Seanad Éireann - Volume 115 - 16 December, 1986
Electoral (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 1986: [ Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil ] Report and Final Stages.
Acting Chairman Acting Chairman
Acting Chairman: This is a Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order No. 82 it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question that the Bill be received for final consideration, the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil. This is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. The only matter, therefore, that may be discussed is the amendments made by the Dáil. For the convenience of Senators I have arranged for the printing and circulation to them of those amendments. Senators may speak only once on this stage.
Question proposed: “That the Bill be received for Final Consideration.”
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Boland) Minister for the Environment (Mr. Boland)
 Minister for the Environment (Mr. Boland): In all, seven amendments were made to the Bill. Three of those, Nos. 5, 6 and 7 are purely formal consequential changes relating to title and citation. Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 3 are related amendments effecting the same substantive change in the law on Dáil elections, European Assembly elections and local elections. Amendment No. 4 stands on its own. We are dealing, therefore, with two substantive changes. The amendments involve two very important and essential reforms in the electoral procedure. The effect of them will be, first, to prevent the inclusion on ballot papers of the names of political organisations which are not registered in the Register of Political Parties and slogans or other references, be they political or otherwise and, secondly, to strengthen the safeguards against personation at polling stations by providing that electors may be required to produce evidence of identify. In relation to the evidence of identity the purpose of this is to ensure that as much as possible personation at polling stations is eliminated or minimised.
The Seanad will have noted recent reports by a particular organisation with close connections with a subversive paramilitary organisation, that they intend to contest elections to Dáil Éireann and, if elected, to take their seats. As democrats we must welcome this decision to get involved in the democratic process however belatedly, however reluctant and limited. We would welcome, of course, in a warmer way, that announcement if we could be assured that that also signals the end of their campaign of violence. We have however, had the opportunity to observe the behaviour pattern in relation to elections of this and similar organisations in Northern Ireland and to a lesser extent here also. It is clear that the involvement of such organisations is associated with a sharp rise in electoral offences, specifically widespread, organised and determined personation, intimidation and similar offences. We would be lacking in elementary prudence if we did not take appropriate steps to deal with this.
 Under present law, the principal safeguard against personation is the right of candidates to appoint personation agents to attend at polling stations on their behalf. Obviously that right would be no real safeguard against the type of abuse which experience warns us to expect. Under this amendment the presiding officer may, or at the request of a personation agent, shall require any person asking for a vote to produce reasonable evidence of identity before giving him a ballot paper.
The form of identification will be such as would be prescribed by way of regulations. I envisage that they would merely require that the person would be asked to produce a reasonable evidence of identity, such as a driving licence, a social welfare allowance book, credit card, Post Office savings book or the like. That list will be amended from time to time as appropriate. I also intend to ensure that the polling cards which will be issued to voters will draw their attention to that fact. I do not see why any reasonable voter should feel upset at being asked to produce evidence of identification which will ensure that neither their vote nor the votes of their neighbours can be stolen through personation by persons who would have as their intention the abuse or distortion of the electoral result.
The purpose of amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 3 is to provide for what can or cannot in future appear on the nomination paper and consequently on the ballot paper in the description of a candidate or the candidate's occupation. The intention of the existing law in this regard is very clear. It envisages that what should appear on the nomination paper is the name by which a candidate is normally known, their address, their ordinary occupation and, if they are a member of a registered political party, the name of the party. To provide an orderly way of implementing that intention, the system of registration of political parties was introduced about 25 years ago. That system is a simple, straightforward one under which a group with aspirations to be a political party and to contest elections can secure registration without any real difficulty.
 Instead of following that straightforward path, however, some organisations and individuals have tried to show virtually how clever they are by finding ways around it. A way has been found of frustrating the clear intention of the present law and of getting all sorts of references, whether political or otherwise, onto the ballot paper. That is done by including names or titles either as part of the supposed name of the person involved or as part of the occupation heading. In many cases the purpose of including that extraneous material has merely been to confuse, mislead or deceive the electorate.
The purpose of these amendments is to put a stop to that and to restore the situation to what is clearly the original intention of the present law. In other words we are now making explicit what previously was implicit. The returning officer would be required to object to a name being put forward if the name was that of an unregistered political group or the words indicated a candidate's opinion on social, political, religious or other matters; if additional words were being included merely to take up space on the ballot paper; if material was being put forward for inclusion in the supposed name of a candidate to represent that the candidate was somebody other than the person they actually were; or if the material put forward was designed to cause confusion or to damage another candidate.
Senators will remember that at recent by-elections in Northern Ireland this device was resorted to by a particular organisation to put forward a number of candidates right across constituencies who purported to be known by the name of Peter Barry, the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Republic. In recent weeks the media reported the intention of a person to advance their name and occupation as being identical to the name and occupation of a Cabinet Minister in the present Government with the intention of confusing or misleading the electorate and obviously causing unnecessary difficulty in any election which might be  held in that constituency. I recall hearing some years ago of a plan being devised by a group of people, 20 of whom considered the idea of having themselves nominated in the constituency of a very prominent politician at the time by describing themselves with a name and address identical to his. The result would have been 21 identical names on the ballot paper. The name of the actual politician could only have been identified by the mention of the membership of his political party, which would have been included in his description. Obviously, the Seanad will realise the amount of confusion that would have been caused for the electorate in that constituency had there been 21 names, all virtually identical, on that ballot paper. It is important that that potential abuse or loophole should be closed off. We all know of instances where people purported to change their name from the name by which they were commonly known sometimes to get a more advantageous place on the ballot paper as they perceived it or, on other occasions, to introduce political or social slogans into the name which they purported to be the name they were normally known by.
As the law stands at present the returning officer is required to object to the description of a candidate if it is, in his opinion, incorrect, insufficient to identify the candidate, or unnecessarily long. It appears in that context that the expression “description of a candidate” may not include the candidate's name and, in effect, refers only to the occupation of the candidate and his address and political affiliation. In practice, the provision has been interpreted in that way by returning officers over the years. They have taken the view that they are not required to raise any objections in relation to the supposed name of a candidate.
Candidates are also required to show their occupation on nomination papers. That is shown in small characters on the ballot paper. Again that provision has been exploited in order to get political titles or references on the ballot paper. Under paragraph (b) of amendment No.  1 the returning officer will be required to object to a political reference included under the heading of occupation or in any part of the candidate's description. Where he so objects and the entry is not amended to his satisfaction, the returning officer will then reject the nomination. The only exception to that rule will be a reference to an elected public office which is at that time held or which was formerly held by the candidate. Descriptions such as Dáil Deputy, Minister of the Government, county councillor, or public representative, so long as they are accurate at the time or refer to a previously held position, will be deemed to be valid.
The reason these amendments have been entered is that, with the advent of that organisation with its direct connections to a subversive organisation engaging in paramilitary violence into the election field here it behoves those of us who have responsibility to ensure that abuse of the election system — and the widespread type of abuse which we have seen in Northern Ireland — is guarded against. It is well to remember that that organisation has already publicly proclaimed as one of its objectives the overthrowing of this State and its democratic institutions.
To those of us who have the responsibility to uphold those institutions and our democracy, it is important that the Houses of the Oireachtas ensure that with the arrival and the participation by that organisation in elections here the Irish electorate should have the opportunity to freely cast their vote, to ensure that their vote is not stolen by any other person or organisation and to ensure that the names and titles of candidates on the ballot paper are set out genuinely as the names by which people are normally known and that the description of occupation is true, accurate and genuine. That is what the inclusion of these seven amendments into the Bill will bring about.
Mr. M. O'Toole Mr. M. O'Toole
Mr. M. O'Toole: I am well aware of the irregularities that obtain at polls and at the presentation of candidates before a  director of elections or county registrar at the time of nomination. The Minister is availing of the Electoral (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 1986, in order to amend other electoral Acts. When he presented this Bill on Second Stage there was no talk of the irregularities that now obtain. The Minister is bringing these in as second thoughts on the amendment of the existing electoral Acts. The amendment allowing people who are incapacitated or disabled to vote should be brought in under a separate Bill rather than availing of the Electoral (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 1986, to do it. Maybe it is a tidying up operation.
The Minister mentioned organisations which he fears may be able to penetrate the electoral system. We must legislate for any organisation that may come on stream, rather than identify any particular organisation.
If there are loopholes in any Act any individual or organisation can abuse any such Act. We should legislate for the organisations that may come on stream, that may try to bore holes in our legislation and to protect the right of the voter both at the polls and at nomination time. The Minister was correct when he said that at times of nomination organisations have used additional political names giving them an advantage over other candidates. That should be amended. The candidate should be seen to be identified positively with the county registrar at the time of nomination. A candidate may leave his nomination until almost closing time. If his nomination is objected to at that time, he may not have the opportunity to renominate unless it is done on the spot before closing time. Therefore, he would not have an opportunity to consult with his director or his legal adviser as to how he should properly nominate. In the event of a county registrar refusing a nomination he should have the option to consult with his director or his legal adviser. He should have sufficient time to do that. Nominations should not be closed on his return to present his amended nomination paper. I see something in the amendments to give that opportunity to a candidate arriving very  close to the time of the closing nominations. It is a very small point, but a point that could arise.
It is our duty as legislators to tease out legislation to ensure that it is foolproof and that the opportunity is given to the person going forward for election — this is something new. Very seldom is a nomination refused. I have not heard of many that were refused by returning officers in the past but it could arise to a much greater extent in the future because of the inclusion of the amendments before us where the returning officer has to be satisfied about the identity of the person who can be turned down on a number of counts. He may be turned down if he is not commonly known, if he is doing something that is misleading or likely to cause confusion or if his name is unnecessarily long as stated in the amendment, or contains a political reference.
I suggest to the Minister that there should be an amendment to the effect that, in the event of the time of closure catching up with the candidate, he has sufficient time to renominate and to consult with his legal adviser or his director of elections. In regard to the identity of a voter at the polls, in most rural booths nearly every voter is identified but, in the bigger cities and in the large centres where people are not commonly known by presiding officers, personating agents and polling clerks, this is a very welcome amendment.
Some identification must be produced by the person who requests a vote at that polling booth. In most cases people bring their voter's card but not in all cases and it is not necessary where the presiding officer can identify the voter. In the bigger centres, in the absence of a voter's card as suggested in the amendment, some documentary evidence should be produced.
It would be easy for me to lend my driving licence or my cheque book to a voter going into the polls. A voter could produce that type of evidence. It may not be authentic but it would enable him to vote. There can be abuses even though  the presiding officer may look for documentation. There will be abuses in that regard because if a voter has any document in his possession to say that he is a certain person it is very difficult for the presiding officer, to whom his identity is not known, to refuse him the right to vote. There will still be abuses in regard to applying for votes in the larger centres and I do not think there is anything we can do about it.
The amendments dealing with nomination and presentation of the person at the polls are to do with the draftsman and are the only two that are controversial. The Minister, rightly or wrongly, is availing of the Electoral (Special Voters) Bill 1986, to amend the legislation under this heading. I am surprised he did not think of it when he presented the Bill to the House. Why did he not have it enshrined in the Bill rather than bring in amendments to the Bill afterwards?
Mr. O'Leary Mr. O'Leary
Mr. O'Leary: It is most unsatisfactory that a major amendment of our electoral law should come back to the Seanad in this way and that Senators should be allowed to speak only once on it. That is a defect in our own procedure which we have to address. I am used to Governments introducing last minute legislation which should have been introduced at an earlier time. No matter what Government are in power that is going to happen. It is up to this House to so organise its affairs that we are not hidebound, that major legislation like this can be brought in and Members cannot tease out what the meaning of the legislation is for the benefit of the House and the people who depend on us to perform that task.
These seven amendments which are specially printed for our information have already been incorporated in the Bill. I have no difficulty in accepting amendments Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 some of which are fundamental and some of which are consequential. The points made by the Minister with regard to making sure that people should be given a fair opportunity to distinguish between candidates, that ballot papers are not used to present points of view to the  electorate or to engage in propaganda are worthwhile, and I support the Minister.
I see nothing wrong with amendment No. 4 but I am worried as to how it will work in practice. We must be impressed by the importance the Minister attaches to making sure that everybody who has a right to vote votes and somebody who is not entitled to vote is not given the benefit of someone else's vote. In any change we make we must bear in mind the realities of the situation as it applies on the ground. This legislation will have two effects. I hope it will have the effect the Minister says, that is, that it will deter people from presenting themselves at polling stations pretending they are somebody else and getting votes wrongly. If it achieves that it will have achieved a lot. Unfortunately, it may cause tremendous confusion for ordinary electors.
There are problems about not having a Committee Stage debate. I do not know what is meant by “specified document”. I know the Minister gave us a few examples. I can only assume that a voting card is not a “specified document,” because if a voting card is a specified document the mere possession of a voting card would raise the person's status considerably in the eyes of the presiding officer. I presume what is meant by a specified document is a document like a driving licence, or a social welfare insurance book which is additional to the voting card which the person would normally have going to the polling booth.
If I am right in that assumption let us consider the position of a person who arrives at a polling booth who is the genuine voter and who does not have the specified document with him or her. If nobody challenges him or her everything in the garden is rosy, but if somebody does challenge him he may not get a vote without the specified document. There is no discretion. Even if the presiding officer is presented with his next door neighbour he may not give the next door neighbour a vote if he does not have the specified document. Amendment No. 4 states:
 ... the returning officer or the presiding officer may, and if so required on behalf of any candidate or personation agent present in the polling station at the election, shall, request any person at the time of his applying for a ballot paper, but not afterwards, to produce a specified document and, if the person fails to produce such a document, or if the returning officer or the presiding officer is not satisfied that the person is the person to whom the document relates, such person shall not be permitted to vote.
On first reading of that there would appear to be an out because it would appear that the returning officer or presiding officer has a discretion but, if you read the sentence fully, you will see that they do not have a discretion because it only applies to a situation where a document is produced.
Amendment No. 4 states:
...if the returning officer or the presiding officer is not satisfied that the person is the person to whom the document relates,
Before being satisfied or unsatisfied in exercising the discretion a document must be produced. It is in assessing the value or otherwise of that document that the presiding officer can exercise discretion to give or not to give the vote. If a person is challenged in a polling booth even though they are well known and they do not have a specified document, they may not get a vote. To organise our elections on such an uncertain series of documents and a randomly distributed series of documents such as driving licences, social welfare insurance books and so on is in my opinion not right.
Many people will present themselves at polling booths who will not have either a driving licence or a social welfare book and there will be even a greater number who will not have it in their possession. There will be a substantial number of people who will anticipate that, because they are well known in the polling booth, there will be no challenge to them. In each and every such case if a person of  another political party wishes to cause any difficulty or problem for them, all they need do is ask the presiding officer to insist that they produce a specified document. If they cannot produce the specified document they are not entitled to their voting paper.
I am satisfied that this amendment will overcome the problem or will go a long way towards overcoming the problem of people falsely claiming votes. I am also satisfied, however, that it will raise tremendous opportunities for vindictive and obstructive personation agents to raise niggling and unreasonable questions about people who come to present themselves for voting. If the Minister wants to introduce these things we are only fooling ourselves in looking for identification at a polling booth if we do not agree with the Continental system of having identity cards. I am not suggesting we should have identity cards but the advantage of an identity card is that everybody would have one. These specified documents are the most uncertain things.
I have a driving licence but where it is located at present I do not have an idea. I am sure it is in some drawer at home somewhere but there will be a large number of people in the same category as myself who will not bring to the polling station, particularly the first time it occurs, a specified document. If they are challenged they may not get a vote without producing the specified document and there is no discretion on the presiding officer in that matter.
I am anxious to hear what the Minister has to say in response to the points I have made. While the vast majority of the amendments are useful and their objectives are very worthwhile, the detail of amendment No. 4 is one that should be carefully scrutinised by the House before agreeing to the amendments introduced by the Dáil.
Mr. Fitzsimons Mr. Fitzsimons
Mr. Fitzsimons: My contribution will be very brief. I do not think this is an appropriate Bill for the introduction of this type of legislation. It is a panic reaction. We, in this House, can recall  occasions when amendments were ruled out of order because they were regarded as being outside the scope of the Bill. What the Standing Orders state is in conflict with the Bill. This House would not have an opportunity to submit an amendment which would be regarded as suitable simply by changing the title of the Bill.
Whether we are for or against the introduction of this legislation it should not be introduced in this way. The Minister made statements with regard to suppositions and instances that could arise and he prefaced some of these with the words “had there been”. Quite honestly this is not a serious issue and if the situation arose the courts would be well able to deal with it.
I want to make it clear that I have no time whatever for any terrorist or subversive organisation and I am totally against any individual or any organisation who would inflict arbitrarily, or in any other way, pain on any individual. I welcome very much, as the Minister has done political organisations accepting the democratic process. It appears to me that it is somewhat naïve to think that because certain information was given on the ballot paper voters would register their choice in a particular way. It seems to suggest that we should keep this information from them because if they got it they would vote differently. I do not accept that. Voters are sophisticated. They know exactly what they are doing.
Regarding names that are unnecessarily long, that point might be developed further. When I was christened it was only thought worthwhile to give me one appellation but one is sufficient for anyone. There are many people with a litany of Christian names and there are people with double-barrelled names. When girls get married now the tendency is, in many cases to retain their maiden name. I could envisage a situation where a member of a family with a double-barrelled name would marry somebody from another family with a double barrelled name. We could suppose, as the Minister has supposed in so many instances, that somebody in those circumstances would have a reasonably or  maybe an unreasonably long name. What would be the position then because the names clearly would not be introduced for any ulterior motive? Finally I ask the Minister if this legislation will apply to individuals who have used this means in the past? I suppose it will not because it would be unfair to people who, in the past, for political reasons, or whatever, used this device quite legally and quite properly. There was no sinister or ulterior motive and I sincerely hope those individuals will not be victimised by this legislation. It would be unreasonable if they were and I hope the Minister will confirm that such is not the case.
Mr. Boland Mr. Boland
Mr. Boland: Senator O'Toole asked why these provisions were not included in the original Bill which was before the Seanad. The fact of the matter is that this Bill was prepared as a Bill specifically to provide for special voting facilities for the disabled and for diplomats and their spouses posted abroad. Separately, as I think I mentioned to the House in the course of either my introduction of the Bill or my reply to Second Stage, I have been working on the preparation of a general electoral Bill to deal with a number of improvements in the procedures relating to elections. It had been intended that some of these matters might have been comprehended in that separate legislation. With the announcement by that organisation with its direct connections with subversive paramilitary groups of their intention to contest elections here, combined with their previously stated intention or aspiration to overthrow this State and its democratic institutions, it was felt that the earliest possible opportunity should be taken to insert in the legislation basic steps which would make it more difficult for the type of abuses which we have seen occur in elections in Northern Ireland in recent years, elections in which this organisation has participated, to be built into the electoral procedures. All of us, as democrats, have to welcome the announcement by that organisation that they are now prepared to put themselves to the test of the democratic process but it would be remiss  of any of us who have a responsibility not to recognise that in the elections in which that organisation have participated in Northern Ireland in recent years, widespread abuse of the election procedures and widespread personation and intimidation of voters have occurred.
It was felt that it was right that the first available opportunity should be taken to prevent an occurrence of the practice which we saw on the part of another organisation in Northern Ireland earlier this year. Candidates purported to change their name and to adopt the name of the next Minister who is to bring legislation into the House on the completion of this business. All of us also know of instances where candidates have decided to build slogans for goals, ideals or campaigns whether worthwhile or draft, into their names and represent that this is the name by which they are commonly known.
The law in relation to change of names and deed polls generally is less than clear, to put it mildly. It seems that any person may change his or her name at any time merely by the practice of doing just that, and the making of a deed poll affidavit is merely to indicate their intention of so doing. Senators with practical political experience will recall various instances from time to time of potential candidates deciding to change the name by which they had been known all their life for particular purposes. On a different note I do not think it is right that people with the oddest of ideas can decide to incorporate those odd ideas or titles supposedly into their name and that the returning officer has no way of dealing with that matter.
On another basis, considering the amount of publicity that is normally afforded to people who engage in that sort of practice whilst standing for election, it would be a relatively cheap method of publicity for somebody who wished to advance their own business or commercial enterprise in a constituency to incorporate the name of that commercial enterprise into what is supposedly the name by which they  themselves are known or, indeed, into the occupation which is supposed to be set out in relation to them.
The simple fact of the matter is that the law — assuming that candidates would be genuine — set out to provided for a system whereby Martin J. O'Toole appeared on the ballot paper if he wished to stand as Martin J. O'Toole and that his occupation, by which he would most commonly be known or identified, would be inserted in the ballot paper, presumably as a Senator or a member of the county council or whatever. We have to guard against a situation where, for example, anybody else in County Mayo who might decide that he could embarrass Martin J. O'Toole or confuse the electorate can, as things stand, prior to the passing of this amendment to this legislation, nominate himself as Martin J. O'Toole.
Mr. Fitzsimons Mr. Fitzsimons
Mr. Fitzsimons: Could the court not prevent that?
Mr. Boland Mr. Boland
Mr. Boland: Were that to occur, in the case of a general election, the Dáil at the time will have been dissolved and while the courts might be able to make certain interpretations, they would almost certainly conclude that what was needed was an amendment of the law. That amendment could not occur because one of the Houses of the Oireachtas would have been dissolved at the time.
It was felt necessary that this amendment and the other amendment should be incorporated. Quite frankly, the reason I did not advert to the possibility of these amendments at the time when the Bill was being discussed here in the Seanad is that on the last occasion when we debated Committee Stage and other Stages of the Bill, I was waiting for the conclusion of that debate to go to a meeting of the Cabinet where these amendments were agreed to. Until that agreement of the Government had been given, it would have been wrong of me to indicate to the House that there was an expectation that these amendments might be introduced. It was quite simply for that reason that  the procedure is taking place in this way. I would like to apologise to Senators if they feel in any way upset. It certainly was not intentional. It was the circumstances as to how the particular timings evolved.
I have a considerable amount of work done in relation to the preparation of a general Bill to reform electoral procedures. I referred to that when this Bill was first being discussed in the House. Those proposals are before the Government. I hope it may be possible — if there is early agreement at Government level on them — to have that Bill drafted and presented to this House and to the Dáil during the first session of those Houses in 1987.
Senator M. O'Toole queried the nomination. He referred, in particular, to a point which I had given some attention to, that is, where a candidate might nominate within the last hour before the closing of nominations. As the law stands, the returning officer is obliged to rule on the nominations within a fixed period of time. It is not intended that there should be any change in these provisions.
We have to remember that we are endeavouring to deal with people who are seeking to use or manipulate law for a purpose for which it was not intended. If a person is deciding to try to build some other title or description into their name or a description of their occupation, they realise that because of the enactment of this amendment, they are likely to have tested or queried by the returning officer. It certainly behoves them to make that nomination within a period which allows a reasonable length of time, prior to the close of nomination lest any dispute arises.
Senator O'Leary asked how amendment No. 4 would work in practice. As the House will know, the presiding officer present already has statutory powers to ask the elector certain statutory questions with a view to establishing the elector's identity and may also administer the prescribed oath. If the presiding officer is still dissatisfied he may ask the question and he may put the oath at his own discretion and must do so at the request of  an agent. This new procedure which is set out in amendment No. 4 will then be in addition to these provisions.
The documents of which I gave examples are not a comprehensive list of those which it is intended will be prescribed. The intention is to clearly see that the prescribed documents will be of such a nature as to assume that most people would be carrying on his person one or more of these documents. In addition to that, as I explained at the outset when introducing these amendments, the intention is that on the polling card which would be issued to voters at the time of an election, notice would be given to them of the requirement that evidence in the following manner may be required from them. I would also hope that it would be possible to advertise that fact in the media so that people will realise that they will need to carry some reasonable identification with them.
I understand that Senator O'Leary may be at a loss to know which drawer in his house his driving licence is in. I have been engaged in the same pursuit myself for the past week. I suspect he probably knows where his credit card and his cheque book are. Those are the sort of things which perhaps in the case of the Senator he would not find particularly onerous to have to produce. I do not think there is a range of documentation now which, if approached fairly, will ensure that any genuine voter will have no difficulty in satisfying the presiding officer that that voter is the person in question.
Senator O'Toole raised the point that, if he wants to have somebody personate in his name and give him his driving licence, it would be difficult for the presiding officer to deem otherwise. The main purpose of these amendments is to guard against widespread and organised personation of the type which we have heard takes place in Northern Ireland and, to some extent, in this country when some of these organisations have been involved in recent years. The personation practice is normally organised through the collection and the distribution of polling cards to the personators. In answer  to Senator O'Leary's question, production of a polling card will not be regarded as satisfactory evidence of identification.
To be able to organise widespread personation through collection and distribution of polling cards, together with the collection of these documents from the people involved, would assume widespread compliance by genuine voters in allowing other groups to usurp their right to vote. I do not think that will be the case. That would seem to indicate that the voter had an intention or a disposition to vote for that particular group or party. That being the case, I think the voter would be prepared to go to the polling booth and cast the vote on behalf of that party. What we are endeavouring to protect against here is where people represent themselves to be voters, other than they actually are, or people represent themselves to be voters who are away on holidays, in hospital or whom they know will not attend at the polling station until later in the day. All of us practical politicians here in the House have heard numerous examples of how these matters may be organised.
Essentially what we want to protect against is the example, which so graphically illustrated for us how simply it can be done, of seeing a series of candidates being put forward in Northern Ireland all in the name of Peter Barry. In a particular constituency a series of candidates could be put forward all in the name of Martin J. O'Toole. For example, the Senator will know how difficult it is to achieve election to Dáil Éireann. I invite him to consider how much more difficult it might be if there were 20 other Martin J. O'Tooles standing along with him in the same constituency. It would perhaps simplify the electoral procedure for him, because he would spend the entire three weeks trying to explain to the electorate which of the 21 Martin J. O'Tooles was the real candidate. Those are the sort of things which could create chaos in an election and at a time when it would be too late to guard against them.
As I said, it is good that an organisation such as I referred to are now putting  themselves to the test of the democratic process. It is important that those of us who are the guardians of it ensure that they are not allowed to abuse that process in their committed aim of subverting the institutions of the State in the process.
Mr. Fitzsimons Mr. Fitzsimons
Mr. Fitzsimons: I want to ask a question. I can only recall two people who have legitimately used longish names. Will they be allowed to continue using the names they have used in the past?
Mr. Boland Mr. Boland
Mr. Boland: As is set out, the intention is that names should not be unnecessarily long and should not mislead the electorate. There have been persons whose names have seemed to accrete over the years. It would be reasonable, for example that candidates who describe themselves with a single christian name might be allowed to have double-barrelled surnames. Candidates who wished to nominate themselves with two christian names would be unlikely to be known also by two surnames, so that it would be reasonable to assume that the combination of christian and surnames ought to be at a maximum of about three. All of us know that in certain parts of the country many people are known by two christian names and a certain minority of the public have two surnames. The sort of person who is normally known by two surnames is usually not the sort of person who is described with two christian names.
Mr. Fitzsimons Mr. Fitzsimons
Mr. Fitzsimons: Will they be allowed to use names they used in the past legitimately?
Mr. Boland Mr. Boland
Mr. Boland: As long as the name is the name by which they are commonly known, but if we are talking about abuses which occurred in the past they were inherently wrong in the past and are now explicitly forbidden for future purposes. If the name, however, is the name by which the candidate was genuinely, commonly known in the past, there is no reason to assume that the returning  officer would not accept a genuine name which was in ordinary everyday usage.
Mr. Fitzsimons Mr. Fitzsimons
Mr. Fitzsimons: Would I be out of order in naming a particular individual?
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: It would be better not.
Question put and agreed to.
Question: “That the Bill do now pass” put and agreed to.
Seanad Éireann 115 Electoral (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 1986: [ Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil ] Report and Final Stages.