stifle the voice of the electorate in a constitutional way. It is only in moments of petulance that the Fianna Fáil Party are inclined to give us the truth. In such a moment their former Leader spoke here.

When Deputy Dillon told the House in the course of a debate on a similar Bill in 1959 that the only reason the Government were introducing that measure was that Fianna Fáil were defeated in 1948 and 1954, the then Leader of the House, Deputy de Valera, nodded his head and said, "Precisely". There was another reference in this House by Deputy Blaney, now Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, who, when PR was being discussed on the last occasion, said that when PR was gone, not only was PR gone but the Labour Party, Clann na Talmhan, Clann na Poblachta were gone, and Fine Gael would be on the way out too.

These are the fundamental arguments behind this measure. On this occasion no one on the Fianna Fáil side has lost his temper sufficiently or become petulant enough to tell the Irish people the real reasons behind this measure which were those given to the House in a fit of temper by Deputy de Valera, as he then was, and by Deputy Blaney. Those are unworthy reasons for taking up the time of this House. Those are unworthy reasons for putting the Irish people to the test at the polls. Those are unworthy reasons for the expenditure of between £100,000 and £150,000. Those are unworthy reasons for taking up the time of the House while important legislation awaits it.

I am not surprised that in this debate so far today, although we were told last week that the Fianna Fáil Party are arm in arm behind their leaders, and that there was unanimity to the last man, not one back bencher has spoken in favour of this nefarious measure. I would not mind taking a bet that if we are here until 10.30 tonight or until Tibb's Eve, we will not hear the unanimity which apparently emanated from the Fianna Fáil Party rooms on the occasion of the Party meeting last week emanating from the back benchers in public here.

To put Deputy Barrett at his ease, I should like to speak on behalf of the Fianna Fáil back benchers and say on their behalf that we are entirely behind the Taoiseach.

It is time someone said it.

I hope Deputy Barrett will accept my assurance. Having listened for some time to lectures on the truth according to Fine Gael, and having listened to lectures on what Mr. de Valera said in such-and-such a year, or what so-and-so said in such-and-such a year, I think it comes very shallow from the Party which despised Uachtarán na hÉireann for years and did everything to villify this man's great name, using his name or abusing it. This is what I find abhorrent. This debate is bedevilled by cant and humbug. The last speaker used the honoured name of Uachtarán na hÉireann although his Party made every effort to ensure that he would not be a Deputy never mind Taoiseach or President of our country. It comes shallow to hear them use this honoured name.

We also hear the Constitution being used in support of their arguments. The Fine Gael Party tried to ensure that the Constitution would not be passed and now they are abusing it——

That is humbug.

——and using it to substantiate their arguments. This was the Constitution they went out to defeat. They are also using the informal committee on the Constitution. Deputy Fitzpatrick alleged that I did not speak in this debate. I have spoken a number of times and expressed a point of view on behalf of the constituents I represent. I can assure Deputy Fitzpatrick that I do not intend abusing the informal committee on the Constitution by stating who said what on any given issue. I do not intend breaking confidences. The report speaks for itself. Members of the various political Parties contributed their views and alternatives, and, as you yourself know, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, there were pros and cons and arguments in favour of the various subjects placed on record in the report. It was not a Committee of this House; it was an informal all-Party Committee and as such, the views of the members were not binding. In relation to the proposal before us, I can assure Deputy Fitzpatrick that no member of my Party expressed a point of view on that subject, nor indeed did any member of his Party, and I think it is true to say——

(Cavan): The Labour Party must have expressed them all.

——that Deputy T.F. O'Higgins will support me on that. It might reply to the serious allegations which appeared in various newspapers last week that I was afraid, as the Deputy so snidely put it, to come in and reply to them. That is the reply to his question. I do not intend breaking confidences. He can use any report he likes or abuse it by speculation and fabrication and by untruths as he has done. This is typical of the cornered rodent attitude which is prevalent in his Party at present.

(Cavan): There is not one argument in the report in favour of the proposal before us.

Interruptions at this stage will not be permitted.

The Deputy surprises me when he says that nobody expressed a view.

I put my reply to Deputy Fitzpatrick on the record. For all the quotations given by the Fine Gael Party on this matter, abusing Mr. de Valera for instance, I could well give quotations made by members of their Party in support of the abolition of proportional representation. I could quote Deputy Dillon, or Deputy Flanagan, or Deputy Cosgrave, and quote with a certain amount of assurance the brother of Deputy Maurice Dockrell, Deputy H.P. Dockrell.

(Cavan): If the Deputy is going to quote, he should quote.

I am not going to filibuster. We have been accused of filibustering but it is an extraordinary thing that in the past few hours quite a number of Opposition Deputies have spoken. If they are anxious to get these proposals to the country, why do they not let the Minister get in?

How many hours will he take?

The question of the cost of the referendum was brought up and Deputy Norton put it on record that it is only going to cost 2/- per voter to find out his opinion. This is not very much in terms of cash, to ask the opinion of the electorate. Despite what the Fine Gael Party say, the Fianna Fáil Party are not going to decide this issue; the Fine Gael Party are not going to decide this issue nor are the Labour Party going to decide it. The people of this country are going to decide it.

(Cavan): They have already decided within the last ten years.

This, of course, is more of it, deciding the matter without letting it go to the people. The will of the people will prevail on this issue. No matter what abuse the Opposition throw at us about dictatorship, we have no objection because we are prepared to go to the country. We would be glad to go and we would be glad to accept the will of the people on this issue. In my opinion, this is what democracy is all about. I have made the point that, as Deputy Norton said, the cost of this will be 2/- per voter. This is very reasonable.


Deputy Kyne, a responsible member of the Labour Party and their spokesman on health, called for a general strike on the day of the referendum, mark you. This is a very interesting thought in terms of cost. What would a general strike cost the country?

About £150,000, the same as the referendum.

This is typical of the facetiousness of Deputy Ryan.

It is an accurate figure.

Deputy Ryan says that a countrywide strike would cost the country £150,000. This is typical——


There was a time when people had to get police protection to go to vote.

I hope the newspapers take note of the fact that Deputy Ryan made the point that a general strike would only cost the country——

I did not use the word "only". The Deputy asked a question and I posed a figure for his consideration.

I hope the newspapers make it clear that Deputy Kyne has called for a general strike on the day these proposals are to be put before the people.

As a matter of fact, he said that on television.

I wanted to make these points on the winding up of this debate. I have not been given the speak on behalf of the Fianna Fáil backbenchers who are totally behind the Taoiseach for the single-seat straight vote proposals and all behind the Minister for Local Government. Despite all the abuse he has been getting over the past few months, he has done an excellent job in removing the hysteria generated by the Fine Gael Party in particular from the people's minds. Their tactics have been the tactics of those facing defeat, if not on this issue, then in the next general election. They are the tactics of a tired Party, nothing new, all old hat. Their politics, as I have often said before, are the politics of right wing conservatives, which I think is a bad thing for the country. They are not really an Opposition.

The Deputy is now speaking as a true socialist.

I have already made my position clear in regard to socialism.

We are not debating socialism but the Fourth Amendment.

I appreciate that, Sir. I believe in this ideal of social justice and in giving——

But the Deputy is not prepared to put it into practice.

I believe in giving every man, woman and child a free education and that is one of the reasons I am in this Party. We are the best political vehicle to achieve this. I believe we will achieve this ideal——

Fianna Fáil have been there for 30 years and have done nothing about it.

We are achieving it.

I would appeal to Deputy Andrews to keep to the Fourth Amendment.

I congratulate the Minister on what he has been doing. He has been going through a difficult enough time, without the Opposition acting histrionically and spreading speaking histrionically and spreading this prophecy of doom all over the country. People like Miss Enid Lakeman of the Proportional Representation Society are well matched with the Fine Gael Party. Maybe the Fine Gael Party will ask Miss Lakeman to come over and uphold them on this particular issue. They would be doing a great service for the Government on this issue. Again I reiterate my challenge to Deputy Cosgrave and Deputy H.P. Dockrell to appear with Deputy Booth and myself on television to discuss this matter in relation to our constituency. We are in an unusual position in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown in that we have two Fianna Fáil Deputies in favour of the Government's proposals and—listen to this—we also got two Fine Gael members in that constituency who are in favour of these proposals.

(Cavan): Is Deputy Booth not in favour of the transferable vote?

It is an extraordinary position. We have the Leader of the Fine Gael Party——

(Cavan): How many meetings did the Deputy hold about it?

We have Deputy Dockrell in favour of the Government's proposal. That is the extraordinary position. I believe we will do well because I believe the people recognise the fallacy in proportional representation.

(Cavan): How did the Deputy's constituency vote the last time on this issue?

There was a slight majority against.

(Cavan): 30,000.

This is more of it.

(Cavan): Give us the figure then.

Deputy Andrews was not interested in social problems then.

The Andrews family have been interested in the social problems of this city and county over the past 30 years.

I know all about that.

These interruptions are inviting further comment. Deputy Harte will cease interrupting.

We recognise the great sacrifices the Deputy's father made.

This is more of the humbug. I do not intend to reply. I am grateful for having had an opportunity to clear the minds of Deputy Fitzpatrick and others who think Fianna Fáil are afraid of this proposition.

(Cavan): We know they are.

We are not.

I speak lest anyone should think I have suffered any conversion to the so-called straight vote during the course of this debate. I was against it at the outset: I am still against it.

There will be a counting of heads now in Fine Gael. Everyone in favour has to come in and speak.

I should not like to accuse Deputy Andrews of telling an untruth, but it is news to me that my brother, Deputy H.P. Dockrell, is in favour of the straight vote. He is not in favour of the straight vote.

I did not hear his point of view, so I assumed, from his silence, that he was in favour of his leader and constituency colleague.

Ah, that is a very different thing.

(Cavan): Contemptible misrepresentation.

That is a very different statement.


Deputy Maurice Dockrell.

Would the Minister tell us how he issued a bulletin from a meeting about something that had not been discussed at the meeting?

I did not issue a bulletin.

The Taoiseach did.

I am not the Taoiseach.

The Minister is not the Taoiseach, but could he tell me how a bulletin was issued about a matter that was not on the agenda?

These interruptions must cease. Deputy L'Estrange and Deputy Fitzpatrick must cease interrupting.

It is a strange thing that this debate should arouse such heat in the ranks of the Fianna Fáil Party. Deputy Andrews is a quiet man, but this debate seems somehow to have got his ire. He made great play with the quotations used by this side of the House. I do not propose to go back over these quotations because a great deal has been said on this Bill already and on the parallel measure. I would say, however, to Deputies on the Government benches and to the people generally that the reason we mentioned these quotations was to show that the Fianna Fáil Party did not always think against proportional representation as they think now. The quotations were necessary to show how they once thought and to demonstrate that now they have changed their minds. But they have put forward here no valid reasons for changing their minds except political greed. That is the truth, as I see it, and as many people in the country see it. It is because of that that we introduced these quotations. Sometimes they may have seemed rather harsh, but, in a matter like this, which touches the fundamental roots of our being, it is only natural that names should be mentioned and that quotations from people prominent in this House in the past should be brought out to show that there is no real valid argument put forward for these proposals.

I have listened to and I have read a great deal of what the Minister said about the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. The Constitution is accepted by all our people as a good Constitution, in many ways a very good Constitution. I am not aware of any vital defects in it. It has served the country well since its enactment. Why should a Party now wish to change this Constitution, a Constitution introduced by themselves, without giving the country very valid reasons for that change? No valid reasons of any kind have been advanced here, singly or collectively.

The word "stability" has been used a great deal in connection with this Bill. It has been argued that stability would come through the so-called straight vote. Again and again we have shown that Governments have, in fact, lasted a long time here, in many cases a much longer period than comparable governments elected in other parts of these islands on the straight vote system. In other words, in Britain, with the straight vote and a sometimes overwhelming majority, there has not been the stability that the parties gaining such majorities would have liked. Stability is, in fact, engendered by good government, by wise and prudent acts and by a proper handling of affairs. Stability is not engendered by the method of election. It is a red herring to argue or, even by inference, to hint, that we are about to have a position of instability because of our method of election. That is simply not the fact and no valid arguments in support of that contention have been put forward.

There has been a great deal of declamation. Conclusions have been drawn from facts which do not warrant the conclusions drawn. Things have been given to us from the Government benches as facts when they are not facts: they are opinions. It has already been said that the Irish people did not use PR properly. I consider, and many people like me consider, that the Irish people understand PR thoroughly and use it extremely skilfully. The case was cited of how, during the presidential election, the present honoured occupant of that honoured position got in and, at the same time, the referendum was decisively beaten. That shows that our people do know how to use PR.

He was not very honoured during the last election campaign by the Fine Gael election tactics. Remember your slander campaign a couple of years ago?

I do not think the Minister should say that. I have paid a sincere tribute to the occupant of that honoured position.

Remember the slander campaign?


Interruptions from both sides should cease.

We do not want hypocrisy from Deputy Dockrell.

It is not hypocrisy.

It is absolute hypocrisy.

Is it? The Minister pretends to read my mind better than I do myself. I will just say this to the Minister: I am a member of the Council of State, which is the highest body in this country, and chosen as such by the President of Ireland, and I think it comes very ill from the Minister to accuse me of hypocrisy in a matter which touches that office.

Why not deal with the Bill?

I am dealing with the Bill but I have unfortunately had to deal with the Minister's uncalled for and unwarranted interruption—not that I mind an interruption in the least, but I do not like an interruption of a nature which would reflect on my honour.

To continue on the Bill—I looked at figures in the paper today, my eye just falling on them. They show that under the single-seat non-transferable vote, you can have a minority government. I saw where a member of the House of Commons was elected at the last election by getting 18,300 votes. I totted up the votes given to his two opponents and they came to something like 18,900. There was, in that particular constituency in England, a minority electing a man and that can and is duplicated in many constituencies which have the single transferable vote.

I come now to a matter concerning minorities. I should like to say, as a member of a religious minority, that I pay tribute to the successive Irish Governments. I think it is the pride of Ireland that it has treated its minorities in the way it has. During my time in this House, which goes back over 25 years, and during my father's period which would bring it back to 1932, and indeed you can go back to 1922, I have never known of a single issue which came before this House which had the slightest taint of being unfair to minorities in any way. I pay a sincere tribute in that regard, and so I say that the minorities' guarantee of fair play is not based on a need for PR but is based on the fact that the Irish people abhor anything in the nature of deciding issues on the basis of religious differences or anything like that. That has never been the way in this country. However, what I do want to say is that when PR came in, it was brought in as a political and religious protection for minorities, and it was gladly and generously embraced by the Sinn Féin leaders of the day. They in their generosity of mind which somehow echoed the generosity of mind of a person like Wolfe Tone—he had that great wish to unite all the people of Ireland by good government and by acts of generosity—warmly embraced it because they knew that the Irish people were overwhelmingly in favour of self-government and that the minorities could be protected in this manner and that the Irish ideal of self-government would not be harmed.

We here, of all Parties, would like to see Ireland north and south united. I firmly believe that this doing away with PR does not help that ultimate union. I will not go as far as to say that this would wreck something like that, no, but it would be very much a further earnest of the intention of the southern Irish people to protect safeguards which, if and when the North comes in with the South, would be a protection and a bulwark for them. Therefore, I think that apart from all the political reasons which can be advanced against the abolition of PR this looking into the future, looking perhaps far ahead, and showing that the South deliberately rejected the idea of going for the single transferable vote goes far to make this portion of Ireland more attractive for our brethren in the north.

For all those reasons, and I am only touching on them briefly, I feel that this proposal to do away with PR is something the House should reject. It should never have been brought forward. We, as a people, understand PR thoroughly. The Government have shown no real reason for abolishing it, except the fact that it would temporarily enhance their position and for some reason they are not taking the long-term view of what would be best for this country in the future. They are prepared to go for an immediate advantage or what they think would be an immediate advantage, and perhaps wreck very many well-meaning visions of what is best for the country in the future. Therefore, I ask this House to vote against the abolition of PR and, when it comes before the people, I am sure that they will decisively reject it as they rejected it on the last occasion.

May I start where the last speaker finished? I have been here for the last 3½ hours, with the exception of ten minutes, listening to Opposition speakers. If they cannot step up their performances for the people, there will be no doubt about the way this vote will be carried. One Member over there said that he had heard nothing new from this side of the House. It certainly amazes me that so many Members across the Chamber should have such little regard for their blood-pressure as to behave as they have been behaving here for the last three hours.

The people on the other side of the House want to know what demand have the people made for a referendum. Surely, in a democracy, a Government have to think of what will be best for the people in changing world conditions. Whatever one may quote from the person who is now President of the State or from Deputy Dillon or any other Deputy ten, 15, or 20 years ago, does not bear much weight now because the world is changing and nothing stands still. It is said that the devil can quote scripture for his own purpose. We seem to be doing that to great advantage, or seeming advantage, here.

I heard Deputy Dillon this afternoon say again that if the straight vote, single-seat method of election came in, circumstances would arise, or might arise where the people would have to go to the barricades because they could not express their will and because they could not have some say in the government of the country. Does it occur to Deputy Dillon that the very reason why the proportional representation system is working successfully at the present time in France is the violence and the fact that the people had to go to the barricades? Any thinking person must agree that that is the principal reason why one Party is on the way to getting an overall majority. Are we going to suffer that risk in the future? It is all very well to say, and we would all subscribe to the idea, that proportional representation has worked well here over the years, but we must think of the future.

I have been listening to both Parties in Opposition assuring us that Fianna Fáil cannot possibly get an overall majority in the next election. The Opposition have stated that categorically. They seem to have no doubt about it. At the same time, they say that they are not going to form any coalition. What is going to happen? Are we going to have minority government? Is that what we desire? Is that what the people desire? Is that what they wish for us?

I have no intention at this stage of going into the pros and cons of proportional representation versus the straight vote. We have been listening to the arguments here for months. I would much prefer to tell the people whom I will be asking to vote what I think is right than to be speaking to people here whose minds cannot be changed by anything I say.

We have heard that this method of the straight vote will mean safe seats and comparison is made with the North of Ireland and with the South of England, which was so conservative. We know that there is no comparison whatever between this part of Ireland and the North of Ireland where the people of one religion and one political thought live in one section of the area and the others live in another section and the boundary can be very easily defined. It is the same way in Britain. There is a tradition in some places where the Conservative Party have very heavy majorities and can get away with it. It only brings home what I have often felt, that most members of the Opposition Parties do not give the people of Ireland credit for any intelligence. In my experience, you could not designate any section of the community as being pro-Fine Gael, pro-Fianna Fáil, pro-Labour or pro-anything. You could not do it. They are scattered and mixed-up. Whatever happens, everybody in the constituency and in the area in which the election will take place will be represented.

I also firmly believe that the people will not be satisfied with the candidate sent down from headquarters, as was feared by some Opposition speakers. If the candidate is not able to work for the constituency and the constituents, it will not be a safe seat for him. There will be many contenders from his own and other Parties for the seat and he will not get it in a small, contained area where the people know exactly what is happening.

We could keep talking on this subject. It has been thrown at us that the Fianna Fáil Party members have not contained area where the people know they should. That was said very early on when some members of the Opposition spoke for nearly four hours and for 2½ hours at a time. We remained silent because we had nothing to say, because we agreed with what was happening. When it was suggested that our silence could be taken to mean that we did not agree with the policy, we came in and then we were accused of filibustering. Today, when Opposition speakers went on continuously and only one or two of us spoke, it was suggested that we were not speaking because we did not believe in what the Party proposes. I gave my word here last week, and I say it again, that in my presence I have never heard a member of the Fianna Fáil Party at a Party meeting saying that he did not believe that the straight vote, single-seat, was the best possible method for the country. I have never heard that. I have never known a decision to be taken 50-50 or even 95-5. It was a unanimous decision. Of course, I know how difficult it is and am old enough to know, because I could produce a Sunday newspaper with banner headlines something like naming the men who were daggers drawn to succeed the present President when he left office—all conjectures—and how the Party was split from top to bottom and how it was breaking up. Today we have much the same thing—a Deputy on the other side of the House telling us that Fianna Fáil were doing this for their own survival when it must be patently obvious that, under the present system, Fianna Fáil will do at least as well as any other Party in the House and will certainly survive when others are forgotten.

That seems to me to be a fair reflection of what the people would think. Therefore, as I see it, Fianna Fáil are not forcing the people to adopt this measure. All they are doing is putting the two systems before the people and saying: "You choose. We think it is better for the future. You know what the other system has done in the past. We show you the dangers that we feel may exist." I agree with Deputy Dockrell that it is only a supposition as to what may happen. We know what happened in 1959 when the proposal was defeated in the referendum. We were told that Fianna Fáil could not survive as a Party but it is here stronger than ever before.

One cannot say definitely what will happen but you can say to the people that there is a danger of what happened in Italy, what is happening in Belgium, France and various places, happening here. We can also say that the system used in Britain fairly successfully for 150 years is one in which we could put our trust, not because the British use it, but because it is a tried system. Maybe it does not give everybody the same voting power as our system does but I do not think that is a bad thing. Our first duty is to elect a Government, not a House of Representatives representing every Tom, Dick and Harry and every crackpot in the country. Our first duty is to show the people how to elect a Government and, in doing that, also show them the easiest way to get rid of that Government if they do not like it, the very easiest way. We are doing that and that is the essence of democracy.

As I said in my last contribution, I only wish that Members of this House would behave like adults and put this issue to the people objectively. Let the Opposition speakers keep their powder dry until they go to the people and tell the people what exactly is right or wrong with the system we suggest and which they may adopt now and what is right with proportional representation. I certainly am not sorry I sat here. I really believe anybody reading the Dáil Debates must agree that there is not anything but supposition coming from the other Parties. Fianna Fáil are supposed to be split. The Taoiseach is not supposed to be completely in favour of the straight vote. Various things are supposed to happen —all completely without foundation. Naturally, as a member of the Party, I am glad to be able to say that. But I can realise how the other Parties must be disillusioned that after all these years Fianna Fáil are as united and as strong as they ever were in the past. It is with the greatest confidence I would go to the people and ask them to adopt the straight vote and the single seat. I feel I could retire peacefully from public life and know the country was well prepared to elect a Government that would be able to govern and that would be answerable to the people every five years.

(South Tipperary): I must thank Deputy Healy for describing this proposed system correctly as the British system. He was the first speaker today to describe it as such and advert to the fact it was 150 years old—“a tried and trusted system,” as he described it. Other speakers, with their tongues in their cheeks, have been inclined to describe it as the straight vote. It is the British system and the system in Northern Ireland and there is no use maintaining it is anything else.

However, I take issue with Deputy Healy when he says there would be no danger of safe seats in our community here. His argument was that there were no specific pockets of voting power one way or another in this country. That may be so. He mentioned, for example, that in Britain you had regional areas of Conservatism—and, I presume, as a natural corollary, regional areas of Labour—and that in Northern Ireland you had people divided on the basis of religion, Orangeism and Nationalism, and tending to live in areas, too. You have the same strict voting system here, not perhaps as he says in regions, but it exists just the same. You have traditionalism here. It is diffuse traditionalism, but it is there. I believe it will be sufficient to give us safe seats in the same proportion as exists in Northern Ireland and probably a higher proportion than in Great Britain.

The Minister is producing this electoral change for a specific purpose. He says he wants to abolish small Parties. He wants to develop a two-Party system. When he speaks of abolishing small Parties, I can only assume that the purpose is to abolish the only small Party here at present—the Labour Party—or else it is a prophylactic measure to prevent the emergence of small Parties in the future. If it is to lead to the two-Party system, that will not be the immediate result. The immediate result of such a change, if adopted, will be the obliteration of Labour and the development of a largely one-Party system, because Fine Gael will lose considerably under the new system. We are promised pie in the sky, that in ten, 15 or 20 years time there would evolve a two-Party system more or less balanced. That would be a desirable thing if one felt it could be provided within a reasonable period. As far as I can judge the situation, that will not obtain; nor do I think Fianna Fáil are serious in that. They are speaking with their tongues in their cheeks. They are speaking about providing a two-Party system when what they really mean is that they want to perpetuate themselves in office and provide simply a one-Party system.

I do not know what particular animus the Minister and his Party bear towards small Parties. He mentioned the previous inter-Party Government as being something to be avoided in the future. That is a matter of opinion. Fianna Fáil are entitled to express their opinion as regards inter-Party government and the people on this side of the House who participate in inter-Party government are entitled to express their opinions, which of course would be diametrically opposite.

When speaking here on March 27th I advocated a united Opposition. The Minister's strictures about the failure of this side of the House to provide a proper Opposition may have some basis. Certainly it is true that down through the years the people have not given any Party on this side of the House sufficient support to form an alternative Government. Fine Gael have not won an election for 40 years and Labour have never won an election. By that I mean won sufficient seats to form a Government. We therefore seem to have reached a stalemate. We seem to be at a crossroads.

During all that period various small Parties came in and out of this House. During that period the attitude of these small Parties was not consistent. They seemed to have changed their opinions and attitudes on different occasions. Most of these small Parties were founded on an ideological basis or on a vocational basis. You had, for instance, the Clann na Poblachta Party, an ideological Party which professed to be more extreme Republican than any other Party in the country. You had two farmers' Parties since the State was founded. They professed to be vocational Parties interested in the farmers' interests. Then you had the Labour Party—at one time there were two Labour Parties—who professed to be also a vocational body largely interested in protecting the interests of the working classes.

I think that every one of those Parties also maintained that their ultimate objective was to form a Government. I other words, while they were ideological and narrow and sectarian in their immediate presentation, their ultimate objective—none of them retreated from this—was to form an alternative Government. If any small Party is sincere in that respect, if they come in here they are entitled to represent vocational and sectarian interests. It might be argued that it is unnecessary nowadays to have a farmers' Party in Dáil Éireann in so far as you have the NFA.

I am afraid the Deputy is getting away from the Bill before the House. This is the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The question of the formation of Governments does not relevantly arise.

(South Tipperary): This Bill is calculated, according to the Minister himself, to develop a two-Party system. It is calculated to prevent the evolution in the future of the inter-Party type of Government. It is calculated to prevent the development and election of small Parties. I am dealing with the position of small Parties in the House. It is relevant to the particular amendment going through now.

The Chair does not think so. We are discussing the single non-transferable vote.

(South Tipperary): The single non-transferable vote, or the the British system. He was the first and will result in the obliteration of small Parties. It will tend to prevent the formation of other Parties in future as every new Party must start as a small Party. I think I may express my ideas on how it will affect us in future in that respect. There has been different behaviour by different political Parties through the years which has possibly led us into the position where the Minister sees fit to introduce this type of measure. At different times different Parties have adopted different attitudes. In my view, if we are to enjoy a two-Party system, it would seem in the present circumstances, particularly with the measures the Minister is now trying to introduce to try to prevent this, desirable to have such a system. The two-Party system can function perhaps not so smoothly, but it can function, with multiple Parties. Therefore, the Minister is not justified in introducing this measure calculated to obliterate small Parties.

All Parties coming into the House, not elected as Fianna Fáil members, must realise that the majority of votes cast in their favour are not Fianna Fáil votes and are probably anti-Fianna Fáil, and that therefore they have a mandate to oppose the Government. That does not consist in being an Opposition Party in the administrative sense only. That mandate must be carried out to the full. Fine Gael are the only Party who are offering full-blooded opposition and constantly endeavouring to remove the present Government and take over office. Any Party who come in merely as an administrative Opposition and not offering full-blooded political opposition should make their position clear beforehand. Parties down through the years have not done that.

I believe the present opposition Parties under present circumstances and in view of the evidence of public opinion in the recent by-elections should realise the mandate they have and that it is not alone to provide administrative opposition but to provide the country with an opposition Taoiseach and a shadow cabinet. They should not stop there. They should participate in Government positively and actively. They should seek responsibility and take credit or blame. I do not think it right that any Party should stand aside and be the tail that wags the dog. They should not believe that they are entitled to criticise without taking responsibility or that they can act as a pressure group.

On one occasion Clann na Talmhan did not vote when the Taoiseach was being elected. I believe they were wrong. They were elected largely on anti-Fianna Fáil votes and should have voted against the Government's nomination on that occasion. Subsequently they behaved differently and participated in Government. All through the years small Parties have behaved rather inconsistently.

I do not see how we can discuss the policies of Parties coming into the House. That does not arise on the Bill. As I have pointed out, the Bill relates to the single-member constituency and the single non-transferable vote. The Deputy may not discuss the policies of Parties that may come into the House.

It is only a matter of filibustering.

(Cavan): Does the Minister want to get in?

No hurry: tomorrow will do for me.

(South Tipperary): So far as the Minister's legislation is calculated to prevent such Parties coming into the House, I think it is relevant to the amendment before us.

I do not think so. The Deputy is discussing what Parties should do when they come into the House. That has nothing to do with the Bill.

(South Tipperary): I am discussing what they should do before and after they come in. Does the Minister maintain that it is impossible to provide a two-Party system with more than two political Parties? Other countries have successfully done so but the Minister seems to think that only two Parties can provide a two-Party system. Of course his real objective is to provide a one-Party system and perpetuate his own Party in office and he will try to sell the notion to the people that because small Parties behave differently at different times they should be wiped out of existence.

Whatever the Minister may think about these small Parties, if the Irish people want them, they have a fundamental right to vote for them and send here whatever groups they want. They have the right to do wrong if they so choose.

The Deputy is cutting across an article of faith in saying the people have the right to do wrong.

(South Tipperary): I know that.

It was laid down that the people have no right to do wrong.

(South Tipperary): That was the dictum of former days.

It is inherited.

(South Tipperary): Deputy Healy told us that we should not revert to these things of the past and that all past quotations are irrelevant. Having particular respect for Deputy Healy, I listened to him carefully and I have been trying to observe his admonitions. Possibly he has a point; there is not much use in going back on these quotations of the past. We know them and they have been repeated here ad infinitum.

This British system of election, if carried, will culminate in an authoritarian type of government. Possibly in years to come that will be reversed but I believe that for many years we shall have a repressive, if not a corrupt, society with one Party entrenched in office and very little possibility of removing them by constitutional means. That is the chief danger inherent in this system. I do not say that we shall have dictatorship on the lines of some of the European models, or that we shall have concentration camps——

Indeed we have one——

——and it is kept in order.

(South Tipperary): We did have some sort of place, I believe, in the Curragh. I thought we had dispensed with that.

Not at all: it is cleaned every day.

(South Tipperary): The difficulty about a repressive society here is that we would have little help from world opinion. After all, they have repressive societies in some of the communist countries and the free nations of the world bring continuous propaganda to bear on these countries. The repressive society would pass unnoticed and perhaps with very little comment. It would receive little more attention than some of the repressive conditions attending in Northern Ireland. That is the real danger because if there were serious repression action could be taken. One Party would remain in office, but conditions would not be extreme enough to cause violent reaction.

For this reason, I would urge the people of this country not to lose the degree of liberty they now have. Proportional representation affords a degree of flexibility. The multiple-seat constituency ensures the electorate a choice of candidates. The single seat in a small constituency would lead to monopoly conditions. It would be hard to remove any Deputy once elected. After the next election I assume that under this system Fianna Fáil would come back with 95 or 100 seats. Put any Deputy in a small constituency; leave him there with a complete monopoly for a period of five years, and not alone would it be difficult to displace him but it would be well-nigh impossible in many areas to get either a Fine Gael or a Labour candidate to stand. There would be many uncontested seats, and that would be extremely bad. The Minister is perfectly well aware of that, and his answer would be that after a while the position would rectify itself. He has not got the gift of prophecy; he is not able to tell us when that will happen or to give us an assurance that it will happen.

We are dealing here with an unusual type of people, traditional voters, and the more you go into the rural parts the more traditional they become. Whatever chance there is of change in places like Dublin or Cork there is none in some of the rural parts. The pattern of voting remains unchanged from grandfather to grandson, down along the line. Over a period of 40 years there has been no change of thinking on the part of the majority of the people. I would blame the present stalemate primarily upon the Irish people because of their traditional cast-iron thinking. Possibly some blame could be allotted to Fine Gael and to Labour. No Party is perfect, but, by and large, the present stalemate derives from the traditional nature of our people.

Down through the years, Fine Gael have given reasonably good service here. They have participated in debates. They have worked hard in the constituencies and in the various subcommittees. The fact that over a period of 40 years, they have not been given a mandate from the Irish people to form a Government is something to be deplored. I think they deserve better than that from the Irish people. However, there is little we can do about it in so far as it stems from the traditional outlook of the Irish people. However, this pattern may also be due to other factors. It can also arise from the fact that all non-Fianna Fáil Parties or individuals have failed to give full commitment to putting out Fianna Fáil and providing a Taoiseach and a Government from the Opposition. Indeed the failure to do just that consistently has provided the present Minister with the excuse to steamroll this objectionable measure through the House.

I take it we are discussing the question of the single seat with the non-transferable vote. It is difficult to know what we are discussing. I should just like to remind the House that away back in 1918, before we had the opportunity of hearing about the dreams of that constitutional virgin, Miss Enid Lakeman, we won an election with the single seat and the non-transferable vote.

Talking about stability in government, let us take the period from 1932 on when, with the help of the Labour Party and despite the strong Blueshirt Fascist opposition, we did succeed in forming a Government. I am speaking about stability and I am reminded of the Coalition Governments of 1948 to 1951 and 1954 to 1956. It is not possible to get stability when one Party has not a majority in the Dáil. It is difficult to get that in a multi-seat constituency but not so difficult in a single-seat constituency. There has been a great deal of talk about gerrymandering. The Minister cannot gerrymander a single-seat constituency.

(Cavan): What does the Deputy think of the non-transferable vote?

I am speaking about the single seat and the non-transferable vote. The non-transferable vote allows the people to express their minds unequivocally and properly. Furthermore, there is no question of gerrymandering. This single-seat system will enable Deputy Dunne to continue to represent Ballyfermot. The single seat will enable Deputy Corish to trot home in Wexford. Backbencher had a certain amount of sympathy for Deputy Norton's amendment but, as far as Fianna Fáil are concerned, no vote was taken and there was no banging of the table; the decision was that we go for the non-transferable vote. I agree with it and I bang the table this time.

Deputy Tully is far too wise a parliamentarian and far too good a parliamentarian to throw the Northern Ireland method of voting on to us. We inherited this awful PR system from people who wanted to keep us down. The north of Ireland is divided on religion and basic thinking; we are not in this part of the country. We heard talk about pressure groups. There are all sorts of pressure groups. If there are two policies to be put before the people, they should be put and let the best horse win. That is what the people want. I have canvassed this all round the country and I know this is what they want.

As I said before, most people could find their way into Fianna Fáil. The Opposition speak as if we were devils and they were angels. In Fianna Fáil we have Deputy Booth and in Fine Gael they have Deputy Dockrell who are both members of a minority. I am sure the Labour Party have their fellow-travellers. So far as the nation is concerned this system would make for quick decision. I did not come in on anyone else's surplus. I came in on eliminations and transfers. I am not a hindtit man—I came in on Fianna Fáil votes.

The Deputy might leave such vulgarisms outside the House.

The Deputy is getting very touchy.

I am an intelligent man, I hope, and I can be convinced by arguments. I absolutely and fully recommend this to the House.

It was not my intention to intervene at this stage but, as there is a resurrection of interest in this vital matter, it is probably right that a member of our Party which has taken its stand on this matter from the beginning with no division and no question of doubt on principle should intervene. Normally I do not like to talk about principles because when one does it is said: "There is something queer about that fellow; he is talking about principles." In this instance I should like to point out that, contrary to what has been said here and outside the House in the news media and on television, an alteration in the system of voting does not represent the threat to the Labour Party which has been suggested. There are members of this Party—I am not speaking about myself—who would win seats, in my view, no matter what was done to the electoral system——

——or what way it was twisted. The Labour Party, the Labour movement and the trade union movement are such an inherent part of the nation—and I know this is a bitter pill for many people in this House to have to swallow—that they will not be eradicated by any kind of political manoeuvre. Having said that, let me say that this underlines and emphasises that we have taken our stand in this matter on the question of what is the best and most democratic system, and the fairest system. We heard talk about the election of 1918. Let me compliment the Deputy who was speaking about 1918 on the fact that he manages to conceal any evidence that he was in the world at all so many years ago. I was not around then, or I was not taking much interest at any rate.

I was listening to our present President.

That explains a great deal of the Deputy's aberration. The year 1918 and the 1918 election have no relevance to what we are talking about, or to the world about which we are talking. The very thoughtful contribution made by Deputy Hogan when he was discussing the traditional voting pattern of our people will, I suggest, have little relevance in the years that lie ahead, because what has been forgotten by many is that we in this country will not escape the revolutionary change in attitude and political thinking which has overtaken western Europe and the greater part of the civilised world, which has come about by reason of the advance of enlightenment and—I hate to use the word because it does not describe what I have in mind—education. This is very vividly shown on the television screen particularly. Television, more than any other single method of communication, has brought the world into the family household and familiarised us with things which ten or 15 years ago represented far away places and distant ideas and matters which could not possibly concern us at all. The advance of knowledge is bringing a change in the whole thought pattern of our people, even those of settled ways. I would suggest that they will not be tied by traditions in this matter as they have been in the past.

We all know that in the past families voted for certain Parties and continued to vote for them: father, son, grandson, and so on. They continued to vote that way, going back to the days of the formation of the State. Attitudes were taken up 50 years ago and remained in existence, and influenced the formation of Governments up to the present day one might say. These are being eroded and I suggest that one example of erosion was to be found recently in Limerick city where the Labour candidate, Lipper, succeeded in getting a vote which was not in any way influenced by these traditional voting patterns which were referred to. It was influenced entirely by bread and butter politics.

This system proposed by the Minister is retrogressive. I do not know when exactly it was first brought into operation in Britain, but I know that the single seat with the non-transferable vote came into existence at a time when democracy as we know it, in the limited sense, if you like, as we know it now, was completely unknown in Britain, and that it has remained in that form unchanged to the present day. I suppose it was pre-Victorian —certainly Victorian but perhaps before it. This system of voting was fashioned and designed by a ruling clique, a ruling caste, to perpetuate themselves in office, to protect their privileged position, and it succeeded in doing this.

Dan O'Connell won on it.

I have no doubt that was a wonderful thing. He made a bargain though, which is still a matter of dispute between the acedemics as to whether what he did was entirely right or wrong. However, let us not fall out about so great a figure as Dan O'Connell. In his day he did the best he could, just as Deputy Lenihan is trying to do in his day and as we are all trying to do. The situation, of course, was probably that Dan O'Connell was in sympathy with the idea of rule by a propertied minority at that time and he acted according to his lights and, in doing so, he did bring some benefits to the people. That cannot be denied.

I am not condemning this system because it is British. I am not going to join this vacuous shout which says that everything that comes from Britain is bad, because Magna Carta and many other things came out of England. The idea they have of individual liberty has much to commend itself to us, so let it not be thought that I condemn it simply because it is British. I would condemn it, and this is a personal point of view, because it was a method invented by a privileged wealthy class to keep themselves in situ, to keep themselves in control and to ensure that, while presenting an outward face of democratic procedure, the masses of England would never achieve power. We know that that plan and that plot was overthrown by history. The industrial revolution took the masses from the countryside and moulded them into large concentrations in the cities and towns. This in turn produced poverty, degradation and hardship and eventually combinations and organisations, trade unionism and political representation. Eventually the masses of the English people were able, barely able, to bring themselves to power.

Not entirely to win, because even in power the illusion is still there, in Britain as here, that all power resides in the people who are in the Cabinet. I do not agree with that. Very often it is an illusion of power because very often power resides elsewhere, perhaps in the higher echelons of the Civil Service, certainly in the directorates of the banks and wherever there are large aggregates of wealth. That is where the power is and, no matter what Government sits here, until we take our courage in our hands to control these elements, there will be no power.

Now we are being asked to accept this system but it seems to me that, while proportional representaton is not the perfect electoral system, it is superior to the system which is proposed. Surely if democracy has any meaning, and sometimes I am inclined to the view that it is merely a platitude that is bounced around not alone by politicians but by those who earn their living talking about politicians as well, but if it has any real meaning, it must mean that the right of citizens to combine and form political Parties, no matter how small they may be, and to secure representation in a national Parliament, is a fundamental right. If you take that right away, surely you are tampering with a fundamental liberty. Or are we being asked to accept that the people are not sufficiently developed to operate this sophisticated voting system called PR? Is that what is being said, that it is too complicated for them, that, God help them, they do not know what they are doing when they vote for minority groups? I would reject that entirely.

I do not think there are many nations in the world so politically-conscious as the Irish are by reason of their history and their temperament. We are infinitely more politically-conscious than the English who could be said to be more or less a docile people who tend to go in crowds or large masses. The Irish have not been noted for that characteristic. They are said to be individualistic and for that reason it may well be that the system we have produces at times a multiplicity of Parties. What is so wrong with that? It is wrong of course to the authoritarian mind, to the mind which says the first essential is strong government, that we must have strong government first of all. But who says that? Who says the first essential is strong government? The vested interest says it first, the person who is a bit fearful that the social system may so change as to alter his status in society. He is the first to look for strong government. The character who has a great deal of money or property of any kind and who is anxious to protect that property at all costs will shout for strong government above all other things.

I suggest to the House that these people are not the entire nation. I would accept that they have powerful voices and that their voices are heard invariably in the corridors, as they say, of power. But they are not the Irish nation. The bulk of the Irish people are the people of little or no property. We hope, as time goes on, that it will be possible so to alter our society as to ensure that that situation will be changed and that property will be distributed with the greatest possible equity. We hope that will be achieved. We work towards that end. In the meantime, the people who are shouting for strong government and this so-called great evolution of the two-Party system, in which I can see no merit whatsoever, are not concerned really with democracy, not concerned with the representation of the people.

I have not the slightest doubt that the Minister in putting this Bill before the House is driven by one intention, that is, to see that Fianna Fail remain in power as long as he can possibly arrange it. I do not say that is an unnatural intention, but I do say that we, and that "we" is not just those of us on this side of the House, but the entire nation, would be utter fools to let him get away with it because unquestionably, as Deputy Hogan has said, the trend would probably be towards single-Party government and single-Party government ends up, as we know, inevitably badly for all concerned.

The first function of an electoral system is to secure not necessarily the return of a Party as government but representation in Parliament for the people who vote. That is the first function—representation for the people who vote to enable them to have a voice in the councils of Parliament. What happens after Parliament meets is not even provided for in the Constitution. The Constitution does not provide for Parties. It does not mention political Parties. It lays down nothing about Parties—single-Party, two-Party, multi-Party, or what-you-will. There is no mention of these things in the Constitution. The Constitution merely provides that people will be represented in Parliament and that they will be represented by the method with which we are familiar.

We have all gone over this ground before and the citizens of the State, as well as the Members of this House, are fairly familiar with all the arguments pro and con. To me the sick joke of this whole debate has been the statement by the Minister, I think, initially and echoed by some of his satraps subsequently around the country that what he really is at is endeavouring to provide another Government instead of Fianna Fáil. This is the proposition he is putting up.

I never said that.

The Minister used words to that effect—that he wanted to make it possible for an Opposition to take over.

I did not.

The Minister most certainly did. I have not the reference here——

The Deputy will not find it either.

Indeed, I will.

(Cavan): It would take a long time to look for the references.

One would have to have a few hours to spare, right enough, to read the long rambling discourses the Minister has bestowed upon us in this matter. The Minister in my recollection most certainly put forward the proposition that the real benefit of his proposal was to make possible the replacement of Fianna Fail by another Government. To my mind, there is nothing sicker than that because no sane person believes for one single, solitary second——

And no person, sane or insane, heard me say it.

This debate will be over, but I will bring it to the notice of the Minister.

On the Adjournment?

I am sure the fact that we have the right to raise matters on the Adjournment must be a source of great annoyance. It annoyed Deputy MacEntee yesterday and it seems to be annoying the Minister now. I would not mention it too often if the Minister wants to get home early tonight as he might tempt me.

I never go home early.

The Minister tempts me very much. He does not go home early. Mark you, the Minister could because this place will be here after he has gone home. Do not let anybody fall victim to the illusion that we are indespensable because, when all of us are gone, this place will still be here, and probably doing far better.

The Minister interrupted, intentionally no doubt, my trend of thought. I was talking about this question of the provision of an alternative Government. The Irish people will look after this question of alternative Governments. They are to be trusted with the job of electing those they feel are best fitted to represent their interests. Regardless of what Deputy P.J. Lenihan says, and he must move in a very fanatical Fianna Fáil circle if he has heard nothing but assurances that this thing is going like a bomb, the reverse is the case, believe me. I am pretty catholic in my political acquaintanceship and I have yet to hear anybody, bar those who are injected with the serum at birth—they are few in number and becoming fewer every day—say that this proposal has any chance of success. I doubt even that the Minister has any notion that it will succeed. I certainly believe that the Parliamentary Secretary, if the truth were told, is not blessing the day when this ball was first bounced on the floor of Dáil Éireann. It has in it not alone defeat for this Government but the seeds of self-destruction for the Government Party.

I am sure the Deputy is worried about it.

I am not particularly worried about the Government Party's destruction at all. I am just trying to parse and analyse, so far as one can reasonably do so——

——what drives people to these commitments.

Just "syn".

Is it that their palate for power has become so jaded they want to cast aside all further power?

It is an extraordinary situation. It may very well be that the Minister has forced his will upon the Cabinet. It may be, and this may be the key to it, that the Taoiseach and some others are anxious to opt out of the race and this is one way of doing it, this is one possible way of doing it.

The race will never be held on Saturday if this keeps going.

It is not my intention to keep going and boring the House as has been done so adequately by the Minister on other occasions, but I thought it desirable that we should make our position clear at this last moment in consideration of this Bill. The Labour Party, as I have said— the Parliamentary Secretary was not here but I will repeat it for him——

I heard the Deputy. I was listening in.

You attracted him in.

The Labour Party is not, contrary to what has been stated by certain people, in danger of annihilation. It will never be annihilated. In so far as some of us are concerned it would not make any difference what you did with the constituencies—turn them upside down, on their heads; put them sideways, any way you like—we would have representation because we have the support of the people. Labour men are stronger in this sense than probably any other individuals in the House because, whereas others have to depend on political Party tags to gain entry here, most of the Labour men —not all of them—gain entry here by virtue of their own hard, solid work and you will not beat that, no matter how you twist the electoral system.

It is on the matter of fairness to the citizens and on the matter of principle that we most strenuously object to the passage of this Bill. We know it will go through. We know it will go before the people. We are told it will be brought before the electorate somewhere about October. Whenever it is, beyond question it will be hammered into the earth and when that happens, all we can hope is that the harm of the year may go with it.

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.

I do not propose to speak at length because the attitude of the Labour Party to these proposals has been adequately expressed. But it is difficult to sit here and listen to the confused thinking of Fianna Fáil spokesmen and the confused reasons they allege compelled them to bring these Bills before the House and to pose the public the problem of deciding for a second time in a short number of years whether they wish to stand by the fairest system of voting in all these islands, in the Continent of Europe and indeed practically throughout the world.

Having regard to this aspect of the matter, we might well ask if by some miracle Fianna Fáil manage to become the Government again under the system of proportional representation, will they in another ten years or so again come to the House with a proposal to amend the electoral system? Having been beaten for a second time, will they try it out for a third time in desperation?

The contradictions that have come from Fianna Fáil spokesmen from the Minister down are somewhat extraordinary, to say the least. At one stage we are told that the purpose of an election is not to elect a Parliament but to elect a Government. Then we get a contribution from Deputy Gibbons, who starts off by telling us that it is quite likely a situation will arise in his constituency of Roscommon under the proposals here in which there will be four Independent Deputies. In other words, four people will be elected who were known locally in various parts of the constituency and who will sit as Independent Deputies. If you take that argument to its logical conclusion, you could well have half this House composed of Independent Deputies. Where then would your strong Government be? Where would any Government be? You would have a situation where the majority of Deputies would, like the Fianna Fáil Government at present, be committed to one thing only—the retention of their seats in this House. There appears to be a lot of concern among the ranks of Fianna Fáil at all levels as to their future. No matter what their protestations are about the single-member constituency with the so-called direct vote providing an opportunity for a change of Government, it is becoming increasingly clear that they are concerned about the question of self-preservation.

Have the Government and the Fianna Fáil spokesmen, including some of the backbenchers who have been dragged out of their holes to make some kind of show, any consideration for the Irish people in this matter? It is all right to say that the people will make the decision. We know they will make a decision against the Fianna Fáil proposals. It is all right for Deputy Gibbons and other Fianna Fáil Deputies to say they have a right to go to the people to look for a change in the Constitution. But the extraordinary thing is that there are discussions about many other Articles of the Constitution. In the course of those discussions, the view was expressed that other Articles might well be examined and be the subject of a referendum. But the Government did not think it worth while to consult the people on any of the other matters referred to in the report as being worthy of being included in a referendum, and to ask what their view was in connection with these other matters. The only issue that was to be put to the people was: will you change the system of election?

We are continually being told that the single-member constituency and so-called direct vote gives a representative result. It could result in a Government elected with the support of a minority on the basis of "winner-takes-all" in any constituency. It has been demonstrated again and again in many places that this type of voting system which is proposed can readily result in a Party that receives 47 or 48 per cent of the votes getting, not 50 per cent, but 60 or 70 per cent of the seats.

Government spokesmen repeatedly say that they are concerned not only with the question of the election of a Government—this is what they keep on talking about—but also the election of representatives able to speak on behalf of the people they represent. I do not know even now if the political Parties here are fully recognised except for the recognition that Fianna Fáil wish to give, so far as they are concerned, but any Deputy nominated by a political Party to represent it in his constituency, if elected, cannot truly at the same time represent the views and policies and thoughts of people in his constituency who disagree fundamentally with the policies and views of his Party. It may and does happen under the present system of PR, and it would happen under any system, that elected representatives feel an obligation to serve their constituents as regards personal and other matters. Is it suggested in an area where there may well be 40 per cent of the electorate supporting not just a Fianna Fáil candidate but whatever policy Fianna Fáil put forward at a particular time, and 30 per cent supporting Fine Gael policies and the remaining 30 per cent supporting Labour Party policies which differ fundamentally from the other two, that under a system which would return only one Deputy for that area— in this case it would be a Fianna Fáil Deputy—he could represent and speak in this House on behalf of people who disagree fundamentally with the policies his Party represent?

If the circumstances were reversed and the Labour Party Deputies were returned with 40 per cent of the vote as against 60 per cent for the other Parties I do not think a conscientious Labour Deputy could say that he was going to change his policies or get his Party to change them on fundamental matters because the majority of people in his constituency did not agree with them.

He might resign.

I would not resign in the circumstances. He would deal with the lesser issues, the problems of people looking for things, but certainly he would be politically dishonest if he were to suggest that he could be a good representative for a Fianna Fáil point of view in that constituency. Of course he could not, because he would be representing a Labour policy, Labour principles and thought. I would hope that, even though Fianna Fáil do not appear to have any policy, whatever vestige of policy they may have would actually be represented by a Fianna Fáil Deputy and that the Fine Gael Deputy would represent something other than the fact that he had a Fine Gael badge in his buttonhole.

These sharp differences and distinctions in policies will grow rather than dwindle in the future. We are getting away from the situation in which Fianna Fáil spokesmen could calmly assume, as they have done, that they represent everybody's views. Over the years we know they have represented the views of those with power, of what might be termed the financial and industrial establishment. What we are concerned with in the Labour Party in regard to this matter is that political developments should take place in an ordered democratic system that would afford any significant section of the community not only the right but the opportunity to have spokesmen elected to Dáil Éireann to express their views, whether we would like these views or not. We are, and have been, at all times conscious of the need here to ensure that minority opinion has full expression and full rights. Minority opinion has no rights under this proposal for the single-member constituencies and so-called direct voting because the majority in any single-seat constituency operates on the basis of "winner-takes-all".

One is not surprised to hear different Fianna Fáil spokesmen, whether at ministerial or other level, putting three or four different points of view at the same time. One spokesman from Fianna Fáil has said the main purpose of the Bills is to secure strong Government, with all that it entails. Another spokesman was saying that from his point of view as a backbencher what Fianna Fáil were trying to do was to make a change which in a constituency like Roscommon might not be repeated in other parts of the country. It could very easily result not in a strong government but in the election of a number of local men, Independents, attached to no Party whatsoever. In other words, they are saying: "Reduce the constituency a bit more and turn the election into a ward-heeling operation."

Deputy Gibbons talked about a lack of choice. Under the present system not only have people a choice of whatever Party they wish to support but they also have the choice as to the candidates from that Party they wish to support. They have exercised that choice in recent times by indicating a preference for people who were not the leading candidates in the Party in a particular area. That would not apply under these proposals. If these proposals were accepted there would be no choice of candidate; there would be only one candidate from each party.

In my own constituency, Dublin North-East, Fianna Fáil had four candidates from which people could choose in the last election; they returned two, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Haughey, and the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Colley. However, if the Fianna Fáil supporters in Dublin North-East had decided they did not want those two Deputies, they could have chosen the other two. In the case of the Labour Party, there were three Labour candidates to choose from. Fine Gael had four candidates in that constituency. The people could show their preference not only for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or Labour but also for various candidates in those Parties.

A fair do.

Yes, a fair do.

They might see Fine Gael will not have a front bench choice the next time.

Fianna Fáil have had their troubles. The Minister is the only member of the Fianna Fáil Front Bench who was not running for Taoiseach six months ago, the only reason being that nobody would vote for him.

The present system gives the people a choice. Fianna Fáil want to remove that choice from the people. They want to bring about a situation where in any constituency the Party will decide on one candidate. If they were honest, they would admit that what they are really saying to the people is: "You are not voting for a candidate; you are voting for a Party." They could have adverted to the situation in regard to PR in West Germany where the people do not vote for an individual candidate but for the Party. The Party candidate is elected on the basis of the number of first preference votes for the Party. However, we are not discussing that. The purpose of this Government is to remove from the people this choice not only of Party but even of candidates of another Party.

What choice do the Labour Party give in most of the constituencies in the country?

Is the Deputy thinking of moving over to them now?

He tried over here and we would not take him.

Stop talking nonsense. Deputy Faulkner will put the Deputy in his box.

I was in front of both himself and the Tánaiste the last time.

The Deputy will be aware that there is an increasing number of Labour candidates being put up at each election, and this will continue. The Labour Party, of course, have not been in the position of having the unending purse of Fianna Fáil with Taca behind them.

Have you not got the trade unions?

Fianna Fáil have unlimited coffers to dip into on the promise of political patronage.

We did not steal it.

Deputies will have ample opportunity of discussing the role of Fianna Fáil as against that of the Labour Party in the future. What they are concerned with is that the Fianna Fáil Party, who have been putting forward arguments indicating that they have some concern for the people, have twice in a matter of ten years attempted to remove from the people a very fair system of voting. That is not a bad effort.

The people will decide that, not the Government.

The people have decided.

Interruptions are not in order.

I raised a question in opening my remarks, as to whether, when this proposal is defeated by the people, if on a future occasion by some miracle a Fianna Fáil Government are again in office, they will make another attempt to save themselves? Will they again want to introduce the same Bill and have a third go at it?

Robert Bruce is only trotting after them.

The position of the Labour Party has been made quite clear. For a considerable period, we have avoided unnecessary talk on the Bill because, once the Government say they will force it through, we know it will go through. It is necessary to reiterate at this stage that the Government have one selfish self-centred notion. They are introducing this in the hope that by some miracle it will be accepted and Fianna Fáil will continue in office for a longer period. They will not be there for very long with the present trend.

Six out of seven.

There are young Fianna Fáil Deputies who came into this House after the last election. If they get back again, they will have long grey beards before they will sit on the Front Bench of any Government.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle——

Is that supposed to be a fair allocation of time?

The Chair points out that of the last four speakers, two were Fianna Fáil and two were Labour.

There are only two sides here. Fianna Fáil should get a fair share of the time.

If the Minister is making a charge against the Chair, there is a procedure which he can adopt but he cannot bully the Chair.

I am not trying to bully the Chair.

It will not work.


The purpose of this Bill is to decide whether or not the next general election will be held on the PR system. Therefore, the result of this election is a very relevant factor. It is a very important factor, apart from the manner of voting. Studies have been carried out for Fine Gael by Senator Garret FitzGerald and Senator Dooge separately and individually. I know studies have been carried out by Fianna Fáil and I know studies have been carried out by Labour. Each Party is entitled to proceed with these studies.

If everyone voted as they did in the county council elections, what would be the result in the next general election? Doctors differ and patients die. Punters, including myself, back horses and horses lose. There is such a thing as the form book and that is what is being studied by Fianna Fáil and particularly by the most politically clinical person, the Minister for Local Government, whose idea of humour is cryptic, to say the least of it. I want to develop this in the morning because it will take some time, on the basis not of the constituencies and not of the counties but on the very restricted basis of the electoral areas, of which there are five in my constituency. This point must be made and I shall develop it in the morning. If everyone voted as they did in the county council elections, the result would be 65 for Fianna Fáil, 55 for Fine Gael, 25 for Labour in a Dáil with one seat added. That is why we are having a referendum. Forget about the straight vote; forget about Deputy Norton's amendment; forget about the lot.

Six out of seven.

I see people looking at me who study the form book. Some are in the Lobby and some are in the House. The form book says quite clearly that Fianna Fáil will not have an overall majority after the next general election.

We heard it before, Joe.

The exercise is quite simple and quite clear, to throw democracy aside and to proceed step by step to the referendum. Throw in Deputy Norton's amendment and see what happens with it. Juggle with it. The Taoiseach, perhaps, has said too many things too many times. The Minister for Local Government has burned the boats, and no better man to do it. Fianna Fáil decided that despite the fact that the pundits said they were beaten, that they were down the field, it would be better to go on and be defeated than to withdraw at this stage. Perhaps they are drunk with power. The great boast of Fianna Fáil at present is that they have won six out of seven by-elections.

A discussion on the by-elections is not in order.

With respect, I suggest that the results of the by-elections have a great bearing on the referendum. We got 1,000 more votes in the Limerick by-election than we ever got in that constituency before.

It was a moral victory but you lost the seat.

The Labour Party increased their strength in the city areas so it is quite clear that there will be a change of Government. Fianna Fáil will not get an overall majority. Fine Gael have not got it, or Labour. Whose policy is closest to them?

Debate adjourned.