An Bille Um An gCeathrú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1968: Coiste. Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1968: Committee Stage.
Wednesday, 24 July 1968
Seanad Eireann Debate
(1) In order to avoid duplication of debate that, as in the case of the Third Amendment Bill, consideration of sections 1 and 2 be postponed until the Schedule has been dealt with and that the sections be then passed formally.
There are two points on which the agreement of the House is necessary. No. 1, agreement is necessary or desirable for consideration of sections 1  and 2 to be postponed until the Schedule has been dealt with, and after that, sections 1 and 2 will be passed formally.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The second point on which agreement is necessary is the manner in which the Schedule itself shall be discussed. The suggestion from the Chair is that the various parts of the Schedule which are cognate will be discussed together, in other words, the Schedule will be broken up for the purpose of discussion, and when that discussion is concluded there will be no general debate on the Schedule as a whole. Is that clear?
Mr. O'Quigley: I am not entirely clear on what the position is. I take it that where you speak on the subsection you are speaking of subsection (1) of Part I and subsection (1) of Part II. Is that the position?
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: It is. It is concerned with the principle of the single-member constituencies without reference to the manner of voting. We are taking both the Irish and the English versions at the same time.
Mr. O'Quigley: While I have no particular desire to prolong the debate on this Bill any more than the debate on the previous Bill, I feel bound at the same time to draw attention to the fact that the provision contained in this subsection for single-seat constituencies rather than the present system of multi-seat constituencies is something for which there has been no demand up  to 1959 or since 1959. I do not think the Minister or any member of the Government can point to any widespread demand for single-seat constituencies. As has been said already on the Second Stage of this Bill, the purpose of this provision is to enable the Government and the Fianna Fáil Party to entrench themselves in office with upwards of 90 seats. That figure is conceded on any calculation.
Mr. O'Quigley: Having entrenched themselves with 90 seats, some of these Deputies, instead of spending their time attending to the needs of the nation, instead of directing their energies towards the formulation of national policy, instead of spending their time sitting in Dáil Éireann and making their contributions on the various measures and schemes and White Papers which appear before the Dáil from time to time, will spend their time going around every part of their small constituency cultivating it intensively in their own personal interest to ensure their return to the Dáil on the next occasion, to the neglect of their more serious parliamentary duties.
The purpose of electing a Member to Dáil Éireann is, first of all, to provide representation for the constituents and to represent the views of the people, and, perhaps, equally important to provide a Government that will govern. That can be achieved and has, in fact, been achieved over the past 46 years. No one can say that at any stage the people have been deprived of representation in the Dáil by reason of the fact that we elect representatives in multi-seat constituencies. A great advantage of the multi-seat constituency is that, not only can a person express his preference for a particular Party, but he can also express his preference for different members within political Parties. We all know of cases where the person chosen by the local organisation, and delegates at conventions, has been turned down, sometimes for good reasons, and sometimes for bad reasons, by Party headquarters and someone else implanted or imposed by Party headquarters. In a single-seat  constituency what will happen in future is that if it is a safe seat, as it is known in Britain, the electorate will merely be asked to endorse and rubber-stamp the selection of the political Party which happen to have the largest number of supporters in that constituency. That, to my mind, is not democracy. It is political dictatorship. That would be one of the effects of substituting the single-member constituencies for the multi-member constituencies which we have known since 1922.
Apart altogether from that, the argument is being put forward by the Government that Deputies must be in touch with their constituents. Whether 90, 50, 70, 60 or 10 seats is the outcome of a particular election, there will be a large number of people in every constituency who will not have voted for the sitting Deputy. It is idle to think that in a case where a man not only did not vote for the sitting Deputy but campaigned actively against him, he will get from the elected Deputy the same kind of support as he would get from a member of his own Party elected in a multi-seat constituency. In a small constituency of 20,000 souls with an electorate of 10,000 or 11,000, perhaps, it would be very easy for the gauleiters to know who voted for whom, and the sitting Deputy, especially if he happened to be in a constituency with a comfortable majority, just will not bother his head when he is asked to make representations for someone who voted against him. I know that Senators on the other side will stand up and protest and say that when a man is elected he is elected to represent the constituency and he will work for everyone. That does not always happen.
Mr. O'Quigley: There will be people, especially those who have worked actively against the only representative in the constituency, who will find that the representation they want to be made on their behalf will not be made or else will be made in a feeble or ineffective way. So far from giving that kind of person that service, the new single-member constituency will work against him.
I do not know how the new single-seat constituencies will be drawn up. That remains to be seen. I cannot see in, say, a place such as County Mayo, which I know perhaps better than any other, what advantage it will be to the population there to be put, say, in the four different constituencies consisting of Mayo North-West, Mayo North-East, Mayo South-West and Mayo South-East——
Mr. O'Quigley: What advantage will it be to a person to know he is in Mayo North-West compared with being in Mayo North, as at the present time? How will he know where his constituency begins and ends? For the life of me I cannot see how people will be any better off from the point of view of being in contact with their Deputy who may, indeed, be a Minister of State spending most of his time in Dublin——
Mr. O'Quigley: ——or two Ministers of State, as far as Mayo South is concerned, spending all their time in Dublin and now having transferred their families, as I understand it, to Dublin. I cannot see how the people can be better off or better served in a single-seat constituency than is the case at the present time. At least, at present, people have a choice of  Deputies in a multi-seat constituency if they want to get a particular service. Under the new system, they will have to take Hobson's choice. If he happens to be an energetic Deputy, they may fare well. If he happens to be a Deputy who is an absentee, they may fare badly. They may have a Deputy in ill-health or a Deputy who is not able to do as much as would be necessary.
However, all of this talk about single-seat constituencies and the accessibility of Deputies is based upon the assumption that people must necessarily go to Deputies. I think that is a false assumption. If our public service were properly organised—and it merely means not more expenditure but more efficiency in the utilisation of existing staffs and existing services—there would be a great deal less need for the intervention of Deputies, Senators and county councillors than exists at present. However, the Government have made no effort whatever to bring these services to the people. At the last local elections, we proposed, as part of our policy for the future—and we shall pursue it—to establish citizens' advice centres so that people can go to these centres and find out the information they want. The Fianna Fáil Party have done nothing about that. There are some members of the Fianna Fáil Party who thought this a good idea. It is of interest to note that one of the leading young bright lights of the Dublin County Council, in the shape of a Fianna Fáil member, actually took over this suggestion at a recent meeting of the Dublin County Council and had it adopted, as far as my recollection of press reports goes. He, at least, being only a short time in public affairs, recognises the necessity for the kind of things we have been talking about for quite some time.
We all know that, if you want to get from any county council or any Government Department an answer to any question, the first thing you have to do is to fill in a form. As I said before, the forms the people have to fill in from time to time are couched in such language that even I, a barrister, trained and skilled in the interpretation of legal documents and documents of all kinds, have found  it quite impossible, on occasions, when asked as a Senator to help people to fill in forms, to know what information the particular Government Department was looking for. It is because of that situation that people are thrown over on county councillors, Senators and Deputies from time to time. It is because people do not get from the public service the attention that their claims and requirements deserve and because they do not get clear-cut directions and clear-cut decisions that so much recourse has to be had to Deputies, Senators and members of local authorities.
It is a mistake to think it is necessary, because of that trend, to change our electoral system because as I say, the proper duties of all Deputies and Senators are not those of looking after these trivia in the daily life although these are things which keep people in office. It is not the looking after of these that helps to generate economic prosperity or to bring about further social advancement in this country. Rather it is the proper duty of Deputies and Senators to give detailed study to parliamentary matters in consultation with Ministers, when in Government, and with shadow Ministers, when in Opposition. These are the things which count. It does not matter whether the Deputies come from single-seat or multi-seat constituencies. If they are good Deputies and apply themselves to the matters to which they ought to apply themselves, we shall have a better Parliament and better administration at Government level.
I speak at very great length on this section, as we could speak at great length on every section of this Bill. However, I do not want to provoke the Minister for Local Government into another long harangue. I want to spare myself, my colleagues and the Members of the House opposite from another continuous, wearying, wearisome, use-less——
Mr. O'Quigley: Senator Yeats is very good at searching through old dusty files, but he will not be able to produce many resolutions from Fianna Fáil cumainn or public bodies or letters from members of the public since 1959 demanding the introduction of the single-seat constituency.
Mr. O'Quigley: I should like to know how many public bodies, who are always very hopeful when dealing with current and pressing evils, injustices as the Minister would call them, since 1959 demanded the introduction or put down resolutions seeking the introduction of the single-seat constituency.
Mr. O'Quigley: It is not like the public bodies to see grave injustices being perpetrated within the confines of their own boundaries and to allow them to pass without notice or not to form the subject of a resolution. There is not, there has not been and there will not be a demand for the single-seat constituency. As we said before and as we will continue to say, and as Deputy Lemass said on 29th March, 1968, “the only issue for the future is whether Fianna Fáil will have a working majority and can carry on as a minority Government”.
Mr. O'Quigley: This proposal here is a very near neighbour of the proposal dealing with the relative majority system. The category into which this proposal falls is that this is the self-protective mechanism the Fianna Fáil Party are devising in order to ensure an unnatural prolongation of their political life.
Mr. Rooney: The proposal here is to create 144 single-seat constituencies. Today the Minister spent a long time telling us that he wanted to bring in a system which would prevent the breaching of county boundaries and I am wondering how he is going to bring in 144 constituencies without breaching county boundaries as there are only 26 counties. He may in his reply show that this can be done and that we could have 144 constituencies located within county boundaries but in view of his arguments over so many hours I should like to have an assurance from him that he will not breach county boundaries, if and when the necessity for establishing 144 constituencies arises.
Mr. Rooney: We have examined the figures for elections and we have examined the figures for the county council elections in which Fianna Fáil got a heavy beating. Compared with  1960, they are on the decline. Where Fine Gael went up by 75 seats Fianna Fáil went up one seat in the last county council elections. In spite of this remarkable forward stride by Fine Gael, so far as representation on the county councils is concerned, we have discovered that this proposed single-seat arrangement with a relative majority will work out in favour of Fianna Fáil. The reason for this is that the people who are very fair-minded believe in supporting various policies and various organisations such as the Labour Party, which is a very widespread and strong organisation, Fine Gael, which is an old national organisation, Sinn Féin which elected four Deputies in the second last general election, the farmers' organisations who sent 16 farmer Deputies to the Dáil in 1948.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Before Senators go into too much detail, it would be desirable if Senator Rooney could relate this to the operation of the multi-seat system and the single-seat system. That is the issue which should be debated here, and no other.
Mr. Rooney: The point I was making was that up to now you could have a Sinn Féin Deputy, a Labour Deputy, a Fianna Fáil Deputy and a farmers' Deputy from a five-seat constituency but now this constituency is to be divided up into single-seat constituencies and those five organisations could not possibly, for obvious reasons, put a representative into each area. The situation will be that you will have five areas and five candidates and only one candidate will be elected under the relative majority system, even if he  only succeeds in getting one-quarter of the votes. We could have a situation then in which one-quarter of the people in an area could have a member in the Dáil representing them while three-quarters of the people would have no elected representative. The multi-seat constituency prevents that sort of situation because it enables the supporters of various political Parties and various policies to be represented in the Dáil. Democratic representation, therefore, will come to an end if there is a change to single-seat constituencies.
It has been said that, even though Fine Gael jumped by 75 seats in the local authority elections, gaining a great measure of support throughout the country, under this so-called relative majority system, the situation would be that the candidate with the largest number of votes, even though those votes may be in a minority, would be elected. Suppose threequarters of the people did not vote for a Fianna Fáil candidate and one quarter did and got their candidate elected and suppose the three-quarters wanted to have some matter raised or some question asked in the Dáil, who would table the motion or ask the question for them? Would the Government allow one of their Deputies to ask the Minister an embarrassing question? Would he be allowed to table an embarrassing motion in the interests of his constituents?
At the moment the interests of all constituents are well served because the various Parties are represented in the Dáil by Deputies from the different constituencies all over the country and they can table motions or ask questions. They can raise matters on the Adjournment if they are dissatisfied with the Minister's reply. Could there be any hope at all that a Fianna Fáil Deputy would raise a question on the Adjournment which might embarrass his own Government?
Mr. Rooney: I am glad the Minister mentioned him. I shall say no more. To come now to the preference arrangement in the multi-seat constituencies: there was a by-election in Waterford  in which three or four candidates were involved.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I have repeatedly ruled that the question at issue is the choice between multi-member and single-member constituencies. Senator Rooney has recently started on a new line of argument and the Chair is awaiting his relating this to the debate.
Mr. Rooney: I intend to be relevant. Reputable statisticians have estimated that between 95 and 100 seats will go to Fianna Fáil in the first general election held, if this proposed arrangement is accepted. We would then have 144 Government Deputies representing 144 different areas and 44 areas with no Government Deputy representing them.
Mr. Yeats: Oh, yes. The Senator is making estimates, entirely false estimates, about the number of seats Fianna Fáil would get under the straight vote. That is the system of election and it has nothing to do with this section.
Mr. Rooney: The people living in an area represented by a Government Deputy will have no voice in their constituency. Again, the constituency in which a non-Government Deputy has been elected will be ignored and neglected by the Government.
Mr. Rooney: Oh, yes. Take County Louth, for instance. The people in County Louth are being punished by the Government and the Minister because the council there is Fine Gael. They have been threatened by the Minister that they need not expect facilities from him so far as schemes and grants of various kinds are concerned.
Mr. Rooney: Then, apparently, Fine Gael must get the credit. Even in a multi-seat constituency at the moment the Minister can say that, because there is a Fine Gael council, the people need not look to him for any kind of justice. I call it justice because it is something to which they are entitled, but the Minister says he is not interested in seeing they get justice. This will be the  pattern in the non-Government areas if this change is made. On the other hand, the Government may penalise the people and force them into a position in which they may decide they had better support the Government because otherwise they will be left out in the cold; they cannot expect anything from the Government if they do not vote for them. The people will be compelled to vote for the Government candidate. There could be an area then represented by an Independent.
Mr. Rooney: A rugged Independent would be a good Independent. One could be sure of useful questions being asked and useful motions tabled, the latter in both the Dáil and Seanad, and, generally speaking, the people in the constituency could expect good service from the Deputy.
But what about the Government? It is doubtful that the Government would be interested in being useful to the people of that constituency and there again by penalising the people of that area, they would try of course to displace the Independent Deputy and to force the people into a situation where they would feel obliged to vote for a Government Deputy. So this system of single-seat constituencies certainly favours the Government of the time, whatever Government it might be. They will be able to exercise undue pressure. They will be able to create a feeling among the people that if they do not support the Government, they cannot expect what they are entitled to. I was going to mention some Independent representatives in the other House in the past but I do not intend to do so at this stage. However, you could have that situation under the single-seat constituency system.
Of course there would be no choice of personnel in a single-seat constituency. Whether people liked the Deputy or not, the Party would decide who the Deputy for an area should be. They would not have a choice of candidate. They could only protest to their Party  headquarters but in the long run the Party would say: “Take it or leave it; your candidate, whether you like him or her, will be the person selected as the standard-bearer for the Party”. At present the people have a choice of personnel, in addition to a choice of policy.
The final thing I want to mention is that this arrangement of single-seat areas would leave the Minister in a position to send up four Fianna Fáil Deputies from an area where there are 70,000 men, women and children and in an adjoining area, which would be a Fine Gael area, three Deputies only for 70,000 people, that is the one-sixth tolerance up or down from the average of 20,000 persons. That would be a very unfair arrangement. Fianna Fáil could elect four Deputies for 70,000 people and in another area there would be only three Fine Gael Deputies for 70,000 people.
Mr. Rooney: One area can have four Deputies and the other three, and the excuse the Minister will give is, “we do not want to cross the county boundary”, and this 70,000 in one place where there are four Deputies are also inside the county boundary and the 70,000 represented by three Deputies are also inside a county boundary but they have only three Deputies because of course they are not Government supporters.
Mr. Rooney: I shall not make any more points because I am sure the Minister has a lot more to say. Obviously the multi-seat constituency is more appropriate for the people of this country. They have become accustomed to contact with the Members of Parliament representing their own Party instead of going to a Member of Parliament who might not be a member of their own Party. Supposing we had a large block of single-seat constituencies in the centre of the country, you could have a Fine Gael supporter finding it necessary to travel from Monaghan down to Tipperary in order to contact a Fine Gael Deputy.
Mr. Rooney: I am giving an example of where you could have a large number of counties intervening between the representatives of any particular Party. You could have a whole county, for instance. You might have County Clare without a Fine Gael Deputy. That is quite possible.
Mr. Rooney: I forgot about Senator McHugh, but that is the bad news I have for him in present circumstances. They are not going to have a Fine Gael representative and they are not going to have a Labour representative. That suits Fianna Fáil. Take County Donegal. Again they feel assured that they will win four out of four seats. At the moment there are two Fine Gael Deputies.
Mr. Rooney: There you are. The Minister is now going to make Donegal into a five-seat constituency and we will have five Fianna Fáil Deputies for the County Donegal. At the moment Donegal has two Fine Gael Deputies and three Fianna Fáil Deputies, but the new arrangement will ensure that Donegal will have five——
Mr. Rooney: I am assuming that Fianna Fáil know how to gerrymander areas and they will deal with Deputy O'Donnell and Deputy Harte very effectively. I have just mentioned those two unfortunate constituencies. There are other areas possibly——
Mr. Rooney: Dublin will deal with the Third Amendment and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bills. They will speak for the rest of the country as far as these two Bills are concerned. We would like to hear from the rest of the country; we would like to hear them make a decision. We can rely on Dublin to do their part and do it more thoroughly than they did on the last occasion and more thoroughly than they dealt with the Presidential campaign in 1966. The people can rely on Dublin city and county all right. The Minister went home disgusted from Rathmines Town Hall at the 1966 Presidential election. That was followed up by the 1967 county council elections.
Mr. Rooney: I do not believe it at all: you were disgusted. The Irish people are a fair-minded people. They believe in fair play and in fair representation. They do not like a situation where a candidate who secures one-quarter of the votes can get a seat.
Seán Ó Donnabháin: I have often heard it said that those who sit and listen also serve. Having listened to  the acrimonious discussions over a week now, I feel relieved at Senator Rooney's speech here today, that we are at least getting pacific in our discussion. My speech will consist of about 12 sentences. Firstly, I think the people of Ireland should be grateful to the Fianna Fáil Government for bringing in this legislation, for bringing power to alter the system of election to the principal House of the Oireachtas, Dáil Éireann. I think it will save our people from a lot of the difficulties so obvious in the European situation. I saw recently in the papers that there was no Government in Belgium and I have not seen since that they have succeeded in forming a Government. The reason for that is the prevailing situation among the people of—I will not say coalition—multi-Party organisations.
The next point I should like to make is that the Opposition, namely, Fine Gael, should be grateful to the Government for bringing in this legislation. I am satisfied to say that after almost 50 years of efforts under multi-member constituencies, that is, under PR, they have never succeeded in beating Fianna Fáil and will never succeed in beating Fianna Fáil under PR while most of us are alive and our people are alive. It shows a lack of confidence in themselves now to pretend that the single-member constituency system of election will make the situation worse. I say that the best hope Fine Gael have of securing a majority in this country is under the single-seat system. Under PR which they have had for the most of 50 years, they have failed. The only occasions on which Fianna Fáil were not a Government in 50 years were two occasions when we had attempted Coalitions.
In 1919 the Government established was the Government for all Ireland. We had the 1916 Declaration of Independence and the 1919 election held over the 32 counties of Ireland, and a great majority, an overwhelming majority, accepted the 1916 Proclamation and a Government was established under the single-seat system. Unfortunately, the split came after the unfortunate Treaty and so the successors of the pro-Treaty people are now featuring  as Fine Gael. It was in 1922 by direction of the British Government that the multi-member constituency was established to maintain the division in this country.
I said my speech would involve 12 sentences. I have reached that now and I will recap by saying that the people of Ireland should be thankful to the Fianna Fáil Government for introducing this legislation, and Fine Gael should be especially thankful, for it is the only hope they have of ever beating Fianna Fáil.
Seán Ó Donnabháin: Stop your interruptions. I have only 12 sentences and I shall not answer any of your interruptions. We should be grateful to the Government for their achievements under PR and we are giving the Opposition, especially Fine Gael, the only opportunity they will ever have of beating Fianna Fáil because they will never beat us under PR or the multi-seat constituency.
Professor Quinlan: In considering the single-seat versus the multi-seat, we have to look at and compare the position in England with our situation here. The first thing we must note is that the Member in England serves a constituency with a population at least four times as large as that of a Deputy here. They have 600 Deputies serving the present British population. That means in point of fact that the average English Member is serving as many as are served by three to four Deputies in any one of our constituencies here today. That enables a Deputy to keep at a certain distance from his constituents, a distance that enables him to discharge his more important function of legislator.
 Here, unfortunately, we have gone too far in the other aspects of a Deputy's work, that is, of making representations. One would think from many of the speeches that one was electing, say, welfare officers and not Deputies. This tendency has grown apace over the past 15 to 20 years and new and more refined techniques are being used by Deputies of all Parties to encourage this and to make the people feel more dependent.
I am not saying it prevails in all Parties, but it does to some extent. The first essential, before bringing the Deputy any closer to the people, is to ensure that the people are educated into realising the real function of a Deputy, and his real function is that of legislator, and also into realising their rights as constituents. If they are entitled to an old age pension, if they have reached the age, they are entitled to it and there is no need whatever to call on any Deputy either to fill in the form or to make representations. We can sympathise at present with Deputies because all this unnecessary work is thrust on them. They have to do it if they are to stay in, but it is high time that a concerted effort was made by all Parties, spearheaded by the Government, to enlighten the people about what their rights are and so rid Deputies of this awful burden.
If we reduce the present level of representation, it will give a greater impetus to this type of what I would only call messenger-boy representation. That of course obviously is not for the good of the community. There are other and higher tasks required from Deputies. The State has taken steps, quite rightly, recently, to increase the salaries of Deputies so that they can concentrate on this work and they will be of a calibre that merits those salaries.
Again, in smaller constituencies of one seat, we have the situation where obviously only one can be elected. That means if a leading member of one Party, say, the Government Party, in his area is a candidate the Opposition have no choice in such a situation. They have either got to concede the seat to the man in possession or else  they have got to get a really good candidate to, as it were, mark the member. It means that in such a constituency if we have one good candidate and say three Parties contest the election, we have three good candidates. There is no room for the mediocre candidate when there is one really good one in the field. Consequently it means that three candidates in the present situation of multi-member constituencies would be obvious for three seats and would form three excellent representatives. Now they are in competition with one another and only one can emerge. Much inferior candidates from other Parties will probably be elected due to the lack of competition.
When a swing goes against the Government, it is the ex-Ministers who very often are the people who suffer most. I am not saying this just solely from the point of view that it is hard on the ex-Ministers to find they are cut off and that they are not in Parliament. That is purely personal. What matters is that in a change of Government, we can be sure that the leading members of the previous Government and of the previous Government Party are available to lead an effective Opposition in Parliament and this means a healthy contribution in that respect. Therefore, any system of single-seat constituencies militates grievously against that, unless we resort, as across the Border, to the safe seat. We saw there in the last election only three out of every five seats were contested. Is that a situation we want to import here?
Again, we take the question of the lack of choice available. Our people at present are highly critical of the activities of Parliament and no amount of denial by Senator Nash or anybody else will get away from that fact. There is no point in whistling going past the graveyard. Politicians have only got to read the papers, see what the political commentators have to say and see what is said on Telefís Éireann to realise that people are highly critical of Party politics today. I admit a good deal of it is ill-informed criticism, but the fact is that the criticism is there.
 The people have a certain distrust of what they call the Party bosses and the way the Parties are operated, especially at the inner caucus level. Consequently the people have valued down the years, and like to have the final say on who shall be elected. In a three-seat constituency, the people expect the Government in power to offer, say, three candidates, even though it expects to get one, or at the most two, candidates elected. That is only right and proper. The electorate assumes a very discriminatory function in putting those in the order of their choice.
This very often results in one man breaking through, as it were, the Party machine from being in the position of the reluctant third of the team. This is the choice of the Irish electors, and it is only right and proper that they should have this function because it means that they can exercise their choice of candidates which is made first at Party level and secondly, and most important, at the level of the voters. From that point of view, the people would be very unwise to make themselves simply cogs in the political machine where, if they wish to vote for the Government, they just simply have to put before whatever candidate the Government want, whereas at the moment they can vote for the Government if they wish, but have a choice of three candidates from which to exercise their preferences.
The single-seat constituencies make any idea of proportion impossible because it just simply means that one person is elected. It does not matter what system is operated under the transferable system, the person represents not just 50 per cent or one per cent of the electors. In other words, you have the rule of the 51 per cent. In a modern democracy where all reasonable shades of opinion should be taken into account, it is not only right but it is highly desirable that those shades of opinion should be expressed within the national Parliament. That cannot be achieved through the single-member constituency, especially in our set-up here where, by and large, the country is rather homogeneous. At least you have only two main divisions:  the rural part and the urban part. Therefore, we cannot take it for granted that Parliament will be representative under the single-seat constituency system by the fact that one shade of opinion gets representation in one area and another shade gets representation in another area.
This is just like in England where you have certain areas where when it comes to a general election, they will return Conservatives and you have other areas where they will return Labour candidates, and you have the few Liberals who have their strongholds. We can see no such divisions here and therefore we cannot rely on any balancing up of our national representation in Parliament by this type of chance occurrence. It has been done very well in the past and very satisfactorily on the basis of our own version of proportional representation, that is, where the proportionality has been sharpened to give a bonus to the majority Party by keeping multi-member constituencies, with a majority of three-seat constituencies. That has worked well and we should be very slow to change from it.
Again, irrespective of whether a change is made or not, we must realise that we are now in the second half of the 20th century, that our parliamentary procedures, our parliamentary forms of representation, the work of the Deputy have not changed for 100 years. Consequently, we have got to get down to that. That is what we should be doing at the present time. It is what the people of the country are calling out for. They have been asked to modernise in everything they are doing. They have been asked to modernise in their work, to become more efficient. They have been asked to participate in all the recent advances of communication and otherwise. They are demanding that we here in Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann should modernise our approach, to set a lead rather than reluctantly be dragged on behind more progressive sections of our community.
Mr. Yeats: Opposition Senators are in a certain difficulty in discussing this particular proposal which is, of course, divorced from the question of the system of election, although I think it is reasonably obvious that in common with the public at large, the various Opposition speakers—and that includes Senator Quinlan—are clearly themselves basically in favour of the notion of a small, compact, single-seat constituency as compared with the sprawling multi-seat constituencies we have at present. They are merely trying to put up a certain fog of opposition because of their opposition to the voting proposals contained in this Bill.
I think nearly everybody, certainly, the vast majority of the public, would be in favour of the idea of these small single-seat constituencies, leaving the question of voting out of account. These constituencies, particularly in rural areas, would be very much smaller than the large constituencies we have at present. It is obvious that in certain cases—I quote Mayo which is well known to Senator O'Quigley—in certain parts of, say, Belmullet, they have nothing in common with people at the other end of the constituency.
Mr. Yeats: Certainly, they are all Irish, but if the Senator knew anything about rural Ireland, he would realise that people 20, 30 and 40 miles away are somewhat far removed from you. There are people at the end of these big constituencies who are quite unknown to the majority of the local population. They feel that, while they are all Irish, they have relatively little in common with them except for that very obvious fact of common citizenship. I think the people themselves would prefer to be able to live in and work in, if they are interested in politics, and vote in a constituency which is small, which is known to them, the bulk of the area of which they would know very well and where they would know many of the people.
These advantages are so obvious that  it is not very likely that anyone will seriously attempt to deny them. These constituencies, of course, will be much more easily managed than the existing ones. While I do not suggest that the interests of politicians should reign supreme in a matter of this kind, it is at least a factor that the various political Parties and various volunteer workers who have to help out at election time will find a much easier task in these smaller constituencies. By-elections, of which there are only too many—some 50 in the past 25 years— will clearly be much more easily managed and considerably cheaper not merely to the State but also to those who subscribe to political Party funds and the workers involved, I am sure, would be duly grateful for having a much smaller area to deal with.
More important than this, in these small areas the voters in general would have a personal knowledge of their Deputy. Not only that but, at election time, they would in most cases know all the candidates. In spite of suggestions made on Second Reading that it did not really matter, I am still unrepentant in my belief that it is an important matter in any democracy that the people, when they go in to vote on election day, should know for whom they are voting, that they should be faced with a ballot paper which consists of the names of candidates whom they know, whom they know about, know their form, their ancestry, what they do, what kind of people they are, what they represent. I may be astray on this, but I am as yet utterly unconvinced that this knowledge on the part of the voters is not a vital and essential part of a healthy democratic system. It seems to me utterly wrong that people should go to a polling station and be faced with a ballot paper on which they may know perhaps one or two names but have a great many more names that they have no personal knowledge of. If they are interested in politics, the voters concerned may have made themselves aware of the names, may have made sure as to what the names of all the candidates are and what Parties, if any, they represent, but they may not have  this personal knowledge of the majority of the candidates which, to my mind, is a very necessary thing.
One of the greatest advantages, to me at any rate, of these small single-seat constituencies will be that you will have this personal knowledge of the candidates on the part of the ordinary voters, not merely those who are more politically conscious, but also the ordinary people, perhaps the majority of the people, who are not really so terribly interested in elections, but who are still, under the Constitution, given the power to decide on election day what the Government will be and who their representatives will be. It is very necessary that there should be this close personal knowledge of candidates and Deputies on the part of the electorate at large.
Looking at it the other way round, the Deputy elected in such a small constituency will know his own people well. I agree, on the whole, with, I think it was Senator O'Quigley, on this point that a Deputy should not be in the nature of a welfare officer. I agree that an awful lot of the work a Deputy does at present is unnecessary and wasteful and should be done by somebody else or is not needed at all, though, there is no doubt about it, in these multi-seat constituencies a great deal of the unnecessary work done by a Deputy is merely in competition with other Deputies for the same area, either in his own Party or in one of the other Parties or, perhaps, an Independent. There is no doubt about that at all. I am reasonably satisfied that in the single-seat constituencies some of that wasteful, unnecessary and undesirable competition will disappear.
But, at the same time, it is desirable that a Deputy should have a close personal knowledge of his people's needs and of their views on national and local affairs. In a small single-seat constituency, a compact area, a Deputy will be in a far better position than he is at present to know the views, the needs and the national and local aspirations, not merely of a section of his constituents but of all his constituents. That is a very great advantage of these  small constituencies. At present, in in these multi-seat constituencies, a Deputy inevitably has to try to deal with the area nearest to him. There are many constituents at the far end of his constituency he never meets and has not much knowledge of or a great deal of interest in.
Mr. Yeats: I was speaking about the advantages, which I think are generally accepted on this side of the House and also outside it among the public, of the small single-seat constituencies as against the large constituencies we have now. A further advantage which I think is important is that in these small single-seat constituencies a Deputy could represent all his constituents in a way in which he does not do it at present. I know that in theory the Deputy represents all his constituents, not merely the supporters of his own Party but supporters of other Parties, and people who work against him and that many—probably all, in that case—are prepared to listen to people and help them in every possible way no matter what Party they may support. If only in his own interest a Deputy will do this, but there is at the same time a tendency, which I think is undesirable, for people who are seeking help from a Deputy or who wish him to take some action on their behalf, to go to a Deputy of their own Party. It is a much healthier and more satisfactory state of affairs where a Deputy can represent all the people who come to him for help, irrespective of what Party they support.
I dislike these divisive situations which tend to exist in multi-member constituencies where you have one section of the community looking to a Deputy of their own Party and another section looking to a Deputy of another Party. It is much more satisfactory to have a situation where one Deputy will represent all the people, as will be the case in the new constituencies. It is ridiculous to suggest, as has been suggested by a number of Senators, that a Deputy would ignore representations made to him by supporters of the Opposition. Clearly, this is not so. No  Deputy interested in remaining a Deputy for a constituency would dream of doing such a thing because word would very soon go around and there is nothing more damaging to any public figure than for people to begin saying: “He was not interested in helping me because I was not a supporter of his Party”, or something of that kind. Any Deputy interested in remaining a Deputy will certainly be willing to help in every way possible all the people of his constituency, no matter what their politics may be.
I suspect that most Deputies would go out of their way to seem to be particularly enthusiastic about helping members or supporters of the Opposition Parties, simply to avoid its being said about them that they were limiting their activities to one particular section of the public. We have an example of this in cities such as Dublin where the Lord Mayor is elected. He belongs to a particular Party or may be an Independent and he is recognised by the whole community as the Lord Mayor, no matter to which Party he belongs. In the same way, in these constituencies, the Deputy will be the Deputy for that area and will be looked up to as the public representative of the area and of all the people in the area, in the Dáil. There is no question, therefore, under this system of any difficulty such as has been suggested by the Opposition. Certainly, a Deputy who began saying to people: “I am not going to do anything for you because you did not work for me or vote for me” will not last very long.
The point has been made over and over again on various sections of the Bill that the institution of single-seat constituencies, no matter what the system of election is—that is another day's work—will result in there being a large number of safe seats, of Deputies being there and no matter what happens they could remain for ever and need never bother to carry out their duties as public representatives. This seems to me to be a somewhat irrational attitude, a misrepresentation, a misunderstanding of the situation which would arise under the new system of single-seat constituencies. It would be difficult to visualise a system of election more likely to create safe  seats than PR in multi-member constituencies. There are many Members of the Dáil who are completely immune from swings of public opinion because they are the leading members of that Party for a particular constituency. Their Party may have two seats, one of which may be marginal. One of the Members will be elected, no matter what happens and his junior partner will come and go as public opinion ebbs and flows. You will have a considerable number of Deputies under the multi-seat constituency system who are there year in and year out and who are in the safest seats imaginable.
Under the single-seat arrangement, there will be considerably fewer of these safe seats, because every Deputy will become subject to the changes of public opinion in a way that most Deputies are not subject at the moment. The Deputy in a single-seat constituency will know that if the tide turns against his Party, he will be put out, no matter how good a Deputy he is, no matter how popular he is, and no matter how good a vote-getter he is. Therefore, every Deputy in the Dáil will be responsive to public opinion in a closer and in a more direct way than he is at the moment. Inevitably there will be some safe seats, but I do not think there is anything in the suggestion that safe seats will be created on a large scale.
It is quite clear that there is general agreement on this proposition that the single-seat constituency is far more suited to the needs of this country than the multi-seat constituency. I know some Senators, like Senator FitzGerald, are publicly in favour of the single-seat constituency, but I think there are others who may not have come out in this way but who if they were in a position to speak their minds as they would wish, would also support the single-seat constituency. I do not think it is likely leaving elections out of the count that anybody will come out to say he believes that multi-seat constituencies are more desirable than single-seat constituencies.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: Senator Yeats has made, on the whole, a persuasive speech in favour of single-seat  constituencies taken in isolation from the question of the consequences of such a system for the electoral system, for elections, for majorities in the Dáil, and so on. I think the case is quite strong for providing single-seat constituencies. It is not completely compelling; there are arguments in the other direction which I think will carry some weight with people. There is perhaps not so much force in the argument in regard to safe seats, because there would be quite a significant number of safe seats under this system. On any reasonable expectation of the share of the votes a Party is likely to get within the foreseeable future, in the sense that no seat is completely safe—at some future time there may be no such Party as Fianna Fáil in this country; the same could happen to Fine Gael or Labour—it is clear that there would be a significant number of safe seats. Take, for example, the figure of 35 per cent for the Fianna Fáil vote as a possible lower level for some years to come. I wonder would Senator Yeats challenge that. Does he feel that Fianna Fáil's share of the vote is likely to fall below 35 per cent in the foreseeable future because, if not, on that basis there would be for Fianna Fáil about 30 safe seats? The Fine Gael share of the votes at the moment is now around 35 per cent; it was about 34 per cent at the last election and it is, perhaps, 37 or 38 per cent in the light of the by-election and the local elections. On a similar calculation, Fine Gael are unlikely to fall much below 36 per cent, which would give them, perhaps, 20 or 25 safe seats. Labour, I suppose, might have about five safe seats.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: Safe for whom? Not for the Deputy. The whole point of the argument about the multi-seat constituencies is that the seat is not safe for any particular Deputy. He can be ousted. This may be seen as good or bad. It happened, indeed, to Senator Rooney. It happens quite frequently. Whether that is a good or a bad thing is a matter of opinion. It will vary according to whether one is in the position  of being the kicker-out, or the kickee-out, if there is such a thing. It may vary according to one's broad views, one's political philosophy, or one's Party views. The fact is that under the present system no one is safe other than someone like the Taoiseach, who has a very large personal vote, certain Ministers, and a few leaders of the Opposition, but the number of people who would be safe in the ordinary sense of the word, and by the same standards I am applying here, would be very few.
Under this system, despite the enormous instability about which I spoke, I hope as persuasively as Senator Yeats, there would, nevertheless, be something like 55 to 60 safe seats on any reasonable expectation of what Party votes might fall to in the foreseeable future. The question of whether these safe seats are a good or a bad thing is debatable. I am not saying they are necessarily bad. If, however, they are completely safe, so that even a grave dereliction of duty by a Deputy would be unlikely to shake his possession of the seat because of strong Party allegiance in the area, I think that would be bad, bad first of all because it would tempt the Opposition not to waste time and money in opposing seats—a temptation to which the opposition in Northern Ireland have succumbed. By the opposition I mean the opposition in the constituencies. It would also tempt the Government not to oppose Opposition candidates in certain places if such opposition was obviously a waste of time and money. It could lead then to unopposed returns.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: I understood the debate to be about the spot vote in single-seat constituencies. I agree that this section deals with the single-seat aspect. I think it is reasonable for us to keep in mind the fact that, although we have no official knowledge at this point, we will shortly be debating the question of the spot vote. There are rumours to this effect. It is reasonable that we should have some regard to that in discussing this.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: The argument is still valid in both cases. This question about the seats will arise with the alternative vote and the spot vote. I am quite prepared to go into that question. Let me recap: if you have the alternative vote in the single-seat constituency, the number of safe seats at 35 per cent is 15 per cent greater. On my calculation at 30 per cent for Fine Gael it is about 15 per cent greater, and for Labour about five per cent greater so, if you are talking about that, there are another 65 safe seats on top of the ones I have been talking about. Whether we talk of 60 or 125 safe seats is not terribly important. The point is that, whatever we do with the next section when we come to it, one way or another we will have a lot of safe seats. It will not be all loss because certainly all the Parties will endeavour to make some use of the safe seat system in order to put people into Parliament who at present cannot easily be got in and who they feel would be useful in Parliament.
It is quite possible that one consequence of the single seat would be the raising of the standard of Parliamentary representation. On the other hand, another consequence could be that  there would be a lowering of the standard at the other end of the spectrum. As well as using some of the safe seats to put in people who would be an addition and an ornament to Parliament, and not by any means purely an ornament but an active addition to the work of Parliament, there would also be safe seats which would fall to people who are described by people outside politics as “Party hacks”. We never meet any of these ourselves, but there are people who are so described by people outside politics.
Some of these safe seats would undoubtedly go to people who have rendered certain services to the Party, which could range from services in active support at by-elections to financial services in providing funds. Now there is a suspicion, unworthy no doubt, in certain quarters that some of the financial support which is coming to Fianna Fáil for this campaign arises in the hope that some of those financial supporters will be allocated some of the safe seats. Indeed, there is some resentment amongst some members of the Party at this prospect, if what one hears in the corridors and rooms of this House carries any weight. So, the safe seat, a by-product of the single-seat system, will yield, I am pretty certain, both good and bad results. How one weighs that up and where one comes down on the balance is a matter of personal preference. I would find it hard myself to come down very strongly on one side or the other. There are gains and losses and it is hard to weigh one against the other.
Most of what Senator Yeats had to say was soundly based and persuasive so far as it went, but it was not the whole story. There will be the problem of the unopposed seats in some areas, or a danger of it in any event. There will be the problem of some safe seats being used for people whom we would be better off without in Parliament, people who would neither add to the deliberations of Parliament nor be willing and able to provide the kind of services constituents want, people who cannot be elected under the present system because they are not prepared to work locally, people who  would not, if elected through the safe seat system, do anything or add anything to the deliberations in the Dáil. We have to bear in mind that there is that loss to offset against the possible gain of some raising of the calibre of parliamentary representation at the other end of the spectrum.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: I did not say anything of the kind. I said I believed all Parties would use this to bring in some good people who at present cannot readily get in or be got in. I said I believed it would also be used in other places for other purposes to get in Party hacks who are not even prepared to work for their constituents and who need a safe seat where they can get away with their laziness. I think both will happen. I do not deny that some good people will be brought in. I do not think we should necessarily assume that all the people brought in will be extremely worthy people who could not otherwise be elected and who will make great contributions. There are two sides to it and one is as likely to happen as the other. Both will happen in different places. Therefore, the argument on these grounds is one which has a certain validity. It is persuasive up to a point, but it is not totally compelling. I think it is open to anyone individually to come down on either side of that issue.
Secondly, there is the argument about the unrepresentative character of a Parliament in which all Deputies are elected in single-member constituencies and the fact that this eliminates to a large degree, and could eliminate totally in certain extreme circumstances, the proportionality of representation. This is an argument which I said on Second Stage should command respect. We should be slow to initiate a departure from proportionality and fairness and equity of representation. I do not think it is totally compelling in all circumstances to say that we should be tied always and  at all times to achieving a maximum degree of proportionality even if this means we do not get more clear-cut majorities. The argument is a strong one but it is rebuttable if it can be shown that another system will yield slightly better majorities and will not undermine totally proportionality of representation and equity of representation. I think the case could be made for some other system. I do not say the present system is perfect.
There is another point which has been ignored in this House and pointedly ignored to the degree one cannot help noting as significant. I made the point on Second Stage that in the circumstances of this country's political geography this system will lead to very large majorities far beyond anything which arises under the British system with their political geography. These very large majorities will also be accompanied by great instability in parliamentary representation with as many as 30, 40 or even 50 seats in the Government Party changing hands at elections with the normal swing in votes which we experience at virtually all our elections. This is an aspect of the system on which the other side of the House have decided and I do not think they have honestly decided on it. I see some merits in the single-seat system but not compelling merits.
If one feels the need to move towards a system of election with a slightly larger bias in favour of clear-cut majorities and a slightly less proportionality, it is certainly open to one to examine other systems that might yield this result. What one is not, in honesty, free to do is to favour this system because one sees merits in single-seat representation and to ignore completely the Irish Party system, with the particularly homogeneous character of Irish political geography, with the absence of a great mass of seats which are held in all circumstances in other countries. There will be political seats here but not in the same circumstances. To vote for the 35 to 45 percentage vote range, within which the two leading Parties fall at the moment and are likely to fall under any situation for many years to come, with, in those circumstances, the instability of the  system, the huge majorities which will yield a huge turnover of seats, is not something which I think is acceptable.
If one feels the present system is not perfect, if one feels it has serious defects, nevertheless one is not entitled to change it for a system which can be demonstrated to be one to produce results in the Irish context which are clearly undesirable. I am not arguing on the grounds that the fundamental system is wrong: it has undesirable features at any time but, in the circumstances of a country with a particular political geography, it can be so mitigated that the system may nevertheless be acceptable.
All systems, including proportional representation, have undesirable features. In this country, with our political geography, these undesirable features will not be mitigated or limited but exaggerated to a degree that does not exist in any other country. The reason this system does not operate outside of about three or four countries——
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: ——is that it is unworkable, as a system yielding reasonable majorities and change-over in government, outside these countries with their peculiar and particular political geography.
We should be very unwise to adopt an electoral system which has not been adopted in or which has been abandoned by other countries, a system which has been shown to be unworkable in any country with a homogeneous political geography. We should be very unwise to adopt such a system when it can clearly be shown that, in the Irish context, it will yield majorrities totally disproportionate to the votes and with a turnover of seats at elections which would undermine the willingness of people to go into politics because the chance of their being defeated at each election would be so high, on the average—unless one gets a safe seat. If they get a safe seat, they may be happy and they may be lazy. On the other hand, there may be seats which are so unsafe that the chances are evens or more than evens at each  election that they will be material to lose them. That would not be a happy situation. In a great many cases, the safe seats could be occupied by Party hacks and the other seats by people of a rather speculative turn of mind whose occupations are such that they can take a chance of being thrown out of the Dáil at the next election.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: Senator O'Reilly has asked an apt and proper question which deserves a reply. There will be a certain number of seats— pretty small in number because of the extreme instability of the system, the extraordinarily high ratio of seats. There will be a certain number of people whose seats will not be safe but who, at the same time, will be reasonably safe.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: Yes, marginally—you can use that word. They will represent, however, in the nature of the relationship between seats and votes under this system in the Irish context, a very small minority in a Parliament which will be divided almost totally as to 80, 85, 90 per cent either of people in safe seats or of people in very unstable seats—two categories into which I do not think it is good to divide our Parliamentary representation.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: If Senator Yeats is going to be more than obedient to the Chair, that is his funeral. My concern is to be obedient. If, in any way, I am disobedient to the Chair, I shall defer to its ruling when it is made. However, I do not think it is the function of the Minister to make such a ruling and I should not defer very much to it if he did make it.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: While I accept what Senator Yeats said in good faith, I feel that this debate will not be valid on this section unless Senators come to grips with the point I am making—the point on avoidance which I made on the Second Stage. It is not enough to suggest they feel they have strong arguments to make against mine. The challenge is there before them. It is up to them to deal with the points I have made and not to talk at length about single seats in isolation from the composition of this Parliament and the consequences for the Parliament of this country if such a system were introduced here with the spot vote.
Mr. O'Kennedy: I think we can proceed on the basis, first of all, that Senator FitzGerald does not like safe seats. I think we can accept that as his first premise. Secondly, we can marvel at the absolutely definite and conclusive results that are based entirely on the exclusion of what I should call a fundamental element in life, the personality of the candidate. I have never met such conclusion arguments based on the exclusion of the personality of the candidate.
Senator FitzGerald took us on a tour and introduced figures at every nook and corner. It would be a very worthwhile exercise for Senator FitzGerald to go with us on the same tour when we might introduce him to personalities which would show him  that all these ethereal notions that figures are the answer to all these problems will immediately be disproved. I take him as being a strong opponent of safe seats. It is fair to say that not less than 50 per cent, and probably more, in the Dáil at present occupy safe seats. There may be some who had had the unfortunate experience of Senator Rooney of finding his safe seat coveted by somebody——
Mr. O'Kennedy: Not less than 50 per cent of the membership of the Dáil occupy safe seats. I do not think we need to name the people who would be regarded as safe. I can give the names afterwards: I do not wish to put them on the record. But, where a Government Party are particularly strong in a four-seat constituency, there is no doubt in the world that two members occupy safe seats. It is a fact of the Irish political scene at present that, where a Fine Gael candidate has one of three or four seats, it is equally almost the unanimous experience that his is a safe seat. The electorate in their wisdom will probably confine Fine Gael to the same representation, that is, one out of three or four, and will hardly be so unkind as not to give them that representation. I am quite certain from the ordinary experience of the people involved in the Lower House that 50 per cent would be prepared to concede to Senator FitzGerald that they occupy safe seats. So much for the abstract notion of what the figures may tell.
It is hard to deal with anything at this stage in any sort of original fashion and if Senator FitzGerald is going to repeat the same arguments as before, it will be even more difficult. In any event, take the situation which Fianna Fáil at present experience more than any other other Party and which the other Parties must experience if they are going to achieve the political status they hope to achieve, the competition between Deputies of the same Party. This is something that the Labour Party have not experienced, nominating as they do one candidate for each constituency. Fine Gael  have had a limited experience because their limited support does not warrant a situation whereby in most cases two members of their own Party are representatives for the same constituency. If the day comes to pass when they achieve that political status which they desire, they will realise that this competition is not at all desirable. Perhaps at the moment they have a little sympathy for Fianna Fáil Deputies who may be faced with this competition but in their time they will see that it is equally undesirable for Fine Gael and for Labour. This is the creature or the first child of the multi-seat constituency and it is certainly excluded from the single-seat constituency.
There is another matter which I want to mention and in this I will, despite the invitation of Senator FitzGerald, confine myself entirely to the balance of consideration between the single-seat constituency and the multi-seat constituency. In the single-seat constituency, the representative will have a smaller and more limited area and as Senator Yeats pointed out, he will be known for his achievement, for his status and he will be known in a more familiar way to the electorate than at present. This being so, representatives will be judged on the two aspects of their work. In many instances at present they are not being judged on both aspects. Where you have three or four representatives in a constituency, the electorate are quite satisfied if one or two of these devote their time to the main business, their legislative function, considering the legislation which comes before them, and if the other two devote themselves to the other business of looking after the personal problems of one sort or another. By and large they feel that the job is being done by different people in different ways.
All of us I am sure are anxious to see the day arrive when each man will as far as possible devote the major part of his time to what we all agree is the most important function, his legislative function. It is quite clear when one individual only represents a constituency, he will have to satisfy his electorate that he is doing this very important part of the work, that he is  at national level, with which many of them at present are not concerned because other representatives are doing this for them, projecting the type of idea which the electorate want him to project. At the same time, he must not exclude himself from the personal problems in which so many of the electorate need to be assisted. I for one, having had as much experience as anybody in dealing with this type of problem, do not want to downgrade the experience one gets from coming in contact with people and their problems. In fact it would be a very salutary experience for many to see the type of problems dealt with at weekend sessions in the country and in the city. They would see personified before them the type of problem representatives are concerned to solve. It is a very salutary and in many cases a very trying experience and it certainly is a very profitable one.
I do not want to be taken as saying that in promoting what I regard as the first duty of a representative, he should ignore the other duties. The second aspect of the work confers as much benefit on him as on the people he may assist. Both can be achieved in conjunction and this work must be done with the realisation that the essential job must at all times be in the forefront. I suggest that the electorate in their discretion and in their knowledge would have considerable regard to this particular aspect of a representative's activities. Far from increasing the load of what in many cases is regarded as useless work—and there is some useless work involved—the single-seat constituency would clearly reduce that load. The competition both from one's own Party and from other Parties will automatically go and you can offer yourself to the electorate as the man you are, for the work you do, to be accepted or rejected in the next election.
Another suggestion has been that under the single-seat system the Party machine would move in. I cannot quote figures to support my argument, but I can point to a certain amount of experience and the attitude generally throughout the country is that where there is a man who is prominent in his  community and who has proved that he has a significant contribution to make, then whatever Party may be involved would have a very difficult job over-riding his selection because he will be a well-known representative in a small area in comparison with the present extended area. If his achievement is such, no Party could overlook him and bring in some of the hacks about whom Senator FitzGerald is concerned. Therefore, with these limited constituencies it is obvious that one could see the emergence, not on any significant scale, where there are such individuals who may not be associated with any Party, of very prominent Independents. I do not see that this is at all impossible under this system and in such a limited constituency. Such Independents would be men of achievement and their contribution in the House would be very significant. What one should always have regard to in considering the single-seat constituency is the fact that we will be dealing with a quite limited area, an area in which each person will be fully aware of the ability of the man offering himself for selection and, on that basis, I think the man's ability will be a matter of most immediate concern.
Another matter which Senator FitzGerald and those who oppose this suggestion must be reminded of is the fact that this will give rise to a situation in which potentially effective representatives will be given an opportunity of standing for election in a single-seat constituency, whereas, under the present system, they could never get that opportunity because, human nature being what it is, one could not expect a sitting TD to support or promote a promising fellow candidate who might well become the sitting TD after the next election. Human nature being what it is, the sitting TD would, if anything, promote the weak candidate. The result might well be that weak candidates might be promoted and supported while strong and able candidates might be impeded. If we looked at our own personal experiences, we can all of us think of a few such candidates who, if we did have a single-seat constituency, would now be sitting  in the Dáil and would be a significant addition to that House. Under the multi-seat constituency, potential members may never get that opportunity.
I do not want to be taken as condemning the multi-seat constituency out of hand. It has its advantages. Neither do I want to be taken as referring to any particular case, but I think each one of us must concede that what I have said are the facts of the situation. Far from being safe in a single-seat constituency, a representative must always be concerned with what the public reaction to his achievement is. This will keep him constantly on his toes in ensuring that the public do not become either tired of his image and antagonistic towards it, or determined to remove him from political activity. He will have to remain on his toes at every level of political life because he will be the only person on whom the electorate can focus their attention. Under PR there were four or five representatives. Under this proposed system, there will be only one and the electorate's attention will be devoted exclusively to him and to his achievement and on his maintaining his record, both inside and outside the House, will their continuing judgment and support for him be based. Whatever about the arguments in regard to the system of election, I should have thought that initially the whole House here would be in absolute agreement about the benefits to be derived from the single-seat constituency as compared with the multi-seat constituency. I am not at all surprised that Senator FitzGerald in his pretence of opposition to this notion could call on no better advocate in his favour to prove his position than these figures which are based entirely on the exclusion of the personality.
Mr. Murphy: I made my position clear on the Second Reading; we are opposed to these Bills and the quicker they are booted out by the people the better we will like it. However, in case it might be assumed we have no views about this, I want to put them briefly now. May I say that, after listening to weeks of debate. I have come to wonder  more and more why people cannot make their point briefly and sit down. That is what I shall do.
Having listened to the various views expressed on this, it is, I think, a fair comment that the single-seat constituency is good for the occupant but bad for the constituents and all the arguments I have heard so far convince me more and more on this point. We have been told about the evils of competition between Deputies of different political Parties, which is understandable, and also about competition between Deputies of the same Party sitting in the same constituency. We are told this is a bad thing. It may be uncomfortable for the occupants but I do not think it is necessarily a bad thing for the electorate and, surely, what we are concerned with is not the comfort of Deputies but the interests of the electorate, the people Deputies are supposed to represent in Parliament.
We are told that the single seat would make things more comfortable and easier for Deputies because they would have a smaller area to represent. Of course it would. A smaller area with no competition either in their own Party or from other Parties would make things much easier, but a Deputy elected in those circumstances would be the only public representative from that area and everybody would have to go to him. There would be no choice. This would not work with the ordinary Irish people. We tend to take our politics pretty seriously and I can well understand that people with strong political views or affiliations would not lightly or willingly go to a Deputy elected in a single-seat constituency if that Deputy comes from another Party. These are the facts of the situation. I know one can point to exceptions, but the general run of the people have strong political views and will not go to a Deputy who belongs to another Party. If this were to operate, they would have no choice, in which case they would probably not approach the Deputy at all.
Look at the position in Britain. Senator FitzGerald has made a point, which is not exactly comparable because there are differences. How does the system operate in Britain? I have  spoken to Members of the British Parliament—most of us here have spoken to them on occasion—and the truth of the matter is that many of the Members representing constituencies in Britain have never been in their constituencies until they came to be chosen as candidates. That is quite different from the position here. A Deputy here ordinarily lives in his constituency, has contact with the people in his constituency, has to keep in touch with them; otherwise, he is in danger of losing his seat as a result of competition either within his own Party or from other political Parties. That is tough on him but it is good for his constituents.
In Britain, on the other hand, a Member of Parliament in many cases does not live in the area he represents and probably has never seen it until he comes to a selection conference, either nominated by a trade union or whatever the Conservative organisation is, and is vetted. I believe the fashion now is that not alone do they vet the prospective candidate but also his wife. It is at that stage in all probability he first sees the constituency and comes into contact with some of the people in that constituency and a very select group of people, maybe 20 or so, which is in complete contrast to the sort of selection conferences that operate here in the political Parties. He meets a very select group who vet him and his wife and on whatever basis they have select that person. He then is the candidate. If he is elected, he continues, in practically all cases—and I have checked this with people I know —to live outside his constituency. He makes occasional visits to the constituency but the work is done by a paid official, what they call, I think, a parliamentary agent. He is there in the constituency, but the Member does not live there and only occasionally visits it, perhaps for a general election, et cetera. That is the position in Britain. I do not think that position would be acceptable to the electorate of this country. As I said, this is probably a much more suitable arrangement, much more comfortable, for the occupant of the seat but not to the benefit of the constituency.
 I come now to my last point. All this, of course, is a matter of opinion I express, a guess as to what the position would be here if this system operated. Equally, the people on the other side put forward their guesses as to what would happen if we adopted this change, if it were approved in the referendum. The whole point of my argument on this section and on the other sections is that there is no need to experiment. There is no need to take a risk on this matter. The present position of multi-seat constituencies is successful. It operates successfully. It has operated successfully in the life of the State. It has maintained parliamentary democracy in this country. We have no right to take a chance, to take a guess, to leap into the dark and say: “This, in my opinion, in my guess, is what the position would be in Ireland if we changed this.” That, I think, is irresponsible.
Mr. McDonald: The more I listen to this debate the more I am inclined to the belief that it would be a disadvantage to have only one TD representing a constituency. I believe that a sizeable majority of the electorate will vote “No” to this amendment of the Constitution when the opportunity presents itself for them to do so.
Much has been said about Deputies and the way they do or do not represent the public. I feel that the Irish people have placed a tremendous amount of trust in the public representatives down through the years. This stems, I think, from the tremendous work of eminent parliamentarians going back to O'Connell, Parnell, the Dillons, Davitt and a whole host of other eminent men. It is difficult for the Irish public to get the image of this type of parliamentarian out of their minds. People have commented here that Deputies were given too much of the wrong kind of work to do. This stems from the fact that before we were an independent State the ordinary man and woman had not that much  trust in the Establishment as it was then and they relied on and placed their confidence in their elected representatives. I believe that the Deputies of all Parties have, by and large, down through the years served the public well.
I cannot forsee the ordinary voter throwing away the choice he now has of placing his case before any of three or five men who may be elected in his constituency and I think that this is a wise decision for him to take. As I see it, people approaching their TDs at the present time do not religiously go to a particular Party man. Each and every one of them has his own favourite choice, the one whom he feels will serve his particular case best. Ironically enough this man may not even be the person for whom he voted. I feel that the people will hold on to this position of having a number of people in each constituency from whom they know they will get this service and help and they will have one or other of them to champion their case. The position in this country in that regard is, perhaps, almost unique. The Deputies have given this great personal service and in many of the rural areas a Deputy knows, even in the larger constituencies, a tremendous number of people he represents.
Therefore, I feel that when the ordinary voter gets down to marking the paper he will realise that if he votes for this amendment most certainly it means that he will no longer have the trusted friends who have served him over, perhaps, a few Dáil terms. I think the people are no fools and despite things that have been said to the contrary they understand the present system very well and operate it excellently. A change in the voting system would not bring any benefits to the ordinary member of the public. On the contrary, he would lose his choice of Deputy. Under the present system the ordinary voter has only one day out of three or four years, election day, in which he has to pick out the candidate to whom he will give his No. 1. Many of them vote 1, 2 and 3 down the line religiously, wishing, perhaps, that they could have given No. 1 to more than one. When one is watching a  count one sees that many people vote not for Parties so much as for individuals. They vote for the people whom they will approach if the occasion arises when they have problems. I think the Irish people will think twice before they make this change. They have done so before when there was a very attractive bit running alongside this proposition and when they get an opportunity this time they will in no uncertain terms register “No” against this proposal.
Mr. McHugh: On this question of the single-seat versus the multi-seat constituency, I should like to make a few points. The Fianna Fáil Party are determined to get this question through, irrespective of whatever arguments are used against them. One must query their motives. Why there is this insistence? One could understand a Minister coming before the Oireachtas and saying: “This is a good idea, the single-seat constituencies”. It depends on whether you agree with single-seat constituencies or not; but what is not understandable is the Minister and the Government coming before Parliament and saying: “We will have single-seat constituencies, irrespective of what the opinion of Parliament is. The Government have decided; we have the strength and that is the position that will obtain.”
When you have that attitude, then you ask yourself what is the reason? The reason is obvious. Fianna Fáil are seeking to ensure that whatever happens after the next election, the result will be a Fianna Fáil majority. They are not concerned whether or not it will be a Fianna Fáil majority with multi- or single seats, but they believe that under the multi-seat system, they will not be able any longer to command the majority they had in the past and, therefore, their only chance now is for the single seat, in other words “go for broke”. If we win, we do not care; if we lose, we are no worse than we were.
If one considers this position one finds it is at times amusing to listen to the Fianna Fáil Party put forward these arguments. They are utterly incapable of covering up their motives. They will use any argument, the first  one that comes to their mind. People like myself who are backbenchers find it amusing to listen to the arguments with very little original thought at the end. You can see the trend right to the top. There is no original opinion. It would be amusing, as I say, to listen to all these except for the horrible thought that often strikes me. Fianna Fáil think the electors can be fooled. A more horrible thought than that is that Fianna Fáil believe it themselves at times. However, instead of being amused by these arguments, one is infuriated at the insistence of the same arguments, no matter how they are countered by intelligent argument from the other side. You seem to have this insistence that “We are right; our arguments are right” and nothing that can be said or done by the other side is of any use. This kind of thing is infuriating and would infuriate one intensely were it not amusing at times.
One asks what is the motive. The motive is to try to get a majority. When they are looking for this majority, one would imagine that they would be able to come before either House of the Oireachtas and say that there is a clamour and a demand for this change. Occasionally some of them, singly, occasionally some of them together, when they get into full cry after the Leader of the House will show you where the demand comes from and suddenly one sees that it comes from the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis, from the 1,500 delegates of the Árd Fheis.
I come from a constituency which is predominantly Fianna Fáil and I know something about what goes on at the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis just as I know the calibre of the Fine Gael Árd Fheis and the Labour Árd Fheis. This Árd Fheis, no matter what anybody says, is an annual outing. All the local branches of the cumann go and have their say and they go home satisfied. We all know that. That is what these things are designed for, particularly when you have a Party like Fianna Fáil. I know the delegates. Some of them are friends of mine and many of them we have entertained in this House after the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis. I know what  brings them here. It is the same as brings my own friends. They have no thoughts about making decisions. They come out to enjoy themselves. Admittedly many of them are very sincere, but they come to Dublin to the Árd Fheis——
Mr. McHugh: We are told, a Chathaoirleach, that the decision and the clamour for the single-seat constituency, and against the single-seat constituency, if I am not wrong, was made at the Árd Fheis, not here. I think I am right in that, but you bring me back to my train of thought. I think the decision about the single-seat constituency was made at the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis. You are as well aware as I am about what went on there, more so perhaps. I cannot help thinking in looking at the demand for the single-seat constituency made at the Árd Fheis how the Holy Ghost descended on these 1,500 delegates and inspired them. Therefore, the decision is made. To the strains of the legion of the rearguard? That is what we are told happened. When the Leader of the House or a Fianna Fáil Senator has no constructive thought and just gets up and says something, it has to be accepted as gospel by this side of the House. I wonder have we as representatives of the people to accept everything Fianna Fáil say. I want to quote for the House.
Mr. McHugh: I would quote you if you said anything worth quoting. I should like to quote from the Introduction to the Report of the Committee on the Constitution on page 4, paragraph 8, where they say:
They say here that there was no public demand for a change in the basic structure of the Constitution. Here we are  spending weeks debating a change in the basic structure of the Constitution for which there is no demand.
Mr. McHugh: I am about to finish. You can talk afterwards and say what is the basic structure of the Constitution. The people are being asked to alter the Constitution and as far as they are concerned this is altering the basic structure of the Constitution. Paragraph 8 goes on to say:
Mr. McHugh: PR is enshrined in the Constitution. We are now asked to change it by the Fianna Fáil Party to ensure that they will have a majority in the next election. I know Senator O'Kennedy to be an intelligent man and, perhaps, he would like to tell the House what he thinks about that.
Mr. K. Boland: I must agree that for once some of the Senators opposite decided to be relevant to the question actually under discussion, that is, this particular subsection of Parts I and II. Of course, this approach was bound to collapse once Senator FitzGerald started to speak. Despite the very commendable effort Senator O'Quigley had made to confine himself to the subsection, needless to say Senator FitzGerald was, as usual, unable to make anything else except a Second Reading speech.
Mr. K. Boland: I think I will follow the example of Senator O'Quigley rather than that of Senator FitzGerald. I think I have adequately dealt with the more general aspects of the proposals  we are making. Senator O'Quigley maintained that there was not any demand for single-seat constituencies. I dealt with the question as to whether or not there was a demand for the overall proposals we are making when replying to the Second Reading debate. I pointed to the clear indications there were after the last general election that there was a likelihood of proposals being put forward to provide ourselves with a more rational and a more justifiable system of election and representation.
With regard to the question of single seats as such, as has already been pointed out by other speakers from this side, a number of units of our organisation from different parts of the country had resolutions on the Clár of our annual Árd Fheis asking exactly this thing, that there should be single-seat constituencies established. Senator McHugh claims that the Ard Fheis consists of 1,500 people. I would have said that the total would have been nearer to 2,000.
Mr. K. Boland: It is quite true that the actual number of delegates at the Árd Fheis is limited. That is a necessary thing to do. It is a fact that they come from all over the country from isolated rural parishes, such as those people Senator McHugh has described as his friends. I have heard those people talking about Senator McHugh and they did not describe him as their friend.
Mr. K. Boland: The Árd Fheis is composed of people from all over the country—from urban areas, from rural areas and from all sections of society. Those are the people who are responsible  for the fact that Fianna Fáil have been the major Party in this country almost since the day the Party was founded and who are responsible for the fact that we have so well interpreted the minds of the Irish people that we have been in government for 30 years out of the past 36 years.
Mr. K. Boland: It is because we have been keeping in contact with the people that we have been able to retain their support. I repeat that I do not know of any body of people in this country who are more representative of a cross-section of the community than those at the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis. There certainly is not any body of people that is more in contact with the people of the country as a whole than the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis, representing as it does every parish in the country from one end of it to the other. This Árd Fheis, this group of people, representative also of our organisation in the areas from which they were sent as delegates unanimously, as both myself and Senator Ó Maoláin believe, but if not absolutely unanimously, practically unanimously, requested this exact thing we are discussing, here, that is, that a system of parliamentary representation by means of single seats should be established.
I am not saying that that constituted a unanimous demand from the people of the country but it certainly indicated that a large section of the people wanted this. As I said, there were other indications also which arose out of the unedifying and discreditable evidence produced by the long recounts, producing different results every time the votes were counted, that there was something amounting to a general expectation that the people would be given an opportunity of ridding themselves of this system of election and representation. In view of that fact that we ourselves in Government and in the Fianna Fáil Party were already aware of the many advantages of single-seat  constituencies and the many disadvantages and evils of multi-seat constituencies, we decided to accede to the demands made at our Árd Fheis and to the expectations of the public in general and put forward proposals for a system of representation based on single-seat constituencies.
I do not think I need deal with Senator O'Quigley's reference to the various projections that have been made by people who like to indulge in attempts to forecast the future with regard to the number of Deputies that Fianna Fáil may obtain under the system we propose. Senator O'Quigley described it as the obtaining of 90-odd Members. I think Senator FitzGerald was even more optimistic on our behalf. I will agree with both of these distinguished Senators that it is quite likely that Fianna Fáil will continue for some time in the future to retain the support of the majority in the country.
Mr. K. Boland: As to how many Deputies will be returned on behalf of Fianna Fáil, I do not know because, of course, it depends on so many things. It depends, for instance, as Senator O'Kennedy said, on the personalities that contest the various constituencies. Even one of the Opposition Senators admitted that the results would to a certain extent depend on the calibre of the different candidates that oppose one another in different constituencies.
Mr. K. Boland: Senator FitzGerald thinks that nothing matters only figures. Personalities, individuals, and so on do not enter into Senator FitzGerald's prognostications and that is why Senator FitzGerald is continuously making a fool of himself.
Mr. K. Boland: Both Senator Yeats and Senator O'Kennedy dealt reasonably comprehensively with the many advantages both for the people in regard  to their representation and for the country as a whole in the final end product of a better Dáil and people able to give better attention to legislation, and so on, inherent in the system of single-seat constituencies and they also dealt adequately with the many disadvantages and evils of the system of multi-member constituencies and at this stage I do not propose to go into that in any great detail.
I would, however, like to make some further references to this question of safe seats. On this aspect, the Fine Gael Party display even more definitely than on some others their facility for taking two contrary viewpoints at the same time. We have had a number of Fine Gael Senators here taking the same attitude as nearly all the Fine Gael Deputies in the Dáil took—not all, but nearly all—that there would be a large number of these safe seats all over the country and at the same time, we had some Senators here, the same as we had a few Deputies in the Dáil, saying that this country was a different type of country, that we had a more homogeneous community here and these constituencies with definite traditional voting patterns did not exist here.
Mr. Boland: We had some Senators taking one attitude and some taking the other and the usual attitude of Senator FitzGerald of taking the two himself. He always manages to combine the two diametrically opposed views in the one statement. As I say, Senator Dooge and others maintained that this was not the position and at the same time, others of the Opposition based part of their case on the emergence of these safe seats all over the country. I pointed out before, and other Senators on this side who have spoken pointed out again here, that it is under the present system that safe seats develop.
Mr. K. Boland: It is possible to have safe seats where there are large constituencies,  that where a comparatively small quota of votes can be gathered up and also where there is this extraordinary and unjustifiable provision for the allotting of votes to candidates for whom they were not cast at all. It is in these circumstances that Deputies can acquire, and have acquired, safe seats to the disadvantage of the electorate in the constituencies concerned. As I say, I do not want to attempt to compete with the eminent Senators on the Fine Gael Front Bench in forecasting what will happen.
Mr. K. Boland: I do feel that it is safe to say that it is practically certain that there will be no uncontested seats in this country and I can definitely say that in so far as we are concerned our candidates are always selected by democratic local conventions.
Mr. K. Boland: This is a system that has served us well and we would not be so foolish as to change it. We have had allegations that these seats would be allocated by the Party gauleiters. We just have not got these people in our organisation.
Mr. K. Boland: Our candidates are selected by democratically constituted conventions and I must say that this is an interesting insight that we have been given into the structure of the Fine Gael Party. Indeed, as Senator McHugh will be able to verify, we do not have to go further than the recent Clare by-election  to know just exactly who determines who will be the Fine Gael candidates.
Mr. K. Boland: In so far as Fine Gael are concerned, this is decided at Party headquarters but in so far as we are concerned, it is decided by democratically summoned and constituted local conventions. So we have this argument that is put forward by the Fine Gael Party, first of all, that we are a homogeneous society and that therefore there are not these strong areas where the people will continue to vote for the same Party. Secondly, we have the argument that there will be these safe seats to be allocated to Party hacks. As I say, the fact of the matter is that there will not be these safe seats and secondly, that so far as we are concerned our system would not permit of the allocation of seats in this way and, thirdly, we have not got that degree of contempt for the intelligence of the electorate that, even if it were possible to select candidates from Party headquarters, we would not do it because we know the electorate, quite apart from our own organisation, would have too much intelligence to accept that sort of imposition. If we had that degree of contempt for the people's intelligence, then, of course, we would have no more representation in the Dáil than the Fine Gael Party has. These safe seats just do not exist and, in my opinion, will not exist and, even if they do, in so far as we are concerned, at any rate——
Mr. K. Boland: The Senator went on to say that he does not know how the constituencies will be drawn up. Of course he does. If he read the Bill, he knows that it is provided in the Bill that they will be drawn up by the Constituency Commission. He maintains that our argument is based on the assumption that people must necessarily go to Deputies to obtain things which are theirs of right—conferred on them by legislation passed by the Oireachtas. Of course, we do not base our argument on any such assumption. It is quite clear that there will inevitably be much less of this type of activity under the system we propose. But in present circumstances in which Deputies are in competition, this will obviously tend to become even more common. This is because Deputies are in competition and any Deputy who wants to disabuse his constituents of this idea—I admit it exists among our people because it has been fostered by the system of multi-member constituencies—will find that his colleagues, and even possibly his colleagues in his own Party, will undermine any such attempt. But under the system of single-seat constituencies, it will be possible to disabuse the people of this belief.
In addition, because single-seat constituencies will be of more reasonable size, it will be possible for Deputies to really attend to local matters that require attention. There are such things but under the present system, when Deputies are cluttered up with a lot of things that do not really need attention and when the constituencies are too big to allow them keep in touch with them, the things that really require attention are perforce often deprived of proper attention from the local representatives and are not adequately dealt with by them. It is quite clear the people will gain in better representation from the system of single-seat constituencies.
In addition, it must be obvious that the Civil Service will become more efficient. First of all, a lot of unnecessary matters will not be the subject of representations at all. In regard to those on which representations are made, there will only be the one letter instead of three, four or five letters at  present to Deputies and letters also to Senators and county councillors.
Senator Rooney asked me how I will ensure that county boundaries will not be breached under the system of single-seat constituencies. As Senator Rooney should know, this will not be a matter for me. It will be a matter for the Constituency Commission which is provided for in this Bill. In spite of the terrific effort made by the Opposition Parties to insert a second Commission in the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, it is really amazing that they were able to ignore the fact there is provision in the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill for a Commission. On the Bill where there is not a Constituency Commission, they were making all sorts of allegations about the necessity for it. But where there is provision for it they just ignore it and assume the Commission equals the Minister.
Mr. K. Boland: But you did not. You alleged, and your colleagues certainly alleged, that these constituencies were going to be drawn up by me. Senator FitzGerald and the other Senators who made the allegation, such as Senator Quinlan, should know, if they read the Bill, that there is provision in this Bill for a Constituency Commission.
Mr. K. Boland: It so impressed the Senators that they wanted two Commissions instead of one. But, when it is in, they assume it is of no consequence at all. Again, obviously they are merely repeating parrot-like the arguments they made the last time in 1959. But their attitude to the Constituency Commission in 1959 was quite different from the attitude they have taken up now. In 1959 they said there should not be any Commission at all and they put down an amendment proposing to delete the proposal for a Constituency Commission. Instead, they said the Minister should  take the responsibility for it, that he should bring it into the Dáil, where it could be discussed in the open light of day with the press looking on.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: When the Minister embarked on this line, the Chair took it he was replying to the point made by Senator Rooney. I think the discussion, both in respect of what the Minister is saying and the interruptions, developed beyond that point.
To reply to Senator Rooney, it will not be my responsibility to try to avoid the breaching of county boundaries, but it will be the responsibility of the Commission. They will be required to do so by the provisions of the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill. Even the courts can be asked to rule on the situation and I have no doubt that the lawyer members of the Opposition, who specialise in constitutional wrangling, will make sure it will be done.
Senator Quinlan sympathised with Deputies because of all the unnecessary representations they have to make. Of course, he ignored the fact that this arises largely from the fact that they are Deputies in multi-member constituencies. He said that the calibre of Deputies should be improved. The system we are proposing of single-seat constituencies will gradually do that. Each Deputy will be isolated in his constituency and his constituents will be able to see him as the sole representative of the constituency. If he does not measure up to the required standards they will replace him if they are wise; and, if the Parties are wise, they will give the people suitable candidates from which to choose a better representative.
As far as I could interpret what Senator Quinlan said, he appeared to admit that this system was likely to produce good candidates from all  Parties and that we were likely to have good candidates opposing one another. Although Senator Quinlan argued there was a need to improve the calibre of candidates, on the other hand, when he came down to saying we could have good candidates from different Parties opposing one another and only one could be elected, he also saw something objectionable in this. I would have thought it an obvious advantage of the system that each Party would find themselves compelled by the circumstances to put forward the best candidate in each constituency, to put forward the 144 best people they could find on the basis of selecting people appropriate to different constituencies, whereas in the present system that incentive obviously is not there. Senator Quinlan does not have to go outside his own Party of Fine Gael——
Mr. K. Boland: I beg your pardon —the “rugged Independent” again. He does not have to go outside his colleagues in Fine Gael to see this built-in disincentive for the selection of the best candidates because of the multi-member constituencies. That is exemplified by what happened in the constituency of Dublin North-East, to which I referred already, where the two sitting Deputies found it necessary in response to the instinct of self-preservation to eliminate from their Party a potential danger, a person who was obviously a potential Deputy, but in the system we propose the potential Deputy would be the most desirable addition to any Party and there would not be this built-in incentive to eliminate such people. Rather they could be nurtured and encouraged in the hope that they would build up the Party to a greater number of seats.
Senator Quinlan apparently wants only one good candidate per constituency. I agree that if that situation did obtain we probably would arrive at the situation where we would have safe seats because people would have sufficient intelligence to choose the only one good candidate, if that is all there was. It is quite desirable on the other  hand that all the candidates standing for election should be good candidates and that the people should be able to make a choice between them.
I come now to Senator FitzGerald and, as usual, it is hard to know what he is in favour of. He agreed that there were arguments in favour of the single-seat constituency and I was beginning to wonder was it possible that the two Leaders of the Fine Gael Party were outvoted at the famous all-night session; both Deputy Cosgrave who was in favour of our proposal and was known to be in favour of it and who is the titular Leader of the Party, as well as Senator FitzGerald who, during the debate here has been giving undertakings on behalf of his Party, as he describes it. Apparently, both of them were outvoted by the rank and file of the Party but apparently they are both still the Leader of the Party. I must say it is a rather peculiar position——
Mr. K. Boland: How anybody could be expected to accept Senator FitzGerald's undertaking on behalf of his Party when not even the Leader of the Party can speak for Fine Gael, I do not know. Apparently, both were outvoted, the official Leader and the power behind the throne, the drafter of such policies as the recent one for the elimination of the rural community. Senator FitzGerald went on to speak about “huge swings” and challenged comment on that. He suggested these are going to occur under the present system. That is another characteristic of the Senator. He makes statements without any substantiation——
Mr. K. Boland: ——and he assumes that this is the actual fact that obtains. That is all right for Senator FitzGerald. I do not object to him assuming that something is so because he has said it is so but for everybody else to assume that because he says a thing is so, it is so, is too much. Much as I dislike to deflate his opinion of himself I must tell him that so far as we on  this side of the House are concerned, so far from assuming that because Senator FitzGerald says such a thing is so, it is so, or more definitely still, so far from assuming that because he says something will be so, it will be so, we believe it is more likely to be wrong than right.
Mr. K. Boland: This suggestion of Senator FitzGerald's that despite the contention of his colleague Professor Dooge that there will not be safe seats, that these areas do not exist in this country, there will be these huge swings——
Mr. K. Boland: ——is completely his unsubstantiated opinion. This is based on Senator Dooge's assumption that there will not be safe seats but the Senator goes on to argue that there will be safe seats.
Mr. K. Boland: He has an extraordinary facility for using diametrically opposed arguments because he followed on this assumption that there would be huge swings because of the non-existence of safe seats, by saying that there will be a liberal supply of safe seats for people whom he described as ornaments, for people who would be useful additions to the Dáil but who the people would not elect except for the existence of safe seats, and for people he described as political Party hacks and for a fourth category, substantial subscribers to Party funds. We are going to have this supply of safe seats and in addition we are going to have huge swings because of the non-existence of safe seats, according to Senator FitzGerald.
The Senator seemed to be affronted because I did not deal with this assertion of his that there would be these huge swings. I do not think this deserves any attention whatever because it is so completely illogical and so completely merely the product of  the Senator's imagination. Senator Murphy——
Mr. K. Boland: That is all the Senator is getting about this particular argument because that is all it deserves. It is based on an assumption which is quite logical to Senator FitzGerald but not to us, that is, that anything he says immediately he says it becomes a fact, becomes doctrine. So far as we are concerned we do not believe that at all. If he could only put himself in the position of people who have not the same regard for his unconsidered statements as he has himself——
Senator Murphy alleges that the whole idea behind this proposal of single-seat constituencies is the comfort of Deputies and the elimination of competition between Deputies of the same Party. The question of the comfort of Deputies does not arise at all although I do think, as did the British Royal Commission which considered the possibility of introducing this system into that country, that a strong argument against the present system is the disproportionate effort and expense and, as the commission says, the unnecessary electoral turmoil involved in by-elections. I think there is a disproportionate effort involved in covering large constituencies, in order to elect a fraction of the representation of these constituencies. For instance, in the recent by-election in East Limerick all parties tacitly agreed that the seat was a Limerick city seat, but despite that, we all found it necessary to go  down and canvass the extensive constituency of East Limerick, including rural areas. And Senator FitzGerald found it necessary to organise the disruption of Fianna Fáil meetings and so on——
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: I want to make another routine protest against the Minister repeating something that I have denied, and a denial of which in a nominal form he has accepted having been instructed to accept it from the Chair previously.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: I said that no such instructions were given and if any such instructions had come to my notice I would have taken every step to countermand them. I could not say what everybody in the country did or did not do at that particular period. I am certainly not aware that any such instructions were given, nor am I aware that anything of the kind ever happened.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: The only thing I am aware of is what happened in Limerick where one Fine Gael student was attacked and had his equipment stolen, and when he went to complain was beaten up in the main street in the presence of a Fianna Fáil TD to whom he protested.
Mr. K. Boland: On Senator Murphy's point about the comfort of Deputies, as I say, although this was a Limerick city seat, the whole constituency had to be involved in the election. You can take any other constituency you like in which there were  by-elections. For instance, in the constituency of Clare, the whole constituency had to be canvassed, had to be brought to the polls, and all the necessary administrative arrangements over the whole constituency had to be made in order to elect one-quarter of the representation.
While as I say, the question of the comfort of Deputies is not the reason for bringing in this Bill, it is obvious that if in Clare only an area appropriate to the job in hands had to be covered, and that would be a quarter of the constituency, and, similarly in Wicklow, one-third of the constituency, then there would have been, for one thing, less disruption of the proceedings of the Dáil and Seanad and, for another thing, there would have been less demands on the stamina and fewer adverse effects on the health of Deputies, because a smaller number could have been employed and it would not be necessary to press people into service who possibly were not in a fit condition to undertake that kind of activity at the particular time.
The smaller area will result in better representation for the people and also better attention to local matters requiring attention. It will also provide a better opportunity to the elected representative of the people to attend responsibly to his fundamental duty as a Member of the Legislature.
I think it was Senator Murphy also who put forward the rather naive suggestion that people would not go to a Deputy of another Party. I wish Senator Murphy could see some of the files either of the Department of Local Government or of the Department of Social Welfare and he would see that not alone will they go to Deputies of other Parties but that they will go to every Deputy, to every Senator and possibly to every county councillor as well. He will see the vast amount of unnecessary work that is involved for the Civil Service in ensuring that these people who make representations get the exact same reply in the exact same terms and at the exact same time.
Far from people not being prepared to go to a Deputy of more than one Party, I remember the first week that I  became Minister for Defence, I got a very gratifying type of letter from an individual who welcomed me to the Department. Although he was not from my own constituency, I was pleased that he had such a high opinion of me. He welcomed me back and welcomed the fact, in particular, that the “other crowd”, as he referred to them, had been got rid of. Having dealt adequately with the merits of the Fianna Fáil Party down the years and the demerits of their opponents, he said that no doubt the pension of which he had been unjustly deprived for political reasons by my predecessor, General MacEoin, would now be awarded to him.
It was a fairly voluminous file, and I looked back to see just what exactly the case was and how General MacEoin had so maliciously deprived this man of his pension. I came on a letter with some date in 1954 where General MacEoin, having been addressed “Dear Seán”—I had been addressed “Dear Kevin”—had been welcomed back to the Department. The correspondent thanked God that the “other crowd” who, in this letter, were Fianna Fáil, had been got rid of. I leave it to the Senators opposite to imagine the disparaging references that he made, for instance, in respect of the Taoiseach who had been displaced in 1954, because they would be well able to supply this type of reference themselves.
Investigating the file further I found a similar letter addressed “Dear Oscar”. It welcomed back the late Mr. Oscar Traynor as Minister for Justice, and described the appalling injustice that the late Deputy Dr. T.F. O'Higgins had inflicted on this individual by depriving him of a pension over the years. There were all the disparaging references to Blueshirts and so on, and now he was quite sure that justice was going to be done.
There was a similar letter in 1948 welcoming the eventual emergence of the only decent Party in the State, Fine Gael, and the fact that at last the iniquitous Fianna Fáil Party had been got rid of, and no doubt now the pension that this gentleman had been deprived of would eventually be received by him.
Mr. K. Boland: That is the position, that the majority of people who approach Deputies about unnecessary things will approach them all. The system that we are trying to get rid of encourages that type of thing, and I do not see much hope of disabusing the people of this idea except by the establishment of single-seat constituencies.
Mr. K. Boland: As I said, the file on practically every social welfare benefit and the file on practically every local government grant will disclose that in practically every case in which representations are made by a Deputy of one Party they are made by Deputies of every Party, and also as a general rule by Senators who happen to be located in the area, and in many cases also by the local county councillors.
I do not know that there is any need to refer, certainly in any great detail, to Senator McHugh's contribution. He alleges the Government have decided, by virtue of their majority, that they are going to have this system of single seats. We have not decided that at all, because we cannot decide it. What we have decided is that the people will be given an opportunity of providing for themselves this more normal and rational system of representation.
I have dealt already, and other Senators here have dealt already, with the suggestion that the purpose of this proposal to have single-seat constituencies is to perpetuate Fianna Fáil, and that that will be its inevitable effect. I have invited Senators opposite to explain just why this should perpetuate Fianna Fáil, just why it is that, although they continue to contend that their proposals for the conduct of the country's affairs are better than ours, and just why, in circumstances that we propose here of a clear confrontation in every constituency between the best candidates that each Party can get to put these proposals before the people, it should be that Fianna Fáil will be  perpetuated in Government, circumstances in which, for instance, outstanding Fianna Fáil Deputies like the Taoiseach and Deputy Seán Lemass and my gracious colleague, Deputy P.J. Burke, will be able to elect themselves only and every Fianna Fáil candidate will have to stand on his own feet. Apparently this must result in the perpetuation in office of Fianna Fáil because in addition every Opposition candidate will have to stand on his own feet also. No doubt it is because of the fact that there are prominent members of the Fine Gael Party who do not stand on their own feet that people like the senior Deputy for Laois-Offaly are so definitely in favour of the proposals we are making.
Professor Quinlan: I want to clear up one or two points. The first is in relation to the safe seats. What has been said can be summed up by saying that under the multi-seat system, which we have at present, seats are made safe by the excellence of the candidates concerned and by the contributions which they made in Government or in Opposition, but under the single-seat system, seats will be made safe largely by the voting strength of the Party at that period. No individual contribution will be nearly as significant as it is at present under the multi-seat system. Any member who has performed well in the outgoing Parliament is pretty certain to be re-elected under the multi-seat system.
The Minister twisted what I said about one candidate marking another. When we have an outgoing Government, Ministers will all be experienced and will be worthy of being representatives in Parliament, although they may not be fancied by everyone as Ministers. Practically all outgoing Ministers would be a considerable asset to a new Parliament. At present outgoing Ministers are pretty certain of re-election even if there is a strong swing against their Party. They will not be defeated, and quite rightly so. On the other hand, in a single-seat constituency the Opposition have got to decide either to give the Minister a walk-over or put up an outstanding  man to oppose him if they think there is a chance of defeating him. The result is there are two good candidates in competition with each other. We need both in Parliament and only one can succeed.
In the vast majority of constituencies, there will be candidates competing who could not compete with either of the two I have mentioned. This is further aggravated by the television age when confrontations of Parties are becoming the rage of the time. In future if we have single seaters, we will have confrontations between those seeking election. Again a big man has to be put up to mark another big man. This will lead to great waste.
The Minister harked back to the long counts. I can assure the Minister that by next week I hope to be able to present to him with my compliments a fully operational electric computer that can carry out any count, whether it is for a Seanad Éireann election, a students' council election in the universities, the Labour Party executive election or any other election under the rational process of PR.
Professor Quinlan: The Minister argued the long counts against the multi-seat constituencies. This has been running through the debate in recent weeks. I can assure the Minister that there are good tidings in store for him and in future he can drop that argument. It will be like someone saying you cannot go to America because it is too far and the sailing ship takes 30 days—a person who never heard of the jet age or of jets going to America in five or six hours. We will have another system within ten years whether in the single-seat or the multi-seat system.
Senator O'Kennedy made a balanced speech but he appeared to me to attach too much weight to how the legislators will be judged as between dealing with constituency problems and legislative work. A legislator who spends his time legislating is pretty certain to be returned under the multi-seat system and the person who devotes his time to  other questions also has a following. Therefore it gives a wider choice.
Senator O'Kennedy also suggested that a sitting TD at present promotes a weaker candidate, that is to say, that a TD who is selected to contest one area will have a very strong say in who will contest a neighbouring area. Are we to believe the Minister when he says that every single-seat constituency will be a republic in its own right? Are we to have republics within county boundaries and single-seat constituencies with inner republics and the local Party bosses, whoever they may be, making the choice unfettered and unlettered? We are generating into a series of mini republics and I do not think that is the way to progress. I do not believe that at the present stage of our development the electorate will give up the freedom and influence they exercise in selecting their representatives from candidates proposed to them by the Parties.
Mr. J. Fitzgerald: I wonder could the Minister give us an indication of what he proposes to do in the local authority elections? Are we to retain PR or are we to have the singleseaters? No reference has been made to that during this marathon debate.
Mr. K. Boland: Senator Quinlan's purpose, apparently, in getting up was principally to re-state that, in his opinion, the single-seat system will give rise to safe seats. The Opposition can have it both ways and are insisting on having it both ways. Senator FitzGerald said there would not be safe seats. Senator FitzGerald maintained that the calibre of the Opposition will be reduced, on a change of Government, because Ministers are the most likely to be defeated. On the other hand, his colleague, Senator Quinlan, said Ministers could not be defeated in any circumstances under this system.
Mr. K. Boland: Senator FitzGerald definitely said the most likely people to be defeated on a change of Government  under the system we propose would be Ministers who would be most closely identified——
Mr. K. Boland: Senator FitzGerald said that within the past hour. Senator Quinlan said Ministers could not be defeated under the system of the single-seat constituency unless an outstanding candidate was nominated to mark them.
Mr. K. Boland: It certainly was. He went on to allege that one of the main arguments used in favour of this proposal is the fact that there were long recounts at the last general election. It is not the actual length of the recounts that I think proved so unedifying to the public as the obvious fact that each count could produce a different result. This undermined confidence in the system. It disclosed that the element of  chance which arises from the random selection of votes for redistribution plays a very significant part in the result in circumstances where there is a close result and that, in fact, depending on where the group of votes for distribution is taken from, one candidate or another could be elected. It would be just as logical, just as justifiable, to toss a coin as to base the decision on a count carried out under this present system.
With regard to local authority elections, as Senator FitzGerald knows, the system of election to local authorities is not specified in the Constitution and that does not need a referendum to deal with it: it can be dealt with by legislation. In fact, at one stage, the Fianna Fáil Party had put legislation through the two Houses of the Oireachtas to establish a system of single-seat constituencies but fell for the gimmick that has been tried here, namely, accepted a minor amendment in the Seanad and a general election came and ensured that that did not happen. That seems to be the only hope the Opposition would have now, that they would succeed in getting an amendment accepted here which would delay the proposals so that it would be too near to the date of a general election to put them into operation.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: Most of what the Minister said does not merit a reply but there seems to be confusion on what I said in relation to safe seats. The Minister may genuinely have misunderstood what was said on this point. Under the single-seat system, some seats will have a degree of safety which cannot attach to any seat under the multi-seat system. Therefore, for some seats, the degree of safety is enhanced. They become much safer for individuals than they could conceivably be under the multi-seat system under which, if a man does not work for his constituents and is not active in public life, he can be displaced by another colleague, which does not happen in the single-seat constituency.
 In the Irish situation, where the number of safe seats will be less than in Britain because there is not the uneven distribution of political allegiances that there is in Britain, the swing in the range between 35 to 45 per cent of the vote will be far greater than in Britain. There is no contradiction whatever between these two statements. The number of safe seats will be much less than in Britain and therefore the swing will be much wider—but the safe seats will be much safer than is the case under the present system with the multi-seat constituency. No Deputy can feel completely safe under the multi-seat system.
Professor Quinlan: I have pleasure in assuring the Minister and the House that this element of chance, which he has suddenly awakened to as being present in a very microscopic way in the present proportional representation elections, will totally be eliminated by the computer programme with which I hope to present him next week— another great argument gone, unfortunately, for the Minister. That, unfortunately, is the price the Minister has to pay for scientific progress. He has to keep his system up-to-date, too.
Mr. K. Boland: I think Senator FitzGerald has made a very lame attempt to justify his adopting two completely diametrically opposed assumptions in opposing this. He now says it is the degree of safety he is taking into account. I do not think there can be anything more safe than that some Deputies have retained their seats right from the institution of this Parliament up to the present day. If any seat could be safer than that under the system we propose, it would be a very safe seat indeed. It is absolutely clear that it is under the conditions of multi-seat constituencies that seats can in fact be safe. Needless to say, the number of safe seats will be fewer here. The total number of seats here is also much less than in Britain——
Mr. K. Boland: Senator Quinlan maintains that it is only in a microscopic way that this element of chance  has influenced elections here. In practically every close result in which a surplus was distributed, this element of chance has entered into the final result. Senator Quinlan maintains that this will be eliminated by computer. In fact, the electoral system can be changed only by referendum. I do not think you can substitute a computer for a referendum, as I understand it. The system is described in the Constitution. If Senators opposite maintain that it is permissible to alter the actual rules for the single transferable vote, that could solve a lot of problems if you could do that without breach of the Constitution.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Senator O'Quigley has informed the Chair that he wishes formally to move the closure of this debate. There can be no further debate until this matter is determined and it can be determined only by the Cathaoirleach.
Brennan, John J.
Cole, John C.
Eachthéirn, Cáit Uí.
Egan, Kieran P.
Flanagan, Thomas P.
Honan, Dermot P.
|Martin, James J.
Nash, John Joseph.
Ó Conalláin, Dónall.
Ó Donnabháin, Seán.
O'Reilly, Patrick (Longford).
Ryan, Patrick W.
Sheldon, William A.W.
Teehan, Patrick J.
|Conlan, John F.
Davidson, Mary F.
Dooge, James C.I.
FitzGerald, Garret M.D.
Murphy, Dominick F.
O'Quigley, John B.
O'Reilly, Patrick (Cavan).
Quinlan, Patrick M.
Tellers:—Tá: Senators Browne and Farrell; Níl: Senators McDonald and Rooney.
Faisnéiseadh go rabhthas tar éis glacadh leis an gceist.
Question declared carried.
The Seanad adjourned at 10 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 25th July, 1968.
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