Dáil debates

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Electoral Representation (Amendment) Bill 2010: Second Stage


2:30 pm

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)

There is a whole issue about big name candidates, and I know that issue will crop up in the mayoral election. I often say that I am neither a pretty face nor a big name and therefore I have to do things differently but I have no difficulty with pretty faces and big names being elected to this House. I will not argue one way or another. One of the things I find about this Dáil is that we are a broad church, even within parties, made up of all sorts of different personalities. I find a lot in common with colleagues not only on my benches and those of the Green Party but on all sides, which is fair enough.

The Minister made reference also to the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Constitution, which he tells me is expected next month. The committee, under the skilled chairmanship of my colleague, Deputy Seán Ardagh, examined the system used for the election of Members of Dáil Éireann. I was a contributor to that work, along with many others, and it will be fascinating to see what the report states and how they grasp the various nettles which must be grasped in regard to that issue. I wish Deputy Seán Ardagh and all his colleagues well in that regard.

In that context I am reminded that there is a commitment in the programme for Government of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party to consider options for the timing of local authority, Dáil, Seanad and European elections and that this should include the possibility of mid-term elections and running some elections on a staggered or rolled basis to ensure elections do not fall on the same date for every candidate or chamber. I am not sure whether I can get my head around all of that but I look forward to the Minister's proposals in that regard.

I was first elected to Dublin County Council in 1991 and without an election became a member of South Dublin County Council in 1994. An election was not held until 1999. Who wants an election? The Deputies opposite can point their fingers at me and say I did not protest at the time but nevertheless I thought it was a very long period. I am aware there were reasons for that. It was about the reorganisation of local government. There were three different Governments in place during that period and there were issues to be dealt with but I felt at the time that it was too long a period without an election.

The Sinn Féin leader made the point some weeks ago during the general election in Britain - I do not say this in a mischievous way - that elections give us all an opportunity to knock on doors and meet people. I must say I am not inclined to wait for those opportunities. I tend to be out and about, as I know is the case with most colleagues. However, that period from 1991 to 1999 proved to me that there should be some discipline as far as the term is concerned and I am glad that is now the position. Whatever about the criticism, the fact is that the Dáil term is set for five years. It does not go beyond that and it is right that we leave it to the discretion of the Taoiseach to decide when the election will take place.

I compliment Deputy Hogan his work on the Bill and in saying that I hope that does not get him into any trouble. Since becoming a Dáil Deputy eight years ago I have taken the view that it is good to engage in Private Members' debates. Some of the debate is not always sensible, and nobody will be offended by that, but I have always regarded it as a good opportunity to deal with the issues of the day. Despite what the Independents might say, as a humble, little known backbencher it is sometimes just as demanding to get time to speak on major issues. That is the reason I always welcome the opportunity to speak. Without patronising the Minister, I am pleased he shared a few minutes of his time and I feel good about that.


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