John Horgan's Dublin Letter
THE ELECTION is over. The ghosts of the past have departed—some of them a little unwillingly—to where
ever ghosts go, and Mr. Lemass is faced with the fact that he has increased his net representation in the Dail by no more than a handful of seats.
It was an expensive operation. but no doubt worth it. Few people--and certainly not the Independents, whose numbers have been slashed to two—will risk plunging the country into another campaign.
Nor will Fine Gael, whose pretensions to providing an alternative government suffered badly at the hands of the voters. They lost votes to Fianna Fail and to Labour. and gained them only from the Independents in rural areas, in spite ot increasing their total of first preference votes.
This i n crea se (more than matched by a similar increase for Fianna Fail) is almost certainly attributable to the high poll and this, in its turn, is clearly due to the presence and active interest of an unusually high number of young voters. Most of these marked their ballot papers along political rather than nationalistic lines.
Few of them can have had time or opportunity to digest Fine Gaul's last-minute social policy and, in spite of a heavy personal vote for the vital young Declan Costello in his Dublin constituency, the party's total number of seats shrank by one.
If Fianna Fail did reasonably well (although not as well as might have been expected) out of the election. and Fine Gael did badly, Labour did best of all. It dropped two seats one of them that of Dr. Nod l Browne. the controversial Minister for Health NN hose "Mother and Child" scheme incurred the displeasure of the hierarchy and thus brought down the Coalition Government—but picked up three more.
Its candidate in the Dublin constituency which regularly returns Mr. Lemass came a healthy second in the poll to the Prime Minister itself. By increasing its representation in urban areas, and
particularly in Dublin, it is well on the way to banishing the spectre of trade union apathy which has dogged its footsteps ever since the Civil War. And by attracting—as it undoubtedly has done—the support of the younger, uncommitted voter, it has introduced a new, radical element into the political scene,
PROBABLY THE MOST astute move of the election was made by Mr. Brendan Corish, the Labour party leader, when he declared that he would not join another Coalition government. In this he strengthened Mr. Lemass's hand, as he weakened Mr. Dillon's, hut he immeasurably improved his own.
In other words, he presented himself to the voters not as a potential alternative Prime Minister but as a possible Leader of the Opposition. By doing this he attracted not only the pro-Labour votes but many of the anti-Fianna Fail votes which might otherwise have gone to Mr. Dillon's party front sheer force of habit.
The most unusual—and hopeful —characteristic of the new Dail will be its youth. Before the election, Mr. Haughey, the Minister for Agriculture, said that the next Government would be the youngest and the best in Europe.
Now, with the slightly patriarchal figure of Mr. Lemass left alone at the head of the party (and the volcanic presence of 75-year-old Mr. Sean MacEntee, the former Minister for Health, on the back benches) the party has certainly acquired a new look. It remains to be seen how well and how quickly the younger members of the Dail in all three parties learn to control the parliamentary machine before it begins to control than.
Mr. Lernass may, when his Government has settled down. ask the Irish people to abolish proportional representation. He cannot do this in the Dail, but must ask the people for their mandate in a referendum for a change of such importance. It is difficult to know whether he would be successful.
The smaller parties have traditionally seen it as the source of their only grip on power and influence, and this is certainly true,
although it has also militated against large Government majorities and hence (its critics imply) against stable government. Its protagonists reply that it prevents oneparty dictatorship.
Be that as it may (and it is an issue on which it is difficult to take sides) it is an immensely complicated system or exercising demo
cratic principles. Just how important the single transferable vote can be ssas clearly shown at the many recounts in Dublin North-East early this week.
The fate of two of the contiitieney's five seats was being decided by voters' seventh and eighth preferences. I do not scorn it—I am immensely intrigued by it—and I will be even more intrigued by Mr. Lernass' efforts to end it.
News of another scheme of proportional representation also came to light at the weekend. This scheme, apparently proposed by Fine Gael at the time of the last referendum on the subject, was a compromise. It proposed the establishment of singlc-seat constituencies for which any number of candidates could be nominated by each party. Ballot papers would again he marked in order of preference and, after a devil-take-the-hindmost system of elimination, only two men would Ise left in the field. Whichever of these had the highest number of votes to his credit (including those transferred from less successful candidates) would then be declared elected. "One man, one vote" was a great slogan—while it lasted.
`Dev" criticised Dia:SIDI:\ 1DE VALERA
was sus ercly criticised in the South African Press this week for declining an invitation from the Irish Rugby Football Union to attend last Saturday's international rugby match between Ireland and South Africa at Lansdowne Road.
His action was as forthright as it was deliberate. I understand that he intimated to members of the Cabinet that he had taken this decision km a personal level, and did not expect them to follow suit unless they personally wanted to. In the event, none—that I am aware of—attended the match and one of them, Mr. Jack Lynch, the Minister for Industry and Commerce (and a well-known hurler in his more athletic years) made his disapproval plain.
Two nights before the match the recently formed Anti Apartheid Movement of Ireland held a mass meeting to protest against the playing of the match. and heard Ronald Segal, editor of the "Penguin Africa" series, Peadar O'Donnell (who worked with Sean Lemass and Frank Aiken on the Army Council of .the I.R.A. many, many years ago) and other speakers describe the ptirn oitesotl: the meeting and of the l'eadar O'Donnell probably nut it most succinctly when he noted that the effectiveness of the protest would be judged. not by the number of empty seats at Lansdowne Road, but by the rtNictitin ahro;itl.
'The protest, as it ham-wiled, was orderly and well-organised. There were marchers, however. who had stood to applaud the Dublin priest who took part in the Selma march and were unable to contain their disapproval at the priests (there were not many of them) who were making their way into the match. For each one of them. there ‘N as an anguished cry of "Practise your ('htistianity" from scattered sections ot the 350.stiong picket.