Wednesday, 11 April 1984
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. O'Leary: The Minister is no doubt briefed on section 3. A point raised on Second Stage last week was the question of the differential with regard to the number of replacement candidates envisaged under subsection (3), paragraph (a) of section 3. The Minister undertook to consider the differential which would arise as between a non-party candidate on the one hand and a single candidate of a registered political party on the other hand, whereby the non-party candidate would be entitled to nominate three replacement candidates but a registered political party sending one candidate would be entitled to nominate four replacement candidates. The Minister undertook to look at that to see if there was any difficulty in any constitutional requirements with regard to fairness or any matter like that. I ask the Minister to indicate what the position is.
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. F. O'Brien): Yes, I said on Second Stage that I would look at it and I have looked at it. I take the Senator's point, but there is no conflict whatsoever. There is no degree of unfairness. The Independent would have three candidates and the party would have four. Rather than splitting hairs with regard to parties, it is better to establish on day one that the political party have this number whether they run one, two or three. The Independent is a single entity and will be running only one. We will determine that, but we are not able to determine what the political party will do. In the interest of fairness and of having  criteria on which we can go, I believe what we are suggesting is a better arrangement. I propose to leave it as it is.
Mr. O'Leary: I am not at all concerned with the question of fairness because, as the Minister has said, nobody can seriously, objectively consider the question of fairness. What I am concerned about is whether it could be considered to be in conflict with the equal treatment of individuals under the Constitution. I am not concerned about whether it is fair or unfair in that sense. I do not think anybody will be put at a disadvantage. I am worried in case the letter of the law will be seen not to be applied fairly to two situations which are clearly identifiable and comparable. Obviously if a political party have three candidates, under this legislation they would be entitled to a total of seven on the list, that is, three plus four. Obviously they must be entitled to some excess because, of course, any number of those candidates, up to and including three, might be elected and, therefore, they would need a greater reserve to draw on. I understand and appreciate that that differential must come about. I can see that an argument could be made in the case of a registered political party standing only one candidate who would be entitled to be the one candidate and another additional four, as compared to the Independent candidate who will be entitled to himself plus three. Is the Minister satisfied that it is not in breach of any individual's constitutional right? That is the kernel of the question rather than whether it is fair or unfair from a political point of view.
Mr. F. O'Brien: Yes, I am satisfied that there is no breach and no constitutional problem and obviously time will reveal that. My information is that there is no conflict or constitutional problem whatsoever.
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