1. The object of the Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Bill, 1952, is to amend the provisions of the Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Act, 1947, hereinafter referred to as the Principal Act, to adjust the mechanism by which the panel members of the Seanad are elected so that it may function as smoothly as possible.
2. The principal amendments made by the Select Committee to the Bill are mentioned below:
Chairman of the Appeal Board.
(i) A new section has been inserted by the Committee providing for the amendment of section 12 of the Principal Act which deals with the constitution of the appeal board. The object of the new section is to ensure that the appeal board shall not act in the absence of the chairman (a Judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court).
(ii) Section 2 of the Bill proposed to make it mandatory on the Seanad returning officer to disallow an application for registration made by a body which is a branch of or affiliated or subsidiary to a body already registered in the register or whose application for registration he has allowed. Under the Principal Act, the Seanad returning officer was given a discretion. In view of the removal of the discretionary power the Committee considered that a definition of the word “affiliated” should be inserted and an amendment to this effect has been made.
Reference of applications to Appeal Board.
(iii) Section 5 of the Bill proposed to insert a new section in the Principal Act which would enable the Seanad returning officer as an alternative to allowing or disallowing an application by a body for registration as a nominating body, to refer the application to the appeal board for decision, and which would give the appeal board the necessary powers to deal with the referred application. Provision was made in the new section whereby an objection to the application might be made to the appeal board by any of the bodies which could have appealed if the Seanad returning officer had allowed the application and there were provisions to enable comments on such objections to be made by the body whose registration was objected to.
The Committee considered that the existing provisions are adequate, and that the alternative proposed in the Bill need not be provided. They considered that the onus on the Seanad returning officer to decide each application which came before him should not be waived. If there was objection to his decision, an appeal lay to the appeal board.
Section 5 was accordingly negatived.
Abolition of Nomination Committees.
(iv) Section 7 of the Bill proposed to amend section 26 of the Principal Act by substituting a single formula determining the number of persons which may be proposed for nomination to a particular panel at a Seanad general election by each nominating body. The effect of this formula would be to reduce considerably the total number of persons proposed for nomination by the nominating bodies. The necessity for the intervention of nomination committees for the purpose of reducing the number of proposals for nomination to the appropriate number as defined in section 34 of the Principal Act would be correspondingly diminished.
Section 10 of the Bill was aimed at obviating still further the necessity for meetings of nomination committees. At present the greatest number of persons which may be placed on a nominating bodies sub-panel is twice the maximum number which may be elected from it. If more than this number are nominated, the nomination committee must meet. The effect of section 10 was to increase this number by two and consequently to reduce the number of occasions on which a nomination committee would be required.
The Committee considered that these modifications tended towards making the nominating bodies the real nominators of the candidates. In their view the system of nomination committees had not worked out satisfactorily, and accordingly they decided to take the further step and amend the Bill by providing for their abolition.
Nominating Bodies Sub-Panel Casual Vacancies.
(v) Nominating bodies sub-panel casual vacancies are filled at present by the appropriate nomination committee, which meets and elects a person to fill the vacancy. As the Committee decided to amend the Bill by providing for the abolition of nomination committees, it was necessary to provide alternative machinery for the filling of such vacancies.
The Committee decided that nominations to fill such casual vacancies should be made by the nominating bodies in the same manner as in the case of a general election except that in no case might more than one nomination be made by any nominating body, and that, otherwise, the bye-election should be conducted in the same way as a bye-election to fill an Oireachtas sub-panel casual vacancy. The main features of this procedure are that the ruling on nominations precedes the poll, the voting is by post and the electors are the members of the Dáil and Seanad.
A new section has been inserted in the Bill embodying these proposals.
(vi) Rule 8 of the First Schedule to the Principal Act has been amended by including among the persons authorised to supervise the marking of ballot papers at a Seanad general election County and City Managers and County Secretaries.
3. The Bill, as amended, is reported to the Seanad.
(Signed) LIAM Ó BUACHALLA,
18th June, 1953.