Dáil debates

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Electoral Representation (Amendment) Bill 2010: Second Stage


2:30 pm

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Constitution has an important and valuable input to our overall electoral reform considerations. In the course of its examination of the system used for the election of Members of Dáil Éireann, the committee has considered issues in respect of the administration and functioning of Ireland's electoral system generally. I was glad to have the opportunity to make a presentation to the committee last March and to hear members' views. I look forward to the committee's report.

Returning to the issue of by-elections and electoral theory, it is interesting to note the views of electoral experts who appeared before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Constitution last February with regard to the filling of casual vacancies in the Dáil by way of by-elections. There are strong arguments in principle against having by-elections at all in a situation where parliament is elected by proportional representation. It was noted at that committee hearing that it is relatively unusual for a country that uses proportional representation to fill casual vacancies in this way. The argument is that all electors in the State voting at a general election determine the composition of parliament and the representation of each party in it. Therefore, it is not appropriate that the balance of representation should be changed by the electors of one constituency who may make up less than 2% of the total electorate. By-elections can and do change the balance of parliament, bring down governments and precipitate general elections.


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