Thursday, 19 November 1959
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. McGilligan: I should like to offer a few observations along the lines upon which Deputy Michael O'Higgins opened for this Party on the Second Reading. Generally speaking, he dealt with one point: that this legislation was unconstitutional; and that is the point I want to come at immediately.
Those who prepared this Bill were good enough to circulate for the information of members of the House an explanatory memorandum in which the two relevant provisions of the Constitution are set out, but, apparently, they decided to forget all about what the constitutional position was. As the memorandum sets out, Article 16.2, sub-section 4, of the Constitution provides:
The Oireachtas shall revise the constituencies at least once in every twelve years, with due regard to changes in distribution of the population, but any alterations in the constituencies shall not take effect during the life of Dáil Éireann sitting when such revision is made.
(a) The number of members shall from time to time be fixed by law, but the total number of members of Dáil Éireann shall not be fixed at less than one member for each thirty thousand of the population, or at more than one member for each twenty thousand of the population. (Art. 16.2.2º.)
The ratio between the number of members to be elected at any time for each constituency, and the population of each constituency as ascertained at the last preceding census, shall, so far as it is  practicable be the same throughout the country. (Art. 16.2.3.º.)
The two phrases which govern this matter are the phrase contained in the first extract I read, that due regard must be paid to changes in distribution of the population, but the over-riding order is that which I last quoted, that the ratio between the number of members to be elected in each constituency shall be the same throughout the country and the only reservation is “so far as it is practicable.”
I have gone through the statements made on this legislation, first, by the Minister and secondly by the Taoiseach. I find the word “impracticable” is used only once in the whole of the columns these two have spoken between them. Such phrases as “practical difficulties”, “difficulty of communication”“rural bias” and “giving people living in certain areas of the country the better representation they deserve once a ratio has been struck”—all these have been used, and used to bring about the situation disclosed by this legislation. But the phrase is “so far as it is practicable.” Later I shall quote some definitions that can be found either in judicial dictionaries or in decisions of the Courts.
It is to be noted that the Irish word both in the present Constitution and the one that preceded it is “feidir” which means “possible”, and “practicable” has the meaning of “possible”, and only that meaning. On that simplified version of the Constitution, then, the ratio had to be the same so far as that was “possible”.
We get an interesting view of how the constitutional change was brought about by looking at the speeches. First of all, we find that Donegal was taken as the pivotal constituency. Here, in the early stages of consideration by the Government of the proposed changes, a matter of difficulty arose. Again, may I emphasise there is no question of difficulty in the Constitution; it does not say that the ratio is to be the same in so far as there is no difficulty about that; it says so far as is possible. But Donegal was taken as  the pivotal constituency and we are told that there is appalling difficulty up there from the point of view of Deputies getting in touch with their constituents or constituents getting in touch with Deputies. This, we are told, is caused by a tremendous mountain range in that area—a range which, according to the Taoiseach, divides the East from the West, with only four passes by which people can travel from one part to another. One immediately gets a picture of the Himalayas, or some such range. One gets a view of the officials of the Department of Local Government setting out with provisions to last them for a fortnight, or so, and getting the native Sherpas up in the area to guide them through the four passes, which alone allow for communication over this mountain range which splits Donegal, according to the Taoiseach, from East to West.
At a later stage, of course, the Minister told us that this range of mountains practically divides the northern half of the county from the southern half. The pivotal constituency was Donegal and the pivotal matter in Donegal is a mountain range; and that mountain range, in one view, runs from East to West and, in another view, from North to South. One would have thought that if a county was to be taken as an exemplar and that the disadvantages and difficulties emerging from that county were to be regarded as either existent or nonexistent in other places, the geographical features might have been fairly accurately discovered and accurately revealed to this House. According to the Taoiseach, it was the mountain range which caused all the trouble.
 At that point, Deputy McQuillan interjected: “Where is the range of mountains in Galway?” and, of course, there was not any range that could be elevated to the proper height for this particular point of argument. So the Taoiseach went on to say that the key decision “to leave Kerry and Galway unchanged was taken in regard to Donegal.”
Donegal, therefore, gave the lead, and the difficulty in Donegal is a mountain range. That difficulty works this way: constituents may have to travel a considerable distance to see a Deputy or a Deputy may have to travel a considerable distance to see his constituents. Because of that difficulty then a decision was taken not to make any change in Donegal representation and that decision, as the debate shows, once it was taken, was to hold equally for Kerry and Galway.
I have searched, as I have said, through this debate to discover what were the conditions and the arguments that operated in the minds of those who drafted the legislation. At column 379 the Minister said:—
It may be that is a proper view to have, but it is not in the Constitution. The Constitution makes no allowance for special circumstances or practical problems so long as they do not amount to impracticability.
“One principle, however, which I submit is fundamental in this matter, is that it should be made  as convenient as possible for all citizens who may wish to interview their Deputy on any serious matter affecting themselves, their neighbours or their district, to do so.”
Again, the whole tenor of this is the difficulties of Deputies and constituents, difficulties that may upset convenience, and the fundamental point was—the Taoiseach had spoken of the big mountain range, and this was pivotal—that it should be made as convenient as possible for Deputies to see their constituents and constituents to see their Deputies.
Later, the Minister spoke of the variation in the density of population. Again, that is not a matter to which reference is made in the Constitution except that the ratio, and only the ratio, between the number of people in a constituency and the number of Deputies to be elected should be the same throughout the country. At column 380 the Minister spoke of people “concentrated in small areas” but scattered over a wide area and “sometimes in remote and rather inaccessible places.” The conclusion was then reached that these “people do not enjoy the same facilities for consulting with a Deputy as people who live close to, or in the same town or city.”
Columns 381 and 382 are full of the same matter with regard to the work a Deputy has to do and the difficulties constituents may have in reaching him. For that reason, the Minister said, the Bill might appear, if viewed in a purely statistical light, to err on the side of leniency so far as rural representation was concerned. By that time we were full into the swing of the argument that there had to be a bias in legislation in favour of the rural areas.
May I point the contrast once more? The Minister says that the Bill might  appear to err on the side of leniency as far as rural representation is concerned, if viewed in a purely statistical light. The Constitution imposes on this legislation that this is a matter which should be viewed in a statistical light. In fact, it is statistics which govern the whole thing, so far as that is practicable, and that is the only reservation in the Constitution. Later the point raised by the Minister was that we must lessen the disparities between the city and the country— that is, the way in which people are grouped.
Finally, he came to another point, which is apparently regarded as fundamental, namely, that we should not go outside the city boundary, nor indeed as far as possible vary the area. The present electoral provisions change constituencies from their present boundaries. That is what I have gleaned from the Minister. I think I am correct in saying that the view expressed there is that the Minister, the Government and the Department were entitled to take into consideration difficulties; that they are entitled to look to the convenience of people and, in particular, to look at the rural areas. Having looked at these, with the idea of the convenience of Deputies in their minds, they were then definitely entitled to give a rural bias to the legislation.
I think that is the only time the word “impracticable” is used by either of the two people who put up what I imagine is the Government point of  view on this whole matter. Again, I think in using the phrase in this context the Taoiseach showed he did not understand what the constitutional provision was. If I am right in thinking, and as I propose to show, that the word “practicable” means “possible”, then there is no impossibility in crossing a county boundary. It may be undesirable and to be avoided as much as possible but that is not what the Constitution permits. It says that there is a ratio to be struck and to be preserved throughout the whole country as far as practicable.
The Taoiseach continued on that line. Having taken the line that it was impracticable, he went on to say that they decided to avoid any such arrangement and to stick to county boundaries as far as it was practicable, and also to make the fewest changes possible because there were very good reasons why changes should be minimised. There may be good reasons. The Constitution says that there is to be a ratio to be kept unless it is impossible to keep it. The Taoiseach at column 404 said—
Then he introduced the mountain which divides the east from the west of Donegal. The reference to practicability in the Constitution refers only to the ratio, to the number of people in an area whom each Deputy is supposed to represent. That is to be kept throughout the whole country as far as possible. Having decided that Donegal should not be changed, the Taoiseach said that a similar decision seemed to be required in regard to Kerry and Galway.
May I return to the Constitution? The provision is that “the ratio between the number of members to be elected at any time for each constituency and the population of each constituency, as ascertained at the last preceding census, shall, so far as it is practicable, be the same throughout the country”. That certainly does not mean that it, say, a ratio were struck  and it were found impossible to keep that ratio in a constituency, the rule of uniformity goes. The Constitution says that whatever the ratio determined is, it should be kept as far as practicable throughout the country. If it did emerge for good reasons, even for geographical reasons, that it was impossible to retain that ratio in one constituency, it does not mean that having broken through the rule with regard to the ratio for one constituency, the constitutional provision goes, that it disappears for the whole of the country.
...if none of these practical considerations existed, our obligation would be to make each constituency as near as possible exactly the same size in respect of population as the others, but, taking these practical considerations into account, it seems to me that the variations from that rule that are proposed here are quite justifiable. This idea that, within the limits fixed by the Constitution, we should tend to give greater representation to rural than urban areas has appeared in all the Electoral Acts we have passed here.
These two arguments raise two points: Practical considerations; practical difficulties. If there were these practical considerations, the Taoiseach admits we should have the same size in respect of population throughout the country for each constituency. The Constitution makes no reference to what are called practical difficulties. There is no reference to a difficulty except by implication.
In his second point, the Taoiseach said that the idea of giving greater representation to rural rather than urban areas has appeared in all Electoral Acts. If it has, it was known to the people who passed the 1937  Constitution. They knew there was a tendency to give representation of a biassed type to rural areas. If that is the case, they must have discarded the idea when framing the Constitution. They did not put into it a provision that better representation might be given in rural areas. The Constitution was passed with one phrase and that phrase in no way hints at giving better representation to the rural areas. With all the knowledge the framers of the Constitution had and with all the information in their possession, they did not put any provision into it per mitting that view to be taken.
The obligation placed upon the Minister for Local Government was to prepare proposals for an arrangement of constituencies which would keep that over-all limit and also an arrangement which would keep the existing constituencies in so far at it was possible to do so.
That is contained nowhere in the two Articles of the Constitution I have quoted and they are the only two which have any bearing on this matter. Later the Taoiseach spoke of the fact that the boundaries of the city of Dublin had been enlarged and extended from time to time. He said at the bottom of column 406:
There are many more things but the rest of the Taoiseach's speech is taken up with the distinctly rural bias, that it is good for the country that there should be, in connection with the next election to Dáil Éireann, a rural bias. The greater part of the rest of the Taoiseach's speech is taken up with that. Then he came again to this difficulty raised in County Donegal with regard to the mountain.
This phrase “as far as practicable” has been the subject of discussion in the courts over and over again. Before I go to legal opinions and judgments in the courts, I might read from that fount of all wisdom, the Oxford Larger Dictionary from which many years ago we got our definition of a republic and established that this country, even before the repeal of the External Relations Act, had become at least a dictionary republic. The Oxford Larger Dictionary defines the word “practicable” in this way; it says: “capable of being put into practice, carried out in action, of being effected, of being accomplished or done.” It puts as synonyms the two words feasible and possible. The word feasible is defined as being “capable of being done, accomplished or carried out, possible or practicable.” The words “practicable” and “possible” are taken as alternative synonyms as far as the dictionary is concerned and each has the meaning of capable of being put into practice, capable of being used in practice.
There is no argument produced to this House to say that it was not possible to keep the same ratio through the country. At a later stage in the supplement of the judicial dictionary we had I think in what was known as Stroud's dictionary “practicable” defined as “possible” and in particular it speaks of such things as the Factories Act where “all practicable measures” are supposed to be taken. That was simply defined in many courts as “those that were possible having regard to the stage of knowledge at the time, particularly the knowledge of scientific people.” Certain regulations were made in connection with a variety of businesses in England and here also, for instance in connection with building, there were many regulations and those are imposed on people who engage in building to protect their workers, to ensure that they should take certain measures “as far as practicable” and court decisions have interpreted that for many years as “possible to be accomplished within human or normal resources.”
In a couple of cases a contrast was made between certain statutory provisions  where things are demanded “as far as practicable” and where things are demanded “as far as reasonably possible” and it has been held that the word “practicable” imparts a higher duty than what would be imposed if the phrase used was “so far as is reasonably possible.” In one other case a bench of judges said that “practicable” cannot be considered as being equitable or fair or reasonable. It cannot be said to have these meanings. In quite a number of cases this whole matter has been analysed and the general run of it is that the court looks at something and says: No, you are not asked to do what is practical, what is easy, convenient, reasonable or fair; none of these considerations are involved by the use of this word: the use of this word merely means is it possible or not.
The word “possible” is, of course, a word which most people would agree that they know the meaning of. At any rate, it is defined as meaning “capable of being done.” The word “possible” itself means “what may or can be done.” Those being the views held by the courts——
Mr. McGilligan: If the phrase in this Constitution had been “so far as is reasonably practicable” then, of course, there would be a lessening of the force of the word and that has been canvassed in many cases but the phrase used is “so far as is practicable” and that is the beginning and the end of the matter. Out of their own mouths the two people who spoke with authority in this matter have condemned this legislation as unconstitutional because the word “practicable” was used once and once only and then you give it a meaning that is not the meaning that must be read into the word. Out of their own mouths the Minister and the Taoiseach have condemned this legislation as contrary to  the Constitution, more particularly contrary to the Constitution which was drafted as the Taoiseach alleged with full knowledge that previous Electoral Acts had shown a bias in favour of rural areas. If that be the case this Constitution must be interpreted as having put that idea aside and said: “Whatever the legislation may have been in the past, for the future there will be no bias or leniency towards different areas.” You get a ratio and you get that in the first part as not more than one for 20,000 and in the second as not less than one for 30,000 and once that ratio is struck it goes for the whole country. So far as this ratio is concerned that applies, not if it was “reasonable” or “practical”, not if it is fair, not if it is convenient but if it is possible.
It is to be remembered in this connection that when last year and early this year we were discussing a Bill to abolish Proportional Representation there was, of course, in that a suggestion that if the referendum was carried out and P.R. abolished there should be set up a committee to distribute the seats in accordance with the Constitution as changed by the abolition of P.R. and that committee was to be headed by a judge. That was to be the situation. Of course these two things were to be tied together and it is quite easy to see that the Government with equanimity might accept some sort of submission that would be put forward because it would be impartial. But the two things were tied together so that the country was offered a choice of having both or none. Personally, I objected to the committee for the distribution of seats being headed by a judge because I thought it was not a job for a judge and I also felt that bringing in a judge was merely to give a pretence of fairness whether the fairness might be required or not.
In those days I made a forecast that if the move to abolish Proportional Representation was defeated we would hear no more about the outside committee headed by a judge to establish constituencies in accordance with the Constitution. The phrase I used was that if P.R. was retained the situation would be met by a handy, talented  piece of gerrymandering and here is that handy, talented piece of gerrymandering in this legislation. May I say if there appears to be a contradiction between what I said about having a judge on the committee to investigate this and having the view that this ought to be referred to the courts as to whether it is constitutional or not, I want to explain that I think the settlement of constituencies originally is not a matter for a judge but I think it is for a judge or a bench of judges later to be asked to determine a legal matter, namely, whether the Electoral Act as drawn now is, or is not, in accordance with the Constitution? I think it is a matter for administrative people, who may be able to say that something is completely impracticable, to be allowed to carve out the constituencies in a particular way and then present the legislation which embodies their views to a court to decide what the court is in a position to decide, namely, a point of constitutional law.
For many years I understand that where Deputies of this Parliament meet with Deputies from Britain or Northern Ireland one of the most important points of argument or controversy, so to speak, is the dreadful way in which constituencies have been gerrymandered in Northern Ireland and more particularly in an area I know very well, Derry City. It has been pointed out as a great example of ruthless gerrymandering in favour of a group.
The situation in Derry City is, of course, that the Catholic and Nationalist population there are not merely in a majority but a tremendous majority and yet when the Corporation of Derry City is built up it shows a very strong vote against the Catholic Nationalists. The only defence for that has not appealed to any one of us. It is a good defence made over the years. An acceptance of the fact that Derry City has been gerrymandered was to get a map to show a big, long tongue stretching out into the heart of the Waterside, the Catholic area in that city, and to see how the Nationalist Catholic population are so corralled up into one small area, in consequence with a very small representation,  and then the minority, the Unionist people in Derry City, are grouped together over such a wide area that they get a representation far beyond what they are entitled to.
The argument put up in Derry City is bias. They say “Yes, we have divided the constituencies and our purpose in dividing them in this way is because it is possible to give a bias in favour of the industrial and commercial interests in Derry.” In other words, they say the wealthy people in Derry, the people running the main industries and engaged in the main trading ventures in the city, are people who ought to get the representation and they add: “The only way we have been able to do that is to carve”—as I say—“a very peculiar configuration of a city to enable representation on an enormous scale to be given to people who, on a statistical basis, are not entitled to it at all.”
We here lose that argument for the future. Nobody can raise that argument hereafter, either with British representatives or Northern Ireland representatives, because we will immediately be told that here this community has taken a decision on rural areas and, no doubt, the point will not be lost that discrimination in favour of rural areas was definitely intended, as was blatantly obvious, to meet the needs of one political Party. If there is a brick to throw, so to speak, at the Unionists and Orange people in Derry City, that brick can be hurled back with great force after we have decided on a bias which, as I say, the Constitution does not allow.
In the North there is no Constitution of the type that there is here. There is no fundamental document in relation to which ordinary legislation must be judged. There is nothing one could take before an independent bench of judges, if they are so independent in the North, nothing—no test so to speak—that can be applied to the legislation that divides Derry City, under which the gerrymandering has been done. Here we have a different situation. The Constitution, amongst its provisions, includes one for the establishment of an independent judiciary and a phrase in the Constitution  in definite, explicit terms gives that independent judiciary the task of deciding whether legislation is, or is not, in accordance with the constitutional provisions.
In addition, we have fortified the judges that we have established here with all the well-known fortifications to ensure their independence, to give them an independent voice on all matters relating to the Constitution and, if necessary, to repel attacks on the Constitution made by the Executive, as they have done time and time again. In the North there is no standard, there is no way of bringing before the courts such matters. In the North there is no standard by which a piece of legislation, brought before the courts, could be ruled invalid because it is contrary to some fundamental document. Here we have all the apparatus of a Constitution. We have a fundamental document setting out duties and setting out certain rights. We have a Bench of independent judges, well fortified by every device that history has thought up to make them independent in the past, to give the independent judgment which is required of them from time to time.
We have the Constitution which, I say, this legislation breaches, because new meanings are read into the phrase “practicable”, and statements made by the Minister and his leader, the Taoiseach, indicate that the phrase “impracticability” was never considered by them. There was an easy term of what was a practical difficulty and, if there was practical difficulty that was regarded as meaning that the keeping of the ratio throughout the country is impracticable.
Will there be any use made of our independent judiciary in this connection? As I say, we have a standard by which the matter may be ruled and we have a bench of judges before whom the matter may be brought. How may this legislation be brought before them? There is no question of the population moving towards it. It is a matter only for the Taoiseach, for the President, after consultation with the Council of State. In other words, the fate of this measure and the testing of  this measure depend entirely upon people who are probably very resentful at the result of the referendum on proportional representation and, indeed, on the result of the Presidential Election.
It is in the hands of persons, people of that type, who, I must say, looking back to past history must be held to be biassed when this whole matter arises. The framers of the Constitution have made several efforts upon the Constitution that they made, but these efforts have been restrained by the provisions in it. There was an effort made years ago in connection with the Article dealing with education. There was a later effort made in connection with the rights of association, and a later effort made in connection with the rights of private property, and in all these cases the Constitution has been upheld. These attempts to encroach upon constitutional rights were made by the framers of the Constitution themselves and they were beaten, but only just beaten. There is now this test that can be applied though I do not suppose that this legislation will get to the courts.
It may be that some well-minded citizen may decide he will test the matter but there are only two ways, that somebody incurs quite an amount of heavy expense of a personal nature in having the legislation brought before the courts or else, before it becomes law, it may be referred to the courts by the President after consultation with the Council of State. I say that I doubt if this legislation will ever reach the courts. Certainly it will not reach them by way of Áras an Uachtaráin.
Mr. McGilligan: I hope the President will obey his own Constitution. If he does not, it is not a reflection I cast on him. It is only his own activities that will. I do not care if this goes before the courts or not. Take your Bill with you. It is a new device with regard to rural bias and practical difficulties, but take it with you with this memory that once in any piece of legislation—in the teeth of the constitutional phrase—one gets outside considerations like rural bias, if rural bias be permitted this time, at a later stage another type of bias may be entertained. If practical considerations, practical difficulties, prevent the Constitution being carried out any number of difficulties may be elevated, and that means that another Article of the Constitution may be so undermined and snapped that it is no worth-while guarantee to anybody.
The people who made attacks on the Constitution before may slip through this time for an easier victory, they may get this thing through but, if so, we give the example to the future that what can be done now can be repeated with different distortions on another occasion. I have no doubt if this legislation is acceptable, and is not referred to the courts, then because it is acceptable the other legislation brought in later will have to be accepted as in accordance with the Constitution.
However, that brings us to a funny situation. The main institutions of this country have not been regarded with any great favour by the public. They certainly have not won any widespread measure of support. The Constitution in which this Article was included did not get through by any large majority. The population was divided roughly into thirds. One-third voted for; one third voted against; and something more than one-third did not vote at all. I think that same situation prevailed —there might have been some small differences—at the first election for President in this country. It was the same thing last year in connection with the election of the present President. It was the same with regard to the P.R. Bill. One-third of the community has no respect for the Constitution, the  election of a President or for such a thing as a Referendum on an important matter like P.R.
This legislation is partisan in the worst possible way. It will not make any difference in the end. When people have been long enough in this House, they will realise that once the tide begins to go out and once the Party is on the way out, these little footling changes that are made here may save a difficult situation for Fianna Fáil but they will lose the next election.
You do not change the situation by pettifogging legislation of this kind. Far-sighted people might say: “Well, if we are going to sell our birthright for a mess of pottage, we might make sure that the mess of pottage is going to give us something.” It is not very good to destroy an institution and find that it availed you nothing as a Party. That is what you are going to find. Mountains in Donegal and rural bias are of no avail against the ordinary economic things with which we are surrounded such as the balance of payments and unemployment and with expenditure far outstripping revenue.
The great plans to resuscitate the economy are reduced to the level of the Taoiseach addressing members of local committees to send him up relief schemes as quickly as possible in this attempt to save two or three seats from the wreck that is ahead.
Mr. Desmond: Never in my wildest dreams did I envisage myself in the role of mountain climber. Never did I realise, until quite recently, that I had apparently succeeded in climbing mountains because on Second Reading the Minister made it clear that I probably knew nothing about Donegal. I was in Donegal. Some years ago, on the first occasion that Deputy O'Donnell was a candidate for Donegal, I remember travelling a fair share of that county. Others travelled with me. We did not travel over the Border. It may be that the Cork accent would not be very popular beyond the Border. We travelled through county Cavan and from there right through Donegal. Let me affirm that I was more than surprised to discover  that one of the mountain passes by which we travelled had a very nicely tarred road. Having travelled on some appallingly bad county roads in Cavan and having come into Donegal to find a mountain pass with an excellent tarred road, it must be said that Donegal is not in such a bad way when it comes to road travel.
Having entered the county Donegal from the south-east and having travelled up to the north-west, I am still in some doubt as to where this range of mountains is. It certainly must be said that the discussions in the House have not in any way enlightened us in regard to the extraordinarily difficult mode of travel that is imposed upon the people by mountains which at one stage are stated to run from north to south and at another stage conveniently run from east to west. It is quite obvious that from the outset the Minister had to adopt a line of defence in relation to the statement made by the Taoiseach when he said in the House that the pivotal point in relation to any changes that might come about was Donegal.
I sympathise with the Minister in regard to having to defend Donegal. I never asked him to do so. I never begrudged the people who maintained the position they still hold, but it is quite obvious that the Minister himself knows that the whole thing stinks politically. He knows that the only way to get over it is to build up, without any undue delay, a range of mountains running east and west and north and south and then tell us how impossible it is to work in such a county and such a constituency. Having travelled through Donegal, I must say that it is a poor case the Minister had when he depended upon the mountains.
He has already enlightened us upon other aspects. If we are to take into consideration the proposals before the House the only county where there may have been mountains in the past but which are now gone is Cavan. There are no mountains in Cavan. Deputy McQuillan must remember that while there may have been mountains in Roscommon in the past, they are going, therefore, to lose a seat. Again, in the Westmeath area,  there are no mountains and, of course, we have no mountains in Cork.
Deputy McGilligan concentrated upon the legal implications of these proposals in an excellent manner. I do not wish to delay the House on this subject but I should like to draw attention to the sheer political hypocrisy behind it all.
So the Minister has bowed to the wishes of the Opposition in relation to the two extra seats but further on at Columns 1107, 1108 and 1109, you will find how far he has gone in his bowing to the wishes of the Opposition. It is a strange but true fact that 40 members in the Opposition voted against what the Minister terms their wishes and only three members of the Opposition appreciated the kind consideration of the Minister and voted for it. In fairness to those three Deputies, I must say that two of them were from a Wexford constituency. Naturally, I do not blame them.
Mr. Desmond: The three were kind enough to appreciate the generosity of the Minister while the rest of the Opposition did not. Is it not an extraordinary situation? Fianna Fáil, as I mentioned the last day, hold the key position in one county, which is represented by the Minister for Finance. That settled that. In addition to discovering a tidy range of mountains in Wexford, they came to Dublin—the Deputy may not be interested in Dublin—and having travelled the whole of Dublin city and county, they discovered another extraordinary situation, that right in  South-East Dublin, around which the Tánaiste travels, there was another range of mountains. Deputy Sherwin and other Deputies in Dublin were not considered. If you were not in SouthEast Dublin, you had no mountains to contend with; But, having the mountains, the Tánaiste is now as proud as a peacock, seeing that he has the help of another Deputy, and they are hoping to have another Fianna Fáil Deputy.
It would be sheer nonsense to waste time discussing such a scandalous piece of hypocrisy as this Bill. This Bill and the Minister for Local Government have created a record in another extraordinary manner. As far as I am aware, it has never happened before in this House that a Minister was able to move an amendment and ask for a vote on it and three Deputies were able to table amendments and support the Minister in asking a vote for them, without putting up one single phrase in favour of the amendments. That in itself must give the answer to everything.
That is all he said. There was not one word to justify the amendment. I challenge any member of the Government Party to show where in the debates in this House, whether on the Second Stage of the Bill or otherwise, the justification for a seat for Wexford as against Cork was mentioned by the Minister or by any Deputy who had an amendment down or by any Deputy who voted for the amendments. Suddenly, they become dummies. They had done their canvass. Fianna Fáil secured an extra seat in Wexford the last time and they are hoping for another seat now.
Mr. Desmond: I do not care what way he came; he was elected by the people. I am here to speak the plain truth and no Deputy will prevent me. Not one or two but many Deputies were able to show cause why a seat should not be taken from Cork. I am not blaming a Labour Deputy or a Fine Gael Deputy from Wexford for voting for Wexford but not one of them was able to show cause as to why their claim was justified.
It all comes back to another extraordinary situation. Whatever we may have thought in the past, the records will show that, in 1947, when dealing with a Bill of this nature, the Taoiseach at that time allowed a free vote of the members of his own Party. We are told of the advanced and liberal-minded statesmen we have in the Government. Why is it that the Taoiseach did not allow a free vote of his Party on this occasion? The answer is obvious. If a free vote had been allowed, Wexford would not have got the seat and Dublin might not have got the seat.
It is quite obvious, even in the case where amendments were tabled in relation to changes in certain townlands, that no consideration was given. That has all gone now. As Deputy McGilligan says, it makes no difference. It does not make any difference where we are concerned. Let the future take care of itself. It is true that of all the Bills brought into this House for a long time, there is more political taint about this Bill, about the mountains in Donegal, about the mountains of South-East Dublin and Wexford, than there could possibly be in relation to any Bill brought in during the term of the Government or by any Fianna Fáil Government in the past.
Mr. Booth: I am sorry Deputy Desmond has been stressing so much the possibility of hypocrisy in connection with this matter because I feel that that charge will ricochet back on him and others who have expressed themselves in the same way. It is worth while to check back over the general debate on this Bill to see what is the basis of the Opposition criticism  of it. It will be clearly shown that, although a few Deputies made sudden and unsubstantiated accusations of the most widespread corruption and imputed the lowest possible political motives for the Bill, in very many cases Opposition speakers have expressed themselves very coolly and quietly and, basically, in support of the general provisions of the Bill.
That is shown most clearly in the fact that when it came to the end of the Second Reading, the question was put and agreed to. If this was such a scandalous measure, something which nauseated Deputy Desmond and Deputy Ryan so much, they would at least have called for a vote so that they might record their feeling of nausea in more concrete terms. In actual fact, having blown off a lot of hot air, they agreed to the general trend of the Bill and reserved detailed criticism for later. That showed perfectly clearly that the Bill as originally drafted was basically sound, though there were some matters of detail or, in fact, only one matter of detail, which could usefully be deferred to the Committee Stage.
Rather than waste the time of the House with long discussion in public, the leaders of the respective Parties, in a statesmanlike way, got together to see if some reasonable agreement could be reached and placed before the House in public for debate and decision. It was agreed that the proposed amendments by the Minister were reasonable and disposed of the main objections which had been raised in earlier debates.
I should like to quote Deputy M.J. O'Higgins, as reported in the Official Report, Volume 177, column 1089, because Deputy O'Higgins spoke in such a reasonable way and because I believe he expressed the view of his own Party. He made it perfectly clear that he did not agree with his colleague, Deputy Ryan, I do not criticise him for that because occasionally I disagree with my colleagues. I think Deputy M.J. O'Higgins in this instance was speaking for the great majority of his Party.
 I do not think that any Deputy who approaches the consideration of this measure in a calm and fair-minded way, having regard to that constitutional provision, could argue that the Bill as originally introduced, providing as it did, in the constituency of Dublin South (West) that the population per seat would be practically 26,000 and in other, rural, constituencies that the population per seat would be something over 16,000, could say that that ratio which is required by the Constitution was being maintained.
While the Government have not gone the whole way in answer to the arguments put to them on the Second Stage, I feel—notwithstanding what Deputy Ryan has said, I do not mind expressing it—that they have made a reasonable effort to meet the point of view put forward and that it would be churlish on my part as a Dublin city Deputy not to accept and appreciate that.
Surely that shows the way a reasonable Deputy was approaching it from the Opposition point of view? I think Deputy M.J. O'Higgins was not mincing any words. He is not afraid to advance criticism in a very direct way whenever he sees it necessary so to do. In this case he expressed himself as feeling that while the Government have not gone the whole way they have made a reasonable effort to meet the point of view put forward on the Second Reading.
Having reached that stage we then proceed to the voting on the amendment. However, before I get to that I might quote Deputy Manley who spoke on the same day and who was reported at column 1105 of the Official Report as saying: “When I spoke on this Bill on Second Stage, I expressed the hope that it would be left as it was.” Deputy Manley is not  given to exuberant irresponsible statements, in my experience. Here is another Deputy who said that the Bill should be left entirely as it was. He was satisfied with it as it was. He would not have been satisfied if it had been a scandalous Bill of political corruption as Deputy Desmond alleged. When it came to the vote on the first amendment the figures were: Tá, 86; Níl, 13. Does that look as if the House was grossly dissatisfied? Does that look as if there was a large minority hopelessly dissatisfied with the general tenor of the Bill? Quite the reverse. There was virtually as near unanimity as one could get on any question where a vote is called for.
We come now to the second amendment which dealt with Wexford. The voting was Tá, 63, Níl, 40. Here again, if it was such a scandalous decision to award an extra seat to Wexford, an extra seat over and above that originally provided in the Bill, and to make no provision for Cork, is it not more than odd that the total Opposition could not raise more than 40 votes in an effort to defeat it? I am very glad that only in a few isolated cases has the charge of corruption, political bias and gerrymandering been made.
In general, I think the Opposition have accepted this Bill simply because it is reasonable, simply because the minimum number of amendments have been made to constituencies. If there had been any large-scale alteration of constituencies I think the Government would have laid themselves much more open to charges of wishing to manoeuvre constituencies to their own advantage. In actual fact, the minimum number of amendments have been made and these suggested amendments have virtually been agreed to by the House.
It is a pity that Deputy McGilligan had to admit, with Deputy Desmond, that he does not know anything about Donegal really or about the way the mountains run. It is a pity Deputy McGilligan always runs out of the House so quickly after speaking. The easiest way to help him would be to ask him to consult a map. I am sure he would be able to read a map. I am  sure he knows where the mountains are in Donegal.
Mr. Booth: That is absurd but it is the sort of remark I would expect from the Deputy. Deputies who feel that mountain ranges must run on straight lines are suffering either from ignorance or blindness. They do not do that. Mountains are unobliging things. They tend to heap up in some places.
Mr. Booth: I am delighted the point has got across at last. There is a massive block of mountains which tends to spread out in all directions. I am delighted that at least one Deputy has got the point I was trying to make. Possibly he will inform Deputy McGilligan because I think that would be helpful to him.
Mr. Booth: I should not like to punish Deputy McGilligan to that extent. Deputy Desmond then went on to comment on the excellent roads in Donegal. He is perfectly right. They are excellent roads. They are beautifully tarred. What Deputy Desmond has however forgotten about or ignored is that they are not straight. They are very twisted.
Mr. Booth: The point at issue is not whether it is difficult to get over the mountains but how long it takes one to do it. As the crow flies, the distances around Donegal are short enough. Unfortunately human beings have not the ability to fly over the countryside as the crow does. Consequently, they must travel over the twists on the roads which, however well tarred and maintained, take a long time to cover.
We should try to get away from  ascribing political motives where none exist. It is bad that such a charge should be made when in actual fact the Deputies who made it agreed with the general principle of the Bill, did not call for a vote on the Second Reading and did not produce any amendments whatsoever. If the Bill were so rotten we would have been flooded with amendments but Deputies did not produce them. Only one amendment was put down and it was agreed to by the Government and became a Government amendment. Surely we can get across to everybody in this House and to the public that this House is virtually agreed that in a very difficult situation the best possible solution has been arrived at; that the general tenor of the Bill has been approved on Second Reading; that the first amendment to the Bill was carried by an overwhelming majority and that on the second amendment the Opposition bothered to produce only 40 votes?
Having regard to all the facts I think it can clearly be stated, in spite of all the efforts of Deputy McGilligan on the definition of “practicability”, that so far as is practicable in the strict sense of the word the uniform ratio has been maintained. Every effort has been made to achieve that. No alternative suggestion has come from any Opposition Deputy or any Opposition Party as to how better the Bill could have been drafted. Consequently it is to be expected that this Bill will pass its final stage without a division. It would be very much better that it should. The general provisions have been agreed.
Mr. Ryan: I had no intention of speaking once more on this Bill but I am provoked to do so by reason of the incorrect interpretation which Deputy Booth has put on the votes that have taken place in this House to date.
Mr. McQuillan: On a point of order, I do not want to make any charge against an Acting Chairman. I presume he is experienced in many ways as far as this House is concerned but I do suggest that he should cast his eyes around. Members of the political parties have spoken, at least one for Fine Gael, one from Fianna Fáil, one  from Labour. They have all addressed themselves to this matter. I suggest that the Acting Chairman might cast his eyes a little further.
Mr. Ryan: The preamble to our Constitution begins: “In the name of the most Holy Trinity from whom is all authority” and the whole tenor of the Constitution is to spread evenly amongst the Irish people the power which comes from God. But this Bill says that the people of Dublin may have only three quarters of the political power which God gives to man and that the other quarter will be distributed amongst the rest of the country.
On the Committee Stage there was such a large majority in favour of giving one extra seat to Dublin that I say it was because the House had a guilty conscience in the matter. If this House were truly honourable, it would have given another four or five seats to Dublin instead of the paltry one which was given. As the Bill stands, taking the county boroughs of Dublin and Cork, over three-quarters of the people of this country are deprived of their full political power.
This House has concerned itself in relation to this Bill with one aspect of a Deputy's duty, that of being a messenger or a runner of his constituency, but the ideal for which generations of Irishmen fought and died was not so that we could have our own messengers running to offices in Dublin but that Irish people might through the ballot boxes exercise an influence over Government.
This Bill as it was introduced and as it now stands deprives the working people of Dublin of the voice that would correspond with their numbers, and the working people of Dublin who compose about 65 per cent. to 70 per cent. of the people of Dublin have their political voice reduced by a quarter compared with that of their country cousins—the people of Dublin who led the revolution which brought about the freedom of this country, those who obtained at very great sacrifice  the Republic we have in which everybody is supposed to have equal political rights.
I do not think Deputy Booth was fair to Deputy Michael O'Higgins in suggesting he was in complete agreement with this Bill. Deputy O'Higgins made it clear that in acknowledging what the Taoiseach and the Minister had done between the Second and Committee Stages, he was acknowledging what they had done within the framework of the Bill. He felt a great deal more could have been done but in so far as the Government gave way to very strong criticism on the Second Stage, he was prepared to acknowledge that.
Mr. Ryan: If Deputy Booth has not read all the speeches on this Bill I would ask him to do so and he will find that I for one suggested that there should have been a reduction in a number of specified constituencies in the country. He must know, as I know, that the Dublin vote is outweighed by a majority of country representatives in this Dáil. We are not being fair to Dublin.
Mr. Ryan: The Deputy is well aware why Fine Gael did not put down an amendment. On the Second Stage the Taoiseach was good enough to intervene to say he was prepared to consult with the Opposition regarding possible amendments which could be introduced. In regard to any amendments we might have introduced he knows very well how this House would have divided. His own Party would have been drilled by the members on the front bench and if the rest of the House were left to divide freely on it the country Deputies would have voted against Dublin all the time.
It is most undesirable that it should be necessary to say these things but I would not be fair to the people of Ireland if I did not draw attention to the unfair treatment which has been meted out particularly to the working people of Dublin whose votes have been lessened in value by the Government  Party and, I am sorry to say, by the Labour Party who have gone into the lobby to vote against equality of political power for the working people of Dublin. That that should happen in this Republic in which we pay lip service to the equality of the political value of every person is to my mind a disgrace to this Assembly. Deputy Booth and the rest of the House know that there was little point in wasting time putting down amendments which would be defeated by the narrow-minded views of country Deputies.
Mr. McQuillan: Much time could have been saved if the Government were honest enough to give the country their particular interpretation of “so far as it is practicable there would be no change made in connection with the ratio.” Their interpretation of those words really is “so far as it is politically desirable.” If we put that interpretation on the Bill before the House, every part of the picture fits; the whole puzzle becomes clear, and there is no difficulty about its solution. All sorts of smokescreens have been put up to cover their interpretation of those words “so far as it is politically desirable we shall leave things as they are.” There were smokescreens about mountain ranges and about the topographical, geographical and demographical problems in an attempt to give a reasonable appearance to the deliberate form of gerrymandering which has taken place.
Deputy Booth is noted in this House as an expert in trying to extract members of the Front Bench from difficult situations. He adverted to the fact that there was no great outcry from the Opposition and said that if the all-round Bill was bad there would be no shortage of amendments. I hope I am not misquoting him. The fact is that, under the terms of the Constitution, and the  scope of the Government, their powers of manoeuvring were very limited so far as gerrymandering was concerned. The very small space that was left to them was explored to the limit in so far as a gerrymandering effort could be made.
The Minister spoke at length about Donegal and gave reasons for the decision that has been taken in regard to the two constituencies there. Again Deputy Booth had to come to the rescue of the Minister in connection with the embarrassing situation which has arisen in Donegal. For years Bord Fáilte have been criticised for the lack or alleged lack of attention they have given to Donegal as a tourist county. The arguments which have been put forward for years are that Donegal is inaccessible, that it is too mountainous and that it is a bleak, poor country. That was the picture which was painted here by the Minister, as a responsible Deputy, and as a representative for Donegal. In Merrion Square, or wherever Bord Fáilte have their office, they are tearing their hair out. On the one hand Bord Fáilte are trying to paint Donegal as a very attractive county that should be visited by people from all over the world.
Mr. McQuillan: On the other hand, the Minister who is a Donegal Deputy, is taking the line that Donegal is a bleak county, that the mountains there are as difficult perhaps as any to be found in any part of the world. According to the Taoiseach there are only four passes in the mountain range which runs from the north to the south of Donegal over which people can travel from east to west Donegal. I am not making a case for tourism. I am trying to put the Minister on an even keel and prevent him from destroying the possibility of a flourishing tourist season in Donegal by his description of his own county and the two constituencies in it.
I was rather surprised in dealing with the rest of Ireland that more  Deputies from the Opposition and the Government side of the House did not express some views on the action taken by the Government in connection with rural constituencies such as the one I represent, Roscommon, and also other rural constituencies such as the one a little further east, Cavan. Here are two examples of where the question of practicability comes in. Here we can find out the real interpretation of “so far as it is politically desirable there will be no change.”
Politically speaking Roscommon and Cavan are, in the main, anti-Fianna Fáil and therefore there is nothing politically desirable in allowing the same representation in those constituencies. In fact, it would be a most desirable achievement if they could block off the Opposition from those two constituencies. If we take another rural county, Galway, we find that the Taoiseach and the Minister have expressed their anxiety to ensure that a rural bias would be given with regard to the allocation of seats. What do we find with regard to the question of “so far as it is practicable”? We find the interpretation there is, it is politically desirable to make no change in Galway because it suits the Government so far as the number of seats are concerned. If the same mathematical calculations were applied to Galway as were applied to Cavan and Roscommon, Fianna Fáil would lose, at the minimum, two seats in Galway. You see what happens. It would appear that the county for years past has been loyal to the political Party which are in power and in return for that loyalty it is decided that they will get special preference.
The Taoiseach and the former Taoiseach—the President if you like; I do not want to drag him into this debate—have on numerous occasions in the past 40 years criticised the authorities in the Six Counties for their gerrymandering of constituencies. It is quite true that gerrymandering has taken place in the North to suit the Unionist Party, and much money has been spent down here on issuing pamphlets to show up that gerrymandering in the Six Counties. At any rate, the arguments that have been used against the authorities in the Six  Counties can no longer be used successfully by the Party now in power here because they themselves have, so far as possible, resorted to the same tactics as the Unionist Party in the Six Counties to hold on to office as long as possible. That is another argument which has been taken out of the locker of the Fianna Fáil Party. It is one shot less left for them to fire at their opposite numbers in the Six Counties.
The Clann na Talmhan Party and the Fine Gael Party should have expressed their views strongly in this House on the question of Cavan and Roscommon. It was their duty to do so just as it is mine. I want to have on the records of the House, at any rate, that this action of the Government, so far as my constituency is concerned, will not pass unnoticed. On the Second Reading of the Bill a Fianna Fáil Deputy criticised the Government for their action in knocking off a seat in Roscommon. I refer to Deputy Seán Flanagan. I should like to compliment him on the fact that he took a disinterested view in the matter and criticised the action of the Government. His criticism has been appreciated generally in County Roscommon. If I wanted to exploit fully the arguments I could keep this debate going for the next two hours dealing with geographical features and the necessity for giving Roscommon the same representation as it has enjoyed in the past, but I do not intend to do that.
I should like to conclude by pointing out that, in the west at any rate, the people have no illusions about the reasons which determined the allocation of seats in the various constituencies. The fact that no change has been made in the three Galway constituencies has caused many an eyebrow to be cynically raised. I can assure the Minister that the people have not swallowed the argument put forward here that the Government were swayed by a rural bias in their approach to this problem. No question of practical difficulties arose in the cases of Roscommon and Cavan, but the embarrassing situation was there that if seats had to be taken away on the basis of population, it  would be desirable from the Government's point of view to take them from areas which had shown antagonism to or, shall we say, a lack of support, for the Government Party.
Other Deputies may say it is only natural for the Party in power to take such a step, but I think we should be thankful for the good sense displayed by the people last July when they decided they would hold on to what they had, namely, proportional representation. When I see the skilful guillotining done within the limited scope of the present Bill, I shudder to think of what the Government would have achieved if they had succeeded in their move to abolish proportional representation. Therefore, we should be thankful to the public for being alert on that occasion. Although they can do very little about what is passing through this House, I believe they will bear in mind the arguments put forward by the Government concerning rural areas such as Roscommon and Cavan and the reasons why those two areas were singled out for the drastic treatment they received.
Mr. Corish: In view of some of the remarks on the Committee Stage and on this Stage of the Bill, I should like to put on record my views concerning my own constituency. I spoke on the Second Reading because I felt it my duty to make a case for my constituency. I did that, I believe, in detail. I argued against other constituencies. I was told by some people on both sides of the House that I might ruin my case by comparing my constituency with other constituencies, but that did not deter me. Even though the Minister and the Government channelled the whole discussion into a conflict between Cork and Wexford—at least it appeared to be a conflict between them—that was not the argument of anybody who spoke on behalf of Wexford constituency, nor was it, I believe, the argument put forward by those who suggested that the representation in Cork be left as it was.
Whether it is a compliment or not, I should like to say it was a skilful  piece of work on the part of the Minister and the Government. Here were Cork and Wexford, each saying they had a case for retaining the seat, but the Minister comes along and says: “The two of you can go into the arena and decide who will get an extra seat.” But that was not the argument made by Wexford or Cork. I was told it would be unpopular for me if I were to suggest, as I did in 1947, that Wexford retain its seat and some other constituency lose it. That was the only method by which Wexford could get its seat in 1947, and, on a free vote, it did get the seat back. On this occasion, I was also prepared, as an individual, to suggest that a seat be taken from some other constituency which had not a better case than Wexford and that the Wexford seat be left. I did not do that because on the Second Stage the Taoiseach announced he would seriously consider—he nearly went as far as to promise—that there would be two extra seats. Therefore, I confined myself to the one amendment, that Wexford get five seats instead of the four proposed.
I still believe that while Wexford should have five seats, Cork, in all justice, should not be disturbed. On the recent population figures, Cork has an excellent case for the retention of 17 seats for the whole county. The Minister and the Government had quite an amount of latitude when they talked about constituencies, populations, and so on, but they were very careful not to include in their calculations the city of Cork or Cork borough when they considered representation in Cork county. As far as I see it, the total population of Cork, including the borough, is 336,663, which means that, before these proposals, one Deputy represented 19,800 people. If there are physical difficulties in Donegal, Galway and certain other constituencies, surely there must be the same physical difficulties in County Cork?
It is unfortunate that it is the Minister's constituency, but I am sure he appreciates by now that the case must be made against Donegal when one considers the other constituencies. In the whole of County Donegal prior to this Bill, one Deputy represented 17,437 people; one Deputy will still,  under this Bill, represent 17,437 people. In Cork, one Deputy represents 19,800 people. The Minister and the Government may have considered excluding the borough in relation to county Cork and that may give a lower figure. It is not for me, however, to make the case for Cork, except to say that as far as I was concerned on all the stages of the Bill, my attitude was that, if two extra seats were to be given, Wexford should get one and Cork should get the other. That is the way in which I and the Labour Party voted.
As far as I and my colleagues were concerned, it was not a contest between Wexford and Cork. We based our case on the fact that Wexford had a better case for five seats than Donegal had for seven or Galway for nine. I suggested that there was nothing sacred about the constituency boundaries in Galway and that the county could be divided into two constituencies—two four-seat constituencies or one three and one five-seat constituency. The Government were not impressed by that argument and tabled the amendment which was subsequently passed this day week. Let me stress again that the contest was not one between Cork and Wexford, as far as I and the Labour Party are concerned. I made my case on the basis that Wexford was more entitled to five seats than Donegal to seven or Galway to nine.
Mr. Sherwin: I want to say a few words with regard to this bias in favour of the rural areas. The Minister's argument was that because of the size of the areas represented, there had to be a bias in favour of the rural areas. I cannot understand that argument. The basis of the argument in favour of the abolition of P.R. was that a small constituency with one representative responsible would be the best because such a man would have closer contact with his constituents and there would, therefore, be proper representation. Having argued the abolition of P.R. on the fundamental basis of smaller areas, when the Minister had the chance of dividing up the Twenty-Six Counties into three-seat constituencies, he did not avail of it.
 The Constitution provides that the constituencies must not be less than three-member constituencies. I would argue in favour of one-seat constituencies under the P.R. system of election. However, as the Minister has said, the Constitution makes no provision for that. But, after all the talk on P.R., he comes along and hands out five-seat constituencies which, he states, extend in some cases a distance of 80 miles. He has a bias in favour of the rural areas but he himself is creating a problem now by not giving more attention to the size of constituencies.
If there is to be any bias, it should, in my opinion, be in favour of the urban areas, and particularly Dublin city. The whole argument for the bias in favour of the rural areas is that a Deputy is obliged to travel long distances. In view of the argument that Deputies have not enough to live on, to say nothing of paying out large sums in travelling around, I refuse to believe that they do travel, except on an odd occasion. I believe that most of the contact is kept either by phone or letter.
It is an easy matter to deal with the constituent by letter because a Deputy can sit here, bored stiff listening to some people talking, and he can relieve his boredom and answer letters, as some Deputies do. On the other hand, we in the city have personal contact all the time. It is not a question of costing us only 6d. or 9d. to get to our constituents; it also costs our 22,000 constituents only 6d. or 9d. to get to us. That is the whole point. Rural constituents will not pay £1 or £2 to see their representative. I do not believe they will pay anything. If they happen to be in the neighbourhood on business, they may call on the Deputy. Except in the area where the Deputy lives, I am quite sure that most of the contact is kept by letter or telephone.
It is the city Deputy who has to work and there should be a bias in favour of the city Deputy. The rural Deputy may live in a town. He may live in the country. We live in huge blocks of buildings inhabited by thousands of people. Every time a pipe bursts or the lights go out, they  are knocking at the door. That goes on all the time.
The Minister should have kept in mind, too, the fact that there is a tendency for people to migrate from the rural areas into Dublin. He should anticipate that the population of Dublin will be considerably larger by the end of the next 12 years and the population in the rural areas lower. There are huge problems facing people who live in urban areas. Consider the large numbers of unemployed. In the country unemployed people may live on a small farm, or have some other means, but here in Dublin when you are unemployed, unless you have relatives, you are on the floor.
Mr. Sherwin: If the Deputy goes down to the labour exchange, he will see the numbers lined up there. They are on the doorstep waiting to see their representative. There will never be that number on the doorstep of the Deputy representing a rural area. Huge numbers come because they have been cut off assistance, refused public assistance, their light cut off when they are not working. They arrive in droves. As I have said, they have only to pay 6d. or 9d., or walk —the whole 22,000 of them—in the one day if they want to see their representative. In the rural areas, they will not travel 80 miles, or whatever it is, and pay two or three guineas in order to see a Deputy. If there is any question of bias, it should be in favour of the city Deputy, the urban representative, who, if he happens to be active, has work piled on to him at every turn. I do not know why Deputies should not be compelled to reside in or have some abode in the areas they represent.
Mr. Sherwin: I know it does not, but it should. My point is that there should be a bias in favour of the urban areas, especially Dublin city. The Minister is creating a problem now because of his bias in favour of the rural areas, thereby continuing huge areas, covering distances of 80 miles, represented by five Deputies. That is the Minister's problem, but it is he himself who has created it.
Minister for Local Government (Mr. Blaney): First of all, in so far as the Government are concerned in relation to this matter, both in relation to the original Bill and in relation to the Bill in its amended form, the Government are fully satisfied that the measure is constitutional. The dissertation to which we listened from Deputy McGilligan, while entertaining in some ways, was nauseating in others.
It was rather strange after such a short lapse of time to hear Deputy McGilligan talk of the independent judiciary, and the righteous people that he now says they are, and then to turn back to a few short months ago and dig out the debate on the Third Amendment to the Constitution Bill and find at Column 1803, Volume 171 what Deputy McGilligan then thought of the self-same judiciary. I am not aware that they have all been changed in the last few months.
They all think the same thing— and when he says “they all think the same thing” he is referring to a decision arrived at unanimously by the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis in favour of the proposals that later came to the House in the form of the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill. He says—
They all think the same thing and I suppose I could add into that, the people who were previously politicians and have since been elevated to the bench. They know now, and they will remember their old Fianna Fáil affiliations and think exactly what the Taoiseach thinks—
Now that was the version that we then got on the judiciary. The Deputy came in here this morning and spoke about various aspects of this Bill, as we now see it, and spoke of the gerrymandering that has taken place under the present system. He very quietly forgot that it is the selfsame judiciary that he says are now so independent and so righteous, the people who then were not the people in their view to sit on a commission to decide the boundaries of the constituencies but who would now be so much better than the system we now have, and have had for quite a number of years.
Lest it might be said that one swallow does not make a summer let us consider what Deputy Costello had to say in the same debate with regard to highly respected members of the judiciary. At Column 1029, Volume 171, he said as follows:—
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 lickspittle of a political Party. That is the system supposed to give us impartiality and supposed to create public confidence in this whited sepulchre, the commission set up under this Bill.
Having read those two extracts, and having listened to Deputy McGilligan this morning, one can only assume that the legal dance which he performed here, while it might be appreciated from the point of view of the intricacy of that dance, is certainly not convincing to the House and I am quite sure not convincing to the members of the public. Of course the Constitution which Deputy McGilligan was at such great pains to assert was being ignored in this Bin, could not get by at the moment without some scourge from Deputy McGilligan's rather bitter and vitriolic tongue. The Constitution was apparently accepted by a little over one-third of the voters; it was rejected by a little less than one-third and there was something over one-third who had no interest whatever. Generally speaking he summed up the situation with regard to the Constitution as receiving little respect from the community. Yet it was the Constitution upon which we had this long dissertation from Deputy McGilligan this morning.
Let us take Deputy McGilligan's own method of calculating the attitude of the community to the Constitution. Let us take this little over one-third, and somewhat less than one-third and something more than one-third who did not vote at all. Let us go back to the last election of 1957 to the Dublin North (Central) constituency. The total electorate we find there was 28,009 persons. Deputy McGilligan was a candidate; 2,985 of those 28,009 people voted for Deputy McGilligan— a very small figure. It does not surprise me. But it is an amazing figure and using the same type of argument as Deputy McGilligan has used with regard to the Constitution, if the figures he quoted—very rough figures— indicate that the Constitution is little respected, how little respect then must there be in the Dublin North (Central)  constituency for Deputy McGilligan? If there is such little respect, should he not be ashamed to appear here representing those people at all?
Further in his charges against my attitude to this matter he would make it appear—other Deputies have also made the direct charge—that I, because I come from East Donegal, have had some ulterior motive, some personal gain to get from leaving the situation as it is. Let me recall this matter again. The number of votes I had in excess of the quota was almost as great as the total number of votes Deputy McGilligan was able to secure in his own constituency. As far as I am concerned, I did not want to say this during the debate but the matter has been referred to again. So far as I am concerned, and so far as Fianna Fáil and the Donegal constituencies are concerned, the position would be that if the area were reduced to two three-seat constituencies in the morning—and I am saying this having given it full thought—we would, after the next election, if it was held in the morning, and on the past figures—that is all anybody could go on—we would have four seats out of the six——
Mr. Blaney: ——instead of four out of seven at present. The charge of personal gain to me, or of a political gain by virtue of some skilful manoeuvring or gerrymandering, falls completely to the ground because four out of six from the political point of view is a better proportion than four out of seven.
Mr. Blaney: I am glad Deputy Sweetman interjected and brought into the limelight again that charge which I think can be regarded as the lowest charge that has been made on this Bill, not only by what the  Deputy has now said but by what Deputy O'Donnell, a Deputy from Donegal who should know better, said on Second Reading. It was then said by him and now interjected by Deputy Sweetman that a seat is being left in Donegal as some sort of a payment to the Independent Deputy from that county who has been in this House for quite a number of years and who of late has supported some—only some—of the measures which the Fianna Fáil Government have introduced, not because he is bound to do so but undoubtedly because, in his independent mind, he realised they were for the best.
Mr. Blaney: I want to make sure that it comes to the notice of the people of Donegal, not that Deputy Sweetman has interjected here to-day a charge by innuendo or inference, but that Deputy O'Donnell from Donegal has made that charge and that, as far as he is concerned, he would have that seat taken out of Donegal and would have that Independent Deputy no longer in this House and would have the people in that county no longer represented in this Parliament by that Deputy.
Mr. Blaney: I think Deputy O'Donnell realised after making that statement on Second Reading just how badly he put his two feet in it and he did not advert to it on Committee Stage, but now that Deputy Sweetman has reminded me of it, I want to make sure that the people of Donegal realise what Deputy O'Donnell would have us do here, so far as Donegal is concerned——
Mr. Blaney: That is the charge made and Deputy Corish may get up now and make a speech which would be rather difficult to understand. One would not know whether he was coming or going because the Deputy got his own amendment through, one of the rare amendments put down by any member of this House on this Bill. He got his seat for Wexford. He would have us believe he would have voted for Wexford and Cork——
Mr. Blaney: I do not dispute that Deputy Corish may have had the intention of supporting Wexford and  Cork, and, in voting against Dublin getting the seat, he was being consistent. He knew there were three amendments, one of which was his own, and only two seats. Why, if he wanted Cork to get the seat, did he not put down an amendment taking a seat, for instance, from Donegal and giving it to Cork? Then he could have a straight vote on it.
Mr. Blaney: I am merely answering some of the rather unfounded charges made and some of the rather weak arguments advanced here by certain Deputies who would like to have us believe that the Government in their approach to this matter were motivated by the basest possible motives and that these Deputies, as individuals, approached the matter with the highest possible ideals. That is all I wish to do in regard to the type of arguments that have been made.
In going through some of them, one thing that keeps recurring—although I notice that Deputy McGilligan who first raised the hare, later kept away from it—is the reference to how the mountains run in my county. Very astutely, Deputy McGilligan kept away from that subject. Deputies may have recourse to this map when the proceedings here are finished. There is no conflict whatever between the Taoiseach's statement that the mountains run north to south and my statement at a later stage that mountains run east to west and that this had a very big bearing on the actual boundaries of the constituency. If Deputies will look at this map, I think they will agree——
Mr. Blaney: If Deputies look at this map, they will see mountains  running from north to south that could have been referred to by the Taoiseach and here from east to west are three ranges going right across. Deputies may have this map for perusal lest they may not believe that I can see straight when looking at a matter like this. There are mountain ranges running north to south and mountain ranges running east to west and I dare say if we wanted to find mountains running in other directions in other parts of the county, we could do so. So much for the play made by Deputy McGilligan in the first instance suggesting there was a contradiction between what the Taoiseach and I said. Apparently, Deputy McGilligan checked his facts and found there was not much basis for what had appeared to him to be contradiction. Other Deputies, without checking the facts, followed the same argument but they can now find out from this map what the facts are and I am sure the map does not lie or err.
One of the things Deputy Booth made very clear was that with all the charges that had been made, there was a rather significant absence of a challenge or a vote on the Second Reading of this Bill. Why was there no vote on this Bill? At the same Stage of the 1947 Bill, a vote was challenged but we come along to 1959 and we find that no vote is challenged. Yet, after a minimum of amendments put down on Committee Stage, three of which stood over my name, we find on the Final Stage, the most desperate charges and descriptions of this Bill as a new “low” in gerrymandering of constituencies. These Deputies who have these views now may have had them a week or a fortnight ago. Why did they not express them on Second Reading? Why did they not challenge a vote and, even though they might have felt they would not beat us on the vote, it is recognised that the final method of recording one's disapproval of a matter in this House is to challenge a vote and have that vote recorded. There is no such record and there will not be on the records of this House any names of members voting and recording their disapproval of the passing of the Second Stage of this particular Bill.
 One would expect normally that in a rather complicated Bill like this, covering the entire 26 Counties, there would have been a very big amount of amendments on Committee Stage. They might have been on only small detail, but one could expect that there would have been a very large number of them. We did not find any such numbers. Outside the three which stood over my name, and two which were consequential on the changes proposed, there may have been two or three small minor amendments entered on the Order Paper. Surely Deputies are rather tripping themselves up, being rather uncomplimentary to themselves and are really acting in a contradictory way by allowing those stages of the Bill to pass?
In the first instance the Second Reading was not challenged to a vote, and on Committee Stage scarcely any effort was made to amend the Bill. Then, on this time final run through we find them talking when they should have done what was up to them to do, by putting down amendments on Committee Stage. Now they are making all sorts of wild charges against the actual terms of the Bill, as we now have it before the House, and ascribing all sorts of base and ulterior motives to the members of the Government, and to myself as Minister for Local Government, as to the methods by which we brought about what we have now before the House. I think their arguments now are completely hollow, completely without foundation, and the only reason they are being made is because they failed to put down amendments when they should. Amendments could have been put down but they were not. Ample opportunity was available to all Deputies to put them down, and for any Deputy to criticise the Bill now is as much a criticism of himself as of any member of the Government, or as of myself as Minister for Local Government. If they did not like it they had a remedy. The effort was not made and I leave it to the House and the public to judge these arguments and the validity of the charges made, to  judge whether they are simply made for political argument and political propaganda.
Mr. Blaney: I am not forgetting the Deputy on this occasion because I did omit on previous occasions to advert to his advocacy then of the one-seat areas, now amended to three-seat constituencies, as is constitutional, and making the case that it seems very strange now that we in the Government should find ourselves with five-seat areas, and big areas at that, that we can be brought to task for our advocacy in the Referendum of single-seats, that we advocated them on the basis that they would be smaller and more easily represented, and would give the people a better service, make them more easily serviced, and give the people a better type of Deputy.
I still adhere to the view we expressed at that time but the picture has changed since then in that the people by a majority, even though a very small majority, voted to show that they did not want the change. Therefore, in this Bill in giving five-seat and four-seat areas, and notwithstanding the fact that we fought the Referendum on the basis of single-seat constituencies, that in no way takes away from the validity or genuineness in putting these things forward.
Mr. Blaney: To try to answer the  Deputy would be rather foolhardy on my part, but I do want it recorded that our constituencies as we now see them, the establishment of three, four, and five-seat constituencies is in complete conformity with the wishes of the people and with our Constitution. The fact that the people did not want single-seat constituencies is no reason to argue that we are now being inconsistent.
Mr. Blaney: Deputy McQuillan talked of political expediency and made the general charge that this Bill is for the purpose of gerrymandering and giving to a political party, the Fianna Fáil Party, an advantage. He described it as a skilful guillotining and said that within the very limited scope which was possible for manoeuvring a very skilful job had been done. While saying that in broad general terms he did not make very much of a case in proving his point by instancing the various individual cases and pushing them home.
He only made generalisations and took me to task for putting Bord Fáilte in the dilemma he says they are now in in regard to Donegal, and their efforts in the past in bringing people to that county. He seems to think that the practical difficulties of taking part of what is now East Donegal into West Donegal are not valid. I have contradicted that by the case I have made. I do not see anything inconsistent with the mountains of Donegal, which are famous in song and story, and now in the brochures produced by Bord Fáilte, and my description of this particular part of the country. I only hope that anybody who might be thinking of going to that county will come and see these mountains and these passes of which we have talked here.
 There is only one thing further I would like to say with regard to the boundary between East and West Donegal, as we now have it and have had it since 1935, and that is that strangely enough in the eastern side of the constituency and county, the boundary that now exists on that side is the one which has been in existence since 1885 and this map, that so clearly outlines the mountains, also clearly outlines that boundary which exists since 1885. Another thing the House may not be fully aware of, and which I would be remiss in not mentioning, is that the electoral divisions for election to our local council for many years, correspond in their entirety with the division between East and West Donegal. The boundaries of those districts correspond in their entirety with the division between East and West Donegal. In other words, the local administrative areas are, in fact, the same boundaries. Their boundaries are the constituency dividing line and that in itself is an argument which was not, in fact, advanced by me and which should have been put before the House for its consideration in regard to this whole question of division.
There is one argument that has been used here or rather—should I say?— misused. It was stated several times by many Deputies that I said that there was a rural bias in this Bill but what I said in my speech on Second Reading was that there may appear to be a rural bias so far as the provisions of the Bill were concerned. If viewed in a purely statistical light “there may appear to be” as distinct from “there is”. I just want to correct that misuse of what I did say —the misuse that has been repeated by several Deputies.
The latest acquisition to the House, Deputy Ryan from Dublin South (West), was at great pains to criticise roundly this particular method. He disagreed with very many things in it. He disagreed with them on earlier Stages of the Bill. In particular, might I say to the Deputy that, having disagreed so strongly with so many things  on other Stages of the Bill—the argument I have put forward and what I have stated in regard to amendments applies very strongly to him—I should like to know why the Deputy did not put down his amendments.
Mr. Blaney: It is quite easy to make these charges at a stage in the proceedings in this House when it can be pleaded that we cannot amend it now. Deputy Ryan, though he may be new to this House, was not in any way unaware of the facilities offered to the Deputies on this and every other matter to put in the amendments and try to correct the various things upon which he has expressed himself so strongly.
Cavan and Monaghan were mentioned. It was said that the only reason they were dealt with as they have been was that they were anti-Fianna Fáil. Deputy McQuillan made that statement. Deputy McQuillan knows that as far as Cavan is concerned, there were four seats and there are four Deputies from Cavan. Fianna Fáil hold two of the seats. It does not seem to me that Cavan is or has been, on its past record, anti-Fianna Fáil.
Roscommon, which is Deputy McQuillan's constituency, could, in its composition of the members now returned to this House, be regarded, in consequence of their actions in the House, as anti-Fianna Fáil. What I put to the Deputy is this: If we were to leave Roscommon with its four seats, the average per Deputy would be lower than the lowest average we have. I think the Deputy would be the first to admit that we had to try to work in our entire programme into the entire number of seats and there were just not enough seats to satisfy every constituency. The practicability of the constituency and its boundaries had to be taken into consideration.
 That brings me to the reference made by Deputy McGilligan when he said earlier that the word “impracticable” had been used only once in the two speeches made by the Taoiseach and myself on the earlier stages of this Bill. As a matter of interest and knowing Deputy McGilligan's facility for getting the wrong slant on certain facts across to this House, I checked up and found that in the Taoiseach's speech alone the words “impracticable”, “practicable”, “in relation to the practicability” and all sorts of phrases meaning the same type of thing had been used no fewer, on my quick count, than seven times by the Taoiseach alone in his short intervention in this House. I have not yet checked back on my own speech but I can quite safely say that on the Second Stage and the Committee Stage together will be found at least the same number of references to this word which Deputy McGilligan went to great pains to define for us here today. In fact, as I sat listening to Deputy McGilligan, I just felt that if he continued going round in a circle, he would finally be convinced that the word “impracticable” certainly meant “practicable” so well was he doing the circle but he stopped half-way round. In fact, it is just as well.
I just want to say that in our preparation of this Bill, and the constituency boundaries we have now presented to the House, the practicability or impracticability has been referred to on a very great number of occasions, not just once as Deputy McGilligan said here. In making the case that it was mentioned only once, he was making the case that we had not placed much weight on that word in the Constitution.
I do not think there is anything further I should say in regard to this whole matter, except to conclude, as I commenced, by saying that the Government are satisfied—were satisfied and are still satisfied—that this measure, as presented now in this amended form to the House and, indeed, in its previous form, is constitutional in every respect.
Blaney, Neil T.
Brady, Philip A.
Calleary, Phelim A.
Collins, James J.
Crowley, Honor M.
Cummins, Patrick J.
Egan, Kieran P.
Flanagan, Seán. O'Toole, James.
Ryan, Mary B.
Gogan, Richard P.
Healy, Augustine A.
Hillery, Patrick J.
Johnston, Henry M.
Kennedy, Michael J.
Kitt, Michael F.
Millar, Anthony G.
Moher, John W.
Moloney, Daniel J.
Ó Briain, Donnchadh.
Ormonde, John. Sheldon, William A.W.
|Barrett, Stephen D.
Browne, Noel C.
Crotty, Patrick J.
Dillon, James M.
Esmonde, Sir Anthony C.
Jones, Denis F.
Kyne, Thomas A.
Murphy, Michael P.
O'Higgins, Michael J.
O'Sullivan, Denis J.
Palmer, Patrick W.
Rogers, Patrick J.
|Last Updated: 19/05/2011 14:23:10||Page of 42|