Dáil debates

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Electoral (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2014: Second Stage (Resumed)


12:35 pm

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Independent) | Oireachtas source

We did it because the preliminary figures from the census of population were not used, and very often there was a long time lag between the redrawing of constituencies, often missing out on the next general election. Deputy Finian McGrath and I believed that because the issue was not being addressed, it was a type of gerrymandering. We would have preferred it to be addressed in the way the issue before us is being addressed, in advance of the election and the court case, based on an acceptance of the issue at stake.

Bankruptcy was an issue for the Victorians. It was people of property who contested elections, and to fail and leave debts to people of the same class was a major issue of shame. Society has changed considerably, and while in this country it is still very difficult for anyone going through bankruptcy, the term was recently reduced from 12 years to three years. The concept of bankruptcy is not considered as shameful or catastrophic a personal failure as it would have been in Victorian times. Large numbers of people will potentially end up being bankrupt. There is less sympathy for people with large amounts of money who have moved their centres of interest and become bankrupt in another jurisdiction. While the law at present disbars a bankrupt person from running for office or holding office, people who declare bankruptcy in the UK or other jurisdictions are not excluded. It is a particular group of people who are affected in this country and not the people who would predominantly have used bankruptcy as a vehicle to get back into the action.

One aspect of the people being sovereign is the principle underpinning that concept. It should be the people who make the decision and that includes a decision on a person who has a chequered economic history. It is entirely up to the citizens to make a decision on who they believe would best represent them, as it should be. I do not often like, and for many years have not liked, the results that have been often thrown up the electorate but as a democrat I always felt I had to accept them even when it was pretty painful and I had not done well in an election.

I accept the provisions of this Bill but I would have liked it to cover another issue that should be dealt with in a timely fashion for this election and I will table an amendment to it when the opportunity presents in the next week. I have published a Bill on this subject recently. I was not expecting this legislation to arise. I am referring to the issue of how we present as Independents on the ballot paper. It is timely and important that this be addressed in advance of the local and European elections.

An Independent candidate may only describe himself or herself as "Non-Party" or leave the space blank. If one is non-party, that is perceived as a negative in that one is obviously without something but many of us do not see ourselves in that light, we see being Independent as a very positive thing.


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