Tuesday, 7 March 1961
Dáil Eireann Debate
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.)
Mr. 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?
Mr. 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. 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: Might I ask the Taoiseach if he has taken any legal  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?
Mr. 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?
Mr. 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.
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