Referendum (Amendment) Bill, 1982: Committee and Final Stages.

Section 1 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

I raised the point with the Minister on Second Stage about the possibility of people acting as presiding officers and polling clerks in neighbouring constituencies being able to cast their votes. There have been instances in my constituency and in neighbouring constituencies where a person living only, perhaps, a 100 yards away is serving in a polling booth up the street and has not, because of the difference in the ballot papers, been able to cast a vote. Surely it would be possible to permit such voting on this occasion on the usual presentation to the inspector of his or her polling card.

I am glad to have the assurances of the Minister that the only matter that may appear on the polling card is the usual matter that is allowed on the card under such circumstances. I said initially when I rose to seek an assurance that the matter on the polling card on polling day would be in both languages, that is in Irish and in English, I did that with sincerity, because of my interest in the language, and particularly for the people in the Gaeltacht areas and also for the people outside the Gaeltacht areas whose daily language is Irish and who would be very disappointed if both languages would not be on the voting card in this referendum.

I said also that I was appalled at the request that Senator Robinson had made that a guarantee or a warning would be on the voting paper warning women voters that if this referendum were passed women's lives might be in danger. I was sincere in that and I would be very concerned if such a warning would be on the voting paper. I hope that such a procedure is illegal. I believed that Senator Robinson was not serious, but it appears that she was serious because she got a certain amount of support from her colleague, my adversary to a slight extent in this debate, that is Senator Higgins. I call him my adversary in friendly terms in that we seemed to be differing about the meaning of the wording of the amendment before us.

Senator Higgins still insists that he does not understand that part of the wording —"Admhaíonn an Stát ceart na mbeo gan breith chun a mbeatha". I thought I made that quite clear here today when I elaborated to some considerable extent on it. If I understood Senator Higgins rightly when he spoke on the last day here on this Bill, he said that the word "breith" related to the word "beir". That is true.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

We are on section 2 of the Referendum (Amendment) Bill, 1982. I hate to check Senators on my own side all the time. I am supposed to be neutral but——

I appreciate that, but I thought I would get away with getting in my point on the accuracy of "ceart na mbeo gan breith" because "breith" has different connotations. We have the expression, cuir i gcás, "rug an bhó aréir, nó rug an chaoire aréir". That is "Birth was given by the cow or the sheep yesterday". That is the connotation "breith" in this case. And "ceart na mbeo gan brieth" is absolutely correct.

Without teasing you into an etymological disputation of this——


An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator de Brún to continue.

Ceart "na mbeo gan breith" here is quite correct, grammatically correct. It refers to "na beo" the living —"ceart na mbeo gan breith," ceart an ghasúir, nó an pháiste atá i mbroinn a mháthar nár rugadh fós. That is the intention. That is the correct way of expressing that and I regret that Senator Higgins disagrees with me. It is correct. Tá sé ceart.

If you say so——


In the same way as I said today in relation to the Creed, Cré na nAspal "a chuaigh suas ar Neamh atá ina shuí ar dheis Dhé. As sin tiochfaidh le breith a thabhairt ar an mbeo agus ar an mhairbh". That is what is in the Apostles' Creed. What can be more correct than that? It has stood the test of centuries and it is used here in the same relation. However, I will not continue because you have called me to order, a Chathaoirligh and I am not one to disobey the Chair. I think we have cleared up the matter. I am satisfied——

We are not having a referendum on the Apostles' Creed, I hope.

It is very relevant to the explanation of the wording. It is very relevant that we would call it to our aid——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senators, we are on section 2. If you want to have these chats, please have them out in the corridors of the House. Continue, Senator de Brún on section 2 of the Referendum (Amendment) Bill, 1982, please.

I accept your ruling and I will continue.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

You said that five minutes ago.

I have not very much to say. I am sorry if I disregarded your ruling. I am not one to do that. I shall continue. We are coming to the close of this debate, and it is a pity that any acrimony would arise at this stage. I am glad to have the assurance of the Minister that the voting card will be bilingual and that there will be nothing on it to intimidate or that might be in any way interpreted to imply that the election would not be a free one. We must have a totally free election. Thank you, and I am sorry if I have disobeyed you, a Chathoirligh.

I was not aware, a Chathaoirligh, that on occasions you etymologically teased each other in this House, but it certainly is a pastime that seems to provide a certain degree of encouragement and pleasure anyway.

To refer to Senator McMahon's point, there is provision under the present legislation to enable a person who is a presiding officer in a polling station and who has a vote in that constituency to vote in the polling station where he or she is working, but which is not the polling station where that vote is registered. There is no provision to enable someone who is working as a presiding officer, or polling clerk of one kind or another in a polling station outside his constituency to vote. It is an anomoly which we will certainly look at in the context of legislation. For the time being I would simply suggest to people who may take up such a job — Senator McMahon is perhaps bearing this in mind — that they would attempt to get placed in polling stations within their constituencies so that they could both vote and work on the same day.

I hesitate to follow the road of Senator de Brún in relation to the points that he made but on a personal note I share many of the views expressed by my colleagues in the Labour Party and with Senator Robinson and Senator Higgins in relation to this, but the debate is over in relation to the main matter, and I am sure that the Chair would at this stage not like me to open that matter up again. So I will stick strictly to the point.

I do not want to press the Minister any further here today, but I think there is a precedent in previous referenda regarding a person moving from one constituency to another in the Dublin area as distinct from a person moving out of his own electoral area to another area, within his constituency, whereby a polling clerk or a presiding officer was permitted to vote. I would ask the Minister to investigate this fully before polling day or before the instructions go out to the returning officers for the various constituencies. Or, if it is not possible to give such instructions to returning officers, then he should issue some instruction to them to keep personnel within their constituencies so that it will be possible for as many people as are eligible to vote.

In relation to a point raised by Senator Robinson and others on the Second Stage regarding the control of literature, the Minister was good enough to put on the record of the House just now the section of the Act which indicates such control. However, I suggest that the £100 maximum fine will be no deterrent. I should also like to ask is it a £100 fine for an organisation operating in the entire country or operating in a particular constituency, or does it refer to each polling booth?

In relation to the first point that Senator McMahon has raised, we will certainly look at what he has suggested. If there are precedents we will take them on board and we will do what we can to facilitate everybody in the exercise of his vote in what will undoubtedly be, as far as this Government are concerned, a free election. Let that be quite clear. I am not a lawyer, and I may not be reading or interpreting section 13 of the 1923 Act correctly, but it does refer specifically to every bill, placard or poster having reference to an election or, in this instance, a referendum, being affected. The critical thing is whether somebody standing outside a polling station and handing you a handbill, can be deemed to be covered by the words "either published or posted" in this section. As a lay person, my view is that handing something from one hand to another is posting it — there are more qualified people in this House to comment on that — and that they are liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £100. So, in fact, for every time you hand out one of these things it is conceivable that that sanction is there.

The spirit to which Senator Higgins was referring is not exclusive to this. In a political debate in an open, democratic society — and there are not that many societies around on this globe — anybody who goes to the trouble of printing on paper his point of view in a free election should have the courage and be encouraged to print it publicly and openly and to identify himself. Otherwise such people are taking the benefits of democracy and evading the responsibility. In so far as we have any function in the Custom House — and I regret that we have any function at all on a personal note — we will try to ensure that those standards in democracy are maintained. I think all sides of the House would share with me the spirit in which that comment is made regarding the openness of democracy and the requirement upon everybody who has the freedom to print and articulate a point of view of identifying himself in a particular manner.

It is still not abundantly clear, and indeed the Minister has admitted that he is no lawyer and he is not interpreting the section of the Act, but is it the case that every person who hands out a bill is subject to a maximum fine of £100 or is every bill that each person hands out subject to a maximum fine of £100? I suggest to the Minister that it could be argued if there was a prosecution on these lines that the bill being handed out, whether in Galway, Roscommon, Cork or Dublin, is the same bill, and as it was only handed out on the one day as a single print, it is subject to a maximum fine.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I am sorry to interrupt. I think there is a division in the Dáil.

I am sure the Minister is as concerned about this as we are and I ask him to bear it in mind before instructions go out for the polling.

Question put and agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.

The Seanad will adjourn until Wednesday, 1 June at 2.30 p.m.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

There is a notice from Senator Cassidy on the motion for the Adjournment of the House.