Seanad Éireann - Volume 87 - 07 December, 1977

European Assembly Elections (No. 2) Bill, 1977: Second Stage.

Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Barrett): On 20th September, 1976, a Council decision and Act providing for direct elections to the Assembly of the European Communities were designed by the Council of Foreign Ministers at Brussels. These instruments laid down certain principles in relation to the holding of direct elections and provided that, pending the entry into force of a uniform electoral procedure, the procedure for the elections will be governed in each [691] member state by national provisions. The purpose of this Bill is to lay down the provisions to apply in relation to the direct elections in this country until such time as a uniform electoral procedure comes into force. At present, as we know, the Assembly consists of delegates designated by the Parliaments of the member states from among their members but the treaties establishing the Communities envisage the introduction of a system whereby the Assembly will be elected by the peoples of the Communities by direct universal suffrage.

The holding of direct elections will represent a significant step in the development of the European Communities. It will provide a degree of popular participation which has been lacking up to now and will introduce into the affairs of the Communities a stronger element of democratic leadership and supervision. Through their directly-elected representatives, the views and aspirations of ordinary people throughout the member states will find more immediate expression. This, in turn, is likely to provide a new stimulus for the achievement of the aims of the Communities, will strengthen the social and economic ties already established between the peoples of the member states and will increase sense of cohesion within the Communities. The introduction of direct elections is, therefore, a development to be welcomed.

While the decision signed at Brussels in September, 1976 does not fix a specific date for holding the elections, it refers to the intention to give effect to the conclusion of the European Council held in Rome in December, 1975, that the first direct elections to the Assembly should be held in May or June, 1978. The Government consider it important that the elections should take place on the target date and that failure to meet this deadline could reflect on the credibility of the Communities in relation to their ability to fulfil their commitments. The Government are determined that this country at least will be fully ready to proceed with the elections at that time and I know the House shares [692] this determination. There are those who are pessimistic about the possibility of all our partners, particularly the UK, reaching this target but, nonetheless, this remains the target date.

At European level this Bill is a historic development but it is equally significant from the purely domestic viewpoint. It represents a new departure in that it proposes a scheme of constituencies prepared by a commission. It is refreshing that a scheme of constituencies can be discussed in a calm and reasonable manner without the acrimony that has been associated with constituency revisions in recent years. This is a step forward which will be welcomed without reservation by everybody who is involved in the democratic system of this country, as a public representative at any level or as an ordinary elector. It is appropriate to repeat at this stage that, so far as this Government are concerned, an independent commission will be set up for future revisions of Dáil and European Assembly constituencies. The constituencies proposed in the Second Schedule to the Bill were drawn up by a commission, under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Walsh, which was set up by the Government for this purpose. The House owes a debt of gratitude to the members of the commission for the thorough and conscientious way in which they carried out their task in a relatively short time. The universal approval with which their recommendations have been received is a measure of how well they did their job. I have pleasure in recommending the proposed constituencies to the House.

Constituencies apart, the provisions of this Bill are essentially the same as those of the earlier Bill on this subject, presented last April, which lapsed with the dissolution of the Dáil on 25th May. Some minor improvements in the text were made before its presentation and again during its passage through the other House but substantially this No. 2 Bill is the same as the previous one.

I am confident that the House will be able to give its unaminous support to the principles contained in the Bill. The most important question to be [693] decided was the matter of the electoral system. In adopting the single transferable vote we are choosing a system with which our electors are fully familiar and which affords them a wider range of choice between parties and candidates than would generally be available under any other system. The STV system appears to be the most suitable in our particular circumstances and we should not regard our freedom of choice in this matter as being in any way restricted by the fact that the other member states may adopt different systems.

The Bill proposes that nationals of the other member states ordinarily resident here will have a vote at assembly elections on the same conditions as Irish citizens. Some of these electors may have the right to vote by post or otherwise at assembly and, for some, the possibility of voting elections in their country of origin in more than one country may arise. Until a uniform procedure is introduced for all member states anomalies of this kind appear inescapable. The Act annexed to the Council decision of 20th September, 1976, forbids double voting and this Bill makes it an offence under our law to vote at the same assembly election in this country and in any other member state and lays down a penalty for doing so. The franchise proposed in the Bill appears to be the most “European” solution as well as being the most suitable arrangement in the circumstances of this country, as I am sure Senators will agree.

In regard to the qualification of candidates and the procedure for their nomination, it seemed sensible to follow the same general procedure which applies at Dáil elections and the Bill provides accordingly. The main practical question arising here is the size of the deposit which it is proposed to require of candidates. The purpose of a deposit is to discourage frivolous candidates and to prevent the ballot paper being flooded with such names. It could be said that there are two basic ways of doing this. The right to nominate candidates could be restricted or a substantial deposit could be required. The requirement of a deposit seems more in keeping with [694] our tradition and more likely to be acceptable. The Bill, therefore, proposes to rely on a deposit and recommends the same level of deposit as proposed in the previous Bill on this subject. I know some Senators may have misgivings about a deposit of this size but any hesitation on the matter must be weighed against the necessity to ensure that every candidate whose name appears on a ballot paper will be a genuine contender.

I would like to draw attention to another matter in connection with the nomination of candidates and that is the provision that a person may not be nominated as a candidate for more than one constituency. This provision is considered desirable in order to avoid the possibility of a person being elected to fill more than one assembly seat and the complications that would arise from such an eventuality, particularly having regard to the arrangements proposed for filling casual vacancies.

Generally speaking, the role of political parties at assembly elections will be the same as at Dáil elections. The names of registered political parties may be shown in relation to candidates on the ballot papers in the same way as at national elections. The Bill, however, recognises that in the present assembly delegates who are members of Irish political parties have joined with delegates from other member states to form political groups in accordance with the rules of procedure of the Assembly. The Bill will permit such parties, if they so wish, to have the name of the appropriate Assembly political group included on the ballot paper in relation to their candidates in addition to the name of the national political party. In order to cater for groups who may wish to contest Assembly elections but not domestic elections, the Bill makes provision for the registration of parties specifically organised to contest Assembly elections.

One of the more difficult problems related to Assembly elections is the selection of a method for filling casual vacancies. In the electoral law of this country two methods of filling such vacancies in the membership of elected bodies are recognised. Vacancies in [695] the Dáil are filled by by-election. Vacancies among the elected Members of the Seanad are also filled by by-election but, in the case of Panel Members, the electorate is more restricted than at general elections in that the right to vote is limited to an electoral college consisting of the Members of the Dáil and the Seanad. Vacancies in the membership of local authorities are filled by co-option.

There are two serious objections to by-elections in the context of Assembly elections. First, there is the very considerable expense and inconvenience of holding a by-election in the large constituencies proposed in the Bill but, more important, there is the distorting effect which by-elections could have in the political complexion of our representation in the Assembly. A by-election to fill a single seat in a large multi-member constituency is likely to give the seat to the strongest party, irrespective of which interest formerly held the seat. There is no need for me to spell out the significance of this aspect in the circumstances of this country. The argument that a by-election is a useful device for assessing Government performance has little relevance in the context of the Assembly which will not have the task of appointing an executive to be responsible to it and for this reason the representational aspect becomes more important. A by-election is, therefore, not a suitable device for filling vacancies in the Assembly but on the other hand, direct co-option by the Assembly itself is also not appropriate. The Bill attempts to bring together the idea of filling vacancies by co-option with which we are familiar in the local government field and the view that, once the political composition of the Assembly has been decided by the people at a general election, this balance ought not to be upset by accidental casual vacancies. Section 15, therefore, provides that casual vacancies will be filled by appointment by the Dáil. If at the last election the seat had been won by the candidate of a political party, the appointment will be made on the nomination of that party, provided they furnish a nomination within three months.

[696] The detailed provisions of the Bill are dealt with very fully in the explanatory memorandum and it seems unnecessary for me to dwell on them at this point. I will, of course, be glad to deal at greater length with any point on which the House may desire clarification.

The Bill was largely prepared by the previous Government and, apart from the question of the delineation of the constituencies, we in this Government found it possible to adopt it unchanged. This emphasises the fact that there is general agreement between the major parties here on our approach to many EEC matters and, in particular, on the necessity to make the institutions of the European Communites more responsive to public opinion by the early introduction of direct elections to the Assembly. Merely holding the elections will not in itself be enough. The elections will, to a large extent, be a measure of public interest and confidence in the EEC as a whole and of our desire as a nation to participate more fully in the development of a truly democratic European Community. The success of the elections in this regard will depend largely on the level of voter participation. The task of stimulating public interest in the elections and of ensuring a high turn-out on polling day will fall mainly to the political parties. I am confident that they will not be found wanting and that the Members of this House will play a full part in this task.

Mr. Cooney: We in this party unreservedly welcome this Bill. As the Minister said, it is an historic Bill in the European context. The movement towards a united Europe is under way and I have every confidence that it will be crowned with success. There is no doubt that in time to come Europeans will look back at the time when the member states of the Nine processed similar Bills as a time of great historical significance in the history of the European Continent. For that reason it is a privilege for us who are in Parliament at this time to have the opportunity of debating this measure in our national Parliament.

I have confidence in the ideal of a united Europe becoming a reality. [697] People may say that that is an exaggerated degree of confidence having regard to the various manifestations of nationalism which we see faulting the present operation of the European Community. However, if we consider what has happened in Europe over the last 30 years, there is ground for optimism in what I say regarding the ideal of eventual unity. Those nations that are now united in this great economic Community were literally at each other's throats in a most vicious and terrible way, and the peoples of those conflicting nations were guilty of the most horrible atrocities towards each other. Yet within two decades of the ending of those hostilities, those nations were magnanimous, realistic and pragmatic enough, to put it at a lower level, to forget their awful differences and start coming together for their mutual benefit. There was a capacity to forget and forgive.

I do not think we need examine the motives as to why that capacity showed itself, whether it was of self interest or whether the element of forgiveness was based on some higher concept. What we have to look at is the realism that informed the actions and activities of the European nations in those critical decades. They accepted the reality of the situation that they were together on that particular land mass and it was in their interests to forget their awful recent history and come together.

This capacity is something that we in this island should admire and perhaps take a lesson from because unfortunately we have not shown the same capacity to forgive and forget and accept the realities of contemporary life in relation to the country with which we were historically in contention. Possibly the fact that we were isolated geographically from the mainstream of much European thinking and, indeed, European civilisation for so long, meant that the more beneficial effects of that civilisation passed us by and did not rub off on us as much as they might and raw basic passions were not blunted by that experience.

It is a sad fact that there is still a strong element here today which is incapable of living with the reality of [698] political life on these two islands and forgiving in the total way that the European nations have forgiven each other, sat down together and worked for a common end. We had a recent manifestation of that when, in a court case in Northern Ireland over discrimination, it was shown that our largest sporting organisation, which has cultural and social pretensions as well, was shown as having less than clean hands. They were not prepared to forgive and forget and maintained rules that discriminate against representatives of that other nation. That is an indication of an area in which we have been lacking. The reason for it may be a matter of national characteristics although I have always been slow in trying to define national characteristics. There are such things but to define them is perhaps an impossibility. It may have been for reasons of history or our position on the edge of Europe and the rather introverted view that we have always had of ourselves and the rather narrow historical perspective in which we found ourselves in conflict with one country only and in contact culturally and commercially mainly with that country as well. It is a commendable thing that entitles us to have great hope for the future of Europe and for the future of the ideal of European unity that so much unity has already been achieved on the mainland of Europe and in the aftermath of that most awful conflict of the 1939-45 war.

I am pleased with this Bill and with the welcome that has been available for it. I am particularly pleased that there has been no attempt in either House so far to suggest that there should be any restrictions on the sovereignty element of the European Parliament—any restrictions whereby national parliaments could, if they did not like what was being done at European level, opt out and withdraw their members. Unfortunately such views are held in some parts of Europe. Perhaps the strongest example of these are the views being expressed by the French Gaullists and in the British Parliament, mainly by the Labour Party. I would urge the members of the Fianna Fáil Party in their contacts with their Gaullist colleagues— [699] and the French Gaullists oddly enough are their colleagues in the European Parliament and there is a great divergence of attitudes towards the European ideal between those two sections of that one group—to use their influence on those colleagues to drop their chauvinistic approach towards the European Parliament and to drop their call for restrictions on its sovereignty, their call for a continuation of some sort of national control over it and a right to opt out.

Likewise, I was disappointed to read recently of amendments that are being proposed in the British House of Commons by Labour Party members. I would ask our friends in the Labour Party to use, if they think fit, their influence on their colleagues in the British Commons to drop this attitude and to give more regard to the ideal of European unity and to sell this ideal. I firmly believe it is of tremendous importance in the future development of this continent and world civilisation generally that the ideal of European unity would be achieved.

On the question of parliamentarians from one country influencing another, I would ask our colleagues in the Labour Party to use their influence with their colleagues in the British House of Commons to ensure that the Bill now being processed in that Parliament would not be amended so as to exclude proportional representation for the European Parliament elections in Northern Ireland. There is a move spearheaded by the Northern Unionists, with the support of some Tories, to have the first past the post system applied right throughout the United Kingdom. We do not have to label here the reasons why that is undesirable in Northern Ireland. It would set at naught the efforts of the former Taoiseach and previous Minister for Foreign Affairs in raising the number of seats for the United Kingdom so as to allow for three seats for Northern Ireland on the understanding that if PR were used it would result in one of those seats being held by the minority population. It is important [700] that there would be no change in that regard.

Once a parliament has been elected to Europe, the whole scene there is going to change dramatically. The Minister touched on this when he contrasted the nature of an appointed Assembly with an elected Assembly. There is all the difference in quality between the two bodies. That election will give a sense of status to the members and a self-confidence that must necessarily be absent from a body that is merely appointed. A body that is merely appointed must know that they are not truly representative of the people and are not truly, therefore, a parliament in the established meaning of that term.

An elected parliament will be the first step towards producing a common identity. A good precedent has been set in that members do not sit according to national groupings but sit according to party affiliations. National identities are to some extent blunted and are merged within the different groupings. Undoubtedly there will be a national input but it is impossible to conceive that such would ever totally depart. It will always have to be there and undoubtedly there will be a deliberate national input made on certain occasions as they arise. Essentially, because of the practice of sitting in groups according to ideology, there will be a tendency towards a common identity in that the members will truly think of themselves as Europeans rather than as nationals of a particular country.

Again, the idea of an elected parliament will undo the characteristic of the Council of Ministers which leads to nationalism being a significant factor in the politics of the activities of the Council. Ministers are in there fighting essentially for national interests. As long as that Council remains, in effect, the ruling body of the Community, nationalism will continue to be a dominant factor in the deliberations and procedures of the Community. Election by the people will give members to an elected parliament a certain status and a role to play in blunting the nationalism which plays such a large part in the activities of [701] the Council of Ministers. Again, undoubtedly from direct democracy there will come a greater power to the European Parliament. They have two main significant powers at the moment. One is the right to sack the Commission, which is a drastic power, possibly so drastic that one cannot ever see it being used, but nevertheless it is there and is a real power given to the parliament. Shyness about using it, or at least waving this particular stick, might in my opinion, be diminished by the status and the self-confidence of members that would come from being directly elected.

Again too, the powers over the budget are real powers and are the kernal of the sovereignty of any parliament—powers over the raising and control of the finances of the areas being served by the parliament. This again has within itself the seeds of real power. With those seeds fertilised by the impetus of direct democracy and the status and self-confidence that this will give to that Assembly, as we will see a pretty swift growing of real powers. There will be an impetus given to the movement towards European unity which will not be checked by outbreaks of chauvinism on the part of some members from France or xenophobia from Britain. I think an inevitable process is under way, and by reason of these direct elections an impetus which cannot be stopped is being created.

The reason why I think a United Europe is so important at this stage is that we have to consider Europe in its present situation in the world. On one side we have the totalitarian bloc of Communists countries. Their philosopy, culture and political system are alien to us for the fundamental reason that that system does not permit of freedom. I do not mind what sort of PR exercises are done to show a level commercial prosperity and apparent equality of man in those areas. Those things mean nothing in the absence of freedom. One has only to read Solzhenitsyn's work, and all the other similar writings to realise that those régimes are evil because of the absence of real freedom within them. Part of their philosophy is to spread out and impose their doctrines on the entire [702] world. It is important that that philosophy be controlled and that that spread be prevented. One bulwark against its spreading is a strong united Europe conscious of its civilisation, conscious of the real value of its ancient civilisation and conscious of the need to combat a certain decadence which has crept into western society, mainly I regret to say from the other side of the Atlantic, from the United States. I regard the United States in spirit, if not physically, as being European mainly because of the antecedents of the great majority of the inhabitants of that country. There would obviously be room for close liaison between that continent and the European Community.

Europe, its standards, its civilisation face an immense challenge from the East. The number of people in that part of the world, their vast energy and growing sophistication, are already presenting a real and serious challenge to this part of the world. One has only to look at the technological invasion which they have successfully carried out in our part of the world. In all the highly sophisticated technological fields they are very often the leaders and their products are flooding our markets. That again is a challenge that we in Europe and the western world are going to resist if we are to preserve our individuality, our traditions and our type of civilisation. I do not think we can resist that challenge until we are united commercially first and politically as a consequece of that, or maybe vice versa.

The nations of the Community for a start, hopefully all the rest of Europe in due time, coming together and forming a political union, will be able by this Parliament, this focal point, to pay consideration to the traditional standards of the west, the standards of Christianity, the standards of democracy and this new forum can be a focal point for going back to search out those standards and ensuring that a lead is given in applying them today. That is vitally important if so much that is decadent in the world today is to be resisted and overcome. There is evidence of decadence all around us. Our culture has become decadent when [703] one sees punk rock being presented as an ideal. There is decadence too in the level of violence that is now taken for granted on our television screens and in our literature. There is decadence in the increasing scourge of pornography. There are all levels of decadence which are corroding the civilisation of western society.

Positive steps have to be taken if our society is to be preserved and if it is not to disintegrate or disappear. Positive steps have to be taken to counter these trends. If these steps are to be taken effectively there has to be the focal point informed of the need to take these steps and in a position with the status and the power to give a lead. That focal point I see as an elected democratically representative European Parliament.

Apart from those aspects there will be the great material benefits. It is important that there would be material benefits available for the people of western Europe. One of the main material benefits that can come from the idea of a European Parliament with its in-built idea of a united Europe, will be monetary and economic union. Some people might say that those matters should come first. It would then be succeeded by the political and cultural union for which the Parliament can be the impetus. On the other hand if we have the Parliament, it will provide the necessary impetus towards achieving the monetary union.

This will be a powerful united lobby group in Europe with influence in all the areas that are presently antipathetic towards monetary union. The arguments in favour of monetary union were recently enunciated by the President of the Commission, Mr. Jenkins, and I think the arguments are unanswerable. He pointed out that monetary union will tend to rationalise industry and commerce, that discussions with businessmen throughout Europe shows the difficulties they have with currency and exchange rates. The Common Market would literally become a common market if there was one unit of exchange for Europe.

I referred to the European Parliament [704] as being a catalyst in strengthening Europe as a bulwark against the totalitarianism of the communist bloc on one side and the challenge from the cast on the other. Its position as a bulwark would be strengthened if it had its own currency because obviously it would then become a major international currency. With the current problems, for example, of the dollar, how useful it would be in terms of international trade if Europe had a single strong currency of its own. One of the things which bedevils economic activity in the various member states is the balance of payments problems which they run up from time to time and which inhibit economic development or determine economic strategy. That is something that would disappear from the scene on a national basis. As an anti-inflation weapon one can see that monetary union could be very important. It could have a stabilising effect on prices which would be of immense importance in the fight against inflation.

Another reason which was advanced and which I would repeat to the House is that one currency would enable demand to be more smooth and consistent throughout the Community. If demand is that way there can be a more controlled response to it and an ever continuing response to greater control and smoother demand. If there was more demand for goods and a greater response to that demand, then there would be a higher level of economic activity and, consequently, greater prosperity and less unemployment. The greater the demand the more goods have to be produced and more people employed to manufacture them.

While monetary union will have to get a push from the political union of the European Parliament, it will nevertheless accelerate the process towards political union. I am convinced that the move towards an elected European Parliament is of critical importance at this stage in the history of this Continent. I am pleased to be able to participate in the debate on the Bill in one national Parliament and argue in favour of it. I only hope that the debate, when it reaches the streets [705] at the time of the elections, will impinge sufficiently on the consciousness of the Irish electors to make them realise the importance of this move not in terms of today or tomorrow but of centuries ahead and that they will respond to that sense of importance by a high turn-out and a high poll.

Ruairí Brugha: I welcome the Bill and I am very glad to be here to support it. The sooner direct elections can be held the better, so far as strengthening the democratic process in the European Community is concerned. Nothing but good can come from the application of direct universal suffrage in the nine member states. It is interesting to note that the period is the same as our own in relation to the holding of elections—five years. It means that, as there will not in the foreseeable future be any Government in Europe, those elected would be expected to remain in office for the five years, unlike the situation here and in other democracies.

It is also interesting to note that the Bill states that the votes of members in the Parliament will be individual and personal, not on any mandate or instruction, although the members will naturally be attached to one group or another. It is important that we should continue to show political affiliations on the ballot paper and the Bill also provides for that. This provision was introduced some years ago. It was a good idea because it tends to associate the candidate with his affiliations in the mind of the electors. In the case of the European direct elections it will also be permissible to add the name of any assembly with which candidates may be associated. It may help our people to become more familiar with Europe and with the significance of events in Europe, and that they would be helped in deciding what candidates to vote for by whatever sort of performance they believe may have been fulfilled by the particular group with which members of the Parliament have been associated. I share the previous speaker's note of regret that in the Northern part of the country some faces are set against the introduction of the transferable vote. It is regrettable that there should be such a high [706] level of distrust of the national-minded people in the North among Unionists. Apparently a significant number of them would rather see Northern Ireland with one-third less representation in the European parliament than support a normal democratic approach to elections to Europe.

I think we are all satisfied with the arrangements for the constituencies. It is the first time in relation to constituencies that we have had an independent commission to do the work for us. I understand that all parties have accepted that the arrangements cannot be interpreted as being to the advantage of any party. The Minister referred to the vote and the encouragement of people to vote. I believe there is a danger of a low vote when the election takes place. One interesting aspect that would be absent from the minds of all electors would be that they would not be participating in the election of a government. I am sure that we do have a high percentage of votes in general elections because of the great interest that is generated if only to see who is going to be in government. This interest will not be present in direct elections to the European Assembly for a considerable number of years.

The other danger of a low vote could result from the very large number of people here who are relatively uninformed about events in Europe, about its influences and effects on ourselves. I appeal to the media to give more time and space in future if possible, to the proceedings of the European Parliament. It is essential that our electors should understand that they are participating in something of great significance to themselves in voting for candidates to the Parliament. It is hardly necessary to say that they should be urged to vote for the best possible type of candidates who will be capable of mastering if I may say so, the intricacies of the existing institutions. In that way they would help to keep the democratic wishes of the people active in the European arena.

It is naturally a matter of regret to many of us that the powers of the European Parliament are not as strong as we would like them to be. This [707] is disappointing but understandable. Some of us may be inclined to look too far ahead to what we would like to see. Nevertheless, if we reflect on the years since the Second World War we will appreciate that the European Community came into existence sooner than it might have, mainly because a number of European politicians who had seen the horrors of war and the awful consequences to so many millions of helpless people looked ahead and gave leadership in the fifties which brought the Community into being. It was better to form the Community sooner than people were ready for it than to leave things as they were after the Second World War and perhaps allowed power to fall into the hands of other demagogues, which would have led to another war in Europe.

We have to be patient and recognise that many European nations, ourselves included, have some considerable distance to go before being prepared to accept the idea of political unity in Europe. Some European nations are not yet ready for European Government and many are jealous of the powers of their national Government. Those of us who would like to look further ahead and see further progress, must be prepared to see Europe go forward step by step. Of course, the next step is direct election by the people of the nine nations to the Parliament of Europe.

I welcome the Bill and I welcome the Community itself for many reasons, not least of which is the removal of fear, dictatorship and the horrors of war between former antagonists to Europe. This was achieved by those politicians and it has been and continues to be of inestimable benefit to people in the part of Europe represented in the Community and to some other parts of Europe.

Mr. Keating: I want to divide what I have to say into three parts, first, the matter of the Bill before us and the minor changes in it and then some comments on immediate issues. Finally, I should like to give more general and long-term thoughts about the evolution [708] of the European Community. The Second Stage of a Bill of this kind in an appropriate place to do that. In regard to the Bill itself, as has been accurately and generously acknowledged by the Minister, it is substantially the Bill that was prepared when I had the honour to be in Government. I participated in the discussions and it is not to be expected that I would now quarrel with things that seemed to be right six or 12 months ago. I do not do so. The only way the Bill is changed is in the matter of the constituencies. I believe the use of a commission is good; I believe that, under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Brian Walshe, we have had a very reasonable and fair determination of constituencies. It is no more than I would expect from his chairmanship because he is a person of great intellectual force and great moral stature. That we have the use of a commission is a mark of progress. I hope this progress continues. I should like briefly to mention the matter of the date of the election. I am not sure that this speech was prepared in the light of the most recent events or of the summit because the expectation of May or June of 1978 is explicit. From today's papers— and that is as much as I know about it and it is not a conclusion that surprises me—it is not expected that that date can be met. While I understand the disappointment it is not very important.

Prior to an event people can anticipate it and regret a delay, and yet an extra six months or a year passes quickly and in retrospect it will not make an enormous amount of difference. There is a positive aspect to a delay, which is—and here I am taking up a thought of Senator Brugha— that we are a highly political country. Without any compulsion to vote, or fines if we do not, we get a very high turnout in elections. Whatever I may think about the results of those elections, it is nonetheless an admirable thing and a measure of the vitality of our democracy. The risk of a much smaller vote, when nothing close enough to be readily comprehended and nothing of an immediate power kind—because it is the prospect of [709] power and the excitement of who is going to win that galvanises an electorate, will be missing. Therefore, something that is very important will seem not so and will seem distant. It will in fact seem a haggle about who is going to get some large salaries. Having six months or a year longer for all of us to make the debate real may in the end, from the point of view of Irish comprehension of the Community and Irish democracy, turn out to be a good thing. I do not look on the delay which, having read today's papers, I now look on as being inevitable, as bad.

I echo the plea that, not alone do we have a duty as individual politicians and as political parties to make this debate real but surely the media have the same responsibility. I know that the European Parliament is not a very exciting place from a reporter's point of view. There is a vicious circle here. To the extent that it is not well reported it seems unreal. To the extent that it seems unreal it arouses nobody's interest. Precisely because there is neither awareness of it nor commitment to it, it is more difficult for it to take on real powers and, therefore, it is more difficult for it to be genuinely exciting. Politicians do have a responsibility, but so do media people. Obviously, it is not for politicians to tell them their jobs, but it always seems that what I think are the exciting things —this is, perhaps, a measure of my lack of touch with reality—are not the things that they consider exciting. For example, I think that economic news is extremely exciting. Obviously, newspapers do not. I think that the analysis of the structures of society —and this is the most important structure of society—is extremely exciting. Obviously, newspapers do not. They are not gods, they are not opinion makers. They are a reflection of the society that exists and no bit of that society can advance too rapidly away from the general consensus. Politicians cannot do it and neither can the media. By holding each other's hands, politicians and media might generate the courage to try and build up a good debate on these issues.

The extra time—whether it is going [710] to be Autumn, 1978 or Spring of 1979, which seems to be coming from the Summit as possible dates—will not be a disaster, and we do not have to worry about it. The important thing for us is to have a good debate and have people understanding the issues to get a commitment by as many as possible and hopefully—again I echo the thoughts of Senator Brugha—to get good people. While he was speaking I was trying to think of someone with the same experiences of the Community. As people will recall I was probably more prominently identified with the campaign against Irish full membership—and I emphasise the “full”—than anybody else in this country, and I recall the referendum results coming in and I took the position, as my Party did, that we got an overwhelming answer from the people. We were glad they had answered overwhelmingly and we accepted the result.

I then was a part of the first Irish delegation in January, 1973, to the European Parliament. I then was a member of Government at the time of the Irish Presidency and sat in the Irish chair when Garret FitzGerald was an extremely distinguished President. I was a member of Government during some of the early years of Ireland's membership and after the first two months of our membership which was under the previous Fianna Fáil administration. I am now debating this as a Member of the other House of the Oireachtas. Putting it all together, it means that I have had association with the Parliament, with the Council of Ministers and as a Minister with the Commission. I have been involved in the arguments, pro and contra, for more than five years, because that is how long it is since we were building up to the referendum campaign. I recite that experience to concur with Senator Brugha on the complexities of these three institutions and the bridges that connect them—the Parliament, the Council and the Commission. Let us say with one voice to the Irish people that those three institutions and their inter-connections are profoundly important for us and probably more important in determining our future [711] than any other organ in the world. That is the reality of it. Let us hope that we get good people and serious debate.

That is enough about what I would call the second part of what I said I would talk about, which is about the more immediate comments. I want to talk now about the way that I see the Community evolving and the possibilities and dangers of that evolution. More important than either of those things are the inescapable things that are going to happen to us whether they represent possibilities or dangers and which we cannot avoid. I preface this excursion by saying that I am not going to recapitulate the debate in the referendum. I accept that result. Not alone are we in but we are irrevocably in because of the lapse of time. There was an alternative. There was a Norwegian role which might have looked real in 1970 or 1972. In 1977, going on 1978, it does not look real, and the disruption that would now result from withdrawal is not such as I in conscience, whatever I thought at the time, could wish or urge in any country. In every debate, if one is actually telling it like it is, there are positive and negative sides.

In the past, when I was saying to people “Do not join, you can be an associate member”, I hope I did not conceal the truth about the positive side. Now that we are irrevocably in and talking about the evolution of the Community, let us not conceal the truth about the negative side either. I am not doing this for the sake of going back five years. Let us leave those arguments and look at the realities now. Let us see what are the possible benefits to us. I persist in thinking of the great dangers to us because I persist in looking on this part of this island as being fragile in the context of a European Community. The economic drawing together, barring an economic holocaust which is more frightful economically than anything which would result from that drawing together, is not reversible. It will not proceed at a uniform pace but it will take sudden leaps when we do not expect it to, and it will creep along at [712] other times, but the economic drawing together is not a process that can be reversed.

Decisions that have the most profound effect on it are being taken between Council and Commission. They are happening, but they are happening to a very great extent, firstly, without our knowledge, except for the specialist. I am not decrying the work of the civil servants or the work of participants in the Council of any party. I know they go well briefed and work hard and I also know that it is extremely difficult. The Council is not an easy place to function effectively in national terms. The point I want to make is that the decisions there are not subject either to a high level of simply being followed or to use the modern words, of being monitored by the public at large nor are they subject to what we think of democratic control.

That seems to me to get to the crux of the whole difficulty and the whole danger about the Community. The drawing together economically is happening, is irreversible, though a bit unpredictable at times, and it is a very powerful interest. In this regard I agree with Senator Brugha. Fintan Lalor said that the first blow or the first thumping is always premature but I would not worry about prematurity or the first step, that is inescapable. Of course there is a danger of going too fast simply because one cannot do it; it does not work. There is for us the most enormous opposite danger. Economically, the unification is taking place and the great companies of Europe whom I persist in thinking of as the great threat to our liberties, the great subversives, the great bribers, the great corrupters, the great overturners of the democratic decision, are the mysterious boardrooms of the great companies be they banks or big industrial companies. In fact, they are the same thing. Those people anticipated the Community. They did not have to wait for the Treaty of Rome to draw Europe together. They realised under the new order that the nation states of Europe were too small for them. They forged their links Europe-wide with raw materials and markets [713] already under Hitler. They did not mind a bit working under Hitler. I am not going to name names but we could go to the holding companies of Germany and could find Fascist names. We could turn up those who gave the guy money. They are still there in power. Of course they have made their links across national boundaries. Of course there is a common market of the great companies, industrial, commercial and financial.

Now I draw the parallel of the United States because there is a common market. There are states. Who are the great defenders on the United States scene of states' rights? Who founded the campaign to defend the States against that awful federal monster in Washington? The great companies did because they wanted to play games on the local tax laws, because they wanted to corrupt the local legislature, which is cheaper to buy than a national one, and because they wanted to have a nice comfortable little haven. I will not name the company but I will name the State of Delaware if anyone wants to know what I am talking about. Nice and easy to manage; nice and small, nice and manipulatable; some nice harbours and some good communications. There it is. So these great companies that wanted a United States, and they were in a much more nascent form in the arms industry in the case I am thinking of, suddenly become the defenders of states' rights. The great companies of Europe, which were the engines of unification in the past, have got all they want now. They want free movement of goods, capital and labour. They have not quite got it but it is going that way—in the green pound anomalies and this and that. It is a question of how long they will continue. They have no wish for democracy. They are happy to have nation states on the basis of defending their sovereignty presenting the growth of a sort of Community wide sovereignty which is the only way to control those companies.

The threat is a threat that with democracy is always difficult but with currently nine countries, and the promise of expansion, it is even more difficult. [714] With the best will in the world democracy is genuinely very difficult in the Community, and to the individual citizens in the individual nation states with their current level of political and other education the institutions seem distant, and the languages genuinely are a frightful barrier. They are a barrier to the trade unions, to the political parties, to the consumers and a barrier to culture, but they are not a barrier to the banks or the great companies which have been unified at boardroom level always anyway. There is the threat. The threat is that once one is in one has got to see that one's democracy evolves as fast, and hopefully faster, than those structures which have got a long start, which started growing together under Hitler, do not care at all about democracy, have recently been documented in the United States to be subverters of democracy and to be able to find millions of quid in hidden funds to subvert it. They are there functioning in a way hostile to the ordinary people of all our countries.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Chair appreciates the reasons why the Senator wishes to go into such details on the whole question of the European Community, but perhaps the sort of speech he is making might be more appropriate on the motion which is listed on the Order Paper. We would like to see the subject of the speech relating more closely to the election of the European Assembly.

Mr. Keating: I accept entirely what the Chair said. I am not sure that I will be able to resume in the same vein, but I shall try. I want to make a few comments which have arisen directly from what Senator Cooney and Senator Brugha said. The attitudes of the Gaullists and of the British Labour Party, both of which I deplore equally, are fine when one is one of the dominant countries, but the whole danger is that one will re-establish a colonial situation within the Community where certain powerful areas can simply recolonise economically within the framework of very fragile and weak democratic institutions the weaker parts of the Community. It is fine for [715] Gaullists and the British Labour Party to say defend the sovereignty of our national parliament because they will be very powerful national parliaments. I would not be surprised if the Germans were saying it. But what the Germans, the British and the French say is not a sensible thing for present members like the Danes or the Irish nor, indeed, future members like the Greeks, to say.

On the question of PR in Northern Ireland I have already expressed my opinion to my colleagues in the British Labour Party and I am happy to do so again at the urging of Senator Cooney. I have no expectations that it shall have any effect on the significant party. I should like to deal with another point which seems to be very wrong in what Senator Cooney said. I revert to the theme of our fragility. He talked about monetary union. If I recall correctly he said that balance of payments problems between member states are abolished by monetary union. In an accounting sense they are because one does not count balance of payments but the balance of payments problems between regions are not abolished by monetary union. The balance of payments between the highlands of Scotland and the south-east of England in an accounting sense were abolished but it did not stop what happened to the highlands. I fear monetary union very much for Ireland. I fear it for a whole series of economic reasons which I will not enumerate now.

Since we are small, peripheral and weak our best defence is strong cultural institutions. I have no inhibitions about urging, therefore, greater strength to the institutions and, most hopefully of all, the axis that runs from Strasbourg to Brussels, not to the Council buildings but to the Commission building, the axis of the Parliament and the Commission. The independence of the little ones depends on that being strong, and central institutions ought to be strong. Democracy requires as well as disadvantaged regions, and all of Ireland is a disadvantaged region, a strong parliament. Let us not rush on to monetary union at this stage of the game because this industrialisation of the [716] whole of Ireland is not a large thing in a Community of a quarter of a billion people. It could easily happen; we are fragile; our units are small; we are undercapitalised; we have problems of expertise and management and, obviously, we have problems of labour relations. Without offering any judgment on them here, they exist. Monetary union seems to me to be dangerous. I see the long-term arguments. I am not surprised that Roy Jenkins wants it and I would not be a bit surprised if the Germans wanted it because for Germany it would be nothing but good but for us it is another story.

A time might come when we might be willing to trade but that would be ten or 15 miles down the road. The trade is this: yes, we will go in a monetary union which you, the Germans and the great companies and the great banks want, in return for more democracy by which I mean more power to the Parliament. That is a thinkable trade but it is not thinkable in my view to go to monetary union until the genuinely democratic central institutions are much stronger. Finally, on Senator Brugha's word of peace, I always hear this argument and I do not think it means anything. Once the threat from outside was bigger. The Europeans who had been knocking the stuffing out of each other for centuries were going to stop anyhow. Once we had Russians on the scene they were going to come together. It did not take a Community to do it. I do not think that is a real argument because the battles between the European countries were over, they had worn themselves out at the end of the Second World War and there was a much bigger common threat looking at all of them so they were not going to go at each other again. However, the question of peace is now a world question obviously. The Community has a great part to play for good or ill. I hope it can be a social democratic Community. In other words, democratic with a mixed economy, with planning and with root for all the disadvantaged sections and peoples. Then it may be an example and it may be a source of influence for peace in the world.

The threat of peace is not Europe and would not have been whether they [717] were a Community or not; the threat of peace is great power, super-power competition. The Community can play a useful role in that area. I hope it does. There is no more important task in the world, but the condition is that I hope it remains open, and outward looking and does not itself draw together into a monolithic super-power and does not itself start playing super-power games. If that happens instead of force for calm and peace we will have one more source of escalation and danger. It was pointed out to me that I was not saying the right thing at the right time a few moments ago so I am stuck now. I may have a few more thoughts to offer at a later stage.

Mr. Yeats: Obviously, this is a Bill all of us can welcome, irrespective of the degree of our enthusiasm for the EEC or any aspect of it. We can welcome this Bill not merely for what it contains but because of the implications of its passage here. The details of the Bill obviously can wait until Committee Stage. The point I should like to refer to has already been referred to by other speakers, the question of the constituencies. Constituencies based on provinces are a vast improvement on the previous proposal. I am not saying this simply for reasons that they may appeal more to the political parties concerned. I am not thinking of the strictly political aspect of them. I am thinking from the point of view of the over-riding necessity of interesting the public in direct elections. It would have been extraordinarily difficult to persuade an inhabitant of Senator McDonald's County Laois that he had some kind of close political relationship with the inhabitants of north Donegal. It could not have been done but when the inhabitants of Laois feel they are voting in a Leinster constituency and the people of Donegal can feel they are voting in an Ulster-Connacht constituency then the election will mean something more to them. The constituencies clearly will still be enormous and unwieldly. They will be very difficult for the politicians to deal with but at least in the arrangement as set out by the Commission, [718] and inscribed in this Bill, the public can feel that they are incoherent constituencies with a historical traditional background to them.

The importance of the direct elections obviously would be difficult to exaggerate. They put a whole new democratic face to the Community which has undoubtedly tended to appear to people, sometimes wrongly, as a somewhat bureaucratic edifice with as Senator Keating said, the Council and the Commission working away busily in secret. Perhaps, not quite as much in secret as he suggests. The leak has been developed to the highest degree in the Community so, perhaps, secrecy is an elastic term there. Nevertheless, the democratic element in the EEC has not been sufficiently strong and the direct elections are a very important step for this reason alone.

Clearly, the question of the date is of interest to us. In the European Parliament we tend to go in a bit for whistling in the dark and say to ourselves that the elections will take place in May or June, 1978, and it will be a disaster if they do not, and so on. No one really believes they are going to take place in May or June of 1978 and I am inclined to think with Senator Keating that, perhaps, a certain delay would not be so disastrous.

I regret that the European Council this week decided merely to do nothing. Had they admitted temporary defeat and fixed a positive date, in say May, 1979, then even the British could not say they may not get their legislation through by then. They would have had to agree to this and then we would have had a definite date and everybody would have been able to get going. It would have been better. As things stand we are still in this no man's land. I have no doubt I will hear again next week at the European Parliament that we are still saying May or June, 1978 is the date but nobody expects it and nobody knows when the date is. That is a pity. The European Council could have done everyone a good turn by settling this matter once and for all sufficiently far ahead so that no one could reasonably say they would not be ready to meet [719] this date. As has been said by every speaker in this debate, the crucial problem in these elections is going to be that of interesting the public, or persuading more than 25 per cent of people in Dublin city that it is worth their while to go out and vote. In rural areas, no matter what the election is about, most people will come out. An election is an election and it does not matter much what people are electing, they come and vote, but not in Dublin. It is a very big problem.

Senator Keating is right in saying that the complexity of the EEC is the basic difficulty. There is a form of constitution which has never been seen before. It is a sort of an amalgam of the Commission and the Council with the Parliament sandwiched somewhere in between. It is not like any other constitution that has ever been drafted and most people do not understand it. The legislation of the Community is so complex and, indeed, so voluminous that it is very difficult for the ordinary man in the street, or indeed, for politicians closely involved in this from day to day, to keep track of it.

No matter how we might try, we will never be able to explain the EEC to the Irish voters or, indeed, to the voters in any of the other nine countries. It cannot be done. We have to make it clear to the voter that, forgetting about the complexity of EEC legislation, the nature of its constitution and the difference between the Commission and the Council, the basic fact of the matter is that every man, woman and child is being affected every day by the laws of the EEC. The most obvious example is the common agricultural policy which—I do not think I am exaggerating—for practical purposes has taken control of Irish agriculture away from our Government. In the old days, when farmers' organisations had a campaign on foot they would travel to Dublin on their tractors and perhaps sit on the Minister's doorsteps for a period.

Mr. Cooney: Not “perhaps”.

Mr. Yeats: They stood outside the gates of Leinster House. Now one sees them on the plane to Brussels. It is not so long since I came across three stalwarts [720] from the North Connacht Cooperative Society brandishing placards outside the European Parliament in Luxembourg. The farmers have their priorities right. They know where the power lies. It does not lies in Dublin any more.

Ruairí Brugha: It is just as well we are surrounded by sea.

Mr. Yeats: Therefore, in this field the influence of the EEC is paramount in Ireland in regard to agricultural matters. There is then the basic question of the Common Market itself. The Common Market, by its title, implies that there are now no longer any tariffs between Ireland and the rest of the Community. Between Ireland and the rest of the world, we are bound by the common external tariff. We can no longer make trade agreements, impose import duties or anything of that kind. To that extent our sovereignty has been undermined and every man, woman and child is, to some extent, affected by this.

We have the whole process of industrial harmonisation, to use that grandiose Community term. The practices and processes of industrial manufacturing are being more and more affected by the various directives and regulations. Every time a directive comes out saying that in future a certain type of glass must be used in the windscreen of a motorcar, or that the seatbelts in a car must be fitted in a certain way, our manufacturers and assemblers are bound by it and the Government, and Oireachtas Éireann loses a certain amount of authority.

Perhaps of more immediate importance to the man in the street are such things as the social fund. A large part of the activities of AnCO are financed from the social fund. Under the regional fund relatively large sums are channelled to various schemes throughout the country. One of the problems has been that very often people did not realise that these schemes were being financed in whole or in part by Community money. The Commission, without a great deal of success, has been trying to lay down rules that in future any schemes benefiting from Community funds are to have a big placard put up so that the people living [721] in the neighbourhood can see that this is so. In many ways everyone in the country is being effected more and more by the Community laws. This process will continue more rapidly in the future.

Senator Keating and Cooney referred to economic and monetary union. On this I would go along with Senator Cooney rather than with Senator Keating in being in favour of the EMU. People have not understood the full implications of EMU. It sounds grand to have a common currency but, obviously, it can only work—Senator Keating referred to the point of the balance of payments deficits in regions—if there is a great deal of Community control over everyone's budgetary and financial policies. It can only be possible if a great deal more is done to assimilate the varying standards of living in different parts of the Community. We could not consider EMU in a situation where in Ireland, for example, and Southern Italy the average income per head is about one-third of what it is in Denmark. If EMU is to be introduced it must be done alongside vast transfers of money from the richer to the poorer parts of the Community. I, for perhaps the same reasons as impelled Senator Keating to be against EMU—am strongly in favour of it. If the larger countries are strongly enough in favour of EMU they can only get it through by channelling these huge sums into the poorer areas, a prospect which I would welcome.

Mr. Keating: If I thought they would do it I would welcome it too. I am perhaps a little more cynical.

Mr. Yeats: If they do not do it then it is not on. On the basis that EMU is done in the only way it seems to me to be possible, I am in favour of it. We ought to campaign very strongly in favour of it. The reason I am making this point now is that the Irish voter, who is the person concerned in this Bill, is already being affected by the laws of the EEC. He is likely to be more affected in the future because of the likelihood of further common policies such as EMU. The problem, from the point of view of democracy, is that all these matters, whether it is [722] the CAP, trade agreements, social policies, regional funds, EMU, energy policies and so on, are outside the direct control of Oireachtas Éireann. We cannot effect them in any way either in the Seanad or the other House. The Government have no further function in the matter once it has been passed in the Council and becomes a directive. Therefore, we have to replace national democracy by some kind of international democracy or, in other words, the European Parliament. Hence the importance of the election.

There is great scope for misunderstanding about direct elections. There is, obviously, no question of supplanting the Dáil or Seanad, or that there would be power given to the European Parliament and taken away from the Dáil or Seanad. Last Sunday I was approached by a gentleman who had a problem. He wanted to know if after the direct elections there was a possibility that the European Parliament would abolish Dáil Éireann in the same way as the British Parliament abolished Stormont. I staggered a bit and then said: “Well, no, no matter what powers the European Parliament might have they cannot alter the Irish Constitution one way or the other.” That kind of question shows the amount of confusion of thought which can arise because of the direct elections. It is important, therefore, for us to be clear about what is involved in the European Parliament. This applies also should the powers of the European Parliament be increased beyond their present level. What is involved is that as Oireachtas Éireann loses its legislative function as will happen inevitably as more Community law becomes law in Ireland—equal pay is an obvious case where we are now bound by the equal pay legislation of the Community—it has to be taken up by the European Parliament. There is a tendency, not least in the newspapers, to downgrade the whole concept of direct elections because, it was pointed out, the European Parliament is essentially a consultative body. In this respect, one must distinguish between the legal powers a Parliament may have or, indeed, as Dáil Éireann [723] has, and a Parliament's influence in practice. If one takes legal powers, Dáil Éireann, for example, has greater powers than the European Parliament. Dáil Éireann elects the Taoiseach, approves the Government, and can dismiss them should there be a majority against them. The European Parliament can do none of these things, though it can, of course, dismiss the Commission and reject the budget.

I am perfectly satisfied, after some five years as a member of the European Parliament, that you have in practice, whatever the theory may be, a much better chance of amending legislation, sometimes in quite a substantial way than you would have in either Dáil Éireann or Seanad Éireann. The number of amendments to legislation as it goes through Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann are relatively small and, where there are amendments, they are usually on points of relevant detail, whereas in the European Parliament—certainly in the five years I have been a member, and Senator McDonald would probably agree with me—you have quite substantial chances of enacting amendments.

To take one simple case, in the budget procedures at the moment in the European Parliament—and all this autumn—so far the Council have accepted 60 amendments made by the European Parliament and there may be more before the process is through. Some of those were of a very substantial nature. On budegtary issues, leaving aside the question of influence in practice, legally speaking the powers of the European Parliament are very considerably more than those of Dáil Éireann or, indeed, of any national Parliament I know of. I know of no national Parliament that has the power the European Parliament has to add to expenditure.

Direct elections will not in themselves increase the powers of the European Parliament. The powers of the European Parliament can only be increased, or changed in any way, by a change in the Treaty of Rome and this would involve the unanimous agreement of all nine Governments. It [724] is obvious that, as a result of direct elections, the influence of the European Parliament must increase. I would think the Council, for example, will be a good deal less likely to ignore the wishes of the European Parliament when it has been elected by a democratic constituency of some 260 million people. The Commission will also be much more likely to defer to the views of the Parliament. The coming of direct elections will give a kind of democratic legitimacy to the EEC it has not had until now. This will be an historic occasion. It will be the first time in our history that there has been what one might call a trans-national election covering nine countries with over 200 million people.

This Bill by its mere presence represents an historic step forward. We still have this doubt about the actual date of the election, though I do not think we need have any doubt that the election will take place. With the passing of this Bill, we in Ireland can say we have done our part and, if it is passed before Christmas, we will probably be one of the first countries to have completed the entire legislative process for direct elections. It is an historic occasion and we can welcome the Ministers's appearance here with the Bill.

Mr. McDonald: It is almost five years since I had the opportunity of speaking here. I am certainly glad to be back in this rather distinguished Assembly. As the Minister told us, by an Act of 20th September, 1976, the Council decided to hold the European elections in the spring of 1978, and the date very often mentioned was the third Sunday in May, 1978. I want to welcome the Bill, as many of my colleagues have done because I, too, see that it is a significant step forward.

Like my colleague, Senator Yeats, having experienced the workings, envolvements and improvements in the European Parliament over the past five years, I think there is need for a greater democratic dimension in the work of the European Community. Over the past five years the Parliament has certainly become more democratic. We have introduced a number of procedures and, the Question Time which [725] has evolved over the past three or four years, is now on a par with the procedures in Dáil Éireann. This did not exist five years ago. I suppose, more than anybody else, the British Conservatives and the late Sir Peter Kirk have contributed to this facility which is very fully used by many members, especially by the Irish and British members who are used to this kind of procedure. By and large, the institution was very strange when we went there at first. They have a committee system and procedures that were rather difficult to comprehend and become familiar with.

Senator Yeats dealt with the Parliament's powers. Many people say there is a great lack of power in the European Parliament, but it is something like the chicken and the egg. At present members are burdened with the dual mandate. By burdened I do not mean that we object to being members of our national Parliament, but the physical difficulties of getting to meetings at all, never mind on time, are magnified many times for us by virtue of the fact that we for our part come from a peripheral area in the Community. If we have to attend a morning meeting, we have to go the night before. It is a difficult problem and it is very hard to compete with one's colleagues in multi-seat constituencies.

Senator Yeats said, and I agree with him, that an individual member of the European Parliament enjoys greater power than an individual Member of the Dáil or Seanad Éirean. He has the power to amend reports or draft amendments as they come before us. I had the experience of being a member of a Government party and it was very difficult to make an amendment to any Bill. If you are a member of a Government party, you must obey the Whip. If you are in Opposition you have not got the muscle, in parliamentary terms, to make an amendment. All you have to do in the European Parliament is to convince your colleagues of the necessity from a national point of view of getting a concession or making an amendment which would give your people a fair crack of the whip. In my experience as a member of the Christian Democratic Group, which [726] has an excellent record in the European Parliament, we have been successful on many occasions in making amendments of considerable value to the people we have the honour to represent.

There is no doubt of the tremendous contribution to the well-being of the Irish people our membership of the European Community has made over the past four or five years. It is quite frustrating being a member of the European Parliament, because friends and foes alike look upon us as enjoying life all the time, which of course we do. But it is a misconception to think that when you travel it is always either a pilgrimage or a holiday. The gloss wears off very quickly if you have to go to Europe, mainland Europe, once a week. On some occasions, we found it necessary to go twice and this is quite a physical strain.

People who enjoy equal pay for equal work can thank the Community for the benefits I hope they now enjoy. There are many benefits from the social fund. There are the regional policy benefits. I am sure almost £40 million must have benefited somebody. It is unfortunate that the Government have, to some extent, concealed them by the accountancy system they have decided on here, but from 1st January next we look forward to most of the European moneys coming in, wrapped like the Christmas butter which appeared in the shops this week and last week. This is important especially to those of us who are working in Europe and who are contributing to the harmonisation and rationalisation of draft regulations for the common good. It would be much easier for us if the public had a greater awareness of the amount of effort put into the improvements we have contributed to bringing about.

I have very few criticisms to make about the Bill. I certainly find the new constituencies rather agreeable. I thought the multi-county constituencies proposed before would be difficult to represent. The only thing going for that proposal was that in its totality it would be the single poorest region if you were to look at the income per head in the entire Community and, from that point of view, I am sure [727] the Members who would have represented that huge area would have been able to win the sympathy of their European colleagues and, perhaps, get a certain amount of support which one would certainly need if one were to be an effective politician.

Over the past five years we had the distinction of serving with people like Sir Anthony Esmonde, Tom Dunne, Donal Creed, David Thornley, Liam Kavanagh, Tom Nolan and, of course, Senator Yeats, Jim Gibbons, Justin Keating Conor Cruise-O'Brien and Richie Ryan who started with me in 1973. Over the past few years they were very sympathetic when I went to them on behalf of my constituency. At least in the brief period they were there in 1973, they understood some of the difficulties that membership entails. Indeed, I must say that the members who comprised the voluntary representatives in the past worked together and were to effect considerable improvements. I look forward to direct elections and I wish those who will be elected in direct elections every success because we would need 15 Daniel O'Connells to compensate for the loss of the veto.

Mrs. Robinson: That is a very sexist remark.

Mr. McDonald: I was thinking of it from an oratorical point of view. I do not go as deeply into some of the historical facts, perhaps, as some of my academic friends. It will be a monumental task to represent us in a Parliament of 410, which is very big. We will need to make a considerable amount of noise, and to cajole our colleagues to give us a fair crack of the whip. Senator Yeats mentioned the fact that the imbalance in income was three to one comparing Denmark with the west of Ireland. In 1973, when we joined the Community, the figure then mentioned was that there was an imbalance of four to one between the richer and the poorer regions of the Community. In the set of figures published last year this had increased to an imbalance almost of six to one.

Mr. Yeats: For the country as a whole.

[728] Mr. McDonald: This is frightening. Nevertheless, we must welcome the fact that yesterday the Heads of State agreed on a significant improvement in the allocation to the Regional Fund. While this is inadequate, nevertheless it is the system by which the aspirations of the founding fathers can best be achieved, to bring a more equitable distribution. This is where Members of the European Parliament must play a role. If the administration of funds, whether it is the social fund or the regional fund, is left to people in Brussels or in any of the European capitals, it is very difficult to comprehend the vast difference between the situation existing in the Irish midlands or the west of Ireland, in Calabria in the Mezzo Giorno or, indeed, in Greenland. It is necessary when the various problems are being debated in the Parliament that people from every corner of the Community should be there who will be able to champion the cause and to point out clearly the disadvantages the people from the peripheral areas have to suffer and have to endure compared with people who happen to be born in or move to more central areas.

Over the past four years the contribution of Deputy Garret FitzGerald to the Community has been significant. It is true to say this country has been very well represented not only in the various councils but also through our Commissioners and, indeed, the ordinary civil servants who took on jobs in the Commission. Our contribution to the development of the Community in the past five years has been significant and has been recognised.

Section 3 of the European Assembly Elections (No. 2.) Bill deals with the franchise and registration. I was looking at the situation obtaining in the other eight member states and I see that, even in the case of Belgium, where now we have a considerable number of Irish nationals, they do not propose to extend the right to vote to non-nationals. The same, I think, is true for Luxembourg. In these two countries a considerable number of Irish nationals are living and working for Community institutions and, by virtue [729] of the fact that they cannot be resident in the Republic of Ireland on the qualifying date, which I think is 15th September, that they will not be entitled to vote. There is a great case for making provision for people who are working for the Community. Many of these people are seconded. There are people who have contributed very richly behind the scenes to the improved standards so many of our people have enjoyed and are enjoying at present.

I would ask the Minister if he would consider what the French Government have proposed, Assembly Nationale, that Irish people living in both Belgium and Luxembourg would have the right to vote for Irish Members in their home constituencies. This would need some kind of declaration that they could be included on the register. It would not be a very great task to give them a postal vote. Even if a postal vote were not possible, they could be put on the register without having the residential qualification here. The policy of the Community has been to facilitate nationals in various countries to return to their homes in order to register their votes in the ordinary elections.

As far as the ratification of the convention is concerned, we seem to be as far advanced as most countries. There are a few countries who have ratified the convention and passed the necessary electoral laws during the summer. I welcome the fact that we have been able to have our legislation dealt with and I hope it will be completed before the Christmas recess.

Senator Yeats dealt fairly fully with the powers of the present Parliament, and the budgetary powers, and this matter has been covered fairly fully. I would not like to see the Parliament, especially while the dual mandate continues, having additional powers, because there is the problem of the chicken and the egg. With this additional power come the additional responsibilities. This would impose severe strains and burdens on Members coming from a peripheral area who would have to take on additional work and additional travelling.

Many people say the European Parliament [730] at present is a talk shop. Last month I was a member of the first delegation the European Parliament sent to the United Nations. I asked the Secretary General, Mr. Waldheim, about the position in the United Nations and he said many people say these international bodies are talk shops but, looking at the record, it is very clear that the conflicts in which the United Nations were engaged proved to be less bloody than the ones in which they were not called in to help. This is the same for all of the international bodies. I hope the population in the Republic of Ireland will be able to see the great need there is for the greater democratisation of institutions like the European Parliament which will tend to have a more and more important influence on the decisions which will be guiding the lives of the people in an economic sense.

We do not remind the public sufficiently that the Community of which we are now very much a member is the strongest economic bloc in the world. Therefore, as a member of the European Parliament we enjoy greater privileges outside the Community than we do inside it. It might be nice to be in one of third countries, as we like to call them, for a time.

There are a few points I should like to raise on Committee Stage. I should now like to thank the Minister for introducing the Bill. Perhaps on section 3 he might be able to indicate whether or not he will be able to devise some system of ensuring that the people who are working on our behalf in the Community will be able to feel part of the national scene and not find themselves treated as migrant workers have been treated in the Community in the past.

Mr. Mulcahy: I welcome this Bill. I should like to make one or two points along the lines raised by other Senators. It is an historic step that some sharing of power should take place between nations and some new grouping of nations. Nations, over the years, have learned how to rule themselves and how to develop procedures and laws which suit people living within their boundaries.

We are witnessing the emergence of [731] multi-nationalism. We are trying to learn how best that can be done. The step we are taking in this Bill is most significant because it is bringing the voice of the people back into the emergence of this new multi-national unit which we call the EEC. Recently in a speech, our Commissioner, Mr. Richard Burke, reflected on some of these ideas and he seemed to have some regret that, in the full flush of the emergence of the new multi-nation, some of the rights and distinctive features of individual nations might appear to come under attack and give rise, therefore, to some concern in those nations. Questions like loss of sovereignty, and so on, are well known.

On the other hand one aspect which has not received sufficient attention from our point of view is the cultural aspect. I detect that there is a feeling in Ireland that this multi-national unit, the EEC, already exists in all of its dimensions, that we are joining it and that, maybe, we have not got that much to offer. It is important that we hold our heads up as high as anybody else and recognise that, in the development of this new multi-national unit every nation forming part of it has something to contribute to it. When I say that I am thinking, for instance, of the influence of our language, our music and our literature.

A period of tremendous contact between the Continent and Ireland was the period of the 17th century. Some of my more learned colleagues in the Seanad might support me in this. It might very well have been that, if that contact could have continued without the political interference we all know about, the Irish language and the Irish culture might have had a much greater impact on the evolution of what is now continental Europe.

My point is that we are going in now as an emerging nation, with a culture that is only in the process of development, but which was halted over many years. We are experiencing debate about the validity of the writings of our historians and, whether the Irish culture—as some of us think of it—existed. In the last 50 years [732] attempts were made to regenerate some of those earlier cultural strands in Ireland and that regeneration would help us to catch up on the hiatus of our political serfdom. In going into Europe, voting in our own Members of Parliament, we should go in with our heads held high and firing on all our cultural engines. It gives me tremendous pleasure to hear continental visitors, the Germans and Dutch who come here during the summer, play Irish music, experience a night of folk music and then take an active part in the entertainment. It is also a pleasure to hear them speak English with a Dublin accent and sing our folk songs with a western or Dublin accent, depending on where they learned them. This seems to be part of the inter-action between Ireland and Europe.

I find it very helpful to learn what is going on in Europe from a document called Eorascáil, published by the EEC. This document is published in Irish and summarises what has been happening in the previous period —it is issued monthly. There is research to show that the way people learn to understand—learn the meaning of meaning, if you like—is very much a function of the language. I will give a simple illustration and I wonder how many people have thought about it. We say “I am afraid” in English and in Irish “Tá eagla orm”. The Irish way of learning seems to be more objective than the English, which is subjective. “I am afraid”, “there is fear on me”. I made that point to highlight that the role of language in devolping a creative nation may be down played and, we should not in any way downgrade our language in our march into Europe.

My practical way of trying to influence myself in that regard is to learn about Europe by reading about it through Irish. Some interesting points were made in the Samhain issue. It says:

Tá Uachtarán an Choimisiúin i ndiaidh an argóint sin a chur droim ar ais:

This is the argóint that it is not possible to have economic union and we [733] cannot have it until economic conditions improve all round.

ní féidir, deir sé, an dífhostaíocht, an boilsciú, na neamhchothromaíochtaí réigiúnacha, etc. a chloí choíche mura ndéanann tíortha an Chomhphobail comhordú an-dlúth ar a gcuid beartas eacnamaíoch—is é sin, mura dtéann siad i dtreo aontas geilleagair.

Tá faitíos ar daoine in Éirinn go mbeadh sé mar thoradh ar aontas geilleagair go súofaí acmhainní réigiúin laga an Chomhphobail chuig na réigiúin is láidre. Admhaíonn an tUas. Jenkins go bhfuil bunús maith leis an eagla sin agus gur ghá sásraí a bhunú, a bheadh i bhfad níos láidre ná cistí éagsúla an Chomhphobail faoi láthair, chun an claonadh láraimsitheach (centripetal) sin a chosc.

An Cathaoirleach: An bhfuil ainm na h-irise agus an dáta ag an Seanadóir?

Mr. Mulcahy: Eorascáil, Samhain, 1977. Is ionann sin agus a rá gur féidir dimensions eile de multinationalism a chothú. I covered the notion of the cultural dimension but I would like to mention also the economic one which has been adverted to before. I am in favour of EMU— Economic Monetary Union—in this regard. Mr. Jenkins, President of the Commission, in the Community, Report, November 1977, said:

My third argument concerns inflation. It is fairly certain that monetary union would radically change the present landscape by leading to a common rate of price movements. But I would also like to argue, although I accept this to be more controversial, that monetary union could help establish a new era of price stability in Europe and achieve a decisive break with the present chronic inflationary disorder.

I should like to draw the Seanad's attention to the fact that there is a good deal of research available now to support the proposition that in any economic system countries having the same currency will eventually settle [734] down to the same level of inflation, if inflation exists. This is a long-run phenomenon but if it is true, then as sure as night follows day, if we want to get inflation down to a manageable level and keep it there and keep some stability in our economic affairs, we must have monetary union. That is a research finding. Even though there are some researchers who will take the opposing view there is a growing body of acceptance for that now. We should get on with this and our parliamentarians should support it. Since we agree that European union should emerge, if that is a fact in terms of a theory of economic systems, we should not hold it up.

Somebody said—I have forgotten the actual reference—in 1948, when ideas about the union of Europe were being considered, that if union of Europe was to take place, it would take place only on the basis of a monetary union.

While I am talking about the European situation, I feel motivated to draw attention to one other fact. There is a danger that bureaucracy will take over in that system around Berlaymont and anyone who has walked around there knows what I am talking about. One of the things that frightened me recently when I looked at the figures is that the payments promised to Ireland from the EEC through the various heads, that is the social fund, the regional fund and so on, come to something like £50 million—I do not have the exact figures, but they will be in the Community Report—and the amount paid is something like £16 million. It does not take a good mathematician to work out that if over £30 million is outstanding and it is contained in the balance sheets of various companies around this country, then the late repayment of these amounts is costing this country £3 million in interest every year.

While I have made a lot of supporting sounds for European union, at the same time I am worried that situations like this would be allowed to emerge.

I notice the statistic which showed that the secretaries employed in [735] Brussels, again quoting from Eorascáil, page 2, Samhain, 1977, says:

Tá tuilleadh is 1,000 bean Bheilgeach (is é sin 40 per cent den iomlán) fostaithe mar rúnaithe ag an Choimisiún sa Bhruiséil, i gcomórtas le 50 cailin Éireannach.

There are 1,000 Belgian secretaries and 50 Irish secretaries. At a time when we are trying to encourage employment, there seems to be room there for a bit of promotion and for our Irish girls to get a leg in for whatever is available in Europe. I commend this Bill.

Professor Murphy: I speak as one who was never a starry-eyed European, and am now even less so. During the referendum campaign there was much hazy and illinformed talk about our links with Europe and Ireland's destiny as a European country. I regret to say that much of this haziness still persists, perhaps deliberately so. The dubious historical notion is still being put forward that once upon a time there was a united European Christendom. The EEC, the myth goes on, would recreate this legendary entity and Ireland, in some vague and unexplained way, would play an important role in this wondrous achievement. Of course, the truth is— and this is very relevant to our considerations of our contemporary relations with our European partners— Ireland was never seen by the great European powers at any stage, from Charles V's Hapsburg Empire to Hitler's Germany, as anything other than a remote and insignificant island. Senator Mulcahy referred to 17th century cultural contacts. True, they were there in the great traffic between this country, for example, and Louvain, but they were insignificant compared to the pawn that Ireland was in the power struggle of the European great powers.

Those who look to our European partners today for a sympathetic and constructive approach to Irish problems would do well to reflect on that sobering lesson from our past, when Irish national aspirations were exploited rather than supported by the [736] European powers. In my opinion the situation has changed only in dimension in that dynastic or religious or diplomatic exploitation has been supplanted by an economic one. However, we have to look at the situation as we find it. The 83 per cent endorsement of membership cannot be gainsaid, though surveys in the interim period suggest that anti-EEC feeling is now considerably greater than the 17 per cent registered in 1972. If that is so, that is something our campaigners will have to contend with when they go on the hustings for the European elections.

This country, let us remember, joined the Community, not because it was enraptured by the aislings of Schumann, Adenaeur and de Gasperi; but because it accepted what then seemed to be compelling and irrefutable economic arguments. In reality, and this is what the people will tell the candidates next June or whenever the elections are going to be held, the benefits have accrued only to the agricultural sectors, or to be precise to the large farmers, thereby compounding a type of agricultural economy which under-utilises our land resources. In most other respects, in my opinion, the Ireland-EEC relationship has meant a debit entry in our national ledger.

It is very easy for Ministers, European parliamentarians and Eurocrats generally, to deceive themselves about the true state of affairs. In boosting the significance of direct elections they imagine that their own enthusiasm for what is loosely termed “Europe”—and here let me make a footnote that, of course, we are using this term completely inaccurately; how can you apply the term “Europe” to a grouping which does not include, for example, Poland, many parts of historic Germany or Czechoslovakia or Austria, so let us be precise about the term—is shared by the Irish people at large.

Despite the massive and expensive publicity for the EEC in recent years, despite the promotion of Community propaganda in adult education circles as in my own university college —through no part of mine, let me tell the House—this kind of brain-washing is going on apace. A course in “Europeanisation” [737] is deemed essential for a diploma in adult education. Despite all this and the presentable and expensive literature, of which Eorascáil and its English counterpart are only a small example—as far as I know Eorascáil is simply a direct Irish translation of the English one, so I fail to see what mystique it has for Senator Mulcahy— and despite jaunts to Brussels and Strasbourg, the plain people of Ireland, if they are not quite alienated from the Common Market, are monumentally bored by it.

Perhaps there is only one other area which competes with it for boredom in the media and that is the analysis of sports results. Certainly the EEC runs it a close second in the league of boredom. As for the feeling of “Europeanness” that we were promised would influence Ireland for its benefit, that is both limited and spurious. The benefits of the impact of European culture on this country which were supposed to flow from membership have, in effect, been confined to the Euro-vision Song Contest, succinctly defined by the late Seán Ó Riada as a “farrago of feeblemindedness”.

It is with this interim opinion that many people will face their would-be representatives at the direct elections. Senator McDonald asked the Minister whether he would comment on the possibility of extending the franchise to Irish nationals who happen to be domiciled in Brussels or Strasbourg. Is there not a case for extending the franchise, and I am not being entirely impish in suggesting this, for the EEC to our Irish emigrants in Britain? That would be an intriguing situation. Indeed, and perhaps someone could inform me on this, I have heard that the Italian Government are making a provision of this kind for Italian migrant workers in Germany. If this is widely publicised, then Camden Town will be ablaze with excitement.

The real question is not the nature of deposits, or the constituency divisions, or where the count takes place— that is a matter which the party politicians have settled amicably between themselves—but what are the candidates going to talk about when they stand outside the traditional chapel [738] gates in a year or a year and a half's time? What are they going to tell the people? How are they going to answer the awkward questions, that is, if the electors are sufficiently bothered to ask questions? I think it was Senator McDonald who said that he hoped the 15 men going into Europe, let me correct myself, this is insidious, into the European Assembly—not Parliament mind you, Assembly—that they should all be of the calibre of Daniel O'Connell. I think you will need a lot of Daniel O'Connells when you face the people in six or nine months' time.

I can think of a few awkward questions of which I now give the benefit beforehand to our prospective candidates. The first thing is, for God's sake, let them avoid condescension— the kind of condescension which was prefigured here today on one or two occasions, the kind of thing which goes, “well, of course, you do not really understand, this is too complex for you, but leave it to us”. If they continue with that line they will get their come-uppances very quickly. I suggest some of the concrete questions which are going to come up and which people will, in all probability, ask our prospective European T.D's are, for example, “If the EEC is a true European fraternity why does it not protect the interests of its frail and weak brothers? Why does it not recognise that we in Ireland desperately need to develop our fisheries? How can we apply the term community to an association where the more powerful members demand the right to continue plundering our coastal waters? Why have the social and regional policies been such a bitter disappointment, as even the Minister for Foreign Affairs acknowledged in the Dáil the other day, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer?”

When we consider this rich man-poor man club we find that our own effusive and obsequious commitment to what we call Europe is not parallelled among our partners. The British are in no hurry to introduce the necessary legislation. Senator Brugha hoped that the media would give enormous coverage to the European elections over the next year or so [739] in order to generate interest in them. There is a danger of over-kill, of people not simply being sick from boredom but actually dying from it. It is interesting to contrast how Britain treats the EEC with the way we treat the EEC, as a matter of news.

Last Monday night when there were meetings of both heads of Government and the Departments of Fisheries, two very important meetings in Brussels, I noticed that where the BBC gave any attention to the European item it was well down the list and a long way after what they considered to be the most important item of the day— a debate in the House of Commons. Similarly Frenchmen see the EEC as no more than a profitable free trade area. They are determined that the European Parliament, or more properly the European Assembly, will not diminish the prerogatives of their own assemblies. Frenchmen have no compunction in breaching Community regulations when they can, which is very often. Their attitude on the admission of sheep-meat to their market is typically gallic in its arrogance. More power to them if they can get away with it.

Reference has been made both in this House and in the Dáil to ultimate European union, to an intermediate stage of monetary union, about which Senator Keating justifiably has forebodings, and the ultimate goal of political and economic integration. Why should Ireland take this alleged goal seriously when the more powerful partners have no intention of doing so? It cannot be stated too often, too clearly, or too loudly that if political integration implies a common military policy, there will be formidable opposition in this country to the abandonment of our policy of nonalignment. I hope that is another question that will be asked during the hustings for the EEC Parliament.

We were assured by the marketeers in 1971-72 that membership would not involve a military alliance and we will make the marketeers keep their word. Candidates for the Assembly can expect searching questions on their attitude to these vital questions.

[740] In view of the monumental public boredom which the EEC evokes, the Government, I agree certainly with both sides of the House, have their work cut out if they are serious in their concern for a massive electoral turn-out next year or the year after. If people are to be persuaded that direct elections to the European Parliament are anything more than a vulgar scramble for the flesh pots, les jobs pour les garcons, as it were, then they will have to be convinced that the Assembly is going to be a meaningful body and—a much more difficult task —that our 15 Deputies are going to play an effective role in an Assembly of 410 members. All kinds of questions arise here.

The other day in a report in The Irish Times of 5th December, Mr. Michael Palmer, Director of Committees at the European Parliament, is reported as having said that the European Parliament, after direct elections, would hopefully get a better hearing from the European Commission which at present paid scant attention to its views. He went on to say that the Parliament would not initiate legislation which was the fundamental right of the Commission.

How are you going to face the electorate and tell them, first, that this is a very serious matter, this is democracy in European level, this is a mandate for a popular Parliament, and second, that that will not diminish the prerogatives of the Oireachtas and that at the same time the Irish Deputies will make their mark felt? Fifteen out of 410? Then, of course, there is the other little power struggle within the 15. How is the Fianna Fáil, the Fine Gael or the Labour man going to say to the electorate: “It is very important that you vote for me as part of that 15”? I look forward to that with intense amusement.

Mr. Lynch in The Cork Examiner of the 29th November, professed himself as being very concerned with the salaries which are to be paid to the members. Here, clearly, is another question that will have to be explained with great care and skill to the public. He is concerned about the disparity between European salaries and the [741] salaries paid to Deputies and Senators. What he did not say, but I am sure it is equally embarrassing, is that this amount of massive patronage, because patronage it is, is an acute embarrassment to a Taoiseach who has to make do with far lesser patronage in other areas.

Here are two further knotty questions our Euro-candidates can expect during the campaign. If the Community are so concerned about reconciliation and peace and rapprochement, why have they made no contribution to the solution of the Northern Ireland conflict which is a standing reproach to the brave new Europe as a whole? If the community are so concerned about saving democracy, why do they not see to the reduction of Irish unemployment—which is running at 60 per cent higher than the general Community rate, presenting an enormous threat to the survival of parliamentary democracy in this country? It seems that our real national interests are in conflict with those of our big brothers in the EEC. The greater part of the Community comprises economically developed areas with static or declining populations, desperately short of natural resources which we are an underdeveloped area with a growing population and a substantial natural resource content. This is a total contrast and a classic scenario for the exploitation of the periphery by the core.

There is much to be said for the view that direct elections are a gigantic public relations exercise to put a democratic gloss on a great bureaucracy. Much is being said about how these elections will strengthen the democratic process but it is a mockery to suggest that the influence Irish members can exert on such a body will constitute democratic control by the Irish people over Community decision-making. Even if the Assembly comes to have real power at some far off date as a result of repeated elections, how can a 3½ per cent representation ensure that the Irish people have a democratic voice, still less control in that Assembly? It does not require an historian to appreciate the fact that in the 19th and early 20th centuries this country had as much as one-sixth [742] representation, not in an impotent assembly but that most sovereign of Parliaments at Westminster. Yet who in nationalist Ireland would have claimed such representation was either democratic or in our interests?

We may well be told also in the future that we have given a direct mandate for European dictats and that, therefore, we have no right to complain about what is being done for us or to us by the EEC. I wonder whether loyalty to Europe is compatible with that loyalty to the State and fidelity to the nation which is enjoined on all the citizens and a fortiori on our public representatives by the Constitution. It is illusory to think that we can advance democracy by European union. Political democracy, rule by the people, makes sense only at the level of the national State, and my loyalty is only to this State and my concern is only with the representatives of this Oireachtas. I believe my concern is shared by the great majority of Irish men. I encourage them to be ready with their awkward questions during the European campaign.

Mr. Brennan: I intend to be very brief in this debate. The European Economic Community has become an enormous bureaucracy. If for no other reason than to control the lack of a public watchdog over that ever-growing bureaucracy. I welcome these direct elections, and I say the sooner the better. These elections will be the first opportunity that the Irish people will have since they voted overwhelmingly to join the Community to re-assess the direction in which Europe is moving, and to look at the good and bad sides of the European Community. At the election I imagine the public will raise a lot of sensitive questions. I hope that that would be the case. For example the whole question of surpluses in the Community is one that I expect to figure rather prominently in these elections. Without wishing to digress from the content of this Bill I would like to say on a personal note that I was shocked by last week's butter farce. I am not sure where the blame lies for this, but the European Community [743] should take a look at that type of situation. If it continues it will make a complete mockery of the spirit of the European Community. If butter or any other similar product is to come on the market then perhaps the Minister, in his discussions with the EEC, could arrange that it is made available to the less well-off members of the European Community. I imagine, A Leas-Chathaoirleach, that this type of issue will be to the forefront of people's minds at the time of election. The public will not stand for that sort of carry-on if it is to be a significant factor in the Europe of the future.

This Bill, a Leas-Chathaoirleach, was drawn up with the agreement of all sides of both Houses. It is very important that there is no basic disagreement among the parties on this Bill. It will show our European colleagues that the Irish representatives are united in their commitment to direct elections and are determined to make them work. It is also important to show our faith in direct elections by ensuring, as a number of previous speakers have said, a massive turnout if possible. By doing that the political parties will demonstrate that they are taking the European elections seriously. If the political parties demonstrate that the public will take the elections seriously. I can assure the House that Fianna Fáil intend to take these elections seriously and to do all in their power to ensure a huge turnout for the elections.

Section 15 of the Bill refers to by-elections, and I notice that it allows the party that loses the seat to fill it. This is a good short-term measure. Perhaps the Minister will give some consideration to adopting a more democratic form of filling by-election seats, although I imagine the EEC will at some stage adopt a uniform approach to this question. In future I would like to see a move towards a democratic way of filling those seats, whether by uniform decision of the EEC or by a decision of the Government.

The £1,000 deposit is very fair. It should not scare off genuine candidates but may act as a deterrent to other types of candidates.

[744] A pertinent point that applies to direct elections is the enormous expense which will fall on parties and probably on individuals. I have no information at the moment that there is any significant move afoot to ensure that the political parties receive some subvention from the European Community for the running of these elections. Most of us know that the running of any type of a national election is an increasingly expensive proposition. If we are faced with national elections next year, then it is important that the EEC take a hard look at how they expect the European political parties to finance them. Are they expected to finance them from their own resources, or are the national governments expected to finance them? Do they expect the parties themselves to go cap in hand to the people of their countries seeking funds to run these elections? It is in the interest of the Community to supply funds for the running of these elections, and I would ask the Minister to take up that point at some stage.

Finally, a Leas-Chathaoirleach, a directly elected parliament is going to seek new powers. I should like to think that the European Parliament will develop but that in taking powers, it does not take them at the drop of a hat, that there is genuine consultation with the Irish people. In other words, before the European Parliament takes powers they should consult the Irish people.

Mrs. Robinson: I, too, welcome this Bill as a limited step on the road to ensuring greater democracy at the European Community level. It is important that we do consider the basic question as to why we are introducing direct elections to the European Parliament. The fundamental reason is that there has been a real transfer of power from the Irish level to the European Community level. Unfortunately, this transfer of power has been a transfer of the exercise of power which was subject to democratic parliamentary control at the Irish level to European level where it is not subject to the same degree of democratic control.

I was rather surprised by the content [745] of Senator Murphy's speech. It was an entertaining speech about the Community which he described as “monumentally boring”. He wondered why we were bothering to introduce an attempt at more democracy through direct elections to the European Parliament. Indeed, University College, Cork must be more remote from reality than I had believed and constitute an academic ivory tower, if the Senator is unaware of the degree of power being exercised at the EEC level and its influence on so many aspects of the lives of the citizens of this country. I do not believe that the people of this country are bored by the European Community. I think they are very concerned about certain aspects of it. I think they are disenchanted about areas where their expectations had been—perhaps artificially—raised, or where they had believed some of the commitments to a strong regional policy and a better social policy than has been realised. But people are not bored in the sense that they are increasingly concerned about the influence of the European Community on prices, on jobs—or the lack of jobs here—and on key matters such as farm prices. This Bill is not an academic exercise, it is not an unreal exercise. Our membership of the European Community leaves us with the serious duty to ensure that decision-making in the European Community conforms to minimum standards of democratic control. We can only give a limited welcome to this Bill as a limited, even modest step, towards realising democratic control at the European Community level.

The year before Ireland joined the EEC I was privileged to participate in a working party set up by the European Commission to examine the question of enlargement of the powers of the European Parliament, direct elections to it and the structural balance of the institutions of the Community. This working party—known as the Vedel Committee because it was chaired by Professor Vedel of the University of the Sorbonne—reported in March, 1972. The report is contained in the Bulletin of the European Communities Supplement No. 4 of 1972. In its report the working party pointed out that [746] there was an unequivocal commitment under Article 138 of the Rome Treaty to provide for direct elections. That commitment goes further than the convention which was eventually adopted, and the decision of the Council of Ministers in September, 1976. The commitment in Article 138, paragraph 3 of the EEC Treaty, was that:

The Assembly shall draw up proposals for elections by direct universal suffrage in accordance with a uniform procedure in all Member States.

The Council shall, acting unanimously, lay down the appropriate provisions, which it shall recommend to Member States for adoption in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.

Therefore, at the time we joined the European Community, there was an explicit commitment in the Rome Treaty to have direct elections and to have them by a uniform procedure in all the member states. This Bill, which will allow us to comply with the convention which was passed at European level, does not go as far as that. It provides for a minimal amount of uniform procedure, and then leaves a great deal of leeway in implementation to individual member states. In that context I will refer to some matters contained in this Bill which, although implementing our obligations under the convention, may be potentially in conflict with the approach adopted by other member states towards the question of the voting rights of nationals of member states of the European Community.

One of the initial problems which the Vedel working party had to face, and which has not been discussed at length in this debate, is the dilemma of electing representatives to a parliament which does not have real legislative power. The working party were very concerned not to allow a vicious circle of debate to develop between those who said you could not have direct elections to the European Parliament until it was a real parliament, and those who said that until the parliament was directly elected you could not give it real power. At page 59 of the report the working party rejected the notion of a pre-condition [747] that you must either have legislative power in the European Parliament if it is going to be directly elected, or it must be directly elected if it is going to be given real power:

First of all, the system of the pre-condition, because of a logical trap, leads to a vicious circle. For if one cannot imagine a Parliament with real powers which does not draw its mandate from direct universal suffrage, it is even more difficult to imagine the election through direct universal suffrage of a Parliament without extended powers. In this way two equally desirable objectives are making each other's implementation impossible. The only way to break the vicious circle is to refuse to let one of the two objectives depend on the achievement of the other one first. Neither has priority over the other, nor is their simultaneous achievement necessary. If any logical links exist between them, these are expressed in the fact that any progress made towards achievement of one will be a step towards achievement of the other. Moreover, experience has shown that, even without its recruitment procedure having been changed, the European Parliament has managed to acquire new and legally important budgetary powers.

Since the Vedel Report was published in March, 1972, the European Parliament has, as Senator Yeats mentioned, acquired further budgetary powers under the Treaty in 1975 which was ratified only recently by this Parliament. Now the European Parliament has a very significant degree of budgetary power and control. It also has increased possibilities of using its influence in a consultative capacity, of exerting some political weight over the exercise of legislative powers at the European Community level, but it does not itself have real legislative powers—the normal legislative powers of a parliament. This is a very real defect. We must not assume that because there will be direct elections to the European Parliament that this will satisfy the necessity for greater democratic control.

[748] I agree with Senator Keating's view that there is a very real problem of accountability at European Community level in the decision-making process because it is not subject to close monitoring. The problem about the decision-making process arises from the fact that although in one sense it is a relatively open process because the draft regulation or directive is submitted to various institutions—to the European Parliament for its advice, to the Economic and Social Committee, to the COREPER where it is examined by a committee of national experts and there is a certain flexibility in that approach—when it comes to the hard decisions on what the final text will be, it involves a very secret and closed procedure. It can often be difficult to get the relevant final text, to ascertain what the time limits will be, and even to know what the trade off may be for a particular measure against another measure. At a certain stage, the procedure is not one that can be easily monitored. It amounts to the enactment of legislation basically by an executive body—representative of the Governments of the members states but not democracticably accountable.

The basic legislative sovereignty in our Constitution which conferred on the Oireachtas the sole law-making power in the State, has been changed dramatically. We now share that legislative power with an executive organ at the European Community level. We share it in extremely important areas. Senator Yeats mentioned the area of agriculture. It would have astonished the Irish people, even five years ago had it been put to them that we would allow another body outside Ireland to fix farm prices for this country. The same is true in so many other areas. Really significant decisions are taken which vitally affect a particular sector, a profession, the type of product available to the consumer, information about a product, our social policy, and the realisation of equality of opportunity in the country. It is unacceptable that this degree of power be exercised without greater democratic control and accountability.

Too much faith has been placed in the fact that Ireland as a member of [749] the Council of Ministers has a veto on important decisions in the Council of Ministers. An attempt has been made to argue that this is better protection for us than giving legislative power to the European Parliament, because in the Council of Ministers we are one of nine whereas in the European Parliament the representation by either ten delegates or 15 directly elected representatives would be diluted in the much larger forum. That is a dangerous illusion. There are too many examples of cases where the supposed veto by Ireland has not been an effective way of safeguarding our vital interests or preventing a decision being taken at European level. Even though it might be possible technically for the Irish Minister in the Council of Ministers to veto one particular proposal, he may be aware that this would have an adverse effect on a whole series of other proposals. Therefore in the negotiations the Irish Minister must be prepared to compromise and bargain. It is a process which is not open to the possibility of influence by informed European opinion, public participation is necessary for the development of the Community in providing the political momentum for a balanced development throughout the Community through the operation of a realistic regional fund and regional policy, a realistic social policy, and a genuine attempt to eliminate the disparities between the centre and the more disadvantage areas, to close the regional and social disparities which exist in the Community.

It is in Ireland's interest as a small country to support the strengthening of the European institutions, including the European Parliament, and to ensure that there is democratic control over and accountability for decision-making. The reason why we need direct elections to the European Parliament is that there has been a very substantial transfer of power from the Irish level to the European Community level. But we should go further and insist that any transfer of power which was previously exercised subject to the control of the Oireachtas should now be exercised subject to the control of the European Parliament when it has been [750] directly elected. Therefore, the holding of direct elections is only a step on that road to a more democratic and accountable structure and framework at the European Community level.

The kind of issues being decided at European Community level are key decisions affecting the lives, the opportunities and the life-style of the citizens of this country. Take, for example, issues like the attainment of full employment throughout the Community and the co-ordination of national common policies in the area: we gave up a number of potential instruments we might have used to help create employment in Ireland. Therefore, we are to some degree dependent on the achievement of effective policies at European Community level in this area. Obviously the Oireachtas would have had much greater control if we had retained all our instruments for job creation. Members of the House could have scrutinised what the Government of the day was doing and we could have urged more steps to be taken for job creation. Now we are not able to use the same range of job creation instruments in a national context because so many of the possible instruments would conflict with our commitments at the European Community level. For example, we could not introduce State aids which are unacceptable, or set up protective tariffs and barriers which would be illegal, although these would be useful instruments for job creation and job protection.

It it essential that we, who subscribe to the principles of democracy, ensure that at the European level the decisions which are being taken and the priorities that are being set are democratically accountable and closely monitored so that they reflect the real priorities of the citizens of Europe. Other relevant areas include the attempts to attain price stability, the enactment of an energy policy—there are discussions at the European level in the area of energy policy which have immense significance for this country and yet we are hardly aware the debate is going on. Only a very tiny élite in this country is aware that at the European Community level there is a vital debate on energy policy [751] which will have extremely important implications. Once again, I think it is essential that there be a greater sensitivity to the amount of power being exercised at the European level, a greater attempt by public representatives to ensure that the people are sufficiently informed and aware of this dimension. One of the ways of doing this is to have directly elected representatives to the European Parliament who will be accountable to constituencies, who will have to answer questions—and hopefully some awkward questions—and who also have to represent their constituency at the European Community level.

The question is an extremely serious one for us as a people. We are not talking about a sterile and meaningless institutional change. It is a modest institutional change but it is in the right direction and as such it is extremely important. It is still under-appreciated how legislation at the European Community level can affect a particular section of the Irish population and leave the people involved with a feeling of helplessness when it comes to trying to influence locally the decisions being taken. I would like to use a specific example to illustrate this—the proposal for a draft directive to allow for freedom of movement of architects. A draft directive has been under discussion for a very considerable time but it has now been re-tabled as a high priority and is, I understand, going to come before the COREPER this week and for decision by the Council of Ministers in or about 15th December. This directive is of a very considerable concern to the architects' profession in Ireland because we are the only country in the European Community which does not have a system of registration of architects. Therefore we are vulnerable to some of the implications of this draft directive to the question of standards in the profession of architects, to the possibility of engineers—particularly from Germany—coming in under free movement in the European Community and perhaps taking some of the top jobs available in the Irish context, exercising their right to free movement. [752] The draft directive raises the question of what are the basic standards in training both for the Irish profession and for nationals from the other member states who wish to avail of free movement within the European Community?

The difficulty for the architects is that this process of decision-making is remote from any real democratic control in Ireland. It is not something that can be raised in the Dáil or the Seanad except by way of example in talking about a Bill on direct elections, as I am doing. However, it was discussed by the Joint Committee on European Community Secondary Legislation, and the Joint Committee reported on it in its 35th Report—which was not debated in either House as were none of the other reports of the Joint Committee—on proposals concerning the right of establishment and freedom to provide services. The report considers draft directives relating to a number of professions, including architects. At page 13, paragraph C.7 under the title “Views of the Joint Committee”, it stated:

There is at present no Irish legislation covering the registration of architects or their training and qualifications. Such legislation will have to be enacted as soon as a Council Directive is adopted and the Joint Committee understands that a Bill is being prepared by the Department of Industry and Commerce. In the Joint Committee's opinion such a Bill should be introduced and considered by both Houses before a Council Directive is adopted so that members can have the opportunity of considering the implications of the Commission's proposals and debating the views of interested professional bodies.

We see here a very precise example of the lack of real democratic control over decision-making at the European Community level. The only control we have is an indirect watchdog control through the Joint Committee on EEC legislation. When the Joint Committee is in operation—which is another story —it can report and state in its report that there should be an Irish registration Bill before we enact any Council [753] directive, but, alas, there is no way of having any Irish democratic accountability on this point. Perhaps if that report had even been debated in both Houses control could have been exercised on the floor of the House.

I assure Senator Murphy that a section of the Irish population is not bored at all about the EEC, but is deeply concerned about the implications for its profession, for the basic standards for students studying architecture. It is a matter which should be fully discussed and debated in an Irish context before we commit ourselves to a directive of the European Community which is going to change the situation and where we are the most vulnerable of the member states because we have no internal system of registration. We have not ensured that our own shop is in order before we engage in harmonisation and freedom of movement at the European Community level.

Turning more now to the text of this European Assembly Elections (No. 2) Bill, I would first of all welcome the fact that the constituencies provided for are the result of the establishment of an independent commission. Like other Senators I commend the commissioners involved for the very thorough job which they did, for the report which they compiled and for their recommendations in relation to the constituencies. I think that in the time scale involved—which was not a very long time scale—they did a commendable piece of work. The result is to provide the possibility of very interesting regional development in Ireland at a political level, which we have not had heretofore, and which might be an unforeseen spin-off of providing for direct elections to the European Parliament.

The Bill provides that there will be the four constituencies and it is worth looking at the potential population of these constituencies. Rough figures from the last census suggest that in Dublin, which will have four directly elected representatives to the European Parliament, the population per member would be roughly 213,055, and the number of electors per member would be approximately 149,732 electors. In Leinster, which will provide [754] three seats, the population per member would be approximately 215,307 and the number of electors per member 154,533. In Munster, which would provide five seats, the population per member would be approximately 176,400 and the number of electors per member 124,482. The last of the constituencies, Connacht-Ulster, providing three seats, will have a population per member of approximately 199,369 and the number of electors per member of approximately 144,556.

In all cases there will be more than 120,000 electors per member, and the constituencies as they are set out in the Bill cover substantial geographic areas. This poses very interesting possibilities for internal political development as well as for the development of the European Community, because we have not had regional political development so far in Ireland. We have had other kinds of regional development. We have had, perhaps, too many regions for other purposes: tourism, health, and all sorts of other purposes but they have not included political representation from the region as opposed to from the local area. In a European Community context this is potentially a very healthy and interesting development because it is possible that the priorities and concerns of the different regional constituencies will be different and, indeed, at times may even be in conflict with regard to European Community policies and influence on Ireland through legislation and programmes. It is a potential area where the representatives may find that their constituents—there would be a very significant number of them so it would not be a very personal relationship— demand of them identification of the needs of their region in Ireland and that an attempt be made to represent those needs and priorities at European Community level. This could be a healthy and necessary development.

For that reason I would have preferred if the convention providing for direct elections, and the Irish Bill implementing our obligations under the convention, had eliminated the dual mandate. Neither the convention nor this Bill, rule out the dual mandate, [755] and it is regrettable that the practical realities of political representation in Ireland make it likely that a number of people, particularly initially, will attempt to carry a dual mandate of membership of either the Dáil or the Seanad and membership of the European Parliament. Indeed, they may well carry a triple mandate and also be members of a local authority.

This is regrettable. If a member of the European Parliament is to do the job properly then it is a full-time job. If the member of the European Parliament is going to seriously and responsibly participate at the specialised committees—whichever of the 12 committees he or she is assigned to—if he wishes to have a sufficient impact in the political grouping to which his party belongs, or if the individual wants to take part in Question Time and in the plenary sessions, then it is undoubtedly a considerable, onerous and rather specialised task which will require a great deal of homework, a great lot of reading of briefing papers by the individual. That, of course, is only half the job of the representative in the European Parliament. The other half, which is an equally important one, is to relate to this large regional constituency, to be able to identify in a meaningful way the needs of the people in the constituency, the priorities and the possibilities, for example, of availing of the funds, the regional fund, the social fund or whatever it may be, of providing possibilities of loans from the European Investment Bank, use of the FEOGA and the common agricultural policy funds. All this is very demanding and a full-time job if it is to be done well.

Regrettably, the harsh political reality will probably deter all too many candidates for the European Parliament from committing themselves not to carry the dual mandate. The fear will arise: “even if I get elected the first time, how am I going to get elected the next time, how am I going to prevent the possibility that others will be nursing the area; that I will cut off my roots and that I will become remote both from the local [756] political machine and from the grassroots in the area and that although I may seem to be doing a good and effective job at European level and even at constituency level representing it I have endangered the possibility of being re-elected, or even being renominated, and of going forward under the PR system?” That is one of the problems and one we should dwell on a bit more and that the parties should face. It would be in the interests of the country to try to ensure so far as possible, that of the 15 directly elected representatives to the European Parliament as many as possible from the beginning do not carry a dual mandate and that it become something that is politically not acceptable, in the sense that it is not possible to do an adequate job in both parliaments.

I should like to turn to some problems I have with certain sections of the Bill which may require the tabling of amendments on Committee Stage. I should like to ask the Minister to elaborate on the reason why it was provided in section 71 of the Bill that there would be a prohibition on a person voting in the European elections here and applying to vote in any other state. Rule 71 (1) provides that:

(1) A person shall not in any year in which an Assembly election is held both (a) apply for a ballot paper or vote at the election, and

(b) apply for a ballot paper or vote at an election being held as regards any member state other than the state in pursuance of any provision laid down under any or all of the treaties.

That is the prohibition, and it is an offence to contravene it. Under Rule 91 there are fairly severe penalties for this and other offences. On summary conviction one can be fined a fine not exceeding £500, or six months imprisonment, and on conviction or indictment a fine not exceeding £1,000 or possibly two years imprisonment.

Apart from my difficulty in seeing why the offence was created, it is an offence which is subject to very substantial penalties. It seems to me—and it is not something that I have had the [757] possibility of doing adequate homework on at this stage but I will try for Committee Stage—that the approach of several other member states is different to the approach in Ireland, and that the intention is to allow voting rights to nationals of those other member states who are not resident in the country at the time, through a system of postal voting. For example, it is my understanding that the French Bill, which was enacted in June last, would provide for voting by French citizens wherever they might be and would establish a system of postal voting.

It is also my understanding, from a brief summary prepared by the director of research of the European Parliament, that the Danish legislation will give a right to vote for Danes in EEC member states. I believe that the Irish system as provided in this Bill is the best approach to European elections, in affording a voting right to nationals of other member states, provided they satisfy the residence requirements, that they are resident in a constituency on the operative date. That is the right approach. I am pleased that this provision has been retained in the Bill as reintroduced by this Government.

In itself, it is an important step psychologically. It is ironic in a way that it raises all sorts of other potential anomalies in that we give local election and European election voting rights to British citizens, but we do not give them national election voting rights; whereas reciprocally they give us local and national election voting rights but may not give European election voting rights. There is a certain lack of synchronisation. I join with Professor Murphy in saying that perhaps the whole question of postal voting might be looked into, and we might consider giving postal votes to Irish citizens living in Britain. That is another question.

Returning to Rule 71, it is a realistic possibility that French citizens who were resident in Ireland when the register was compiled and who wanted to vote here would be entitled to vote under this Bill in one of the constituencies where they were resident for the candidates offering for that constituency. [758] At the same time, that French person would have a right under French law to vote in the French direct elections, and to exercise his vote by way of a postal vote. If he tried to do that, or if his Danish counterpart tried to do that, it appears to me that he would be committing an offence under section 1 of the Bill. If that were to be the case this could be harsh and undesirable. Until we have a uniform system we are not going to have a standard pattern in all member states. There are going to be some anomalies. I would prefer the Irish way of resolving this problem. I would prefer if all member states gave voting rights to the nationals who are citizens of those states but in the meantime, I do not think we should penalise a national of another member state whose own country gives him a postal vote in that country for exercising a choice of where to vote. That seems to be an unnecessary and undesirable provision.

I also join with Senator McDonald in hoping that the Minister will be prepared to give postal voting rights to Irish non-residents and, particularly, to Irish citizens living in Belgium and Luxembourg and I would have thought hopefully, to Irish citizens living in any of the member states. The greatest hardship occurs in relation to the significant number of Irish citizens now working in the European Community institutions in Belgium and Luxembourg but who have close links with Ireland and come back regularly and who would not be able to participate in direct elections in Ireland. It is not as yet clear whether they would be able to participate in Belgium or Luxembourg or whether they would be entirely disenfranchised. Their knowledge from the inside might be very helpful in deciding to cast their votes and influence the election here to the European Parliament.

This Bill has been welcomed by Senators on both sides of the House as a measure to ensure greater democracy at European Community level. I would be more persuaded by their eloquence in supporting democracy if we took greater steps to ensure at the Irish level more democracy and control [759] of decision-making and participation in decision-making by Irish Ministers and Irish representatives at European level. I find discouraging and depressing the degree to which we do not appear to be as concerned as we might be about trying to ensure better accountability for decisions being taken at that level back here to the Irish Parliament until such time as the European Parliament is not only directly elected but also has real legislative power, which may be a very considerable time in the future.

I do not intend to delay the House on this matter but I am tired pointing out the serious neglect of democratic control in not ensuring the re-establishment of the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities. I hope that motion went through the Dáil today and that we will have an opportunity tomorrow of passing it so that the Joint Committee can be established and meet before Christmas. Six months have been lost, and at least three of them unnecessarily, in establishing local scrutiny of the draft proposals at the European Community level and the implementation in Ireland, through Ministerial regulations, of the directives or regulations at European Community level. To me that is not evidence of a real concern about ensuring greater democratic control and accountability.

Similarly, I do not think that the Oireachtas exerts anything like the same control as the parliaments of the other two new member states, the United Kingdom Parliament, which is closer to us in parliamentary tradition, or the Danish Parliament, in getting real accountability for decisions at the Council of Ministers. The United Kingdom Parliament has exerted much greater control in demanding more information about precisely what is going to be decided at a meeting of the Council of Ministers and what the attitude of the particular United Kingdom representative is going to be. The Danish Market Committee, as it is called, has a considerable prior control over Danish representatives at the Council of Ministers.

I see real problems, and indeed it is [760] a retrograde step to try to introduce a sort of blocking control at national level which ties the hands in an inflexible way of representatives of a particular member state at the Council of Ministers but if we have not got prior control—if we are willing to be European minded and not insist on prior control—it is absolutely essential that there be more accountability afterwards to the Houses of the Oireachtas and to the Joint Committee spelling out much more specifically what the Irish position is and what the nature of the negotiations and the problems and so on is. I do not blame Irish Ministers, and Irish civil servants, if they can get away without being closely monitored. I blame us for allowing them to get away without being much more closely monitored and required to account for themselves.

The point was made by some Senators that the whole framework at European Community level and the whole system of decision-making was much too complicated. If we allow that to be a reason not to have democratic control then we will have abdicated a basic principle which we are inclined to shout from the house tops in an internal context; we will have said that because it is complicated, because it requires home work, because we have to understand where power is being exercised, it is a bit harder to exert that control, so it is not something that really can be subject to democratic scrutiny. That would be a poor reflection on us as a people. It is unnecessary that it be so but it tends at the moment to be too often the case. The complexity of the process is preventing a proper democratic monitoring and a proper degree of democratic accountability afterwards.

I will conclude by repeating that I regard this as a modest step in making the European Communities more democratic. Direct elections to the European Parliament, as provided for in this Bill, will have a useful function at European Community level in strengthening the legitimacy and political weight of the European Parliament. It may also be potentially a constructive development here in politicising the regions, in providing for the [761] possibility of a dialogue between the four regional constituencies and the European Community level and a possibility of development of the priorities and prospectives of these regions.

However, I believe that we must not fool ourselves into thinking that this measure is going to, in itself provide democracy in a real and meaningful sense and democratic control at the European Community level.

In my view, we are negligent at home in the degree of democratic control over the European Community institutions. Nonetheless, we must continue to argue for greater strengthening of the powers of the European Parliament if it is going to move from a consultative assembly with certain budgetary powers, to a genuine Parliament with legislative power. Subject to the points I have raised, and a number of other points I hope to discuss on Committee Stage, which will possibly be the subject of amendments, I welcome this Bill.

Mícheál Cranitch: Ar a gcéad dul síos, I may allay Senator Robinson's fear for UCC. I can assure her, in spite of what she heard in a speech earlier, that UCC is quite sound and so, indeed, are the people of Cork. In the course of his speech Senator Murphy referred to a “Mr. Lynch”. It took me a little time to identify the said Mr. Lynch because he is generally known as Taoiseach. Certainly, a minority in Cork refer to him as An Taoiseach—the majority call him the “real” Taoiseach—but both majority and minority refer to him as “Jack”. This is what “Jack” has to say in regard to the business before us tonight and it can be found in a special edition of the weekly Inniu, 2nd Nollaig, 1977:

Is breá liom go bhfuil an t-eagrán speisialta seo faoi na toghcháin do Pharlaimint na hEorpa á fhoillsiú ag Inniu i gcomhar le Coimisiún na gComhphobal Eorpach. Tá sé fíor-thábhachtach go mbeadh tuiscint ag gach vótálaí ar na toghcháin seo.

Ba é an cuspóir a chuir bunaitheoirí na gComhphobal rompu ná an Eoraip d'aontú. Níor theastaigh [762] uathu cultúir agus traidisiúin na dtíortha éagsúla a chloí: a mhalairt ar fad. Ba é a bhí uathu deireadh a chur le cogadh agus caismirt idir na tíortha agus aonad polaitiúil a chruthú go mbeadh ar a chumas fadhbanna na haoise a láimhseáil agus treoir a thabhairt don domhan.

Níl ansan a Chathaoirligh ach lom na firinne.

In 1973 I had a pleasant experience when I represented this House at a conference of heads of European parliaments in Strasbourg. At a reception I sat beside the wife of the Mayor of Strasbourg. We got into conversation about various things and in the course of our talk she recalled how as a little girl she had seen the German and French guns facing each other across the Rhine. It left an indelible mark on her memory and she knew she had lost many of her relatives. To her, they were elderly people. When the Second World War broke out 21 years later she was still under 40. Then the full impact of the horrors of war hit her. Her husband, friends and relatives were killed. All round her she saw carnage. She, for me, gave the real reason why the European Economic Community was founded. Never again, she said, must there be war.

I mention this for a number of reasons. One being that it should be said in this House, especially for the benefit—I am not being paternalistic —of young Senators here and for the younger Members of the Oireachtas irrespective of party or creed. War is a horrible thing and if the statesmen of Europe do not come together and stay together then, except by the mercy of God alone, the day will surely come when we will have a third world war. Little and all as we had after the first two world wars we will have nothing left if a third world war breaks out.

I move on now to see how the Community developed. Problems are always arising because we are human beings and we are dealing with human beings. Our problems are human and very often difficult to solve. The only way they can be solved is by civilised discussion. While we will always have the strong trying to keep the weak down the only way we can forge [763] ahead and progress as Christians and human beings is to sit around a table, discuss our problems and try to get a consensus and to come to some reasonable solution.

That is why I was one of the people who put everything I had into it when the decision to go into the Common Market was being arrived at. We have done very well so far. Everybody who read the newspapers this morning will be more than pleased with what the Taoiseach brought back from the Continent. We can go in with our heads high because it was from Europe we came. The best authorities assure us that the Celts came from Central Europe, somewhere north of the Alps. As a matter of fact, many historians believe that there was an Imperium Celticum extending from Asia Minor right over to our own island. After the advent of Christianity our missionaries went abroad into Europe and, strangely enough, most of their shrines are to be found in the countries now known as the Nine comprising the European Economic Community. We find them in France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, as far down as Terentum, as they call it now Taranto in southern Italy, founded by St. Cathaldus or St. Cathal.

As a matter of fact, when I was speaking at the meeting I referred to in Strasbourg I mentioned that particular point. After the meeting, one of the West German representatives came over, shook me very warmly by the hand and kept me for half an hour telling me about the places he knew that had Irish connections in West Germany, and he was very proud of that fact. It is notable that when Irish singers and musicians go to the Continent they always get a splendid hearing. There seems to be always a welcome for an Irishman on the Continent in the countries of the EEC. That has been my own personal experience and the experience of all my friends. I know the Parliamentarians we will send to Europe will let everybody know that we are a distinct nation, that we have a language and a culture and traditions of our own and we have a [764] standard of culture at least as good as the very best that Europe has.

In conclusion I will quote a short extract from the editorial I mentioned earlier on, in Inniu of 2 Nollaig, 1977:

I dtac leis an nGaeilge de, mar cheist amháin a bhfuil suim ar leith againn féin inti, dá mhéad é ár dteagmháil leis an Eoraip agus dá mhinicí is féidir linn sinn féin a thumadh i “linn” éigin seachas linn chúng sin an Bhéarla is ea is fearr agus is ea is mó a bhéas meas againn ar ár n-oidhreacht náisiúnta ar leith. Ní fhéadfainn feabhas a chur ar an gcaint sin.

Mr. Markey: In his opening address, the Minister referred to the European Assembly Elections (No. 2) Bill as representing an historical and significant development. My own feelings about that phrase is, whatever about its being historical in the sense that it does represent a certain time mark in the development of the Community, it is no more significant than what I would regard as being a logical development and a development consequential on our going into the EEC, and on the motivation behind the formation of the EEC in the first place 30 years ago. That it has created a certain amount of apprehension amongst Members of both of these Houses as regards how the public will react to the holding of these elections, is due to the endemic weakness which has been prevalent in the EEC for the past decade particularly, which is that as a body it seems incapable at times of coming to a decision as quickly as one would like.

It is right that the Oireachtas should not delay on this matter. We have been a committed member of the EEC since 1972 and it is good to see that there is general agreement on the terms of this Bill. That that agreement is there can be attributed to an extent to the work of the previous Government in ensuring that the 15 seats which we will have in the European Parliament represent an increase on what was offered to us in the first instance. We have been insistent, over the past four years that the envisaged date of the direct elections should be adhered to, [765] namely 1978, rather than 1980 which was first thought would be the likely date. That, as of today, there would appear to be a delay and that we may not see these elections until 1979, again points up the weakness within the EEC to which I referred.

It is extraordinary that where we have eight members of a nine-member body agreeing that they can hold their elections forthwith, one member can hold out and place what amounts to a veto on the taking of what is a crucial step in the further development of the European Economic Community. That there is apprehension not only amongst the Members of both of these Houses but amongst the public as regards the effectiveness of the European Community, is not surprising. We have only to ask ourselves have the EEC fulfilled the promises held out to us when we sought membership in the early seventies. Much was made at that time of the benefits which the regional fund would bring to us. Much was made of what the social fund would mean to us. Much was made of the advantages the common agricultural policy would bring to Ireland. With the exception of the latter, I do not think I would be alone in expressing disappointment at the benefits which have resulted to Ireland from both the regional fund and the social fund.

If the amounts allocated by the EEC have not been such as we were led to expect would be allocated to us, there has been a further disappointment in that the amounts allocated have not been taken up in a number of instances. So, there are very mixed feelings on the part of the Irish electorate about the results emanating from membership of the EEC. This invites the question: “What will direct elections do for the Irish people? Will they democratise, to an extent, what is a very large, even excessive bureaucracy in Brussels? This, of course, would be welcome because we have all been aware that our politicians who attend in Brussels and in Strasbourg most of the time have been able to do little more than nibble away at what bureaucracy has ordained and dictated should be the policies pertaining throughout the EEC countries.

[766] I have always thought that direct elections should be an important step towards the eventual European political union. I am a committed European political unionist, put that way, but I have my doubts as to whether these direct elections will bring that happening any nearer. We can see justification for apprehension amongst our people as regards continuing membership of the EEC when we look at the inability of the Community to solve the vast and unfortunately increasing unemployment situation throughout the member countries. That there has been a commission appointed by the Oireachtas to draw up the constituencies for the direct elections has been one of the best things that has happened in this whole area of EEC membership. Their work in this respect has made it not only desirable but also requisite that such a commission should operate in the drawing up of constituencies pertaining to our own national elections in future. It would be remiss of me not to compliment the members, including the Clerk of the Seanad on the fine work they did on this commission.

There have been discussions as to whether polling day should be the same day as the day on which local elections or other matters are voted upon. There are two arguments on this question. One argument, which has a certain validity, is that the matter of direct elections is too important to share the stage with any other issue. The issue itself is too serious to compete with other issues, issues such as arise in local elections or in deciding on a constitutional change. It has been suggested that it would be expedient but not responsible to hold direct elections on the same day as other issues are decided.

There is the other argument that, to ensure the credibility of the EEC stands up to a public appraisal, it is imperative that there should be a large poll and that direct elections should get off to a proper start. I believe it is only right that we should be seen to be a nation fully committed to direct elections and to a more democratic European Parliament. Therefore, it is only proper that if it can be arranged, we [767] should hold direct elections in conjunction with local elections. We have only to hark back to the experience of the referendum for EEC admission in 1972 when the percentage vote was in the region of between 50 and 54 per cent. I do not feel that even the personalisation of the issue in direct elections would of itself increase that percentage vote. We must—and this really was the motivation behind direct elections—bring the European Parliament more into contact and more in touch with people at local level. Therefore, it would be appropriate and best from the viewpoint of results to have local elections on the same day as direct elections.

Merely holding direct elections, as this Bill provides, does not really do enough to implant in the Irish people's minds the concept of a European Community and a European Parliament. The task of informing the public as to how important the European Parliament will be in their own individual, and national, lives is the question which should really be confronting us and is the question which will have to be determined largely by the Government of the day. It is necessary in this regard that any means of informing our people which will be engaged upon by the Government and the EEC's agencies in this country should show not only the procedures which will be adopted in direct elections, and not only what the Parliament as a whole will do when elected, but it should inform in the best possible way what it will mean in real national terms —in real Irish terms—for us. It would be helpful if the various conflicts which go on in the EEC—such as conflicts pertaining to our fisheries, to the regional fund, how these actually affect our people in their daily lives— should be the central core of any educational programmes engaged upon in the next six or 18 months.

The filling of casual vacancies has naturally invited discussions. We could have filled these vacancies as we fill Dáil vacancies but I, for one, would not envisage with any great pleasure having to embark say for Brittany in the month of December to engage in [768] by-election activities. While it might be amusing to see members of the European Parliament from other countries coming to Ireland to engage in by-election activities, I do not think we would want that situation to be reached. That is what would probably ensue from throwing open the filling of a casual vacancy to the electorate. The right course has been followed in this instance and it is that the vacancy be filled by nomination of the party which hold the seat.

There is no doubt that the EEC contributed towards preventing a European war over the past 30 years. I do not believe we could have got through that period of time without severe conflicts again arising between some of the European nations. This might appear difficult for us to imagine, living in an island and really separate from the last European conflicts in 1914-18 and 1939-45. Some earlier speakers said that perhaps the French see the EEC as something from which they can gain the maximum trade benefits, but from my meetings with ordinary Continental men and women I feel they know that but for the existence of the EEC the danger of another conflict would have been all that much greater.

This side of the House welcomes this Bill. I see it as nothing other than a logical development from our membership of the EEC. It surprises me that direct elections should not have been held before this. The important question is not the holding of the elections but really that when we are in the EEC more fully than we are now, through these direct elections, this nation will take up and put to best use the moneys which it fights for and which is allocated to it in the annual budgets in the EEC. We must remember that the institution will still be remote to the ordinary Irish man and Irish woman. We have a big job on our hands to sell not only the direct elections idea itself but the very concept of the EEC. I do not think our work will stop after polling day.

Mr. Hyland: I welcome the Minister and I join with other Senators who welcomed this Bill. It is an historic [769] Bill because it provides for the first time an opportunity for the people of Ireland to become directly involved in elections to the European Parliament. It is now five years since we became a member of the enlarged European Community. I believe that, in that period, as a small nation, we have made a significant contribution to its development. It goes without saying that we have also benefited enormously from membership of the Community.

There is no need for me to restate the many obvious advantages since our entry. We must, however, continue to consolidate our position and to ensure that, as far as possible, all European decisions of the future will make the maximum contribution to the development of our economy, thus ensuring an acceptable standard of living for all our people. I deliberately use the phrase “all our people”. Indeed, we have seen the tip of the iceberg in relation to certain EEC directives which, if fully implemented, would result in a reduction in the number of people employed in agriculture. The greatest single challenge facing us is the creation of new jobs. These jobs will have to be created in all spheres of our economic activity, including agricultural development.

One of the great fears expressed, and one which agitated the public mind at the time of our entry and, indeed, since then also, has been the fear of decision making becoming too remote from our people. All Senators who spoke during this very constructive debate this evening in their own way made reference to this. This is a real fear, and one which we must guard against. Any weakening of our democratically elected structures would be a move in the wrong direction.

I say this specifically in the presence of our Minister for the Environment who is a very committed and dedicated man and who, I am sure, realises only too well the important role our local authorities play in relation to providing a forum in which people at grassroots level can express an opinion. I will go further and say to the Minister that not only should our local statutory structures be strengthened but some support should also be given to [770] the more localised, shall we say, democratically elected community organisations to give those people an opportunity also of expressing their views in relation to European developments.

Brussels is very remote from Dublin and it is certainly very remote from many of our small rural villages. In very many of those villages people would like the opportunity of expressing their views in relation to European development through their organisations, particularly their democratically-elected organisations. I hope some formula can be found in the future to enable that exchange in channelling of views from local level right up to national level, and from national level to our European Parliament.

I should like to take this opportunity to thank the people who have represented us in the European Parliament over the past five years. They made a very dedicated and a sustained contribution. It is only right that this House and the other House also should recognise that and pay tribute to them for it. We must rely heavily on them in the future to bridge the gap between our own people and the faceless bureaucrats of the European Parliament.

From our point of view it is heartening to note that our projected growth rate for the coming 12 months will be somewhere in the region of 5 per cent and in this regard, we will be well ahead of some European countries, some of our partners in the European Community. We must ensure that, if this growth rate is to continue, all of us, as far as humanly possible, must influence public opinion and try to urge people to take a responsible approach to our economy so that this trend will continue and will help in alleviating the sadder aspects of our economy, the sadder aspects of our national development, unemployment and high inflation. If we get that kind of response from our people, if we get that kind of attitude throughout the country, we will succeed in having a higher standard of living for all our people than that enjoyed in some of the other member states.

[771] I share the view expressed by the Minister, and expressed recently by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in relation to the regional fund. One of the great attractions of our entry into Europe was the promise of an effective regional policy adequately backed by a regional fund. I do not know of any country, perhaps with the exception of Italy, where regional development is more urgently needed than it is here. We will have to continue to present our case in Europe for an increased share of the regional fund and, indeed, to have the fund itself substantially increased.

It was heartening to note recently that in relation to arterial drainage this fund can now be used for agricultural development. I remember two years ago when a strong case was being made in Europe to have money channelled from the regional fund into agricultural developments, we were told this could not be done. It is an encouraging move in the right direction that this year, thanks to the intervention of our Minister and, indeed, our representatives in Europe, a very sizeable sum of money has been allocated which will go to the drainage of the River Shannon which, in turn, will benefit many thousands of acres in the Shannon Estuary and in the Shannon region. Now that we have made inroads into the regional fund from an agricultural point of view, I sincerely hope this trend will continue and that the fund will be used to boost regional development in the real sense.

I should also like to avail of this opportunity to urge the Minister to ensure that, at the earliest possible opportunity, a regional development programme will be drawn up for us. I hope whatever funds are available in the future from Europe for regional development will be put into a separate fund here and used exclusively for regional development and not used to supplement the on-going national expenditure as was the case since the fund was introduced some four or five years ago.

In addition to the inadequacy of the regional fund, I am sure we would all [772] like to see an improvement in the social fund to provide a programme of training and retraining for so many of our unemployed people. I should like to draw the attention of the House to a programme introduced three years ago under the social fund which got very little publicity, and the results achieved from it got even less. I am referring to a small grant-in-aid to Muintir na Tíre which was used to train six community development officers here. They trained in our national university and they, in turn, went back into the community and helped to encourage local communities in programmes of local development. This programme has been analysed by the Agricultural Institute and I would urge the Minister and members of the Government to take a serious look at its results. This is the kind of development we should endeavour to encourage where people will be encouraged to take a responsible approach within their own communities in relation to their own development.

It is interesting to note that the three or four communities used in this experiment, apart from the training which they got from their community development officers, also invested somewhere in the region of £½ million of their own financial resources. It is not necessary to remind the House of the value of this kind of responsible approach to our overall economy. In relation to agricultural development, strong feelings are being expressed within the farming community in relation to non-member states. I am referring to the European decision of 18 months ago to allow the import of New Zealand cheese and New Zealand butter into the Community.

An Cathaoirleach: I do not like to interrupt the Senator, but the Chair feels he is going slightly wide of the Bill.

Mr. Hyland: My apologies. I just want to make the point in relation to the import of these goods, particularly agricultural goods, from non-member states, that our people who have been contributing somewhere in the region of .9p a gallon to help sell agricultural [773] produce, are very forcibly expressing the view now that they should not have to do this if non-member states are allowed advantages which they themselves have not got. I am sorry, Sir, if I have moved away from the subject under discussion and I am glad you allowed me a little flexibility in my first contribution here.

Mr. Howard: There are a few observations I should like to make on this Bill. Before I do so, as this is the first time I have spoken here during the attendance of the Minister for the Environment, as a fellow county man of his, I should like to welcome him and wish him every success in his ministry.

I welcome the decision to have a democratically elected European Assembly. It is an historic milestone on the road to European unity. It is an historic step on the road to the realisation of the dreams and the visions which inspired the Treaty of Rome. For Ireland, the Assembly elections have a special importance. We are a small country on the periphery of Europe. We are an under-developed nation and have economic and social problems that are without parallel in the Community. Our special position was recognised in the special protocol of our Treaty of Accession. An elected Assembly including representatives from Ireland, is an effective means of ensuring that Community institutions are aware of the special problems and claims of our country and its people. We do not share the prosperity that exists elsewhere within the Community. The West is probably the most disadvantaged part of the entire Community.

As we near the end of the transition period and move on towards direct elections, our thoughts go back to the period during which we conducted a referendum that resulted in a substantial majority of our people deciding that our future lay in Europe. It is only reasonable that we would recall the atmosphere of expectation, excitement and hope that prevailed at that time. Bearing that in mind, I do not share the view that there is a danger or [774] a likelihood of a poor turn-out of voters for the Assembly elections. I do not accept that our people are bored with the European situation or with our position within it. When the time of the elections comes, the people will be sufficiently interested in what is involved to come to the polls and register their support or otherwise in satisfactory numbers. These fears are groundless. The people will avail of the opportunity that the Assembly elections will present in expressing their assessment of how well the EEC and our membership of it have measured up to the projection of the promised land that undoubtedly existed five or six years ago.

The benefits we obtained from membership of the EEC have been substantial, especially in the agricultural field. At the same time, in relation to the social and regional funds, the results have not been up to the expectation of many of our people. There are other aspects of our membership of the EEC which have not measured up to the expectations that prevailed then. The prospect of the wealthy industrial nations of Europe sharing with the less well-off areas the benefits of a new and expanding economic entity have not been fully realised. There are drawbacks in our experience of the EEC to date. Nevertheless, despite these, I am still of the opinion that no alternative existed in 1972, or exists today, other than our participation and continued participation in the EEC.

With regard to the Bill I am happy that the constituencies have been drawn up by a commission independent of party politics. It is the first time in the history of the country that this has happened. It is a welcome development, and I want to join with other Senators in complimenting the members of that commission on a job well done. The precedent has been created, and I was very happy to hear the Minister give an assurance that future revisions of constituencies, both EEC and Dáil constituencies, will be entrusted to an independent commission.

If there is one area of the commission's activities in the drawing up [775] of the constituencies about which I have reservations, it is in relation to the eight counties which will constitute the constituency of Connacht-Ulster. The outcome of the commission's deliberations has been that the representation of this area, widespread as it is in terms of area, will be about one-fifth the total Irish representation. There are three seats for that area, which is the most depressed area not only in Ireland but in the EEC. I had hoped it would have been possible to have provided better representation for that area. Perhaps it is now too late to do very much in that regard, but I would like to register my regrets in that direction.

There is an issue which is of concern to many people, and perhaps we have not given sufficient thought or discussion to it today. After the direct elections we will return 15 representatives to the European Assembly. They will be replacing ten who are already in that Assembly on the nominations of the political parties. These ten have become members of three separate political groupings in the European Assembly. Senator Brugha said earlier that despite this, when the question of voting came along, these members would have freedom to vote independently. Nevertheless, there are people who are asking, with a fair measure of justification, if the effectiveness of our representatives as an Irish lobby is impaired or improved by this dispersal among three political groupings in Europe. That is a question which will be asked many times between now and the assembly elections. It is likely that this arrangement will continue.

The names of these groupings will appear on the ballot paper with the names of our own national political parties. Therefore, people will be asking what and who precisely, are they voting for. They are voting not alone for Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil or Labour members but is there not also the implication that they are voting for and supporting the Christian Democrats, the Gaullists or the Socialists? If that is so, it is reasonable to ask in relation to these European political groupings where does Ireland, its people and [776] needs stand in their philosophy, policy and commitment towards our needs?

In relation to that point, are we satisfied that our interests can best be served by this dispersal among three separate political groupings in Europe? On Committee Stage in the other House, the Minister stated that consideration would be given to the question of accountability by our representatives in Europe to the national parliament. Perhaps he may have something to say in his reply to this stage of the debate on that issue.

On the question of voting, individual opinions will no doubt prevail. The question of whether we should have local elections on the same day as the European elections has been widely discussed. My view is that the issues involved in the European elections are great enough, and the interests of the Irish people in these issues are deep enough, to ensure that there is an adequate turn-out of voters. I have a doubt that the holding of local elections on the same day could lead to confusion on two counts. There would be the overshadowing or the confusing of the important issues which are related solely to the European elections. There would also be the risk that ballot papers could be mixed into different ballot boxes. We all know that on many occasions in local elections counts can be extremely tight and one or two votes can make a significant difference at a vital stage. That is a danger and a risk which has to be taken into account when the decision is being made as to whether local elections should be held in conjunction with the European Assembly elections.

Generally I welcome the Bill. I would be happier if there was greater clarity on the question of accountability of the Irish representation to our national parliament. I would be happier also if it had been possible to accommodate the West of Ireland, certainly the Connacht-Ulster area with greater representation. I believe our people will recognise the importance of the Assembly election and that they will respond. I am satisfied there is no justification for us to worry about a small turn-out when the elections take place.

[777] Mr. Herbert: I will be brief on this my first contribution to this House. I congratulate the Minister on this excellent legislation. It provides for a fair and equitable system for direct elections to the European Assembly. I understand that while consultations took place in the other EEC countries on drafting their respective Euro-electoral legislation, Ireland is the only country so far to have entrusted the task of drawing up the constituencies to an independent commission. This is in sheer contrast to the previous Government's handling of this most important legislation.

The present Bill restores the regional integrity of our provinces and allows for representation on the basis of established economic, cultural and social areas with which people can indentify themselves. These forthcoming elections must be about people and how best they can be brought closer to the EEC decisions which affect them, whether it be agricultural prices, regional development or FEOGA assistance for water schemes. Munster has been restored with the inclusion of Clare as an identifiable region.

The western three seat constituency makes good sense and will ensure that this area which is greatly undeveloped by EEC standards is properly and adequately represented in the European Assembly. It is significant that the western constituency includes Donegal and the north eastern region which has so much to benefit from EEC cross-border co-operation. We must give every encouragement to this and ensure that a European dimension is given to Northern Ireland problems. If the people realise that the EEC can be of some assistance to the people of Ireland, both North and South, this will go a long way towards resolving our differences and in identifying all Irishmen under the one flag. The distribution of seats, in line with the population, is also far more equitable than under the Coalition's Bill.

Elections to the European Assembly will require the active and wholehearted support of all parties. The responsibility for bringing out voters in this election is primarily the task of the political parties. They will have to [778] make a special effort to educate and inform people of the importance of these elections. Since a low turn-out would severely damage our standing with the EEC and also limit the authority of the newly elected Assembly, we must not forget the importance of the European Assembly even as it stands, in assisting our case within the EEC, for better allocations from the regional and social funds and also the fixing of farm prices which have been of benefit to our farmers. These elections will also give people a greater say in the direction of the EEC. The man in the street constantly feels that Brussels is too remote and there is no democratic control over the Eurocrats who have by far too much power in making decisions which affect our country.

I welcome this Bill.

Mr. McCartin: Since this subject has been very well covered by many Senators who spoke sincerely and well on it, I do not intend to keep the House too long. The first point I would like to make is in relation to this question which was not raised by many people, but which I think is important and was well covered by Senator Howard. I agree with his thinking that it could be a mistake for us to consider having the local and European elections on the same day in the mistaken belief that we could add to the value of the European election, or improve the participation of the ordinary people in it, by having a local election at the same time. By adopting this approach we could seriously under-value the importance of this occasion in the eyes of the electorate.

A campaign would be fought and most of the people involved would be only concerned with securing their own seats. There would be discussions about local matters, which would not be relevant to European problems and, in my view, we would be losing a fantastic opportunity to carry out another exercise in educating those who at the moment may not be sufficiently aware of the importance of the European elections. It has been said that there is a grave responsibility on political parties. Starting now, we should seek to ensure that not only [779] political parties will be involved and interested in this historic occasion, but voluntary organisations should be encouraged to hold classes and sponsor lectures. People involved in voluntary work, like politicians who have influence and experience in organising, should at this stage be invited to participate in what I regard as probably the most important event in my lifetime.

It would be a mistake to confuse the issue by having a local election on the same day. If we approach this in the proper spirit, I see no reason why Ireland should not have the highest percentage because of our value of the democratic system. The average Irish citizen becomes more involved on election day than the people of any other state in the European Community. We should make it our ambition to have at the close of poll on election day the highest percentage poll of any country in the EEC. I would like to see that achieved, and I would not like to have it confused by the complication of another election.

I have no apprehensions whatever about the step we are about to take. I was convinced from the very beginning that this evolution towards a united Europe was the natural progress of the democratic system. From the early stages of tribalism to the birth of the democratic system, the founding of the states of Europe as we know them today was another natural step, another progressive move towards what I believe to be the ultimate in the practise of democracy for the people of Europe and for all the peoples of this planet. It is not too ambitious for a human being to express the hope that this is the direction in which we are moving.

European borders or barriers between nations were not necessarily erected by the will of the majority of the people. In many ways they came about because of the inability of people of Europe to control their own affairs and their own destinies. They are more the result of the will and ambitions of individual rulers and classes in different countries at different times than the reflection of the wishes of the people [780] of Europe. I do not see anything to be regretted about the dismantling of these borders, boundaries or frontiers in any way. In fact, I look forward to the day when they will become less relevant.

Professor Murphy: Try telling that to a Frenchman.

Mr. McCartin: I will tell that to anybody with pride because I believe in it and I hope in time I will convince them. I reject completely the narrow, biased outlook of somebody who says that we should protect our fisheries from all comers, that we should allow nobody to fish here, while at the same time saying we should exploit the French market to the disadvantage of the French people. I reject the narrow concept of nationalism which says that if I love my country I must regard it as the finest place God made. I do not think that is necessary. I can love my parish, county and country without trying to convince anybody that it is the finest place in the world. I do not have to make up my mind whether it is or not in order to love it.

The other point I would like to mention is the question of proportional representation in the Six Counties. There are moves in Northern Ireland to go back on understandings already reached. The system of proportional representation which we enjoy here and have found to be a useful and fair system of election may not be used in Northern Ireland. I hope the Minister, the Government and the people will do everything possible to ensure that this system is used when the election takes place so that all sections of the community will have the opportunity to have their representatives elected and representing them in the European Parliament.

I would like the people who will be elected to the European Parliament to be committed Europeans. I do not want people to represent us who will not recognise our rights and be prepared to drive hard bargains and fight hard battles on our behalf. On the other hand, I would like to see the parties nominate committed Europeans. [781] I would not like this election to degenerate either at the nominating or the final stages of the election into the sort of auction that we might be tempted to make of it. We do not want people proposing themselves for Europe on the grounds that they will bring back more loot than their opponent. We do not want people seeking to represent Ireland so that they can draw from other European countries any surplus or extra that may be there and bring it to us.

While we consider ourselves a poor and under-developed country to some extent—somebody made the point that we had a lot of natural resources yet undeveloped—I would like to see people go out of this country proud in the knowledge that we can look after ourselves. It is not to seek the charity of our neighbours in Europe that we want to participate in a European union. I do not want people offering for sale at election time the best prizes, the most subsidies and assistance they can get. We work as short hours as any nation in Europe and we pride ourselves on the fact that our working conditions are as good as those in any other country although maybe our wages are not as high. If we are as poor as we pretend we are, why cannot we work a little longer? Instead, we prefer to work shorter hours and ask the Germans to subsidise our inadequacies. That is a wrong approach which I hope our representatives in Europe will not adopt. There are things we will want from Europe and there are things we can offer Europe.

I believe we have a special concept of democracy here. The participation of such a large proportion of our population in politics is something we can introduce to Europe. We can introduce an idealism and at the same time we can add our voice to the voices of people in less-favoured areas all over Europe who seek to have an equitable distribution of the resources of the Continent amongst all the people. I do not think that by joining a united Europe we put the disadvantaged areas of Europe at a greater disadvantage than if they remained independent. If we and the smaller countries of Europe remained independent, we would still [782] run the risk of an unfavourable balance of payments, of the rich countries growing richer and the poor countries growing poorer. I cannot see how we could protect ourselves from that situation outside a united Europe any more than we can inside. If the idea of a united Europe is to mean anything, inside Europe is the place to be if we want to solve our unemployment problems and our failure in the past to exploit all our natural resources. The people who have put forward the case that the European Parliament could use up too many powers too quickly, have expressed the fear that I would entertain to some extent. This is one of the things I would like to warn against. We could see too much power slip away too quickly.

I see the role of a European Parliament as a body which would facilitate trade, industry and commerce and ensure that the less fortunate areas would get some advantages in the way things are organised. On the other hand, I do not think any power or function which can be usefully exercised in Dublin on behalf of the Irish people should be handed over to a central European authority to be discharged, any more than I think any function that can be discharged in a county town or local community should come to Dublin. We must be careful and recognise what the real function of a European Parliament should be. We should be very careful to ensure that the powers of all local parliaments and local authorities, of every make and shape, are not usurped by this body which must necessarily be a slow mover and around which a certain amount of bureaucracy will develop.

Generally speaking, I am happy with the way this Bill has been introduced and most of its provisions. I would like to say something on the question of a deposit. I am not convinced that a deposit alone is sufficient to ensure that people will contest elections for the right reasons or for reasons other than to get seats in parliament. There ought to be some system devised by which a minimum number of people should have some sort of political base, or proven support [783] in the community before they get an opportunity to stand for election. I would not like to make my suggestion too restrictive. I believe there are many ways in which this could be done, ways that have not been tried or used so far. The provisions could be left broad enough but nevertheless it would improve this legislation if provision of this nature were provided for.

Mr. Ellis: I would welcome the Minister to the House with what is probably the most important Bill from a Minister for the Environment or from his precedessor, the Minister for Local Government. The Bill sets out the rules under which the first members of the European Parliament will be democratically elected. Since we became members of the EEC on 1st January, 1973, our members have been appointed by the parliamentary parties. The Bill will give people a chance to express their views of Europe to the people who will represent them.

The European Parliament is considered by some people to be too far removed from us. When we become full members of the European Economic Community on the 1st January next we will need full representation in the European Parliament. I have no doubt that our representatives will be men and women of high political ability. These people will face the electorate in June, 1978. To my regret, Britain has been far behind her European partners in introducing legislation for the European Assembly elections. Our European representatives should express their regret to the British Government that they have been unable to introduce the necessary legislation to allow these elections to take place next year. I hope that they will be ready in time for the elections to take place.

Senator Murphy referred to membership of the European Parliament and said it could be regarded as jobs for the boys because of the figure which is being bandied around as a possible salary for these members. I feel that these members are entitled to the highest salaries payable to public representatives [784] within the European Community for the reason that they must give up their families and homes for most of the week. They must also face the rigours of travelling to and from Brussels to represent our people. They should be sufficiently remunerated because time lost cannot be made up at a later date. They should receive salaries similar to the ones that have been suggested for members of the European Parliament.

I welcome the action of the Minister for the Environment in bringing in an outside body to set up constituencies. The constituency commission's report, which was published on 4th October, is a great report. Through the years political parties were faced with the problem of deciding constituencies. This left them with an unfair task which has been undertaken by all parties down the years because constituencies were arranged to suit different political parties. I believe that the process will be carried on with regard to the drawing-up of future Dáil boundaries because it is unfair for people to be faced with deciding their own destiny or the destinies of some of their colleagues. I have no doubt that the constituency commission report will encourage the men who will be on the next constituency revision commission which I am assured will meet to draw up the boundaries for Dáil elections before the 1981 or 1982 general election.

There is also the problem with representation from the west. Like Senator Howard, I express regret that there is not better representation from this area which has been classed by us and by some of our bureaucrats in Europe as the most under-developed part of the European Economic Community. I have no doubt that the three men who are elected for the western constituency will face the hardest task of any of the 15 elected members because they will that the west, including the part of be faced with the problem of seeing Ulster that is Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal, receives a fair share of the cake from the European Economic Community.

In welcoming the Bill, I should like to express my full support for it. I sincerely hope that the people will [785] respond in the fullest manner on polling day. The best support that they can give us is by coming out and casting their vote on polling day, because that is where you show either your approval or disapproval of the working of Government in any community.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Barrett): I thank the Seanad for the way it has received this Bill. We have had a number of useful and constructive contributions from both sides of the House. There appears to be great support, with the exception of Senator Murphy, for the major provisions in the Bill—the system of election, the franchise, the qualifications required of candidates, the method of nomination of candidates, the deposit of £1,000. Senator McCartin was concerned about the deposit. The general arrangements for the conduct of the election and the role of the political parties have all been accepted by the Seanad as they were in the Dáil. Senators have also expressed their approval of the constituencies proposed in the Second Schedule to the Bill and many tributes were paid to the commission by whom the constituencies were drawn up. It is only proper to say that the commission have set a high standard, and we hope it will be followed by those who will be charged with the future revision of Dáil constituencies and further assembly constituencies.

In my speech I referred to the fact that there was general agreement between the major political parties on many EEC issues, in particular on the need to make the institutions of the Community more democratic and more responsive to public opinion by the early introduction of direct elections. Contributions from both sides of the House have made it clear that this is the case and have shown that there is a keen appreciation of the magnitude of the task in getting it across to the ordinary voter the importance of the Assembly election. I have no doubt that the members of this House, some of whom will be standing as candidates, will play a major role in ensuring that this is done.

As I indicated in my opening statement [786] the target date for the elections remains May/June 1978. Senator Keating wondered if I had taken the events of the last two days in Brussels into consideration. I understand that this matter came up at the European Council in the last two days and the Council took note of the state of play in each member state but did not either fix a firm date or decide to put back the target date. Therefore, we are still aiming at an election in early Summer. This means that we must endeavour to have the Bill enacted and the regulations for the registration of electors approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas before the Christmas recess. This may not strike people as being an urgent matter, they may not have thought of it, but the electoral lists are being compiled at present and we want to ensure that our electoral list will be up to date and that we will have taken the European Assembly elections into consideration.

Senator Robinson wondered about the necessity for Rule 71. The right to vote is left to each member state in the Community. In our case we will allow all our residents who are citizens of any member state to vote at our elections in the particular constituencies in which they reside. As the Senator has pointed out, the member states will give the right to vote to their nationals whenever they are resident in the communities. This will give some people the possibility of voting in more than one State. Such double voting is forbidden by the European Act, and Rule 71 makes it an offence under our law to double vote.

So far as the right to vote is concerned, it is understood that, apart from this country, the United Kingdom and, possibly, The Netherlands, the member states will confine the right to vote to their own nationals. Some will confine the vote to nationals living in the country itself. Others will have limited voting facilities, postal or otherwise, for their nationals living in other member states. We understand the United Kingdom will give the vote to British subjects and our citizens living in the United Kingdom will have the right to vote there.

Senator Markey suggested that the turn-out at the referendum on joining [787] the EEC more than five years ago was in the region of 50 per cent. This is not in accordance with the facts. The turn-out at that time was slightly over 70 per cent, and 83 per cent of the voters voted to join the EEC, so this interest must surely dispel any fears of boredom which Senator Murphy talked about early in the afternoon. The interest they showed on that occasion certainly disproves his point.

Senators Howard and Ellis, I think, raised the question of greater representation for the west of Ireland. The best thing to do would be to refer to page 16 of the Report of the European Assembly Constituency Commission where this question was considered in detail. They will find out that Connacht could not justify three seats without having additions made to it, such as the three Ulster counties. The Commission decided on the three Ulster counties.

There has been a number of criticisms of EEC institutions. But there have been no serious criticisms of the principles contained in this Bill.

I should again like to thank the Seanad for the reception it has given the Bill. It had a similar reception in the Dáil—there was general agreement on it. It is good to know that we are far ahead of all the other member states in providing necessary legislation to conduct the direct elections. As far as we are concerned, May/June is still the date until we are told otherwise by the Council of Ministers. We were not told during the two-day meeting on Monday and Tuesday so we must assume that May/June is the date until told otherwise.

I do not believe there is any danger of the electorate failing to come out and register their votes on this occasion. On the last occasion, when we had our referendum on the EEC, just over 70 per cent came out. We did not have a local election in conjunction with that referendum, yet we had a very high poll. I do not see any necessity for running a local election with the Assembly election. If the assembly elections take place next year, the local elections will not take place until the following June. None of the [788] sitting county councillors or urban councillors throughout the country would like their elected term cut by one year to satisfy those who feel that the electorate will not express sufficient interest to come out and vote. Our people are very mature and have proved their maturity in elections through the years. Where the economy and their welfare are concerned they will certainly not hesitate to come out and vote in the best interests of the country. There is no foundation for the fear of an air of apathy being abroad. I do not agree with Senator Murphy that there is any state of boredom throughout the country, particularly in his own city, where I was no later than last Friday night, speaking on this subject. Judging by the number of people who came along and the interest they showed, there is no feeling of boredom in that city. Thank you.

Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: When is it proposed to take the remaining stages?

Mr. E. Ryan: I suggest that the remaining Stages be taken tomorrow. There is a certain urgency about it. I understand Senator Robinson wants to put down some amendments but she is happy to take them tomorrow. The Minister has to make regulations and is anxious that the Bill should get through both Houses before they rise.

Mr. Cooney: I would not like to obstruct the passage of this urgent Bill by unduly holding it up but I have a number of points to make on Committee Stage. It is more than likely, having regard to the teasing that was done in the other House, that the Minister will have adequate answers to the various points. In case there might be some matter which would not be ad idem. I should like to reserve the right to put down an amendment on Report Stage. Subject to that, I would have no objection to all stages being taken tomorrow.

Mr. E. Ryan: Let us see how it goes.

Question put and agreed to.

[789] Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 8th December, 1977.