Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1980: Committee Stage.

Thursday, 19 June 1980

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 322 No. 7

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Section 1 agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 2 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): The maximum number of Deputies permitted by the Constitution is 168. The number taken is 166. Would the Minister, from his brief, give the House some information with regard to the number of Deputies in proportion to the population?

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Barrett): Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  What was the Deputy's query, please?

[1192]Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): The number of Deputies, minimum and maximum, if, of course, regulated by the Constitution, with reference to the population of the country.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Yes.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Or at least the part of the country over which we have jurisdiction. Could the Minister tell us how this figure of 166 Deputies is arrived at, in relation to the population and the Constitution?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Chapter 4 of the report covers this point. The Constitution provides that the total number of Members of Dáil Éireann shall not be fixed at less than one Member for each 30,000 of the population or not more than one Member for each 20,000 of the population.

The population as ascertained from the 1979 census was 3,368,217 and in accordance with the Constitution, Dáil membership could now be fixed at any number between 113 and 168.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Between 113——?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Yes. 30,000 per Deputy, maximum.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  The Minister has told us that it would be possible to fix the number of Members between 113 and 168. It is evident from this Bill that the upper limit has been taken.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  This is from the commission's report.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  The commission report, yes. To warrant a Deputy in this House, the range is from 20,000 to 30,000. Deputies have a very difficult task, particularly in regard to local matters and exceptionally so in scattered constituencies such as my own in south-west Cork. After reading the report from the commission, I wonder are we justified in increasing the number? Will [1193] we make this Parliament a bit too unwieldy, in proportion to our population? I would not agree with increasing the membership of the House by 18 seats, as is happening under this Bill before the House.

The five-seater constituency may be all right in built-up areas such as Dublin and some of the more populous country areas, but certainly in rural districts or in scattered areas the three-seat constituency is, to my mind, better.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  We shall be dealing with the constituencies in another section. We are only dealing here with the total number of Members of the House on this section.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  I am rather doubtful if there is justification in increasing the number to 166 but am not viewing this from the point of view of the cost of increasing the number. It is just as costly to have 16 senior executives, and possibly more costly, and they would not be giving the same type of service as the Members of this House give. However, the number of members should remain as it is. That would not change the areas to that great extent.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  One of the terms of reference given to the commission by the Government was that the commission should work within the numbers 164 to 168. On Second Stage, most members who referred to this question were in favour of 166. In the report, Chapter 4 gives different years of revision. The average per member worked out at 20,521 in 1923, 21,536 in 1935, 20,103 in 1947, 20,127 in 1961, 20,028 in 1969 and 20,123 in 1974. The average works out at 20,290. This has been consistent through all the revisions. They have kept between one of the terms of reference, between 164 and 168.

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  Why does the Government see it as imperative that we should stick to the lower figure of 20,000, when the Constitution provides for a variation [1194] between 20,000 and 30,000? There is no need to be so rigid in that regard.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  We have moved.

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  There has been some slight move, but is it the Government's opinion that there is a need of 18 seats? I certainly do not think that there is a public demand for 18 extra seats. I cannot see the logic of having to stick to the lower figure. A little more latitude should be allowed in this regard.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  I had a dog that barked at every other dog that passed the road. Usually he remained quiet until the other dog had passed. When the other dog had gone down the road a good bit my dog went out and kicked up an awful row at the gate, knowing quite well that it was safe to do so. This reminds me of this Bill. On Second Reading we had an indication from all parties that they were prepared to accept what the commission had reported. It seems somewhat odd to me that we should have an objection to the change being effected at this stage. I feel the commission were given a job to do. They did that job and, whether it was in favour of us or against us, once we accepted it, that was that.

I know there are areas in practically every constituency that will not suit the people in those new areas. There have also been traditional areas taken away from people who perhaps have been Members of this House for a long number of years, and that may affect their electoral support. The facts are that the commission was set up, and while neither the Government nor the House had to accept their report the facts are that the Government accepted it and the House indicated here the last day this was debated that the political parties were supporting the view of the Government. That being so I would suggest we are now talking about something in regard to which we can do nothing and in fact do not want to do anything except make comments.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  I would again point out that section 2 deals only with the total number of Deputies.

[1195]Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): I agree in substance with what Deputy Tully has said that the commission system has been accepted in principle by all sides of the House. Indeed the report of the commission which acted within its terms of reference, with whatever shortcomings those terms of reference may have had, has also been accepted in principle by all sides of the House.

We are dealing now with Committee Stage. That does not mean that we are not at liberty to raise any points or make any comments that are relevant, section by section, or section by section of the Schedule. That does not mean that we will have a very long discussion or that we will talk for the sake of talking.

The terms of reference of the commission were to have regard to the fact that membership of the next Dáil should be not less than 164 and not more than 168. Those were the numbers that would be justified by the population and the Constitution. The commission recommended two less than the maximum which the Constitution would permit. It is worthwhile placing on record again that Article 16.2.2º of the Constitution provides that the total number of Members of Dáil Éireann shall not be fixed at less than one member for each twenty thousand of the population. If we did that, as I understand it, the number recommended would be 168 but the commission recommended two less. That article goes on to say:

...or at more than one member for each thirty thousand of the population.

It is worth placing on record that that provision is identical with the provision in the 1922 Constitution which was followed absolutely by the Constitution of 1937.

I said on Second Reading that I thought the increased number of Deputies was justified. Had I not thought that the increased number was justified it would be my duty to oppose such increase, But until such time as the work load is reduced for Deputies, until such time as matters are ordered and [1196] organised in a way in which Deputies will be enabled to spend more time as policymakers, as legislators and as Members of Parliament, properly so called, then this number of Deputies is necessary. For example had we the minimum number of Deputies, 113, how would anybody have any chance at present of getting a farm modernisation grant? No farmer would receive such unless he first approached his local Deputy and got him to kick up a row on his behalf in the Department. Again, if the number of Deputies at present was reduced to 113 how would any applicant for a home improvement grant have any chance of getting a hearing from the appropriate Department? I could go right across the board and deal with old age pensions and the whole field of social welfare where it could be maintained that it is the squeaking wheel only that is greased. Unless people can contact their local Deputies now they get no hearing from any Department because the various Departments, certainly the paying-out ones, listen only to the people on behalf of whom representations are made. Until such time as we have a proper citizens' advice bureau, a proper ombudsman system of a meaningful nature—not the toothless monster being put through the Dáil at present—then we need this number of Deputies, and I make no apology for so saying. If the time comes when we have a proper citizen's advice bureau and a proper ombudsman's system then, at some future revision of constituencies, we can consider a lower number. Those are my views on that, and I wanted to put them clearly on the record.

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  I want to clarify the point I was making. I totally agree with Deputy Fitzpatrick in much of what he said. But in regard to this Bill it is a case of putting the cart before the horse. I do not see why we have to increase the number of Deputies to the maximum, or almost the maximum, while the facilities for the existing number remain so inadequate.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  We cannot [1197] go into that at this stage. It does not arise under this code. This is the electoral code. Facilities for Deputies and so on come under another code completely, under the allowances to the Oireachtas.

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  The number of Deputies permissible under the Constitution could be as low as 113 and as high as 168. Public interest would be better served had we 113 Deputies with proper facilities available to them rather than having 168, as at present, whose facilities and secretarial services are so terribly limited. Therefore the Government should take a hard look at what they expect of a Deputy and consider giving him a proper status with proper services in order to perform his functions properly. That is why I raised the issue. I do not necessarily agree that we should increase the number of Deputies to the maximum permissible under the Constitution. I am saying we should give existing Deputies a better deal.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  This Dáil has been in existence now for three years. Its potential life time consists of another two years. There will be another census very shortly. This section states:

Dáil Éireann shall, after the dissolution thereof which next occurs after the passing of this Act, consist of one hundred and sixty-six members.

In the event that the census about to be taken discloses the possibility of the next Dáil consisting of more than 166 Members do we take it that this Bill, when enacted, will obtain or would the Government be likely to appoint another commission with possibly further constituency revisions being recommended before another general election?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  The Deputy has a good point. It is a possibility, as a census will take place in 1981 and we will have to have the returns from the census.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  It could not be done until 1982 and there will be an election before then.

[1198]Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Without any loss of time it is possible that during the life of this Dáil the census would be completed and there could be another revision, but that would have to be decided then.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  That is not the position.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  There is a school of thought which suggests that if a census is published and shows that constituencies are clearly out of line with the criteria laid down on foot of the High Court ruling of 1961, it will not be possible to hold an election if the constituencies are not in line with the provisions of the Constitution and the decision handed down in the Budd case. Is that the situation?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  There is a lot of conflict with regard to the views expressed about this matter, but if that came to pass, it would have to be decided at that time.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Are we not talking about a theory? No matter how fast the Minister or the Government work in my opinion it would not be possible to have a census taken and published before the latest date this Government would be likely to stay in office, before October 1981. If by a miracle the Government were still in power next June—

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  It is possible.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  But not probable.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): A general election must be held in or before June 1982. The census will be held in January next year and could be processed before the end of that year. Is Government thinking at the present time that we will have a general election before this Bill runs out of date? If so, does it mean we will have a general election sometime between the signing of this Bill and the end of next year?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I suggest the Deputy put down a question to the Taoiseach.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Does the Minister think that could happen?

[1199]Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  The Minister would be very interested in that answer himself.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Every Member would be interested.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  We will not have a debate on the date of the next general election.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Having regard to the state of the economy as disclosed by the most recent publications, I want to know if we have been wasting money getting the commission to process this report and spending time of this House——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  We are on section 2.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Do the Government and the Minister think the Bill will be out of date before a general election is called?

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  The Minister appears to be the only person in this House who agrees with me that it is technically feasible for a census to show the provisions of this Bill to be contrary to the Constitution and the Budd ruling before a general election. Even if the reverse were to occur and the general election took place before the publication of the census returns—which I understand may be published within a shorter period than heretofore because of the use of a computer for compiling statistics—is the Minister telling us that these constituencies will have the shortest life in the history of parliament? Within two years a census will be published which will show quite clearly in the greater Dublin area that a number of constituencies do not comply with the Budd ruling.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  We are not dealing with constituencies in this section. We are dealing with the total number.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  We are saying that 166 will not be regarded as the optimum number following the publication of the census within the next 18 months. These [1200] constituencies will not have a life of longer than three years.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  This discussion is hypothetical. It is possible that the census returns will be completed in time to revise the constituencies, but that will have to be considered at that time. It is also possible to postpone a census. That has happened. As I said, this is hypothetical but it possibly could happen.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  It looks more probable than possible.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): There appears to be some urgency from the Government point of view in bringing in this Bill. They seem to be very anxious to get it on the Statute Book. Is it not a fact that the Taoiseach realises that he is sitting on a powder keg which may explode at any time and he wants to have everything in readiness to run to the Park and to the country? That appears to be the only explanation for this urgency.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  We are dealing with the total number.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): I know, but we are dealing with the Bill. Arising out of what Deputy Boland said, this Bill may be out of date——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  We are dealing with section 2 which only deals with the total number of Members.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): I am putting it to the Minister that the only explanation for this urgency is that the Taoiseach realises he is sitting on a powder keg which may blow up at any time.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  The commission reported and the report was accepted. It was normal to bring in a Bill as soon as it was ready and this I have done.

Question put and agreed to.

[1201] Question proposed: “That section 3 stand part of the Bill.”

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  If there are any questions on the actual constituencies or the number of Members covered in this section, it is general on a Bill of this kind to debate them on the Schedule.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): With no disrespect to the Chair, not alone do the Government appear to be in a hurry, but the Chair is too. We are entitled to look at these sections as they are going through the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The Chair is saying we can debate the constituencies now or on the Schedule.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Section 3 does not have anything to do with the constituencies. Section 3(1) reads:

The members of Dáil Éireann shall, after the dissolution of Dáil Éireann which next occurs after the passing of this Act, represent the constituencies specified in the Schedule to this Act.

Subsection 2 covers areas. Are these electoral areas? Subparagraph (3) reads:

In the Schedule to this Act a reference to a former rural district shall be construed as a reference to that district as constituted immediately before the 1st day of October, 1925.

Would that explain the reference I sometimes see in my constituency to Enniskillen No. 2? It must go back before 1 October 1925. If we were to deal in detail with the constituency of Cavan-Monaghan we would find this reference to Enniskillen No. 2 and I would ask the Minister to explain what is involved.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Rural district councils which were constituted under the Local Government Act of 1898 were abolished under section 3 of the Local Government [1202] Act, 1925 with effect from 1 October, 1925, hence the reference to that date in the definition of a former rural district in this section.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  The changes are based on electoral divisions which are now obsolete. Many people in rural Ireland do not know what electoral divisions are, and parish boundaries are the accepted form nowadays. I was surprised that the revision of the constituencies was based on out-dated electoral divisions. I am sure there are some rural Deputies who are not sure of the electoral divisions in which they reside.

I have never believed in farming out work. Through the years the Dáil has been anxious to farm out what have been termed “difficult” tasks. Boards and commissions have been set up and it was generally agreed last year that we would farm out the work of drawing up the constituency boundaries.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Three years ago.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Judging from my own area, they do not appear to have done their job any better than the political parties, irrespective of which parties they were. I took it for granted that this so-called independent body set up under the chairmanship of a High Court judge would have regard to existing units, such as the west Cork health area.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The Chair again suggests that questions on particular constituencies should be taken on the Schedule which deals with each constituency. This is the way in which this matter has been dealt with in the past.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  I thought the commission would take more cognizance of established boundaries, such as the west Cork housing, sanitary and health area which is separate in all respects. It has been divided and mutilated before, and the commission did the same thing. I was pleased that [1203] they brought in the western end of the Beara peninsula.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The Chair must have some agreement on this matter.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  I do not think much of this effort to draw up a constituency in my part of the country.

Question put and agreed to.

Section 4 agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 5 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): This section relates to the re-election of the Ceann Comhairle. Am I right in thinking that once the constituency for which the Ceann Comhairle may stand is defined in the section, then that is the constituency for which he is automatically re-elected and he cannot opt for any other constituency?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  That is correct.

Mr. White: Information on James White  Zoom on James White  If anything were to happen to the Ceann Comhairle before the next election, would the next Ceann Comhairle have to stand in that constituency?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  In that case special provision would be made in the form of a short Bill.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  This is a rather extraordinary situation for which the Government rather than the commission are to blame. It appears that the House is instructing the Ceann Comhairle where he should stand, and that is not very democratic. If he decided to resign and the Leas-Cheann Comhairle became Ceann Comhairle, would he have to stand in Donegal? Under the Bill it would appear that is what is intended.

[1204]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  In those circumstances he might not mind.

Mr. White: Information on James White  Zoom on James White  We would be happy to have you.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  The Bill could have been drawn up in such a way as to give the Ceann Comhairle the ability to decide, although he would have to declare at an earlier date where he intended to stand. It should not be provided that the Ceann Comhairle must stand in a certain constituency because the present holder of the office represents portion of that constituency.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  The constituency mentioned here has been represented by the present Ceann Comhairle since he became a Member of the House.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Portion of it.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  This was the pattern followed by all his predecessors, and provision for the Ceann Comhairle has been made in each Bill. In the event of the Ceann Comhairle retiring and a new Ceann Comhairle being elected, I would propose to bring in a short Bill immediately.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  Is this not a cumbersome way of providing that the Ceann Comhairle should be re-elected unopposed? If the Ceann Comhairle represented the constituency of Dublin-Finglas, he could find himself faced with the option of standing in the new constituencies of Dublin North Central, Dublin North West or Dublin Central. I understand that some Members who at present represent Dublin-Finglas are in a dilemma as to the constituency in which they should stand at the next election. If the Ceann Comhairle were in this position, how would the Government decide on the constituency he should represent?

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): They would consult him.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Under the 1963 Act we [1205] are obliged to specify in the Bill where the Ceann Comhairle will be automatically returned. Under the Constitution he is returned unopposed.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  We are not opposing that.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I appreciate that. In the 1963 Act——

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Perhaps the Minister would quote the section.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  It is provided in section 14 (1) (b) of the 1963 Electoral Act that where a revision of constituencies takes effect on the dissolution of the Dáil, if the outgoing Ceann Comhairle has not announced to the Dáil before the dissolution that he does not desire to become a Member of the Dáil at the general election consequent on the dissolution he shall be deemed without any actual election to be elected for the constituency declared on such revision to correspond to the constituency for which he was a Member before the dissolution.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  That does not say that the constituency for which he is standing must be named. I am sure there would be no intention on the part of the Ceann Comhairle to stand for any constituency other than the one he always represented. I am taking exception to the suggestion that the constituency for which the Ceann Comhairle can stand should be specifically named. What will be the position if the next census does not show an alternation in the number of people or in the size of the Dáil, if there is no further change in the constituencies and the Ceann Comhairle does not happen to come from Donegal? What is being proposed is a senseless way of dealing with the matter and I suggest there is a better way.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  It is constitutional that the Ceann Comhairle be returned unopposed. A question I have had in mind for many years is why that should reduce the number of Members to be [1206] elected from the constituency. The Ceann Comhairle cannot engage in politics or participate in political activities. He must keep his impartiality intact. My view is that the Ceann Comhairle should be given a seat without specifying any constituency. He should be given a seat as representing Ireland. In this case, why should Donegal South-West be deprived of the privilege of electing three Deputies at the next election? The same situation applied to Clare for a number of years. The Ceann Comhairle should be returned to the next Dáil but a constituency should not be specifically named. If he accepts the position of Ceann Comhairle he must also accept that a vacancy will not be retained for him in the constituency that originally elected him.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): I want to make it clear that there is nothing personal in all of this. The point raised has given rise to a rather interesting discussion. It is only right that the Ceann Comhairle should be returned unopposed and that he should not have to fight a general election to retain his seat because during the previous Dáil he would have been deprived of the opportunity of participating in political activities or in activities that keep a Deputy in touch with his constituents. The point that has been made is a valid one, that a constituency is being deprived of the services of an active Deputy. I have not the Constitution before me but, subject to what it may say, I think the point raised by Deputies could be got over by saying: “Dáil Éireann shall, after the dissolution thereof which next occurs after the passing of this Act, consist of 166 Members elected to represent the constituencies in the schedule and the Ceann Comhairle who shall be returned unopposed.” A constituency for the Ceann Comhairle need not be specified. The difficulty could be got over in that way. The point raised by Deputies was well made and it should be considered.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  According to Article 16.2 of the Constitution it is stated:

[1207] Dáil Éireann shall be composed of members who represent constituencies determined by law.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): We would have to change the Constitution.

Question put and agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 6 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): I do not want to be awkward about this matter or to put the Minister to any inconvenience but I should like him to explain what is meant by temporary arrangements with regard to the register of electors. I know the intention is to cover the transition period but perhaps the Minister would tell the House what is involved.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  The county secretary is the person who would rearrange the electoral lists. They are in a special form. Part of the lists would go to another constituency and they would have to be apportioned to the new polling stations in the new constituency with the remainder staying in the existing constituency. It is a temporary arrangement that the County Secretary could carry out pending the next electoral revision.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): I know that any byelections held between now and the general election will be held on the basis of the old constituencies. Does that mean that when the county secretary compiles the register for 1981-82 if there is not a general election before then he will have to prepare two registers, one that will cover the next general election and one that will cover a by-election if it is held before the general election?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Yes, he would have to do it on the dual basis.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Does the Minister consider [1208] it might be a good idea if a decision was made regarding people who, for one reason or another, were not included on the register to ensure that they be included on a special register prepared before the general election? I had this matter almost completed but it did not become effective. I think something should be done about this matter.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  It would require amendment of the existing legislation, not of this Bill.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Why not specify it in this Bill?

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): I know that this matter was under consideration before but with the greatest respect to Deputy Tully I doubt if it would be feasible or even desirable to have a supplementary register compiled in the heat of a general election or after a general election was called. I know that this matter was considered but it did not materialise.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  After every register of electors is published the names of those who are entitled to be on the register but who for one reason or another are not included come to the knowledge of the people concerned with compilation of the register and also come to the notice of public representatives. The suggestion was that a list of people who would be researched should be drawn from day 1 of the publication of the register and if it were discovered that they were entitled to be on the register, at a certain stage it would then be possible to publish a list of those people who had been checked and rechecked by those responsible for the compilation of the register. Every time a register is published quite a number of people are left off that register and it causes a considerable amount of annoyance, particularly to people who have been on the register for up to 20 years.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  This is really a matter for another Bill.

[1209]Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  What other Bill? This Bill should deal with it. There is no other Bill before the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  There is certainly other legislation dealing with registers and things like that.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  I go along with Deputy Tully's suggestion. Year in and year out many names are omitted from the register. It is very unfair to people who have never left their homes.

There is mention of a postal voters' list. I am completely against postal votes. I was pleased when the Minister did not introduce it. It might be all right to confine it to a limited number of people but I am not even sure if it should be given to anyone even the State forces.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  With the present state of the post office, the ballot papers would arrive late anyway.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  The Minister should have nothing to do with postal voting.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  That is the personal opinion of Deputy Murphy, not the opinion of the Labour Party.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Something should be done about the names omitted from the register. Perhaps the Minister and his Department could devise a scheme to cover that, a scheme which would be incorporated in this Bill.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  All these matters are provided for under an electoral Bill and not under this Bill.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  At the risk of earning the Chair's wrath, the pink register should be brought out at a time of the year other than just before Christmas, which is the worst time to expect people to spend time checking it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  That does not arise under this section.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  The necessity for a supplementary [1210] list would not arise if the people responsible for compiling the register checked it properly. This Bill is not concerned with that. We would have to amend the 1963 Bill to permit a supplementary list. The new electoral list operates from 14 April, the revision of that list starts on 15 September and it is published again on 14 April the following year. We all have these complaints particularly at election times but it is due to inefficiency or carelessness——

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Or worse.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  ——or worse. People are paid to compile the register but they do not check it properly.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  They should be sacked.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I agree with the Deputy. When one meets those who have been left off that is the way one would feel.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): I am in favour of giving everybody an adequate chance to get on the register and of giving political parties an opportunity to get them on the register. There is ample chance to a certain extent. The draft register is published on 1 December and alterations can be notified to the county secretary up to mid-January. Revision courts are then held at the end of January and February and one can go to the Circuit Court after that. Drastic action should be taken with people who do not compile the register properly. An instance which shows the type of default that the Minister is talking about is where three well known political figures were left off the register by another well known political figure. The matter was brought before the revision court and the well known political figure justified his action and because the people concerned were not there they were left off again. When the matter was brought before the Circuit Court the people who were wrongly omitted from the register for wrong reasons were able to get on the register. This must be one of the very few cases [1211] since the foundation of the State that were brought before the Circuit Court in an informal way by writing a letter to the county registrar.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  We are dealing with another piece of legislation altogether now.

Mr. White: Information on James White  Zoom on James White  Will the Minister bring the draft register forward?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  We are not going to continue this debate. That does not arise on this Bill.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Section 6 (2) refers to preparing a list of postal voters. The people who prepare that list should ensure that when it is prepared it is printed by someone responsible who will ensure that the list will be genuine when it comes out. There was an instance a couple of years ago where the voters list was sent outside the area to some printer miles away from the area where it is normally printed. The result was that they did not leave me off the list but they left my wife off along with a lot of other people and the whole thing had to be printed again. An effort should be made to ensure that saving a few pence at the expense of having a correct list is not saving money.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  What we are debating now does not arise.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): We do not often get an opportunity to debate this.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  I accept that but it is part and parcel of another Bill.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  It is part and parcel of the 1963 Electoral Act. This is the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1980 and it seeks to amend the 1963 Act.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  It does not deal with all the matters that are being raised now.

[1212]Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  In relation to the compilation of the register the Minister should explore with the registration authorities the idea of having the registers set up on computer, throughout the local authority areas. That is done in Dublin city at the moment and I understand that it will be introduced in my authority next year. At present huge physical effort is involved in amending the draft register when the amendments come in, and the genuine errors that can occur are easily understandable. A person who is registered as No. 921 can be discovered to be dead and when his name is removed from the register everyone on the rest of the register is moved up one place. That pyhsically requires moving up on the card index every name on the rest of the register and giving them new numbers.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  That has not to be done, one could completely ignore No. 921.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  They must also bring in additional people who have lodged claims. In my authority I have seen a large secretarial staff engaged on overtime for six to eight weeks working up to 12 hours a day on the compilation of that register. I cannot understand how these people do not go draft.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  I must really stop this. It does not arise at all. The method in which the register is printed does not arise on section 6.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  It arises in relation to the draft register and the list of claimants.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  As far as the Chair is concerned all that section 6 deals with is the division of registers in respect of new constituencies or parts of new constituencies.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  It also——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  It does not deal with the printing of the register or whether people are on or off or anything else.

[1213]Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  It refers to the Minister providing for

the entry of the name of that constituency in respect of the polling district or part of the polling district, in every draft register, list of claimants, register of electors and list of corrections prepared under Part II.

Surely that allows enough latitude for us to refer to how these pieces of paper should be compiled if the Minister is to enter names of constituencies on to these pieces of paper. I think the Minister would have to take the discussion we have had here this afternoon as being useful in respect of having a system of registers compiled which is in the best interest of the electorate generally. Surely that should be in the interest of the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  It is very much in the interest of the House but on other legislation.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): I want to make a point about the postal voters list which I think will be helpful to the Minister and his advisers. It is the benefit of my experience. After the postal voters list, which at the moment consists largely of members of the Defence Forces and the Garda Síochána, is drawn up, it very often happens that some members of the armed forces are discharged from the Army for one reason or another. When that happens and letters are addressed to them through the Defence Forces—this happened on the last occasion in any case—the letters were sent back through the dead letter post. I know the matter was complicated on that occasion by the postal strike but were it not for the co-operation of the returning officer and the town clerk in my area a number of ex-soldiers would not have been able to vote. They were on the postal voters list but because they were discharged from the Army they did not get their ballot papers and would not be allowed to vote as ordinary voters because there was a “P” opposite their names. With the co-operation of the county registar and the [1214] town clerk, on the county registrar's direction these people were allowed to go either to the county secretary or the town clerk and collect the ballot papers that had been returned as undelivered, mark them in the ordinary way and hand them in. Something should be done to prevent that happening again.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I appreciate the Deputy's point but these persons remain as postal voters until the next register is compiled.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): But if they are discharged—it may have been only on the last occasion—the Army returns the letters undelivered.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  In the normal course, the Army would readdress letters to the addresses the men would have given and these men could still vote.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): They did not do it in my area on the last occasion. I know what I am talking about because I was involved in it and it worked out all right.

Question put and agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 7 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): I suppose this is something similar to section 6?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Yes, it deals with polling districts.

Question put and agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 8 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): It only stands repealed from the date on which the next general election is declared?

[1215]Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Yes.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  It repeals from the date on which this Bill is passed.

Question put and agreed to.

Section 9 agreed to.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  I move amendment No. 1:

In page 7, in the first column, to delete “Dublin North” and substitute “Dublin Fingal”.

This is a very simple amendment which I believe will meet with the general agreement of Deputies representing the present constituency of North County Dublin and of the people of the area generally. The area which is now to be designated as Dublin North in the Bill is one of the few areas in the county that has an identifiable name. It is a region that has carried the name of Fingal for 1,000 years, since the time the Danes first came to this coast. They first invaded Dublin in the area of Fingal. They carried their banners to the high point of land which is still known as and has the townland name of Man-o'-War. From there they claimed all territory they could see from that point and that is the territory since known as Fingal. The emblem of the area was the black raven which was also brought to the area by the Danes. The historic connections of that area are well known and would be well known to Members of the House. The Black Raven Pipe Band which is still a very famous band in piping circles was formed by the late Thomas Ashe and the late Willie Rooney, once a Member of this House and whose son, Eamonn Rooney, also served in this House.

The area of Fingal is a very identifiable area and is known as such by the people within it. They would identify better with a constituency termed “Dublin Fingal” than with the constituency termed “Dublin North” which they might expect to be in some part of the inner city. The local newspaper is the Fingal[1216]Independent and a headline in it this week is: “TD in Fingal jail storm”—none of the three Deputies representing Fingal, merely another one who wants to move a jail from a constituency he hopes to represent——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  He hopes to move in.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  Apart from the name of the paper the headline published in this edition refers to the word Fingal because that is the area identified as Dublin North. The people living in that area would better understand their constituency if it were to be described as Dublin Fingal. Also, it would be an interesting gesture on the part of the House to recognise this name that has applied for over 1,000 years in the area of north County Dublin and give it recognition in legislation by assigning that name to what the Bill proposes to describe by the rather unimaginative name of Dublin North.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  I am not objecting to the points Deputy Boland has made but I should like to point out two things. First, from the top of Man-o'-War you can see County Meath and the Danes did not come in there. Second, as regards the name of the constituency, if we make the change suggested, Meath should be “Meath-Westmeath” because we have portion of Westmeath included in it. Cavan is “Cavan-Monaghan” but previously they had portion of Meath. How would you name that? I do not object to Fingal; it is a distinctive area, I agree, but the constituency which the Deputy represents and which we are talking about here covers more than Fingal. I have no objection to the change, however, if the Minister agrees to it.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  Fingal goes from Ballymun to Ballymadun. That is exactly the constituency of Dublin North.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Incidentally, the Deputy forgot to name the Fingal Harriers.

[1217]Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  And Lord Fingal.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  He is in Meath.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  He is, but the Minister comes across him in other centres.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  There is obviously a cohesion in the naming scheme selected and it would be wrong to detract from that cohesion by re-naming one or more of the constituencies. The Government accepted the recommendations of the commission in their entirety and it has been made clear that the House approves of that decision. Some Deputies were unhappy about some aspects of the Bill but they are disposed to accept them as part of the total package. This seems to be the proper and sensible approach. The report should be regarded as a package and accepted in its entirety including any parts we may not particularly like. This applies to the names as well as the shapes of the constituencies. I trust the Deputy will see it this way, as part of a package, and accept the package in its entirety.

Mr. F. O'Brien: Information on Fergus O'Brien  Zoom on Fergus O'Brien  I am disappointed by the Minister's approach. He talks about a package. This is a report. This very minor amendment would at least have indicated that this House had the courage to make some change in the report. Apparently, it has not the courage to make any change whatever and is accepting in toto what is in the report. It augurs badly for the future that it can be used as a precedent that those reports should be accepted. The acceptance of this very minor amendment Deputy Boland has put down would at least show that we have made a change in this report. It is a technical detail whether the constituency is called North County Dublin or Dublin Fingal. Obviously the Minister is not prepared to accept the amendment. He spoke about a package but the House is not interested in packages. The House is interested in legislation. If a report comes before the House it is up to the House to examine it, make recommendations and not accept it blindly, as appears to be done in [1218] this case. Acceptance of this minor amendment would prove that the House is capable of amending a report from eminent people who were chosen to do a job. Apparently, Deputy Boland is crying out in vain to have this change made.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  I appeal to the Minister to reconsider his attitude on this amendment. As Deputy O'Brien said, it is a minor amendment as far as the package is concerned. The Minister is creating a rather dangerous precedent in his reply to the suggestion that Dublin North should be called Dublin Fingal. Most public representatives who sit on local authorities agree that over the last two years the powers of those local authorities are being whittled away. If we are to accept a package simply because we do not want to interrupt the package, the follow up to that is not to break the seal in case we might be tempted to change it. I ask the Minister to have a little more courage and consult his party in Dublin North and I do not believe he will find any opposition to this change.

It is no argument to say that the Government accepted this as a package. The Government are not infallible and they can have a rethink about this. If the Minister were to inquire among the ranks of his party, particularly those in the North Dublin area who might be deeply interested in this, I believe they would be as anxious as Deputy Boland to have this change made. Perhaps the Minister would have a consultation with his party. I cannot see the Government disagreeing on it.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  I forgot to mention the famous GAA Fingallians, who are having their festival in Swords on Sunday and who have invited me to lead the parade down the main street. I also forgot to mention the fact that the local GAA paper——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Is that a commercial now?

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  ——The Fingal Independent on page 14 has the heading [1219]“How the Fingal teams fared”. This name is well-known and identified with the area. It is the area where the Taoiseach lives. He likes to represent himself as having an interest in the culture and history of the area. The Minister should visit the Taoiseach and ask him if he would prefer to live in the constituency of Dublin North in Kinsealy or in the constituency of Dublin Fingal. It is well known that the Minister has wagers. I bet him a pound at even money——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  No betting in the House.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  ——that the Taoiseach would opt for the constituency of Dublin Fingal because he realises that it is very important that these old traditions be kept alive.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  If the Taoiseach wants to run Deputy Fox and the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, in Dublin Fingal, they would welcome them with open arms in that three-seat constituency.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  It hardly arises on the amendment.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  This amendment should not be rejected out of hand. The Minister pointed out today that there is no particular urgency about this Bill. He just brought it in because it was ready and it is right to bring in Bills when they are ready. I would be quite happy if the Minister undertook to consider this amendment between now and Report Stage and when the Report Stage of the Bill comes before the House the could tell us what the Taoiseach told him about Dublin Fingal.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): I would like to join in the appeal made to the Minister to accept this amendment which does not in any way alter the substance of the Bill even by one comma. The Bill has been accepted and the report of the commission has [1220] been accepted, but Deputy Boland seeks to identify this ancient area of Dublin with its traditional name. That is a reasonable proposition. Residents of this area of Dublin seem to be able to identify more with their area than with other parts of the county. Deputy Boland has made a very strong case praising this ancient area of Dublin over 1,000 years. It would perhaps in some way make restitution to the Vikings for the wrong which has been done to them in another part of the city if this amendment were accepted.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  We are surely getting away from the Bill now.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Did they not kill Brian Boru?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  We will stay on the amendment for a little while.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): We are right on the amendment. I would not like to think the Minister is weak but it is a sign of weakness coming into the House and not being ready to yield an iota one way or the other in relation to a Bill, particularly when there is nothing at stake. The Minister said it is part of a package, but names do not give or take anything from the package. If he wants justification for changing this and leaving the rest of the names of the constituencies as they are, the obvious one is that this is the only amendment before the House and the only request which has been made to him.

The Taoiseach has been mentioned. I remember when I was on the other side coming into the House with a Bill and in response to a request from the Fianna Fáil Party, who were opposing the Bill, I yielded on one particular issue, although I was handling the Bill for another Minister. I remember the present Taoiseach went out of his way to be complimentary in saying what a fine thing it was to see a Minister bringing in a Bill and being prepared to accept an amendment even when he was handling it for another Minister.

[1221] The Minister for the Environment is in control of this Bill. I ask him to exercise his discretion and not feel he is bound by his Department or by anybody else. It is not going to alter the substance of the Bill one iota, and if he does that he will bring the Bill out of the House here with added kudos rather than any reduction in its stature.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  I would like to make a brief comment as one who has accepted numerous amendments. I am a great believer in a Bill being discussed and agreed on as representing what the House thinks and not what the Government think. I suggest that perhaps the Minister is not a free agent here and it may be necessary for him to consult somebody else. I also think that if that is brought back to the Taoiseach it will almost certainly be agreed on. We are moving to Question Time at 3 p.m. Is there a possibility of having a quarter of an hour's discussion to finish the Bill some time later this evening rather than attempting to finish it now with perhaps the wrong result?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Unfortunately the Chair has no say at all in-that. That is a matter for the Whips and the Minister.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): It will be on Report Stage.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Before the battle of Clontarf, King Brian—that is Brain Boru—is said to have burned Fingal and the district of Howth, and some years later during a further excursion into Fingal that country is said to have been burned from Dublin to the River Delvin, the northern boundary of Dublin. The Clare people did not get on too well.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  The Minister has just disclosed a personal bias as a county man. Up came his predecessor a thousand years ago and burned Fingal as far as the Delvin. Strangely enough, the northern boundary of the constituency [1222] which the Minister proposes at Dublin North ends at the Delvin, at the very place as his predecessors Brian Boru stopped his burning.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): The Minister should accept——

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  This is not going to change the Bill one iota, but it is going to make the point very nicely, as Deputy O'Brien said, that this House is capable of amending an Electoral (Amendment) Bill if it thinks that that will improve it and if there is all-party agreement for it. I am sorry that the two Deputies who represent Dublin North County are not here this afternoon. Possibly they did not realise that I intended entering this amendment. I feel certain that both Ministers of State Burke and Deputy Fox would be in support of this as I feel equally certain that the Taoiseach would be not only in support but in enthusiastic support of this proposal in view of the fact that he lives there. I went to the trouble of raising this matter with my party yesterday and I received the permission of the party to enter that amendment. I was given the express support and authority of the leader of our party, Deputy FitzGerald, for the suggestion that the constituency of Dublin North be changed to Dublin Fingal in view of its historic connections. I do not see why a fellow with as much ability and discretion as I know the present Minister for the Environment has cannot just say “yes” to this and tell the other fellows, “That is all right, I think is is an improvement”.

Mr. F. O'Brien: Information on Fergus O'Brien  Zoom on Fergus O'Brien  As Deputy Tully said, the Minister does not seem to be a free agent here and some order has come from above that this must not be changed under any circumstances. We are talking about a very minor and innocuous amendment, changing the word “North” to “Fingal”. The point was made that this is known historically as Fingal, a traditional part of North [1223] County Dublin. Deputy Boland, who represents that area so ably, is in touch with the people's views as to what they would like to have it known as. He is coming into this House to represent their views, and this is what we are about. Our business in the House is to represent the point of view of people. For some strange reason a decision was taken that under no circumstances must this be changed. It is not that two honourable Members from the same constituency, Minister of State Burke and Deputy Fox, are under orders not to say anything. The silence in toto about this Bill on the other side of the House is a clear indication that the Minister is not his own man here. He has been instructed that under no circumstances can he accept any amendment. God knows, a change in name is a technical amendment and still the Minister is reluctant. I am at a loss. I am disappointed that the people of the Fingal area of North County Dublin are not going to have this area called what they would like to have it called.

I hope that as a result of these commissions we will not have changes every other year. However, we should make this change for no reason other than that the House should have the courage to make some change. The Minister is failing in his duty to this House if he does not accept this amendment. Again I appeal to him earnestly to do that. Deputy Boland has indicated that he will bring it forward on Report Stage. If it is agreed now there will be no further comment on it and we can proceed in an orderly fashion about concluding the Bill. The Minister is obstructing the passage of this Bill by not accepting this amendment.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Is the amendment withdrawn?

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): To accept this amendment would make this Bill look more human. It is a soulless sort of Bill with the points of the compass, north, east, south and west referred to. To accept this little amendment would put a bit of body and soul into it. It is very difficult to understand [1224] why the Minister refuses to accept it. He has not given any good reason—he has not given any reason at all—while, on the other hand, Deputy Boland has gone back in history and geography to establish a good case. It makes one give up any hope of getting any change made in legislation in this House when we find a very appropriate and meaningful amendment argued and put forward so well by Deputy Boland being refused by the Minister. The Minister just sits there and does not say anything. Obviously he has no convincing or meaningful argument against it. Perhaps he will have another think about it. If he thinks that there is any political kudos to Deputy Boland in accepting this amendment that is a most unmeritorious reason for not accepting it. He should consult with other Deputies in the constituency and maybe with some of his colleagues if he feels that he must, and if he does so he will come back here after Question Time if the Bill is resumed then and accept this amendment.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  We appeal to the Minister if he is not prepared to accept it off his own bat——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  We want to get one thing clarified. As the Chair understands it Question Time goes on for two hours today.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Will the Dáil adjourn at 5 p.m.?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Yes, it is hoped.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  I appeal to the Minister if he feels that he is not in a position to make a decision—and I cannot see why he cannot make a decision on it because the arguments are so convincing that I cannot for the life of me see where an argument could be put up against it—to discuss this with the Cabinet in the party rooms or even with members of his own party in the constituency. We appeal to the Minister to give some consideration to it and consult his own party if that is what he wants to do.

[1225]Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  I shall be seeing the Taoiseach at the Malahide Festival tomorrow and if the Minister is not talking to him before then I shall be sending down a little note to him.

Debate adjourned.


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