I have great sympathy with Senator Milroy, but we would be only doing ourselves harm if we were to adjourn because no person is present to represent the Government. This is a Bill to abolish this House and nothing that will be said here will have the faintest effect, so far as the Government is concerned. That does not mean that what is being said here will not have great effect upon people, many of whom will be very anxious to read what is being said here. If this Bill passes, I think the arguments for either a referendum for constitutional amendments, or the delay of such amendments until the next general election, will be unanswerable.
The supposed justification for this revolutionary measure, and it is a revolutionary measure as it now stands, seems to rest on three main arguments:—
(1) That the present Seanad does not do its work adequately or impartially, and should be abolished. (2) That the Government received a mandate for this Bill at the last election. (3) That, on the whole, Single Chamber Government is best, and that at any rate the President is unable to discover any satisfactory method of electing a Second Chamber which would be worth the cost to the State.
These seem to me to be the three main arguments I can get out of the debates. A great many side issues were introduced into the debate in the Dáil, some of which I will deal with briefly later on. The three main arguments would seem to be those which I have mentioned, and I ask the indulgence of the House to enable me to deal with them in detail.
The first and main argument is the real or supposed partiality of the Seanad in its work and it has been stated again and again that the Seanad serves no useful purpose and that it has never defended the liberties of the people. That kind of statement supported by a few instances of the Seanad's action will of course go down well on Party platforms, and I often wonder would we hear the same kind of argument if the President and his followers had taken their seats in the Dáil at the establishment of the Free State, and if, as would probably be the case, they now had a majority in this House. I have always stated that I would welcome attempts to improve the constitution of or methods of election to the Seanad, but I do not, for one moment, admit that the charges levelled against it by certain Ministers and by the rank and file of the Fianna Fáil Party are either fair or accurate.
I have been a member of this House since its inception. I have missed comparatively few of its sittings and I am convinced that any impartially-minded man, even in the Fianna Fáil Party, who will take the trouble to go through its proceedings from the beginning will be forced to admit that there is an honourable record of useful work and most of it work which is rarely, if ever, done in the popular Chamber of any country. Bills have been carefully examined and revised and, except on a few big political issues, there has been a minimum of Party feeling. The suggestion that the general idea is to obstruct the Government is untrue. In 11 years, seven Bills have been delayed—two under the last Government and five under this. Does the Government imagine that all the Bills passed by this House since it came into power had the approval of the majority? Some, it is true, won general assent, but very many were passed because the House did not consider it the function of a Second Chamber to delay them having regard to the recognised policy of the Executive. Take the five that were held up; two were constitutional amendments, and two were alterations to local government franchise. The fifth would have given powers to the Executive which the majority of the House believed would be used against the constitutional Opposition. I am not discussing their merits now, but I would ask the President if he were here would he not have taken the same action if he had believed the same as we did, would he not have taken exactly the same action? I believe that any independent constitutional expert would agree that these are just the kind of Bills which it is right and reasonable for a Second Chamber to delay. The strongest argument against the Seanad that I know of is that it should have delayed more Bills in the past, especially those which amended the Constitution. Even granting its faults, I am convinced that, when events of the present time come to be reviewed by an impartial historian, there will be very little serious criticism of this House as to the manner in which it has fulfilled its functions as a Second Chamber.
When the Bill which proposed to reduce the delaying powers of this House was being considered, Senator O'Hanlon contributed a very useful speech setting out the way in which this House had endeavoured to safeguard the liberties of the people. I, also, made a long speech, which was carefully prepared and which set out in detail the work of the Seanad: that has been further very usefully supplemented by you, Sir, to-day. I have been unable to find in the debates in the Dáil or elsewhere any attempt to answer or reply in detail to either of these speeches. I wonder did the President trouble to read them? The only answer I have seen is a repetition of the old falsehood that the Seanad has never done any really useful work.
But even if, for the sake of argument, it is admitted that the present Seanad does not do its work in a proper or satisfactory way, that is no argument for the abolition of a bicameral legislature, much less for the establishment of a Single House in which the majority has absolute power, which I repeat is the proposal before us to-day in this Bill.
There was, however, one part of the President's speech which seemed to admit that there is a need for the revisory work which has been done by this House. I will quote his words:
"We could, of course, adopt here the system they have in Norway. It has been operated successfully in Norway over a considerable period. They have frankly faced that situation. What they do in Norway is that after an election they select from the House a number of the members who form what is called a Second House. That Second House has certain functions. If there is any difference of opinion it is resolved within three days by bringing the two Houses together as one. We could, by changing the Standing Orders, provide that there be a committee of the House selected for the purpose that would re-examine Bills, after they have got to a certain stage here, from the point of view of improving them and so on, and they could, if we desired it, impose such a delay as will be thought advisable in any particular case."
(Dáil Reports, Vol. 51, Col. 2142).
Such a committee, set up by Standing Orders, would be almost worthless. It would be at the mercy of the majority, and when the Executive were in a hurry Standing Orders would be suspended and the committee dispensed with. The President admits as much when he says such delay could be imposed as was thought advisable in any particular case.
It is rather a pity that the President did not give the Dáil a little more information about the actual position in Norway when he suggested that the Saorstát might possibly accept the system in operation in that country. It is very different indeed from the situation which will exist here if this Bill becomes law. In Norway the Second Chamber is created by the Lower House which, immediately after an election, proceeds to select one quarter of its members proportionately according to Parties, and these selected members form the Upper Chamber, which has its own President and staff, and which remains unchanged (except for casual vacancies) until the next general election. It might be expected that a House so elected would always agree with the Lower House, but in fact differences do occur. The President said that these differences are settled within three days by bringing the two Houses together as one. I wonder how he calculated the three days. He omitted to mention that the two Houses in Norway do not meet together until the Upper House has twice rejected a Bill from the Lower House, and that when they do meet together a two-thirds majority is necessary to pass the Bill. The President also failed to tell the Dáil that even when a two-thirds majority of the two Houses sitting together passes an amendment to the constitution it does not become law until after the next general election, and even then it must be passed again by a two-thirds majority of the newly elected Parliament during the first or second ordinary session.
Norway takes adequate steps to safeguard its Constitution, and if in the future the Government decide to propose the adoption of the system in Norway, it is to be hoped that they will not leave out its most important provisions. The committee which drafted the Constitution of the Saorstát very carefully examined the Norwegian Constitution and, although they recognised its merits, they did not consider that it would provide the best kind of Second Chamber for this country. The general standard of political knowledge is very high in Norway and it is probably because of this fact that this method of electing a Second Chamber has proved practicable. It would not work satisfactorily in this country. I do not believe that the ablest members of the Dáil could be persuaded to form themselves into a Second Chamber. No Senate that does its work effectively can expect the same publicity as is given to the House which controls the Executive, and the elected members of the Dáil, who formed the Upper House, would not enhance their chances of re-election by so doing. If, however, it proved possible to persuade the ablest members of the present Dáil to become a Seanad, I am afraid the Dáil itself would suffer and would become a mere machine for registering Executive decisions.
The second argument used in support of the Bill is that the Government are carrying out a mandate. This I suggest is absurd. In a manifesto issued just before the election, the President said:—
"We propose to abolish the Seanad as at present constituted and if it be decided to retain a Second Legislative Chamber, it is our intention to reduce considerably the number of its members."
How this can be construed as a mandate for this Bill which gives absolute power to a bare majority in one House is beyond my powers of comprehension, but if it satisfies the conscience of the Government, I do not suppose there is any use arguing it here. But I would put it to the President that he has no right to use the powers he has been entrusted with by the people to alter the Constitution in such a way that a bare majority can do anything and everything, until the people have been consulted. And I would remind him that we are legislating not only for this Government but also for its successors, whoever they may be.
The people are the rulers in this State, and if they wish to elect a Single Chamber with absolute power to the majority, they can do so, but I repeat that I do not believe any democratic parliament has a right to take this power to itself without directly consulting the people. A considerable part of the President's speech at the conclusion of the Second Stage of the Bill in the Dáil consisted of arguments in favour of Single Chamber government, and he made some extraordinary statements, which, in my opinion, he failed entirely to prove. He stated that:—
"The more modern thinkers who are dealing with present day affairs and conditions are gradually coming to the conclusion that, when all is said and done, a Single Chamber parliament is the wisest."
My reading leads me to the exact contrary view. There are, of course, Party politicians in many countries who wish to abolish the Upper House, but I cannot think of any modern writer, of first-class standing, on general constitutional subjects who advocates Single Chamber government. I would be glad if the President would let me know the names of the modern authorities to whom he refers, as I would like to read them. The quotation he gave in his speech was from the third Earl Grey, who wrote in 1853, which is not my idea of a modern writer. Incidentally, I may mention that from Greville's Memoirs we learn that the third Earl Grey was mainly characterised by
"his contempt for the opinion of others, and the tenacity with which he clung to his own."
Referring to the fact that most democratic countries have Second Chambers, the President stated:—
"When we reflect on how these countries, in the main, got these Second Chambers, we begin to lose much of our admiration for them."
Later on he stated:—
"These Second Chambers, for the most part arising from historical causes, have been due to the fact that the people did not get completely into their own."
He did not in that speech make any attempt to proves these statements except by reference to the House of Lords, and I respectfully suggest to this House that these statements do not fit in with the facts. The large majority of European Constitutions were created at a much later date than 1853, which the President regards as modern. A very large number were passed by constituent assemblies, elected on a democratic franchise, and I find no support, except in the case of England, for the President's statements. If he will examine the various Constitutions of Europe he will find that the old Second Chambers depending on historical causes and on privilege have been swept away, but that the large majority of European countries created new Second Chambers to take their place, and that most of the present Upper Houses in Europe are not due to the people having failed to come into their own, but are the result of the deliberate choice of the people, democratically expressed through their representatives, in favour of a bicameral Legislature. Why not get our minds away from England and British precedent and see if we cannot profit a little from the experience of other European countries?
In view of the President's arguments, I propose to give this House some details of the present provisions in the European countries which maintain the bicameral system, and I trust the President will let us know what it is in the origins of these Second Chambers that makes him "lose admiration for them."
Of the European Constitutions now in force, the oldest are:—Sweden, created in 1809; Norway, in 1814—he approves of Norway—Belgium, in 1836; Holland, in 1848; Switzerland, in 1874, and France, in 1875. All of these have, of course, been amended since these dates, and in none of them are the present Second Chambers representative of privilege. In Sweden the Second Chamber is elected on almost universal suffrage by persons of 24 years of age and upwards, and I have already referred in detail to the system in Norway. In Belgium two-thirds of the Senate is elected and one-third co-opted from distinguished citizens. The Dutch Senate is elected by local government bodies, which themselves are elected by the universal suffrage. In Switzerland the Upper House represents the Cantons, and no one will question the democratic character of the Swiss Constitution. The Senate in France is elected by the French and Colonial Departments. All the other bicameral States in Europe have modern Constitutions. In Hungary the Constitution was adopted in 1920 by a National Constituent Assembly elected on universal suffrage. The same applies to Austria, but the date was 1919. The Czecho-Slovakian Constitntion was also passed by a democratically elected Constituent Assembly in 1918. Rumania had a new Constitution in 1923. The present Danish Constitution dates from 1915 when the old Upper House was abolished and a new Second Chamber created, the members of which are elected by electoral colleges. Greece used to be unicameral, but in 1926 a new democratic Constitution was adopted with two Houses of Parliament. The new Portuguese Constitution of 1933 provided for two Houses and was passed into law after being submitted to a plebiscite of the people. Yugo-Slavia was unicameral, but in 1929 a kind of dictatorship was established. In 1931 a new Constitution was proclaimed with two Houses of Parliament.
The only independent States in Europe which have Single Chamber Constitutions—and I think I am up-to-date—are Turkey, Esthonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Finland and Spain. Surely this list is in itself significant. Is there one country in the list which the Saorstát would wish to follow? It was suggested in the Dáil—I think by the President, but I am not sure—that it was up to those who believe in a Second Chamber to prove that Single Chamber government has been a failure where it has been tried. It has never been tried in the revolutionary form which this Bill proposes. I showed in my speech in this House a fortnight ago that almost all European States, whether bicameral or unicameral, safeguard their Constitutions against hasty or ill-considered amendment. I need not give the details again. But even in the form in which it has been tried, it is clear that Single Chamber government has been anything but a success. It is perhaps too soon to judge the results of the Spanish experiment, but it has certainly failed so far to give stability or contented government to Spain, and the attitude of the first Single Chamber in that country to religion was condemned by every right-minded person in the Saorstát.
Finland has a Single Chamber Government more in name than in fact, for the President there is elected by electors chosen by popular vote at a different time to the elections for the Parliament. He is not responsible to the House and he has all the usual powers of a Second Chamber. He can initiate legislation. He amends Bills passed by the Parliament and returns them for consideration, and he can delay Bills until after the next general election. Every one of the remaining Single Chamber countries has a record of marked political instability and I would suggest to the President that he should study their recent history.
Two of them, Bulgaria and Latvia, have recently established dictatorships; two others, Turkey and Esthonia, have altered their constitutions in order to give such power to their Presidents as to create virtual dictatorships. Of the remaining country—Lithuania—we find it recorded in Europa, which is a recognised authority on European affairs, that
"Stability has not been a marked characteristic of the Governments, nor of the political situation generally."
In 1926, a Government of the Left was overthrown by military force. The Clerical Cabinet that followed had a precarious existence until the Premier resigned after an attempt to assassinate him.
Four of the States with Single Chambers were previously under the old Russian Empire and naturally the standard of political education is backward in these countries. Every allowance must be made for the circumstances, but the fact remains that the general record of most Single Chamber Parliaments has been instability and uncertainty. Just the very situation we wish to avoid in this country while we are endeavouring to build up our State and our trade and industry.
The speech made by the President on the Final Stage of this Bill in the Dáil contained a great deal of argument which he himself admitted was not strictly relevant. I find it difficult to resist the temptation to deal with some of the subjects introduced by him, but I will content myself with referring only to two parts of his speech which have a direct bearing on the Bill. He seemed to quote John Stuart Mill as an advocate of Single Chamber government, and I think he was not correct in doing so. Marriott opens his book on Second Chambers with a quotation from John Stuart Mill, which I think worth reading to the House. Mill wrote:—
"A majority in a Single Assembly, when it has assumed a permanent character—when composed of the same persons habitually acting together, and always assured of victory in their own House— easily become despotic and overweening if released from the necessity of considering whether its acts will be concurred in by another constituted authority. The same reason which induced the Romans to have two consuls makes it desirable there should be two Chambers; that neither of them may be exposed to the corrupting influence of undivided power, even for the space of a single year."
The President also made an extraordinary and a very one-sided attack on the French Senate. He mentioned that Gambetta only accepted a Senate as a compromise, but he omitted to mention that afterwards Gambetta became its staunch supporter and in 1882 declared that the principle of two Chambers.
"is the guiding principle of all democratic government."
Mr. de Valera, having described the French Senate as "equally bad" when compared with the House of Lords, and stated that the average age of French Senators is about 60 years, went on to say:—
"Their history is that they have been uniformly a force acting against ordinary modern social development. They opposed old age pensions. They opposed the abolition of child labour. They opposed holidays for workers. They opposed the income tax law and, up to this day, they have prevented the enfranchisement of women. In other words they have been uniformly opposed to the modern conception of democratic freedom and democratic right."
For the head of the Government of this State, who is also Minister for External Affairs, to use language such as this in regard to one House of Parliament of a great and friendly neighbour, without adverting to the valuable work done for the nation by that House, would seem to be, to say the least of it, indiscreet, even if it were a fair statement of the facts, which I very much doubt.
The leading authority, I am assured, on political science in France is Professor Joseph Barthélemy. In his book, "Le Gouvernement de la France," published first in 1919, he devotes a chapter to an examination of the composition and functions of the Senate. He remarks at the outset:—
"The Senate is charged, in the Constitution, with a mission of moderation, of balance, of stability. Its duty is to offer a resistance, at least for the time being, to the ill-considered impulses of the Chamber of Deputies, who are younger, more numerous and a more direct product of universal suffrage."
I should mention that my quotations are from the 1924 edition, and were made from the original French by a friend with a good knowledge of the language, who very kindly gave me his assistance. M. Barthélemy proceeds to show how the Senate is equipped for this work and how in his opinion it discharges it satisfactorily. If anyone is inclined to accept the President's words as a fair statement of the facts, I would advise him to read M. Barthélemy's book. His method is obviously fair and reasoned and he sets out in detail the points in regard to which the French Senate has been the target of criticism. It is a significant fact that the very charges made against the French Senate by Mr. de Valera are identical with those adduced by M. Barthélemy, and more remarkable still, they are quoted by the President, with one exception, in exactly the same order as in M. Barthélemy's book. As this can scarcely be mere coincidence, I assume that the book is the source of Mr. de Valera's information, and, if so, I am amazed that a man in his position and with his responsibility should use the criticisms of M. Barthélemy without at the same time giving his rebuttal of them.
Professor Barthélemy is clearly convinced of the value of the Senate, of which he is a very strong supporter, and summarises his conclusions under five heads, (a) to (e), as follows, which, I think, I should read:—
"(a) All delays in legislation cannot be attributed to the Senate."
He points out that the Chamber has its share of responsibility. He mentions in particular that there has been general agreement in favour of reform of the judiciary and in favour of the suppression of the scandal of public executions, and asks why no action has been taken by the Chamber.
"(b) When we reckon the instances of opposition by the Senate, we must take into account the fact that these are frequently discounted by the Chamber itself."
Professor Barthélemy mentions that the Chamber not infrequently passes scamped or unsuitable Bills with the knowledge that the Senate will either revise or reject them. It is interesting to note that M. Guyot, another well-known authority and an ex-Minister, concurs, and states that the Chamber deliberately accepts proposals which are dangerous, in the hope and belief that they will be rejected by the Senate.
"(c) The fact that there are two Houses does not constitute an obstacle to really urgent reforms."
M. Barthélemy gives examples of urgent measures passed promptly by both Houses, including a law to deal with the anarchist menace, passed in one day in 1894.
"(d) Laws are never passed with sufficient slowness from the point of view of their draftmanship."
"(e) Laws ought to be made slowly from the fundamental point of view."
He deals under these heads with the value of delay and mentions that
"a few good laws are worth more than many which are bad or simply mediocre."
He also points out that the example of countries where a Referendum exists, shows that persons in political positions are often quite wrong in their ideas of what the people desire.
The Professor concludes the chapter with the following significant words:—
"The existence of a Second Chamber is the fundamental institution of all organised democracy."
I have referred at length to the French Senate, because I felt that the attack made on that body by the President should not be allowed to pass unchallenged. There is not, I am reliably informed, one writer of importance on political science in France who favours Single Chamber government.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce, in his speech on the Second Reading, attempted to discredit this House by appealing to ignorance and prejudice. He spoke of
"the Granards and the Jamesons and the like,"
presumably alluding to ex-Unionists, who have been or are members of this House. He did not go to the trouble of ascertaining the facts. The ex-Unionists have never been in a majority in this House at any time. The Minister stated that the balance of power in the Seanad is held by a group that could not get one seat at any general election. I presume he refers to the group to which I have belonged for the past six years. His statement is not true. In the first place, this group, which now consists of nine members, does not hold, and never did hold, the balance of power in this House, and in the second place, one of its members was elected directly by the people in a Seanad election. There are several members of the group who, like the Minister, reside in County Dublin, and they would have just as good, if not a better chance of election to the Dáil in that constituency as the Minister himself. The members of this group are not all ex-Unionists. The late Senator Mrs. Stopford Green was a loyal member of the group, and I do not believe she was ever a Unionist, and I can truthfully say that I myself have never ceased to work for the political independence of this country.
The reference to the Granards and the Jamesons was unworthy of any man in a responsible position. Lord Granard has always favoured self-government— he is an Irishman with large interests in this country and I see no reason why he should not be a member of its Parliament. He does not, however, happen to be a member of the group referred to by the Minister. I find it hard to find words to express my disgust at the reference to Senator Jameson. I know of no man more loyal, or who has given more unselfish service to this country than Senator Jameson. He was, perhaps, more than anyone else, instrumental in arranging the truce which ended the war with England. He has never allowed his past political opinions to interfere with his work for the good of his country. When Mr. de Valera invited me to go to see him, with a view to bringing the civil war to an end, we discussed the names of various persons who might be associated with me in carrying on negotiations with the Cosgrave Government, and when the name of Senator Jameson was mentioned, Mr. de Valera expressed his opinion that he knew him to be a man of the highest honour and integrity, and that he felt sure he would be willing to help his country. At the close of the negotiations a report was prepared by Senator Jameson and myself and shown to Mr. de Valera, who sent me a letter stating that the report gave a strictly accurate account of the negotiations, and that he considered it perfectly fair to his point of view. This report was read to the Seanad in order that the public might know exactly what had taken place in a manner that would be quite fair to both sides. The Minister for Industry and Commerce may not have personal knowledge of the work done by Senator Jameson, but no one knows better than the President how ready he has been to serve this country, and I was very surprised indeed that the President did not immediately repudiate the attack that was so unjustifiably made upon the Senator by one of his Ministers.
It was the considered policy of the Provisional Government to do everything possible to make it easy for the political and religious minority in this country to co-operate in the building up of the new State and in doing so they were only carrying out the avowed policy of Arthur Griffith and Sinn Féin. The Constitution provided for this in three ways:—By proportional representation, by university representation in the Dáil, and by a special minority nomination during the first 12 years of the Seanad. The Government this year propose to reverse this policy. They are trying to abolish both the Seanad and university representation, and they are endeavouring seriously to minimise the value of proportional representation to a small minority by greatly increasing the number of constituencies with only three members. Why are they so anxious to reduce minority representation? Theoretically, I admit, a majority has no obligation to facilitate a small minority in obtaining a share of the work of government. But is this change in the interests of the country as a whole? Is it wise, having regard to our desire to convince the Six Counties of the North that they should voluntarily join the rest of Ireland? To my mind, it is quite wrong and foolish even from the point of view of Fianna Fáil.
Most persons who belonged to the old political minority have accepted the Saorstát and are amongst its most loyal citizens, although they may not support the Fianna Fáil Party. If this Government ever hope to bring about a united Ireland they will have to convince Irishmen in the Six Counties that the rights of minorities will be fully respected. The fears of Ulster Unionists may seem to us to be unreasonable and absurd, but they are genuinely held by many people and they will not be lessened when a responsible Minister objects to a Second Chamber because it contains "Grandards and Jamesons" and a small independent group of nine members, most of whom were ex-Unionists. The President is right when he states that a properly governed State with stable conditions is going to have more attraction for people in the Six Counties than anything at the present time, but his policy is in the opposite direction, and he is now proposing to set up Single Chamber government. which has been followed by either instability or dictatorship, or both, in almost every country which has adopted it.
Dictatorships have grown out of mass discontent and dissatisfaction with governmental and political conditions. Young people anxious to do something for their country have grown impatient with Party politics. Much that is good and admirable has been achieved at the cost of individual political freedom, which is a price that I, for one, would not willingly pay in this country. What I most object to in Nazism and Fascism is the assertion of the absolute supremacy of the State over the individual. There is not much danger in the Saorstát of an individual dictator, but I believe there is a grave danger of a dictatorial State, which under the guise of democracy will govern autocratically, and slowly but surely suppress all opinion, no matter how honest, which is opposed to it. During the past few years more and more autocratic power has been given to the Executive, and if you will compare the powers which were given to the Executive under the Constitution in 1922 with the powers they now enjoy, you will see that the Saorstát has already progressed a considerable way on the road to the dictatorial State. But the Government is not satisfied with those powers. The more power they have, the more they want. The Seanad is in the way, therefore it must go. It cannot veto legislation, but it can insist on its being fully discussed, and it may even delay it for 18 months, or until a general election. And the abolition of the Seanad gives a good opportunity to add to the powers of an Executive which has a subservient majority behind it, even if that majority is only one or two. The people may not notice that nothing is provided to take the place of the Seanad. They may not discover that power will be given to a bare majority to take away individual liberty until it is too late. In the future some Party or some Executive Council may find that free speech or the right of free assembly is in the way of their programme, and these things will go in a like manner, only with greater ease if this Bill passes into law. Perhaps some Executive will find it difficult to govern with a small majority and will abolish the Dáil. It has been done in other countries.
This is a Bill to make dictatorial government easy and it should not be passed into law until the people have had an opportunity of understanding what it means and expressing their opinion. Real democracy requires the cultivation of the type of mind which listens to every point of view and forms its opinion slowly and deliberately. Second Chamber government, if it functions properly, should ensure the calm consideration and examination of all important legislative proposals. It should bring into the affairs of the State persons who have ability and experience who are not unduly influenced by purely Party considerations and in most countries it has succeeded in doing so to a greater or lesser extent. This is an aid and not a hindrance to democracy and it is because they recognised this fact that so many of the new democratic states deliberately created bicameral parliaments. Without exception they found difficulty in creating satisfactory Second Chambers, but they preferred to have the best Second Chamber they could devise, rather than run the risks of Single Chamber government.
The Seanad sent a message to the Dáil suggesting the appointment of a joint committee to consider improvements in the present Second Chamber. They did not receive even the courtesy of a reply. The President stated in the Dáil that this would not be the best kind of a committee to consider the question. Why did he not take steps to set up another kind of committee to examine the methods adopted in other countries in the light of Irish circumstances and from their report it would not have been difficult to devise new methods of creating a Second Chamber which would have been worth trying? I am forced to the conclusion that the Government knew quite well that the better the Second Chamber the more effective it would be and therefore a greater check on an autocratic executive, and that this is the real reason why they did not set up any committee or take any serious steps to consider an alternative to the present Seanad.
It is our plain duty, not only to reject this Bill, but to do everything in our power to prevent its passing into law until the people of this country have had an adequate opportunity to understand what it means and until they have had an opportunity of expressing their opinion.