An Bille um an Tríú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1958—an Dara Céim. Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1958—Second Stage.
Wednesday, 26 November 1958
Dáil Éireann Debate
Nuair a d'iarras cead ar an Dáil chun an Bille seo a thabhairt isteach, do thugas cuntas ar na forálacha a bheadh ann agus chifidh na daoine a bhfuil sé léite aca go bhfuil sé do réir mar a dúras. Sé príomh-chuspóir an Bhille ná an ionadaíocht cionúire a scriosadh amach agus chun a chur ina áit, mar mhodh toghcháin, Dáil-cheantair aon-Teachta agus an t-aon-ghuth neamh-aistrithe.
Feicim-se freisin go mbunofar ó am go ham Coimisiún teora na nDáil-cheantar chun na teoranna a shocrú. Seachtar a bheas san Choimisiún, duine acu ina chathaoirleach. Ceapfaidh an tUachtarán é sin tar éis comhairle a ghlacadh leis an gComhairle Stáit. Breitheamh ón gCúirt Uachtarach nó ón Ard-Chúirt a bheidh ann. Beidh triúr eile ann, comhaltaí a ainmneoidh an Taoiseach ar dtús agus a cheapfaidh an tUahc trán. Beidh triúr ón bhFreasúra.a Is é an Ceann Comhairle a shocróidh cén chaoi ba cheart na daoine sin a thoghadh. Ní féidir a mbreith a shárú ach amháin le vóta na Dála, dhá dtrian i bhfábhar an leasaithe. Socrófar ó am go ham go mbunófar Coimisiún, agusb unófar Coimisiún uair amháin ar a luíod insan dá bhliain déag. Na ceisteanna nach bhfuil socraithe sa Bhunreacht, socrófar iad le dlí.
I have said that, when I asked for permission to introduce this Bill, I explained in general terms what would be in the Bill, and anyone who has read it will see that the Bill is in accordance with the statement I made. Its chief object is to amend the Constitution by putting, in place of the present system of the transferable vote and multiple-member constituencies, single-member  constituencies and the single non-transferable vote, the candidate who receives the greatest number of votes being elected.
The details of this Bill will come in for consideration on the Committee Stage, but at present I think it is better that our discussion should be confined to the general principles. The Opposition are objecting to the Second Reading of this Bill. I listened to the Leader of the Opposition when he was making his statement opposing the First Reading. It might be no harm at the outset to consider some of the objections which he raised. Of course, as a skilful advocate, he did his utmost to prejudice a fair consideration of the fundamental idea. It is suggested that this was no time to introduce a measure of this sort. The time was suggested by the fact that next year we have to carry out a revision of constituencies. Such revision is constitutionally due. It was suggested that this was introduced because of political passion, or something like that. Now, he was quite inconsistent in that suggestion, because later he spoke of apathy and torpidity in the body politic.
There need be no political bitterness in our consideration of this matter. It is one of fundamental importance. Indeed, it is the foundation stone upon which are built all our political institutions. If the foundation is sound, the institutions erected on it will function healthily. If it is not sound, then the edifice is built upon sand, and we are anxious to ensure that the foundation is sound and that it will remain sound.
The Leader of the Opposition suggested that this was being rushed and that the public generally should get, so to speak, two “goes” at it. He said this was an important matter. Of course it is an important matter. Everybody agrees with that. The fact that it is not possible to alter the Constitution except by an express vote of the people, freely adopting the change, is proof that it has always been considered an important matter. I do not understand the basis of his argument there, unless it is that he  wants the electorate to be consulted twice. The electorate will be consulted in exact accordance with the Constitution which specifically lays it down that no change may be made in the Constitution unless that change is sanctioned by a majority of the people voting by way of referendum. If that is not consulting the people, then I do not know what is. They will be asked to vote on a separate and distinct issue. No other issues will be brought in to cloud what is at state.
The argument that this is being done at a strange time is, as I have said, completely wrong. It is provided in the Constitution that, when any alteration or amendment of the Constitution is thought advisable, a Bill providing for the proposed amendment must first be passed — or be deemed to have been passed — by both Houses of the Oireachtas. Surely that provides a complete opportunity for educating and informing public opinion and for putting before the people the various arguments to be considered by them when making up their minds. Every voter who votes in this referendum will have had ample opportunity of considering the pros and cons. Indeed, the precise purpose of having this Bill is to ensure that there will be on it the sort of discussion one might expect in a constituent assembly dealing with a matter of this kind.
Only one difficulty could arise to negative the democratic right of the people to make a choice. That difficulty would arise if, in this House, large groups of Parties were interested in maintaining the status quo. If large groups were interested in maintaining the existing situation, then it would be impossible for the Dáil to decide to refer the issue to the people for their decision; and the people would never have an opportunity of considering a matter of this kind unless in a situation somewhat akin to the present, in which the Party which thinks the people should be given this opportunity have no vested interest in preventing it.
It is suggested that this Bill is intended to perpetuate the main Party here at the moment, namely, Fianna Fáil. Of course, all experience is  against that. Single-member constituencies and straight voting tend to build up an Opposition, since every Opposition knows that sooner or later under that particular system it will come into office. Fianna Fáil knows that, as a result of the passing of this Bill, an Opposition will be built up which will almost certainly replace the existing Government as an alternative Government. That is the way the system has worked in every country in which it is in operation.
Again, speaking in the light of experience, those countries which have most successfully built up democratic institutions are the countries in which there is a single non-transferable vote. The single non-transferable vote has an integrating tendency; the proportional representation system has a disintegrating tendency. Not alone does the single non-transferable vote system tend to vest the Government in office with power to carry out its particular programme generally, but it also tends to build up an effective Opposition which is constantly criticising the Government, keeping in close contact with the people to find out what policy changes might be desirable and always ready when their turn comes to adopt those changes.
The Taoiseach: I shall come to that in my own time. The position then is that, if it were intended to ensure the continuation of Fianna Fáil, this Bill would never be introduced, because it will certainly not have that effect. It is not being introduced because of Party considerations. It is being introduced because we are satisfied it is the best step to take at this juncture in the interests of the people.
I have been asked why I did not incorporate it in the Constitution. When we took office, there was already a Constitution here. Subsequently my anxiety was to get the new Constitution through, and it was my desire to keep as close as possible to the system with which the people were familiar. I can also confess — I have no difficulty  whatever in confessing — that, like many other things, it looked all right on paper, and I was affected by that. I was one of the first to say, in 1919, that, though I knew quite well the fundamental reasons which urged the British to introduce the system, yet I felt that in our circumstances at the time it was not likely to do harm. On paper, it appeared to be a fair system. It was for that reason I retained it, but I said at the time that, though it had worked all right up to that, if, at any time, it should prove to be unsatisfactory, it could be changed.
The position is that P.R. has not, in my opinion, in recent times worked out well. As has been pointed out more than once, and as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out when this matter of the Constitution was being discussed, it worked very well for a time, because there were issues so large in the public eye that they dominated all other issues and, therefore, the people voted on one side or the other because these issues were there. That continued fairly well up to 1938. A year afterwards we had the war, and during the war the main aim of trying to maintain the neutrality of this country was in the people's minds. But, even during the war, it needed two elections to get the stability which was required. Some of this stability was acquired rather in spite of the system.
Fianna Fáil came into office in 1932. It was by far the biggest Party. It had not an overall majority. It got the support of another Party up to a certain time, but then a time came when the other Party tried to use its position for pressure. This was going to mean that it was not the policy of the major Party that was going to be the policy of the country but a policy dictated by a smaller Party. Such being the position, we felt that the people should decide the matter and we had an election in 1933 which did give the overall majority — but the overall majority was got only after two elections.
A similar position arose in 1937. We had a general election in that year and, again, although Fianna Fáil was  returned by far the largest Party, it did not have an over-all majority and, again, in order to get the strength and the stability to carry out our programme, we had to go to the people a second time. In 1943 and 1944, the same was the position. We went to the country in 1943. We did not get an over-all majority, but we were returned by far the largest Party. In order to get the stability and the power to carry out our policy, we had to go to the electorate a second time, and in 1944 we got the majority.
In 1948, we were returned again by far the largest Party. My recollection is that Fianna Fáil at that time had more members returned than all the other organised Parties put together, but the other groups, no doubt, thought —I suppose there was a certain amount of fair ground for their thinking—that if we carried on as a Government and if again we found that we were unable to do our work, to carry out our programme, because of an insufficient number, we would again appeal to the electorate. I have no doubt whatever that, had we been in and had there been a second election in 1948, we would again have got the power, but we required in each case two elections to secure it.
The whole effect of the present system of P.R. has been to cause multiplicity of Parties. I will give the Leader of the Opposition praise for having sufficient foresight at the time when he was opposing putting the single transferable vote into the Constitution. He said much as I have said up to the present, that is, that we should not assume that, because it had worked during the years up to that time, it would work out in that way in future when no dominant issue would be before the people. He said, very rightly, that it leads to the multiplicity of Parties and it would do so here and instanced the type of Parties that might grow up.
My answer to that was that, instead of the single transferable vote, he wanted to have P.R. without any definition of the method. To me, it appeared quite clear that that was going to give opportunities for manoeuvring to the various Parties as they  came into power and became the Government, that they would be manoeuvring with this fundamental system; in other words, that they would be changing the rules in order to suit themselves. I felt that, whatever was going to be decided, it should be decided that it would be definite in the Constitution and not, in these fundamental matters, capable of being altered by the Government of the day. So, I objected to having P.R. in an indefinite form, insisted on putting in the reference to the particular method —because that had been the system— and pointed out, further, that, if at any time it was felt that it was desirable to make a change, the change could be made by the people, that we had a Constitution which did allow for changes and that the method of changing was a fundamentally good one, namely, that the matter would have to go to the people after a full discussion.
These are the fundamental reasons why we want to give the people an opportunity for making this change. It has been suggested that there has been no public opinion, no voice asking for this. All I can say to the Leader of the Opposition is that, if he thinks that, he must have had cotton wool in his ears from 1948 to 1951 and from 1954 to 1957, because everywhere I went through the country, everyone I met wanted to know when were we going to get rid of that system which was going to ruin the country. If the people do not want it, they will not have it. I will tell some of the people on the opposite benches that some of the people who were loudest in demanding the change were members of the Opposition Fine Gael particularly——
The Taoiseach: ——because they felt it was the one hope they ever could have of being a Government in their own right. That is a fact. Of course, now, for purely Party purposes, we have them joining this opposition, from a purely Party point of view, because anybody who reads the statement of the Leader of the Opposition will see fundamentally in it that  he knows that this system will lead to multiplicity of Parties, that it has led to multiplicity of Parties.
When we go to an election, what do we go to the people for? As anybody who has read or made any speeches knows, the main question before the people at the time of an election is what sort of Government they will have for the succeeding five years, what sort of policy they will have. As I have said already, one of the chief features of this system is that it leads to multiplicity of Parties. With the present system, there is multiplicity of Parties, each little group trying to get some support, knowing full well that they have not the slightest chance, independently, of being the Government. Yet, they can go out and promise, for that very reason, knowing that it will get them some votes.
They have not the responsibility that a Party would have that felt they would have to implement the policy which they put before the people. They can promise anything they choose. They can get some votes for it—the extreme right on one side and extreme left on the other—and then, although they have been preaching quite contradictory policies, when the elections are over and the people can no longer be spoken to, they can come in and unite. Under the system of straight voting, they will have to unite beforehand, not after. They will have to unite in front of the people.
This does not cut off the possibility of Parties. You can have Parties all right. Sectional interests, of course, can organise and can put themselves in the strongest position to make an impression upon the various constituencies, but, when they do that, if they want to get a majority, they must try to think of the central, common good and not their own sectional interests, because their sectional interests may be small. If they want to join with other people, they can do so. They can form a combined group before an election. During the time the Coalition were here, I suggested they should do that beforehand, and put their combined policy to the people, so that the people would know the alternatives  they would have to face. That was not done. It was much better, in their opinion, to wait until each one promised the most contradictory things, the right getting the most support from the most conservative section and the left getting its support from the most radical section, if I may use that word, and the two of them combining afterwards to make a certain bargain behind the backs of the people.
The system of straight voting compels that bargaining to be done in front of the people. There must be a candidate chosen who will be acceptable to all the groups and, therefore, the people, when they are voting, will know better what the candidates stand for for whom they are voting. That system makes for two groups, the Government and the Opposition, and in the Opposition the people can see an alternative to a Government, if they are dissatisfied with the existing one. The rival policies of each will have to be aimed at the common good so far as those policies are to appeal to the majority of the people, and each will have to have regard not merely to sectional interests. It is easy, of course, to talk about the advantages of the representation of minorities, but a great deal of that is illusory. It is all right on paper, but when it comes to the practical working out of politics, we all know that that does not work at all.
The person who writes on P.R. and the transferable vote imagines that each individual citizen will say to himself: “Here I have A, B and C, or whatever the number of candidates is. I think A is going to be best, but if I cannot elect A, I will elect B, and so on”. Everyone with practical experience of politics knows that that does not happen. You have groups of Parties and groups of individual candidates, and you have individual Parties.
I could also talk about the advantages of the single constituency as compared with the multiple constituency, but that is not the fundamental point here. Minorities get representation by being a part of the community. Sectional  interests do get their representation by being part of the community, having a voting strength, and thus being able to impress on candidates the fact that their particular interests would have to be safeguarded.
Speaking of the Protestant minorities in the country, I suppose they are scattered and, if you were prepared to give P.R. to them, you would have to take the whole country as one constituency, but, wherever they happen to be in a majority, they will undoubtedly get representation. It is far better, I would suggest, and it has shown itself here, that groups like that should be represented in the individual Parties rather than to put themselves apart as a separate and distinct element in the community.
As I have said, the main feature of the straight vote is that it is an integrating influence, whereas the other is a disintegrating influence. We have reason enough, goodness knows, for forming groups and Parties without, so to speak, being encouraged by our fundamental system to do so. I have great pleasure, therefore, in asking for a Second Reading of this Bill.
agus go molann sí ina ionad sin go ndéanfar, d'fhonn eolas a sholáthar don phobal, coimisiún saineolaithe a bhunú chun an córas toghcháin atá ann faoi láthair a scrúdú agus tuarascáil a thabhairt ina thaobh.
refuses to give a Second Reading to the Bill; and recommends instead that for the purpose of informing public opinion an expert commission be established to examine and report on the present electoral system.
We propose, not merely to recommend to the Dáil the acceptance of this amendment, but also to oppose the entire of this Bill to amend the Constitution in the manner suggested. The Taoiseach, in his opening remarks, was good enough to refer to my skilful advocacy. I venture to say, and I hope he will not take it as anything in the nature of an offensive  remark, that if I were in his position, making the case that he endeavoured to make, I would have made a far better case than he did succeed in making for this Bill. It may be the Taoiseach's compliment to me for my skilful advocacy was an endeavour to side-track the validity of the arguments but, with vast experience in advocacy, I have always found that advocacy is of little, if any, avail, unless you have either solid matter, by way of fact or legal argument, behind it.
Mr. J.A. Costello: It was rather disappointing that the Taoiseach made such a poor case for this measure, because I think the public were entitled to know what are the real reasons to justify such a radical and, indeed, revolutionary measure as the one proposed here to-day. I will deal with the arguments the Taoiseach has made. They are few and can be put into a very narrow compass, but, if I have to develop the counter-case, in the course of that case, I will deal with such of the arguments he has advanced. May I, however, deal with just one of the matters he mentioned at the start?
He opened his case by purporting to answer the points that were raised by me on behalf of the Fine Gael Party taking the rather unusual course of opposing the First Reading of this Bill. Deputies will know, of course, that the points made in opposing the First Reading of a Bill must be raised in a very summary fashion, and, if I may so put it, in not so much keeping an eye on the Ceann Comhairle but in keeping an eye away from the Ceann Comhairle, in case he rules one out of order.
Mr. J.A. Costello: Secondly, the case that was put forward at that time cannot be taken at all as anything other than a summary of the purpose justifying our taking that unusual course. One other remark I want to make, before I go into the case I have to make, is that the Taoiseach put forward, apparently as one of his main arguments, that the countries which  have the most democratic system have adopted the system of election known as the non-transferable vote with single representation constituencies. I wonder did he forget Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and a few others?
In this connection, may I just add that there has been, since the inception of the campaign for the justification of this measure, a suggestion— not made very much in public although a Fianna Fáil Deputy did rush into print and was effectively answered the next day—drawing attention to the confusion in the Republic of France? I want to clear that out of the way once and for all. Anybody who puts forward any argument to justify these proposals based on the experience of France is doing so either from ignorance or dishonesty. He can have his choice. Anybody who puts it forward in ignorance, not knowing it is a dishonest argument not based on the facts, will himself be guilty of dishonesty and is no longer entitled to plead ignorance if the facts are pointed out to him.
I wanted to get that out of the way. The conditions in France have nothing whatever to do with this country. The conditions which existed in France— and we should not interfere in the affairs of another country—and the conditions leading to the confusion which unfortunately did come to a climax in recent months were conditions endemic to the people as a whole rather than to anything based in even the remotest fashion on P.R. and the electoral system.
Having got that out of the way, I should like to put the case against this measure. At the outset, I want to say that Deputies must realise we are not engaged here in a mere intellectual discussion of the merits or demerits of a particular system of P.R. or the merits or demerits of the proposed change merely for the purpose of determining which is the better. We are engaged here in a debate of the utmost gravity. We are about to take a decision which may very well affect the future lives and liberties of this and future generations. We are taking that, as I will submit, without adequate consideration at a time which is not opportune and when no proper opportunity  has been given to condition and educate the minds of the electorate to the task they have to fulfil. This is the first time in which the electorate will have the experience of having a referendum in this country. They have no precedent to guide them, nothing on which they can go. They are being asked to decide on a matter which certainly cannot be said to raise either very great emotional feelings in their hearts or any great intellectual stirrings in their minds.
I will come back again to the question of whether or not this is the appropriate time to do what is proposed to be done in this Bill. It is worth while looking at the conditions in which these proposals emerged upon what I think I am justified in calling a startled public. There was no indication whatever during the last general election or since, until a few months ago, that it was the intention of the Government to introduce these revolutionary proposals. It emerged upon the startled public through what I suppose we can call a “leak”. It appeared first in one of the newspapers. Perhaps it was intelligent anticipation on the part of the political reporter of that newspaper, or perhaps it was from, as newspaper jargon has it, “well-informed sources”. At all events, that was the first indication the public had.
The second was the press conference given by the Taoiseach; the third was the discussion at the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis; and the fourth was the introduction of this Bill into the House. Nobody can say that the people were in any way conditioned, or educated for, or expected any such proposals. The conditions in which the announcement was made and the circumstances which existed in the country were certainly very far from favourable for the reception of the proposals. I do not think it is anything other than an understatement to say that the proposals are controversial and very radical; it is not an overstatement that they are revolutionary and profoundly disturbing.
We have had experience in this country for 36 years of the present  system of voting. It is due to the people to say that their political education has advanced to such a point that they fully understand the working of this electoral system and have, on the whole, very intelligently made their wishes known through the instrumentality of that system. At least, we have had experience of 36 years of its working. In the course of his remarks to-day, the Taoiseach said that such a system leads to a multiplicity of Parties and to bargaining between Parties. He says that the electorate do not know what political groups or Parties may come together to form a Government—as they did on two occasions in recent years—that their policy should be put before the people, that the people should know it and have it out in public.
Whatever may be said about the formation of the first inter-Party Government—and very little, if anything, can be said—there can be no doubt whatever that, in the 1954 election, the people were told that we, as Fine Gael, were going to combine with any Party that would combine with us to form a Government, and even the Taoiseach recognised, immediately the result was declared, that what the electorate at that time had declared for and wanted was an inter-Party Government and that they had given a sufficient majority to enable it to be carried out. Here was an intelligent electorate, having it put before them that there was likely to be an inter-Party Government with, as the Taoiseach said, some of the Parties going around putting forward their own particular policies; but at all events, the electorate, knowing that was going to happen, made it very clear, as the Taoiseach admitted at the time, that what they wanted at that time, after the experience of the Fianna Fáil Government from 1948 to 1951, was an inter-Party Government.
When the electorate wanted to give the Fianna Fáil Party a majority, they did so. They gave Mr. W.T. Cosgrave an overall majority for ten years. They changed when they thought conditions permitted them to change and they let Fianna Fáil in. They gave the Fianna Fáil Party an overall majority on  several occasions when they wanted to do so. I think we are entitled to say —and the people are entitled to get credit for it—that the electorate are sufficiently educated politically and intelligent enough to be able to work this system in the way they want to work it and wish to have it worked.
We have that experience. We have an educated electorate. We know what has happened. The proposal is to bring in a completely new system of which this country has no experience whatever. The only indication we have is to be got from a study of the results of the operation of a similar system in entirely different circumstances in certain other parts of the world. We have no basis here on which to compare the results obtained in the past 36 years with what might be obtained if the new system is put into operation.
We are taking a leap in the dark in the future. We are, as I will submit to the Dáil and the people when the time comes, making a wholly unjustified piece of political experimentation without due consideration and without having had any experience of what is likely to happen if this experiment becomes a fact.
I may say in passing again that I do not regard the principle of P.R. with the single transferable vote as something in the nature of a political dogma. I think I made that perfectly clear during the discussions on the Constitution in 1937 when the draft was being discussed in this House. I did, as the Taoiseach pointed out, on that occasion, endeavour to persuade him to leave a little flexibility in the Constitution. He insisted, as he did to-day, upon embedding into the Constitution then being considered, and subsequently enacted, the inflexible provision that the system should be on the principle of P.R. with the single transferable vote. I wanted to leave some flexibility.
There are many defects in the present system—I will deal with that aspect later—but you do not deal with defects, if you can deal with them otherwise effectively, by such radical means as are being taken in this case of substituting for a system that has  been tried a system which is completely untried and of which we can only forecast the results, results which may well be disastrous, if and when such a system comes into operation.
I think we are entitled to know what has happened since 1937. The people are entitled to ask and get a reasoned answer as to what has happened since 1937 to justify the change now proposed. The system of P.R. was embodied in two Constitutions and the people have become accustomed to it. It was in operation for 16 years, from 1922 to 1938. It was thought well by the present Taoiseach, when he was steering through his Constitution, that not merely should the system of P.R. be continued but that a particular system of P.R., namely, the system of the single transferable vote, should be inflexibly embedded in the Constitution. The Taoiseach says that the reason he did it was that it was in the original Constitution of 1922 and he wanted to keep it on.
I do not think he is quite accurate in his recollection of that matter, because I will give a quotation from what he said at that time and it will be abundantly apparent that he gave his complete adherence to the principles of P.R. and came down on this particular one system within the system of P.R., namely, the system of the single transferable vote. I tried to leave it more flexible and leave it as it was in the 1922 Constitution and I gave my reasons. The Taoiseach— and I use his own expression—insisted upon its going in, because it could be changed by the people, if it was necessary.
Why could the one I wanted put in not be changed just the same? There is no force in the argument made by the Taoiseach in that respect a few moments ago, but be that as it may, every argument in so far as the Taoiseach put forward any argument to-day, for the abolition of the present system was available to him in 1937 when the Constitution was enacted and all the other arguments which he did not put forward to-day and which could have been put forward were  available to him. What changes has come over the place since 1937?
The only thing is that his Party were beaten twice because they were then most unpopular, but the other aspects of the referendum, the turmoil consequent on it and the dangers that may ensue in the future, nobody can foresee. The Taoiseach, when he reads again his reasons in the debate in the Dáil for adhering to this principle, will see I was right at that time. Did it ever occur to the Taoiseach and to those sponsoring these proposals that if they now think they were wrong then, it is just possible that they are wrong now in the proposals they are putting forward? Is it not a piece of arrogance to say that just because they were beaten twice by the electorate under the most democratic system in the world and defeated decisively on one occasion when it was clear to the electorate that what was being proposed was an inter-Party Government, the system must go?
Every argument based upon the so-called multiplicity of Parties and upon the so-called instability of Government were available in 1937, and available within the three years from the time the first President took office when this system could have been changed by ordinary legislation without the necessity for a referendum. That was not done. I think it is justifiable to say that these proposals show an appalling lack of humility and further emphasise the self-confidence and the arrogance of the advocates of those proposals. Not merely are they desirous of changing the system for the inadequate reasons they have given, but their hands are reaching out into the future in a determined effort to shape the future and future generations in a very fixed mould on this new system, untried and unknown here.
When this proposal is put in, as it is being put into the Constitution, namely, the system which must in future be employed here until there is a further referendum, the system of the single constituency and the single vote, it cannot be got rid of except by a subsequent referendum. It is very easy  to say that the will of the people can deal with that situation; that we are seeking only to ascertain the will of the people on this proposal. When, as I will have occasion to do in a few moments, we advert to the possible consequences upon elections in this country under this untried system of the single constituency with a non-transferable vote, the effect may very well be that there will be 100 Deputies on the Government side of the House and 20 Deputies on this side of the House and a reduction in the present number of 147, what possible chance has any such Government of doing anything? What possible chance is there of any Bill going through this Dáil to amend the Constitution and to submit it to a referendum? To use the phrase used by the Taoiseach, it is a purely illusory argument to speak of this deification of the will of the people and the fact that the system, if it is put in now, can be changed again.
I draw attention to the fact that in the motion proposing the amendment to this Bill, we refer to the fact that the proposals contained in the Bill are contrary to our democratic traditions. I want to establish that proposition and I think it can be established beyond all question or doubt. It is being put around in a subtle fashion, and perhaps not so subtly, by certain propagandists of the Fianna Fáil Party who have already spoken that this system was imposed upon the Irish people by Lloyd George. Have you not heard that phrase, have you not read that in the newspapers, that this system was imposed upon the Irish people by Lloyd George? I want to establish here by reference to the history of this matter that this system was adopted by Irish opinion for Irish reasons and because it was felt that it was the best system, that could be adopted in Irish conditions and having regard to Irish problems.
The Proportional Representation Society of Ireland was established some time in the year 1911. The Taoiseach said he expressed what I am sure he is at liberty to say was at one and the same time a qualified and an unqualified approval of P.R. He did that in the year 1919. I am a little younger than the Taoiseach but I remember  being present in the year 1911 or so in the Antient Concert Rooms when the principles of P.R. were adumbrated and explained to a relatively small but, I hope, select audience.
Arthur Griffith was one of the first and founder members of that association. It was not Lloyd George that persuaded him that it was for the good of the Irish people that these principles should be accepted. In the January, 1911, issue of Sinn Féin— and these references can be verified in the National Library—he wrote:
“We believe the strength of the Irish Legislature will reside in its including from the beginning representatives of every section of the nation. We desire to see the evil growth of political bossism checked under Home Rule and every section of the community given free speech in an Irish Legislature.”
We in the Fine Gael Party regard Arthur Griffith as one of the founders of our Party and we are proud of it. That is not merely one of our Party traditions but one of our Irish national traditions. It was not Lloyd George or anybody else who inspired that view of Arthur Griffith's.
The activities of the Proportional Representation Society in their advocacy of the system from an Irish point of view resulted in the system being embodied in the Home Rule scheme of 1912. We know what happened that scheme. It was held up by the war, and then in January, 1919, for the first time in this country and the adjoining country of Great Britain elections were held in Sligo under the principles of P.R. That was not done at the dictate of the British Parliament. It was done at the request of the Sligo Corporation because they found that the other system, the system that the Taoiseach wants to  impose upon this country for parliamentary elections and to impose it for all time, caused complete chaos in their local affairs. When their election was held under the new system of P.R., they found that all sections of that little community got their due share of representation in the local council and they expressed themselves as well satisfied.
That was in 1919. In 1920 the principle of P.R. was enshrined in the Partition Act of that year, the so-called Government of Ireland Act, 1920. With the history behind the people at that time and the country being led by the Parliamentary Party under John Redmond and John Dillon, that provision was put in because of the experience we had in Sligo and because of the advocacy of Arthur Griffith and of all the other members of the various creeds and classes of the people in the Proportional Representation Society. It was put in for the purpose of seeing that the Catholic minority in the North got something approaching a square deal. It was put in to give a square deal to minorities in the North and to minorities in the whole of the 32 Counties, if the scheme embodied in that 1920 Act ever came into full operation in an All-Ireland Parliament, so that minorities in all sections of the community would have their fair representation in the proposed Parliament to be set up under that Act. I think that proposal was about the only one that had any benediction from any section of the Irish people, except the Unionists of the North and the South at that time.
Then we came to the Treaty and the Constitution of 1922. Arthur Griffith, with his conviction expressed in the sentences I have just read— that this was the one just system of election in democratic government, a system that gave minorities representation in proportion to their strength —in such part as he had, before his premature death, in the framing of the Constitution of 1922, saw to it that that Constitution provided for election on principles of P.R. The Article dealing with that was Article 28 of the Constitution of 1922, which had one sentence as follows dealing with  this matter: “The members shall be elected by the principles of P.R.” The system of the transferable vote was operated from 1922 onwards.
I have always had a conviction that there are defects, perhaps serious defects, in the rules governing the operation of elections under that system. I tried to find out where those rules came from and it is not, to say the least of it, very easy. But, at all events, the principle was embodied there in our elections and all through those critical years from 1922 to 1932 in very difficult circumstances, in perhaps circumstances of such difficulty that we hope we shall never see them again, in a civil war and all the aftermath of it and all the consequences.
That system was worked in this country and it worked well or reasonably well. Then we had the Constitution of 1937. When that Constitution came before the Dáil, it had in it Article 16, paragraph 5, which reads as follows:—
I want to go back a little from 1936-1937, when this debate was being continued in the Dáil, and to quote another prominent member of the Government who was then Minister for Industry and Commerce and who is now Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy S. Lemass, Speaking at the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis on 10th November, 1933, this is what Deputy S. Lemass had to say:—
“It was certainly a better system than that which prevailed heretofore and which was now in operation in Great Britain. The system which operated in that country might well give a minority a very substantial majority in the Parliament. It had done so in Britain and could do so here by the system of single member constituencies and non-transferable votes.”
I could not make a better case on this side of the House advocating, as  I am to-day, the refusal of the Dáil to pass this measure than this sentence of Deputy S. Lemass, Minister for Industry and Commerce. He summarises the case against his own proposals now. I have emphasised it because I will have to come to it again. “The system which operated in that country might well give a minority a very substantial majority in the Parliament”. Of course, that is what has happened, I think, in about ten or 12 of the recent elections in England. In only two of them has there been a Government that had a majority in the British House of Commons under the present system. The rest of them were there as minorities. It has done so in Britain—the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy S. Lemass, was quite right. It could do so here and it will be so if this Bill is put through, as it will be put through, I suppose, by the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Taoiseach and if—as I think it will not—it is passed by the people at the referendum.
Now we come to 1936 and 1937, to the Constitution and to this Article 16 which was being discussed. I put down an amendment the effect of which was to revert to the phrase that had been used in the 1922 Constitution; to put in the new Constitution the same words as were in the 1922 Constitution, that is, that the electoral system should be based on principles of P.R., leaving it to legislation afterwards if a better system was devised or if a new system was thought out or if mathematicians thought of other ways of getting better representation. My amendment sought that it should be left in a flexible manner for the Dáil to do it.
The Taoiseach says to-day that the reason he put it in, in 1937, was that it was in the 1922 Constitution. It was not. The system of the transferable vote which he insisted should be put in was a new system altogether.
Mr. J.A. Costello: At all events, the matter was argued. I argued for flexibility, for leaving it to the Dáil,  but all the time insisting upon principles of P.R. At no stage did I say we should go back to the British system. I have here two paragraphs which I shall read to the House. In Volume 67 of the Official Report of the debate in this House on the Constitution, as reported at column 1343, this is what the Taoiseach, then President, said:—
“The system we have we know; the people know it. On the whole it has worked out pretty well. I think that 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 P.R. here. It gives a certain amount of stability, and on the system of the single transferable vote you have fair representation of Parties. I understood when I was in opposition that this whole principle of P.R. was being threatened, and I was rather anxious here that we would ensure in the Constitution a reasonable basis for P.R.”
“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 P.R. exists you get better balanced results than you get in the other countries. I think we get the benefits of P.R. in reasonably balanced legisation here better than in any other country that I have read about or know anything about.”
But here, to-day, the Taoiseach says that in every country outside, this country where there are free democratic institutions you get better results from the system he is now advocating  to-day. Perhaps I could understand his wanting to get rid of the system because it resulted in his defeat on two occasions but I cannot understand his putting forward here an argument to-day saying that democratic countries outside who use this system get better results. Here, in this quotation, he says we get better results.
Mr. J.A. Costello: At all events, there we have the history. I think I have established beyond all question that P.R. as an electoral system in this country is in accordance with our traditions and has its roots in Irish conceptions and fits into Irish trraditions. Perhaps there are some Deputies in this House and certainly there are many people outside in the country who will be voting on this referendum who have no notion of the conditions existing in this country over the three or four years before 1921 when the Treaty was signed. Those of us who remember the conditions then existing remember the document “The Call to Unionists”. I wonder did Deputy Booth ever read it?
Mr. J.A. Costello: If Home Rule of any kind, class or description was given to this country the Protestants were to be mastered. It was to be Rome Rule instead of Home Rule and they were up in arms, literally, against the assertions of the Irish people of the right they had to self-government, that is the meagre instalments that ought to have been got in Home Rule. Certainly, the British have very much to rue that they did not share the high traditions of John Redmond, John Dillon and the rest of them, and recognise that they were trying to achieve something for this country which, not merely would have been for  the good of the country, but would have been doing something which would put the British nation in a very much better position than it is to-day. At all events the minority in this country, in the North, were up in arms, literally.
The minority in the South were utterly convinced that if there was any sort of national freedom for this country it meant almost complete annihilation for them and, in order to soothe their fears, and in order to see they had no reason to anticipate they would get anything but the fairest and most just dealing, and even a treatment that would have no reference to them as a minority, but a treatment that would be given to any Irish citizen irrespective of class or creed, arrangements were made in 1922, and following that, to calm their fears. Now, I think, they admit that what was done then, one of the schemes being P.R., achieved that result. That is our tradition, the tradition of dealing fairly with minorities.
We are in existence as a State for only 36 years. We have not had the time — and the conditions under which the institutions of this State have been built up and developed since 1922 have been such that we have not been able — to create, form and foster those political traditions which are of such inestimable value in maintaining public respect and veneration for the public institutions of the State. We have formed some traditions and those we must foster, keep, and safeguard. One of the few traditions we have is that of dealing fairly with minorities and, when I say dealing fairly with minorities, I do not confine that phrase merely to religious minorities. I mean minorities of every kind. Our tradition is to give them full representation in the Parliament of the Irish people. These are our traditions.
Mr. J.A. Costello: We should hold on fast to that tradition. If this Bill is passed and if it be — as I believe it will not be — sanctioned by the referendum, then we are throwing away one of those valuable traditions which have  been of inestimable value to us, which have made this country a headline outside as a democratic country dealing fairly, not merely with minorities in the sense of religious minorities, but with minorities of all kinds and all sections. If we are to change this system, or if we are to amend it — and it is capable of improvement and adjustment, and has, in fact, evolved in some way; I suppose the Taoiseach would at least say it has given additional strength and stability to Government formed under it — there are ways of dealing with this matter. There are ways of improving the system and, perhaps, giving additional methods by means of which strengthened Government can be achieved, notwithstanding all the fears uttered by the Taoiseach in the course of his remarks to-day and other times; but why go to the radical extremes that this Bill does?
We should, if we wish to change the electoral system — and subsequently I shall have to point out one method by which that can be done — if it is to be done at least we should make the change in accordance with our traditions and within the system itself. I have spoken of the traditions that were built up in this country of giving a fair share of representation to minorities. May I quote one sentence from the publication called The Indivisible Island? The author is Frank Gallagher and I am entitled to say the Taoiseach has approved of that sentence. Beyond that I shall not go.
“One of the greatest wrongs that can be done to a minority in a democratic State is to deprive it of its political rights, particularly its electoral rights for these are so often a shield for the rest.”
I commend that to Deputies as a principle upon which they should stand in considering their attitude to this Bill, and I commend it to the people outside Dáil Éireann when they come to exercise the grave and serious and responsible duty they have, to  vote on this referendum. One of the greatest wrongs that can be done to a minority in a democratic State is to deprive it of its political rights, particularly its electoral rights for these are so often a shield for the rest. The proposals in this Bill are designed and calculated to achieve the suppression of minority rights.
Mr. J.A. Costello: The Taoiseach says that the system it is proposed to be abolished leads to a multiplicity of Parties. The Taoiseach said I agreed it leads to a multiplicity. I did agree, subject to one amendment— not a multiplicity of Parties — but that if the Irish electorate in this democratic State wished to have a number of Parties they were entitled to have them. If the people behind me— perhaps I should leave myself out— but if certain people, such as Deputy Mulcahy and his colleagues, risked their lives and gave up the possibility of advancing in life to secure for Deputy Booth and his class, fair dealing in 1922, at least we are entitled to make the case that we shall stand now in the last ditch to ensure that other minorities that have got his rights will continue to get them.
Mr. J.A. Costello: When the Irish people wanted to get an inter-Party Government they were sufficiently intelligent to know how to achieve that. They did that in 1954 and, when they wanted to give an overall majority again, they did so in 1957. They can do what they like within this system. They have got their education in this system over 36 years.
Now because Fianna Fáil have been beaten twice under the system, they want to try, if they can, to ensure that they will never be beaten again and incidentally, the net result may be, though I do not say it will be— Deputies have to consider the possible results as well as the probable results —the end of political democracy as we know it in this country because the results of the operations of this particular electoral system advocated by the Government will almost  certainly, in existing conditions, have the effect of doing away with all except a very small section of parliamentary opposition.
Parliamentary democracy cannot work without an Opposition and not just an Opposition that is allowed to talk merely when the Government thinks right, but an Opposition that is effective, that can make its will known and make its voice heard throughout the country and that can stop corruption, injustice and inefficiency. Unless you have an Opposition capable of doing that job — and it is not capable of doing its job, unless it can form an alternative Government — then we will have nothing but arrogant Government tending to dictatorship. I am quite well aware that it is probably highly likely, even under the system proposed, that the electorate will be so disgusted with Fianna Fáil that there will be such an election as will root Fianna Fáil out of office.
As I said on Sunday in Carlow, even though that may be to the political advantage of Fine Gael, and even though it may be that Fine Gael would get, sooner than people expect, an over-all majority as a Government, nevertheless we stand by our traditions and by the example of those who founded our Party. We wish that all minorities should get their proper representation in this Parliament because we are convinced that the true interests of the Irish people lie in such an arrangement.
In the course of his early remarks, the Taoiseach referred to the fact that other countries that had adopted the system he proposed were more democratic than the rest of us. I suppose Great Britain claims to be the mother of Parliaments and the home of democracy. America certainly is a highly democratic State, but in Great Britain they have, in connection with this system, something that we have not got here. They have a long tradition of a political character behind them which enables them, in that tradition, to prevent the violent fluctuations and changes and the evil that can come from the adoption of this system. We have not got that tradition. The Founding Fathers, as they are called in America, with their most inspired foresight  framed the constitution of the United States of America, which has withstood the test of time, and if I may add, the very severe test of democracy. They foresaw the dangers inherent in the full logical operation of democracy and they put their checks and balances in a most scientific and farsighted way into that constitution exactly to ease any revolutionary situation that might come about by the over-logical workings of democracy.
We have not got that here in this country. We are moving, if this Bill is carried and approved by the people in a referendum, into an unknown and untried land. The people are told by the Taoiseach: “I do not want a multiplicity of Parties here. I do not want a Farmers' Party; I do not want a Labour Party and I do not want any Independents. I want two Parties. We are the big one and we are going to stay that way. Let you all go into one and form the second Party and then everything will be grand.”
The Taoiseach talked about bargains. May I say in passing that so far as bargains are concerned in connection with the two inter-Party Governments with which I was associated, I assert most positively there was no such thing? I pass that up now and I pass on to this point. Whatever bargains could come out from the Taoiseach's heated imagination—and I think he is obsessed by the fact that P.R. has beaten him, “him” being underlined, twice and that he is incapable of an impartial judgment— any bargains that could come from the fevered imagination of the Taoiseach are nothing compared with the bargains and pressure groups and possible corruption that will come from this new proposal.
When we were in Government the Taoiseach said: “You are not to combine at all. It is all wrong. It is quite vicious for the Labour Party and Fine Gael, the Farmers' Party and the Independents to join in a programme openly published and arrived at. That is wrong, although it is done before the public eye. It is all wrong when you do that as Parties and work in harmony for a while, but you are  now to get together and form one Party, and as long as you are in the one Party, everything will be grand.”
Is that not the most arrant nonsense? Of course, the real truth of the matter is that no such thing could happen and the probability is that if the system goes through, at least for a while, Fianna Fáil will be there with their organisation and the other Parties there with their traditions; there will be one-member constituencies and three or four of them will go up for election and Fianna Fáil will slip in on a minority vote and then will be in here. God protect the ordinary people of the country if that happens because there will be a big Party and a small Party which cannot be in opposition because that Party, if they get in again, will see to it that they will put a stranglehold on the electorate.
We remember an actual occurrence on one occasion when Fianna Fáil were at the height of their power and were what we call here in this motion an arrogant Government. In a certain election in a certain county, a number of workers downed their tools and marched in military file, headed by their foreman, and voted illiterately so that it would be plain that they voted for Fianna Fáil; otherwise, their jobs would be gone. That is what we are in danger of having.
Everybody who has experience of organising a Party, of trying to keep  a Party going, knows how difficult it is to get people to give the necessary money to carry on and the great strain on the personal, and not merely financial, self-sacrifice, of every member of the Party combining to keep the democratic machine going. Unless there is some possibility or opportunity for such a Party to get into Government, unless the electorate has a choice of Party in opposition to put out the Government they object to because it is inefficient, unjust or corrupt, the democratic machine cannot work. The late Professor John Marcus O'Sullivan used to say that the only lesson to be learned from history is that there is no lesson to be learned, but at least the experience of modern historical times has certainly tended to show that Government of that kind — one-Party Government, strong Government — that magic phrase — has been capable of committing the most disastrous acts and bringing ruin upon countries and individuals, ruin of a character that baffles the imagination. We are on the high road to that and it is no exaggeration to say so in the conditions existing here.
Mr. J.A. Costello: I want Deputies, particularly those interested in this matter, to approach it as it should be approached — in a mood of reflection and deep appreciation of the grave responsibility that devolves upon them in dealing with this problem to-day— to realise that we have in this country conditions entirely different from those that exist in England or America. In Ireland we have a homogeneous public opinion. In England you have a concentration of Labour due to industrialisation, and, due to historical reasons, you have a concentration of people who traditionally vote Conservative. Bournemouth, and I think Sussex County, can always be relied  on to vote Conservative. In the East End of London and in parts dotted all along the map of Great Britain it can always be said: “That area is Labour” or “That area is Conservative.” It is that which has enabled the two-Party system to exist in Britain.
We have not had that here. We have a homogeneous public opinion and there is no way of saying that in Kerry, such an area votes for a particular Party or that that area can be relied on to vote for a particular Party. Neither can it be said of an area in Donegal, the Midlands or elsewhere. Even in England it is recognised by many political thinkers who have no axe to grind that the two-Party system is unjust. Indeed it is only in two of the last ten elections in Great Britain that the Government had anything other than a minority of the votes.
For historical and other reasons the two-Party system grew up in Britain— Whigs and Tories in the old reactionary days, then Liberals and Conservatives and then the Labour Party. Then out went the Liberal Party and now there are two big Parties, Conservative and Labour, neither of which wants the Liberal Party to get in although 2,600,000 vote for them.
These big Parties have hardly any opposition. They get in on minority votes. I could give any number of instances of where that has happened but I shall just give three examples of what occurred during the campaign on the Home Rule Bill about 1911 and 1912. When that measure was adumbrated the Liberals were in office with a very slender majority depending upon Parliamentary Labour and the Irish Parliamentary Party for subsistence. Every vote counted. There were three by-elections within a short space of time and in each of three constituencies that I am taking as examples, the Home Ruler as the person pledged to vote for Home Rule was the sitting Member of Parliament, and this was the result. At Oldham in Lancashire on the 13th November, 1911 the anti-Home Ruler got 12,255 votes; the Liberal Home Ruler got 10,623 votes; the Labour representative who supported Home Rule got 7,448 votes. The anti-Home Ruler got in with a minority of something  like 6,000 votes. That meant a difference of 2 in the British House of Commons.
In Midlothian (Edinburgh) on the 10th September, 1912 the anti-Home Ruler got 6,021. The Liberal Home Ruler got 5,989 and the Labour Home Ruler got 2,413 votes. Again the anti-Home Ruler got in on a substantial Home Rule vote.
What is our experience here, such as it is, of a single transferable vote? We have none since the State was established but we had some before that. In every single case the system resulted, by reason of conditions existing at that time, in there being not two Parties but one Party. You had, first of all, the Parnell Party succeeded by the John Redmond-John Dillon Party. That was beaten in 1918 by the Sinn Féin Party. The Sinn Féin Party obtained office in 1918 as a result of the overwhelming defeat of the Parliamentary Party. But — and this is a strange reflection and comment on that system — although the result was — and, of course, the result was secured because of the particular and peculiar conditions existing at that time — that the Sinn Féin Party overwhelmed the Redmondite Party, the Redmondite Party got a bigger percentage of the votes in that election than Fine Gael got in the elections of 1943, 1944 or 1948 and Fine Gael were not wiped out.
P.R., if you like to say so, saved Fine Gael at that time but the point I am making is that the annihilation of a political Party resulted in one Party coming up at a time when the country was in grips with Great Britain fighting for its political independence. If that situation occurred — and it may well occur; I think it is not merely possible but probable in democratic conditions in this country — it would be disastrous. It is not beyond the bounds of thought, not to say imagination, that those people who are using guns against the North at the present time  may, under the system proposed, get— which they could not do under the existing system — a swing on public opinion, and under the system of the non-transferable vote which gives rise to violent swings and changes, those parties could quite conceivably, in a condition of acute pathological hysteria in the future of this country, sweep the Government out of office and take control of the State.
We can remember the mass hysteria that existed in Limerick on the occasion of a funeral there. All sections of the people were contaminated by it. Public opinion all over the country was at the time in a most dangerous condition. It requires very little imagination to visualise such a situation recurring and the only safeguard is to bring those people in here, in so far as they can be brought in, and allow them to have their voice in the deliberations of this Assembly. We did get the Clann na Poblachta Party to come in here; they had been using guns before that. Was it not an advantage to the democracy of the country that they came in here? But they could not come in here under the system now proposed by the Taoiseach and his Government. People should ponder this: there is grave danger under the proposed system of a recurrence of the 1918 situation within a very short space of time.
I object most strongly to having any hand, act or part in trying to mould the future of this country. I object strenuously to that horrid phrase “The foreseeable future.” There is no such thing. But we are reaching out our hands under this proposition into the future and trying to impose our will upon the people of the future. We are doing that in circumstances in which we have not the remotest idea of what conditions will be when this proposed system comes into operation a few years hence.
There has been talk and discussion in a certain newspaper to the effect that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael should amalgamate. The Taoiseach said that I had put forward an illusory argument suggesting that these proposals were ill-timed. Last night, I was looking at a television interview with  Pandit Nehru. He was asked what his views were on the rather widspread suggestions that were being made that the Congress Party in India was too big and ought to break up. He gave precisely the same arguments as the Taoiseach gave here to-day as to the multiplicity of Parties which might result, a bad thing, multiplicity of Parties! Of course, Pandit Nehru is also sitting pretty at the head of a huge Party. Certain people are evidently anxious that we should amalgamate and have a big Party; other people want to split up the Congress Party. He was asked then a very relevant question: “What would happen to the Party if you retired?” His answer was: “Who can tell in the changing conditions of a changing world?” Who can tell what will happen here when Deputy de Valera, the present Taoiseach, either retires or dies? What conditions shall we have?
We are coming to the end of an era. We do not know how Parties may split up. We do not know how the electorate may transfer their allegiance. There may very well be what I might describe, with not any over-emphasis, as a Radical Party. Certainly, in a few years there will be a break-up of the present political Parties. God alone knows what will be the result. We are in the situation that we do not know what will happen and, in that situation, we are reaching out our hands to try to mould the future in accordance with the Taoiseach's electoral desires. It is wrong for any human being to do that. It is wrong for an Irish Parliament to endeavour to do that in the particular circumstances of our times.
We have had experience over the last few years of the political apathy, cynicism and disillusion which exist throughout the country. To the best of my ability, supported by my colleagues, I have done my best to dissipate that atmosphere of gloom, an atmosphere so much against the national interest. I have carefully refrained in my efforts from apportioning any blame to any Party for any sins of omission or commission over the last 36 years. We are now on the threshold of a radical change. Members on both sides of the House who took part in the Treaty controversies  and subsequently in the Civil War are not far off, however many years they may still have before them, from their end certainly as active politicians.
The young people are coming on, desirous of forgetting these conflicts and controversies, forming new ideas, looking to the future and not to the past, indeed not even interested in the past for inspiration. What will happen? Are we to tie their hands leaving behind us an inflexible electoral machine as our legacy?
Mr. J.A. Costello: I have only one comment to make on the interruption by the Minister for External Affairs. If he is not capable of producing a better argument than that, then his chances of persuading the people will be poor indeed, if the people are open to conviction and reason.
I said these proposals are ill-timed. They are ill-timed because we are at the end of an era. We do not know what will happen. Nevertheless, we are trying to mould the future. They are ill-timed, too, since what the people want at the moment is not any alteration of the Constitution but economic amelioration and financial easement.
Finally, I want to comment shortly  on the proposal to put into the Constitution a commission to fix the boundaries under the proposed electoral scheme. I spoke at the Engineers' Hall in Dawson Street, on Tuesday, 30th September, 1958. I had no notion then of what would appear in this Bill. This is what I said:—
“If P.R. be abolished new single-member constituencies will have to be created all over the country. It cannot be doubted that the present Government would, in creating new constituencies, approach that task with the firm objective of further consolidating the interests of their own Party. Any such redistribution of constituencies or seats, or the creation of new constituencies, or a change in the numbers of the members of the Dáil, which, incidentally, has no connection with the abolition of P.R. and could, if it were desirable, be achieved without such abolition, should be made only with the object of advancing the public interest and of securing that justice be done to all Parties and to all sections of the community. These objectives can, we believe, only be secured if all matters relating to a change in the numbers of members in Dáil Éireann, the demarcation of electoral areas, the alteration of old constituencies and the creation of new ones should be committed to a body to advise on all these matters and constituted so as to secure public confidence in its integrity and impartiality.”
These were the tests that I proposed for such a commission. By every test there, this commission fails. Can anybody have the slightest confidence in a commission set up, and again embedded inflexibly in the Constitution, which provides that no court shall entertain any question as to whether the commission has been properly constituted or any question as to whether the determination or the revision of the boundaries of constituencies as set out in their report has been properly carried out?
 The President, on the advice of this nebulous body known as the Council of State, is to appoint a judge to this commission. Why he has to go through the farce of meeting this nebulous body, I do not know. Why the President should have that job is open to question also. Presumably, the suggestion is that it will be independent. Why go to all that trouble merely to appoint a judge. That is merely passing criticism of no very great effect. But, what I object to, No. 1, is bringing in the President at all; what I object to is the fantasy, the hypocrisy, if I may say so again without offence, of trying to put it across the people that because the President is going to appoint a judge, therefore, this is an impartial tribunal which will advise on all the matters I have referred to and secure public confidence in its integrity and impartiality.
I think it is a fundamental mistake to put the details of this commission into the Bill. If I had anything to do with carrying out my own admonition in the speech I made in the Engineers' Hall, I would put into the Constitution the principles on which any such commission shall be set up and the principles on which their work shall be guided so that if the commission were set up contrary to those principles as laid down in the Constitution or if they operated against them, then their action would be liable to be questioned in the Supreme Court in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution as being unconstitutional. But no, the courts are to have nothing to do with it and a mere veneer of respectability, a sort of veneer outside the whited sepulchre, is put up.
Let me recall to Deputies that when the North were gerrymandering their constituencies, they put a judicial personage there to give an air of verisimilitude to an otherwise very unconvincing body. Under that judicial chairman, the North was gerrymandered. Here we have a proposal by which the Taoiseach is to appoint three politicians; the Ceann Comhairle is to select, from what he regards as the Opposition, three more. Let us envisage a situation that I have referred to earlier where there are 100  Fianna Fáil Deputies over there and 30 or 40 Deputies over here. Will there be any possibility that the system established or endeavoured to be established, when this Parliament was first created — the tradition was broken by Fianna Fáil — that the Ceann Comhairle should have the respect of all Parties and, once elected, was there for life, will be abandoned? Do you think that will be carried on?
The Ceann Comhairle, in my view, under this system, will be the servant of the big Party that happens to be there at the time, and if Fianna Fáil got in, they would get their own man; if another Party got in afterwards, they would put him out because they would not have any confidence in him and they would have the precedent that that was done by the preceding Taoiseach. That is the man that is supposed to see to the integrity of this commission. There will be three politicians anyway, with a big Party, everyone on the bandwagon. Is it not human nature that those three gentlemen supposed to be representing the Opposition, not being the Opposition, but selected by the Ceann Comhairle, the tool of the Government Party, as he might very well be, would get together and, on the principle of “you scratch me and I will scratch you”, take very good care that certain seats would be perfectly safe for them and their pals and the constituencies would be framed and distributed accordingly?
There is nothing to be said for the commission that is in the Bill. It is a farce, a whited sepulchre. It should not be in the Constitution at all. It should be a matter for legislation and it should be subject to overriding principles as to its formation and operation in the Constitution and then, just the same as the Supreme Court have laid down, contrary to everything that the Taoiseach did at that time, that where there was a question of whether an Act contravenes the principles of social justice, the Supreme Court will itself determine what the principles of social justice are. That should be the guiding principle here.
Can anybody assume for a moment that a judge appointed, even with this ridiculous machinery of the President,  will not be a politician, because that is the scheme under which the Taoiseach brought the position of President into the Constitution? He will be a politician, probably or possibly elected by the votes of the strong Party in strong Government, that the Taoiseach is so fond of. He will select his own judge. He is supposed to consult the Council of State. Supposing you had an independent Council of State — let us assume that almost impossible situation — and they tell him, “You must accept AB; he is a good judge, an independent judge”, he may say, “Thank you gentlemen. I have consulted you. That is all I have to do. I will appoint CD,” who is a tool of the Government in power, who is what the late Kevin O'Higgins would have called a legal careerist, who got his job on the bench because he was the lick-spittle of a political Party. That is the system supposed to give us impartiality and suppose to create public confidence in this whited sepulchre, the commission set up under this Bill.
“Ndiúltaíonn Dáil Éireann an Dara Léamh a thabhairt don Bhille de bhrí nach ndéanann sé foráil le haghaidh vótála de réir na hionadaíochta cionúire agus ar mhodh an aon-ghutha inaistrithe sna Dáilcheantair aon-chomhalta.”
“Dáil Éireann declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill as it does not make provision in the  proposed single member constituencies for voting on the system of P.R. by means of the single transferable vote.”
I move the amendment to show the opposition of the Clann na Talmhan Party to the Bill before the House. The Party would be prepared to consider giving support to a Bill which would make constituencies smaller or more easily workable for members elected to them, but consider that Deputies should be elected on the P.R. system.
The Taoiseach in moving the Second Reading of the Bill failed to give us any sound reason as to why he wants the Bill passed. I want to ask him what groups, what persons, what bodies of repute approached him or any member of the Government to effect this radical change in the electoral system of the country? Has it come out of his own head completely and entirely or has any decent, reputable body of the citizens of this State made representations to him or made an appeal to him to have the electoral system changed?
I want to state at the outset that if this Bill goes through the House and is passed into law by referendum — as I know it will not — it will mean the virtual suppression of all minorities in this country. It will give the ruling Party complete and absolute power to crush and silence all minorities, whether political, religious or vocational. They will have absolutely no voice. The Taoiseach desires that. It will give rise to the possibility of serious corruption which will be almost impossible to detect and bring to justice at the time of an election. If the Bill goes through, it will mean that those candidates who are wealthy enough, if they feel like it, can bribe candidates to stand in order to block or injure candidates more popular than themselves.
It is certain, as Deputy J.A. Costello said, to result in Deputies getting elected by a minority of votes in constituencies. I can quote one example off-hand. Let us say there are 12,001 votes in a constituency for which three candidates are standing. One candidate  gets 4,000; another gets 4,000; and the third gets 4,001 votes. The candidate with the 4,001 votes can be elected, although 8,000 votes have been cast against him. The Taoiseach must be fully aware of that. Apparently, what he wants is to secure his own Party perpetually in power.
In reply to a Parliamentary Question the week before last, the Taoiseach informed the House that the presidential election is to be held under the P.R. system. Again, I ask why. Why this difference? Why does he propose to deny the ordinary voter the right to vote as he did heretofore 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or up to ten, if there are so many candidates? Why does he deny the ordinary elector the right to vote for a number of candidates under the system of P.R. while conceding it in the case of the election of the President? Why does he propose doing that?
Do the Government think that the majority of the people are illiterate and cannot properly use the present system of voting to the best advantage? When he is replying to the debate, would he give us the percentage of spoiled votes in the country, which is the best way of proving exactly how many do not know how to take full advantage of the benefits of the present system of voting? Why does he seek to deny the people the benefit of voting for more than one candidate which they have enjoyed for more than 38 years in this country?
The only reason the Taoiseach gave was that the present system gives a multiplicity of Parties. Let us examine the composition of this House at present under the existing system. It is composed of Fianna Fáil, the Government Party; Fine Gael, Labour and the Farmers' Party. Where is the multiplicity of Parties there? Outside the two big Parties, you have two very important vocational groups — the Labour people and the farmers. They have decided to send their representatives to the Dáil.
What is wrong about that? Is it wrong for the farmers to send their representatives here? Is it wrong for the labouring men to send their representatives to the Dáil to fight their own  particular case? The Taoiseach spoke about certain misfortunes the Fianna Fáil Party encountered in 1937 and 1938 and again in 1943 and 1944. When the Taoiseach referred to what happened in 1943, I knew quite well he was referring to the fact that, although there was a war in progress, the farmers, particularly in the West of Ireland, decided to send their own representatives here. Why was that? I will tell the Taoiseach why.
It was because the farmers were fooled for 13 or 14 years by Fianna Fáil promises into thinking that the things they wanted done would be done by the Fianna Fáil T.D.s. They decided that after being fooled time and time again, it was time to send their own people to the Dáil. The Taoiseach talks about a multiplicity of Parties. Why did the Taoiseach swallow the policy of Clann na Talmhan in 1943? Why did he introduce the children's allowances?
Mr. Blowick: I am asking whether a multiplicity of Parties is wrong. If the people should have no right to vote for any Party, why did the Taoiseach put the policy of Clann na Talmhan into operation before he dissolved the Dáil and claimed the benefit of that policy for his own Party? In 1944, the Taoiseach got an over-all majority. The life of the Dáil is five years and it was not due to dissolve until June, 1949. The Taoiseach dissolved the Dáil on 4th January, 1948 — 18 months earlier. Was it a multiplicity of Parties that brought about that change? Would the Taoiseach give the House some inkling as to why he acted in such a capricious manner and why he jumped into the middle of the ring to throw back into the faces of  the people the power which they had got from them in 1944?
He had the same majority in 1948 as he had in 1944. Why did he dissolve the Dáil 18 months ahead of time? Apparently, it is wrong for Deputies who are elected to come together and form a Government. It is true that Fine Gael, Labour, Clann na Talmhan and Clann na Poblachta formed the Government in 1948. We gave the country good Government for 3½ years. Fianna Fáil came back again. The people changed that and Fianna Fáil came back in 1951.
Mr. Blowick: Fianna Fáil came back in 1951 and in two years and ten months, they decided to go to the country and dissolve again. The Taoiseach might tell us why sometime. Deputy J.A. Costello who was then Leader of the Opposition made it clear, as did every single member and candidate of all the Parties who formed the inter-Party Government from 1954 to 1957, that they were going to form a Government, if they got strong enough support from the people. They got it and they formed a Government.
The Taoiseach has now taken it into his head that a system under which the seats of his own Party are not secure for all time is an absolutely intolerable system and must be torpedoed. Cunningly, he has asked the people to cut their own political throats. He knows he must put it before the people. He is asking the people to do it without giving a decent explanation for it.
The Taoiseach said that small Parties can promise anything. No Party that ever came into this House has promised as much as the Taoiseach's own Party. Small Parties do not promise anything. The average man has more intelligence than the Taoiseach gives him credit for. If small Parties promise the sun, moon and stars for the purpose of catching votes, the average man knows they cannot fulfil these promises. The Taoiseach knows as well as I do that the average person is much more taken by the man who offers him a  gift of half a crown than the man who offers him a gift of a £10 note. No small Party can make promises. We did not promise——
Mr. Blowick: Well, Sir, the Taoiseach said that small Parties can promise anything. Suppose a Party are foolish enough to promise something extremely impracticable. Is that not their own funeral? Can it not be left to the people? Is the Taoiseach taking the stand that the people must be protected against themselves, that they must be guided or led?
Why is the Taoiseach seeking to take from the average man down the country the right to vote for the third, fourth, fifth or sixth candidate? I want to get a definite reply to that from the Taoiseach. Why is he seeking to take that right from the people and to classify them as an illiterate crowd of savages who do not know how to make their votes or use the figures plainly or intelligently? I am asking the people not to surrender the rights they have under the present P.R. system. These rights were given to them by their own people in 1918, backed by Arthur Griffith and men who are now in their graves, but who were the greatest leaders of their day in this country. This system worked well for 38 years and it is hard to ask the people to surrender the rights they have at present.
“——the people know it. On the whole it has worked out pretty well. I think that we have a good deal to be thankful for in this country: we have to be very grateful that we have the system of P.R. here. It gives a certain amount of stability, and on the system of the single transferable vote you have fair representation of the Parties.”
“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 P.R. exists, you get better balanced results than you get in the other countries.”
That is a very clear statement. It is not capable of being twisted, nor is it ambiguous in any shape or form. No member of the Fianna Fáil Party in the last general election gave the people the slightest hint that this blow at their personal liberty would be struck.
Mr. Blowick: Did the Taoiseach or any member of his Party give any inkling to the people that they proposed to squander £80,000, at a time when money was scarce and unemployment never higher? Common decency would have demanded that the very least the Taoiseach or some of his Party might have done was to give the people some warning of this crushing burden: £80,000 to be taken out of their pockets for the purpose of glorifying and maintaining in office the Fianna Fáil Party, because there is no other purpose behind this Bill?
The very terms of the Constituency  Commission proposed to be set up reveal exactly what this measure is. It is a dictatorial measure of the kind existing only in Russia and China and of which the Minister for External Affairs must have been so enamoured that he brought it to his lord and master, the Taoiseach. Listen to this.
“The Commission shall, not later than six months after the date of the President's request, present to the President a report setting out the boundaries of the constituencies as determined or revised by the Commission either with the unanimous agreement of their members or by a majority, but if, because of failure to secure unanimous agreement or agreement by a majority, no report is so presented, the Chairman shall, not later than seven months after the date of the President's request, present to the President a report setting out the boundaries of the constituencies as determined or revised by the Chairman, and that report shall be taken as the report of the Commission.”
Why does the Taoiseach appoint a commission at all? The chairman there will be the absolute authority in everything. There are supposed to be three members appointed by the Taoiseach and three appointed by the Ceann Comhairle representing the Opposition. There is mention of nonagreement. How can there be no agreement when the number is seven, with the chairman having a casting vote? The only parallel to this Bill can be found behind the Iron Curtain. It is an attempt to get the people to cut their throats politically, as far as representation here is concerned. Undoubtedly Fianna Fáil is aiming at a Dáil consisting of about 120 Fianna Fáil members and 20 or 27 Opposition members. That would leave the Dáil virtually without any opposition whatsoever.
The principal thing which caught my attention during the Taoiseach's speech was the fact that he was harping on what he called the multiplicity of Parties. If the people choose to  send in a number of small Parties, is that not their business, are they not entitled to do so? Why seek to deny them that right? We all know that in different areas there are different problems. The Taoiseach glossed over the fact that there are problems in the country, but no Government sitting here in Dublin can deal with them. We know there are problems in Connaught peculiar to Connaught; we know there are problems in Munster peculiar to Munster; and we know there are problems in Donegal peculiar to Donegal. In days gone by, many years ago, when the people returned Deputies of a Party to solve these problems they did not solve them and it was in desperation that the people took the one remedy open to them to elect their own Deputies to do that. They have succeeded again and again in doing that. Now the Taoiseach seeks to shear that right from them, that power to send their own representatives in here.
Take Dublin City here, which has a fairly high labour content. Is it wrong for the workers of Dublin City to elect their own Labour T.D.s? Is it wrong for the farmers of Connaught, or of the South of Ireland or the East of Ireland to elect farmers' representatives to this House? What is wrong about it? If the people elect such men, is it not the people's business? By this Bill the Taoiseach is clearly trying to take that right from them. Let the Taoiseach tell us, when replying, where the idea came from. Where was the pressure? What was the motive behind the introduction of this Bill? Let him tell us, if he will. I know he will not. He failed to do so when introducing the Bill. He quoted certain things that he knows quite well are only a joke. The principal reason why this Bill is introduced is that an arrogant Government have completely disregarded the rights of the people. The people threw Fianna Fáil out of office twice—they will throw the referendum out.
Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. S. Lemass): The proposal for changing the electoral system which is indicated in this Bill cannot be made effective unless the people vote for it.  The question which is before the Dáil now is whether the people should be given the opportunity of voting on it.
Deputy Blowick has just expressed his conviction that the people will defeat the proposal, and Deputy Costello said something to the same effect. Why will they not agree to give the people the chance of voting on it? If the people get that chance and defeat the proposal, if they decide in favour of P.R., that settles the issue. So far as we are concerned, we will abide by their decision without question. If the people want to make the change, why should they be denied the chance? That is the question to which Deputy Costello did not address himself, that is the point which Deputy Blowick was careful to ignore. Why should they not be given the opportunity of making a change if they want to make it?
I think they will want to do so, but that is a matter to be seen. I think they will want to do it because the tremendous advantages of a simpler system of election will be so obvious that they will vote for it. If there is any question of arrogance arising in connection with this debate, surely it is the arrogance of Deputies opposite in seeking to prevent or delay the people getting a chance of considering this issue. This is about the only chance they will ever have of considering it, as Deputies well know. The issue of the retention of P.R. could not be put to the people except in circumstances where there is a single Party with a majority in this House that believes in the desirability of making a change.
Mr. McQuillan: Is it the point of view of Fianna Fáil that such a situation will never arise again—namely, that Fianna Fáil will never have the overall majority to give them a chance of removing P.R.?
Mr. S. Lemass: I think it is unlikely to arise again. We will have to take cognisance of the probability that if the opportunity of considering this issue is not given to the people now, they may never get it. I suggest that the real reason why Deputies are opposing this Bill or seeking to delay its passage is the hope that they will  never get that chance. They want that, they say, in the interest of democracy! Can there be a more democratic method of settling this issue than by arranging a free vote of the people in a nation-wide referendum? Once you get down to consider the simple issue at stake here, all the verbiage which has been poured out by Deputy Costello begins to lose its meaning. It was all directed towards avoiding that one simple contention, to secure that the people should not be allowed to decide on this issue, that because they have P.R. now, they should be stuck with it for ever, that even if they want to change the electoral system, they should not be given the chance to do so. We are proposing they should get a chance. Simply and clearly, that is what is before the House now.
We are told we are doing this for Party advantage. I, no more than Deputy Costello, cannot attempt to see into the future; but during the course of his heated and incoherent remarks he got one flash of insight— he foresaw that in the years ahead it was inevitable that changes in our political situation are bound to arise, alterations in Party alignments, other developments which may result in a different political situation than that to which we have been accustomed in the past. Surely it is in relation to what we may reasonably anticipate will happen in the future, that we should re-examine the electoral system? What has happened in the past arose out of the circumstances of the past. What will happen in the future we cannot be sure about, but we can at least exercise our intelligence in anticipating the situations that may arise. It is, of course, correct that the single member constituency with the non-transferable vote can produce substantial changes from election to election in the membership of the Dáil. It is true that even under P.R. about one-third of the membership of the Dáil changes at each election. In the circumstances of single member constituencies and the non-transferable vote, wider alterations in the membership of Dáil can follow from swings in public opinion.
There is another consideration which  I think may be influencing Deputies opposite, and certainly would influence the Government if Party advantage were in mind. Under the P.R. system, it is practically impossible for a Party leader to lose his seat. I do not say it cannot happen but it is so unlikely to happen that it is, for all practicable purposes, impossible. Under the system of the single member constituency with the non-transferable vote, it can happen. It means that the retention of membership in this House by a leader of a Party is no more secure than in the case of any back bencher. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing may be a matter for debate. I think it is a good thing that Party leaders should not be as secure as they are under P.R., practically with immunity from electoral defeat, and that it would require them to maintain closer contact with the people whom they represent and to maintain the standard of performance which should be expected from them.
It is perfectly true that we cannot be quite sure about the effect of the change that is proposed here. Deputy Costello said he was not going to reach into the future, to mould the destiny of the country. He did not mind reaching into the past to endeavour to snatch a few threads with which to weave a phoney tradition in support of the P.R. system. What could he find in the past? An article written on a back page of Sinn Féin in 1911, a Sligo Corporation election in 1919, a provision in the Partition Act passed by the British in 1920 and a similar provision in the dictated Constitution of 1922, and these four threads constitute a tradition according to Deputy Costello. What nonsense that is.
Mr. S. Lemass: That may be part of our Party tradition but we are certainly not claiming it as a national tradition. Deputy Costello claimed that these four puny threads from the past constituted a national tradition and also the tradition of his Party. Was it the tradition of the Cumann Na nGaedheal Party? Deputy Costello  said he could have made a better speech for this Bill than the Taoiseach did. We know he could. We know he did. We know he would do it again next week, if his Party wanted him to do it. There was a time when the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, as it then was, did not see the merits in the P.R. system which they are arguing now. This tradition they inherited from the past did not prove a very strong influence at that time; in fact, they did not even recognise it.
As far as I am concerned, I entered Irish politics under the P.R. system and, considering the purpose of an electoral system to be primarily to give accurate reflection in public representation to the various shades of opinion amongst the public, I supported that system. As the years passed, as I saw its effect on the composition of the Dáil, on the performance of Dáil members, in the affairs of my own Party and in the relationship between members elected to represent the same constituencies, and also saw the effects of its operation in other countries, I began very seriously to question the wisdom of the system, and long ago I became convinced that it is undesirable. Even Deputy Costello admits it has very serious faults and, if I understood his speech correctly, he would like to see some system of P.R. maintained but not the one we have been accustomed to, the one that is related to these past traditions that he was so anxious to build up.
It is true that in countries where P.R. was practised and only in those countries did parliamentary institutions ever fall into disrepute, when the sight of warring political factions and the behaviour of politicians paved the way to the replacement of democratic by totalitarian régimes. It is true that in the countries of the world where the single member constituencies with the non-transferable vote have been practised, the prestige of parliamentary institutions was never undermined, and the desire to sweep them away in disgust never manifested itself amongst the public. Deputy Costello said we must not quote France. Why should we not quote France? It may be there were circumstances  in France which were peculiar to that country that produced this array of 17 Parties that are contesting the present election in France. But it is also true that their emergence was helped by the P.R. system they applied and which they have now got away from——
Mr. S. Lemass: In every country where P.R. has operated for a long time, the tendency towards a multiplicity of Parties has been pronounced and it is inevitable that it will have that result with the formation of splinter groups, when divisions which may occur within Parties over comparatively minor issues of policy or personalities, need not carry any electoral penalties.
The purpose of any system of election is not, however, merely to reflect accurately in the Dáil every shade and variation of public opinion. Its primary purpose is to ensure the election of a Government that will direct its policy in accordance with majority public opinion. The single member constituency with the non-transferable vote does, it is true, tend to promote the development of a two-Party system. It does not have to have that result, but it tends in that direction— one Party, perhaps a more conservative Party, to the right of the main line of public opinion, the other Party more adventurous in policy, to the left of the main line, with an uncommitted centre which moves from one side to the other, from one election to another, which can determine the fate of Governments and towards which the political programmes of the  Parties and the policies of Government are directed.
The effect of that system is to require political Parties and Governments to frame their policies in relation to the movement of ideas along the central line of public opinion. The effect of the P.R. system is to give an electoral inducement to a Party and a Government to seek to attract support from the fringe elements of the right or the left, in the expectation that when their candidates are eliminated, under the P.R. system, the transfer of their votes will carry electoral gains. The main advantage of the system of single member constituencies and straight voting is that it ensures that Governments will march in accordance with the central stream of public opinion. That is why it is in the countries that have that system that democracy has been far more firmly rooted than in countries which have adopted other systems——
Mr. S. Lemass: ——and why the threat to democracy arising out of the growth of public disgust with the misbehaviour of politicians has rarely developed. I do not think it is nonsense and I think I will be able to persuade the majority of the people that it is a sound idea. We are told one of the effects of the single member constituency with a non-transferable vote is that where there are more than two candidates, it is possible that the candidate who receives the most votes may nevertheless get only a minority of the total number of votes cast. How many Deputies in this House have been elected without the quota? Is this P.R. system so perfect that it always operates to ensure that only candidates who can secure the mathematical proportion of votes recorded in their constituencies and which is required are elected? We know it is not. The people of this country have never understood how it is that in some constituencies the candidate who is at the bottom of the poll when first preference votes are counted can still be elected for the constituency, or how in another constituency the candidate at the top of the poll can be defeated.  They have never really understood it. There are not half the Deputies in this House, much less half the electorate of the country, who can give an intelligent explanation of what happens a No. 3 preference on a ballot paper. Is it not far better to give the people of the country a system of election they can understand, a simple system which elects the person who gets the most votes, rather than have this complicated arrangement?
Mr. S. Lemass: I am not going to suggest for one moment that we would not take account in all our decisions of the possible effect upon the future of our Party. We believe in the policy of our Party. We believe in the utility of our Party to the country. We believe that the best interests of the country can be served by pursuing in the future the policy we stand for. I personally would not be in politics if I did not believe that and I make no apology whatever for defending here any action I might take to serve the interests of my Party and to secure continued public support for it.
We are not, however, thinking in terms of this change in that context at all. One can easily see that it could work very much to our disadvantage indeed. On the assumption that the first general election on the new system will be held at a time when this Party is in Government and when the normal swing of opinion against the Government in office may be expected, it could very well work to our disadvantage. Nevertheless, we think it is a better system. We recognise it will change, together with other circumstances, the political situation here. Leaving out the small Parties, the splinter and factional groups, we have three main Parties to-day. I do not know that Deputy Blowick counts himself seriously as a Party. We have three main Parties and I think one of  them is surplus. I might think the surplus Party is Fine Gael. I do not think it stands for any——
Mr. S. Lemass: I do not think it stands for any distinct point of view. I do not think it stands for any economic interest. I do not think it stands for any political principle. I do not think it stands for any political conception that is not already adequately represented in the House. It may prove, in the course of time, that I may be wrong in that view. I think the shortsighted people in this connection are the Labour Party. The Labour Party, however incoherent and mealy mouthed they are on occasions about their policy, have a distinct character. They stand for something different from the Fine Gael Party. They could represent an economic or a social conception which would be peculiar to themselves. I believe that the inevitable result of the single-member constituency will be the development of the two-Party system and that it may well benefit the Labour Party more than the Fine Gael Party. That is a personal opinion. I believe that in the course of time the Fine Gael Party will go, as the Liberal Party in England went, and that it is the Labour Party that will emerge as the possible alternative Government to Fianna Fáil.
Mr. S. Lemass: I do not believe it is humanly possible for anyone to gerrymander constituencies in our circumstances. I know as much about political organisation as any Deputy. I am prepared to leave the drafting of the new constituencies to Deputy Sweetman.
In so far as criticism has been expressed of the proposal in the Bill, it can be considered. The proposal is that a chairman will be appointed by the President. If some other person appropriate to exercise that function can be suggested—I do not think there can—we will consider it. Acting on the advice of the Council of State, the President will appoint a chairman. It is necessary to make it clear that in exercising that function, the President does not act on the advice of the Government. The reference to the Council of State is necessary in order to make it quite clear that the President does not act in this case, as required by the Constitution, on the advice of the Government. There will be three Deputies from the Government side of the House and three other persons not appointed by the Ceann Comhairle, as Deputy J.A. Costello assumed, but by a procedure to be determined by the Ceann Comhairle representing the Opposition, and these people will be the commission.
Mr. S. Lemass: I say “after consultation”. The effect is to make it clear that the President does not act in that matter on the advice of the Government. So far as that is concerned, I do not know that we have a firm view regarding the correct procedure. We had a great deal of discussion amongst ourselves before the Bill emerged. It is necessary to secure (1) that the procedure for defining the boundaries of constituencies is such that it will be not merely fair but that everybody will believe it to be fair and (2) that it provides in itself some process by which finality can be secured, so that the prospect of holding a general election, when a general election is due, is not frustrated by some failure of the machinery to produce proposals for constituencies which can be adopted and applied.
There is, however, so far as we are concerned, no question of principle involved in that part of the proposal except these I mentioned—a system that is fair, appears to be fair and that will work to finality. Any alternative proposals which Deputies opposite may wish to put forward will be considered because, in that respect, at least, we should hope it would be possible to secure agreement.
Deputy J.A. Costello spoke about minorities in this regard. I was at some difficulty to understand what he was driving at. Apparently there is in his mind the idea that in so far as the system of P.R. was embodied in the Partition Act of 1920 for the purpose of giving the Unionist and Protestant section of our people the certainty of representation in the Dáil, that safeguard is still necessary. We have had P.R. now for 30 years and I ask members to point to these Unionist representatives who came  into the Dáil as a result of it. Will somebody point out how it produced that effect?
Mr. S. Lemass: Exactly. They came into Irish political life in the normal way, through established political Parties. Is that not the desirable way? The Protestants who sit on this side of the House and on the other side of the House were selected on the nomination of their political Parties and were elected by predominantly Catholic constituencies. Is that not desirable?
Mr. S. Lemass: Certainly. So far as I am concerned, the ideal situation is one in which the candidate in every constituency nominated by any Party will be selected as the best possible representative of that Party in the constituency and elected with the support of that Party, irrespective of his religion. I hope that so far as my Party is concerned, we shall never depart from that rule. What other minorities are we talking about? We have no racial minorities. We had no necessity to establish constitutional safeguards for some identifiable section of the people who must be guaranteed representation.
Mr. S. Lemass: Deputy Blowick asked if it is wrong for the farmers to be represented in this House. Are they represented by Deputies Blowick, Donnellan and Beirne? Are there not far more farmer Deputies in the Fine Gael Party and in the Fianna Fáil Party than in the whole of their organisation? There are. Deputies asked if the workers of Dublin are not entitled to elect their representatives to the Dáil. We have had P.R. for 30 years and there are 30 Dáil seats in Dublin. The workers of Dublin elected their representatives to the Dáil but they just did not happen to be members of the Labour Party. Of course, there is no question of denying any economic section or any other group amongst our people the right to exercise in full its political rights and to secure representation in the Dáil under any electoral system to the extent that their support amongst the people, the case they have to put to the people, earns them that representation.
Another aspect of the question is worthy of consideration. We all know that under the present system, when two or three Deputies from the same Party are elected in a multi-member constituency, it is not unusual for friction to arise amongst them. We have seen evidence of it in all the Parties in this House. It also means that they regard themselves, in the Dáil, not so much as representatives of the constituencies that sent them here, but of the particular group of Party supporters in the constituencies who voted for them. Is it not far better that we should have single member constituencies, where the elected representative will be regarded as the representative of the whole constituency, and who will maintain contact with every voter in the constituency, seeking to support their interests?
Mr. S. Lemass: The fact that there will be that drive to do so, to maintain  contact with the whole of the electorate of a constituency, once an election is over, is likely to have beneficial results. This Bill will produce changes and the changes it will produce must be changes for the better. They can hardly be changes for the worse.
I am afraid I cannot at all understand the reference to this amendment, moved by Deputy Costello, to Partition. How it is conceived to be in the interests of ending Partition that we should continue to saddle ourselves with an unsatisfactory electoral system, I cannot, for the life of me, understand. It is far more likely that, if we conceive the ending of Partition coming through the acceptance, by the present majority in the north-east, of the desirability of national unity, the retention of P.R. would be a barrier, rather than an asset, and, indeed so far as it would be desirable to ensure for them adequate representation, in proportion to their numbers, in an All-Ireland Parliament, that could far more effectively be secured by single-member constituencies than any other way.
The argument that this is not a good time to seek a decision from the people on constitutional proposals seems to me also to beg the whole question. If we have the idea that good Government can contribute to national prosperity, then surely the improvement of the procedure by which Governments are elected can contribute to national prosperity? While I have never shared the unshakeable faith of some Deputies on the opposite side that national prosperity could be won by no more difficult process than the passing of a motion here, I do accept that the effectiveness of Government, its capacity to plan ahead and carry out its plans, the stability it gets from the enjoyment of a majority position here can be a mighty instrument in the promotion of national prosperity. Therefore, in so far as we have to be thinking in terms of action in the economic and social fields, that must inevitably stretch for many years ahead, then we have to be thinking also in terms of avoiding any protracted periods of political instability during these years.
I do not expect the Fine Gael members  to share my view as to how the effect of the emergence of a two-Party system may influence the future of their organisation, but, if they do conceive for themselves the possibility of forming a Government from amongst their own members, and if they have in mind a policy of any kind which, in such circumstances, could be applied, surely it is this proposal in this Bill that offers them the only prospect of achieving that situation? Am I not right in assuming that their opposition to this Bill is because they do not conceive it to be possible to form a Fine Gael Government, or that they do not want to become a Government to fulfil their own policy? That must mean that their only hope for themselves in the future is the emergence of another situation, like that which happened in 1948, when they combined with smaller Parties and Independents and were able for a short time to occupy Government office.
Mr. S. Lemass: On that point, I am sure it was the most disastrous period in the history of the State. I would, however, much prefer to see this issue go to the people on some basis other than that of Party.
Mr. S. Lemass: I think that the proposal is good and can succeed on its merits; but I think we would carry it with a substantial majority in that atmosphere. If you seriously believe in the soundness of your opposition to the Bill, it would be wise to let it go to the people for consideration in a detached way, for calm judgment and intelligent decision, rather than that it should be determined on Party lines. On Party lines, you have no chance. In a different atmosphere, you might be able to convince people in greater numbers that you have a serious point of view regarding it. But, if you do ever contemplate the possibility of your Party emerging as a majority in this House, if you ever want to see yourselves in that situation, if you are not afraid to face the obligation which the possibility of that situation would give you, that is, the obligation to tell the people exactly what you would do in such a situation, then you should vote for this Bill. The straight voting system underlines and emphasises the responsibility of Parties and of Governments and that is the main justification for the change.
It is perfectly true, as the Taoiseach said, that when you get a Government composed of a coalition of two or three Parties, each of these Parties is, by the mere fact of joining such a Government, released from the obligation of trying to fulfil in Government the pledges which they undertook to the people who elected them. In the situation proposed here, that is not possible. A Party must seek election on its own programme and must face the subsequent election when it leaves office, prepared to defend its performances during its period of office without excuses. One of the effects of that situation is to compel acceptance of responsibility by Parties.
What brought down the régime in France was irresponsibility in Government, the automatic escape from responsibility to the electorate which a succession of coalition Governments allowed, and one of the reasons we are effecting this change is that it will produce a better outlook in that regard. We are effecting it not merely  because it will eliminate the danger of undue multiplicity of Parties, not merely because it will establish a better relationship between a Deputy and his constituency, but, primarily and mainly, because it will emphasise the responsibility of people who form Governments.
Mr. S. Lemass: Nobody could attempt to describe the political situation in any country in simple terms. The conclusion we have arrived at, as to the best electoral system, appears to be justified in our circumstances. The conclusion is that this country will be better off, that its Government will be more responsible and more effective, that the relations between the people and the Parliament, and their representatives in Parliament, will be better under the simple, straightforward system of election, when the candidate who gets most of the votes gets the seat. Because we are convinced of that, we propose to bring this proposition to the people and we urge the Deputies over there to allow that proposition to go to them so that this very important issue of national organisation can be settled in that very democratic way.
Mr. Norton: The Tánaiste has served up a lot of noisy similes in an effort to justify the complete somersault of the Taoiseach and himself on the whole question of P.R. Listening to the Tánaiste this evening, and listening to the Taoiseach earlier, nobody would ever imagine that these two gentlemen advised the people of Ireland that out of the depths of their wisdom, they had come to the conclusion that P.R. was the best possible scheme of election and the fairest. Yet, after giving the people the benefits of his profound advice in 1933, the Taoiseach now comes back and says: “Look, it was all nonsense we were talking. The system has more defects than any other system you could devise. Do not believe what we said in 1933 and 1937. Give us another chance. Let us make  another promise in 1958 which will benefit our successors in this House.” It is just as disreputable as the proposition which they made in 1933 and in 1937. I suppose it is vain to hope that anything we say in this House on this Bill is likely to have the slightest effect on the Government or likely to influence the Government in any way to change their attitude, which is make war on P.R. and to abolish that democratic method of election.
After all, the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis decided unanimously—even the Fianna Fáil Deputies who were elected without a quota—to abolish P.R. which is their title deed to be members of this House. So enthusiastic were they to get rid of P.R., which was the lifebelt and raft which got many of them into this House, that they decided that the Taoiseach, the spellbinder of the Fianna Fáil Party, had spoken, and once that happens a great transformation comes over their brains and they automatically do whatever the Chief says. Once the Chief speaks in that infallible way of his, then the political machine remorselessly and relentlessly moves into action. Whatever the Chief says must be done, no matter how much Fianna Fáil Deputies whose seats are now in jeopardy may inwardly recognise that their political future may be short. So great is the mesmerism and hypnotism of the Taoiseach that they will vote unanimously for the abolition of P.R.
I imagine there is a good deal of difference between the present Taoiseach and Mr. Kruschev. The Taoiseach probably would say there is. In their own way, it is surprising the similarity in their methods and the results which they secure. If you brought Mr. Kruschev to an assembly hall in Moscow, he could not do better than get a unanimous endorsement for his point of view. The Taoiseach in this country takes the delegates to the Mansion House and manages to get results of which even Mr. Kruschev would be very pleased and very proud. Everybody now in the Fianna Fáil Party is in favour of the abolition of P.R., every single Deputy.
In the 1948 election, the Taoiseach  said that everybody he met in 1948 was in favour of the abolition of P.R. What sort of people do they meet when they go out? He met nobody in 1948 who wanted P.R. retained. Every single person he met was bursting to have P.R. abolished. That is the kind of mushy, disreputable muck that is being used to justify the abolition of P.R. to this House and to the credulous people outside.
What is the purpose of this Bill? The two apologists for the Government say it is to produce political stability for the Government. I interpret that as just a euphemism for the maintenance of a Fianna Fáil Government in power. Political stability in the nation means Fianna Fáil in power, Fianna Fáil control and Fianna Fáil direction of the Government Benches and the whole executive machine of Government.
The real purpose of this Bill is to rivet the Fianna Fáil Party on these benches when the Taoiseach is no longer an active member of the Party. Nobody on these benches can perform like the Taoiseach. Nobody can throw the somersaults which the Taoiseach can throw with such consummate skill. Nobody can give the people a phrase and then interpret it in ten different ways. Therefore, while the old warrior is here with all his skill and cunning and all the craft of the trapeze artist, that must be exploited to the full, so that before he leaves the Party, and this House, he will at least have made sure that the boys are firmly riveted in power, firmly riveted in this House. Of course the Fianna Fáil Party cannot attempt to disguise or conceal the fact that they want the two-Party system of parliamentary representation. They want the Fianna Fáil Party to remain in power and they want to have one Opposition and that is a Fine Gael Opposition.
I warned Deputy Mulcahy to beware of Greeks bearing gifts. So far as the Labour Party is concerned, Fianna Fáil can keep their gifts. That is what the Fianna Fáil Party want—a Fianna Fáil Government and a Fine Gael Opposition. That is what they believe in. They do not want an independent Labour Party in this House, or an  independent Sinn Féin Party. They do not want an independent Clann na Poblachta Party or an independent Clann na Talmhan Party. They want one Government that is supposed to be supernaturally inspired, a Fianna Fáil Government, and one Opposition, a Fine Gael Opposition, and there is no room for an independent Labour Party and no room for any other Party. That is the——
Mr. Norton: That is the kind of hope that a greyhound has for a hare and it does not matter what sweet words may be used by the Tánaiste about what he thinks of the future of the Labour Party under this scheme. The plain fact is that this Bill has no other purpose than the inevitably disreputable one of trying to keep Fianna Fáil in power, riveting them there no matter what the method of election may be. It has always been pleaded on behalf of P.R. that it was a fair method of election, that it gave representation to substantial cross-sections of the people and that it could be said at all times in a united Ireland provision would be made for fair representation in accordance with numerical strength for the Unionists and the non-Catholic element of the population in a country which is overwhelmingly Catholic in religion.
It is also claimed for P.R. that the proportion between the votes cast and the seats secured was more equitable than in any other system of election that could be devised. When one remembers that the minorities that secure representation under P.R. are substantial minorities—because in three-member constituencies you must get 25 per cent. of the votes to secure a seat—I think one must say that a method of election by P.R. does not produce that infinitesimal fragmentation that the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste attempted to suggest is a byproduct of P.R.
P.R. has one outstanding virtue in that it provides for government by the people through a Parliament which is elected by the people, which Parliament  is a reflex of the people's opinion. The direct method of election cannot possibly give that result and I hope before I conclude to produce evidence of that in many directions. It is possible under the direct system of voting for a minority Party, that is, a Party getting a minority of votes in the election, to be the Government and to have a dominating power in Parliament because of the peculiar and unsatisfactory results thrown up by direct voting. But P.R. has the further advantage, as Deputy Costello said, that it is a most stabilising factor in elections. It prevents hysteria consuming the people at election time; it avoids frenzied results because it gives seats in proportion to the votes cast and does not enable any one Party to collar the Government and control Parliament while that Party is still a minority so far as the votes cast by the electorate are concerned.
P.R. has helped here and elsewhere to maintain in Parliament a balance between the political Parties which has not been possible in countries where direct voting still operates. It is because P.R. had all these virtues that we have the Taoiseach saying in 1937 in this House when the Constitution was being discussed:—
“The system we have we know; the people know it. On the whole it has worked out pretty well. I think that we have a good deal to be thankful for in this country; we have to be very grateful that we have had the system of P.R. here. It gives a certain amount of stability, and on the system of the single transferable vote you have a fair representation of Parties...”
What has happened since that statement was made to justify the Taoiseach deciding now to abandon the method of election that had all these obvious virtues? The only thing that has happened is that the Taoiseach's Party was twice defeated in the elections and that recent by-election results showed every prospect that they would be defeated in the next general election. But the Taoiseach wants to change the rules of the game in the meantime and to  abandon P.R., to which he paid such profound tribute in 1937, and to enthrone a system of election which, as I said on the First Reading of this Bill, is outmoded in Western Europe.
“I think we get, probably, in this country more than any other country, better balanced results from the system we have. If you take the countries where P.R. exists you get better balanced results than you get in other countries.”
The Taoiseach is on record as saying that he would never say that a minority should be denied representation and that if the object of those who advised the abolition of P.R. was to wipe out minority representation they would get no support from him. That is the gentlemen who is responsible for introducing this Bill to-day.
Mr. Norton: That is the gentleman responsible for saying that this system, which he commended in such delightfully pleasant terms then, has now every conceivable defect and none of the virtues which he claimed for it in 1937. I think it was Emerson who said that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. On that basis two expansive minds have given of their talents here this evening telling us all the vices which P.R. now has although they commended that system of election to the people some years ago.
I can understand anything but I cannot understand on what grounds this Government claim that abolition of P.R. will give stability in government. Fianna Fáil have been in office under P.R. for 20 years out of the last  26 and for a large portion of that time they had undisputed and despotic power. They were capable of doing anything they wanted to do, capable of implementing all their election promises. Many of their election promises were forgotten. In fact, the power they had was so great that in many cases, as in the case of the food subsidies, they tore up their election promises once they had got their majority. Many of the promises they made at the last general election have been forgotten now so great is the power and strength they have under P.R.
Why then is it necessary to ask the people to change the system of election while, in fact, the present system has produced not only stability but has given the Government all the power and authority they need to implement their promises, maintain order and direct the community on any lines which are calculated to be for the community's well-being? There has been less changing of Government here in the past 36 years than in any other country in Western Europe. How then can it be claimed that the abolition of P.R. is necessary in order to get stability here when in fact we have a record in that respect without parallel in Western Europe?
In the course of his speech the Taoiseach said that one of the reasons for confirming P.R. in the Constitution of 1937 was—to use his own words—“the system we have, we know. The people know it. On the whole it has worked out pretty well.” Here is a system which the people know, which has worked out pretty well and yet although faced with economic, fiscal and agricultural problems the Taoiseach now says in the midst of all these grave economic worries, “Let us change the system of election”— change the system which the people know, the system which the people understand and the system which, as the Taoiseach has said, gives good results.
If the people had only a recent experience of the P.R. system, one could understand the desire to introduce some other method of election.  But what are the facts? Every person in the country under 57 years of age who has voted in an election has voted under no other method except P.R. As the Taoiseach says, and rightly says, they know the system. The Tánaiste says they do not understand it, despite 57 years' experience of it. A nice tribute to the intelligence of the Irish people! Imagine how many industrialists would be delighted to employ people who, after 57 years of a simple method of election, do not understand it yet, according to the Tánaiste. Every person in the country under 57 years of age has known no other system of election but P.R. Yet, with all that familiarity with the method of election, with all the knowledge that in 20 of the 36 years it has given the country one type of Government—Fianna Fáil—and has produced a more stabilised type of Government than the Government of any other country in Western Europe, we are now invited by the Taoiseach to repeal this method of election, even though, as he himself says, it is known by our people and is understood by our people.
A general election usually provides a good opportunity for discussing matters which may form the central motif of the election or have an auxiliary place in a particular Party's programme. At the last general election, the abolition of P.R. was not an issue. I never heard a single member of the Fianna Fáil back benches saying he wanted P.R. abolished at the last election. I have never in my long membership of this House seen a question from a Fianna Fáil Deputy asking the Government when they intended to abolish P.R. Fianna Fáil Deputies put down questions on every conceivable subject, touching every facet of life in Ireland, but they never once asked a question about the abolition of P.R. I never heard them urge its abolition here. I never heard it urged when we were discussing here the 1937 Constitution. I never say anything in the papers about it at the last election.
We had, of course, the occasional rumble from the Taoiseach. He gets annoyed, naturally enough, when the  result of an election does not suit him. I can understand that quite well. I know the Fianna Fáil Party think they have a proprietary right to government and the Taoiseach believes he is predestined to be the Taoiseach of this country for the remainder of his mortal life. He does not like anything to happen which challenges in any way his right to function in that capacity. That is quite understandable. We all have our little peculiarities; we all have our little ego-eccentricities. That is one of the Taoiseach's; he does not like anybody to take power from him and, if someone does, he is wrong and his supporters are intellectually inferior, half-witted and dull. We all remember the occasion when the Taoiseach said that the people had no right to do wrong. Judgment as to what constituted wrong-doing resided solely in the Taoiseach. It might be right from the point of view of the people, but, if the Taoiseach thought it was wrong— that includes putting him off the Front Bench over there—then it was not only politically wrong but morally wrong as well in the eyes of the Taoiseach. One understands these peculiarities. They spring in the main from lust for power and a determination to hold on to power and to the control of the executive machine.
What this House has to decide on this Bill, and what the people will have to decide later, is what method of election we will have in future. We can have two methods. We can have P.R. and, within P.R., a number of subsidiary methods of election under the principles of P.R., or we can have a single direct vote—the vote used by the Stormont Government and the vote used by the British Government. We can, as I say, have the method of voting with which our people have become familiar over the past 36 years —the method of P.R. so eloquently commended by both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste in former years.
Let us consider for a moment what is likely to happen and what can happen. Let us consider what has happened, in fact, in other places where the direct system of voting has been in operation. Consider the position of this country, for instance,  under the direct system of voting. One could have in a single constituency, say in the City of Dublin, three candidates representing Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party. This could be the result of an election under the direct voting system. The Fianna Fáil candidate could poll 35 per cent. of the votes cast; the Fine Gael candidate could poll 34 per cent. of the votes cast; and the Labour candidate could poll 31 per cent. of the votes cast. The result will be that the man who polls 35 per cent. of the votes— roughly one out of three—will be elected and the other two candidates, who polled 65 per cent. of the votes cast, will be defeated.
In other words the constituents in that constituency will get as a representative someone who does not represent them because 65 per cent. of the people did not vote for him and, by not voting for him, indicated that they did not want him. But if he polls 35 per cent. of the votes and the other two candidates have between them 65 per cent., the man with the 35 per cent. is entitled to take his seat here. That situation can be repeated in constituency after constituency and one will then have on the Government Benches a Party which, on an average, polled only one-third of the votes in an election, while their opponents, who polled two-third of the votes, will not have a seat here at all.
If you have a constituency in which four Parties are contesting the election, you could have a situation in which the Fianna Fáil candidate may poll 30 per cent. of the votes, a Fine Gael candidate 25 per cent., a Labour candidate 23 per cent. and a Clann na Talmhan candidate 22 per cent. In that case, the man with the 30 per cent. wins, even though, in fact, the electorate to the extent of 70 per cent. voted against the person who is awarded the seat. This is the method recommended to us as a democratic method of election. Can anybody blame anybody for being suspicious of a nigger in the woodpile somewhere? This is being suggested because the Fianna Fáil Party hope that for a substantial period of time at least, they will be the largest Party and, being the largest Party as a result of an election on the direct voting  system, can hold on to Government in a way in which they could not hold on if P.R. were in operation.
You can have a situation in which two Parties contest an election on the direct method of voting—a Government Party and an Opposition Party. If the Government Party poll 51 per cent. of the votes in each constituency, they get every single seat in the country and the Party which polls 49 per cent. in each constituency will have no seat in Parliament at all. That is what is recommended to us now as a democratic method of election. Has the P.R. system ever caused anything to justify us now swapping it for such an undemocratic method as that?
You may say these things do not happen. Take some examples. Take the example of the Liberal Party in Britain. In the 1950 election, when they polled 2,600,000 votes, they got only nine seats in a Parliament of 625 members. Take the position in South Africa to-day. The Government Party in South Africa polled 598,000 votes and got 92 seats. The Opposition polled 608,000 votes and got only 43 seats. There you have an example where, because of the single method of election and manipulating of constituencies, a minority Government gets twice as many seats as the Opposition get. Or, you can take the further example of Great Britain. In 1924, when the Conservatives obtained less than half the votes, they secured a majority of 200 seats in the British Parliament.
Therefore, it is not correct to say that these things are not likely to happen. They have happened and they are happening under the undemocratic method which the Government is now endeavouring to foist on the people.
Great Britain has been quoted as an example of good Government. Our belated admiration for Britain is rather refreshing. Of course, everybody knows that the present method of election in Britain is maintained purely on the basis of political expediency. It is quite frankly the aim of the Tory Party in Britain and quite frankly the aim of the Labour Party  in Britain to get rid of the Liberals. If P.R. is introduced in Britain, there will be a substantial Liberal Party in the House of Commons because they have sufficient votes in their constituencies to give them substantial representation in the Commons under P.R., but neither the Labour Party nor the Tory Party want the Liberals in the House of Commons and, consequently, they manage to maintain the present direct system of voting so as to keep the Liberals out, because the reappearance of the Liberals under P.R. would be, in their view, something highly undesirable and something they would be anxious to avoid. That is the justification, in their view, for the maintenance of the single vote in Great Britain.
Notwithstanding the fact that the single vote continues to operate in Great Britain, there are many responsible advocates in the Labour Party and in the Tory Party of P.R. These advocates believe that P.R. is a better method of election. The Proportional Representation Society in Great Britain is maintained very largely by the moral and financial support of members of the Conservative Party and the Labour Party who recognise that P.R. is a fair and equitable method of election. In fact, while the Fianna Fáil Government now commend to us, and suggest our emulation of the British method of election, it is not to be assumed that his method of election is regarded even by the British as the last thing in democracy or in efficiency. When he saw the 1950 results, Mr. Churchill made this observation:—
“Nor can we, to whatever Party we belong, overlook the constitutional injustice done to 2,600,000 voters who, voting upon a strong tradition, have been able to return only nine members to Parliament.”
So far as Britain is concerned, the present method of voting has not the admiration of all the people that one would imagine worship at the shrine of the direct system of voting in Britain, if one were to believe what the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste say.
Britain has been quoted to us by the Government speakers as an example of the stability which exists under the direct method of voting. What are the facts? In the 24 years from 1918 to 1942, Britain had a minority Government for three years, a one-Party Government for six years and a Coalition Government for 15 years out of the 24, although they have the single non-transferable vote that is recommended as the panacea for all our ills here. In those 24 years, that is the record of Britain so far as the composition of her Governments is concerned.
France has been talked about by the Tánaiste. He has been in Paris a sufficient number of times in the past 12 months to have been able to ask any Frenchman by what method the French people vote. The old canard about France is still to be pressed into service in the course of this campaign. France has had two types of direct voting in the last 70 years of the Third Republic, two separate methods of direct voting. France had P.R. for only one year. The Tánaiste did not know that this evening. He was asked what year it was. It was suggested that it was for only a year. He did not know the year. Apparently he is still under the illusion that France has a system of P.R. France has a second ballot but not a system of P.R., as we know it or as any other country in Western Europe using P.R. knows it. But, although France has had the direct method of voting for a period of 70 years in the Third Republic, France has had 90 separate French Governments, where as in Britain, during the same period, with the direct system of voting, there have been only 20 changes of Government.
Anybody who knows France or  takes the trouble to inquire about the position there knows that it is not the method of voting that is responsible for the political situation there. Many of the problems which arise in France are endemic to the country. Probably one of the biggest influences in the changing of Governments in France is the fact that the Communist Party is frequently the largest Party in Parliament and, because of its unwillingness to work with other Parties, brings about a situation which produces that kind of yeastiness which is a special monopoly of France.
However, French affairs are matters for the French people. On the whole, they seem to have done much better economically than we have. Their standard of life is better than our standard of life and their standard of social services is better than our standard. So, whatever jokes we may be inclined to pass about French Governments and the ease with which they change, we should remember that the whole economy of France is such that ours makes a miserable showing against it.
There is another gag about P.R. and where it came from. We are told that P.R. was a British product and was first produced by the British in 1918 and foisted on the people of Sligo and subsequently on the nation. Does everybody not know that that is a blatant untruth? The British Parliament never cared what way the people of Sligo voted. The people of Sligo wanted P.R. and the British simply passed a resolution to facilitate it. The British Parliament could not have cared less what way the people of Sligo voted.
To suggest now that after the fashion of the Skibbereen Eagle, the whole British Cabinet were watching Sligo and had hatched out a plan whereby P.R. would be foisted on Sligo, is really valuing human credulity at too low a level. It is absurd and stupid to tell us that the British planted P.R. on Sligo. The fact of the matter is that P.R. around that period was gaining an appearance not merely here but in Britain. Deputy J.A. Costello has quoted Arthur Griffith's speech in support of it in 1910. P.R. did not arrive  here until 1918, so that, even if Lloyd George had not heard of Arthur Griffith's speech, no one would have claimed that Lloyd George put him up to making the speech to harm the Irish people.
P.R. is not a British product. People who say it is ought to read more, or get some instruction from someone who has read more. P.R. is by no means a British product. Even in their Dominions where it operates, it is operated as one of the last methods of election in those countries. Other countries in Europe have been operating P.R. in the last century. To suggest, therefore, that P.R. is a British product is all right for half-wits and nitwits, but one should not imagine that intelligent people would swallow that kind of drivel as justification for the abolition of P.R. here.
The Minister for External Affairs recently told us learnedly that P.R. is a British product. Therefore, he apparently regarded it as a soiled thing, as something unclean, while at the same time he is asking the Dáil and the people to swallow, holus-bolus, the British method of election, the direct method of election. I suppose the Minister for External Affairs must know that if this Bill goes through and if the referendum is passed, we will be able to put out our chests and say to the British: “We have the same system of election as you; you are not the only one with this system; we have got it also.” The Minister for External Affairs could then go to Belfast and say to the Belfast people: “You have not got a monopoly of this system of election; we have adopted it also.” He could say also sotto voce:“We have adopted it for the same reasons as you adopted it, namely, to get rid of the minorities who are troubling us.”
The Minister for Industry and Commerce said this evening, apparently taking complete leave of the Ten Commandments, that there was greater stability in countries which had the direct method of voting. Where does the Minister go when he has any free time? Does he read anything about what happens elsewhere? What are the facts of the matter? The most  stable Governments in Europe, and those with the highest standard of living, conduct their parliamentary elections on the basis of P.R. It operates in Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland, Holland and Norway—all countries somewhat comparable in size with ours. Those countries have been able to give their people a very high standard of living. That is common to them all. It is outstandingly so in respect of Sweden and Switzerland. Therefore, P.R. has not prevented those people from enjoying stability. Nobody here can recall any turbulent scenes in any of those countries arising out of any challenge to the authority of the Government or the method of election.
Those countries have been able to give their people a high standard of living. In fact, every time we are in the company of those countries at O.E.E.C. meetings in Paris now, we have to plead with them to treat us decently, that we are still a small, undeveloped country. We are now bracketed in Europe with Turkey, Greece and Iceland from the economic standpoint. That is the status we enjoy in comparison with European countries; yet we have the brazen audacity to say here that there is no stability in those countries and that they can never have stability under P.R. Those countries are a living demonstration of the fact that P.R. has carried them well on the highway to an incomparably better standard of living than our people enjoy here.
There are only three countries in Western Europe where the British system of election operates. One is France, another is Spain and another is Portugal. Two dictatorships and France operate the British system on the Continent of Western Europe. All the others operate P.R. Now, the highest ambition of the Fianna Fáil Government is to pattern its method of election on Spain and on Portugal.
When one listens to this nonsense that P.R. was a British-foisted arrangement imposed upon us, we struggling to avoid its imposition, one is brought back quite quickly to the unassailable fact that P.R. was put into the Constitution of 1922 and that  it remained in that Constitution until 1937. When the question of determining the method of election came up for consideration in 1937, the present Taoiseach not only confirmed P.R. in the Constitution of 1937 but commended that method of election as the fairest in all the circumstances. He said it was one that the people knew, one they were familiar with, one that gave them pretty good results. Therefore, P.R. has been in the main accepted by all our people from 1922, with an occasional demur by the present Taoiseach whenever his Government is defeated; and that is, as I have explained before, an understandable annoyance when people think they have a proprietary right to govern. We could have got rid of P.R. in 1922 or in 1937. Instead of that, we put P.R. in the Constitution on both occasions and we have kept it there since. It has the approbation not merely of the Government Party of 1937 but of all Parties in this State.
There is only one reason for changing it and that is the same reason in the Twenty-Six Counties as the reason given in the Six Counties. When the Stormont Government abolished P.R., the Government here protested— Fianna Fáil protested—and they said: “This is to smash minorities there; this is to deprive people of their electoral rights; this is to weaken and retard the anti-partition groups in the Six Counties; this is typical of the Orange dictatorship complex which operates in the Six Counties.” Fianna Fáil then said it was unfair and unjust to have done that. Now they are doing it themselves, justifying what Stormont did; and the only conclusion one can come to in this matter is that, when it comes to manipulating the method of election, Stormont leads and the Fianna Fáil Party follow. That is what has happened. Now the Stormont Government, the British Government and the Fianna Fáil Government can all stand together saying how united they are since they have got the same pattern of electoral life.
Lest it might be thought that these were just ex-parte views not shared by anybody else, I have here a quotation,  and I think it might do the Taoiseach some good if I read it. It was an article written by Dr. Alfred O'Rahilly, now Fr. O'Rahilly. The Taoiseach will hardly say I am quoting from a prejudiced source. In 1948 when the Taoiseach was neighing and scratching the ground with impatience to abolish P.R., Dr. O'Rahilly wrote an article in The Standard newspaper in January, 1948. Some of this is interesting because Fr. O'Rahilly is, of course, a noted sociologist and in this context could be regarded as an unprejudiced and expert contributor to views on this subject. He opened the article by saying:—
“Mr. de Valera takes credit for framing the present Constitution, which imposes P.R. in Article 16. He seems to have changed his mind, for a few days ago, he made the following pronouncement in County Clare.”
“People in England had been wise in not accepting P.R., for the reason that it made for weak Government, the type of Government that brought democracy into discredit and that ultimately led to the second European war.”
“Last month in County Meath he spoke of multi-Party Governments and declared that ‘their ineptitude and mafficking manoeuvres brought democracy into discredit, leading directly to dictatorship and then to the war.’ Unfortunately, as one who has been teaching sociology for years, I find his sweeping statements unconvincing. In fact, they must be pronounced highly paradoxical. For every country which has rejected democracy has established one-Party Government; one big Party has suppressed all rivals, denouncing them as ‘splinter Parties.’ Yet we are asked to believe that the danger here lies elsewhere, namely, in the possibility that one Party will not be sufficiently  strong to dominate all its competitors ! It seems to me that Mr. de Valera's fallacious generalisation is due to his having made some erroneous assumptions.
“In the first place, he assumes that the other Parties and individuals contesting seats have no principles or objects in common with the pledge-bound members of Fianna Fáil. Now it is quite true that the difficulties of a country such as France are primarily due to the existence of a foreign-sponsored ideological Party which is using the democratic machine in order to wreck democracy. A Communist Party, whether emerging through P.R. or not, could not genuinely cooperate with other Parties. Does Mr. de Valera insinuate, as others have explicitly declared, that some of his rivals are tainted with Communism?...”
“It is surely high time that the leaders of all Parties should insist on a greater measure of self-restraint. Arguments can be strong without being personal; points of view can be placed before the electorate without vilifying one's opponents. We, Irish Catholics of different Parties, should remember that what we have in common is far more precious and important than that wherein we differ. It is, therefore, to be hoped that the orgy of vindictive abuse which has disgraced recent elections, and even parliamentary proceedings will be eschewed in this election. There is an enemy watching us, ready to exploit our differences.”
“In the next place Mr. de Valera is misled by a bias in favour of a British system, of which he appears to be unconscious. He denounces ‘representatives of different Parties’ in the Government. That is, he takes for granted that the Executive is to comprise only representatives of one single political Party. But there is no such provision even in his own Constitution, wherein political Parties  are not so much as mentioned. In my own (rejected) draft Constitution of 1922, I had this provision....”
He sets out what the provision is. That is where the Government should be a certain number of members elected by the Taoiseach and others elected by the Dáil on the basis of P.R. He then goes on to say:—
“In other words, I explicitly adopted the Swiss system and rejected the British; whereas Mr. de Valera made his Constitution to fit the British Party system. And when he now argues that monopolistic Party government is the only one that will not ‘bring about disastrous conditions’ or bring ‘democracy into discredit’, etc., it is because no alternative to the British political procedure appears ever to have entered his head. So naturally, when speaking in County Clare he was full of praise for ‘people in England’. But he should not assume that the rest of us have the same pro-British prejudices in this matter. Accordingly, when expatiating on the defects of a multi-Party Executive, he failed entirely to advert to the similar and even worse defects of the doctrine of collective ministerial responsibility and of the practice of pledge-bound whip-driven voting. The public does not realise the amount of concessions and compromises involved. I have known cases where a Minister strongly disagreed with a colleague but was prevented from opening his mouth; sometimes the majority of the Party is browbeaten into submission by the leaders. There are several cases on record of a T.D. speaking on one side and then voting on the other at the behest of Party discipline. A Party, no matter how big, is a machine at the disposal of a small clique. No wonder that it is difficult to find independent educated men to submit to the degrading inhibitions of this Party system which we have imported from England. It seems to me simply ludicrous to hold up this caucus machinery, with its faked unanimity, as the sole possible ideal of democratic government.”
 There are the views of Dr. O'Rahilly. The Taoiseach will have to admit that, from my point of view, he is a pretty impartial observer. I know he has said things here which the Taoiseach does not like.
Mr. Norton: Immediately the Taoiseach will say I went to the fountain I knew was deliberately poisoned against him. There is the viewpoint of Dr. O'Rahilly writing in 1948. It is not a bad character description of the Taoiseach's ways and wiles at the same time.
Let us suppose we take the course of admitting that P.R. has weaknesses and that we have not got the best system of P.R. Of course, we have not the best system of P.R. The present Taoiseach made sure of that because in 1935 he introduced a Bill here the purpose of which was to create more three-member constituencies. Up to then, we had six three-member constituencies. The Taoiseach had the notion that, if you created more three-member constituencies and that Fianna Fáil could get 51 per cent. of the vote, they would get two out of three seats in the three-member constituencies. With that same regard for the people and his profound admiration for their welfare, the Taoiseach managed, in that supernatural way of his, to say what the nation wanted and he hit on the idea—there was no Party manoeuvring in this at all; this was a heaven-sent idea—of increasing the number of three-member constituencies from six to 22. That was done in the interest of the nation and in the interest of stability.
Of course it was a gag—a deliberate piece of jackboot politics at the time. It was designed for the purpose of getting in the three-member constituencies two-thirds of the representation. It was not a bad guess for him. It worked out like that afterwards. The Taoiseach said that was only incidental. It was just one of the byproducts on this noble road he was treading for the purpose of serving the best interests of Ireland.
 We have got 22 three-member constituencies. They were planned definitely to prevent a fourth Party having any chance of being elected in a three-member constituency. The scheme was designed in the main to prevent three Parties sharing the representation in the constituency because in a three-member constituency, you have got to get 25 per cent. of the votes to get a quota. When you have three people elected on the quota, there is 25 per cent. left for the fourth. He may get 24 per cent. but that is not enough to elect him. The greater the number of people you have, the better the chance of their being elected. In other words, substantial minorities could get representation.
Of course, the Taoiseach took care that he would after the rules so as to make the rules work for the Fianna Fáil Party. Other countries have different methods of operating P.R. Some operate it on the list system. Others operate it on a zone system. I think that we have probably got a system of P.R. which could be better, but its infirmities are all capable of being remedied. If there are defects in the present system, why can we not remedy them? After all, if a farmer had a tractor that was giving him a bit of trouble because some of the parts were not working satisfactorily, he would hardly abandon it in the field, go home, get a scythe or a billhook and cut the harvest with it. What he is more likely to do is to repair or remedy the defects and operate the tractor to his advantage.
Here, the suggestion is that because the present system is supposed to have the defects catalogued by the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste here this evening we have to abandon it and go back to a system we have not used for 36 years. Surely it would be more reasonable to find out what are the real defects in P.R. Let us remedy these defects. Let us try and do it in a co-operative way, all Parties contributing from their experience and then let us get a system of election in which all Parties can have confidence.
What is the purpose of abolishing the whole scheme of P.R. merely because it is now believed—I do not  believe it; I am not satisfied it is genuinely believed—that there are imperfections in the system? I am satisfied and I remain satisfied, no matter what speeches are made from the Government's benches, that all this story about the defects of P.R. is a trumped-up piece of masquerade designed to mislead the people into changing to a system of election which will ensure Fianna Fáil's return for many an election to come.
The obvious dishonesty of the whole scheme is manifested in the way the Taoiseach pretends to be worried about a stalemate position after an election. Of course, you can have a single member constituency with the single transferable vote. The Taoiseach does not want that because the Taoiseach proceeds on the assumption that two Parties cannot combine to vote for each other. They cannot vote for each other because they are marked X's on the paper. If you elect one in the single member constituency on the single transferable vote, then two Parties can make a deal and their combined votes will put out the other person. The Taoiseach proceeds on the basis that you cannot put out the other fellow.
It is because even that door is closed that I am more convinced than ever that this Bill is a political hoofle. It has no other purpose than to serve the best interests of the Fianna Fáil Party. The Government's position now is that they have power in this House to do what they like. They can implement every promise they made at the last election. They have the majority to do it but is it not rather surprising that they are slow to implement these promises, although they are not precluded from doing any of the things they promised? Nevertheless, the Taoiseach says: “Please change the electoral system because I am afraid that sometime in the future a situation may arise in which there will be some difficulty about the election of a stable Government in this country.”
On the principle of taking first things first, would the Taoiseach not implement the things he promised to do at  the last election and not bother about the things he did not. We were told at the last election of the miraculous things which would occur if Fianna Fáil were returned to power.
Mr. Norton: I have no desire to surround the Taoiseach with his electoral ghosts. I am sure he must see them often enough. The Taoiseach cannot say he wants this Bill to carry out his election promises because he has all the power he wants. He wants to be given power which he already has. He says that is the most important problem he has to contend with. He wants us to give him power to do what he has power already to do. He wants to be given priority. There is no other legislation in except this.
I believe this Bill is a trick to deceive the electorate and distract their attention from the real problems confronting them. Heaven knows, we have plenty of problems such as unemployment and emigration—problems which are more urgent than the one we are now discussing. If this Bill should be passed by Parliament, I think it will be the most retrogressive move since the State was first established. It will do irreparable harm to the cause of Irish unity and will be used by those who support the maintenance of Partition as an excuse to say they would be dominated completely under a Dublin Government.
I think that is a bad bit of business to do, especially when a Bill of this kind is in no way necessary for the implementation of whatever programme the Government have in mind. I do not know of anything more calculated to cause division among our people and distract them from the real problems which call for attention. The Government have done a grave disservice to the people by throwing a Bill of this kind into the political arena at this time and in the circumstances which now surround us. The Government, of course, have quite clearly, as the recent by-election results show, lost the confidence of the people, and this  Bill is a sequel to the recognition of that fact.
This Bill is designed, as I said at the outset, to rivet them in office and they will stay in office by any method which they can manipulate to achieve that purpose. The Tánaiste said we want to prevent the people from expressing their views on this matter. I shall make a suggestion to the Taoiseach by which he can get their views. He can go up to the President in the Phoenix Park to-night and ask the President for a dissolution. He can go to the country within the next three or four weeks as soon as he gets the ballot papers printed and ask the people for judgment on P.R. and at the same time judgment on his 20 months of inactivity. He can get the result of the people's views on both these issues within the next month or six weeks. Will the Taoiseach take that course and then we shall have an opportunity of consulting the people against the background of the Government's inactivity and an opportunity of explaining to the people the reasons why the Government want this Bill to go through the House and the referendum adopted by the people?
I believe this referendum will lead to jackboot government and ultimate dictatorship. There are gentlemen in this House whose views on democracy I am not prepared to accept and the people who gave the Government power to set up a system of minority Government and domination of Parliament will like many other people who did the same things regret that in the years to come, but they will regret it when it is too late and when they cannot recall their actions.
Mr. Barrett: The unusual aspect of this Bill is that, even if it passes the Oireachtas, it still has to go to the people before the Government can force its views upon the people. For that reason, I hoped that when the chief spokesman and the deputy chief spokesman for the Government, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, spoke here to-day, they would give us some detached judgment on P.R. and would tell the people exactly the defects  which led the Government to come here to-day asking the Dáil to pass this Bill. The Tánaiste hinted that that was his intention when he made his speech and he invited us on this side of the House to be careful to keep politics out of this matter because the Tánaiste said if we fought this on a political basis that undoubtedly the weight of Fianna Fáil Deputies and supporters behind the Bill irrespective of its merits or demerits would mean that P.R. would be steamrolled out of the Irish Constitution purely on political grounds. I had hoped that we could discuss this measure in a cool detached way and examine the merits and demerits of the system and come to some eventual opinion which was detached from politics.
It is clear from the manner in which the Taoiseach introduced this Bill here to-day that it reeks of politics and the only reason he is introducing it is that he had a few unpleasant experiences under the system of P.R. The Taoiseach has been in Government for a long number of years. From 1932 to 1948, the Taoiseach appeared to be quite satisfied with the system of P.R. and he told the House himself to-day that the only reason he was asking us to enact this measure was that between 1948 and 1951, and between 1954 and 1957 he was visited, like St. Patrick of old, by the Irish people with their hands out to him saying: “Oh good man, please rescue us from the darkness of P.R.” That is the reason the Taoiseach solemnly gave us here to-day for asking us to pass this measure and, to make it even more picturesque, he informed the House that among those who confided in him their distrust of P.R. were prominent members of the Opposition who whispered in the Taoiseach's ear that they wanted P.R. wiped out, but for goodness sake to say nothing about it at the moment.
If he was approached by so many people, if everywhere he went people implored him to wipe out P.R. he, as the leader of the Government or possible Government should have expressed in public his views on that problem. I am pretty certain that if the Taoiseach were satisfied that enough of the Irish people wanted P.R. to be  abolished he would have made it one of the prime planks of his platform and not kept it as secret as he has, from 1948 to 1958. We have the old, old de Valeraesque pattern here to-night, the Taoiseach saying that he is not seeking to impose his will on us but that as Taoiseach he is coming here as the spokesman of the Irish people who have beseeched him to do this for them.
Why did the Taoiseach in 1937, when he was asking the people to reenact the Constitution, state that the system of voting should be that members would be elected on the single transferable vote, and why the radical change in this measure before us tonight—instead of the single transferable vote the single non-transferable vote? The Taoiseach told the country many years ago he detested minorities and detested Governments which consisted of a conglomeration of minorities. Therefore, now the country knows that there is no scientific approach to the abolition of P.R. but merely a political approach by the Fianna Fáil Party. It is preparation for the departure of the Taoiseach from active participation in politics so that the name, fame and power of Fianna Fáil may be forever kept here despite what the majority of the Irish people may say.
The Taoiseach has very plainly told us that if minorities want a voice here they have one way of getting their voice heard: let them join Fianna Fáil or some other Party, be it Fine Gael or Labour, or the one other large Party that it is admitted is the only Party which will survive without P.R. If that is the Taoiseach's idea of democracy it is not the idea of the Irish people.
I am quite certain that by the time the real, fundamental dangers in this measure are explained to the Irish people, no matter what the Taoiseach may do with the yes-men sitting behind him, he will not succeed in doing the same thing with the Irish people in free and open election. To that end I should like to point out to wavering Deputies in this House, as Deputy Norton has already pointed out, that the single non-transferable vote about which the Taoiseach now raves in  delight will reap most inequitable results in political life. Take a hypothetical constituency of 4,450 voters in this country.
One candidate has very decided views. There are two other candidates who share similar views but are very much opposed to the views of the first candidate “A”, whom I mentioned. If “A” gets 1,550 votes, if “B” gets 1,500 votes and if “C” gets 1,400 votes. “A” is elected simply because 1,550 people wanted him and 2,900 people did not want him. If “A” is lucky enough to get 1,550 votes out of a total of 4,450 votes, he will be elected. Does the Taoiseach suggest for one second that that is preferable to the present system of election by P.R.?
Take the British system, which the Taoiseach would now recommend to us. Does he realise that in Portsmouth in 1922 the elected candidate got only 26.8 per cent. of the total poll? Does he realise that in Norwich in 1929 the elected candidate got only 34.3 per cent. votes of the total poll? Does he realise that in Sunderland in 1929 the elected candidate got only 34.3 per cent. of the total poll? Is that what the Taoiseach wants? Does the Taoiseach want Fianna Fáil to remain in power and over on that side of the House with 26.8 per cent. and 34.3 per cent. of the population behind him? It seems plain that that is the reason why the Irish people are being asked to forsake the P.R. system and to accept the new system which would assist Fianna Fáil to remain in power.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce commenting on Deputy J.A. Costello's reference to the fact that P.R. was traditional in this country, described it as a “phoney tradition” which has been, however, enshrined in two Constitutions in this country. The Minister had the impudence to suggest that, because it was enshrined in the 1937 Constitution, it was not a tradition of the Irish people. The Constitution under which we live is not the property of any one Party. It was enacted by the Irish people and in it the Irish people indicated their wish that they should remain under the P.R. system. Whether Deputy S.  Lemass thinks it “phoney” or not, I hope and express publicly the wish and the desire to do everything possible to ensure that the Irish people will not sell themselves unwittingly to the Fianna Fáil Party and will not fall into the pit which is being prepared for them.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce, would have us do away with P.R. because, he says, it was bad in France. Deputy Norton has already pointed out that the Minister did not know what he was talking about when he said the results of P.R. were bad in France. The other reason was, he said, because the people here do not understand it. The third reason was, he said, because minorities, what he was pleased to call “splinter groups” can be represented, following the Taoiseach's lead that minorities, if they want to creep in and intrude and crawl into Dáil Éireann must creep in and intrude and crawl in under the name of one of the big Parties.
The measure suggested by the Government is repressive and undemocratic. I am quite certain that, no matter what the Government may be able to do with their majority in this House, or in Seanad Éireann, when they put it to the people in a referendum they will be soundly and roundly defeated in the measure.
Mr. O'Malley: The Leader of the Opposition, Deputy J.A. Costello, when speaking here to-day, to my amazement and that of many in the House, gave a quotation from Frank Gallagher's The Indivisible Island. The Leader of the Opposition also managed to give a very wrong impression. He read an extract from page 225 of that book which was as follows:—
There he stopped and his followers said, “Hear, hear!” It is only right that I should continue the quotation. Mr. Gallagher then said: “That  wrong has been done to the minority in the Six Counties and it has been done stealthily.” The reference is under an article entitled “Gerrymandering.” It was vicious and pernicious of any member of this House to suggest that this Government were out by this measure to disfranchise the non-Catholic minority in this country.
Mr. O'Malley: Mr. Gallagher referred to the gerrymandering issue and to the discrimination existing in Northern Ireland. Up to recently, we have records from the same book from which Deputy Costello quoted of compliments to the methods by which successive Governments have leant over backwards to facilitate the minority. For instance, on page 198 of The Indivisible Island, we read of a tribute by Mr. David A. Webb, Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, which appeared in the Irish Times in August, 1950, and which reads as follows:—
“There is complete liberty here. The Protestant minority if there was a united Ireland with a majority of Catholics in power would be just as well treated as they are in the Six Counties at present, in Great Britain or in any other part of the world, The fear of presecution or lack of freedom is entirely unfounded. I will go further than that and say that in wordly affairs the Protestant minority here are not merely well treated, but they are too well treated. The various Governments  of this country have been so anxious to be fair that they have awarded far more preferment to them than the numerical strength of the Protestant minority would warrant.”
“I believe Partition can be ended by peaceful negotiation and with due regard to the sentiments and susceptibilities of all sections. I'd say to the rulers of Northern Ireland: Keep your local Parliament with its local powers if you wish. The Government ask only two things of you. There must be adequate safeguards that the ordinary rights of the Nationalist minority in your area be not denied them, as at present, and that the powers reserved to the English Parliament shall be transferred to the All-Ireland Parliament.”
As I said, it was completely insidious and pernicious for the Leader of the Opposition to suggest—no doubt it will be reported very well in the public Press to-morrow—that non-Catholics were to be disfranchised.
Another point that should also be remembered is that in this House at the present time two members of what might be classified as the minority in religious matters are members of the Fine Gael Party and two of them are members of the Fianna Fáil Party. Is there anything to prevent the religious minority from applying for membership of one or other of these political Parties in the future, as in the past, and getting elected to this House? All that kind of talk is nonsense.
Mr. O'Malley: He gave a remarkable dissertation on this matter. He forgot to tell us why he did not propagate the idea of P.R. for election in trade unions. We shall wait until Deputy Norton comes back. All these speakers were given some data from the propaganda offices of the Fine Gael and Labour Parties and they were told what the Taoiseach said on each occasion. I raised the matter on a point of order but, as usual, I was ruled out by the Ceann Comhairle.
Mr. O'Malley: I pointed out that there is nothing so misleading as giving a quotation out of its context. We heard what the Taoiseach said on the 1st June, 1937, when he was President and this is what Deputy Norton repeated on three occasions as what the present Taoiseach said:—
“On the whole it has worked out pretty well. I think that we have a good deal to be thankful for in this country; we have to be very grateful that we have had the system of P.R. here. It gives a certain amount of stability, and on the system of the single transferable vote you have fair representation of Parties.”
He then stopped. He forgot to give the context of the speech. It was in connection with an amendment which Deputy Costello moved and withdrew later on. For instance, the Taoiseach said, previous to that quotation:—
“The line I took was rather the opposite to that taken by Deputy Costello on this matter. I said it was very important we should have the foundation generally accepted and pretty firm a foundation that could not be changed unless by the express will of the people. This is not absolutely right. This Constitution can be changed by a vote of the people in any respect that may be found necessary. If Parliament is convinced  that there is a better method, it will not be difficult to have an amendment on that line put forward.”
“The results would be a group of Parties manoeuvring in Parliament which does not make for good government and does not make for real progress. I am approaching it from the opposite angle to Deputy Costello. My view is that it is better, when dealing with fundamental law, with the right to vote and how the vote shall be excercised, to define, and to take away from Parties the temptation to manoeuvre with systems so as to get Party advantage.”
“It is certainly open to abuse.... We have been fortunate or misfortunate, if you like, in this country in having two big political Parties with big issues dividing them. It may be—and the probability is—that in the course of time the issues that divide these Parties will be completely swept aside. Then we will have inevitably under the system of P.R. we have, a large number of Parties returned to this House.
“Under the system of the single transferable vote we are bound to have a large number of Parties returned. Besides the main Parties, we might have a Farmers' Party, a Labour Party, a Country Party, a Town Party, and an Independent Party. Whole groups of people might be returned under P.R. We always understood that the real defect under any system of P.R., and particularly the system of the single transferable vote, was that it led, in circumstances where there are no big economic issues before the country,  to a large number of small Parties being returned, making for instability in Government. That is inherent in the system of P.R. and the single transferable vote.”
“I believe that the evil in this Bill is the evil that it is neither fish, flesh nor good red herring. If you are going to have P.R., it is perfectly obvious that you should have five or seven-seat constituencies. Personally, I think P.R. is a fraud and a cod, and that it ought to be abolished. I believe in the single member constituency.”
“The rag-tag Constitution that we have provides for P.R. I suppose that, until we can change that, we have to abide this as well as the many other evils that have been foisted upon us by the incompetent Government that we have got. But having got this evil, it should not have appended to it an additional fraud. Deputy Byrne has pointed out that all the talk about P.R.— when the vast bulk of the constituencies are three-member constituencies—is just fantastic. It becomes manifest at once that the majority will get two seats and the minority will get one. The Independents, unless they are of an exceptional character, will get pushed out altogether.
“P.R. is, in fact, as we all know in our hearts, the child of the brains of all the cranks in creation. So far as this country is concerned, it was tried out on the dog. I doubt if any other same democratic country in the world has put it into operation in regard to its Parliaments. It may have in regard to its corporations or county councils. The single transferable vote is quite another story. I think it is true to say that the kind of P.R. that we have operating in this country has not been adopted in any other country.”
As has been said to-day, why should  we cite other countries? The idiosyncrasies and problems of France and other countries differ very much and we should confine our activities to seeing what is best for the Irish nation. What we want is French without tears. We want a system that we can adopt and adapt to ourselves.
The Taoiseach has been quoted in reference to the Constitution but could someone tell me, Deputy Lindsay perhaps, who is another senior counsel, why it is that in 1937 that on every bridge and placard in Ireland the words “Vote No.” were painted in red and white paint, or any other paint that was available? In that Constitution P.R. was enshrined, but the advice given by Fine Gael and the other Parties was “Vote No.” That Constitution went to the Irish people and now these Parties are kicking up a row about abolishing P.R. It was a very, very good thing in my humble opinion that it was enshrined in the 1937 Constitution. Due to the fantastic anachronistic arguments made against the Constitution, and by which a certain proportion of the gullible public was deluded, I think that the Constitution might not have passed if P.R. was made an issue at the time. I do not think the voters were politically mature. After all we were only in power five years.
Mr. O'Malley: We heard a lot of talk to-day about the Constitution of 1922. We heard accusations of dictatorship and references to democratic rights. There were very few democratic rights in 1922 when Article 48 of that Constitution, which would have enabled a certain section of the Constitution to have gone before the Irish people, was enacted by legislation in this House on a Party vote. It was not put before the people then and most of the people on the opposite side will know what Article 17 of the 1922 Constitution was. Is it not a fact that when the Fine Gael Party met to discuss this measure they were very closely divided? Is it not a fact that there were only a few votes——
Mr. O'Malley: I did not interrupt any of the speakers on that side. As a matter of fact, when I got up on a point of order Deputy Mulcahy appealed that there should be no interruptions. Would the Deputy kindly allow me to make my contribution without attempting to throw me off my trend of thought. I am asking is it not a fact that at the Fine Gael meeting—and this is true; there is one of the bosses over there—they were genuinely divided?
Mr. O'Malley: And it was an admirable thing for the country that at least a large proportion of the younger members of the Fine Gael should say that this proposal which is before the Dáil, and which is going to a referendum, is not a political issue. We have 78 seats under P.R. and we are quite happy as it is, and a lot of us may have reason to be unhappy if it is done away with.
Mr. O'Malley: We think it was a good omen to hear so many young people express themselves at the Fine Gael meeting, and letting the public know there was a very close division and that it was only carried at the Party meeting by a small majority. Deputy Costello quoted the American Constitution, and paid a tribute to the democracy in that great country. Can anyone reading the Dáil Debates on the 1937 Constitution fail to realise the apparent fears manifested at that time by Deputy Costello, Deputy Norton and others, that the President of this country could have dictatorial powers? We know the powers which the President of the United States has, but that is another example of the inconsistencies. As a matter of fact, Fine Gael should not talk at all about democracy.
Mr. O'Malley: In 1948 they acted most unconstitutionally because—and I can give the quotation if anybody wishes me to do so—when Deputy Costello was forming a Government and inviting members of other Parties to join him, he gave a guarantee that there would be no dissolution for a minimum period of 18 months. Is that right or is that wrong, or have I to set down the quotation?
Mr. O'Malley: Right. We had a lot of talk to-night about figures and about one person getting elected with 35 per cent. of the votes, another getting 33 per cent. and someone else getting 32 per cent. Whatever the figures were, surely that is completely illogical. It is like the three card trick.
Mr. O'Malley: Suppose we are to take 35 per cent. of the votes cast. Surely it is obvious that the man who got that percentage is the highest and it does not logically follow that the other man with 33 per cent. and the man with 32 per cent. should combine to have one or other of them elected by a system of elimination? That is completely illogical and has been proved so in the past. We have had a lot of talk about the system in England. I know some of those Independents over there, Deputy Sherwin and others, and I think some of them are sitting safely enough.
Mr. O'Malley: To hear Deputy Norton talk about the British General Election in 1945 one would think that there were just the Conservatives and the Labour Party. What in fact was the position? Before the dissolution in 1945 for example you had the Conservatives with a bigger percentage. The figures were Conservatives 358, Liberal-Nationalists 26, Liberals 18, Labour 164, Independent Labour 3, Commonwealth 3, Communist 1, Independents 20, Irish Nationalists 2, National Labour 5, and Scottish Nationalists 1. If Deputy Sherwin would go along and write a few letters to his constituents during the next three years, there is no necessity why he should not appear back here.
Mr. O'Malley: It ill becomes anybody on the opposite side to say: “Leave down your book of quotations.” I have been in this House since the speeches on this measure began at four o'clock. We have had nothing from the Opposition but quotations. Anyway the Chair is there if I am contravening Standing Orders. I always try to keep within the rules of ordered debate.
I would refer Deputies to a book which I have removed from the Library for a few minutes. It is called Election and Representation, by James Hogan, D.Litt., Professor of History, University College, Cork, and was published in 1945. I think of all the books published on this question this is possibly the best and members of Fine Gael should be well acquainted  with Professor Hogan because I see among other things here letters to him from Professor Michael Hayes and Deputy James Dillon which possibly are not relevant to-night.
“Hence, the tendency of P.R. to act as an instrument of dissociation, to release minorities from the framework of the major political Parties into which they would have had to fit themselves under the majority system. In short, P.R. not merely reflects existing minorities, but tends to manufacture them, producing separate political Parties at the expense of the major political Parties.
One incidental but most important result in view of the revolutionary ferment prevailing in the world to-day is that not merely is a new stimulus thereby given to the legitimate ambition of minorities to assert themselves politically but new possibilities of representation are opened up for the illicit ambitions of these minority groups of an extremist and revolutionary character which under the majority system would have little hope of finding their way into Parliament in order to use it as a platform for disseminating anti-democratic and anti-parliamentary ideas and policies.”
“If parliamentary institutions managed to come successfully through these two critical phases, 1927-1932 and 1932-1933, it was in large measure due to the continuance throughout these years of a stable governing authority. It was no less essential to the maintenance of the sense of constitutional responsibility that the anti-Treaty Party, when it came to power for the first time in 1932 should have the necessary strength to govern efficiently and to carry out its policies without undue interference or frustration. It can hardly be an accident that no sooner did the Fianna Fáil Party obtain through the 1933 election an unassailable parliamentary position than there was a gradual relaxation, both in and out of Parliament, of the general tension, and a reversion to normal conditions in the country.”
Mr. O'Malley: I shall not have many more quotations. I should just like to give Professor Hogan's opinion, “and after all you do want the best, don't you?” We are trying to find a solution to this problem and our natural recourse is to the best sources of information and I submit that Professor Hogan is an accepted authority on the system of election in democracies. About democracies he said——
“What we can say for certain is that under the majority system the Party obtaining a majority or a plurality of first choices in the run of constituencies will be bound to carry off a far larger share of the parliamentary representation than its proportional share of the votes would give it. We may infer with certainty from this incontestable effect of the majority system, that Government majorities would have been considerably larger: and, as a consequence, we would have had between the years 1922 and 1938 a governing authority much more authoritative—because more firmly founded in public estimation as well as in parliamentary support—than the governing authority which was in fact at our disposal under P.R.”
“While we have been convinced by our investigation into the working of P.R. in Eire that it requires a further shift towards the majority system, if we are asked how far this process should go, we feel bound to admit that we can only offer some tentative suggestions...
To conclude, I think most of us have been quoting authoritative statements and it is very difficult for me to create any impression when the leaders of all the Parties have spoken before me. I should like to give a short quotation from the Limerick Leader.
Mr. O'Malley: All right. There is just another point. Many motions have been sponsored by members of  the former Coalition Government in local authorities and I want to point out the illogicality of their actions. They put on the agenda: “This council disapproves of the Government's proposal to abolish P.R.” or some such words. Usually one of our members proposes that we proceed to the next business on the grounds that a local authority has no function in discussing a measure which is to be enacted by the Dáil and which will finally be referred to the people.
It is purely a political stunt but the illogicality of it is this: the Coalition groups tried to block this Government from giving an opportunity to the people to discuss the proposal by refusing to give leave to introduce the First Stage of this Bill. In other words, they would refuse permission to the Government to give an opportunity for its discussion but they wanted to discuss it in every local authority throughout the country.
Mr. Desmond: There is one thing to which we must bend our minds is discussing this important Bill, that is that, though many of us are members of Parties, we must as representatives, from every constituency in the Twenty-Six Counties disabuse our minds of Party affiliations. Far above Party rise the interests of the people whom we have honour to represent.
Like other members of the Labour Party, I disapprove of this proposal. Not alone am I convinced that it is wrong but I believe, and I am equally convinced that the Taoiseach realises this, that the most abhorrent feature of the proposal is the denial of rights to minority groups which might, when taken together, represent a majority within the Twenty-Six Counties. The underlying motive in this proposal is to deny to those minorities the rights to which they are entitled as citizens under the 1937 Constitution.
It is our duty here to consider the position. I am entitled to examine my own conscience in relation to this proposal. Since 1948, I have represented approximately 25 per cent. of the people who vote in South Cork. That has not given me the right to say that I am the sole representative of the electorate in South Cork. If 25 per  cent. voted for me, then 75 per cent. voted against me. Are they not entitled to representation? There are decent people in that constituency as there are decent people in every constituency. Whether they support Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour, Independents or farmers, they are Irish citizens and we have no right to deny them their rights as citizens.
This proposal is, in essence, a vicious attempt to deny people certain rights. We know it will be passed in this House. The Government have a majority. Should the people decide to give the Taoiseach what he wants by way of referendum, that will mean that in the constituency of South Cork, or in any other constituency, the man who polls 25 per cent. of the votes may be the man elected to Dáil Éireann. Irrespective of whether or not he is prepared to work for those who did not support him, he will be the representative for that constituency. Does the Taoiseach think that right?
In September of 1927, the present Taoiseach warned everyone that, as President of Sinn Féin, he would bitterly oppose any attempt to interfere with the P.R. system. Why? In 1927, the Taoiseach entered this Parliament for the first time as the leader of a minority Party. Call it a small Party, a splinter Party, or anything you like; it was a minority Party. It was all right for him to break away from a larger group. He had the right to march in here when it suited him and, because the occasion suited, he decided that P.R. was a grand thing. In 1927, there were even overtures to the Labour Party. The Fianna Fáil minority were prepared with the help of another minority to become the Government of the country.
Let the Taoiseach examine his own conscience. In 1927, he believed P.R. was all right. If it was all right in 1927, what is wrong with it in 1958? A few months ago, speaking on his own Estimate, he issued a challenge to groups which were not represented in this House. He made it clear that nobody but the Government had the right to direct or carry out activities  in relation to this country. He told these organisations outside this House to go before the people, put their programmes before the people and, if they were elected, come in here and speak for them. He knew quite well a couple of months ago what was in his own mind. While he was plámásing them and telling them the advantages of going before the people, he was, at the same time, plotting and planning to make sure that they could never enter the Parliament of this nation. That will be the position if the people generally are unable to see the implications of this measure and give the Taoiseach what he wishes.
We all know that the statements made by the Taoiseach and by the Tánaiste in 1927, 1933 and 1937 were all in favour of P.R. We all know equally well that it was only in 1948 that the Taoiseach realised for the first time that the system was not so good. Speaking recently at the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis, the Taoiseach said that, when he was around the country early in 1948, he found the people were opposed to P.R. We all know where he was early in 1948. The seat in which the Leader of the Opposition sits was vacant. Another Front Bench seat was also vacant— that normally occupied by Deputy Aiken. They were not around the country talking to the people about P.R. They were touring the world. Deputy de Valera left the country in a fit of hatred with the Irish people for opposing him. If there was any talk about P.R. then it was not with the Irish people. That was the position in 1948.
Both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have told us that it is essential that we should discuss this in a calm atmosphere, far removed from politics. Why did the Taoiseach find it more suitable to make a full statement on this question not in the Parliament of the nation, but at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis? Was that not political? What else could it have been? There, he was proud, on a political basis, to find that he had the unanimous desire of the delegates behind him.
|Last Updated: 19/05/2011 18:32:03||Page of 54|