Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 17 Jul 1968

Vol. 65 No. 15

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

D'atógadh an díospóireacht ar an leasú seo a leanas:
Debate resumed on the following amendment:
Go scriosfar na focail go léir i ndiaidh an fhocail "Go" agus go gcuirfear ina n-ionad:—
"ndiúltaíonn Seanad Éireann an Dara Léamh a thabhairt don Bhille um an Tríú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1968, ar an bhforas nach bhfuil aon éileamh ag an bpobal ar an togra atá sa Bhille agus nach bhfuil aon sásra sa Bhille chun teorannú dáilcheantar a chinneadh go neamhchlaon".
To delete all words after the word "That" and to substitute:—
"Seanad Éireann declines to give a Second Reading to the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1968, on the grounds that there has been no public demand for the proposal contained in the Bill and the Bill contains no machinery to decide impartially the delimitation of constituencies."
—(Senator Dooge).

I do not believe that the Bill will last too long if we are to depend on the speakers from the other side of the House. They have been shy to intervene so far. That does not surprise me since it is very hard to find arguments in favour of abolishing proportional representation.

The Senator will be agreeably surprised.

I am glad to hear that the Senators opposite intend to put forward some arguments. In 1958 we had a referendum to see if PR should be abolished. Seeing that the proposition was defeated in the past ten years, I think it should not have come up in the time of the present generation. If PR could be abolished in 1958, the Fianna Fáil Party then had the best opportunity ever. There was also a Presidential election that year, and despite the fact that the Fianna Fáil nominee was elected President, the people showed great intelligence and maturity by rejecting the proposal to abolish PR.

In my opinion, PR as a system of election has served the country well. At present the Fianna Fáil Party have an overall majority and there is nothing to prevent them from doing anything that would be to the advantage of the people; yet on 28th June, 1968, there were 53,341 people unemployed against 48,355 in the corresponding week last year. That in itself shows the Government are wasting too much time introducing legislation such as we are dealing with now and forgetting about the needs of the people. Our housing situation is deplorable and our roads, especially in the vicinity of the city of Dublin, leading to the north, west and south, are substandard. The death rate is going up, and the Minister for Local Government took 25 per cent off our grants last year. Unless we bring our roads up to standard, we shall continue to have a high death rate on the roads.

On a point of order, is this related to the discussion? Can we discuss our foreign affairs policy and everything else on this measure?

I am hoping the Senator will come to the matters of the Bill presently.

It will not speed things up if I have to deal with roads and housing as well.

There was no argument put forward so far for the abolition of PR that impressed anyone. Three Cabinet Ministers have stated that the straight vote will improve the standard of the candidates, and the Fianna Fáil backbenchers are asking what is wrong with them as public representatives. They claim they have the confidence of the electorate. What qualities does the Minister expect in candidates under the straight vote system? Must they belong to the small man group that was once described as the backbone of Fianna Fáil? Or must they be lawyers, barristers or university graduates? Or must they come from the aristocracy or the new rich, members of Taca? I should like to hear the Minister explain to the House what type of candidate he expects to get under the straight vote. If he wants a short answer to that question, I can tell him that the best candidate he can get is the vote catcher. Candidates will not come into this House unless they are capable of collecting votes.

There is no chance of getting rid of PR. Fianna Fáil themselves are divided on the matter, and there is no teamwork. The Third Amendment will also be defeated as it is a clear indication that the Government have failed to keep the people on the farms and in the rural areas. A falling population in those areas has created a problem as regards the siting of the constituencies. Perhaps if the Government had brought in the tolerance amendment to the Constitution, it would have had some chance, but with the two amendments together, the answer will be "no" in both cases.

I am certainly against the straight vote. I do not want to see here the system of election that exists in Northern Ireland and in Britain. We all know that a very large percentage of the people who are returned to Parliament in Northern Ireland have not contested an election for years. That is not a healthy sign.

If the Government succeed in getting rid of PR, it will be a very interesting game of draughts, seeing where the different candidates will go forward. The strong ones will avoid other strong ones and try to find weak ones to oppose.

We in the Labour Party have no desire to prolong this discussion. We want the Bill to go through, because it will go through whether we like it or not. There will be no amendments here today, nor on Committee or Report Stages. By weight of numbers the Bill will be passed through this House, and the sooner the better so that the people can decide whether the Government are right or wrong.

One of the arguments we have heard in dealing with this Bill is that there has been no demand for these proposals. This is sometimes blown up to such an extent that it sounds like a real argument. We are given the impression that unless a Bill has been demanded by demonstrations, by protest marches, and so on, we should not introduce a Bill into this House. As everybody in the House knows, 99 Bills out of 100 are introduced without any tangible form of demand, without any kind of protest, demonstration or petition. The suggestion that there is no demand for this legislation is ridiculous and should not be given any regard whatever.

In fact, there was quite a demand for both of the proposals which are before us. Take, first of all, the proposal in the Third Amendment. There was a very definite demand by all Parties in 1959, when the revision of constituencies was introduced, for the kind of variation, the tolerance, that is proposed now. The Parties demanded and approved of the proposals in that Bill. That is certainly an indication that there is a demand for tolerance of the kind proposed. When the constituencies were again revised in accordance with the High Court decision, and when the Dáil saw the kind of constituencies they were going to have, there were many protests made from all Parties at that time against the kind of constituencies that were resulting, and that can certainly be construed as a demand for the tolerance proposed in this Bill. If this Bill is not passed, and if the amendment to the Constitution is not passed, and if the constituencies are then revised according to the present tenets of the Constitution, when the kind of constituencies we will have are seen, there will then be a great demand for the alteration of the system, but by that time it would be too late to do anything about it.

In looking at the proposal made in the Third Amendment Bill, we have to look and see what is the extent of the amendment. To what extent is it departing from what we had in the past? To what extent is it departing from the wording of the previous Constitutions? The Constitution says that the number of population in each of the constituencies "shall, so far as it is practicable, be the same". The 1922 Constitution, it is significant to note, said that so far as possible it should be the same. That, of course, was a much more extreme and strict wording. There is an indication in the present Constitution that this test should not be interpreted as strictly as in the 1922 Constitution.

In the Bill we are considering it is proposed to interpret the phrase, "so far as it is practicable" in the way in which it was intended when the Constitution was introduced, and not in the way in which it was interpreted by a High Court judge. He was, of course, quite entitled to and justified in interpreting it as he thought fit. I think it is generally agreed that this was not the intention of the Legislature or the people when this phrase was originally used. The word "practicable" could be very widely interpreted and that is why it is necessary to spell out exactly what is intended by that word, so that there can be no ambiguity or misunderstanding as to what is intended in the future.

The word "practicable" was interpreted by the Dáil in one way in 1959, and by a judge of the High Court in another way a short time afterwards. The significant fact is that both parties agreed that it meant that there should be some tolerance. Both the Legislature and the High Court agreed it meant that there should be some tolerance. The judge of the High Court said there should be reasonable latitude in interpreting "so far as it is practicable". It is a matter of applying commonsense to see how far you can go to meet the practical problems which will have to be met in trying to draw up the constituencies. It is quite absurd, in my opinion, to have the parrot-like cries we have had about one man, one vote, as though that were to be interpreted in a strict mathematical sense.

It cannot seriously be proposed that you could draw up constituencies which would have exactly the same number of population, or the same number of electors. Even if the impossible were done and you had 144 constituencies or 40 constituencies, according to whether we have the PR system or the single-seat system, with exactly the same number of constituents, by the time it was printed it would be invalidated because of deaths and movements of population. We have to realise that any scheme to arrange the constituencies must be drawn up in a practical way, and that the number in the constituencies must be exactly the same only in so far as it is practicable.

The Bill before us provides for tolerance and for deviation having regard to the extent and the accessibility of the constituencies, having regard to what would be convenient areas of representation, and having regard to the avoidance of overlapping county boroughs. These are aims which everyone would agree are worth considering even though they might have other reasons for opposing the Bill. They are aims which, if fulfilled, will make for more convenient constituencies and which will make the electoral system work better. They are a commonsense approach to a difficult problem, and a commonsense approach to the aspects of our political life which need a commonsense approach. There is no need for an attitude of trying to arrive at mathematical precision which would be quite impractical.

Everyone must admit that there are problems which are being dealt with by this Bill. It would be futile to pretend that these problems do not exist. No one can deny that in the constituencies in the more thinly populated parts of the country, it is more difficult for the constituents to get in touch with their Deputy. No one can deny that in most cases the constituents in the thinly populated parts of the country are more in need of seeing their Deputy more often than the constituents in the city constituencies. I do not think that anyone, whatever his reasons for opposing this Bill might be, would deny that this problem exists, and that it would be met by this Bill. It is certainly true to say that a Deputy who had to deal with a constituency, parts of which were in two or three different counties, would have a problem. He might have to consult three different county councils possibly. He would have an almost impossible task.

If we have a constituency—as inevitably we will have unless this amendment is passed—parts of which are in two or three different counties, and which will have to be administered from the electorate's point of view by two or three different county councils, this will present very real problems and difficulties. These are not difficulties which are being made up for the purpose of having this Bill passed. Any fairminded person who is familiar with the electoral system, familiar with how elections are administered and fought, familiar with the problems of Deputies in constituencies, must admit that these problems exist and could be met by the proposals in this Bill. In my view, the arguments in favour of having a certain amount of tolerance so as to permit a solution, or even a partial solution, of this problem are more than outweighed by the arguments which have been made against introducing this amendment of the Constitution.

It has been suggested that this amendment—suggested, sometimes, in very intemperate language—is undemocratic, that it will lead to gerrymandering, that it will lead to various kinds of abuses. It is very difficult to take this kind of criticism seriously, having regard to the fact that the 1959 Bill was supported by all Parties in the Dáil. The Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party agreed and approved of the 1959 Bill when it was going through the Dáil. That Bill, in fact, provided for far more tolerance than is suggested by the present Bill. Therefore, if this Bill is undemocratic and is liable to lead to abuses, then certainly Fine Gael and Labour and the other Members of the Dáil were very remiss in 1959 in approving of the Bill that was going through at that time and, in fact, have been guilty at that time of everything that Fianna Fáil are being accused of at the present time.

It is suggested that the present system of allowing tolerance of constituencies will permit of gerrymandering. This, in theory, of course, is so: in theory, it could be done. In practice, however, it is different. Anybody who studies the Bill, who looks at it in a reasonable way, must realise that the areas will, in the first case, almost always be circumscribed by county boundaries and by other natural boundaries: the constituencies will normally fall into some natural area. When that is realised, I think it will be conceded that the possibility of gerrymandering is so remote as to be of no practical significance—quite apart from the fact that it would take a very clever person indeed to pick out an area in any part of this country and to say that this area, if made in this way, would suit Fianna Fáil or, if made in that way, would suit Fine Gael, or something like that. The extent to which that could be done, having regard to the fact that county boundaries will have to be respected as far as possible, is very insignificant, I understand.

It is very easy to throw out such a suggestion: it sounds great. You can throw it out, mention Northern Ireland as a footnote and then leave that point and go on to the next subject without substantiating your suggestion in any detail or making any attempt to show how or where it could be done. The suggestion can be left there, leaving a bad smell behind it, without your trying to prove it in any way. If that is the best argument that can be made against this Bill, then there should be no trouble in piloting it through this House.

The deviation tolerance proposed in this Bill is the minimum necessary to provide for widespread breaching of boundaries. It is not sufficient to do that entirely because, to do that entirely, would require a tolerance of something like 30 per cent. What is being done will avoid the breaching of boundaries in the majority of cases. We must always have regard not merely to the position at the moment but to the position that will arise if this amendment is not passed. Unless it is passed, there will probably not be a single county in the country which will be intact when the revision takes place.

Senator FitzGerald says it is nonsense. I am sure he has figures to suggest why it is nonsense. Whether they can stand up to examination is another matter. There will scarcely be a county in the whole country which will be intact unless this amendment is passed.

One—only one.

Therefore, it is legitimate to pass this Bill, the purpose of which is to introduce a system which will save us and protect the country from having virtually every single county carved up under the present provisions of the Constitution. No consideration of the question of tolerance, of one man, one vote, is complete without emphasising that the Constitution is dealing with population, not with electorate. Consequently, when we talk about the number under the Constitution at the moment—not less than 20,000 or more than 30,000—we talk about population: we are not talking about electorate. When the proportion of the electorate in each constituency is examined, it will be found that this has a very definite and a very important bearing on any argument that may be made about having one man, one vote. It will be found that, if one really wants to attempt to abide by the principle of one man, one vote, some adjustment will have to be provided for because there are significantly different proportions of electors in the various constituencies. The proportion varies very widely in the constituencies.

There are approximately 60 voters for each 100 members of the population in the country but this varies because of different age groups in different constituencies. The bigger cities have a very large floating population—people in hospitals, in hotels, in educational institutions, and so on— and this makes a very significant difference in the number who vote in any particular constituency as compared with the population in that constituency.

Let me give on example: there are many of them. In South-West Donegal, 67 per cent of the population are electors, whereas, in Dublin North-West, only 51 per cent of the population are electors. This means, in practical terms, that it takes 13,567 voters to elect a Teachta Dála in Donegal whereas it takes only 10,204 voters to elect a Teachta Dála in Dublin. Looking at that position and having regard to the proportion of electors, as things stand at the moment, we realise we have not the position of one man, one vote as between, for instance, these two constituencies. In these circumstances, it is quite legitimate and only proper and just to try to have some difference between city constituencies and country constituencies to redress this balance and to provide that it will require something in or about the same number of electors to elect a Teachta Dála in a city constituency as in a remote rural constituency.

What about the——

Éist, a leanbh.

I am sure Senator Quinlan will have hours and hours to make his speech. If you adopt the tolerance provided for in this Bill, the position in the two counties I have mentioned would be—and this is taking the tolerance at its most extreme—that it would take 11,305 electors in Donegal and 11,907 electors in Dublin, so that the tolerance suggested would in fact give you a position where the number of voters required is as near as practicable to being equal in a city constituency and in a country constituency, that is, if you adopt the tolerance suggested in the Bill. If you do not do so, and I must emphasise this, the position you are going to have is that it will take 13,569 in Donegal as against 10,204 in Dublin South-West. That means that it takes more than 30 per cent extra to elect a TD in Donegal. That is not by any stretch of the imagination complying with the principle of one man, one vote. That is the position you will have unless you do something about it.

Again, we are dealing with the tolerance as though it were something quite new, as though we were introducing some quite unusual and new feature into the electoral system. This of course is not true. Even though it may not have been widely known, even though people may not have given much attention to it until recently, in all the revisions of constituencies which have been made since 1922, there were very considerable tolerances as between the various constituencies. Between 1922 and up to the present Constitution, the tolerance that existed existed, in spite of the fact that the wording of the 1922 Constitution was much stricter than the wording in the present Constitution. As I mentioned, this tolerance not only is something which has always existed, but when the 1959 Bill was being examined by the High Court, it was agreed by the judge that some tolerance was inevitable and that a reasonable latitude would have to be allowed. The tolerance allowed in the Bill which he was considering was very much greater than is being provided for now.

I should mention also that one recommendation of the Committee on the Constitution which reported recently, and which was comprised of all Parties, was that there should be a tolerance of some 17,500 to 22,500, which is only very slightly less than the tolerance suggested in this Bill. Therefore, it would be idle to pretend that in suggesting the tolerance proposed in this Bill, anything is being done which is unusual or which is new, or that anything is being done which has not been tacitly, if not openly, agreed and approved by all Parties in the past. The system of tolerances is not, of course, by any means confined to this country. The Constitution of Denmark provides that when electoral areas are being arranged, account should be taken not only of the number of inhabitants but of the number of electors and the density of population. I mentioned the number of electors a short time ago. It is not merely a question of population, for regard must be had to the number of electors.

Under the Constitution of Norway, specific numbers of Parliamentary representatives are alloted to named provinces and cities. In Sweden since 1953, it has been provided that each province must have a minimum parliamentary representation regardless of population. Again, this is something on the lines of what we are proposing to ensure that the western sparsely-populated counties, in spite of the fall in population, should be represented by a minimum number of Deputies. The electoral law of Great Britain specifically allows higher representation for rural areas. The number of persons required to elect a Member of Parliament in a remote single-member constituency in Scotland, for example, may be one-third of that required in the case of an industrial single-member constituency in England. Over the whole of Great Britain, the average rural vote has been estimated to be worth about eight per cent more than the average urban vote.

In Australia, the Boundary Commissioners in each State are required by law to take into account the community of territorial interests, economic, social and regional, means of communication, population trends, density of population, physical features and existing boundaries. The electorate of each constituency must not be greater or less than the quota by more than one-fifth. In the Bill before us, it is not more than one-sixth, which is less than Australia. In Canada and New Zealand, care has been taken in framing the electoral laws to ensure that factors other than population are taken into account and to prevent representation for specified territorial areas from falling below certain levels. Recent legislation in Canada allows even greater scope than the Australian system, the population tolerance being 25 per cent of the quota for each province. In Germany, the tolerance is 33? and in the United States, the tolerance up to quite recently was quite fantastic because no revision of constituencies had been carried out for over 50 years, and with the drift of people into the cities, the difference between the number required to elect a representative in the city and in the country was out of all proportion. It ran into many hundreds per cent and there was no comparison at all. This reached such an extent that the Supreme Court has taken a hand in trying to get it back into balance but I am certain that when they do so, it will not be a question of mathematical accuracy but of what is practical.

Mr. W.J.M. MacKenzie, the author of the book Free Elections, sums up the situation in the following words:

It is obvious that in a diversified country, if all districts have approximately the same number of voters, some members (of the legislature) will find "contact" more difficult than do others, because of relatively bad communications and scattered population. It is, therefore, usual to allow large sparsely-populated districts a rather more generous allocation of seats than that to which they are numerically entitled.... In Western countries the argument generally favours country against town.

This is a general summing up of the attitude of various countries to this question of tolerances. One cannot but agree that what we are proposing to do is merely in line with what has been done in democratic countries throughout the western world. It is quite evident that the kind of mathematical exactitude that is being suggested by some speakers on the Opposition side could not be expected, and one can only come to the conclusion that those who advocated that, those who spoke in favour of it, were merely playing politics and doing so with their tongues in their cheeks and not really believing what they were saying.

Failure to introduce this amendment would, in my view, cause great administrative difficulties. It would result in a grotesque carving-up of county boundaries and that not only within the next year, when revision will be necessary, but again in 12 years time, or whenever the next revision falls to be made. Not alone would we have grotesque constituencies, with bits of counties running into one another, but that would have to be changed again and again in order to comply with the strict interpretation with which we are faced here.

Furthermore, as well as administrative difficulties, we would have manifest injustices inflicted on many rural constituencies in which it would take up to 30 per cent more electors to elect a representative than it would in urban constituencies. Any reasonable person, who considers the pros and cons and the arguments in favour of this Bill, plus the arguments against the Bill, cannot but come to the conclusion that the arguments in favour far outweigh the arguments against. Consequently, the Bill is worthy of support and the amendment is worthy of acceptance when it comes before the country in the referendum.

In regard to the Fourth Amendment, first of all, we would have to consider, I think, what kind of Parliament we want. What do we want from our parliamentary system? We want a system which will ensure that the electorate get as a government the men they want in government. Secondly, just as important, if not more important, we want a system which will provide that, when the people are dissatisfied with a government, they can get rid of that government. Under the single-seat, straight-vote system I do not think it can be denied that, if more people want a Fianna Fáil candidate rather than any other candidate, they will get that candidate. Whoever most of the people want they will get. If that member is a member of the government Party and if, after a certain time, the government goes out of favour there is no doubt but that, when an election takes place, the people, if they want some other man more than they want him, will get that other man and the man who supported the government and who has lost favour will go.

There is no validity in the devious and complicated arguments advanced against this measure. There is no validity in the argument that, even though Fianna Fáil lose the support of the people and the people turn against Fianna Fáil, in some extraordinary way their men will be elected, despite the fact that the people no longer want them. It passes comprehension how anybody can read that into the proposed system. It passes comprehension how anybody can suggest that, if more people in a constituency want one of the Opposition candidates, nevertheless the Fianna Fáil candidate will be elected. It is very difficult to understand this argument. Perhaps some of the speakers on the other side will explain how this could come about. I certainly cannot understand how it could happen.

Leaving aside for the moment the question of what particular party we want, what do we want from our parliamentary system? Do we want a Parliament in which all minorities are represented by a separate party, with all the resultant weaknesses inevitable in that kind of Parliament? This, of course, is actually one of the alleged merits of proportional representation. Do we want an effective Parliament, a Parliament with clear-cut views and with clear-cut support for the government of the day until such time as that government loses the support of the people and inevitably the support of Parliament? In such a Parliament every minority would not be represented separately but would, of course, have representation in the bigger parties.

Modern conditions are very different from the conditions which existed a century ago. Today government has become almost totally involved in every aspect of the life of the community. In such a state the old-style type of Parliament, the debating society type of Parliament, is quite unsuitable. It is certainly no longer adapted to present-day needs. A government today has to take responsibility for many different policies and has to gauge support and public reaction to many different policies. Such a government needs parliamentary support to see through the comprehensive policies called for from a government in modern conditions.

One of the merits of proportional representation, if it has any merit, is the fact that it will produce parties representing various minorities. If one believes that there is some intrinsic merit in proportional representation one believes in it because it will give representation to minorities. The logical development from that is that it will produce different parties representing different minorities. That means a multiplicity of parties. Do we want a multiplicity of parties? Having regard to the ups-and-downs of the smaller parties in this country over the last 40 years it is evident, I think, that the people do not want a multiplicity of parties, whatever their loyalty may be to proportional representation. If proportional representation is to be effective, in so far as it is effective at all, the likelihood is that it will produce a multiplicity of parties. If it produces a multiplicity of parties then it will be too late to do anything to change it and we will have a large number of parties, each representing a minority, inevitably unable to agree. It will be impossible to form a government and it will be impossible for Parliament to function. The present system has been defended on the grounds of the alleged merits of proportional representation. It is defended because it will produce what proportional representation is alleged to produce. In fact, the system we have is not proportional representation in any real sense. As I have said, it has not produced parties representing minorities. We have at the moment three parties and none of the three can be said to represent minorities. Each of them represents very large sections of the community and no Party is there primarily to represent a minority.

So that it can be said that it is futile to defend PR, in so far as it is defended, because it is a system that will produce representation for minorities, because it has not done so, and I think it may be said that in a country this size, the proportional representation system as originally conceived could not possibly be successful unless you went the whole way and had one constituency for the entire country, in which case you then would have a reasonable chance of having Deputies elected to represent almost every shade of minority opinion as well as majority opinions. You certainly would have a system then where the minorities would elect a certain number of Deputies and where every point of view in the country would have a say in Parliament, but you would probably almost certainly have a system which it would be impossible to operate, where it would be almost impossible to elect a government and, if elected, almost impossible to keep that government in office for more than a few months at a time.

But we have not got that system and I do not think anybody in the country would seriously advocate that we should go the whole way and have one big constituency so as to give PR a real chance and, in the meantime, we have something which is called PR but which, in fact, has not any of the real characteristics of PR and which can certainly be described as being neither fish, flesh nor good red herring.

In advocating this amendment, I am not doing so on the basis that PR in this country has been a complete failure in practice. I have said that I believe that it is not, in fact, the kind of system that was originally conceived but, for what it is worth, in the way it did operate, I am not suggesting that it was a complete failure. It worked reasonably well over the past 40 or 50 years but it must be admitted that there were factors in its favour which protected the country from what might have happened if PR had worked in another environment. The fact that we did have a Civil War in this country, the fact that the country was divided into two main loyalties, ensured that there was not a multiplicity of Parties, ensured that there were two or three large Parties and that we did not have constant splinter groups, constant smaller Parties, representing minorities. So that, because of that, the worst features, looking at it from one point of view, depending on one's point of view, the worst features of PR were not allowed to develop and, consequently, although it was, as I say, reasonably successful, I think that was because of factors which existed in this country which prevented the weaknesses and defects of PR from coming to light. That is why it has worked reasonably well in the past but these factors will certainly not operate to the same extent in the future and in the future we might possibly have the multiplicity of Parties under PR which we have luckily avoided in the past.

In advocating the straight vote and the single-seat constituency, I am happy to know that Fianna Fáil are not the only Party, that the members of Fianna Fáil are not the only people, who are in favour. There are many people who have no active connection with Fianna Fáil who are wholeheartedly in favour of the single-seat constituency, wholeheartedly in favour of the straight vote. There are many people who are not only not connected with Fianna Fáil but prominent members of the other Parties who are very much in favour of the single-seat constituency and the straight vote. It is impossible, certainly quite unreasonable, for any of the other Parties to suggest that in advocating the single-seat constituency and in advocating the straight vote, Fianna Fáil are doing it for any sinister motives, having regard to the fact that in all Parties there are reasonable people who agree that it is the best system and the system that would bring the most benefit to this country.

Nor am I going to criticise PR in the extravagant way that some of the members of Fine Gael did in the past, in the extravagant way that Deputy Dillon did in the past—he called it the child of the brains of all the cranks in creation—or the vehement way in which it was criticised by Deputy John Costello many years ago. I merely mention these things to show that the extreme advocacy of PR at the present time by some of the other Parties is a little bit inconsistent with what was argued by some of their members in the past. What is held by some of their members at the present time and their opposition to the straight vote and the single-seat constituency, again, is at variance with the views held by some of their prominent members at the present time, which, I think, merely goes to show that, whatever one's views may be about it—and it is quite obvious that there is room for many different points of view about it—it is a very reasonable thing to do as I am doing and as Fianna Fáil are doing, that is, to suggest that the single-seat constituency and the straight vote is the best possible system for this country.

I would suggest to some of those who oppose this Bill that they should be less intemperate, less outspoken, in their opposition to this proposal. They should remember that they have had to change their mind about many proposals Fianna Fáil have introduced in the past and, just as they now fancy themselves on many occasions as the defenders of the Constitution which they bitterly opposed when it was brought out, they may some day be posing as the defenders of the single-seat constituency and the straight vote and, if they are too intemperate, they may then repent all the speeches which they are making now opposing the single-seat constituency.

In considering the arguments for and against the two proposals contained in the Fourth Amendment, it is not necessary to argue very hard in regard to the proposal for the single-seat constituency because almost everybody sees the merit of this kind of constituency and I think the vast majority of people are in favour of it. It is quite obvious that it has very great merits, that it is more compact, that it would enable a Deputy to look after his constituents on the one hand and, at the same time, give a reasonable amount of time to his legislative duties. It would eliminate the artificial competition between Deputies, particularly between Deputies of the one Party who have to spend so much time trying to obtain benefits for their constituents which are either not obtainable by their constituents or which their constituents will get in any event. I have no doubt that the system of single-seat constituencies would raise parliamentary standards, would encourage better candidates to stand for election in the future.

Having regard to the effects, to the results at elections, I believe that the single-seat constituency would lead to more decisive election results, to a bigger swing when the Government of the day went out and to a more stable and a stronger form of government. This would be a very healthy situation. Sometimes people say Fianna Fáil cannot be serious and cannot be sincere when they say they want a system in which, when they lose favour, they would go completely out of office. I have no hesitation in saying I am in favour of a system which will ensure that when the Party in power, whether Fianna Fáil or any other Party, lose the support of the people, they will go completely out and another Party will go in, and that the alternative Party going in with a strong Government will carry on as best they can until, in turn, they are rejected by the people.

This system of having a strong swing, with the Government Party of the day going out of office and allowing another Government to come in to do the work and having the Party who go out taking a chance, when the time comes, of going back again strongly as a Government, is the better system. I have no doubt that such a system is much better than the kind of system we have under PR where the strength of the Party, whether they lose support or not, is cushioned and where you have situations in which the Government of the day are very often within a few seats of having an overall majority and there is great uncertainty as to whether they will stay in office, great uncertainty as to whether they will have the ability to put their policies into operation, whether they can carry out the policies they put before the people.

I have no hesitation in saying that the present system, which produces that kind of uncertainty and that kind of cushioning against loss of support from the people, is not a good one. I much prefer a system which ensures the swing for a strong Government so that whichever Government come in after an election and stay in will do it with a strong majority.

I was referring earlier to the people who were paying lip support to the principle of one man, one vote when dealing with the Third Amendment. Dealing with the Fourth Amendment and the question of the transferable vote, this principle of every person merely having one vote, and one vote as good as anybody else, seems to be entirely forgotten because under the transferable vote system, some people have several votes and some people have one vote that is quite ineffective. Therefore, those who are in favour of the principle of one man, one vote should endeavour to be consistent. It seems to me they are not being consistent if they are in favour of it for the Third Amendment and at the same time opposing it for the Fourth Amendment. With the straight vote, the man with the biggest number of votes, the best man before the people, is the man who is elected. To suggest that the transferable vote is in some way fairer, more equitable, more reasonable or logical, does not stand up to examination. It is something we have had in this country for a long time and something we are used to, something that to a considerable extent we take for granted—something that is so complicated that rather than try to work it out, most people accept on their face value the arguments made in favour of the transferable vote. The idea that it is a fairer system is something which just does not stand up to examination.

If you have the straight vote and the person who heads the poll gets the majority, then of course nobody can have any objection because he has had an overall majority. No matter what system we have, he would have that. The point on which the advocate of the straight vote and their opponents come to issue is where the person who gets the most votes does not, in fact, get an overall majority. It is alleged that the advantage of the transferable vote is that in order to be elected, a person must get the majority of the votes, which means a certain number of his own first preferences and a certain number of votes which come to him in rather devious ways. I suggest that the system is completely contrived, completely unjust, and that it does not stand up to any serious examination as to its fairness, because the basic difficulty in the system is that some of the transfers are counted and some are not, and the way in which that is arrived at is entirely arbitrary and capricious.

I do not intend to go too deeply into the mathematical corridors or ramifications of the transferable vote but I ask Senators to consider a very simple situation in which A, B, and C get 4,000, 3,000 and 2,000 votes respectively under the transferable vote system. C, who gets 2,000, is eliminated and if most of his votes go to B then B is elected, but no consideration at all is given to the second preferences of A and B. If B were eliminated and his second preferences were distributed, they might easily elect A. Alternatively, if A's preferences were distributed, they might elect C. What is the justification, what is the sense in only C's preferences being counted? What is the justification for the fact that the preferences that went to the candidate who got the lowest number of votes should be counted or, to look at it another way, why is it that the voters who picked the worst horse get another chance to vote, whereas the voters who picked the man who got the most votes get no chance with their second votes?

This is what happens and it leads to the situation where A got 4,000 votes, C is eliminated and perhaps 1,001 votes go to B, who then has 4,001 votes— 3,000 of his own and 1,001 second preference votes. Is there any sense in a man for whom only 3,000 people voted primarily and 1,001 people wanted as a second choice being elected and a man who had 4,000 first preferences being beaten by him? It does not make sense. It may be a very nice exercise in mathematics; it may be a very interesting system; it may be a thousand and one different things; but it does not make sense by any reckoning. That is the system we have. That is the system which is alleged to be a fair, more equitable and more logical system than merely having three or four going up for election and the man who gets the most votes being elected. I challenge any speaker speaking in this debate to justify this position and to show it is more logical, fairer or better in any way than the system of first past the post.

I am not going to go into all the other incongruities of the PR system. It does not make sense and has not made sense in the past. Again and again, you hear people express amazement at the situations which have occurred in the past in various constituencies, where the person who got the most first preferences eventually was not elected. Nor does it make sense— to get into slightly more deeper waters and deal with something which, I am sure, 999 people out of 1,000 do not know about—that when surpluses are being distributed at an election here under PR, the returning officer merely picks bundles at random and decides he will distribute this or that bundle. Picking that bundle may elect A and picking this bundle may elect B. There is no logical explanation why this bundle is picked and that is not.

Except the laws of statistics.

Mr. Ryan

Because we are told that the PR system has such tremendous hidden advantages, we are expected to accept it without really examining it. On this occasion we should really examine it, not all of it but at least some of the more glaring deficiencies that exist and that make it a system which is anything but logical and anything but fair and reasonable.

We are not for the moment dealing with whether we should reform the PR system as it applies to multi-seat constituencies. We are considering at the moment whether we should have in a single-seat constituency the transferable vote or the majority vote. Whatever the arguments are for having the transferable vote in the PR system —and in that case of course we must have some kind of transferable vote— there seems to be no merit at all in retaining one of the characteristics of the PR system when it is proposed to change the system to a single-seat constituency. While we have to have a transferable vote of some kind in multi-seat PR constituencies, there is no argument in favour of it if we are to have single-seat constituencies. It is only a kind of half-baked sentimental idea that we should not get rid of the characteristics of PR altogether and that, even though we might be in favour of single-seat constituencies, we should retain one of the characteristics of the PR system just for old time's sake.

To me that does not make sense. I think the people will agree that if we are to have the single-seat constituency, we should have it and have it in the best possible form. The best possible form is where the man who gets most of the people to support him is the man who is elected and not the man who gets a certain number of the votes and the second and third preferences of various other voters.

I believe the proposals embodied in these Bills will improve the parliamentary system. I believe that a very good prima facie case has been made for them. I hope that the Seanad will support these Bills as the Dáil has done. Finally, I ask the Seanad to remember that we are not changing the system. By passing this Bill we are not making any changes in the electoral system. We are not imposing any changes on the people. We are merely giving the people an opportunity to say whether or not they think the system proposed is better than the system which we had up to now.

For that reason I do not know why some members of the Opposition—not in this House so far—in the other House have got so excited about these Bills and have become so intemperate in their objection. If the people do not like the system proposed, the people will say so. The people can make up their minds very adequately. Although it is legitimate for the political Parties to do their best to help them to make up their minds, the people will say if they do not like this system. They are only being given an opportunity to say whether the proposals being made in these Bills would give a better parliamentary system than what we have at the moment. The people are entitled to be consulted in these matters and the Constitution provides for such consultation. I would ask the Opposition to allow that very important and valuable democratic process to take its course.

I rise to oppose the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill and to support the motion standing in the names of other Senators and of myself. My reasons for opposing the abolition of proportional representation were given at some length in February, 1959, when the Seanad debated the proposal for something like 70 hours, as I reckon, and then eventually rejected it. Now, for the sake of Senator Ó Maoláin's very laudable desire to finish our business by 1st August, I propose to be as brief as I can.

First, may I meet two arguments in Senator Ryan's very reasonable speech? The first suggestion he made was that perhaps some Members of this House would oppose the abolition of proportional representation because they felt that certain small minorities might lose their representation. I think I can speak for one of those small minorities. I would like to say emphatically that those days, to my mind, are past. Nine years ago, when we debated a similar Bill, many, I think, still felt it would be well for the small minorities to have people of their own kind in Parliament to represent them. I believe that these small minorities have a confidence now which they did not have then. I believe they no longer think it necessary to have one of their own people representing them on all occasions. In other words, I believe that this argument is outdated. I do not think any of us in this House is likely to say we protest in the name of the small minorities. Times have changed very much for the better in our country on that count, and I am happy to be able to say that.

On the other hand, I think we should speak for the majority, and in fact what this proposal intends, apparently, is to undermine the right of the majority to elect the Government. The statistical figures are perfectly clear on this point. They have been published by the Labour Party and others. Time and again in England we have seen a minority of voters electing the majority in Parliament. To my mind, that is a clear injustice. It is undeniably wrong mathematically. It seems undeniably wrong in principle.

May I, for a moment, meet another argument that Senator Ryan put forward? At first, he nearly shook me. This was his ingenious tale of A and B and C, A with 4,000 votes, B with 3,000 and C with 2,000. Senator Ryan thinks it is unreasonable that C's second preferences should be distributed but not A's or B's. He would like a clearcut decision, as he calls it, for either A or B or C. I suggest that a mark of civilisation is some subtlety, some flexibility, in choice. I suggest it is crude that one should be told: you must choose A or B or C, with no alternative.

To take one choice which looms before some of us in this House in the immediate present, let us consider, for example, the proposed merger of Trinity College, Dublin, with University College, Dublin, instead of Senator Ryan's A and B and C. Let A be the Government proposals; let B be the Trinity College proposals, and C the UCD proposals. Is the ideal thing that everyone should say: "I choose either A or B or C; I do not want anything else, and I will not take it"? Is it not more civilised, more reasonable, to say: "If possible, I should like A but if I cannot get A, I would prefer B." I suggest this is the best way to seek out the mind of the people in the country. That is the justification for the alternative vote.

Judging from recent pronouncements, the universities are not doing that.

In fact, I claim that one of the colleges is being flexible on the matter; the other less flexible. Which is which I leave to the House to judge.

Mr. Ryan

On a point of order, I should like to point out that what I said was that we should have either no preferences or all preferences—equal treatment.

This is the Senator's way of looking at it. He wants to rule out the alternative: I want to keep the alternative. I want a subtler choice which I think is the mode of civilisation. However, that is my thinking now, but these matters need a good deal of consideration, and if I change my mind, I shall certainly tell Senator Ryan. But I stand very firmly on this point, that mathematically it is clear that if we abolish PR, we may be faced with the position that people elected by the minority of the voters may be the majority in Parliament. I do not accept that as desirable.

My second objection is this: I do not accept the argument that strong and stable government is necessarily good government. How can we accept such an argument? Do we think that a strong man is necessarily better than a weak man? If we do, our theology and morality have changed drastically within the past few years. Do we think people who stay in office longer are necessarily better governors than those who stay in office a shorter time? That is nonsensical. I cannot understand how people can think in this way. The fact is that "strong" and "stable" are morally neutral qualities. I emphasise "neutral" qualities. They can be used for good or for evil. They are irrelevant to our decision today. What we are interested in is good government. There is nothing at all in common necessarily between lengthy government or strong government and good government.

Hitler's government was strong and long. So was Mussolini's. Nobody would suggest they were good governments. Incidentally, in case people think I am bringing in the wrong analogies, nobody would say that they were anything like any government we have had here in the past 46 years. But they are proofs that length and strength do not necessarily have anything to do with goodness. In other words, the electors' choice is never between good, stable, strong government and bad, weak, unstable government. It is between the best government they can get and worse government.

I know how our colleagues on the other side are thinking and I admire them for it in many ways. They are thinking that there is no risk whatever of bad government as long as they are in office. Be frank, gentlemen, that is what you are thinking. All right; but we do not all think that way. We all, I hope, remember Lord Acton's famous dictum: "All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely."

That is worn out.

It is not worn out. We can see it every year in some country or other, and we do not want to see it in our own. There is something in an excess of power which does corrupt. The country does not want this, I believe. The country wants it always to be that the majority of the people will decide the majority of Parliament. This is what PR, as we have it now, gives, to my mind. That is the second reason why I oppose the change, although I should add, incidentally, that I am not opposed to the change proposed in the first Bill, the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill. My mind is open on that. It may well be that in this matter the Fianna Fáil Government are right.

To return to the arguments against the abolition of PR, my third argument is simply an historical one. Nine years ago, after the most careful and laborious deliberations in this House, we rejected the proposal. The country rejected it. Surely it is unreasonable to bring it up again now? I see no answer to this. It will bring a kind of chaos into our politics if matters that have been decided in the past ten years by the will of the people should be brought up again.

I promised to be brief, and I must stop. I believe that what I have put forward is not a matter of opinion. Mathematically, the system we have at the moment prevents minority government. Morally, I am certain that strength and length are not equal to goodness. Historically, we determined the matter—rightly as I see it—nine years ago. Therefore I oppose the Bill for the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.

As Senator Stanford has said, there is no demand for this measure; it was decided by the electorate nine years ago. Senator Ryan thought there was nothing improper, and, in fact, that there was something commendable, in the Government going to the people, and that it would be ridiculous if they expected to be consulted on every measure introduced into the Oireachtas by the Government. However, this is an Article enshrined in our Constitution, and nine years ago a submission was made to the electorate, and by a majority of 30,000, the people decided to retain PR.

I know the Minister said in the other House that it was a small majority, but since then we have had a Presidential election where the successful Fianna Fáil candidate secured one-third of the majority that was secured for the retention of PR, and he enjoys in office the complete loyalty of every citizen of our State. Nobody, not even the worst crank in our community, has alleged for a moment that because he was elected by such an extremely narrow majority he was not completely entitled to the loyalty of all citizens or that his stature was in any way diminished in occupying the position of President.

How, therefore, can a Minister of this Government justify the resurrection of an issue that was decided by three times that majority and putting it to the people? This incurs expense. We have cuts in our roads grants. We are awaiting the restoration of moneys to promote rural improvement schemes. There are many avenues of activity in which this £100,000 could well be spent by the Government.

Apart from that, as has been said, this proposal has introduced chaotic conditions into our political life. There was no demand for it. A Fianna Fáil Deputy from the constituency in which I reside, Deputy Crowley, coming on the television programme "Open House" within the past 12 months had a question addressed to him from the audience—and it could not have been an embarrassing question, because the questioner happened to be his closest friend—as to his views on the electoral system and whether it would be advisable to re-present the question of the abolition of PR. That Fianna Fáil Deputy committed himself openly on television, not only before his own electorate but before the country at large, as being quite satisfied with the decision of the people nine years ago.

From where did this demand emanate? I contend that it has its origin in the fact that elections have shown diminishing support for the Government Party. They may claim to have won a certain number of by-elections, but the figures prove that in the local elections, in the Presidential election, and in certain of the by-elections, a reduced vote was recorded for the Government Party. In the constituency of Cork, electing the Taoiseach, there was a reduction of 3,000 votes. It shows that the Labour Party have made significant advances in the urban areas, advances confined, I know, to the urban areas. This was reflected in Cork city and in Limerick, and if the occasion arose in Dublin, no doubt it would also be reflected here.

I take it that in concluding I may discuss the by-election results?

If they are mentioned in the debate.

In the other House the Minister discussed them repeatedly.

Acting Chairman

May I suggest that we set an example in this and not discuss them too long?

Not for too long. I had come to the point of the reasons for the introduction of this proposal at this time. Senator Ryan and others have spoken of people thinking again and the possibility of their holding different views at different times, but down through the years since this State was founded we have had repeated statements made by people in responsible positions about the advantages of PR. Speaking in 1937 the then Taoiseach said:

The system we have we know; the people know it.

We can claim to have advanced educationally since then. If they knew it then, I claim they know it better now.

On the whole it has worked out pretty well. I think we have a good deal to be thankful for in the country: we have to be very grateful that we have had the system of PR here. It gives a certain amount of stability, and on the system of the single transferable vote you have fair representation of Parties.

Senator Ryan roundly condemned the practice of a person having a following preference. How is this Seanad elected? There is not a Member sitting in this House, unless he was nominated by the Taoiseach, who did not avidly try to secure as many lower preferences as he could in order to be elected to the Seanad. There is not as yet a proposal to abolish this system that has been condemned by the Government in all its moods and tenses. It was an outrageous thing that anybody should have any right to exercise a preference electorally beyond the X mark of the illiterate, that this should be the be-all and the end-all when it came to exercising electoral preferences. However, we here are elected to the Seanad under probably one of the most outrageous systems that was ever devised by man. It requires the electorate to exercise a degree of transferability which is far in excess of any measure of transferability that could be exercised in elections to Dáil Éireann. Having regard to the fact that Seanadóirí are themselves elected by the PR system, it is rather strange to be asking us to condemn a system by which we are sitting here and by which we have the right to express views here. I cannot follow the logicality of that.

It is alleged, too, that in the nine years that have gone since the people were last consulted about PR, new people have come on the register. There is not a month that goes by that we do not pass legislation which becomes an Act of the Oireachtas and which may not operate for many years to come, perhaps without amendment for many more years, but people who have come on the register subsequently are not consulted on the matter. The fact that a person might not have been entitled to express an opinion at a particular moment does not weaken the decision taken by those who had the right at that moment. If that were not the case, then this House could be questioned in relation to its authority to express a view on anything because the local elections have been held since this House was elected. It is to be noted that the Fine Gael Party secured an increase of 75 seats in the process of the local elections. Consequently we could say that if we now had a reflection of the opinion of those elected to the local authorities throughout the country, we would have a different complexion in this Chamber. At any rate, that disposes of the argument that some additional people are now entitled to vote who did not have that opportunity nine years ago.

The Taoiseach went on to say—this is a present President and I think the de-Stalinisation of Russia has nothing on the de-Valeranisation by Fianna Fáil in respect of many of the commitments made by this gentleman when he was Taoiseach—on the same occasion:

I think we get probably in this country more than in any other country better balanced results from the system we have. If you take the countries where PR exist, you get better balanced results than you get in other countries. I think we get the benefits of PR in reasonably balanced legislation here better than in any other country that I have read about or know about.

There is also the question as to whether minorities should be deliberately prevented from securing popular election. We know that in Britain the system we are now asked to adopt is favoured by the two major Parties. We all know that there is in Britain a population in excess of the entire population of the Republic of Ireland who vote Liberal, and they elect nine Members. There is controversy from time to time with regard to the size of the Dáil, and whether the number should be this or that. I have repeatedly defended the suggestion that there is a minimum below which you cannot go. I think it would not be advisable to have a Dáil with less than the present number. I have said that on many occasions. It is necessary to have behind the Government sufficient back benchers to express an opinion apart from that of the Government, and there should be sufficient personnel to draw on to provide a Government.

What would anyone think if it were suggested that nine Deputies would be sufficient to represent the entire population of the Republic of Ireland Yet under the system which it is proposed we should adopt that condition obtains in the neighbouring island of Britain. There are many thousands of Liberal sympathisers who, when they take their ballot papers in their hands, while their first preference would be for the Liberal candidate, have the immediate reaction: "We may as well stay at home as cast a vote for the Liberal candidate. We are unhappy about the activities of the Government. We feel there should be a change." Consequently, if there is a Labour Government, they vote Conservative. They do not vote for the candidate of their first choice, and they have not got a transferable vote. If they had PR they could vote for the candidate of the Party of their choice first, and then exercise a preference between the candidates of the other Parties. They are denied that opportunity and they refrain from voting for the first Party of their choice because they want to express a preference between the Government and the only other Party that can challenge the Government to secure office.

I agree with what Senator Stanford said about the position of the minorities in this country, but I still claim that it would be completely improper to legislate against the emergence of a minority Party. The situation in Northern Ireland was very closely examined by a very eminent person, Professor A. J. Allaway. He referred to the claim made for the first past the post system of election as being a simple system. He remarked that, "simplicity can at times, however, be purchased at too high a price, and Northern Ireland is a good example of this fact." He went on to say:

There are many men and women with progressive views on both sides of Northern Ireland's great divide who, because of the electoral arrangements now in operation, are alike condemned to impotence. If they try to found progressive Parties, Unionist, Nationalist or Border-neutral, they find that the votes their candidates poll, however considerable in the aggregate over the constituencies as a whole, are insufficient to return more than perhaps one or two members. This in time disheartens them, and in due course, they descend to oblivion.

This is taken from an article entitled Northern Ireland and Proportional Representation by Professor A. J. Allaway.

Another eminent man who did considerable research into the position under the electoral system that operates in Northern Ireland and which we are now asked to adopt in the Republic, Nicholas Mansergh, said:

The minority, embittered by the partition of the country and resentful of Government by their traditional opponents, were naturally sensitive to the smallest infringement of their rights. In such circumstances the Government displayed a frankly aggressive attitude in abolishing PR for local government elections in 1922 and for parliamentary elections in 1929. Even if there had been no accompanying injustices of any kind, this action revealed a complete lack of sympathy with the minority outlook. At the worst it was Party manoeuvre; at the best a psychological mistake. A comparison between the electoral returns before and after 1929 reveals that the change has affected neither the accuracy of representation nor the number of the small Parties to the extent that was anticipated.

He also said:

It has, however, drawn attention, and added to, the frozen condition of Ulster's political life. This is most clearly indicated by the very large proportion of uncontested seats in local, parliamentary and Imperial elections. When 70 per cent of the members of the House of Commons of Northern Ireland—admittedly the most important legislative body in the province—are returned, as in 1933, without a contest, then indeed there is just occasion for the democrat to fear for the future of representative government.

These are important and well-qualified commentaries on the effect of the Northern Ireland system which we are asked to adopt.

We know that the development of the single-seat non-transferable system brings in its train, or practically automatically, the development of the safe seat, the situation where you have Members elected without being required to contest their seats in subsequent elections. I know it is easy for a Party that has a Deputy elected in every constituency in the Republic to be complacent in relation to the circumstances of a Party that may not have a representative in each constituency. A Party without a representative in a constituency realises only too well the formidable difficulties that face it in maintaining its energy, in maintaining its initiative, when it has not got a public representative elected to the national legislature not alone to represent it there relative to Departmental worries, but also in the more important matters of national affairs.

It is hypocrisy and ludicrous for any member of the Government or any supporter of the Government's proposals in this measure to allege for a moment that they are concerned regarding the future of their successors in office and are presenting this measure—as so many have argued in debate —as something that ultimately would be to the great advantage of an Opposition Party. They know full well—it has been calculated by people who are independent observers and qualified to make research into these matters— that the present Party in Government could, through this system, secure a colossal majority in the next Dáil without an increase in support in the country: in fact, with a continuation of the diminishing support reflected over the past few years.

This situation, I claim, would be unhealthy. I should like to know what legislation the Government were inhibited from introducing, from implementing, because they may feel that, at the moment, they have not sufficient strength in the Dáil. We know that, back in the 1947 period, at a time when they had a very strong overall majority, we had repressive legislation such as the Wages (Standstill) Order—all prepared for presentation to be enacted— proposing the most extraordinary fines for any employer who would dare to give an increase to his employees. That was on the records at a time when we had strong and stable government. However, over the past decade, was there any occasion when the Government failed to enact any measure which they considered was for the betterment of the people? It may have been very closely examined, criticised and amended or opposed but it passed into law. Therefore, what hidden measures have they in mind for which they would require an extraordinary majority in Dáil Éireann?

I suggest it would not be well for any Party—I do not care what Party it would be—to have such power vested in them. The allegation was also made—Senator Eoin Ryan repeated it today—that proportional representation leads to a multiplicity of Parties. Proportional representation permitted the emergence of a number of Parties since the foundation of the State but they did not survive over-long. At least, however, their supporters had the opportunity—which they availed of— of electing some number of them to the national legislature. If they were unsuccessful and if they dwindled, well and good. Can you, however, imagine a situation if all of those people were denied the privilege of electing the people they wanted to elect, by a deliberate system of election that would prevent their election?

We know the problems we encountered in the earlier days of the State, due to minority activity. We realise that it was only when Parliamentary responsibility was given to these people that, eventually, we had the development of the peaceful and democratic type of government that, fortunately, we have enjoyed over the past 35 years. I suggest that there now exist in this country three Parties and that these do not represent a multiplicity of Parties relative to any Parliament. I suggest that we have stability inasmuch as we have not had the over-frequent changes of government that are supposed to follow where proportional representation is the accepted process of election. But, mind you, I think the Government are inclined to regard stability with their own election: they have it synchronised. This is their interpretation of stability. They appear to have arrived at the stage of arrogance where they would regard the election of any other Party as being, in fact, instability. This is a negation of democracy. The people are entitled, if they so desire, to change their government. I suggest the system of proportional representation has not led either to instability or to the multiplicity of Parties that it was alleged would result.

Now, Sir, an extraordinary case is being made on the Government side relative to the quality of the Deputy. Seemingly, there appeared to be considerable misgivings among the Government Party over the years relative to the quality of Deputies. They suggest the introduction of the single-seat non-transferable vote would automatically result in the emergence of a much better type of public representative: I cannot agree. In the first place, you confine the selection of the Deputy to a smaller number of electors, that is, assuming the elected candidate resides in his constituency. Let me put it on record that, in Britain, where the system operates that we are asked to accept, one-third of the membership of the House of Commons reside in the city of London and do not reside in their constituencies. So, there we have the development of the safe seat and the Party pet nominated in an area where he may or may not be opposed but is certain of election. This is done by the Party caucus. In the system we have had since the foundation of the State, the democratic convention methods are employed by political Parties in selecting a team of candidates. Beyond that, we give the electorate an opportunity of selecting from that panel those whom they deem most suitable to be elected. Some of us are in this House, perhaps, as victims of this particular choice being given to the electorate. We may have had membership of the other House and other candidates from our own Party may have come up and, being one of a team of Party candidates, submitted themselves to the electorate on the ballot paper and we may have fallen by the wayside. However, we accept the will of the people in that respect. In retrospect, I can see my successor performing more arduously and bringing better ideas to my Party organisation and to the constituency.

I think the maintenance of proportional representation gives the right and power to the electorate to change their Deputy if they so desire either by the substitution of a Deputy of another Party or a candidate from the Party to which they give their allegiance. By changing the electoral system to the single non-transferable vote, you remove that choice from the electorate which they have exercised down through the years by reason of having a panel of candidates from which to select their first choice. Knowing the candidates, it is only natural that they would continue to exercise their preferences until they have exhausted the list. There have been improvements in this. I want to say quite frankly to the Labour Party that it was most regrettable that in some recent elections some of their Party advised the electorate not to exercise PR to its fullest extent. However, I think that was just a passing phase and that now it is over. There is no doubt that as election followed election, the people showed a greater appreciation of their rights in the exercise of the ballot by way of the continuing preferences for the candidates presented to them.

I cannot understand the allegation that the single-member seat Deputy will be a better Deputy than a Deputy from a multi-member constituency. At different times I represented two constituencies. The first constituency to which I was elected did not have a coastline nor any great tourist attraction, and I found myself confined to agriculture and a few other aspects of legislative work. When I moved to the other constituency, I became involved in activities affecting the urban dweller, where tourism was prominent and so on. If you restrict the area of the constituency, you restrict the field of operations of the Deputy and you restrict the numbers and types of people he will meet as a public representative. It removes the element of competition between Deputies. I know this would be a considerable relief to the elected Deputy and no doubt many of our civil servants could satisfy us that there is duplication of work. If more than one Deputy is approached about a problem, is it not a healthy thing to have competition? It is better to have that than to have the system that operates in the country we propose to copy, where Members of Parliament reside in the city of London.

I regard the multi-member constituency as providing a Deputy with wider interests than in the smaller single-member constituency. There are faults in the operations of Deputies under the existing system but how and why have they arisen? It is not the system that is at fault. The fault lies in the fact that in recent years letters have been coming to some Deputies from Government Departments giving information in regard to grant applications and other matters about which they had never been approached and never made representation, and then they complain about the accumulation of work. In a constituency which is very close to mine and in which a Government Deputy is privileged, even if another Deputy makes representations about a particular matter, the reply will go to the privileged Deputy. I know that this is a subject of an inquiry in the Minister's Department at present. It is not the system that is responsible for this; it is the machinations that go on and which have grown over the years.

Formerly, Members of the Oireachtas used to write to the Secretary of a Department and receive a reply from him or from the civil servant concerned, but now the situation is that almost automatically all such correspondence goes to the Minister in order to give the matter political colour and as if it were due to the beneficence of the political head of the Department rather than the rights of the people if they had never approached a political representative. How then can people who operate in such a manner complain about the volume of work in a multi-seat constituency? If we were to adopt the proposed system, the Party who secured the strong majority which we hear about would have a majority of constituencies, with a Deputy for each one of them, and the people in those constituencies would have no other Deputy to cater for them. No matter how actively they had opposed that Deputy, they would be confined to him if they wished to have any intervention in relation to a Departmental matter. It would not be good for a Deputy to be confined in his activities to solitary operations on his own.

We have had the commendable practice down through the years in multi-member constituencies, particularly where the Deputies were members of the local authorities, of having joint consultation and joint deputations to various Departments. That was a healthy development, but it would disappear under the single-seat system. Apart from the embarrassment that could be caused to a person who had actively opposed the election of a Deputy and who would like to engage in a similar activity in the future, in having to approach that Deputy about some matter, there is also the point that the Deputy is likely to be engaged in some professional or business capacity and how could a competitor approach him about a problem which he would like to discuss in confidence? How could he reveal the confidential and intimate nature of his business to that Deputy? We know that that can be overcome quite readily under the multi-member system.

From the selfish point of view of the elected Deputy, it would be very much easier to be elected without competition in a single-member constituency and be confined to a limited area beyond which he may not travel. There are adjoining single-member constituencies in which people are engaged in different activities, and when measures which would have an impact on their livelihoods come up in the House, there would be Deputies who would ignore them and who would confine their activities solely to whatever would be parochial problems.

We have the situation clearly defined for us in our operations in Cork County Council where we have three housing and sanitary committees and, when matters arise at the general meeting of the county council, we know the rivalry that exists when it comes to the allocation of moneys vis-à-vis the different areas. The same position would arise in the case of the single-member constituency. The Deputy elected would have a much narrower outlook and a very much smaller field of consultation; the wider the field of consultation the better. Secondly, there is no validity whatsoever in the case made by the Government that there will emerge from the single-member constituency a better type of Deputy.

The Minister and those supporting him referred to the rearrangement of constituencies as presenting certain problems. They expressed themselves as aghast at the possibility of being required to cross county boundaries. Every time constituencies have been revised since the foundation of the State the revision was carried out under a Fianna Fáil Government and we are only too well aware of some of the things that have arisen in the process of rearranging constituencies. I cannot accept the bona fides of the Minister and his Party when they talk about the hideous possibility of having to cut up counties and re-align them with adjoining counties. When the late William J. Broderick, who was unanimously elected chairman of Cork County Council for more years than any other chairman of a local authority because of the respect for his ability, was elected a Deputy to Dáil Éireann by his native town of Youghal, that town was lifted right across the estuary of the River Blackwater and put into County Waterford in an effort to displace Deputy Broderick from membership of Dáil Éireann—a deliberate piece of gerrymandering. However, it misfired because the people of Waterford, too, were alert to the qualities of this particular man and they returned him for County Waterford. It was naturally a tremendous upset to an elected representative to find himself divorced from his native county and from the town in which he resided and transferred into another county for the express purpose of unseating him, but, as I said, without success on that occasion.

In the North Cork constituency, there was a very respected Deputy, Deputy Dan Desmond, who was elected to the Dáil for many years. When the constituencies were revised, the village of Ballyvoureen, in which he resided, was divided in two and his sister-in-law who lived across the road from him was in one constituency and he was in another. On the last occasion on which constituencies were revised, there were five Deputies representing the City of Cork, three Fianna Fáil, one Fine Gael and one Labour. Is it a coincidence that that section of the city in which Deputy Stephen Barrett and the late Deputy Seán Casey resided was lifted away out of the city of Cork and transferred into the constituency of mid-Cork and the two non-Fianna Fáil Deputies, who represented the city of Cork, were denied the opportunity of voting for themselves, as were their families, their friends and their neighbours. Yet, they were returned by the people of Cork. How any Minister in the Fianna Fáil Party or any Deputy in that Party could complain about being required to do extraordinary things in the rearrangement of constituencies beats me when we remember what was done down through the years. They surely are talking with their tongues in their cheeks.

There is no doubt that the electorate have expressed their opinions under proportional representation and have had the opportunity under this system of expressing their opinions. If they wanted Independents elected, then they elected them. They gave them a run of the course. If they were dissatisfied with them, they displaced them, and we had the situation in which five Independent Deputies elected a Fianna Fáil Government in defiance of the mandate they received at the general election in which they were returned and, on the next occasion on which the electorate got the opportunity, not one of the five was returned to Dáil Éireann. That shows just how people react if the Deputy elected does not live up to his undertakings when seeking election.

In local elections Independent representation was eliminated to a very great extent under proportional representation. If the people want Party representation at local or national level, then they express that opinion in the ballot boxes. We have neither in Dáil Éireann nor in the county councils a multiplicity of Parties nor a multiplicity of independently elected Members because the people are availing of the present system to elect one or other of the three Parties.

I contend this is a blatant effort to prevent either Fine Gael or Labour advancing. It is an effort to introduce a system, which was wrongly criticised even by Winston Churchill because his party gained considerably from the fact that it operated to the advantage of the Conservatives. He wrongly condemned it as representing an unfair system to minorities in any legislature. If we want any evidence of the injustice or the demerits of the proposed new system, we have only to look at the recent BGA election held under the straight vote system. In the Mallow electoral area, the two Fianna Fáil candidates secured 44 per cent of the votes. They received no seat. I wonder would their political supporters be very happy should that occur in Parliament. Would any elector be happy with a system in which a Party could secure almost 50 per cent of the vote and fail to secure a seat in Parliament? We are being asked to accept a system we have criticised severely because of the manner in which it operates in Northern Ireland and Britain, where you can have uncontested seats and absentee Members. It is a system which operates to prevent the emergence of any challenging Party to the Party in power and the Party that would play yo-yo with the Party in power because the system guarantees them against the emergence of any other competing Party.

I oppose this measure and I support the motion in my name and the names of other Senators condemning this proposal. It is virtually impossible to discuss this proposal without some measure of repetition. I detest repetition. I detest even more having to sit and listen to it and, therefore, I propose to be brief.

Over the greater part of the past 50 years the people of this country have clearly and repeatedly demonstrated their capacity and their ability to understand and to use the system of PR in the exercise of their votes wisely, intelligently and, I think, quite well. Because the people have intelligently used that system, we have elected governments which have, above all else, been representative of every articulate group and of every articulate section or shade of public thought and of social life in this country.

Under the same system we have produced the most stable government of any country in Europe, and probably beyond. Under the same system, by reasoned and by regular consultation with and reference to the opinions of the people, successive general elections have each given us successive governments with an average life of anything from three to four years at a time and have produced for us a method by which the policies of our small but representative number of political Parties have been kept reasonably well attuned to the needs and to the wishes of all sections of our people.

When the Fianna Fáil Party made their last bid to impose their will on the political life of this country, the people, as recently as 1959, resolutely and with due deliberation rejected their proposal to abolish our present electoral system. That was only nine short years ago, nothing more than a fleeting moment in the political life of any country. Yet, we have the Fianna Fáil Party and this Government adamantly introducing this proposal once again, in 1968.

I do not propose to elaborate further on it but it has been said and I want to ask in all earnestness can anyone say with any conviction, either in this House or anywhere outside it, that there is, in fact, any semblance of evidence of any desire among any representative section of our people for a change in the electoral system? I say, and I say it with conviction, that there is not, that even amongst the Fianna Fáil Party itself, there is no such desire and I say that with conviction because I have, in fact, asked members of the Fianna Fáil Party— numbers of them—what their views on this system were and I refuse to believe that the people to whom I have spoken are all hypocrites or liars. I refuse to accept that. I accept the answers I got from them.

Eight months ago the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis unanimously asked for this.

I say with conviction that inside the Fianna Fáil Party itself there is no desire for this change.

Fifteen hundred delegates representing the Fianna Fáil Party asked for it.

The Senator tried to pretend that he was a member at one time but is known not to be now.

The Government may say I am wrong.

All Russian elections were unanimous.

Why does the Senator not talk about his own Party, if he has one?

You want to make sure that he will not have one.


The truth is that the Fianna Fáil Party have denied the members of their own Party even the right to vote on this question.

Acting Chairman

If the Senator kept closer to the Bill it would be advantageous.

Kept closer to the truth.

He is becoming argumentative. We shall have to sit up and take notice of him.

When the shoe pinches, one is bound to hear from them. The fact is that what I have said is the truth.

Saying it will not make it a fact.

Nobody wants this, apparently, apart from some type of clique or some type of minority group within the Fianna Fáil Party itself, and obviously, pretty close to Government level. In all truth, they appear to be the only people who say that there is some necessity or some demand for this change which they are now proposing. Nobody, apart from that type of minority group, has asked for this change and as far as any reasonable man can ascertain at the moment, nobody wants that change.

Therefore, I would ask in all seriousness, is it not deplorable that on this question the whole industrial, social and political life of the country has now to be senselessly plunged into an unwanted campaign leading to a referendum, with all the disturbance, all the dislocation——

What dislocation?

——to say nothing of the expense which that sort of campaign would involve for our country?

What dislocation?

I say that it is wrong, morally wrong as well as everything else, for the Government to inflict that sort of exercise on a number of people, particularly at a time when, I suggest, the energies of every Party in this House would be far better employed in some attempt to improve the living standards and the general welfare of our people.

The Government's proposal, therefore, appears to me to portray a cynical, if not an arrogant, disregard for the views and the opinions of the majority of the people of the country. I hope, indeed I am confident, that the people can be relied on once again to give the only answer possible to that type of obnoxious proposal.

Having said that, I would say, without further comment, that I honestly feel that the sooner these Bills are put through all Stages in this House and the sooner the people are given the opportunity of again rejecting the Government's proposal, the better.

Why do you not let them through, then?

We will go on opposing them now and at any time the same proposals are produced in the future, and for the same good reasons. Our views are clearly stated in the motion which was originally tabled by the members of this Party over our names, and I hope that every Member of this House—I include all the Members of the House not committed to the views of the minority clique who have produced these proposals—will support the views of my Party and refuse to be a party to the passage of these Bills through this House.

In these two Bills we are discussing two amendments to the Constitution. It is necessary to have them passed so that there may be an opportunity of submitting them, in a democratic way, to the people of the country by way of referendum. We will ask them whether they favour the single-seat constituency and the straight vote system. With confidence we hope and expect that the people will come down firmly in favour of both proposals so that future elections will be carried out under the straight vote system in single-seat constituencies.

We have heard quite a lot here about PR. It is a system imported into this country, as we all know, by the British Government because in the 1918 election the Irish people overwhelmingly decided they wanted to get rid of the British. In a referendum there was an alarming overall majority and that was distasteful from the British point of view and the British Government, with craft and cuteness, pawned off this obnoxious system on us, introducing it in 1920. That system was carried on after the Treaty had been accepted and it has been in existence here since. Many people have blamed Fianna Fáil because that system was allowed to be retained in our Constitution in 1937, but many of the young people today are not aware of the great difficulties, trials and tribulations this Party had to undergo in the early years of their existence after being established in 1926. However, Fianna Fáil carried through the Constitution which so many people have been so fond of and to which they were so diametrically opposed that they established a hostile, mobile force of Blueshirts, designed——

To oppose the 1937 Constitution? That is a remarkable historical statement.

These are facts. This army of Blueshirts was founded in 1933——

They disappeared in 1936 and the Constitution was not until 1937.

I am glad I have raised a ripple over there.

Keep your ripples to yourself.

The children do not know as their forefathers did of the Blueshirts parading throughout the country trying to ensure that democratic rule would not be allowed to continue and that the will of the majority of the people would not be accepted.

These are bald, salient facts. It is the truth. The Senator may be learned in his own way as a professor, but I will keep on in my own way.

Provided you keep to the level of the truth. You know nothing about the Blueshirts.

Acting Chairman

Will Senators allow Senator Dolan to continue on the Bill?

If what I am saying is not palatable, I cannot help it. I am only stating facts. That was the position in 1933 when this army was founded to try to upset our democratic institution. There was an economic war at the time and we know that many of these people favoured the British Government in their efforts, by tariffs and by refusal to take our cattle, to put the Irish nation out of existence. It was in a climate such as that that the Constitution was piloted through to remove from this country the right then in existence to avail of appeal to the King of England from decisions of the Supreme Court. Many people in this country at the time did not agree we should have these things removed but we in Fianna Fáil wanted to have our ports clear of the British Army. We wanted to be masters of our own fate, we wanted the Irish people to be supreme in their Government and their Constitution, owing allegiance to no outside power. That was the Fianna Fáil slant but it was not the slant of many others at that time.

In these circumstances, it was rather difficult for Fianna Fáil to pilot through the Constitution but, faithful as of old, the Irish people stood with us. I shall not go into the nice things that have been said and the only reason I mentioned this is that during that time, because this Government had so much on their plate by way of internal trouble and difficulties outside with the old traditional enemy, it was decided not to raise too many difficult issues and this question of PR was left in the Constitution. In doing so, however, we allowed the people, at a later date, the opportunity to decide——

It is enshrined in the Constitution, not left in. It is there, spoken for by the then Taoiseach who congratulated us for it.

As I have been trying to say, it was left in but an escape route, if you like, was left, so that at a later date, if they so wished, the Irish people could change the system. At present because we have an overall majority in Dáil Éireann and because it is only at a time like that you would get a Government to bring in such measures, we have now brought these Bills before the House so as to give the people an opportunity of deciding by referendum which of these they want, or both——

We will let you commit political suicide.

We have been a long time in office——

Would Senator Carton tell his Party to stop the cackle and let the Bills through?

The only thing you have to do is to go to the Park——

Acting Chairman

Will Senators allow Senator Dolan to continue?

They had their Party up for sale not long ago and I do not think they got a bid. They have a good record for auctions. However, this ridiculous system of PR was kept on in the 1937 Constitution. Now, we sincerely hope, the people of Ireland will see through this difficult system which very few people understand. I am told on good authority that it is only a few learned university professors who are able to explain how this intricate, obnoxious system works. In an election under PR, very often when it comes to transferring votes the system works like this. Supposing the quota was 6,000 votes and that 7,000 votes were cast, 1,000 would be transferred. We know that the 1,000 votes are got by plucking at random 1,000 voting papers out of the 7,000. All you need is a pluck here and a pull there and you could have a different result each time.

The Senator is not doing too badly on a subject he knows nothing about.

If you do not understand it, that only bears out my point. We are trying to give the people a system whereby they can elect a Government. We do not want to perpetuate an obnoxious, intricate system the people do not understand. The majority of Irish people like to be straightforward in their dealings and nothing is more obnoxious than the man who is shilly-shallying. There is good in the individual if he is manly enough to be able to take the pencil in his hand and say: "I vote No. 1 for that man and I have no other choice." This business of asking him to vote for five people in order of his choice is ridiculous. People should be able to make up their minds and say: "This is the type of Government we want. We know their policies and we know what they have done in the past." We do not have to send voters in to mark up to 11 or 12 on their papers and have people at election counts going over to the blackboard with chalk, ready-reckoners, calculus and various higher mathematics, endeavouring to find out who won the seat. We had long counts in the last election, some of them going into the tenth or twelfth count. The Fine Gael people should remember that because they had their casualties in those long counts, too. We should get rid of this system. It is a system imported for the reasons I have stated. It is not in use in any country in the world I know of.

It is not suitable for an educated people?

Tá tú ceart go leor. There is not anything wrong with a system which the ordinary people can understand. I would hate to see an electoral system which the ordinary man in the street could not understand. A crooked system which mesmerises them should not be used. Fianna Fáil have come down firmly for the straight vote, and we hope that the people will support us in that if they get a chance. It is true that there was a referendum nine or ten years ago. Those of us who took part in it remember it was rather controversial because at the same time we were electing a President.

Did that make it more difficult for you to win it?

It never made it difficult for us to win it, but people might fall for the Opposition's propaganda that Fianna Fáil were doing this for selfish motives.

We would never do a thing like that.

At last you are falling into line with the thinking of the majority of the people who have given us their support for the past 40 years and for which we thank them. We hope in the future to give an even better account of ourselves and help the people along. Our previous proposal was rejected in the referendum and we are criticised now for bringing it before the people again. We feel we know what is good for the country. We do not put our own interests before those of the country. If we wanted to do that, we could sit tight, do nothing about it and allow all this carving up of constituencies to continue. We could allow coalition after coalition to take office for a month or a year and this would have a detrimental effect on the life of the country. We have not chosen that line. We are thinking of the future and of the people of Ireland.

We emphatically believe that the system we are now proposing is much better and for that reason we are putting it to the people. An election is held to elect a government. Therefore, the system should be simple and effective. We know that in the past, because of the PR system, we had Coalition Governments on a few occasions. They were groups of politicians of various political opinions who came together after the election was over to carve up the various ministerial posts among themselves and to form a government.

I will admit that the majority of these people were probably genuine and were making an honest attempt to give a government over a period, But we all know it is not easy to reconcile the various elements in a Coalition Government, in particular when many of the minorities would be pressing for more than their fair share of the national cake just because they hold certain ministerial posts. Despite the best intentions of whoever is the Taoiseach, I do not think a Government like that could have survived any longer. The people had their eyes on what was happening. Those in business would be reluctant to embark on new ventures because they were not sure of what would happen from day to day. They were afraid the Government would collapse in a week or a month. Foreign investors would not be inclined to embark on projects here when a Coalition Government were in power. For those reasons we have always felt Coalition Governments were disastrous.

Including the one you had yourselves, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

I want to say emphatically that we in Fianna Fáil never took part in a Coalition Government. You can verify that fact quite easily. We have never doled out ministerial posts to various Parties seeking to form a Government behind the backs of the electorate. We have always stood firmly on our own policies. We said that if we did not get the support of the majority of Deputies in the Chamber we were prepared to walk over to the other side. We did that. That is why we have been in office so long and have been returned so often. We have never liked the idea of a Coalition, which would not be for the betterment of the Irish nation. A coalition may, with a certain amount of experience, last for a while, but coalitions are bad and we would never subscribe to such an arrangement. We have never done so and never shall. As a Party, we would gladly and willingly walk into the Opposition benches rather than do this behind the backs of the people. That has never been our way of thinking at all and I think the people understand that fairly well.

Business suspended at 6.05 p.m. and resumed at 7.15 p.m.

Before we adjourned, I was referring to Coalition Governments. I was about to say I thought they were bad for the economy and for the country generally, the reason being, of course, that these Coalition Governments were composed of different elements purporting to put separate policies before the people prior to an election and then coming together after the election, behind the backs of the electorate, and forming a Government and a Cabinet of their own. There is a difference between that and what is called a minority Government, where one single Party has its own Cabinet and gets the support of individual Deputies. Such a Government could make some progress and do some good for the country. There would be a united Cabinet having the one policy, and it would not be a matter of one Minister vying with another, as would happen in a Coalition, in an effort to get some Party advantage.

These two Bills are necessary. A decline has taken place in the rural population and it is necessary to reexamine this whole question of constituencies, their boundaries, their extent, populations and so forth. We believe that the single-seat constituency is the best in the present circumstances. It will mean that very few county boundaries will have to be breached in order to comply with the decision that was taken in the High Court in 1961. At that time many of our county boundaries were breached. Parts of Leitrim found themselves in County Roscommon, and parts of Kildare, Meath and Westmeath were all lumped together to form a constituency. That is not good, irrespective of what Senator Dooge may have said regarding the founding of counties going back to the time of King John. It is true they have been a long time in existence. It is over 300 years since the last county was founded. That is a fairly long tradition. Rural people and, I am sure, city people as well, take a certain pride in their own county, whether it be in relation to football or in relation to anyone belonging to their county representing that county in any contest at home or abroad. It is only right and proper that we should have a certain amount of pride in our own parishes and in our own counties, and certainly in rural Ireland we do not like to see county boundaries being breached because of that tradition.

Along with that, there is the administration unit of the county council which has jurisdiction within the county boundaries. If the counties are broken up, there is the difficult problem of Deputies having to deal with various county councils in relation to matters appertaining to their constituencies. My own constituency is a three-seater, and under the new arrangement, without breaching the county boundaries, we would still have a three-seat constituency. I think this would be a much more pleasing solution to the problem than to have us amalgamated with our neighbours in Monaghan, who are also Ulster people. We like them and they are our neighbours. This would give us a five-seat constituency which would extend from Belcoo Bridge which is 25 miles from Sligo and Bundoran, across Glan Gap and up to Belturbet and Killeshandra in Cavan, down to Virginia, into Clones and as far as Ardee in Louth. That would be a rather unwieldy constituency for any one Deputy to try to represent. A Fine Gael Deputy who is a Monaghan man said such an arrangement would be right into his barrow, but perhaps he was in a jocular mood. The real fact is that Cavan people would appreciate if this three-seat constituency were divided into three different units and let the best horse jump the ditch so far as representation is concerned.

Senator O'Sullvan said that Fianna Fáil would gerrymander these constituencies to suit themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth than that statement. This did not happen in the past and it will not happen in the future. He quoted the case of mid-Cork. He was a Member of Dáil Éireann at the time and he agreed with that division. He did not vote against it. When a by-election took place some years later, it was a Fine Gael candidate who gained the seat, so it was not a matter of gerrymandering to suit the interests of Fianna Fáil.

In the new set-up, there will be a Commission which will deal with these boundaries, and set them up. Fianna Fáil will have no majority on that Commission. That is a fair method of doing it. Apart from that, we do not like to see a decline of population in rural Ireland. These are facts. We do not like to see a decline in our representation in the National Parliament. We do not like to see the cities overloaded, as it were, with Deputies. We appreciate the difficulties of the people representing rural Ireland because those areas are sparsely populated and communications may not be too good. We believe that a certain amount of tolerance in that respect is fully justified. Fine Gael should approach it from the same angle. They should be concerned about the rural population.

It may be that Fine Gael Deputies may have their eye on city constituencies, as I think they have, and they may be more interested in seeing a big increase in the representation in the city areas, and a decline in the rural areas. I would not like to visualise what would happen in Mayo, Leitrim, Roscommon or Galway, if this single-seat proposition is not carried, because we will have multi-seat constituencies. They will be very unwieldy and no account will be taken of the county boundaries as they exist at present.

We in Fianna Fáil were totally against PR from the beginning because we felt it was a lottery system which the average voter did not understand, or few understood, and that it encouraged people to be rather hesitant in making decisions. We prefer a system under which the people could come down firmly and strongly on the side of one Party or another. Indeed, if we follow the pattern of recent by-elections, we can see that up to 80 per cent of the people who voted followed that line of thinking because there were thousands of "plumpers" in these by-elections. Furthermore, preference was exercised in only 20 per cent of the total vote.

It has been argued that it might be better for the Government to spend the money which will be involved in this referendum on other useful work, as it is called. I feel, and I am sure the people of Ireland feel, that the most useful work that could be done in the circumstances is to ensure that the electorate themselves will know what they are doing when they are choosing a Government. It has been proved over the years that the system of proportional representation is not decisive. Very often, a second election has had to be held to ensure that the Government would have an overall majority. It has been estimated that, since 1948, there have been 24 small Parties in existence, many of them grouping to form a Coalition, so to speak. While many individual members of those Parties might have the interests of the country very much at heart—or think they have—certainly they had their own sectional interests at heart.

It has been said that, if this Bill goes through, Fianna Fáil will sweep the country at the next general election. That is a wonderful compliment. We do not want to boast about our achievements but we cannot be blamed for being rather proud of them. However, I feel that some of the Opposition's estimates are based on the results of the last local government elections and do not take into account the votes secured by people because they were local or because they had particular ties or loyalties in those areas so that, in fact, very often such votes are strictly not Party votes at all.

The Opposition say that Fianna Fáil will secure at least 93 seats at the next general election if proportional representation is abolished. I do not think they are justified in saying so. However, Fianna Fáil will put their policy to the people and will not enter into a Coalition. Fianna Fáil will try to implement their policy to the best of their ability. Surely a Government who are prepared to risk their popularity by going to the country so as to give an opportunity to the people themselves—who, in the long run, are the masters—to decide what is right, must obviously have the interests of the nation at heart?

It has been asserted that this legislation is all Fianna Fáil thinking and that the subject of proportional representation never raised its head so far as any of the Opposition Parties are concerned. Senator Yeats quoted from various journals and papers to show that many prominent people in the Opposition are in favour of the straight vote. As a comparatively young man, I had a great admiration for Deputy Cosgrave who is now the Leader of the Opposition. I thought him very fair-minded. His father fought against the British in this country at a time when people were badly needed. The son, Liam, always conveyed the idea to me that he was a good leader, that he could think for himself and make up his own mind. It is on record, and it has not been denied, that, as Leader of the Fine Gael Party, Deputy Cosgrave has declared his implicit faith in the straight vote. If arguments from the Government side of the House would not weigh with the Opposition, one would think arguments from a man such as the Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Cosgrave, would weigh heavily with them when they come to make their choice.

It is also true that a former Minister in the Coalition declared proportional representation to be ludicrous, to be a fraud and a cod, and he said it ought to be abolished. He said it is the brainchild of cranks and, so far as this country is concerned, it was tried out on the dog, foisted on us by half-lunatics and would work on paper like a jig-saw puzzle. Words to that effect were said by Deputy Dillon on 26th March, 1947. Other prominent people within the ranks of Fine Gael held similar views. Deputy J.A. Costello was once Taoiseach of this country. He said on one occasion that proportional representation is imperfect, that, on paper, it might work all right but, in practice, it has many difficulties.

I mention those views to show that, within the ranks of the present Opposition, many people who rank high in Fine Gael—people who have had positions of trust and responsibility given to them or thrust upon them—do not hold with proportional representation and have not made their statements lightly or without consideration. At no time, so far as I know, have they spoken against the straight vote but they have said that proportional representation is not the best system for any country or for a country such as ours. We in Fianna Fáil have always believed that to be so. We believe emphatically that, this time, the Irish public will realise that it is in their political interest to vote for the straight vote electoral system. There are something like 400,000 extra people on the register today as compared with 1959.

If the full facts are put to them plainly and honestly, we believe that the people will decide that Fianna Fáil are acting in the interests of the people and not, as is being hinted, in the interests of the Fianna Fáil Party. We are giving them an opportunity to give themselves a system which will make it easier for them to get rid of us, if that is their desire. It will give them the strongest possible weapon to approve or disapprove of the actions and policies of a Government or a Party. Furthermore, under the straight vote system, there will always be an Opposition ready to take over from an outgoing Government.

If anything happened to Fianna Fáil it is deplorable that not one of the Opposition Paries is fit to take over. That is a poor state of affairs. It is perfectly true that our accomplishments, while we had an overall majority or a comfortable majority in Dáil Éireann, are something any Party could be proud of. I say in all sincerity that these two Bills are very important to the life of the nation and that we are looking very far ahead. We feel the people should be given this system; they should give this system to themselves. We feel, too, that this matter of tolerance is very important to rural Ireland. Combining the two measures, I feel the people who will sit down and think the matter out for themselves will decide to adopt an electoral system which they and their neighbours understand, a system without any of the intricacies or any of the difficulties by way of calculation or otherwise that are in the present system. They will get rid of this system and we will forge ahead with a new system which will be used by future generations to decide quickly and effectively whether they believe a Government are doing the best they can for the people or not.

It would be possible for me, remembering the debate in 1959, to get up and simply say: "See the Seanad Debates, Volume 50, columns 443 to 471." I imagine that a number of Senators might prefer me to do this, but I am afraid that this is not in my nature, and I feel constrained to put the case again in favour of proportional representation and the single transferable vote in face of the repeated effort on the part of Fianna Fáil to abolish it. On the last occasion it was said to us that we should leave it to the electorate to decide and my answer to that was: "Yes, by all means; but let us first of all give our advice to the electorate; let us state a reasoned case why the electorate would be well advised to retain PR, and let us also employ the only power we have in the Seanad to delay this legislation for 90 days, in order to give the electorate full time to ponder the strength of our case for retention and of the Fianna Fáil case for abolition."

The Seanad on that occasion defeated the measure by one vote, and it had to go back to the Dáil, and the Dáil had to pass a resolution deeming that the measure had been passed by the Seanad and the delay was of 90 days. We all know the result and I will come to that later on, but I can claim that I foresaw the result for at column 471 at the end of my speech I said:

...if the referendum does go to the people, the result may well surprise Fianna Fáil, because many voters who have lately voted for Fianna Fáil, ...will not vote, as Fianna Fáil asks them, for the abolition of PR, but will preserve in the hands of the electors all the valuable discriminatory powers which PR at present enables them to wield.

This turned out to be the case. Although the Presidential election was held at the same time, and although Mr. de Valera was strongly and publicly committed to the abolition of PR, the people's answer to these two questions—(a) Whom do you want for President and (b) Do you want to abolish PR? —showed a measure of political maturity which I and many like me found encouraging, because while President de Valera was elected by 538,003 votes against General MacEoin's 407,536, a majority of 127,467, the vote for the retention of PR was 486,989 against those who voted for the abolition, 453,322.

I ask the House to note that while Mr. de Valera as a person gained a majority of over 120,000 votes the policy that he advocated in relation to PR on that occasion was defeated by 33,000 votes. In other words, there was a swing from the personal vote for Mr. de Valera against the abolition of PR of some 150,000 votes; or to put it another way, the difference in fact between the vote for Mr. de Valera and the vote against PR was over 84,000 votes. This question, then, that is before us today has been duly referred to the tribunal of the people, and we are entitled to ask the Government: "Why do you refuse to accept the people's verdict? Why do you refuse the verdict of this tribunal to which it was referred?" We were asked: "Why not leave it to the people", and we said: "Yes, with our advice and time to reflect", and the people decided.

It was referred to the tribunal of the people and it is quite obvious that the circumstance of the votes being taken at the time for such a special candidate as Éamon de Valera for the Presidency was very strongly in favour of the Fianna Fáil view; yet the people rejected the abolition of PR. Why, therefore, must we go back again now? I do not feel that that question has been fully answered by either the Minister or those who spoke in favour of abolition. I was rather surprised to hear Senator Dolan say—and I was a little apprehensive, when I saw the papers before him, that perhaps what I ventured to call before "the single transferable speech" was again being handed around in the ranks of Fianna Fáil, but I do not think it was a transferable speech and as far as I could see it was all his own work—but he did say that PR was "obnoxious", "ridiculous" and that it was "intricate". He slid over the fact that this was not merely retained in the Fianna Fáil Constitution of 1937 but was enshrined in it, as Senator O'Sullivan said. It was a fresh Constitution, freshly devised, and there was no earthly reason to put it in if it was, as Senator Dolan said, ridiculous, obnoxious and intricate. Why was it put into the 1937 Constitution which was sponsored by his Party? He does not answer why.

I did answer it.

That was when the Senator was snoring.

I hear interruptions from Senator Ó Maoláin, from Senator Dolan and from the Minister but I am afraid that they blend so harmoniously that I only get the chord. I did not hear an answer to my question. He only referred to the Blueshirts in 1933, and my view of the Blueshirts would be precisely that of Senator Ó Maoláin; and I imagine many of the younger Members of Fine Gael would feel much as we do, but I did not hear why Fianna Fáil felt obliged to put into the Constitution something which was obnoxious, ridiculous and intricate.

The explanation is there.

Why do Fianna Fáil put before us things that are obnoxious? Why do they sponsor the ridiculous? What element in Fianna Fáil gives such support to the absurd, the ridiculous, the obnoxious, the hateful? I did not hear Senator Dolan explain that, not to my satisfaction. The fresh Constitution was devised and into this Constitution was put something that I regard as wholly admirable, but which we are now asked to believe was ridiculous and obnoxious. It was not less intricate then, was it less ridiculous or less obnoxious? I am still waiting for a coherent answer to that question. It may come from later speeches but I have not heard it yet.

Is the Senator inviting answers or interruptions or will he wait until later on?

I should be very pleased if you, a Chathaoirleach, would allow a coherent answer, but I am not sure whether the Misleader of the House is able to give that kind of answer.

If the Senator consults the "Thoughts of Mao", perhaps he might get some information in them.

I am afraid I am not one of those who kowtow to Mao. I am afraid Senator Ó Maoláin is under a serious misapprehension, perhaps owing to the fact that his own name starts off with much the same syllable. Shall we call him "Ó Maoláin?"

I listened with great interest to Senator Yeats in a similar state of confusion; he claimed that the Irish people did not really understand this system; Senator Dolan said much the same thing.

Many of them.

How many of them.

I was not suggesting the Senator said all of them. The point he made was that a large number, sufficiently large to be significant, did not understand the system. Senator Dolan said much the same thing.

Senator Yeats said that, when there are a whole host of candidates before them, they find it difficult to sort them out and express preferences. I should like to say that one improvement introduced lately is very good; that is that the Party affiliations of the various candidates are now shown on the ballot paper. That should have been done long ago. They are now shown, and this is a step forward, and it is perfectly easy to spot the candidates from the Party one supports, and it is quite easy to express one's preferences.

Not more than one-tenth of the papers are filled up completely.

That may be quite true, but I do not think Senator Yeats can claim, on the one hand, that the very low preferences have no significance and, on the other hand, complain because numbers of the people do not fill in these lower preferences. It is quite true that, in general, the upper preferences are more frequently filled. It is true there is a multiplicity of names on the ballot paper, but I can assure Senator Yeats that it is quite within the compass of the intelligence of the ordinary Irish voter to express preferences over a fairly wide range. I am inclined to ask Senator Yeats, when next he is in a betting shop, to note the kind of combinations of preferences expressed by the average punter. If the average punter goes in with a 1/- accumulator on six horses, he knows exactly what should be carried forward from horse to horse.

I am glad the Senator agrees with me that PR is like backing horses.

If the punter express his preferences for a cross double or cross treble and relates that to four horses, he can actually get six cross doubles or four cross trebles, and the ordinary Irish punter is quite well aware of these facts and you will find him following up an each way double or an each way treble with the greatest of ease.

I do not know what they are.

Much easier than dividing a surplus.

Senator Yeats, when I meet him in a turf accountant's office, always wears a long beard, but I have no doubt at all that Senator Yeats is every bit as intelligent as these punters and will be able to lay his 1/- accumulator with just as much acumen as they do and calculate the odds with just as much ease.

I challenge the Senator to go into any pub or bookie's office and take the first ten people he meets and ask them how a surplus is divided.

If I might continue, I am quite convinced that, when a man puts on an each way double or treble, he is quite capable not merely of calculating what he will get if his first horse is placed at 6 to 5 and he is entitled to a quarter of the odds, plus the odds on the winner, if the horse happens to win, and quite capable of realising that that will be carried forward, plus his initial stake; and, if on the next horse he gets 11 to 8, but is only entitled to a quarter of the odds because the horse is only placed, he realises what will be carried forward to the third horse and, if the third horse is 7 to 4, the punter knows exactly how many pounds, shillings and pence he is entitled to, less tax, of course.

Could we now come to the Third and Fourth Amendments?

That being so, I reject the view of Senator Yeats that the ordinary Irish voter has not got enough intelligence to understand a voting paper and to express quite simple preferences——

That is not what I said.

——for ten or 20 candidates, marking them one, two, three, four in the order of his preferences.

That is Mao tactics. That is not what Senator Yeats said.

I appreciate the tribute paid to me by Senator Ó Maoláin. Mere invective and shouting is a clear demonstration that my case is solid.

Senator Yeats did not say what the Senator says he said.

Senator Yeats quite emphatically said that many of the voters did not understand the system——

That is correct.

——and were consequently incapable of registering their preferences over a long list. I am suggesting that they are quite capable of doing so, not only in the turf accountant's office, not only in the polling booth, but also in relation to competitions every Sunday in the Sunday Press. There you find people every Sunday expressing very marked preferences as between, for instance, a high buttoned double-breasted suit in beige-caramel check, or a navy crepe worsted suit, side fastened with gold loops and tiny belt, or a pebblestone tweed suit, in pink-blue mixture, double-breasted jacket and buttoned to the neck, or again a tastefully designed suit with welted seaming in fine wool tweed.

The Senator knows this is not a matter of judgement. This is just gambling.

I am sorry——

There is no element of judgement involved in these competitions. It is pure gambling.

There is judgement involved.

I am sorry Senator Yeats is reluctant to allow me at least to finish a sentence. His claim is cruelly damaging to the newspaper in question. This is certainly our greatest Sunday newspaper, bar none, and the amount of money that is sent into it and the jury that decides on the skill of the competitors is all set forth here for Senator Yeats to examine.

It is still a lottery.

And, if he claims it is a pure lottery, that is a grave disappointment to those of us who have been going in for this competition week after week, hoping to win a Fiat or even an Escort at the end of our expression of preferences.

If the Senator shut his eyes, he would have just as good a chance.

This is very disappointing, but nevertheless I think these examples demonstrate that it is by no means impossible to ask the ordinary Irish person to express a preference. If they can express their preference between the kind of costumes I have read out— the high buttoned double-breasted suit in beige-caramel check as opposed to the pebblestone tweed suit —I see no reason why these same people should not express quite coherently a preference between, say, Senator Michael Yeats and Deputy Brendan Corish or Deputy Liam Cosgrave, or for the more subtle differences between Senator Michael Yeats and Deputy Martin Corry, for instance, standing in the same Party interest. This being so, I feel Senator Yeats has not quite accepted the fact that voters with power to discriminate are there in the polling booth, and exercise there this discriminatory power. Senator Yeats also said there is "a random element" in the PR system. That is perfectly true, but it is in fact statistically insignificant. It is perfectly true that the physical transfer of some surplus votes is, as it were, fortuitous but, nevertheless, the numbers are such that the random element is very small and is not statistically significant.

There could be thousands of votes involved.

Further, I would say that everything in life has a random element about it, even some of the speeches of Senator Yeats seem to me to contain more than the average random element. There is something, however, that is not random to which the attention of the House should be drawn, that is, that under the so-called straight-vote system or the plumper system or the straitjacket system, which enables you just to vote once and that is all, you can have a large number of minority MPs. Senator Ryan and Senator Dolan both asked how, if Fianna Fáil had not got a majority support, could they possibly, with the change in the electoral system, win a big majority of seats? The answer is, they might well win a big majority of seats on a minority of votes, and I should like to quote figures in support of that. I quote, as I intend to quote further, from a very compelling book Voting in Democracies by Enid Lakeman and——

That is enough.

——James D. Lambert. I did not expect quite the neigh of laughter from Senator Yeats that we got, but I did expect Fianna Fáil laughter because I remember on every single occasion when Miss Lakeman was either speaking or writing to the papers here, she wiped the floor with Fianna Fáil statistically and factually and, logically enough, they foam at the mouth now when they hear of Miss Enid Lakeman. Not one has answered her effectively and her letters appear now unanswered, even in the Irish Press, and even Senator Yeats is not answering them except by this rather raucous laughter, the explanation of which Oliver Goldsmith has given us some years ago.

They have more sense.

The reference to the minority MP in this volume is to the minority MP in the British Parliament only and I am going to read this table on to the record of the House because I think it is important to have it for reference.

The table gives for elections from 1918 to 1955 the total number of seats won by the minority candidates, that is to say, by candidates who under the so-called straight vote system, got less than half the votes in their constituency but were nevertheless elected, and I read it as follows: In 1918, there were 94 seats won by minority candidates; in 1922, 176; in 1923, 216; in 1924, 120; in 1929, 315; in 1931, 33; in 1935, 58; in 1945, 177; in 1950, 187; in 1951, 39; in 1955, 37.

I draw attention of the House to the fact that, as Miss Lakeman and Mr. Lambert say, the Party with the second largest number of votes actually won the 1929 election when there was the record number of 315 minority seats. This is what the Fianna Fáil speakers may well laughingly call "the straight vote" in which you could have nearly half the Parliament elected in constituencies where their candidate failed to get a majority.

I quote just one constituency, the constituency of Conway, in which, in the general election of 1950, the candidate Jones, for the Labour Party, was elected and he got 15,176 votes. The Conservative candidate, Price-White, got 14,373 votes and the Liberal candidate, Hodson, got 9,937 votes. The man who got elected got 15,000 and the votes cast against him were over 24,000.

That is codology.


They do not like that.

If there is a sort of howl of interruptions, I cannot understand them. I am quite happy to be interrupted by, say, three at a time.

This is what is going to be merged into the University of Dublin. God help the students.

This is my answer to the question asked both by Deputy Ryan and Deputy Dolan: how could you possibly get a government elected under the straight vote system unless it had majority support in the country? This is the answer: you can get a candidate elected by the split vote, and this is really the system that is called the straight vote. It is the split vote system, and everywhere where you have three or more candidates—and in most Irish constituencies there are at least three—the votes will be split and very frequently, perhaps as frequently as in Britain down the years from 1918 to 1955, minority candidates will get elected and it is perfectly possible, as I have shown, even for the government itself to get elected by minority votes.

Senator Yeats also defends the statement that, as far as he knew, under the straight vote system no Party ever got a two-thirds majority.

Oh, no; that is not what I said.

He is making it up as he goes along.

This was in relation to the suggestion that Fianna Fáil would get 95 seats on less than 40 per cent of the votes. I said it had never happened and could not happen that a Party got a two-thirds majority on less than 40 per cent of the poll.

That is democracy.

I used to think that Senator Quinlan was tops but Senator Sheehy Skeffington beats him.

I accept this correction and the record will show whether this is very well remembered. I am not shedding any doubt upon it but I am referring to occasions: in 1924, when the Conservative Party, with 47 per cent of the votes, got 67 per cent of the seats and, in 1931, with 55 per cent of the votes, got 76 per cent of the seats, and in 1935, with 54 per cent of the votes, got 70 per cent of the seats.

This split vote system or straitjacket vote system is the system whereby the minority may well, if they can also contrive the boundaries of the constituencies to their satisfaction, get a majority, a big majority, in Parliament, and this is what all of us here ought to be afraid of.

Senator Yeats also quoted at length from the Cumann na nGaedheal policy and—I suppose, the ad hominem argument is a legitimate one in debate— he quoted several Cumann na nGaedheal and Fine Gael speakers who in the past were opposed to PR, but, surely, it is legitimate to ask Senator Yeats, through you, Sir, is it not possible to conceive that on these occasions Cumann na nGaedheal were wrong and that now Fianna Fáil are wrong; or must we say that Cumann na nGaedheal, of course, were right and, therefore, Fianna Fáil were right now? I prefer the first conclusion: Cumann na nGaedheal were certainly wrong then, and Fianna Fáil are certainly wrong now.

I noted the phrase of Senator Yeats when he said it is hard to know where Fianna Fáil policy starts and where it stops.

This is dreadful.

I am sorry but I noted this as it was being said and I am certain that it was in these words it was said.

I note the Senator's indignant denial but these are the words he used.

They are not the words I used.

"It is hard to know where Fine Gael policy starts and where it stops."

The Senator said "Fianna Fáil" just now.

You have no policy.

The Senator is doting.

Senator Sheehy Skeffington to continue, without interruption.

Fianna Fáil have no policy. He was speaking about our policy.

Mr. P. O'Reilly (Longford) rose.

Senator O'Reilly to resume his seat.

I accept the revised version.

If I made a slip of the tongue, I apologise to the House and to Senator Yeats. The words were : "It is hard to know where Fine Gael policy starts and where it stops." I propose to tell Senator Yeats where it stops. It stops in Fianna Fáil, presumably. Senator Yeats quoted the policy of Fine Gael when they were opposed to PR. Now he is opposed to it and so are his Party. Therefore, the answer to his question is that it starts in Fine Gael and stops in Fianna Fáil. I hope Senator Yeats is satisfied with the answer.

The case made for the abolition of PR is based largely on four points. The first is that we would get better TDs under this plumper voting system; the second is that there would be great stability of Government; the third is that we would be unlikely to get ad hoc coalitions; and the fourth that we would be avoiding multiplicity of Parties. Let us examine these four points.

The first is that we would get better TDs. This point has already been dealt with well by Senator D.J. O'Sullivan. However, I cannot help imagining the scene in which the Taoiseach had a look at the Dáil and decided that they were a pretty scruffy-looking lot and that he could do a lot better. I can imagine him saying: "I see a chap over there whom we could improve on. There are quite a number of TDs here whom we could improve on". It is not clear whether it is the same people who will be improved on by a new process of election or whether lurking in the background there are potential model TDs who do not come forward, who do not get elected or selected or nominated because the electoral system so far has not satisfied their philosophy, their ethos. It may be it will be the same TDs but greatly improved because it will be a different system. I cannot see it. I regard that as complete hokum.

I feel that the Dáil—and the Seanad too for that matter, but the Dáil particularly being more directly elected— mirrors the feeling of the country and expresses the political aspirations of the people. Only too well, one sometimes thinks, but it reflects the feelings of the country. Edmund Burke said: "The virtue, the spirit, the essence of the House of Commons, consists in its being the express image of the feelings of the nation," and this "express image" is safeguarded, this parliamentary express image, under PR. Consequently, the PR system, which gives a full, clear and coherent image of the aspirations of the people, is most desirable for the community's peace of mind.

They tell us we will get better TDs under the single-seat system. Better from whose point of view? In what way will they be better? I have a suspicion it will be mainly from the point of view of the Party bosses, who find it much easier to manage TDs who are sane, safe and docile backbenchers, who will give no trouble to the Party machine. Under this system, only one person will be selected for each Party in each constituency and he had better be a good boy or he will not be nominated. They will not run the risk of letting the voter decide as to whether number one, two, three or four of the Fianna Fáil candidates shall top the poll. Up to now it has been within the power of the voters to decide, even in the case of Ministers, that they prefer younger men, more active men, and Ministers have even been defeated because of this by members of their own Parties, and the Party bosses, and the Ministers, dislike it, but the voters have had the power of making such decisions.

Party bosses, of course, want the decision to be made by the Party, by the inner caucus. Therefore, when they say they will get better TDs, they mean more docile TDs. The present backbenchers in the Dáil have very little real power, because the real power is exercised within the inner caucus of the Party, and it would seem that the only backbencher with real power today is the one who writes in Saturday's Irish Times. However, with the Dáil, if we want to improve the working capacity of TDs, the Government, if they are sincere, will extend the system of all-Party Committees in which a good deal of the drudgery work attached to legislation will be carried out, and from such a process you will get better backbenchers because they will be backbenchers with more responsibility and effective legislative power than at present.

It is realised that a backbencher today has as little effective power beyond that to persuade, as we have now in the Seanad. Does the term "better TD" mean that he will be a better TD in his constituency? I detest the concept of a TD as a kind of a local fixer, a man who fixes thing up, who uses his "influence", but, even if one were to take this rather narrow concept of the duties of a parliamentarian, I suggest that in a constituency where there are at least two other Members of Parliament representing the same constituency in different interests, the voter is more likely to get more alacrity from a TD with colleagues in his own constituency than where the TD is the sole representative in the constituency. Where there is rivalry between TDs in the same constituency, the voter will get more action than where the TD feels himself to be alone representing the constituency. Of course, a great amount of this work could be avoided for the TD by some system for dealing with legitimate complaints such as an ombudsman as they have in other countries.

The second argument used against PR and in favour of this so-called straight vote system is that you get greater stability of government, stronger government. Senator Stanford dealt well with that point. I realise, of course, that Fianna Fáil, who can get a unanimous decision from 1,500 voters at an Ard Fheis—a unanimous decision—appear to be pretty strongly governed. I do not think even the meetings in the Soviet Union get such a measure of unanimity. I remember votes in the Soviet Academy of Science on the Lysenko policy of 698 for and two against, a result Fianna Fáil can better.

I argue that sometimes a Government who are not too stable, too secure, too self-satisfied, are better for the country, because they are more sensitive to public opinion. Such a Government could not snap their fingers at public opinion. If they are not too secure, too safe with a big overall majority, they can be tipped out of office and therefore they have to be amenable to public opinion, have to endeavour to fulfil promises made. Stability does not necessarily mean actual strength, and in this connection I refer to the situation in Britain in 1931. I happened to be in London during the few days when the election results were coming in in November, 1931. I remember the political atmosphere and of course the National Government swept the country in that election. The result was that 14,532,519 votes went to the National Government. All other Parties got 7,123,854, just about half of the Government poll. Incidentally, the National Government on that vote—it was a two to one vote throughout the country—got 544 seats in Parliament, while all others got 61. This is the system that is laughingly known as the straight vote. We had a taste of it the other day in the Beet Growers Association election. In 1935 similar figures were shown, with 433 seats for the National Government and 182 against. The result was that this National Government remained solidly in power with a colossal majority for nine long years. What years were they? They were the years from November, 1931, to April, 1940. The year 1931 was two years before Hitler came to power in Germany and April, 1940, was the date of the collapse of France and the defeat of the British in Narvik. They had this stable Government for these nine long years. They had a colossal majority. Nobody could say their majority was not big enough. They were nine long years in unbroken power with immense stability from two years before Hitler to April, 1940. What was Winston Churchill's verdict on that Government? He said in 1940: "Never has a great nation been so naked before her foes". This being so, it makes nonsense of any claims that stability equals strength. A Government may well have an enormous majority and be so stable that it need not listen to anybody. It can be both arrogant and weak, and that is what the National Government in Britain was in those days—arrogant and weak. I say to the present Fianna Fáil Government: "Beware; there are signs of justification for both these adjectives in relation to the present Government."

Has the Senator forgotten that the National Government had Baldwin?

It had Baldwin and Ramsay MacDonald. I am prepared to speak at greater length if you consider it to be in order for me, and go into the various deficiencies of that Government. I mentioned the fact that it had a colossal majority, stayed in unbroken power for nine years and yet left the country naked to its foes, to quote Churchill.

They had Baldwin. The Senators know the history of what happened.

Your explanation is one person?

If they had Tomás Ó Maoláin as Prime Minister, I have no doubt he would have made a better show——

They would have been disarmed.

——but it is possible he might have made a show of himself.

I would have liquidated the Senator, anyway.

I am reasonably confident of the kind heart of the Senator lurking behind this rather sturdy exterior. I do not think he would have liquidated me, but merely locked me up for the duration.

In June, 1938, in arguing this case— I do not want to quote Canon Luce at length again; I did so the last time and those interested can see what was said—Canon Luce said: "A Government with a majority of six under PR is infinitely stronger than a Government with a majority of 60 elected otherwise." I am sure he is right because "elected otherwise" covers a multitude of sins, including minority MPs and even minority Governments.

The so-called straight vote is said to give a Government with big majority. We were told that endlessly here in 1959. In those days we had before us, nevertheless, the example of the Attlee Government of 1950, whose majority was only six in a House of Commons of 625—a tiny majority. That Government lasted for 18 months and in October, 1951, with a big poll in a general election, 83 per cent, the Conservatives came back with a majority of how many seats—a majority of 17. Two successive elections in Britain under the "straight vote" gave tiny majorities in a House of 625. Since then, in 1964 of course, they had a general election in Britain in which the Labour Government under Harold Wilson was returned with a majority of four. So the straight vote system which is being boasted about so much in the Fianna Fáil benches in the Dáil and Seanad, does not produce one of the things promised, that is to say, a big majority.

I have been talking about the United Kingdom where the so-called straight vote is in operation, but let me turn now to Ireland and have a look at our own Parliament since its beginning. I would remind the House that the time when there was the biggest Government majority in the Dáil and the smallest parliamentary Opposition was from 1922 to 1927. The Government majority in the Parliament, then expressed in several votes, amounted to something like 71 votes to 20. On, for instance, the 1925 Agreement the major vote was a vote "for" of 71 and "against"—largely Labour votes —of 20. This was the time when Fianna Fáil were abstaining from the Dáil. Do they now maintain that because of this big parliamentary majority that Government was our best Government yet? Can it be maintained by Fianna Fáil that the best Government yet in this country was from 1922 to 1927 because of the immense parliamentary strength of the Government? Would they regard it as necessarily the stablest and strongest Government? Or would they argue, as indeed I would, that some of the worst actions of that Government—I have not forgotten them—sprang rather from its weakness than from its strength? There is no point in going into detail there, because this can obviously be substantiated.

In 1927 Fianna Fáil came in. I know it gives offence if I mention the circumstances, so I shall not. From 1927 to 1932, they were there as a big and active Opposition. Since the parliamentary Opposition was much increased between 1927 and 1932, would Fianna Fáil today contend that, because the Government's majority was seriously reduced, the country was governed in a far less stable way? Was this one of the main results of Fianna Fáil coming into Parliament? Surely not? We must all recognise today that with Fianna Fáil as a big and effective Opposition the country was better governed, and that its stability has in fact continued to this day, to such an extent, in fact, that on 2nd September, 1958, the Manchester Guardian said:

Under PR the Irish Republic, formerly the Free State, has enjoyed about the stablest Government in Europe.

I am making the point in relation to stability that there is a danger of the Government being too "strong", being all-powerful, in fact, and being complacent in its unshakable power. The influence of critics within the Party, if there are such—and one hopes that there are some in every big Party—is seriously diminished by their Government's large majority. Look at Britain today, and you can see that critics inside and outside the Party with a big majority and in Government can be ignored. You can get the arrogance of the over-powerful Party in government. It is a very bad thing to have a Government so strong that they can afford to ignore public opinion. There is a dangerous, so-called stability which derives from parliamentary majorities being grossly disproportionate to the vote recorded in the country.

The example of France is sometimes mentioned. In fact, they have not got PR. They had it for a short time between 1945 and 1951, though even at that time it was the list system. This enabled the party bosses to decide which candidates on the list should benefit from the proportion of votes going to each Party. That was under the party list system of PR. Now they have this first round and second round which is a kind of modified system allowing voters to make a second choice. If on the first round no candidate gets more than 50 per cent, there is a second vote or poll in that constituency the following week. If, on the first poll, any candidate gets more than 50 per cent of the votes he or she is elected, and that is the end of the voting in that constituency. But if there is a second round, all candidates except those who got less than 10 per cent of the votes may remain in the field; but in effect those who have very little chance usually stand down in favour of others, and you get a second vote on fewer candidates in the same constituency. This is a sort of limited form of transferable or second preference vote. They try to do by a cruder method what we do by a very well devised and well working machine. Let us notice that when they did have the PR list system in 1945 the person elected to be Prime Minister arising out of that election was President Charles De Gaulle. Not even his worst critics would accuse him of being unstable in power. I do not think the effect of list PR then was to produce instability. I recognise that he resigned and went off into the wilderness for a time, but he was not put out by the system.

I have already referred—to turn to more immediate and topical things— to the Beet Growers Association elections. Is Fianna Fáil convinced, particularly the Minister for Agriculture, that the National Council of the BGA is now strong and stable? Is this what is desired? I think these elections were most unfair; and that the unfairness sprang from the so-called straight vote. The adversaries of Fianna Fáil got about 70 per cent of the vote and 58 out of 60 seats. Is Fianna Fáil satisfied that this is a good system? Is this what they want, 58 seats out of 60 for 70 per cent of the vote and poor Fianna Fáil with a full 30 per cent of the votes getting only two seats, one of the two elected, I think, being here with us now?

They had, in fact, a voting strength which would have entitled them to 19 or 20 seats and I would argue that had they got 19 or 20 seats the whole setup would have been much more healthy. It is high time that a good system of PR was introduced into such elections. This, in my submission, cannot be called straight in any valid sense of the word. Minorities, whether Fianna Fáil minorities or others, are entitled to more representation than that, and I do not think that this type of stability which is what is sought by Fianna Fáil throughout the country makes for useful stability.

Fianna Fáil sometimes seem to suggest that somehow or other they have been inhibited from doing a lot of things they would like to do for the country by not having overall majorities in the Dáil. Of course, they frequently had——

Nobody ever said that.

I said it was implied. It is possible that Fianna Fáil are quite content with the measure of power they have now, but I have seen it implied that they have not had the desired measure of support in power, and, in fact, not infrequently in the past they have gone to the country because they were asking for an overall majority and were not satisfied to depend on a few Independents.

However that may be, let us recognise that Fianna Fáil have had 30 years of power, the first 16 of which were unbroken, to implement their policy. I have referred before to what was aimed at originally by Fianna Fáil which I saluted long ago, and which seemed to me excellent and for which I am still waiting.

A patient man.

It was defined thus:

... That the whole basis of production, distribution, finance and credit requires complete overhauling and this is amply evident from the reports of the various committees which are summarised so admirably in the Secretary General's report... If we shirk any item of this task, if we fail to make the radical changes which are obviously necessary, if we fail to organise our economic life deliberately and purposely to provide as its first object for the fundamental needs of all our citizens so that everyone may at least be reasonably housed, clothed, and fed we shall be failing in our duty and failing cruelly and disastrously.

That is what was hoped for in 1932. I am of course quoting Mr. de Valera at Geneva. What was hoped for was a radical change in the entire system of production, distribution, finance and credit which was to be so completely overhauled that the first call on it would be to provide for the fundamental needs of the people.

If we have not radically altered our whole system of distribution, credit and finance and production, so as to provide first for these people we have failed cruelly and disastrously as well as failing in our duty. That was what Mr. de Valera hoped for in 1932, the first year of 16 years of unbroken power and the first year in a total of 30 years in power for Fianna Fáil so far.

Perhaps the Senator forgets that the Economic War started then.

I have not forgotten that.

It is well that everybody else would remember it, also.

He does not forget; he knows it. It just does not suit his book to recall it.


Who fought it? The Blueshirts.


Perhaps we could have Dr. Sheehy Skeffington continuing without interruptions.

I can well remember the Economic War, and in this House when Deputy L'Estrange was here he seldom allowed us to forget the slaughter of calves. That then seemed to be relevant to almost everything. I notice that it is the Fianna Fáil side now that is referring to the Economic War. It is the Economic War, then, that has so far prevented Fianna Fáil from doing what they proposed and which is responsible for their cruelly and disastrously failing in their duty. I hope that this Economic War will come to an end fairly soon and that they will be able at last, after these 30 years, to implement their policy or perhaps to stand aside for a bit and meditate on just how much they have succeeded in doing and how much they have left undone.

The danger of the so-called straight vote which may give a very powerful Government which may merely talk about doing all kinds of things is that it may well become authoritarian in practice and, as Senator James Douglas said in July, 1950, Parliament may become "simply a machine for registering decision made by the Party that has succeeded in obtaining dictatorial powers." This kind of stability, in my opinion, is motionless stability, and I sometimes feel that the tramping of feet that one has heard from Fianna Fáil down the years is not the sound of marching feet but the sound of the feet of the warriors of destiny loudly marking time. Therefore, I do not think that this sort of time-marking stability, with authoritarian, arrogant views and too much power, is good either for the Party or the country.

I come now to the third argument against the PR system and that is that under the straight vote there would be no ad hoc coalitions. I do not propose to deal at length with that, the House will be relieved to hear, but I recall that we have had two Coalition Governments in this country. The first might bear the label ad hoc, because the Parties came together after the election and formed the Coalition which put Fianna Fáil out. I said on a previous occasion, and I have no reason to alter my view, that the first Coalition Government did a lot of good. The Ministers in the Parties forming that Government worked with one another quite loyally on the whole, and they all succeeded, each in his own way and in his own Party, in making an immense amount of progress in a relatively short time. Then came things like Baltinglass and the Mother and Child Scheme, and the Government collapsed. If they had stood by Dr. Noel Browne they might well be in power today, but they came to grief over this scheme.

It is quite unfair to call the second Coalition Government an ad hoc Coalition, because the electorate knew perfectly well, if they voted for a Coalition in 1954, what it would consist of. They also knew what the alternative was. The alternative was Fianna Fáil, and the electorate, knowing all this, threw out the alternative, Fianna Fáil. This second Coalition, therefore, was not an ad hoc Coalition. About the first Coalition, the then Deputy de Valera had said in 1948, and I quote:

A coalition Government formed from five or six Parties with their divergent views and conflicting programmes, and with a combined strength only equal to that of Fianna Fáil, obviously could not last. Such a Government, if it should ever get down to serious work, would fly apart and we should be forced into another general election within a few months.

That first Coalition Government lasted for three and a quarter years, which is over the average life of all British Parliaments since 1918, so it was not quite as ephemeral as was anticipated by the Fianna Fáil Leader at that time.

It did fly apart.

It did fly apart, just as Fianna Fáil has been defeated in the past and may well be defeated in the future. Sinn Féin flew apart also; I do not know whether the Senator would like to go into that matter.

The fourth argument is that we may have a multiplicity of Parties. Everybody here knows that is nonsense. In the present Dáil we have, effectively, three Parties. In the British House of Commons they have the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, a Scottish Nationalist, a Welsh Nationalist; and in the past they have had the I.L.P., the Communist Party, Independents, National Liberals and National Labour, all under the system that is supposed to prevent multiplicity. In Northern Ireland they have the Unionist Party, the Nationalist Party, the Labour Party, the Liberal Party, the Republican Labour Party, the Independent Unionists, and on the fringe, and as yet not elected, candidates of other Parties such as Sinn Féin.

I would suggest, with those who have already dealt well with this point, that they are right when they say PR does not create divisions but reflects them where they already exist. Some people, it is true, do not like what they see when they look in the glass. They do not like their reflection, but, in my view, it is the height of folly to think that by breaking the looking-glass one improves one's image. Fianna Fáil do not like the reflection PR gives them. It does not seem to reflect the kind of face they would like to have, so they say: "Let us smash the machine" like the Luddites of old. If political Parties do not like the image reflected, let them alter their political faces rather than fly into a tantrum and smash this faithful mirror.

PR in this country has a great deal to be said for it. It is said it was introduced by the British, and this is true. It may well have been introduced for ignoble motives or merely in order to give the Unionist minorities representation proportionate to their numbers. I believe the first occasion upon which it was used in Ireland was in a municipal election in Sligo, and the Sligo Champion hailed the results in January, 1919, as follows:

The system has justified its adoption. We saw it work. We saw its simplicity. We saw its unerring honesty to the voter all through; we saw the result in the final count, and we join in the general expression of those who followed it with an intelligent interest—it is as easy as the old way; it is a big improvement and it is absolutely fair.

The Parties and candidates represented then were the Ratepayers Association, Sinn Féin, Labour and Independents. The details are on page 219 of Enid Lakeman's book. This system, which we have used since and got to know even better, is a delicate and accurate recording machine. In Dr. Luce's phrase, it is "a well-tested instrument of enlightened democracy". The wreckers tend to blame the machinery of the election system for all their own failures, for things like emigration, unemployment, tasks untackled, problems unsolved, as if by having another system we would have a marvellous Parliament, wonderful representatives, and an amazing Government. Looking at the two big Parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, I find them very similar. I recognise that Fine Gael has perceptibly improved in Opposition; I recognise that Fianna Fáil has perceptibly disimproved in power. I am very tempted to pronounce here and now a ukase and to say: "There shall be a merger between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. I am not interested in the details. I leave that to the Parties, but I say they must come together and merge. This would save a lot of unnecessary duplication and expense, and save the taxpayer a lot of money." If you challenge any Member of either of these two big Parties to mention one outstanding feature of the programme of the other Party which they could not accept, they will pause for a long time before they answer. Why? Because they are so similar. It is possible that the improvement in Fine Gael which has been so marked—and I say that in all sincerity—has been due to their being in Opposition, and it might well be that a similar treatment could, with advantage, be applied to Fianna Fáil.

The major test of PR as I see it, overriding all else, is that it leaves effective electoral power largely in the hands of the voter. The voter decides, and not the Party bosses. The voter is thoroughly capable of selecting. If you confront people with a choice between A, B, C, D, E, F and G, and if you say to each one of a number of people: "Which do you prefer?" and he says: "I prefer A"; and you say: "There is not enough support for A. Who would your second choice be?" and he says: "I would like E", and you say: "I am sorry, but E does not command enough support either." The choice would be focused and coordinated. If you could do this with every voter and go right around each of them you would get the result you required. This would be a rather clumsy way of doing what is actually achieved under the present voting system.

On page 101 of Enid Lakeman's book she refers to a school experiment carried out by Rowland Hill, and this is how she tells it:—

Rowland Hill ... records that, when he was teaching in his father's school, his pupils were asked to elect a committee by standing beside the boy they liked best. This first produced a number of unequal groups, but soon the boys in the largest groups came to the conclusion that not all of them were actually necessary for the election of their favourite and some moved on to help another candidate, while on the other hand the few supporters of an unpopular boy gave him up as hopeless and transferred themselves to the candidate they considered the next best. The final result was that a number of candidates equal to the number required for the committee were each surrounded by the same number of supporters, with only two or three boys left over who were dissatisfied with all those elected. This is an admirable example of the use of the Single Transferable Vote.

This is in fact what happens in every constituency under PR. The voter is allowed to express coherently and effectively his preference as between Parties, as between Parties and Independents, as between candidates within Parties; he may have a preference for an older candidate or a younger candidate, or a more local candidate, or a woman candidate. The final result is a co-ordination of the preferences which results in the kind of Dáil we have got, which seems to give such profound dissatisfaction to the Government, I am not quite sure why.

It is true that under PR, particularly under the system of the three-seat constituencies, the bigger Parties are always marginally favoured, but ideas, on the whole, are represented in fair proportion. In any country, minorities are entitled to hope for at least some representation. They must not be driven underground. The sort of situation that has very frequently obtained in Britain is at the same time an intolerable situation in relation to voting strength and seats. I should like to quote from a table at page 26 of Enid Lakeman's book. In the election in 1895, for instance, the Conservatives got 49 per cent of the vote and 61 per cent of the seats. In 1906, they got 44 per cent of the votes and 23.5 per cent of the seats. The Liberals got 55 per cent of the votes and 64 per cent of the seats. In 1918, the Conservatives got 35 per cent of the votes and 54 per cent of the seats. In 1924, the Conservatives got 47 per cent of the votes and 67 per cent of the seats. In 1931, they got 55 per cent of the votes and 76 per cent of the seats. In 1935, they got 54 per cent of the votes and 70 per cent of the seats. In 1945, Labour got 48 per cent of the votes and 62 per cent of the seats. In 1951, the last figure I shall quote, the Conservatives got 48 per cent of the votes and 51.5 per cent of the seats.

That kind of minority or near minority Government is the sort of thing which may arouse discontent in the minds of many minorities who might well under such a system be altogether disheartened by the parliamentary system. Already in this country, legislative changes have tipped the scales more in favour of the big Parties. In 1934, an Act was introduced which reduced the number of TDs per constituency to a maximum of five. The comment which Miss Lakeman and Mr. Lambert made about that was that that in itself reduced the chances of the smaller Parties and increased the margin by which the largest Party's seats might exceed strictly proportional numbers. The contrast is worth quoting.

In 1933, Fianna Fáil got 49½ per cent of the votes and 77 seats, representing 50½ per cent. Cumann na nGaedheal got 30½ per cent of the votes and 48 seats, representing 31½ per cent. The Centre Party got nine per cent of the votes and 11 seats, representing seven per cent. The Labour Party got six per cent of the votes and eight seats, representing five per cent. The Independents got five per cent of the votes and nine seats, representing six per cent. In 1948, on the other hand, Fianna Fáil got 42 per cent of the votes and 68 seats, representing 46 per cent. Fine Gael got 20 per cent of the votes and 31 seats, representing 21 per cent. Clann na Poblachta got 13 per cent of the votes and ten seats, representing seven per cent. Labour got nine per cent of the votes and 14 seats, equalling 9½ per cent. National Labour got 2½ per cent of the votes and nine seats, representing 3½ per cent. The Farmers' Party got five per cent of the votes and five seats, equalling 3½ per cent. The Independents got 8½ per cent of the votes and 14 seats, equalling 9½ per cent.

I could quote other figures but I do not intend to do so, as the House will be relieved to hear. It is quite possible to quote many more figures to show that in fact our system of PR marginally favours the bigger Parties. I do not object to that, because the present system of PR gives reasonably fair representation—not absolute representation but reasonably fair representation—to minorities, and that is the important thing. Therefore, the aim of the proposals before us, I would say, is to ensure that one big Party, not necessarily Fianna Fáil, will get quite disproportionately large representation in Parliament.

Senator Ryan talked a good deal about tolerance and the necessity for a certain tolerance. He mentioned the Supreme Court suggestion that a certain "latitude" should be used in interpreting the phrase "so far as it is practicable".

The High Court.

The High Court; I accept the correction. The phrase goes on, "so far as it is practicable, be the same". The aim should be so far as it is practicable to get the same representation. Senator Ryan suggested that all Parties had approved and voted for the Electoral Amendment Act, 1959, that is the Act the constitutionality of which was finally tested and found wanting. I want to quote from Volume 51 of the Official Report of the Seanad Debates, column 1037. I said:

We are asked in this Bill to believe that it is the same when one TD represents 16,000 people, another represents 17,000 or 17,500 and another 24,000. So, under the terms of this Bill, 24,000 is equal to 16,000. I do not know what our primary schoolteachers would think of that piece of mathematics, or what the children in our schools would think of the mathematical capacity of those who ask us to believe that, for practical purposes, 24,000 is equal to 16,000.

I said in the next column:

...the Government say: "We are not going to obey the Constitution, because we do not think it would be good for the country to obey the Constitution."

I will not weary the House with further quotations. I was not the only one. Senator O'Donovan and I made it clear that we were opposed to the Bill. I said it should be re-designed ab initio rather than amended in Committee, because it was fundamentally wrong. When we came to the end of the Second Stage debate and a vote was called for, four Senators voted against it, Senator Miss Davidson, Senator Murphy, Senator L'Estrange and myself. It might have saved a good deal of trouble and money if the Government had paid attention to those of us in this House who warned them that the Bill was unconstitutional. I make that point merely because Senator Ryan seemed to think that everybody on that occasion accepted the 1959 Bill: this is not so in relation to the Seanad.

The argument was made by the Minister and by Senator Ryan that unless we have this tolerance as it is called, country boundaries will have to be "breached"—that is the word that is used. County boundaries are already breached in the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency, in Longford-Westmeath, in Sligo-Leitrim and in Laois-Offaly, and have been for years. These are breaches of country boundaries. I would suggest, as I did in 1959 on the Electoral Amendment Act, that the way to deal with a change in the total of the population is to increase or decrease the number of seats per constituency. I think the ordinary constituency should be seven—not five or three. Then, if this were the case, simply by reducing or increasing the number of seats, one could cope quite easily with significant changes in population.

Senator Ryan asked the question: "How could people want some other Party and yet Fianna Fáil get elected?" I have already answered that—by the split vote system whereby minority candidates get in to such an extent that a minority Government could be elected—not necessarily would be elected but it is conceivable that it could—as the British examples I quoted have shown.

It is conceivable under proportional representation, too.

It is far less likely under proportional representation because a split vote is not possible under proportional represenation.

It is conceivable under both.

Under proportional representation the split vote is not possible because, if you express your preferences, your single vote— you do not have more than one vote— is transferred.

You can have as many as you like.

It gives you one vote, which you can transfer in much the same way as, on the last occasion, Fianna Fáil had one speech which they transferred from Senator to Senator. This time, they have several. The first is called the "straight speech" system.

(Longford): Is it not better to have one speech of our own than to be making Miss Lakeman's speech.

I do not know if the acting Chairman would like me to reply to Senator O'Reilly.

I should be glad if the Senator would keep to the matter before the House for consideration.

Senator O'Reilly would prefer the single transferable speech by Fianna Fáil to Miss Lakeman. This is the expression of an emotional state by a very romantic and sentimental Senator. I respect him for his emotion. We require a bit of emotion in this House. I feel that, in this matter, the emotions of Senator O'Reilly are not as potent as the arguments against his Government's case.

(Longford): It is a pity my emotions have not a better cause than yourself.

It is a pity they are not better channelled. With them, I might be allowed to bring my remarks to a close, if the interruptions will subside in the hope that eventually I shall shut up.

In conclusion, my view is that, under proportional representation with the single transferable vote, we have in this country the best electoral system in the world. It is completely vital to our democracy. I would regard it as a major betrayal if we were to abolish it.

Proportional representation gives to the voters of Ireland a most valuable measure of discriminating control— control over Parties, control over policies and control over politicians. The move to abolish proportional representation I regard as disgraceful and shameful. It is aimed, in my view, at gaining Party advantage from electoral injustice and disproportional representation. Therefore, in asking the Irish voters of 1968 to reply even more emphatically to those who want to reduce their power, I say—and I say it in a double sense—to all those who say "No" in this referendum: "More power to you".

As somebody said this evening, there has been such a spate of talk on this subject that it is almost impossible to say something at this stage that might be original. I want to refer to the tolerance question. I come from one of the western constituencies. When it became known that it was the census figure for the population that was to decide the number of representatives that would eventually be in each one of the western constituencies, it became readily apparent that a considerable injustice was going to be perpetrated on those constituencies. Everybody knows, I think, that conditions are such in the west that, as soon as it is practicable after leaving school, most of the children there have to leave to seek employment wherever they can get it. Consequently, one finds the homes in the western part of the country denuded of young people at a very early age. Most of them have to go where the employment is available and that, inevitably, is in Dublin and the precincts of Dublin.

If we were to take the census of population figures, then it is quite obvious that these people who come here—notwithstanding the fact that they are not electors—are counted in the population figure here and this fact weighs unduly against the western areas. When you calculate the number of electors that are there in proportion to the population, I think that if justice is to be done to the western counties then some kind of adjustment would have to be made to meet this case. I consider that what is proposed in the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill is the most suitable way in which it can be done—at least at the moment. If losses in population in the west continue, a new situation would occur. I am one of the people who have confidence that this situation will not always pertain. I hope that vigorous Government policies will be directed to ensure that it does not continue and that the bleeding of the western population will be staunched. For the purpose of this amendment, I think that this is possibly the best that can be done to meet the case and consequently I intend to support it.

With regard to the question of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill and the single-seat and the single vote, nobody who belongs to a big constituency can be unaware of the real position. I can understand people here in Dublin who live in areas of high density of population and whose constituencies are small and manageable. Indeed, I should say that, in a great number of places, constituencies could be run by telephone. Take a constituency such as Clare where, from the south-western tip to the north-eastern tip, it is nearly 120 miles and think of how the elected representatives are dispersed throughout the area. Everybody knows the tendency is that the elected people will be in the areas of greatest density of population which means that the people in the fringe areas and in the least populated ones can say, with a certain amount of justification, when we canvass them: "We never saw you since the last election." Unfortunately, there is a certain amount of truth in it because it is not possible to get a Teachta Dála to visit all the constituents in this vast area. There is great merit in having a sizeable constituency which you can allocate to one man who without over-stress can feel it is within his power to help in the administration of the affairs of that smaller constituency. It is because of the difficulty of administering big areas that many Government agencies and other contrivances have to be substituted for the kind of work that should be done by the Deputy.

The question of an ombudsman was mentioned today but if 20 ombudsmen were appointed, they would eventually be assimilated into the bureaucratic system that appointed them and become part of the Civil Service. The best ombudsman that can be appointed is the man appointed by the people themselves. They will control him and direct his energies, and if he fails to measure up to their requirements, they will have the right to sack him at the prescribed time. However, if an ombudsman is appointed by the Civil Service Commissioners or in some other way, then the people have him forever and they can never get rid of him, no matter how dissatisfied they might be with him. If we can achieve in the single-seat constituency the appointment of a man who is satisfactory, who has the ability, and if we give to the people the right to appoint him and sack him, the work of the Government would reach into those places where we intend it should reach and those elected will be the representatives of the people and of the Oireachtas.

In regard to the question of the single vote, I have had as much experience at elections as most people and I could never understand from the first time I came into contact with PR why it was invented because the anomalies that grow out of PR are so blatantly evident that I could see neither justice in PR nor anything in its favour. I have seen and everybody else has seen the man who heads the poll having his surplus taken over and divided. A vote in the surplus goes to the people for whom it is intended as a fraction of a vote and sometimes it goes down as a very small fraction, according to the size of the surplus. His quota is taken and put on a shelf and that is the end of that. There might be 8,000 or 10,000 votes in it. We start off at the other end where you have 16 or 17 candidates and a person who had no interest in the election and who gave a vote to a worthless person can have that vote transferred as a full vote. The surplus goes down as a fraction and the votes of the man who is eliminated will go up as full votes. I have followed the progress of some of those votes for ten counts and a person who had not enough civic spirit to find out what was at stake in the election could have his vote used ten times and eventually make it decisive in the election of the last candidate.


With the single vote and the single seat, the person will be faced with making a final decision because he has only one vote.

There has been a lot of talk about how this system is going to affect Fianna Fáil but this in fact is not the point at issue. What is at issue is: is this going to be a better system for the country? I am sure that the Fine Gael Party when they brought out their policy, the "Just Society", for the last election felt, as they were quite right in feeling, that the people would read it and would come to a judgment on it and that it would be the decisive thing in influencing the people to vote for them, just as Fianna Fáil issued their manifesto and the Labour Party theirs, and if there were some Independent groups no doubt they issued some kind of document, too. However, if we feel that people need not take this policy into account or take into account the kind of person the candidate is then the whole question of elections is futile. This is the exercise, that the Parties present their policy to the people and ask them to support it and they offer a candidate who, in their opinion, would serve the people. If these two things are absent from an election, then all this election exercise is pure cod.

If in a smaller constituency you offer a number of people backed up by the policy you give them, then the people have to put on their thinking caps and decide who they are going to vote for. They must say to themselves: "This is a decision that is going to affect me and if such-and-such a Party have a policy that appeals to me, I will support it." In the long run, this is a better system and will give better results. Somebody said that we would get 90 seats but I pay very little attention to all these prognostications because this is going to be a new type of confrontation. If everything that has been said about the people tonight is correct, I am satisfied that this will bring into the country a new type of thinking, it will direct the people into a new stream of thinking and the necessities of the country will come first because they will only have one vote and they will have to be decisive in the way they cast it. For that reason I support this measure.

I do not propose to delay the House because every possible angle has already been covered by speakers in both Houses. However, I feel I have a duty to give my views on these measures. I would say that I blame the Opposition Parties for what has taken place to date in both Houses. I believe that both Fine Gael and Labour are regrettably more concerned at the moment with defeating Fianna Fáil on this measure than they are with securing for the community the best possible voting system. That does not mean that, when I make that statement, I believe the straight vote is the correct system. When Fianna Fáil introduced this measure in the other House, I believe it was possible at that stage to find a measure of agreement between all Parties as to what would be the best possible system. It should have been possible at that stage for Parties to shed selfish Party interests in the interests of the community as a whole. I know—nobody knows better —what happened: the Opposition, with their ear to the ground, knew that the rank and file in the country are anything but enthusiastic for this change. They knew that the rank and file of the Fianna Fáil Party are not a bit enamoured of the proposition. The Opposition Parties, smelling defeat for Fianna Fáil, said: "To hell with the best system; let us get this crowd out."

What we really have at the moment is a political contest to get Fianna Fáil out and replace it with God-knowswhat. I do not think that is a proper atmosphere in which to find the best system of election for our people. I see faults in the present system. I believe Senators on both sides see faults in it. I know there are few members in the other House dedicated to the changes proposed in this Bill. But the Party bosses in one particular Party got the bit in their teeth and were allowed to run away; I believe that in the course of their mad gallop those who drive will drive their Party over the top. That may be a good thing for the country, but it will not be a good thing for Fianna Fáil.

I want to make my position clear. I am not one of those who like to be told that this is the only choice, either accept what is offered—the straight vote and the single seat—or retain proportional representation with multiple seat constituencies. I do not think that is a fair choice. I believe the majority of the electorate would opt for a more sophisticated approach at this stage, but they are not being given that choice by either the Government of the Opposition. That is regrettable. It is a sad state of affairs.

First of all, I shall deal with what has been described as tolerance, the attempt to give, in the view of the Government, equal representation in the west and, in the opposition's view, preferential treatment. Within the past month, a publication was issued on health services. In that there is a forecast made with regard to health services and what they should be within the next 15 to 20 years. It is significant that Galway figures very prominently as the only major centre in the west. In the words of Deputy S. Flanagan, Minister for Health, the Government have accepted in principle these proposals for changes in the health services and those changes envisaged almost the complete annihilation of the population of the west. That means the Government believe that the population in the west will go down, down, down. While that is, apparently, the Government's belief, we have them here in this House and in the Dáil making special provision to ensure that representation for the west in the lower House does not disimprove. In fact, it will improve if this legislation is passed.

Arguments with regard to facilitating travelling, accessibility, and so on, to justify giving extra seats in certain areas are no justification at all for these changes. All the representations in the world will not improve the economic situation or save the people from annihilation. It is not more Deputies that are wanted. Fewer Deputies will do, and more work. The idea seems to have grown up that the main function of a Deputy is to act as a pleader, or a bleeder—a bleeding heart——

——for the people in the areas which are not within easy access of big towns. Listening to Senators and Deputies, one would think a Deputy was an administrator in his area with executive powers. There is no Member of this House with more experience than myself of what a Deputy's functions are, of what he can do and what he cannot do. He has certainly no executive powers. The most he can do is listen to confessions.

We have the deplorable position at the moment in many sections of the Civil Service in which a citizen, who writes to a Department about that to which he is justly entitled, does not even get a reply. His letter may be left in the incoming tray until it begins to heat; it may be turned occasionally by a junior official. The attitude has grown up: "Do not bother about it until a Deputy or Senator writes in." It is now accepted in the Civil Service that a Deputy, or Deputies, will write in on at least 90 per cent of matters which should not come to a Deputy at all but should be handled directly by the citizens themselves. No member of this House can say I am exaggerating. I meet it every day as a Senator. The system is such at the present time that a Deputy's time is fully taken up acting as a pleader on behalf of constituents. Members of the Government Party may ask is that not an argument in favour of the single seat. It may be but it is not an argument in favour of the straight vote and what the Government are trying to do is to mix up the two.

I read with care the speech of the Taoiseach in the other House on the two issues in these measures. The arguments put forward by the Taoiseach on the multi-seat constituency were arguments with which I agree to a great extent. The Taoiseach, in my opinion—I know there are Members here who do not agree with this—gave very weighty arguments in favour of the single-seat but the extraordinary thing was that 80 per cent of his speech was devoted to the evils of the multi-seat constituency and many people would be inclined to agree with them and to say: "All right. We will give you the one-seat constituency but we will retain PR."

It cannot be done.

Let us be clear on it. I want to say, a form of PR which is already in operation and Senator O'Kennedy knows that as well as I do.

It is not PR.

It is a lot better than what you are trying to bring in.

You cannot have proportional representation unless you have a number of seats to apportion.

Senator O'Kennedy is trying to say that the transferable vote and the single-seat are not giving a fair crack of the whip.

I am saying it is not PR.

Would the Senator settle for it?

That is another matter. The Senator will express his view later. It is not PR.

Will you settle for it?

I will express my view when the time comes.

The weighty arguments put forward by the Taoiseach were on the competition which takes place within a constituency between, say, two Fianna Fáil Deputies, not to mind the competition that takes place between the Government and the Opposition. That was all dealt with far better than I could hope to deal with it. I do not want to keep harping but the simple fact is that I agree, as one who has been a practising politician, that what does go on lowers the functions of a Deputy. There is more of the handshaking, funeral attending, kissing babies' bottoms type of approach in Irish politics than ever there was in America and, let us be blunt about it, who taught the Americans the type of politics they go in for? We know the people who spend most of their time at that caper, watching the funeral columns, watching the birth columns, attending all sorts of functions which, in fact, is only drawing work on themselves of a nature that prevents them from doing the work they were elected to do. I would say that in the other House, without in any way being disrespectful to any Deputy, not more than 25 per cent of them ever read a Bill. That is not their fault. That is the fault of the system. I would suggest to Members of this House and to the public to have a good look at the wastepaper baskets when Deputies get their morning post. I would suggest that in 50 per cent of cases the Bills are in the wastepaper basket without being read.

What happens? We have, then, the situation that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Charles Haughey, states that Deputies' main function is to act as a buffer between bureaucracy and the people. We all know the Minister for Finance, Deputy Charles Haughey, as a very able intelligent Deputy but it is not necessary for us to swallow completely his line of approach in this matter. Nothing would suit Deputy Charles Haughey, Minister for Finance, better than to have a bunch of Deputies full-tilt shaking hands at funerals, writing letters that need never be written, as long as Deputy Charles Haughey is left free of criticism in Dáil Éireann and let get on with the job.

I remember a former Taoiseach not so long ago who had no time whatever for Committees of the House. In fact, when I was a member for a short time of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, no less a person than Deputy Seán Lemass sought to limit the powers of the Deputies and Senators. He sought to run Dáil Éireann like a board of directors and to have Deputies and Senators there occasionally so that they would pass whatever Deputy Seán Lemass and his Cabinet in their wisdom, thought should be put before them. The idea of having awkward customers on the back bench of Fianna Fáil was anathema to these people. They do not want it. I suppose if you get in as a Minister and fancy that you can carry on without advice from your Party, a natural weakness in human nature is to think that criticism would not do you good.

I am still dealing with the duties that are carried out by Deputies, the diversion from the work which they should be doing and I say that I agree with the present Taoiseach when he says the weaknesses are there. If he wanted to remedy that—and mind you, as I said, the greater portion of his speech was taken up with the weaknesses of the multi-seat constituency—if that was the major trouble—and it would appear to be the major trouble, according to the Taoiseach—why did not he settle for the single-seat with the by-election system of election?

It never arose.

Because it was never even contemplated. What has come to light, unfortunately, is that Fianna Fáil was using this argument—and successfully using it, because Senators over there seem to believe this—that this multi-seat system is bad; get rid of it and bring in the single-seat. That is not the logical conclusion that anyone should come to. If you think the multi-seat system is bad, why not have the single-seat with the by-election system of election? The Minister says now it never arose. I should like to know why it did not arise. There is no need to answer now—that is a rhetorical question—unless the Minister would like to answer it, in which case I will give him the opportunity.

I will answer it at the appropriate time. If I forget, you might remind me.

I think the single-seat with what I described as the transferable vote has worked satisfactorily in quite a large number of by-elections. I have never heard Senator O'Kennedy or the other members of Fianna Fáil saying they were not going to contest the by-election in Clare, Limerick, Cork or wherever the regrettable news was that a Deputy had died, because the system was a bad one.

Senator Sheehy Skeffington spoke about the French system. This by-election system that we have here is a more sophisticated version of what the French have at the present time and nobody can accuse the French of lacking in intelligence when it comes to their institutions. They are a very sophisticated nation but in this we are ahead, and the Government now want to go backwards. However, that will be decided outside this House. I hope I am not misquoting him, but Senator Yeats said that only one out of ten ballot papers is filled.

It was a guess.

I accept that, but I should like to remind the Senator that his Party, in many of the constituencies with which I am familiar, instruct their canvassers to instruct the voters: "Vote Nos. 1 and 2 and, if there is a third Fianna Fáil candidate, vote No. 3 and stop there". Therefore, his own Party are the guilty one as far as PR is concerned. Let us be clear about it. Fianna Fáil, whether deliberately or otherwise, have sought through the years to destroy the value of PR, to utilise it in its most limited fashion by saying: "Vote for nobody but Fianna Fáil. Stop there." I am not saying some members of the Opposition Parties are not just as guilty, but Fianna Fáil with the best organised machine in the country—they are welcome to that praise if they need it; Tammany Hall was also well organised —wanted to ensure that their voters would stop dead at the last name on the Fianna Fáil list.

What has happened in the past few years? Fianna Fáil voters, against the advice of canvassers and directors of the Party, have begun to cross the line. So also have voters as far as other Parties are concerned and the lines have become blurred and consequently we now have a truer picture of what the public want, and it spells danger for Fianna Fáil in the long run. Senator Honan, at the conclusion of his speech, stated the Government were mainly concerned with what is good for the country—they wanted to ensure that the system in operation was the best system. The trouble is that during the years Fianna Fáil have always mixed up what is good for the country with what is good for Fianna Fáil and at times there is great diversity between the two.

You are a fair mixture yourself.

I do not know exactly what the Senator has in mind but Fianna Fáil have seemed to believe seriously that if Fianna Fáil are strong and in Government all the time, that is good for the country.

Of course it is.

There we have it.

We must have faith in ourselves.

The Senators should remember that there are unfortunate people with mental illness inside our various institutions and they think they are Napoleon, Wellington and so forth. Fianna Fáil think they are God Almighty, that nobody else can run the country. It is a dangerous delusion. If it were just a matter of playing politics——

(Longford): The majority of the people believe that. That is why we are in power.

A large minority.

The trouble is that a large section of the very best, the most virile, the healthiest and most needed of our people are not here to vote and the reason is they have been driven out by the policies of Fianna Fáil during the years. I am not suggesting Fianna Fáil alone have done this but they must accept the greatest percentage of the blame because they have been in office during 30 years. Whatever can be said about the two Governments in office for two short periods, between 1948 and 1951 and 1954 and 1957, they were alert——

A fair number of the people who left during those periods came back because of Fianna Fáil policy. The Senator should meet them some time. They came back from England and elsewhere.

Speaking for the constituency which I represented during a number of years, I can say that I know the west and the Senator will admit that the population there is dropping rapidly and that there is no sign of change as far as the provision of work is concerned. Dublin at the present time seems to be flourishing——

The people who came back may not have crossed the Shannon on their way back.

——but it happens to be a huge head on a body that is diseased. In Dublin, though there appears to be wealth and there is wealth and there is money apparently because of the people who pay 35/-for a meal in our so-called hotels——

I will be glad to introduce the Senator to the people who came back.

I should be delighted to meet them. However, Dublin Senators may deal with this matter in a much more expert fashion than I can. If there were any drastic change, any promise of it, on the part of Fianna Fáil, there might be some excuse for accepting this proposal at the present time. Senator Sheehy Skeffington spoke about what the former Leader of Fianna Fáil said about the drastic changes that might be necessary in 1932—the radical changes in financial policy, in land policy—so that our people would be kept at home and settled on the land. Was PR harmful to the implementation of those policies which Fianna Fáil promised in 1932? They have since failed to implement those policies. I will not embarrass them by repeating the promises about the march across the Border to take over the Six Counties and about bringing back the Irish language. All these things they said they would do and I should like them to tell me if PR has thwarted them in their efforts. Was it PR stopped them from doing all those things?

It was the Economic War.

The voice has come back.

Other Members spoke about the necessity for strong government. There is a Bill before the other House at the moment which certainly means strong government. It is legislation that will prevent citizens of this country from coming together, even to discuss political matters, unless they have gone to a sergeant or an inspector of the Garda Síochána. Let me be clear. I am not laying all the blame on Fianna Fáil in this matter. The rights of Deputies in the Dáil have been filched during the past 20 years. No fewer than three times while I was a Member of the other House, Standing Orders were altered to prevent Deputies like me from utilising the House to expose matters which should have been brought before the public gaze—to prevent Deputies from putting down motions on various matters. For the Government's action in thus restricting Standing Orders, the support of other Parties was forthcoming. Therefore, Fianna Fáil in the Committee on Procedure and Privileges were not alone. As a result, I have very little confidence in those in this House and in the Dáil who talk about the rights of minorities.

They are all out of step but our Johnny?

Maybe; I do not know. I am talking about the people who talk about the rights of minorities and who in this House and in the other House trample on them. I see no reason why Question Time or the number of motions in Private Members' Time should be restricted. Yet that has been done with the unanimous approval of the three major Parties.

Acting Chairman

Perhaps the Senator would come to the Third Amendment?

I think I am as near to it as any of the others. The Seanad is elected, I gather, because it is supposed to be in a position to restrain the other House from taking the bit in its teeth. It is composed, I gather, of very sensible people whose wisdom can slow down the energetic men in the other House and cause them to think twice. That is what we are told the Seanad is there for. I would like to see the Seanad living up to that reputation. In particular, I would like to see the "cricket team" doing what they were supposed to be elected for—to bring an independent mind to bear on a major issue. I would like to see the Seanad reject these measures so that the Dáil would have another look. I would appeal to those Senators allegedly here as free and independent, although nominated by the Taoiseach, to say at this stage: "We are not going to try at this stage to impose this system on the community."

As a half-way measure which should meet the Taoiseach's objections, those Senators should support the idea of the single-seat and the retention of PR. I do not think it is too late yet. What I am saying now should come from the Opposition Parties. If it did come, the public would not have to suffer the terrible annoyance and bewildering propaganda which will be directed at them in August, September and October and this matter could be settled in a proper fashion. It would be a reasonable compromise at this stage. My knowledge, from talking to people in many parts of the country, is that they would regard it as acceptable. I would urge Senators to give a lead in that respect in this House and send the Bill back to the Lower House for further consideration.

It looks as though we are right back again to where we were on that historic occasion in February, 1959. The tune appears rather familiar. All the virtues ascribed to the straight vote system are being paraded again. First of all, let us have a look at what is proposed —a major change in the Constitution. The Constitution is a most sacred document in any civilised community. Therefore, it should not be changed unless there is grave reason for the change. The change should be preceded by a period of adequate investigation carried out by the most competent committee that can be got together and its findings incorporated in a White Paper that all can study. This was not done on the last occasion and neither has it been done on this occasion.

In fact, it is much more sinister on this occasion because three years ago an all-Party Committee was set up, the Constitution Committee, to look into whatever changes might be necessary in the Constitution, so that we could face the 70s and our expected entry into EEC with confidence. Their report has been presented and it is a reasonable document. It gives the pros and cons of the various problems studied by them. One thing they did not consider, and were not asked to consider by the Government, was the question of the system of election. We have evidence from Senator Dooge, who served on that Committee, and others, that in point of fact, the former Taoiseach, Deputy Seán Lemass, dismissed any idea that they might be foolish enough to reopen the PR issue again. Yet, without the blessing of the Committee and without its advice, this was suddenly foisted on the people at the end of last year.

If it could be dismissed as just a piece of madness that the electorate would deal with in due course—and the electorate can only give one answer to this, that is, the rejection of the proposals—perhaps we could turn a blind eye to the waste of time and the waste of funds, the £200,000 this referendum will cost. But we have got to consider the very serious damage this Act does to the whole concept of parliamentary government in this country. Make no mistake about it, the people outside are highly critical of our parliamentary institutions. They recognise that they are going along in a 19th century, inefficient fashion, that they are totally incapable of dealing with the major problems that confront the nation today. If Charles Stewart Parnell returned tomorrow, within one half hour he would feel he was right back in Parliament again. Nothing has changed since his day. It is the same type of debate, the same lack of committee system that was there in his day, indeed the same blissful ignorance of what constitutes efficient government in other progressive countries.

We have not learned. We rush in to change the electoral system at a time when we should be seriously studying the whole basis of our parliamentary system. Yet, if we are to judge by recent amendments, the only things Parliament is concerned about are money and power—money when it rushes in with unseemly haste to give increases in allowances, increases that could well be justified had the functions of the House been changed, made more efficient and brought up to date. But in contrast to all ideas of negotiation outside this House, the salaries were given a 50 per cent increase without any effort to modernise the functions of the Houses. The same now happens with the electoral system which is only part of the parliamentary process, election to Parliament, and yet the whole structure of Parliament is left untouched and, apparently, is intended to continue like that. The people outside are highly critical. Thank God, they are becoming more educated and beginning to think for themselves, as are people in all civilised countries. Indeed, the process has unfortunately gone a little too far in that it has seen the emergence of rather cynical political commentators, especially Backbencher in the Irish Times, who has done a great deal to give a distorted image of what Parliament is to the people at large. We know of all our failings here but the cynicism of this has unfortunately gone beyond what is necessary and desirable to effect change. I am afraid it can do and has done damage.

Again, the searching eyes of television have been focused on our proceedings and very often in debates portrayed on television, those of us who have experience of the House can see a great deal of what I might call ignorance of parliamentary procedure, in comments by so-called experts on panels where a proper balance in regard to parliamentary representation and knowledge is often not maintained. This all means that thinking people outside are not in a mood to receive the circus that the Government now intends to launch. They are not in a mood for the crocodile tears of the Minister for Local Government on television when his whole purpose seemed to be to help the Opposition Parties into power. The country is too sophisticated today to put up with such blatant cynicism and we shall pay for it if we do not watch out. We shall have all the distortions that will be indulged in when suddenly a Party who have been in power for 30 or 36 years comes to life and proclaims that all along we have been living in sin, that we have had the frightful PR system around our necks. I challenge the Leader of the House, or any other speaker on that side——

Do not push your luck too far.

——to list out the things that Fianna Fáil have been prevented from doing by the fact that we had PR.

I thought the Senator was serious in looking for a fight.

That effectively calls the bluff of this concern, the feeling that all our ills are due to PR.

We were twice led to financial disaster by Coalitions brought about by PR.

It is wonderful to hear the views and the scares about Coalitions as if the whole of life is not one grand coalition at every stage, in which Senator Yeats and his family play a part. I am sure he is not there with an absolute majority, that he is just part of a coalition in his family and that he has to temper his views to the views of the others in his family and to abide by majority decisions. Likewise, many a highly successful country in the democratic world is governed by coalitions. I wish all governments down the years had been as successful as the coalition governments of Denmark and Holland. I shall return to those in greater detail later.

Government is not merely government for its own sake and its own aggrandisement. It is not merely the creation of Louis XIV and his vassals. The whole test of government is to develop the resources of the country for the people of the country, providing government of the people, for the people and by the people. The more educated and sophisticated our community becomes, the more they must take account of the views of their fellow men and the more they must be able to function in harmony with their fellows in committees and in debates, putting their points of view properly and correctly and arguing to a decision and, when the decision has been taken, to abide by the result.

I am shocked that the Government feel that now that the country is making some strides in education and our people getting more opportunities that this is the very time the right of decision should be taken from them——

The right of decision will be given to them.

—— that they must be put into the straitjacket of the straight vote from fear of coalitions. I hope the Fianna Fáil Party are in some sense a coalition, a coalition between the extremes of Deputy Corry at one end and, perhaps, shall I say, Senator Ó Maoláin at the other.

It is unfortunate that we should be plunged into this controversy now when I think all Parties would be ready to get down in an inter-Party Committee to a real examination in depth of our whole parliamentary system and with the aid of experts from any place from which we wish to bring them, plan and fashion our future parliamentary structure.

What about the Bills?

Nobody can hold that the structure that was adequate in 1900 is adequate in 1968, that the parliamentary structure that served Parnell is adequate today. Many of the Fianna Fáil Party, of whom I think very highly, some excellent Cabinet Ministers whom I have heard with pride in other countries and of whose achievements I have read with pride, are aware of the necessity for this. I might point to the recent speech in Limerick by the Minister for Industry and Commerce where he called for a winter of discussion, an excellent idea and an excellent preparation for the years ahead.

May I suggest to the Chair that the Deputy be asked to come to the Bills?

What has the Leader of the House against Deputy Colley?

I am anxious to hear the Senator on the Bills.

Is the Leader of the House against Deputy Colley who showed his statesmanship, to my mind, by saying at the outset that he wanted contributions from within and without the Party? I look forward as an individual to being able to contribute to some of the discussions.

We did not want that sort of contribution.

Is not agreement between the Government and the vocational groups, for instance, of more immediate concern than securing and riveting Fianna Fáil into power for the next ten years and the devil take the hindmost after that?

The whole educational world is now in a ferment. The efforts of the Minister and his advisers to set themselves up as the lay high commissioners of Irish education are being resisted, and those who have worn their back-teeth in education are demanding that they be heard.

I really must ask——

What the Senator is discussing is not relevant.

It is relevant, in so far as the time and energy of these groups is being wasted at a time when we need to modernise our whole parliamentary structure, and in so far as the present effort is just a red herring. We are not facing up to the main task confronting us, the task the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Colley, called us to, the task that all thinking people in the country realise must be faced, the task to which life was given by the recent BGA elections where a vocational group who had long been trodden on by the Government——

What has this got to do with the Bill before us?

——and taunted with the suggestion that they represented nobody had a sweeping victory that recalled the 1918 victory of Sinn Féin—that it had the same freshness about it, the same originality, and the same hope for the future. That is what we should give attention to, not what is being foisted on us and on which we have wasted so much parliamentary time.

The Senator is wasting time at the moment.

Acting Chairman

The Senator, without interruption.

The Constitution should be treated as something sacred, not as something that can be changed by a snap parliamentary decision at what Fianna Fáil consider an opportune time——

How can it be changed by a parliamentary decision?

——where it is now proposed to try even by a majority of one to ask the electorate to change a decision given nine years ago.

That is different: that is not what the Senator said.

This would not be tolerated in any country with a written Constitution. The United States has had only 20 amendments to its Constitution in its whole history. This shows the reverence in which a written Constitution should be held. In the United States each amendment has been made only after very serious public discontent which ultimately found its expression in parliamentary action to produce an amendment of the Constitution. The very reverse is the case here. In our first Constitution in 1922, it was necessary to have a two-thirds majority before any change could be made; indeed many, and rightly so, deplored the weakness that was introduced in the 1937 Constitution when all that was required was a simple majority.

The first Constitution could be amended by legislation.

Acting Chairman

Senator Quinlan, without interruption.

He is only making it up.

Acting Chairman

The Senator is entitled to contribute as long as he is relevant.

I agree thoroughly with that.

He might try to be accurate.

We know that the present system has served us well, and we know how it works. We know also how the Belfast system works, but, as pointed out by Senator McQuillan, the electorate are not being given a proper chance to express their preference; and to judge by the mood of the electorate, I would think they want far more say than is provided by these two extremes. The excuse given by the Government that this could not be done is simply nonsense. The Constitution, under Article 47.2, makes provision for the referring of any proposal other than a proposal to amend the Constitution to a decision of the people. All that is necessary to refer a question to the people is that it should not seek to amend the Constitution by that decision. A question put to the people in a referendum asking the people to declare their preference, say, between PR and the single-seat transferable vote system would be simply a question put to the electorate for decision. If the referendum on that were carried in accordance with that Article, that would still not amend the Constitution. Therefore the Government would have to go back, pass an Amending Bill and submit that to the people.

Another referendum.

By a properly designed referendum, it would be quite possible to give the people the freedom of choice and expression for which they are asking, that is, by asking whether they favour: (1) the proportional representation system; (2) the single-seat transferable vote system, which would be the by-election system; or (3) the straight vote, or the Belfast system, which is the single-seat nontransferable vote. It would be quite a simple matter to get a consensus of opinion on that, and armed with that consensus of opinion, it would be a simple matter for the Government to proceed with the necessary legislation, confident that they were carrying out an already expressed wish of the people. They could then submit it to the people for formal endorsement.

Very simple but quite illegal.

It is wrong that people should be treated as unthinking human beings and should be given——

The Senator's proposal would be illegal.

Any Party that has been too long in power cannot see that the people have any rights; the only right they concede to the people is the right to continue that Party in power and make it easy for them to go from one election to the next, no matter what discontent there may be in the country at the actions of the Government. We can witness that in relation to the present Government in Britain. They can lose by-election after by-election and have it demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt that they no longer command the confidence of the voters, and yet armed with the fruits of the wonderful straight vote system—a majority of over 100 seats —they can blithely ignore all such indications of the people's wishes. I do not think that is what we want here.

What is the function of an election in any case? An election has two functions. First, to provide a Government, and secondly, to secure representation for the country at large. In judging this system and comparing it with the system in other countries, we must at all times realise that we must relate everything to our own situation. In many ways here we are unique. What works in other countries does not work here. What proves disastrous in other countries may not have a similar effect here. What has achieved much in other countries has to be accepted with caution here.

When we come to the election of a Government, we are up against an unfortunate tradition which we have in our Parliament, that is, the system of absolute obedience to the Whip. The spectacle of a Member voting against his Government is unknown here.

It is not unknown.

Quote an example.

Senator Mrs. Connolly O'Brien.

Senator Mrs. Connolly O'Brien is not, so far as I am aware, a Member of the Fianna Fáil Party. She is one of the Taoiseach's 11 nominees. Not even Deputy Corry has gone to the extent of voting against his Government on any occasion.

We can see the historical reasons for that. It goes back to Parnell and the Irish Party. When they went to Westminster they constituted themselves as a disruptive group. They wanted to make as much of a nuisance of themselves as they could in the British Parliament. In furtherance of that aim, one requirement was absolute obedience to the Party line. Unfortunately that has continued in Irish politics right down to the present day, no matter what Party are in power. The 100 per cent unanimous agreement in Fianna Fáil on the question of PR is an example of that. In other words, no one in the Party has the courage to come out and voice different views, because that is not done in Irish politics. It is to the credit of the Fine Gael Party that their views seem to be known a little more widely. The views of the few of them who disagree within the Party are known. I look with great approval at the action of some of the Labour Party backbenchers in England and the backbenchers or frontbenchers of the Opposition there. Time and again they have the courage to differ from their Party, speak against their Party and vote against their Party. At the time of the Suez crisis, we had the spectacle of Mr. Macmillan's son leading the rebels against his father's Government.

The fruits of the straight vote.

That was democracy in action. In Europe too a feature of parliament there is an independence of thought and a willingness to vote against one's Party. The point I am making is that where such an attitude prevails, the government must have a larger majority than a majority of three or four, because they can count on some of their own members abstaining or actually voting against them. In Irish politics a Government whose Taoiseach is elected by a majority of one is as safe as a Government with a majority of 50. They are just not voted out.

I was amazed when the political commentators commented on the small majority of our present Government and speculated on how long the Government would survive. I think they were depending on the votes of a few Independents at that time. Anyone who had any political sagacity or political knowledge would have known that there is one thing that is absolutely certain about Independents who support a Government. They will not vote themselves into an election. That is a fact of political life here. It is the same with small Parties. If a Party with three, four or five members commit themselves to supporting a Taoiseach, whether by active support or by abstaining from voting, it can be taken for granted that that small Party will not in the first three years, at any rate, vote themselves into an election during which they would have to contend with double hostility: hostility from the Government Party they had put out, and hostility from the Opposition Parties who would regard them as having let the Opposition down at the time of the election of the Taoiseach. Parties or individuals just do not do that.

Consequently we have an inbuilt stability in our political system which guarantees that any Government will run the major part of their allotted time. When they enter their last year in office, during what might be called the lame duck session, the Government themselves will be looking for an opportune time to move to the electorate. At that stage, if there were grave discontent in the country, a small Party might take their courage in their hands and be technically responsible for forcing a general election. The plain fact is that at least three out of the allotted years are guaranteed, once the Taoiseach has been elected.

This means that the election of a Government here is different from the election of Governments in other countries. In practically every election we will get a conclusive result. If by any chance we did not get a conclusive result, the Government could, as Mr. de Valera very opportunely did in 1933, and again in the mid-Forties, plead that they have not a sufficient majority and rush to the country. The electorate being mature would look at the situation. Many of them who had voted against the Government would weigh up the situation afresh and, in the light of the previous election, some of them would change their minds and vote to strengthen the hand of the Party that had been elected previously.

In the three-seat constituencies, to be elected a candidate must receive 25 per cent of the vote. Anyone getting that percentage does not represent some freak set, or some freak minority. He represents 25 per cent at least of the citizens in that constituency. I was amazed when I heard Senator Honan making such dramatic play about the irresponsible people who give votes to worthless candidates who were eliminated and whose votes were then transferred to some other candidate. Surely, then, Senator Honan must be saying that the lowest candidate of each of the Parties is a worthless individual? He must be saying in, say, Clare—where Fianna Fáil put up four candiates— that the fourth candidate is a worthless individual and that the people who vote for him are irresponsible. Likewise, the same for the second Fine Gael candidate for that area—that anyone voting for him is acting in an irresponsible manner. Surely that does not hold?

The Parties, under our present system, are giving a choice to the electorate. When Fianna Fáil put up four candidates in Clare——

I did not mention Clare.

You did: you mentioned a distance of 120 miles.

The merit of proportional representation is that the electorate can look at the candidates and need not take the candidates in the order in which the Party wishes.

What about the confusion by Independents, and so on? I was not talking about the Party.

They have been fewer and fewer in recent elections, due to the heavy cost involved and the difficulties of competing against well-organised Party machines. The Independents that I know of, who had the courage to go forward, were all worthwhile reputable citizens.

Most of them did not get 1 per cent.

They were entitled to go forward for election and the people who supported them were exercising their democratic rights in doing so. The multiplicity of small Parties was the bogeyman we were threatened with nine years ago. The electorate can judge the validity of the bogeyman scare that was raised in 1959—this multiplicity of small Parties. Indeed, in that time, it might legitimately be felt that we have come to a watershed in Irish political life. Mr. Éamon de Valera, who had been the centre of the scene at that stage for over 40 years, was moving out of active politics. The feeling might have been something like this. What had the future in store? Could a leader come forward to take his place? Could the Party system survive? The electors at that time might justifiably have been a bit apprehensive on that point. The answer has been given. We examine the period since then and we find that, far from new Parties appearing, new splinter groups arising, Irish political life has crystalised down to three Parties—Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour.

Fine Gael swallowed up most of them.

Fine Gael swallowed the farmers.

Acting Chairman

Might we hear Senator Quinlan without interruption, please?

We find that our claims in 1959 have been justified. The Government's fears have not been realised. Therefore, I doubt if the same old bogeyman will have any terrifying effect on the community this time. The mature electorate will simply judge the whole business by coming back and asking: "Well, if disaster was prophesied in 1959, how did that work out?" Since then, we have had a period of stable government, by any standard. We have also had a period during which the conditions were settled and yet progress has not been what it might have been.

I challenge anyone to suggest that, had the Government had a majority of another 30 over the past nine years, there would be a single one taken off the unemployment register today or that there would be a single additional new factory or that we would have solved, or gone any further towards solving, any one of our national problems that still remain unsolved.

As pointed out both by Senator Sheehy Skeffington and Senator Stanford, we are inclined to confuse strong government with good government. Strong government is where the Government are so strong that they can act in a dictatorial fashion. Indeed, there are many signs of that at the moment. Eight years ago, no Government here would have dreamed of trying to treat vocational groups as this Government are treating them today: no Government would have dared to do that. I would say that a Government of that period would not have thought of doing that because they were more democratic and more conscious of the role of the organisations than the present Government appear to be.

Doing what?

Resolute Government is something that newly-emergent nations may crave for, that is, somebody to tell them what to do at every stage of the day, somebody to regulate their lives, but, with us here, in an educated community, the citizens wish to be part of the government process. That is democratisation. This is really what sparked-off the troubles in France over the past five or six months —a revolt against authoritarianism. Make no mistake about it, that revolt will not be cured by the recent distorted elections and by the——

You are anti-de Gaulle now?

It is interesting to read about de Gaulle's Party in today's papers.


I shall leave de Gaulle as your patron saint. While he has saved a crisis, I think Europe will still rue the present harsh approach the de Gaulle Party are taking.

The people voted President de Gaulle into power.

They may be wrong but they are entitled to do it, are they not?

Certainly they are entitled to do it but any student of political science, looking at what is happening, will see that it is only putting off the evil day and reforms must be made. There is no need, under proportional representation, to paint all the picture in extremes because that is not what we have got. We have got our own special variety which is based on the three-seat constituency. When we look at Europe, we see that apart from France, the other countries have some form of PR. In Denmark, they have had PR since 1915 and does anybody seriously suggest that Denmark has not been well governed in that period? The Parliament there revolves around four main Parties and the Government has been largely Coalition all the time, although I would prefer instead of the word "Coalition", which has been given a rather sinister meaning, the term "co-operative Government".

The difference between our system and the European system is that they have developed an adequate and very effective committee system in their parliamentary organisation. Parliamentary committees would mean that in place of talking across the floor and addressing questions to a Minister, when the real people we want to question are hidden at a little desk behind the Minister furiously passing notes to the Minister when a point is raised or whispering into his ears, such officials, who are very worthy people, would be met across the table as human beings and as equals. The parliamentary representatives on these committees in other countries are drawn from all Parties and generally in proportion to their strength in Parliament. They meet officials and they meet experts and they get down to the basic rules of living together, working out problems and discussing them as educated citizens and arriving at conclusions. The committee system is the only basis on which a national Parliament can be adequately organised in the 20th century. In committee we achieve far more than we can achieve at present with our absurd indirect means of communication with the men behind the Minister.

How would this ambition be affected by the proposed system?

It is only to delay time.

The Minister, of course, probably cannot learn but once a committee system is developed, Party lines become blurred and Party clichés no longer count. The members meet as rational, intelligent human beings to discuss the problems at issue and generally they issue agreed recommendations in regard to what is to be done. Consequently once people have worked together in that atmosphere, there is not the slightest difficulty about two Parties co-operating in Government, or three, if the need arises. These are just the simple facts of political life in some of the European democracies.


Despite my belief in the great advantages of PR, if we had a model of the American system offered to us, I would be very keen to accept it because I believe the system of checks and balances and the various lines of demarcation of discussion in the American system represent a real evolution of the democratic system.

Acting Chairman

The Senator has now dealt exhaustively with that aspect and I would ask him to address his remarks to the matter before the House.

The United States system of election was held up as an example of the straight vote but in point of fact it is nothing of the sort. By no stretch of the imagination can it be used as an example of what the Government propose. For one thing the Chambers involved, the Lower House and the Upper House, when contrasted with the Dáil and the Seanad, show that the role of the Senate there is vastly different. They have much more power than we have. That of course would not be hard because anything with less power than Seanad Éireann could not really be kept alive.

Why bother coming up then?

Always in the hope that we can achieve something better. The present Seanad Éireann should be abolished or else reformed. If you abolish it unfortunately——

Acting Chairman

I want to direct the Senator's attention to the fact that it is the Dáil system of election that is under discussion.

The role of Seanad Éireann bears no relation to the role of the second Chamber which can exercise a restraining and moderating influence on the first Chamber. The two systems cannot be compared. Over and above all this, there is a line of authority from the President down and one cannot compare the President of the United States and his relationship with the Lower House, the one elected by public suffrage, with the relationship of the President here and the Houses of the Oireachtas. Our President has none of the legislative functions which the American President has or the right to initiate legislation. The most glaring example we can find of the straight vote system is in the Government nearest to us. Does anybody seriously wish to tell the electorate in the Republic that all is well with the electoral system in Northern Ireland, to tell them that the straight vote there gives justice to the Nationalist population?

It does not make any difference——

Acting Chairman

The Senator will please desist from interrupting.

The Senator asked me a question and I am answering him.

Acting Chairman

It was a rhetorical question.

It is the first time that the Senator has been on the Bill. For goodness' sake, leave him there; he might not come back to it.

In the 1966 election, the results were Unionists, 36, Nationalists, 9, Labour, 2, Republican Labour, 2, Liberals, 1, Independent Unionists, 1 and National Democratic Party, 1. Out of a total of 52, the Unionists Party got almost 75 per cent of the seats. Is it seriously suggested that the Nationalists' supporters in the North represent only 25 per cent in that area? Such a suggestion is the height of absurdity. When the change was made in 1929 from proportional representation to the straight vote, the Premier—I think it was Lord Brookeborough—did not have the neck to suggest that he was making the change so that an alternative Government could come into being in Northern Ireland and so that one day the Nationalists would replace him and his Party. He adopted the straight vote as a simple method of cementing his own Party in power and preventing the emergence of a co-ordinated opposition. That manoeuvre was done, and done successfully, and nobody could suggest on the figures that there is any likelihood of a change of Government there in the next 50 years.

That has nothing to do with the system of election.

It has, of course, nothing to do with the system of election either that, out of the 52 seats there, 22 are safe seats, uncontested seats! Of these 22, 14 are Unionist, five Nationalist, one Liberal, one Independent and one National Democratic Party. Perhaps we should tell the electorate here that, if this system is brought into operation here, certain areas will be designated safe seats. Possibly County Clare will be able to boast of four safe Fianna Fáil seats. These will be treated, as they are in Britain, as Party perks to be given to favourites of the Party bosses.

I am sure Fine Gael would not agree with the statement that the four seats in Clare would be safe seats for Fianna Fáil.

Certainly they do, under this rigged system. Other safe seats will be Donegal, Meath, Waterford. These will all be safe seats.


Acting Chairman

Senator Quinlan.

We have the returns of the general election in the North under the straight vote system. In 1958, in the central constituency, candidate A polled 3,902 votes; candidate B, 3,326; candidate C, 2,437 and candidate D, 1,406. The man with 3,900 votes out of a total of 11,100 votes was declared elected; he was the first past the post. In other words, with less than 35 per cent of the total vote, he was declared elected. The role of candidate C is that of a blocker, as it is called in American football. He prevents candidate B from being elected. Again, in North Antrim, we have Major O'Neill unopposed; mid-Antrim, Dr. Robert Simpson, Unionist, unopposed; South Antrim, R. W. B. McConnell, Unionist, unopposed; Bannside, Captain Terence O'Neill, Unionist, unopposed; Carrick, Alexander Hunter, Unionist, unopposed; Larne, W. W. Topping, Unionist, unopposed. Is that the kind of return we want in County Clare, County Donegal, County Waterford, County Galway? Is that going to be our idea of consulting the electorate. In a county the size of Antrim, surely, out of seven seats, other Parties should have been able to get two or three seats?

The anti-Unionist vote there is trivial.

Then, what about all our claims with regard to Partition, if Senator Yeats thinks that the anti-Unionist vote is so trivial?

It is in Antrim. They would not get seats under any system of election there. Let us be realistic.

Apart from two contests in South Down, the other five seats were again unopposed. The results are the same right through. Under the straight vote system, if a Party feels it has not got a chance of winning, the Party does not contest the election because it has no desire to expose its lack of support. In the 32 constituencies in which there was a contest, some of the polls were as low as 54 per cent; in other words, the electorate who disagreed violently with the candidates offered to them simply stayed away. In only a few cases were there close contests and only in those few cases were there polls running from 75 to 80 per cent.

The Senator knows that that there is no floating vote.

Acting Chairman

Senator Yeats must cease interrupting.

Perhaps Belgium will be trotted out. Perhaps it will be argued that the modified form of proportional representation in Belgium is responsible for their present difficulties there.

"Chaos" is the word.

Chaos, yes. But it is nothing to the chaos the straight vote would have occasioned in that country. There are strong sectarian differences there and there are strong regional differences between the Flemings and the Walloons. In such a case it is always a matter of compromise. It is not a case in which any one group would feel happy about another group getting an absolute majority to enable that group to ride roughshod over all others.

At least they might be able to form a government.

Experience of working together on committees and in coalitions helps to iron out differences and heal old sores. That experience is actually playing a considerable part in improving conditions in Belgium. As far as the straight vote is concerned, no one in his sane senses in that country would accept it. In Denmark a modified form of proportional representation is in operation. There are 44 seats which are distributed as a residual in order to ensure further proportionality. The system recognises that all groups can make a contribution.

Who picks the 44?

At no time have they sought to give any one Party dictatorial control over the country. The same situation arises in Sweden. Ever since the rise of socialism there, the socialists have worked in coalition with the Agrarian Party. Even when the socialists got an overall majority, they still continued to work in harmony and co-operation with the Agrarian Party.

Debate adjourned.
The Seanad adjourned at 11 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 18th July, 1968.