Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 1 Aug 1923

Vol. 1 No. 37



There are practically sixty clauses in this Bill. I do not propose, therefore, to go through it, save to give an opportunity to any Senator who wishes to move an amendment. I have only received notice of three amendments. If it is the wish of the Seanad I will simply deal with the amendments that have been sent in.

What will we do after this?


We will resume the Land Bill and, probably, you will arrive at some agreement as to the hour we should rise, so as to enable us to reach our homes.

I beg to move this amendment:—

Delete Part III. of the First Schedule and substitute the following:—



The expenses mentioned in Parts I and II of this Schedule, other than personal expenses, and the fee, if any, paid to the election agent (not exceeding, in the case of a county election, seventy-five pounds, and of a borough election, fifty pounds, without reckoning for the purposes of that limit any part of the fee which may have been included in the expenses first above mentioned), shall not exceed an amount equal—

in the case of a county election to sevenpence for each elector on the register;

in the case of an election for a borough to fivepence for each elector on the register.

Where there are two or more joint candidates at an election, the maximum amount of expenses in Parts I, II, and III of this Schedule shall, for each of the joint candidates, be the amount produced by multiplying a single candidate's maximum by one-and-a-half and dividing the result by the number of joint candidates.

This amendment proposes to fix the maximum that may be spent with regard to elections to the Oireachtas. I find that the figures quoted here are not correct. They were taken from a wrong Act. I propose the amendment for a basis of discussion and to test the feeling of the Seanad.


Your amendment will not come on until we reach the Schedule. There are two other short amendments here.

I wish to propose an amendment on similar lines to the one I proposed in the Electoral Bill, namely, "in Section 56, line 27, to insert after the word "County" the words "or other," so that it will read "County or other Borough." I had Kilkenny in my mind. There may be other Boroughs like Kilkenny which are not County Boroughs.

I beg to move in line 33 of Section 26 to add after the words "Committee of" the words "or wholly or partly appointed by." I find that there are Committees which are only partly appointed by public bodies and I think they should be included as Local Authorities under this definition. There are two in my mind, the County Insurance Committee and the Joint Technical Committee, and they should be included.

I accept that amendment.


As I was explaining, the figures given in my amendment are those taken from the Representation of the People Act, 1918. The amount will require to be smaller under Proportional Representation. But that is only a detail, the principle is fixing the amount. I understand that in the Dáil no maximum amount was fixed, principally on the ground that correct returns were never furnished and that the laws of bribery and corruption are so strict. There is a good deal in these arguments. It is only another instance of the inability to enforce necessary law. After all it is better to have a maximum, because it gives the opponent of a candidate who spends to excess an opportunity for lodging an election petition and having the election voided, and generally checking extravagant expenditure of that kind. We had in England recently a successful election petition, and I hope there will be an opportunity to do the same here in some cases at any rate. The very fact that there is a possible punishment there would in itself act as a check. But it is a dangerous backward step to abolish the maximum altogether. We have a lot of abuses to wipe out in connection with elections. In the interest of public morality we should have some check on abuses of this kind, and I think we should be able to enforce it.

I beg to support the amendment, as I think it is eminently necessary.

The reason that no maximum is provided in the Bill is the changed situation that has been produced by the introduction of Proportional Representation. It is very difficult to fix any maximum that will be fair to candidates in all constituencies and that will be equally fair to all sorts of candidates. Take the case of a constituency like Galway, which has nine members and is of large extent. An amount that would be fair to a candidate who is going to represent a small scattered minority over a whole county would be obviously far too much for some local worthy who is going to represent his own town.

If a man had to provide personation agents in every constituency it would take a great deal more than in the case of a man dealing with one small particular area. The same argument applies in the case of smaller constituencies. The same scale would not be fair in the case of a constituency with three members that would be fair in the case of a constituency of nine members. Another reason is that the maximum so far has been practically a delusion. Correct returns have practically never been presented at any rate in recent years. I know of an election where the return of the amount expended was £400, whereas it must have been £2,000 at least. We found when drafting the Bill that it would be well for the present at any rate to have no maximum and to rely on the clauses dealing with bribery, cheating, and all that. If there is no improper expenditure, except with bribery and corruption, it was felt that no harm would be likely to accrue from a fairly liberal expenditure, provided it was not spent on anything that was wrong in itself. After an election or two, with the experience and knowledge that would be gained from the revival of a practice, if there ever was such a practice, of presenting fairly accurate returns it would be possible to legislate further and prescribe some maximum.

It is not going to help much any particular class of candidate to have no maximum. Some people may say that the Labour Party would be severely handicapped, but I think it will be admitted in point of fact that they would not be handicapped by any freedom on the part of somebody who is rich to spend freely on legal and legitimate work under perfectly legal headings. It is not a matter about which I feel very strongly, but I think in view of the difficulty of fixing any satisfactory maximum that would be fair all round and that would press equally on various candidates, in view the fact that heretofore the law in fixing a maximum was a farce, and in view of the fact that it is thought that there will be no straight fight under Proportional Representation, a fairly free expenditure on the part of a candidate, if legitimate, would not be likely to have ill results, and therefore it would be better to leave the maximum out. If abuses should grow up they could be dealt with. People I have spoken to do not, however, fear that there will be any abuses.

I propose to support the amendment. I appreciate the difficulties there will be, but I think the argument in favour of giving it a trial is greater than the difficulties, some of which the Minister thinks are more to be feared than actual, that may arise in its application. If no limit of expenses is laid down I cannot see any advantage in having a return of expenditure sent in at all. The limit of expenses in ordinary elections not under Proportional Representation has been of enormous advantage to candidates of limited means and an enormous check on powerful organisations with large funds at their disposal. I do not think that the Seanad should lightly set the proposal aside.

Would the Minister tell us what the figures were in the last election?

I think it was 2d. all round.

With the permission of the Seanad I would like to amend my amendment to read 2d. in the case of County and 2d. in the case of Borough Elections so as to bring it into line. My recollection was that it was 5d. and 4d, but I may be wrong.

I think it would be better if the Seanad should really vote on any motion that would test the feeling on the principle, because if we were going to have a limit fixed it would be best to have something that would provide a sliding scale so as to have a limit in the larger constituencies. I think it is impossible to fix a limit that would be fair. I think that we should do something other than provide for a limit.


Shall I put in that there should be a limit of expenses. That would test the feeling in the Seanad. If the Seanad adopted it Senator O'Farrell could consult with the Minister and arrive at some scale. The amendment now proposes that the expenses under the Electoral Abuses Bill be limited.

Amendment declared carried.


I do not know whether the Minister is prepared to accept that in the Bill. If he is he could confer with Senator O'Farrell.

Very well, I will do so