Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1961, Re Art. 26 of the Constitution and the

CourtSupreme Court
Judgment Date14 July 1961
Date14 July 1961
In re Art. 26 of the Constitution and the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1961.
In the Matter of Article 26 of the Constitution and in the Matter of the ELECTORAL (AMENDMENT) BILL, 1961 (1)

Supreme Court.

Constitution - Bill passed by both Houses of Oireachtas - Validity - Repugnancy to Constitution - Revision of constituencies more than twelve years subsequent to last effective revision - Whether a sufficient compliance with constitutional obligation to "revise the constituencies at least once in every twelve years" - Total membership of Dáil Éireann éireann - Fixation thereof with reference to population - Revision of constituencies - Materials on which such fixation and revision to be based - Allocation of Dáil members to constituencies - Parity of representation as between constituencies - Such parity to be achieved "so far as it is practicable" - Departures from absolute mathematical parity - To what extent permissible.

The President referred to the Supreme Court, under Art. 26 of the Constitution, a Bill, entitled "An Act to Fix the Number of Members of Dáil Éireann éireann and to Revise their Constituencies and to Amend the Law Relating to the Election of such Members," for a decision on the question whether the said Bill was repugnant to the Constitution or to any provision thereof.

The Bill had been passed after the expiration of a period of twelve years subsequent to the last previous Act effectively revising the constituencies, namely, the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 1947, the delay being due to the fact that the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 1959, which had been passed just inside the twelve-year period, had been declared imvalid in part as repugnant to the Constitution by Budd J. in O'Donovan v. Attorney General, [1961] I. R. 114. The figures of population, both for the State as a whole and for the individual constituencies, on which the provisions of the Bill were based were those of the census of 1956, notwithstanding that the census of 1961 was in the course of completion at the time of the passing of the Bill, and that, both on the estimates of population for 1960 as furnished by the Central Statistics Office and on estimates based on the current register of electors, the total number of Dáil members prescribed by the Bill exceeded the maximum number of one Dáil member for each twenty thousand of the population permitted by Art. 16, clause 2, para. 2, of the Constitution. On the 1956 census figures, the total number of Dáil members did not exceed the number permitted by the said paragraph.

The Court was of opinion 1, That the failure of the Oireachtas effectively to comply with its obligation to revise the constituencies within the twelve-year period prescribed by Art. 16, clause 2, para. 4, did not render such obligation nugatory, but that the obligation remained to carry out such revision as soon as possible after the termination of the period.

2, That "the population" to be considered in the fixation of the total membership of Dáil Éireann éireann pursuant to para. 2 of clause 2 of Art. 16, and in the revision of the constituencies pursuant to para. 4 of that clause must be read to mean "the population . . . as ascertained at the last preceding census," specified in para. 3, and that "the last preceding census" so specified must be read to mean "the last preceding completed census" in as much as in no other way could the population be calculated with the degree of certainty requisite to comply with the provisions of para. 2 limiting the total membership of Dáil Éireann éireann by reference to the total population of the State. Accordingly, the total number of members of Dáil Éireann éireann provided for by the Bill was not excessive. nor was the ratio of Dáil members to population per constituency arrived at on a wrong basis.

3, That the Irish phrase, "sa mhéid gur féidir é" (literally, "so far as it is possible"), in the Irish text of Art. 16, clause 2, para. 3, of the Constitution, relating to the attainment of parity of ratio between Dáil members and population in each constituency must, in view of the impossibility of attaining exact mathematical parity, be construed as synonomous with the equivalent phrase, "so far as it is practicable," in the English text.

O'Donovan v. The Attorney General, [1961] I. R. 114 applied.

The decision as to the extent of parity which was practicable was a matter for the Oireachtas, which should not be reviewed by the Court unless there had been a manifest infringement of the provisions of the paragraph. The Court would not lay down a figure above or below which a deviation from the national average would not be permitted, but would interfere only in the case, which was not this case, where the divergences from the national average were such as to make it clear that the requirements of the...

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9 cases
  • Attorney General v X
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 5 March 1992
    ...1975 [1977] I.R. 129; (1976) 110 I.L.T.R. 69. Doyle v. An Taoiseach [1986] I.L.R.M. 693. In re the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1961 [1961] I.R. 169. Ellis v. O'Dea [1989] I.R. 530; [1990] I.L.R.M. 87. Finucane v. McMahon [1990] 1 I.R. 165. G. v. An Bord Uchtála [1980] I.R. 32; (1978) 113 I.......
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    ...Bill 1942, 1943 I.R. 334 per Sullivan C.J. at page 344, and in In Re Article 26 of the Constitution and Electoral (Amendment) Bill 1961, 1961 I.R. 169, per Maguire C.J. at page 178. It was submitted by the opponents that the same considerations should not be applied to a Bill referred by th......
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    ...63 . This issue of non-compliance with constitutionally prescribed time limits was considered by this Court in Re Article 26 and the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 1961 [1961] IR 169. Article 16.2.4 requires that the constituencies be revised every twelve years. The Oireachtas sought to comply......
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    • Supreme Court
    • 31 March 2023
    ...with constitutionally prescribed time limits was first considered by this Court in Re Article 26 and the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 1961 [1961] IR 169. Article 16.2.4° requires that the constituencies be revised every twelve years. The Oireachtas had sought to comply with this requirement w......
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