Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1961 —First Stage.

Tuesday, 7 March 1961

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 187 No. 1

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Leave granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to fix the number of members of Dáil Éireann and to revise their constituencies and to amend the law relating to the election of such members.—(Minister for Local Government.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Second Stage?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  I suggest this day fortnight.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  When will it be available?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  I hope it may be available next week.

Mr. Norton: Information on William Norton  Zoom on William Norton  Could the Minister say if there is any intention to get this Bill through this House, and perhaps through the Seanad, within a particular period?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  No.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  That will be a matter for the House.

Mr. Norton: Information on William Norton  Zoom on William Norton  How long will we get to consider the Committee Stage of the Bill? Is there any desire on the part of the Government to pass the Bill before the taking of the new census——

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  No.

Mr. Norton: Information on William Norton  Zoom on William Norton  ——or can the House deal with the Bill in the ordinary course, regardless of the new census?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  You can forget the census.

Mr. Norton: Information on William Norton  Zoom on William Norton  We can give the Bill the ordinary consideration. Have any steps been taken to ensure that this one will be found to be constitutional?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  That will be a matter for the House.

[17]Mr. Ryan:  I take it that the Government will not ignore the Constitution——

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  That will be a matter for the House.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  It will be a matter for the Court.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  It might be convenient to clarify one matter. Deputy Norton has referred to the Constitution with reference to the census. I gather from the Taoiseach's reply that he is quite satisfied that even though the new Bill has been introduced and is under discussion here at the time the census is being taken, it will create no constitutional problem. That is the Taoiseach's opinion. Does he propose to take the precaution of clearing this matter with the Supreme Court in the event of our consideration of the Bill extending beyond the date on which the census is taken?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  The final figures from the census will not be available until next year and clearly we must have an Electoral Act before that.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Without commenting on the views expressed by the Taoiseach it remains true that the final decision on a constitutional matter of this kind rests with the Supreme Court. We have had the unfortunate experience in more than one Bill which was ardently canvassed in this House——

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Championed by Fianna Fáil.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I introduce no note of acrimony. On these Bills being brought before the Court subsequently the Court expressed a view far different from those canvassed here. I think of the Sinn Féin funds Bill, our own recent Electoral Bill and other similar Bills. Perhaps the Taoiseach would consider whether it would not be better to bring this apparent ambiguity to the Supreme Court with a view to having it finalised before the general election?

Mr. Norton: Information on William Norton  Zoom on William Norton  Might I ask the Taoiseach if he has taken any legal [18] advice which justifies the Government in believing that we can pass this Bill, and that there is every likelihood of its constitutionality being established by the Court, in spite of the fact that while we are passing a Bill of this kind another census is being taken? Whatever the results of the census may be, nevertheless on the day following the completion of the census there will be a new population figure. It may be difficult to get, but it is in existence because of the fact that we determined the population in the country the previous day. Is there any danger that, after going to all the trouble of passing this Bill, we may find that somebody else will plead in the court that this Bill is ultra vires the Constitution, because at the time this House was discussing it there was a new census taken, and while we may not know the figures nevertheless the population figures are there and could be established?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  If I thought there was any danger of that, I would postpone the census.

Mr. Lindsay: Information on Patrick James Lindsay  Zoom on Patrick James Lindsay  In order to assist Deputies in their deliberations on the forthcoming Bill, would the Taoiseach consider making available to such Deputies as might require it a copy of the judgment of Mr. Justice Budd?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  Some copies have already been supplied to the Deputy's Party.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  By whom?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  By me.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I should say that I asked the Taoiseach and he most courteously made available to me as many copies as I wanted. I have received three copies and I am sure if Deputies want copies they will be made available.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  Certainly, I shall make them available.

Mr. Sherwin: Information on Frank Sherwin  Zoom on Frank Sherwin  I think we should all get them.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  You did not ask for them.

[19] Second Stage ordered for Tuesday, March 21, 1961.


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