Thursday, 10 April 2014
Electoral (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2014: Second Stage (Resumed)
Essentially, that is how we feel we can genuinely represent what we are to the electorate. We go through great efforts to make sure photographs are on the ballot paper to cover issues such as literacy and we make sure that people describe themselves as they are commonly known. People have changed their name, with Seán Dublin Bay Rockall Loftus being the most celebrated case. Essentially, there is no reason we should not be permitted to put on the ballot paper exactly what we are, and we are Independents. That needs to be addressed in advance of the local and European elections. I hope the Minister will accept such an amendment or advance a measure from the Department's side because, for many of us, it is not acceptable not to be properly represented on the ballot paper.
I also wish to deal with the wider issue of how we conduct our electoral politics. Reform in this area has been very much piecemeal and that trend, which is very evident, can be similar in other countries. We do not get radical change from the inside and we need to change the way in which we do things. We need a functioning electoral commission that is in place all of the time. We need different architecture in regard to matters of ethics, funding and the register of electors, to which Deputy Stanley referred. After every election we hear complaints about the mistakes on the register ranging from people who are on it who do not live at an address, people who are on it who have since died to people who have been taken on it for a long time whose names were taken off it in advance of the election. We need to get to grips with these issues and we need a truly independent electoral commission. That is vital if we are to have change. Regardless of whether parties are on this side of the House for one term or on the other side of it for another term, that does not seem to make any difference with regard to bringing about change. It has been described as a party cartel where things are divided up among the parties who contest the election and we find that Opposition parties, over the decades, will have been party to that. That issue will be dealt with in the context of this legislation but an early change in the way we do business in the form of an independent, functioning electoral commission, is something we must have because it would be good for our democracy and appreciated by the public in terms of the type of reform anticipated when this Government came to office.
Given the time factor, I hope the inclusion of the word "Independent" on the ballot paper, or making provision to allow people to describe themselves as such, will be included because if we are to introduce a measure to ensure people declare their candidacy for the European or local elections on time, I ask the Government to accept that the other issue, to which I referred, must be addressed also in a timely fashion.