Thursday, 10 April 2014
Electoral (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2014: Second Stage (Resumed)
I am an independent candidate, as the Minister knows very well. The expression will also be specified with regard to the candidate on all ballot papers and notices. This regulation is based on the premise that "non-party" on the ballot paper indicates adequately that a person does not belong to a political party. There are no proposals for legislative change in this regard. This is what the Minister told me on Tuesday, 1 April. It was April fools' day. The Minister needs to up his game. We need reform and respect for independent candidates. Local and European elections will take place and Minister is trying to sideline us. I challenge him here today in the Dáil because it is important to highlight this issue.
A number of my colleagues spoke about reform. We must also deal with the many people who are not registered and the major mistakes made regularly in this regard. We must also deal with voter turnout at elections. Approximately 30% in some constituencies never vote, and in other constituencies this figure is higher. This is because of cynicism, apathy and the negative image of politics. We must face up to this. Members of the House must decide to increase interest in politics in Ireland. I favour compulsory voting as is done in other jurisdictions. It is essential that people vote in elections. I do not accept some of the points made that it is a choice not to turn out to vote in an election. The people have plenty of choice on the ballot paper and some excellent independent candidates are running in the local elections, such as councillor Damien O'Farrell in Dublin Bay North and Seán Tyrrell in Ballymun. They work very hard in their communities and make a massive contribution to this country.
I would not like to stray from the legislation so I will return to the main issue. The purpose of the Bill is to repeal the provisions in the Electoral Act 1992 to disqualify an undischarged bankrupt from eligibility for election or membership of the Dáil and the European Parliament. I listened to the Minister earlier and I agree with this legislation. I will support it, in case the Minister missed that point. I also welcome some of the other provisions mentioned by the Minister. He spoke about the criminal justice (corruption) Bill being developed by his best friend and colleague, the Minister, Deputy Shatter. We all agree with this. Head 8 of the general scheme makes provision for the courts to remove from office Irish public officials who are found guilty of corruption. This is very positive and it will receive much support from this side of the House.
The issue of donations has been dealt with. Every donation above €600 must be reported, and I welcome this. Cash donations above €200 have been banned, as have anonymous donations of more than €100.
We must deal with people who genuinely get into trouble financially and who are bankrupt. We cannot exclude them from involvement in democracy. The amendment to the bankruptcy disqualification will also apply to Members of Seanad Éireann, and I welcome this. I agree with the points made earlier on the Government's need for action, as it is disproportionate and no longer necessary in this day and age. We need to make decisions to elect candidates.
I urge everybody to go out on 23 May and give their number one vote to the independent candidates throughout the country. It is very important. These people are involved in their communities and in voluntary and community groups. They have made a massive contribution to their country and I urge everyone to go out on 23 May to vote for these genuinely credible independent candidates. I welcome the legislation and I will support it.