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Private Members' Business. - Local Elections Bill, 1966: Committee Stage (Resumed).

Tuesday, 18 October 1966

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 224 No. 10

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Question again proposed: “That section 1 stand part of the Bill”.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): Before the interruption of business, I had tried to put my objections clearly to the section which seeks to postpone the holding of the elections. I object on the grounds that it is undemocratic, that the bodies now in office were elected for five years in 1960, that there have been many deaths and retirements and that certain bodies of local representatives constitute the electorate for the Seanad. I also directed the Minister's attention to what I thought was a drafting error. I regret very much that in answering me the Minister thought fit to descend to personalities and to drag me and my constituency into this debate in a personal manner. That is very regrettable, but he having done so, I wish to put on the records of this House that there is absolutely nothing personal in my objection to this section and, so far as my parliamentary constituency goes, I feel obliged to put on record, in reply to the Minister, that the Fine Gael vote increased there from 7,000 approximately in 1961 to 10,050 in 1965 and that the Minister's Party lost a seat there in the general election of 1965.

I wish also to put on record, in so far as I am concerned in a local capacity, in view of the Minister's objectionable remarks, that I have been chairman of my local authority from 1960 to date. Therefore, I say I have nothing to gain from my objection to the postponement of the local elections.

I drew the Minister's attention to what I think is unnecessary over-drafting in subsection (2) which I consider is very hard to follow. I told the Minister that I, as a lay member of this House, and I am speaking as such, am of the opinion that the words “next after the commencement of this Act” seem to be unnecessary. I asked the Minister for a full explanation of the presence of those words. I am afraid I must place on the records of this House that I simply got an ignorant retort from the Minister that his draftsman had drafted the Bill in that fashion and that he presumed the draftsman, who was an expert, had done it in the way best calculated to give expression to the Minister's thought. I consider that is hardly a sufficient explanation to a Member of this House who puts a civil question to the Minister. When a member of this House who puts a civil question Minister he is at least entitled to a civil reply. If this is the way the Minister intends to continue this debate, I suppose it is part of the price one must pay for democracy.

Mr. Larkin: Information on Denis Larkin Zoom on Denis Larkin I wonder whether the Minister intends to deal with the question I raised. I want to ask him whether he gave any thought to the question I raised in regard to the need for having quinquennial elections in relation to local government elections. I should like the Minister to answer that particularly having regard to the very interesting contribution by Deputy Moore, a member of the Minister's own Party who indicated that at the last municipal election only 25 per cent of the electorate voted. That shows the great amount of apathy which existed at that time. This is as a result of the apathy of his Party at the time of the last municipal elections six years ago.

I wonder now, in regard to this Bill, whether the Minister is not in the Bill indicating that he is likely to postpone [1473] the elections next year. The main question I asked the Minister was whether he had given consideration to the desirability of local electors having an opportunity of expressing their views as to how their local authority functions at more frequent intervals than they have been permitted to do in the past.

At one stage, as mentioned, local elections took place every three years. The electors had this advantage, that they were able to indicate by their votes, when those elections were taking place regularly every three years, their confidence or lack of confidence, in the people who were elected. It had the disadvantage, however, that the people who, for one reason or other, felt they no longer wanted to continue working on local authorities had the opportunity of not just resigning but of going forward instead of allowing other people anxious to take up that particular office to have this opportunity. Of course, having local authority elections at now increasingly longer intervals means that in areas where the co-option to fill vacancies operates, not by any agreement as it does in Dublin Corporation—the arrangement there, in the case of a vacancy, is that the Party from whom the deceased member came nominates a successor—the filling of a vacancy is by the decision of the majority of the elected councillors.

You can have the situation in such local authorities whereby the views of the electorate have been set at nought repeatedly because where a member of a particular local authority has resigned or died the vacancy is filled by co-option. In many cases the person so co-opted has, as a result of the majority decision of some group in the council, been from a different political party than the person whose decease or resignation caused the vacancy. This, to my mind, whether it happens as the result of a Fianna Fáil majority, a Fine Gael majority or a Labour majority, flies directly in the face of what should be proper representation on such bodies.

When you compare the period between local elections of five years, which is proposed in this Bill, with the [1474] possibility, as has been pointed out, that that is only the minimum period we, in this House, have little regard for the people whom we should be concerned about, in passing this Bill through the House. This, whether we like it or not, may be convenient to each one of us. I have no doubt it is. It is much more convenient for candidates who are members of local authorities not to have to face the electorate more often than every five years. It might be convenient for them, personally, not to have to face them for ten years. In fact, it might be very convenient for the elected members of local authorities not to have to face the electorate more often than five, six, seven, eight, nine or ten years. It might be very convenient for the person so elected but we are concerned not with the position of the elected representatives but basically with the local government electors; in other words, the citizens who have the right to vote, who have the right to express their views as to how their representatives do their work in a period of action.

I want to ask the Minister whether he has considered the decision to have local elections on a quinquennial basis good enough, particularly having regard to the fact that the quinquennial period is not the maximum. It has now been stretched to six years and it is proposed to stretch it to seven. It might, indeed, be stretched to eight years next year because of the factors which are making the Fianna Fáil Party very unpopular. The Minister next year might say: “We will have the elections in 1968.” I do not know whether he has got that far but it is a possibility. I should like to know whether the Minister has considered this. I do not suppose he will change his mind at this stage. If so, I should like to point out some of the major problems faced by people who are elected on the basis of a three-year or five-year period. The constituencies they represent have in many cases grown completely out of proportion, having regard to the electorate they represent and in whose interests they are supposed to be working.

The Minister at this stage has not [1475] indicated that he is giving any thought to this matter. I do not know if he will do so between now and 1967 but it would be quite inequitable, in so far as the area I represent is concerned, to have the quinquennial elections take place in June, 1967 and people elected at that particular time in respect of areas where the proportion and the number of citizens between one area and another have varied so tremendously since the last election in 1960.

I do not know whether the Minister has given any thought to that particular problem and, finally, whether he has given any thought—and perhaps this might not be the time to raise it but it is a question that has to be raised—to the problem that if we are going to have an election next June the people who are to contest those elections, those who are prepared to serve the interests of local authorities, corporations, county councils, and so on, have no assistance whatsoever by way of free postage.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin Zoom on Cormac Breslin I do not think that subject would arise under the section.

Mr. Larkin: Information on Denis Larkin Zoom on Denis Larkin I should like to know whether the Minister intends to make an advance in this regard.

Mr. O'Hara: Information on Thomas O'Hara Zoom on Thomas O'Hara I join with Deputy Fitzpatrick in his criticism of the Minister's approach to various matters raised by Deputies in this House. After all, regardless of what Party we belong to, we have been elected by vote of the people and the least we might expect from the Minister on our expressed views is courtesy and, shall I say, a civil tongue. That we do not always get. I suppose I would be a bit of an optimist if I expected anything different. It is a tactic all along the line. He cannot give anything but a smart answer. This is appreciated by the people outside. He is not gaining any prestige for his Party in acting that way.

It is most unfair that the elections were not held at the appropriate time. There are many reasons one could advance for not having held the elections at the time the people expected [1476] they would be held. Last year conventions were held all over the country, certainly by the Fine Gael Party, and people came from far and near to the various conventions at considerable inconvenience and great expense and selected their candidates. It should be borne in mind that that is the normal process when putting forward candidates in the different areas for county council elections. As the elections are of a local character, naturally the local people come from far and near and to vote in favour of one candidate or another. Quite often there is a good spirit at county council elections. These people have been inconvenienced and the plans made to contest the elections were thrown out of gear. Therefore, the Minister showed disregard for the wishes and feelings of the people and he would prefer, as he always has done, to put Party interests before those of the people.

Again, let me say this postponement of the elections shows disregard not alone for the Members of this House but for the ordinary people outside who take a deep interest in progress. I noticed in County Mayo that there are a number of long-serving members of a council who are most anxious to retire because of their age, but they felt obliged to carry on despite their years. They have discharged their duties well in face of difficult times. They are anxious to retire but have been obliged to continue only in so far as their duties to the people who elected them are concerned. It is most unfair to those senior men who laid the foundations of this State. They do not all belong to my particular Party but the Minister does not seem to care a hang so long as there is a question of furthering the interests of Fianna Fáil.

The sooner we get back to reality the better, and the sooner there is a sense of fair play and we realise that in the present day and age there are greater educational facilities available, more modern means of communication and people are becoming more enlightened, the better. The people see all the gags and tricks that are being played but they are wide awake. When [1477] the time comes they will let the Minister know they are wide awake.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney Fine Gael, as I said earlier, never seem to learn. They think that if they repeat the charges they are making as to the necessity for this Bill often enough people will believe them. I do not intend to let them away with that. I repeat what I have already said in answer to the charges made by Fine Gael Deputies. They do not seem to be able to appreciate the fact that they have not anything to talk about on this section but generally speak on things that are not applicable to the section at all.

They want to get away with the story that this year the elections are postponed for purely Fianna Fáil political reasons. They want us to believe that whatever might have been the reasons last year, with which they apparently agreed because they did not oppose the Bill postponing the elections a year ago—that whatever might have been the reasons at that time, they apparently agreed with those reasons and what I am saying is that the reasons this year are no different from what the reasons were last year.

While appreciating the views of Deputy Larkin as to the more frequent testing of public opinion in regard to the worth or otherwise of the members of his local authority or any other local authority, I can say that whatever may have been the intentions of the laws passed by this House for the last 40 odd years we find that since 1922 and up to 1966 there have been just eight local elections held. This does not indicate in any way that we have departed recently from what is regarded by Deputy Larkin as the ideal, that is the three-year period. The average for the past 40 years has been over five years. We are not doing anything new in this particular case. It has happened before and it happened at a time when, if there could be a case made today on the basis that Deputy Larkin has been following, I think a better case could have been made then for more frequent elections. A lesser case can be made today than [1478] might have been made 25, 26 or 27 years ago, before the managerial system, when, in fact, whatever services the councils were then providing —and certainly they were much less than they are today—they were responsible for whatever these minimum services were and, therefore, in a sense the period in those days could, justifiably, have been said to be required to be shorter than it might be today.

I say further, from my own experience, a member of a local authority being elected for the first time—and everybody must be elected for a first time—without any doubt, anything less than five years will not be sufficient to enable that particular member to do anything worthwhile and see it through while he is there. In that sense I am not only satisfied that five years is the least period; I believe that, indeed, the period could usefully be extended by the law of this House.

The law of this House, whatever it is, whatever this House says, is only the law of this House. We are passing something that changes. Anything that we determine in this House we are entitled to change our minds about. I am not saying that this Bill, in fact, could not be followed by another one and that circumstances could not arise when, in fact, the House would ask that is, the three-year period. The average for the past 40 years has been do it they can do it. This House is here to make laws, including electoral laws and there is nothing sacrosanct sent down the drain by postponing these elections.

It amuses me to hear Fine Gael Deputies talking as if the people down the country, in their own counties or in my county, are so concerned about whether in fact the Fine Gael people or the Fianna Fáil people go out and show themselves and answer for their charge for the past five or six years in regard to local affairs. Ninety per cent of councillors who offer themselves from one election to the next and appear at their meetings—and I make a special point of this—at least appear regularly at their meetings, will be returned year in year out as long as they [1479] want to go forward. There are not many people who are prepared to give their time to council matters. This is a known fact. We all know it and I think the public know it, even though at times and by the returns of those who vote and the percentage poll that we see, one would think that the public may not appreciate it because they do not come out in any great numbers to vote. Nevertheless, I think the public are fully aware that members of councils by an extension of a year or a number of years to the period for which they were originally elected, are not, in fact, getting anything out of it. They are giving the service if they are attending their meetings.

I feel that all this worry in Deputy Fitzpatrick's mind, and indeed in Deputy O'Hara's mind, is a bit phoney to say the least of it. I do not think it is a real fear and I do not think they are the slightest bit concerned whether or not there are local elections this year or were last year or whether there will be local elections next year. It is they who, in fact, are playing politics in this House in regard to this Bill and this particular section. They well know that this is so. Their inconsistency is displayed tonight and the last night that we talked on the Second Stage of this Bill as against their views when we were discussing the last Bill a year ago. These inconsistencies are being shown up one after the other and the more they get up the more they are putting their feet into it and showing how inconsistent they can be. I hope the public outside will discern that this whole business of discussing this particular section and making it out as if it were a general discussion on the whole electoral laws is being used by Fine Gael as a vehicle of propaganda to make the people believe that Fianna Fáil are keeping something good from them by not holding elections this year. If the talk that is going on here is continued as uselessly as it appears to be so far, my own feeling about this matter would be to pull the Bill out here and declare the date for the local elections and, if I did that, half the people who are talking would die of fright.

[1480]Mr. O'Hara: Information on Thomas O'Hara Zoom on Thomas O'Hara Do that, and I will head the poll.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange The Minister would be afraid.

Mr. O'Hara: Information on Thomas O'Hara Zoom on Thomas O'Hara Put me on record as saying that.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney Deputy Fitzpatrick is still not satisfied with the drafting.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I simply asked the Minister a civil question.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney I think I answered the question.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I asked if the Minister could explain the phrase “next after the commencement of this Act.” I simply do not understand it. I admit that.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney I understand that this was framed to give me the law that I wish to have and I do not even go so far as to say that I have a full comprehension of it in the manner in which it is put but I am assured that what is there is what was intended to be there and that it is not incorrect even though it may seem somewhat verbose in this particular section.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): It does not make sense.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney I am satisfied it is not incorrect. All I can say is the man who drafted it is an expert. He has long experience and who am I and who are we, if it comes to that, to start querying whether or not his method of putting those words convey what is intended to be conveyed by the Bill or that another form of words would do it better? I am certainly not in a position to question this and I have inquired, even since the Deputy raised it, and I am assured again that this is the best wording. It was again discussed with the draftsman and he is fully satisfied that this is the manner in which we should do it even though it might be said that some of those words are not apparently absolutely necessary. The fact that they are there, even though [1481] unnecessary, is not in itself a good reason for pulling out the Bill.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): It might be a reason for amending the subsection.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney It is not even worth that because it is only a Bill for a year. We are going to put back the thing for that time, and if it does that, if it gives us an election in five years— with the freedom of this House to amend it—I do not think you need worry about the words being superfluous, provided they provide us with the vehicle we want and I am told they do just that. I do not wish to have an argument with the Deputy on the actual legal terms and words used or what they mean. I am satisfied and assured that this does convey what we want, that it will do what we intend and, if it passes through in its present form, it will have done what we want it to do.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I am glad the Minister's tea seems to have left him in a more amiable humour and he is at least prepared to come into this House and have a fairly reasonable discussion on a measure. The Minister, in his last remarks, stated that the Bill fixing the date of the election is merely a law of this House which can be changed as often as we like and that the Bill we are now discussing, when enacted, will become a law of this House which can be changed again. With respect, I submit there is something more in it than that.

We are here altering the date of the holding of local government elections and extending the life of existing local authorities during the life of those authorities. I have no objection to this House altering the span of life of a local authority as often as it wants, as long as it is done before that local authority is elected and so long as the people know—when they are going to the polls to vote for that local authority—they are electing it for five years, for three years, or for any number of years. It is the right of this House to do that and I concede it. But I say it is bad legislation, and it [1482] is not good for democracy that a county council should be elected by the people to serve for five years and during the currency of that five years —or indeed, as in this case, retrospectively after that time has expired —this House should take unto itself the right to override the decision of the electorate and confer on that local authority a life of seven years instead of five. That is fundamental as far as I am concerned, and I hope it is clear.

The Minister in his reply to the Second Reading and in his reply to our remarks here today, has accused us of bad faith and of using phoney arguments in support of our opposition to this Bill. I would ask the Minister, before we pass from this section, to tell this House, and tell it in clear terms, why he wants to postpone these elections, why he seeks to postpone retrospectively these elections from June last until June next. In his introductory speech here on the Second Reading, he made some vague promises or forecasts about some change in the powers of local authorities which he will bring about by law. It is gloriously vague; it is the first time we heard about it. He told us in the same speech it was unlikely that the Bill would be enacted this year but he hoped it would be law before next June. I hope I am not misquoting the Minister. I say I cannot accept that as a reason for the postponement of these elections. That reason was not given last year.

It occurs to me to ask why the Minister, when he introduced his Bill last year—and he has accused us of having different points of view now —to postpone these elections for 12 months did not postpone them for two years, until 1967 instead of 1966. I seriously invite the Minister to tell the House and the country why he is postponing these elections, why he did not want to hold them in June last on the same day as the Presidential election and why he does not want to hold them now instead of next year. Speaking for my Party, I am quite prepared to accept the Minister's challenge—let him withdraw this Bill, [1483] let him hold these elections as soon as he likes and we will take up the challenge.

He has accused us of being afraid to face the electorate, of having nothing to gain by the election and he has used what he thinks is a threat but, of course, it is merely a debating bluff in his last remarks by saying that if we are not careful, he will withdraw this Bill and go ahead with the elections. I invite him, on behalf of the Fine Gael Party, to do just that, to do it now and we will put up with the consequences whatever they may be. If he is sincere in his condemnation of us; if he is sincere in his statement that if the elections had been held last June we would be here in fewer numbers, if he is sincere in his forecast that when the elections are held next June, Fianna Fáil will be here in greater numbers, I will repeat I am prepared to take up the Minister's challenge and have the elections now.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry Zoom on Martin John Corry I cannot understand what the row is about. Political parties here seem to think that local elections are held on a political branch for one reason or another. There is nothing of the kind. People are anxious to get a local representative who does a lot. Whether he is a Fianna Fáil, a Fine Gael or Labour representative matters very little. I suppose I am the oldest member of a local authority in this House. I will be facing the election next June and I will be 43 years in the county council. Looking back on it all—I was just thinking it out—I will retire in 1985——

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney Good man yourself.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry Zoom on Martin John Corry ——and nobody will put me out of this corner, or any other corner in the meantime. I hope that will satisfy anybody having any hopes in that regard.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish The Deputy might get Agriculture in the meantime.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry Zoom on Martin John Corry I do not want it. I am the happiest man in the world as I am.

[1484]Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney No headaches.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry Zoom on Martin John Corry Look at what I would have lost supposing the elections took place last June 12 months. I suppose I was responsible for stopping them that time, because I would not let the boundaries Bill through this House. What would I lose? I would lose the pleasure of having Deputy Fitzpatrick down to Cobh. I would lose the pleasure of bringing him to the Verolme Dockyard. I would not like to lose that and I will bring him there next time, if he manages to get back.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I could lose a quota and a half.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry Zoom on Martin John Corry Practically the same team of people are elected and re-elected to the local authorities. That is what we find in Cork anyway. There may be a difference in Dublin, I admit, where they are a kind of mixum-gatherum, stir-'em-around and see-what-will-come lot. In the ordinary rural community, that is exactly what happens. It amazes me—and anyone standing over a box for any political Party would scratch his head in wonder —the way the Nos. 1 and 2 are mixed around. There may be a vote for a Labour man and a vote for me, or a vote for a Fine Gael man and a vote for me. I could get all the Nos. 2 if I wanted them. Thank God, I do not. That is the way they vote for the local people: one, two and three, as they are compelled by this lunacy—I do not know what you call it; we tried to get rid of it and failed; it is a pity that we did not. I cannot see why the people should have the annoyance of being asked for their votes every five or six years.

Mr. Larkin: Information on Denis Larkin Zoom on Denis Larkin They should be elected for life?

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry Zoom on Martin John Corry I would be elected anyway. I will retire in 1985, as I told you. I should hate to lose Deputy Fitzpatrick. We had another hero last June, and God knows, Deputy O'Higgins had enough sins to carry around the country on his back without having to carry the sins of all [1485] those fellows along with him. I remember an industrialist in Cork who lost his deposit in a Dáil election, but in a second election, was elected to the House at the head of the poll. He made his victory speech and said: “When I went before the people of Cork with all the sins of Fine Gael in a bag on my back, I lost my deposit, but when I went as William Dwyer, I headed the poll.”

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin Zoom on Cormac Breslin That does not arise on the section.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry Zoom on Martin John Corry Those people are complaining that the Presidential election and the local authority elections were not held on the same day. That is their main complaint. I would not like to have seen the Chief out with some of my sins and I am sure Deputy O'Higgins felt a lot freer without their sins—including the Verolme Dockyard. I cannot see any reason for their complaint. I had another old comrade who was with me in the county council for about 25 years and between the two of us we got No. 1 and No. 2. If he got No. 1, I got No. 2, and if I got No. 1, he got No. 2.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I enjoy a general debate so long as it is allowed all around.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney The Deputy had a fair innings.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry Zoom on Martin John Corry Look at what Deputy Fitzpatrick would lose!

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin Zoom on Cormac Breslin That does not arise on this section of the Bill.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry Zoom on Martin John Corry I can see no reason for the furore that was raised in connection with the extension of the number of years. We are elected to this Dáil for five years, and judging by the way things have gone, we might as well have been elected for 15 years, and so long as those boys show themselves on television, we will be on this side of the House. There is no other way to look at it. This is only a waste of the time of the House. The Minister has brought in this Bill extending the [1486] period to next June. Deputy O'Hara complained that there were people who wanted to retire. Any county councillor who wants to retire in the morning has nothing to do but write a letter and hand it in, and in my county we are decent enough to allow his Party to select his successor.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney In my county, too.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry Zoom on Martin John Corry That finishes it. Indeed, I see some men in this House and they are too old at 30.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney True for you.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry Zoom on Martin John Corry I just wanted to let you know that I have it fixed that I will not retire for another 19 years.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): Is the Minister not going to tell us why he wants to postpone the elections?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney I will, on another section.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): This is the appropriate section.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney I will give the Deputy all he wants on another section. I want to get one through tonight.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): Is the Minister prepared to accept his own challenge to withdraw the Bill?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney Legal quibbling does not twist what I said. I said what my own personal view was.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I am prepared to go on all night if it will force the Minister to withdraw the Bill.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney The Deputy would not be there long.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): Longer than the Minister. The Minister did not reply to my last question.

Question put and declared carried.

SECTION 2.

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

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish Why is it the School

[1487] Attendance Act only? Is no other Act to be included?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney No.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish Why? What about committees of agriculture?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney This is the way I got it.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I was just going to say that.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney I am offering to the House a Bill that has been duly considered, well discussed, and excellently drafted.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish This extends the life of elected public bodies. What I am concerned to know is: is the life of subsidiary bodies also extended?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney They were extended last year.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish The elections were postponed. Was there another piece of the same type of legislation?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney They still carry through.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish Members of subsidiary bodies can continue to hold office until 1967?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney They still stand. Harbour boards, vocational committees, still stand.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish Was special legislation needed to extend their lives?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney We had it last year.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish For one year only.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney No, not for a year.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish It was not done——

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney Until the next local elections were held.

Question put and agreed to.

Section 3 agreed to.

SECTION 4.

Question proposed: “That section 4 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): Apparently this section fixes the [1488] month of June as the month in which an election will be held?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney Yes.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): The Minister is aware that Presidential elections are automatically held in June, so that probably — I have not worked it out mathematically — they can, if we juggle this about sufficiently, coincide?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney It is quite possible.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): What will the Minister do then?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney The House will decide.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): But the House did not decide.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney If we are still here, which I have no doubt will be the case —I thank the Deputy for the assurance that we will be — then we will decide.

Question put and agreed to.

Section 5 agreed to.

SECTION 6.

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

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I wish to make a point here that I could have made earlier but I decided to reserve it for this section. Subsection (2) of section 6 gives retrospective effect to anything done by local authorities on or after 8th June last. This is retrospective legislation and within the past couple of weeks, on a Private Member's Bill, the Minister here denounced retrospective legislation. He said it was something that should only be tolerated when it could not be avoided, so to speak. I put it to the Minister that there is no reason why this should be done retrospectively. This Bill could have been introduced in May and discussed then and enacted if the Minister had a majority to enact it. Why did he allow it to drag on from May, 1966, to October, 1966, and then invite the House to enact retrospective legislation?

The subsection reads as follows:

This Act shall be deemed to have [1489] come into operation on 8th day of June, 1966, and anything done on or after that day and before and in anticipation of the passing of this Act shall be valid accordingly.

In other words, the Minister has allowed local authorities to go on since 8th June doing things in anticipation of the passing of this Act. He has taken the House for granted and regards it as a rubber stamp, as I suppose, with his majority, he feels entitled to do. Why did he not introduce the Bill in May of this year, discuss it and pass it before 1st June, in the month of May?

In case the Minister sees fit to sit tight, as he did after my previous remarks, I want to tell him that if he cannot give us a better reason, I suggest it was because he wanted to avoid a discussion on this Bill before the Presidential election. He will have a job to convince the House, even the members of his own Party if they were free to vote as they wish, and he certainly will not convince the people, that he delayed the introduction of the Bill for any purpose other than to avoid discussing the Bill, in May, before the Presidential election. The House is entitled to be taken seriously by the Government and should not be taken for granted. The Minister should not take even his own Party for granted. All Deputies are entitled to express their views on matters of this sort.

If the Minister believes in retrospective legislation, let him say so. If he believes it is all right to continue with an Act that has expired and then come along and assume that the Members, by a majority, will ratify actions taken in the past, let him say so. I do not care whether this has happened before or not. We are now in the year 1966 dealing with this Bill. Many Deputies came into the House as a result of the election held on 7th April last. I sincerely hope it will not become common practice to introduce legislation of this sort on the assumption that it will be passed. The Minister is on record as denouncing retrospective legislation even when it was said to be necessary to clarify a flaw or ambiguity in an existing Act, unless it were held—I [1490] think he said—by the courts that the legislation did not carry out the intention of the Legislature. I want to go on record for myself and my Party as deploring the fact that this Bill was, first of all, introduced at all, but if the Minister and the Government were determined to introduce it, I want to go on record as deploring in the strongest possible terms the fact that it was not introduced in April or May of this year.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney Lest there might be misunderstanding, let me say that it was announced on 27th April that the Government's intention was to postpone these elections. The Bill was introduced on 8th June, hence the date that now emerges from which the legislation should be retrospective. The question of retrospection relates purely to the annual elections of officials of local authorities—mayors, chairmen and so forth—which normally occur during the last couple of weeks in June. All the Government meant was that mayors and chairmen would remain for another four months. Some of them have remained and will remain until next June. This provision refers to that particular operation only and does not apply to everything else that has been spoken of here.

Again, may I say to Deputy Fitzpatrick that he is making an awful lot of noise about something in which I do not believe he has a great lot of belief? He is living in the hope that this notice may convey to the public that something underhand is being done. The public do not believe that and I think I am as likely to represent a cross-section of public opinion in these matters as anybody else. A lot of people will not believe the sounds and the noises Deputy Fitzpatrick made are anything but political propaganda being peddled on this Bill and on this section in the hope of putting something across on the public.

I do not think there is anything further I can usefully say on the section, except, perhaps, to warn the people who may be caught by this noise that it is nothing but propaganda being pushed through here, in the hope that some people will believe that Fine [1491] Gael, and nobody but Fine Gael, have any interest in the people at local level and that Fianna Fáil are perpetrating some crime on the country by this Bill. All this back-tracking about retrospective legislation means nothing.

Mr. P. Byrne: Information on Patrick Byrne Zoom on Patrick Byrne Does the Minister deny it is retrospective legislation?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney Does the Deputy wish to go on record as backing up Deputy Fitzpatrick and being lumped with him in what I am about to say?

Mr. P. Byrne: Information on Patrick Byrne Zoom on Patrick Byrne I am asking a question.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney And I am giving one reply. I am entitled to ask the Deputy a question while I am on my feet but he is not entitled to ask me one while I am on my feet. Is Deputy P. Byrne adding his voice to that of Deputy Fitzpatrick in condemning me for coming before the House with part of a section that deals only with a small portion of the duties of local authorities—the election of mayors, chairmen and so forth? By that action, I am merely regularising and legalising their election and in doing so, I offer no apology to Deputy Fitzpatrick or anyone else, any more than I do in regard to the Housing Act passed earlier this year which carries in it sections increasing housing grants to the farming community and giving those increased grants retrospective effect for more than two and a half years. Do the two Deputies say we should claim back these retrospective grants, the extra £150 we gave to all those farmers?

If that is their view, they should stand up and record that view. If that was a proper thing to do, it is a proper thing now to regularise, as this section does, the position of mayors and chairmen pending the enactment of the Bill by the House. It should also be remembered that the Bill, having been introduced on 8th June, was announced on 27th April——

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): Does the Minister mind my asking when was the Bill circulated?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney I do mind until I finish [1492] this matter off. The Government's intention was to have this Bill dealt with and it would have been dealt with were it not for the fact that subsequent to 8th June last the business of this House, which apparently took priority over the Bill, brought about a situation in which it was not possible to take it before the Recess. It was taken immediately we came back. This was done last summer by agreement of the House and, I presume, by agreement between the Whips at the time. As a Member of the Government, I have collective responsibility for what is in the Bill and I do not apologise to the House now for coming in at this time with a Bill which, by agreement between the Parties, was postponed from last term to this because of the urgency and the priority given to other business which apparently was regarded as being more important.

That being so, the charge of Deputy Fitzpatrick does not carry any weight. Not only was the Bill introduced on 8th June but the text was circulated to Deputies on 10th June. If Fine Gael felt so strongly about it from 11th June until the House rose, why did they not demand in the House that the Bill be taken, even by, if necessary, extending the session into the summer? Instead of doing that then, why do they come along now crying out and accusing the Minister for Local Government and the Government of doing something underhand when all that is being attempted is to legalise the functions of local authorities in the election of officers? It just does not ring any more true than did the rest of the Fine Gael contribution. It rings hollow and will be read as being hollow by the public whom Fine Gael would like to make believe otherwise.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish I do not think the Minister was serious when he spoke about retrospective legislation and gave us the analogy of housing grants under the Housing Bill. I deny that the purpose of this section is to regularise the position in respect of chairmen, mayors and other officers of local authorities. The first subsection states that the Act may be cited as the Local Elections Act, 1966. Therefore, it is [1493] not confined to what the Minister said. I suppose we all have been guilty from time to time of supporting retrospective legislation when it was necessary to have such legislation, but in so far as the postponement of local elections is concerned, I do not think it was impossible to have introduced the legislation before the ordinary time for the holding of local elections, before June, 1966.

In my opinion, the Government were neither fair nor honest, particularly to the Members of this House, and it is unfair to say that members of the Opposition did not question the desirability of postponing the local elections to next year. The Minister and the Taoiseach must remember that they were questioned many times as to the Government's intentions in this respect. The Minister certainly tried the patience of the Members of this House —he tried my patience on many occasions—when genuinely we sought to know the Government's intentions. No matter what power the Minister may have in this matter, the peculiar thing is that it was not he who announced the postponement but the Minister for Justice, somewhere in the country, probably in Roscommon. It was he, and not the Minister for Local Government, who announced that the local elections would not be held this year. I take it the Minister took Deputy Lenihan to task for usurping his functions.

This legislation means absolutely nothing. A declaration in the first section to the effect that local elections will be held in 1967 means nothing because it is not this House that will decide in the initial stages whether or not we are to have local elections; it will be the Government, as they did in 1966. What is dangerous about this legislation is that local elections may be postponed next year if the Government so decide and make an order to this effect.

It is not sufficient for any member of the Government to say: “You can raise an objection in this House; you can put down a Private Members' motion”. A Private Members' motion is not legislation. Therefore, as far as [1494] the postponement of the elections is concerned, I believe that in accordance with our Constitution—and I am no constitutional lawyer—there must be, or, if not there should be, some stipulated period within which the announcement has to be made and when the legislation is to be introduced. If next year the Government Party, or any Government Party consider it is not opportune to go to the country in these local elections, they can so decide at a Cabinet meeting and make an order to the effect that the local elections will not be held. It could be for Party reasons or for pure expediency.

My complaint in this connection is that no matter how many times I questioned the Minister, he told me the Government had not yet made up their minds. I was inconvenienced as an individual and as a politician. My Party were inconvenienced. I do not know what inside knowledge the members of the Fianna Fáil Party had; maybe they had none. However, we all agree, and even the Fine Gael Party admit this now, that political Parties operate as such. My Party and I always believed they should, because policies must be pursued even in the local authority, and we have always been prepared to pursue our own policy on housing and all the other matters with which the local authorities deal. I was concerned with my arrangements for running an election. I was trying to get our machine working. I do not think it was good enough that we should have had to wait for an unduly long period before the Government made their announcement.

I do not know whether the Fianna Fáil members knew before we did that there were not to be any local elections this year. I should say in fairness that we suspected there might not be, that the Government Party might find it more convenient and might have thought it more convenient for the country that the two elections be held on the same day. Therefore, this legislation means absolutely nothing if local elections in any year can be postponed by Government decree [1495] or Government order. It is wrong and somewhat dictatorial. If local elections are to be postponed, I believe the legislation should be discussed here in Dáil Éireann and decided upon in Dáil Éireann at a reasonable time before the date for the holding of these elections.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I want to repeat that I believe there is a measure of retrospection in this Bill which is undesirable. It is, in effect, rendering valid acts that have been done in June of this year. It is unnecessary retrospection because this measure could have been introduced and passed in April or May of this year. This Minister, in reply to these charges, has sought to give the House the impression that there was nothing ulterior about the date of introduction of this Bill or its circulation. It is a fact, as Deputy Corish has said, that day after day in this House in the beginning of this year, the Minister was asked from these benches and from the Labour benches when the local elections would be held. He refused to give them the information time and time again, even with a shake of his head and a smile. I do not think I would be exaggerating if I were to say that the Minister treated the House on these occasions with contempt, and treated with contempt the Deputies who asked these questions and who were seeking information for Party purposes and for individual purposes.

The Presidential election was held on 1st June of this year. This Bill was introduced eight days afterwards and circulated to the House, according to the Minister now, on 10th June. Well the Minister knew early on in this year and well his Government knew when the local elections would be held, but they would not tell the House and they refused to introduce this Bill in April or May, and have it discussed. Now they come along here and introduce retrospective legislation rendering valid acts done in June last. I say this is a bad precedent. I said before, and I repeat, if the Government can by an Act of Parliament [1496] postpone these local elections, the Government in power, if they have a sufficient majority in this House, can postpone parliamentary elections by an Act of this House for one year or two years.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan Would the Deputy say what section he is speaking on?

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I am speaking on section 6, which deals with retrospective legislation. What the Government are prepared to do with a majority in this House in respect of local elections, they may well try in respect of parliamentary elections. The Opposition Parties in this House would be lacking in their duty as an Opposition if they did not oppose this Bill and indicate the dangers enshrined in it.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney In reply to Deputy Corish, he has misunderstood in regard to my chiding the Opposition for not taking up this matter. What I was saying was that subsequent to the introduction of the Bill on the 8th and its circulation on 10th June, there was ample time and opportunity to take up the matter. The Whips of the three Parties decided to leave it over until after the summer because of the greater urgency of some other business. I am not suggesting that nobody was talking about the local elections before that. In reply to Deputy Fitzpatrick, he knew all about the postponement of these elections officially from me in this House on 29th April. He said he was not told in April or May——

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I said the House was asked to make it legal in April or May.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney There was nothing to make legal in April. The Deputy seems to be trying to create an atmosphere of distrust and fear among the people, if they are foolish enough to listen to him, that there was some desperate plot perpetrated on them.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan):[1497] That is a nice word for it—a plot.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney The Deputy knows well, or at least he should know and I am giving him the benefit of the doubt that he did know, that at column 730 of the Official Report for 27th April last, in reply to Questions Nos. 43, 44, 45 and 46, which with the permission of the Chair, I took together, I made the following announcement:

I intend to ask the House shortly for leave to introduce a Bill to postpone until June, 1967, the local elections due to be held this year, and to make consequential provisions for the extension of the membership of existing members of local authorities, the holding of annual and quarterly meetings and other relevant matters.

I then went on:

As is customary, I shall give the reasons for my proposals when the Bill is moved for Second Reading.

Surely that answer indicated not only a postponement but a postponement until June, 1967—which is what is in the Bill—that the Bill would deal with consequential provisions—which are also in the Bill—including the extension of membership of existing members of local authorities, the holding of annual and quarterly meetings and other relevant matters? These things were indicated as early as 27th April last although the present law, which was an amending Bill of 1965, is still the law and continues to the end of December of this year the provisions set out in 1965.

So that, far from being accused of hedging and holding things back for too long, for the 12 months of 1966— the Bill of 1965 enabled the Minister to designate a day until the end of December, which is yet to come—the House was given formally a statement of my intention on 27th April, the fourth month of 1966. They were given the indication clearly and without question, and the month and the year, and the consequential matters were listed out that would be covered by this little Bill. That is what we are doing and the Deputies are entirely wrong, and Deputy Fitzpatrick knows that he is [1498] wrong when he talks about bringing these things along and doing them in a way that is not right and breaking great principles, established, no doubt, by Fine Gael, in this House. I do not know about them but apparently they must have left their mark around here somewhere.

I cannot comprehend all this talk, all this concern. As I said earlier, I can only say that I describe the lot of it as a phoney effort by the Fine Gael people to perpetrate propaganda, using this Bill as the vehicle, for their own petty political Party ends, which is nothing new.

Question put and agreed to.

TITLE.

Question proposed: “That the Title be the Title to the Bill”.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I feel constrained to say, as I did on Second Reading, that the Title is most misleading, to say the least of it. It says it is:

An Act to alter the years for holding local elections and to make provision for certain other matters connected with local elections.

In years to come anyone looking at the long Title of the Bill would never think that it was, in fact, postponing for another year the date on which elections should be held. One might think that it was even bringing it forward to give the people an opportunity of expressing their views. I just wish to comment that I think a more accurate Title to the Bill would be:

An Act to postpone further the latest date on which local elections may be held and to do that retrospectively.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment.

Agreed to take remaining Stages today.

Bill received for final consideration.

Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass”.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish I wish to ask a question.

[1499] I do not want to make a speech. As far as I can remember, the Minister said in his opening speech that it would be necessary, and that he intended, to introduce legislation with regard to the machinery for elections, making certain changes, perhaps, in personnel or subsidiary bodies. Will the Minister say briefly what these are intended to do and when the legislation will be introduced?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney Matters like the possible extension of postal voting, for instance. Some changes in the law, I said. It would deal with disqualification also for membership of local authorities. This refers to questions like bankruptcy and some other things that did not make a great deal of sense. I think I warned the House that the trouble is that while I have indicated that this is so and, indeed, for the benefit of Deputy Fitzpatrick, not for the first time, and there are a number of things in it which I would like to have through before the next elections, I do not see it as a great likelihood that they will, in fact, be through this House and law before the next elections.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish It has something to do with qualifications for membership?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney Qualification and disqualifications and odds and ends like that. It will be quite useful. We need it. It deals with a number of things. A commission sat on this matter of electoral law. A number of their recommendations will be contained in this new amending Bill.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish Things like status of candidates, Government officials, Post Office workers, and people like that?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney I would love to be able to say that it would enable, say, Post Office workers to do the same for Fianna Fáil as they are free to do for Labour.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish We will hold our own there. In any case, these will be only small changes?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney Not small, no. A lot [1500] of changes, yes, but they will be in line with the general recommendations of the Commission on Electoral Law, some of whose recommendations we have already had in some of the amending law we have dealt with. This will be another instalment of that and will deal with such things as qualification and disqualification for membership of local authorities. It might deal with an extension of the postal vote. I could not say how much more. What I want to say is that while this is envisaged I am not terribly hopeful that it is likely to be law before next June. That is all I say.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): May I take it that these proposed amendments referred to in the Minister's Second Reading speech have nothing to do with the postponement?

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish You are trying to get his rag out.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney That is not possible. I like to help Deputy Fitzpatrick when I know that he genuinely wants help. This is the first time tonight that I believe he does want help. This will be dealing with the matter of disqualification. I would like to have them in before the next local elections; in other words, to give us greater freedom with regard to certain candidates.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): Does the Minister anticipate having any change?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney If we would all talk less, I would say yes.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): The Minister should take some of his own advice.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney You draw it out of me. I cannot help it.

Mr. P. Byrne: Information on Patrick Byrne Zoom on Patrick Byrne In that connection, could I point out the extreme desirability of altering the rules as to recounts which were put to the test for the first time at the last election in Dublin North-East?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan The question now before the House is, “That the Bill do now pass.”

[1501]Mr. P. Byrne: Information on Patrick Byrne Zoom on Patrick Byrne It was unworkable.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney It might never happen again.

Mr. P. Byrne: Information on Patrick Byrne Zoom on Patrick Byrne It will happen again if there is a recount.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I have intimated on all Stages that I am against this Bill and that this Party are against this Bill.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney We appreciate that.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): The Minister on Committee Stage threw out a threat. I understood him to say that if we did not stop pursuing our opposition to the Bill, he would withdraw it and have the local elections. When I challenged him on that, I understood him to say that that was not what he said, that he was speaking for himself and not the Government. I now challenge him and the Government to withdraw this Bill and hold the local elections.

[1502]Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney After all this talk?

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): To give him an opportunity of doing so we propose to vote against the question, “That the Bill do now pass.”

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney I would like to reply to the challenge made by Deputy Fitzpatrick. After all the time of the House the Deputy has wasted from 5.20 p.m. surely he would not ask us now to withdraw the Bill?

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I am taking up the Minister's challenge.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney If we could have a little election of our own without disturbing anybody else, I would be delighted to take it up.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): As I said, I can lose a quota and a half.

Question put.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 58; Níl, 40.

Andrews, David.
Blaney, Neil T.
Boland, Kevin.
Boylan, Terence.
Brady, Philip.
Brennan, Joseph.
Brennan, Paudge.
Breslin, Cormac.
Calleary, Phelim A.
Carter, Frank.
Carty, Michael.
Childers, Erskine.
Clohessy, Patrick.
Colley, George.
Collins, James J.
Corry, Martin J.
Cotter, Edward.
Crinion, Brendan.
Cronin, Jerry.
Crowley, Flor.
Cunningham, Liam.
Davern, Don.
de Valera, Vivion.
Dowling, Joe.
Egan, Nicholas.
Fahey, John.
Fanning, John.
Faulkner, Pádraig.
Flanagan, Seán.
Foley, Desmond.
Gallagher, James.
Gibbons, James M.
Gilbride, Eugene.
Gogan, Richard P.
Haughey, Charles.
Hillery, Patrick J.
Hilliard, Michael.
Kenneally, William.
Kennedy, James J.
Kitt, Michael F.
Lalor, Patrick J.
Lemass, Noel T.
Lemass, Seán.
Lynch, Celia.
Lynch, Jack.
McEllistrim, Thomas.
Meaney, Tom.
Millar, Anthony G.
Molloy, Robert.
Moore, Seán.
Moran, Michael.
Nolan, Thomas.
Ó Ceallaigh, Seán.
O'Connor, Timothy.
O'Malley, Donogh.
Smith, Patrick.

Níl

Belton, Luke.
Belton, Paddy.
Burton, Philip.
Byrne, Patrick.
Clinton, Mark A.
Coogan, Fintan.
Corish, Brendan.
Cosgrave, Liam.
Creed, Donal.
Crotty, Patrick J.
Desmond, Eileen.
Dillon, James M.
Dockrell, Maurice E.
Donegan, Patrick S.
Donnellan, John.
Dunne, Thomas.
Esmonde, Sir Anthony C.
Farrelly, Denis.
Fitzpatrick, Thomas J. (Cavan).
Governey, Desmond.
Harte, Patrick D.
Hogan, Patrick (South Tipperary).
Hogan, O'Higgins, Brigid.
Jones, Denis F.
Kenny, Henry.
Kyne, Thomas A.
L'Estrange, Gerald.
Lyons, Michael D.
McLaughlin, Joseph.
Murphy, Michael P.
Murphy, William.
O'Donnell, Patrick.
O'Hara, Thomas.
O'Higgins, Michael J.
Ryan, Richie.
Spring, Dan.
Sweetman, Gerard.
Tierney, Patrick.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Carty and Mrs. Lynch; Níl, Deputies T. J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan) and L'Estrange.

Question declared carried.


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