Thursday, 7 October 1937
Dáil Éireann Debate
The President: The proposal I would make, then, is that the Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Bill, 1937, be referred to a special committee consisting of 11 Deputies to be nominated by the committee of selection; that the last meeting of the special committee be held, we will say, on 26th October, and that the quorum of the committee be five. I am afraid that, perhaps, the date which has been suggested may not suit.
The President: There are two things I should like to have in connection with this matter. One is that the committee should consider it as soon as possible; and, secondly, that we should have a report here—there may be further discussions on this—within a month.
Mr. Little: I understand the committee of selection could be reported to the House on Wednesday, October 20th, and immediately after that the committee of selection could appoint the committee for this purpose, and on the same day the names could be reported to the House. Then, on the following Tuesday, the committee could meet and start work.
Mr. Flinn: Is it not a rule that, where the House is unanimous on a certain matter, they can do certain things which in the ordinary way are not done? You are, for instance, entitled to accept motions where there is going to be no objection. It seems to me a Resolution might be framed between now and to-morrow which, if it was unanimous, would cover the whole procedure and save a whole lot of time. Such a course might cut out the whole of the delay.
An Ceann Comhairle: If it is not going outside my province as Ceann Comhairle, I would suggest that, though normally the committee of selection nominates the members of a special committee, it is competent for the Dáil itself to appoint a special committee. An Order might be made to-night, and in such Order the date of the commencement of the committee and the number and names of the members of the committee and the  quorum would have to be fixed. It is unsatisfactory to arrange the matter in the House. The Whips might meet outside. Such a committee would naturally have to be fairly representative of the different Parties in the House. It might be well if the House so agrees to adjourn for, say, half an hour to see if a special committee could be agreed upon.
The President: Suppose we adjourn until 9.30 p.m., we ought to be able by then to have a proposal with the necessary date in it, so as to put the matter definitely before the House. I am doubtful whether the number 11 that I have mentioned would be the very best number; it might happen that 13 or 15 members would be considered a better number. I think, however, it is advisable to keep the number down to the smallest that would give sufficent representation. If we adjourn for a while, the Whips might be able to negotiate. I move: “That the sitting be suspended until 10 p.m. to-day.”
The President: I move that the Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Bill, 1937, be referred to a special committee consisting of 15 Deputies; that the following Deputies be appointed to serve on the committee:—
 The President of the Executive Council, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, the Minister for Agriculture, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, Deputies Anthony, Costello, Dillon, Fitzgerald-Kenney, Kissane, McGilligan, Moore, Norton, W. O'Brien, O'Sullivan and Smith.
Mr. Dillon: There are two small points about which we might take counsel now as a matter of convenience to the committee. First of all, does the President think that it would be practicable to bind ourselves to report back to the House by Wednesday, 10th November? I am sure everybody wants to get a decision as quickly as possible. But if the committee is bound to report back by the 10th November, we may drift into that sort of situation in which we may have to work frantically against time. It may not be necessary to rush the committee unless there is something in the Constitution requiring us to take action. Perhaps it would be better to leave the date open. The second point to which I wish to draw attention is that the motion proposed by the President does not seem to fix any hour of meeting.
The President: With regard, first of all, to the hour of meeting, I want to say that I made inquiries about that. A secretary will be appointed to the committee and he will communicate with the members. At the moment the suggestion is that 11 o'clock would be the most suitable hour. Say we fix 11 o'clock provisionally. Would that, as a provisional hour, suit the committee? If any member of the committee sends to the Clerk of the Dáil some reason why that would be an unsuitable hour, we might change it and fix a later hour for the first meeting.
The President: That point did not occur to me. That, perhaps, was one of the reasons why the committee did not fix any definite hour. I would, therefore, suggest that that matter be left open so as to give an opportunity to convenience members who could be there about 5 o'clock. We do not want to commit ourselves to 5 o'clock. We shall try to meet the convenience of the members of the committee as far as we possibly can.
On the point about reporting back by the 10th November, I wish to say that my anxiety is to have this measure through before the Constitution becomes law, because there are a number of other things that must be done to implement the Constitution. The Constitution will come into force automatically about the 29th December, and we will want to have our work in regard to this particular Bill finished by that time. On the other hand, should it happen that the committee finds on the 10th November there was something required to be done, there could be a provisional report sent to the Dáil. There will be other work to occupy the Dáil at that time, and it will be easy for the committee to make a provisional report. The committee can then state, should it be necessary, that they need further time to deal with such and such a matter. It is better for us to try to get the work of the committee done by the 10th November. Then if something exceptional did occur which, in the opinion of the committee would make it advisable to get further time, the Dáil could give the further time that was required.
Mr. Anthony: I want to make it clear that other persons as well as members of the Bar who have been nominated members of this committee have interests also to attend to. I am prepared to sacrifice some of my time. It will be necessary for me if a meeting is  to be held at 11 o'clock in the morning to come up from Cork the previous day. If the meeting is fixed for 11 o'clock on Thursday I would have to leave Cork at 3 p.m. on Wednesday. I am prepared to do that. I want to get through the business in a business-like way, but if there is to be consideration for members of the Bar, surely consideration must be had for the convenience of others too. A Deputy has no right to accept a nomination on a committee if he is not prepared to make some sacrifice. It is all right to facilitate members of the Bar, but there are members from the provinces on this committee and, after all, members from the provinces, or, at least, members from places outside Dublin, constitute the majority of the Dáil. I want to emphasise that point, because we may be faced with the same situation on other occasions. I want to emphasise that the majority of this Dáil is composed of persons outside Dublin and, therefore, I suggest that the hour for the meeting of the committee should be fixed for 11 a.m. on Thursday next. Then we would know where we are, so that we could be able to do our business in a business-like way. I think Deputies would be able to bring to bear on the work before the committee better judgment and clearer minds if they met at 11 o'clock than they would if they had to rush from the courts and other places late in the evening. I say 11 a.m. is the hour we should fix.
The President: It was to avoid having a discussion of this sort that we really omitted to specify the hour. Deputy Anthony may be assured that the needs and conveniences of all the members will be considered. This is for the first meeting. There are certain sacrifices we can make and certain sacrifices we can not. It may happen that members of the committee may have certain engagements that could not be set aside without doing gross injury to other people. I think we ought to arrange that for the first  meeting we will leave it to the secretary who will be appointed, or to the Clerk of the Dáil, to arrange the hour. We will try to meet the convenience of all the members. With regard to the second point raised by Deputy Dillon, I would ask the Deputy to leave that item as it stands. If by the 10th November there is any matter that would necessitate further consideration  by the committee, that can be reported to the Dáil.
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