COMMITTEE ON FINANCE. - VOTE 21:—REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE ACT, 1918, THE ELECTORAL ACT, 1923, AND THE JURIES (AMENDMENT) ACT, 1924.
Friday, 6 March 1925
Dáil Éireann Debate
|Go ndeontar Suim Bhreise ná raghaidh thar Deich bPúint chun íoctha Mhuirir a thiocfidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh Márta, 1925, mar gheall ar Chostaisí fén Representation of the People Act, 1918, fén Acht Timpeal Toghachán, 1923, agus fé Acht na gCoistí Dráreag (Leasú), 1924.||That a Supplementary Sum not ex ceeding ten pounds be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st March, 1925, for ex penses under the Representation of the People Act, 1918, the Electoral Act, 1923, and the Juries (Amend ment) Act, 1924.|
This Supplementary Estimate is entirely due to the legislative changes that have taken place since the original estimate was presented. It is for the purpose of embodying in the Vote payments that before the passing of the Juries (Amendment) Act, 1924, were payable under sub-sections 4, 5 and 7 of Section 7 of the Electoral Act of 1923, and which have been since the passing of the Juries (Amendment) Act, 1924, payable under Section 9 of that Act. The particular sub-section repealed by Section 9 of the Juries (Amendment) Act dealt with the Jurors List. The Juries (Amendment) Act provides for the amalgamation of the Jurors' List and the Register of Electors. The expense of the preparation of the Jurors' Lists was formerly a charge against the local authorities, while under the Electoral Act of 1923 the expense involved in the preparation of the Register of Voters has been equally divided between the State and the local authority. On the amalgamation of the lists, it was not considered right that the State should continue to pay half of the registration expenses, including the Register of Jurors, for which they had not been formerly responsible at all. The Jurors' (Amendment) Act of 1924 accordingly provided that the State should contribute one-fourth of the expenses to secretaries or clerks of county or district councils engaged in the preparation of the amalgamated register, one-third of the expenses to rate collectors, three-sevenths of the cost of printing, and one half of all the other registration expenses. These figures were arrived at in order that the contribution of the State and the contribution of the local authority under the new arrangement should hold the same proportion as under the legislation that previously existed before the Jurors' Lists were amalgamated with the Electors' Lists.
Mr. JOHNSON: Can we take it from the Minister, although I am not sure that the matter comes under this subhead, that all the local charges incurred by and payments due to the presiding officers who took part in the last General Election have been paid? As the Minister will recollect, there have been frequent complaints respecting the delay in the matter of these payments, but perhaps they have all been paid up. An assurance to that effect would be satisfactory.
Mr. HENNESSY: I am glad that Deputy Johnson has raised that point. From Cork county I received some complaints recently from persons who acted as presiding officers and poll clerks in the General Election of 1923. The returning officer, I understand, is in charge of the whole electoral machine at the time of an election. I know that in many parts of the country the returning officers take all their presiding officers and poll clerks from one particular centre and spread them all  over the constituency. I think in areas where you have polling booths, if you can get competent persons in these areas to fill the positions of presiding officers and poll clerks, that they ought to get the preference when the appointments are being made. All these officers should not be taken from one particular centre, and the fact that the selections have been made in that way in the past has caused considerable dissatisfaction in many parts of the country. An election is soon to take place in Kilkenny. I take Kilkenny to illustrate the point I am making. If the returning officer for that constituency, who resides in the city of Kilkenny, is to take all his presiding officers and poll clerks from the city and spread them over the whole electoral area, I think it would be only reasonable to expect that competent men out of employment in the different districts of that constituency would have a reasonable cause for complaint, because they were not given some of these appointments. I hope that the Minister will look into this matter before the next election takes place.
Mr. WALL: In connection with this matter, there is one point that I want to refer to. When the Circuit Court Judge sat in Dungarvan recently, certain jurors, after travelling very long distances, were told that their services were not required. I know of one instance in which the summons to attend the court as a juror was not delivered until 7.30 on the evening of the day immediately preceding the sitting of the court.
Mr. McGOLDRICK: There is one point that I desire to refer to which may have some interest for the Minister for Finance. It is a matter that occurred in connection with the last election. I find that all the payments made by cheque and all letters posted in relation to the elections from the office of  the sheriff in the particular county that I represent did not bring in any revenue to our Finance Minister. I do not know whether that is in keeping with what we should expect or not. I would like to know if, in the appointment of the Deputy Sheriff, the authorities here have any control.
Mr. McGOLDRICK: I am satisfied, but it was for the benefit of the Minister for Finance that I was making the point. It is very important, I think, to see that no revenue which ought to be collected is lost to the State.
Mr. BLYTHE: It is impossible to say, certainly without notice, if all the election expenses have been paid. I can say that the responsibility does not rest with the Government if they are not paid. Certain returning officers are very dilatory in carrying out their duties. We have had experience of that in connection with every election in the past. As regards the appointment of presiding officers and poll clerks that, I understand, is a matter within the discretion of the returning officer, and I do not think that anything can be done to alter the practice in any particular area except by legislation. The only person who has control over presiding officers and poll clerks, in the matter of appointment, is the returning officer.
Mr. HENNESSY: In the case of the returning officer who held office in Cork in 1923, I understand that portion of the expenses have not yet been paid. I think that he has been retired, and I would like to know what the position is.
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