Dáil debates

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

12:00 pm

Deputies:

Tá litir éirí as faighte agam ón Ceann Comhairle, an Teachta Seán Ó Donnchú, agus de réir Ordú na Dála, Déardaoin, 8 Deireadh Fómhair 2009, is é an céad gnó eile ná Ceann Comhairle a thoghadh. I have received a letter of resignation from the Ceann Comhairle, Deputy John O'Donoghue, and in accordance with the Order of the Dáil of Thursday, 8 October 2009, the next business is the election of a Ceann Comhairle. Glacfaidh mé le tairiscintí anois. I shall now receive nominations.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Ba mhaith liom an Teachta Séamus Ó Coirc a ainmniú chun bheith ina Cheann Comhairle. I am pleased to nominate Deputy Seamus Kirk for the position of Ceann Comhairle. Deputy Seamus Kirk was first elected to the House in November 1982 and has been returned to Dáil Éireann at every subsequent election by the people of Louth. In almost 27 years as a Member of the House he has garnered much experience in the workings and nature of our parliamentary democracy. He has a deep affinity for the House and its traditions. Previously, Deputy Kirk served as a Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. He has held the position of the chairman of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party since 2002. Deputy Kirk is a man of great courtesy and quiet wisdom and I believe that is recognised on all sides of the House and I know he has the capacity and the abilities to do an outstanding job as Ceann Comhairle with fairness, impartiality and decorum.

In making this nomination I wish to convey my thanks and good wishes to the outgoing Ceann Comhairle, Deputy John O'Donoghue. Chairing the House is an arduous task and patience and perseverance are often required to ensure all voices, and not just the loudest, are heard. All Members will agree that during his time as Ceann Comhairle Deputy O'Donoghue conducted our business in the Chamber with impeccable fairness and sound judgment.

Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a glacadh arís leis an Teachta Seán Ó Donnchú as bheith ina Chathaoirleach cneasta agus cothrom ar an Teach seo. Guím gach rath freisin ar an Teachta Séamus Ó Coirc. Tá ard-mheas ar Shéamus mar pholaiteoir cumasach. Creidim go mbeidh sé ina Cheann Comhairle stuama agus éifeachtach.

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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Cuirim le ainm an Teachta Séamus Ó Coirc a ainmniú mar Ceann Comhairle.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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As father of the House I wish to speak about the extraordinary circumstances in which we meet; the election of a Ceann Comhairle has never happened before in this way. The revelations about the expenses and costs associated with the office of the previous Ceann Comhairle led to his resignation becoming inevitable. Politics is always about people and in a profession which is devoid of sentiment and sympathy I have always held the belief that it should not be devoid of humanity or a sense of decency. That is why I made no apology for setting out a process which would have allowed the previous Ceann Comhairle to state his position at the forum of the Dáil established for that purpose.

The principles that I set out still stand, even more so in respect of the appointment of a Ceann Comhairle to be made by the Dáil this afternoon. Those principles are that the office is a constitutional office and should be seen to be above politics, should be above politics and there should not be any taint of politics associated with it. For that reason, I made the point previously that where unwarranted expenses were paid to officeholders they should be paid back, and that principle should still apply.

Throughout the controversy the point I made was that this was endemic of a culture that has grown in this country through a party associated with power for too long. The further revelations - not just in respect of the previous Ceann Comhairle but other officeholders - show that this cavalier attitude is not confined to one party in Government. The role of the Ceann Comhairle is an important constitutional office, one that has been tarnished by recent events. Today, we should be beginning the process of rebuilding public confidence in that office and in politics generally.

Common sense should apply at all times and the costs and expenses associated with officeholders should be seen to be transparent and accountable in the interests of the public representatives and the public that they serve. Prudence and common sense should apply at all times and if all of these costs and expenses are within the guidelines set out by the Department of Finance then where they are excessive those guidelines need to be revised. They should be published and seen to be published so that nobody elected by the people to this House should be seen to be in any way associated with what is the public's deep-rooted anger about the body politic.

We should be starting a new process here. I believe that what happens in other parliaments, where the elected members decide by secret ballot who they want to be their speaker, should happen here. It should not be seen as a continuation of more of the same. With the greatest of respect to Deputy Kirk, whose integrity and work rate for his constituency in Louth for many years I cannot question, the fact remains he represents the chairmanship of his political party. This, in the public mind, is not a change, a fresh or new beginning but more of the same.

Photo of Seán PowerSeán Power (Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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This is just policy on the hoof from Deputy Kenny.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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At a time when we desperately need a new and fresh start in politics, the continuation of this type of appointment does not deal with that. The recent signatories to a new programme for survival of government clearly mean it will not be a programme for survival of the country.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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Will Deputy Kenny tell us what he wants?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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This Dáil is on trial in the court of public opinion. Let the Office of Ceann Comhairle be seen to be above politics. Let there be no political advisers associated with it. Let there be just an appropriate staff complement to deal with a constitutional officeholder who has no other function in politics merely than to make local representations that may be made to him or her by constituents with a legitimate query.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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Are we appointing a bishop?

Photo of Shane McEnteeShane McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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Will Deputy Dooley listen? He may learn something.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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For these reasons, the Fine Gael Party will not support the Taoiseach's nomination of Deputy Kirk. I thank the Taoiseach for the courtesy of his telephone call to inform me the Government intended to nominate Deputy Kirk for the position of Ceann Comhairle. However, on behalf of the Fine Gael Party, I wish to propose the name of Deputy Dinny McGinley for the office of Ceann Comhairle.

Deputies:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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The Tánaiste better watch out.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Deputy McGinley has represented the Donegal South-West constituency for the past 27 years. He is a person of absolute integrity, a person who would fulfil this office with absolute distinction and acquit himself admirably in the duties assigned to him. He is widely respected across politics and this House. I know he has the commitment and the energy to lead and drive the necessary parliamentary reforms that are absolutely critical if this House is to make progress in dealing with the issues that afflict our nation and restore some sense of credibility, trust and integrity to the body politic.

For that reason, a cléireach, cuireann sé an-athás orm ainm an Teachta Donnchadh Mac Fhionnlaoich as Dún na nGall a chur os comhair an Tí, chun go mbeadh sé mar Cheann Comhairle as seo amach.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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It is my honour and privilege to second the nomination of Deputy Dinny McGinley for the position of Ceann Comhairle.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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In a few minutes' time the question will be put as to whether the House accepts, both for or against, the nomination of Deputy Kirk as Ceann Comhairle. The Labour Party is not making any alternative proposal to the nomination of Deputy Kirk. One of my colleagues, Deputy Howlin, holds the office of Leas-Cheann Comhairle. It would be entirely inappropriate for a party which holds one of these offices to nominate one of its members for the other.

The Labour Party will accept the nomination of Deputy Kirk to be Ceann Comhairle.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The Labour Party is unbelievable.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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We hold him in great respect. He has been a long-standing Member of the House and will not be opposed in a partisan way by the Labour Party for the position of Ceann Comhairle. I wish him well in the Office of Ceann Comhairle.

I want to take the opportunity to acknowledge the fairness with which Deputy O'Donoghue carried out his functions as Ceann Comhairle, something I have done previously. I also want to take the opportunity to refer to some of the matters he raised in his valedictory address, lest they go unchallenged.

In the course of that address, he effectively accused me of denying him fairness and of denying him a constitutional right of reply. I did neither. Since the beginning of the controversy over Deputy O'Donoghue's expenses, both in his capacity as a Minister and Ceann Comhairle, I refrained from making public comment about the issue out of the respect for which I hold for the Office of Ceann Comhairle. I accepted the apology he gave to the House for the expenditures he incurred while a Minister.

When I did intervene in the controversy, last Sunday week, I acknowledged, first, Deputy O'Donoghue's fairness in the conduct of his duties as Ceann Comhairle and, second, that there are legitimate expenditures associated with the conduct of that and of any other office. I also sought to have the issue dealt with on an all-party basis. I did not deny him the right to address and make his case to the House. What I did not agree with was that the appropriate forum for dealing with this matter was an in-house committee of this House which meets in private.

The issue surrounding the controversy was a public matter that was being debated on the airwaves and discussed in public. When we speak here about our constitutional roles, constitutional fairness and constitutional offices, we should remember one other constitutional function, namely, our primary constitutional function to represent the people who sent us here and to express, on the floor of our national Parliament, their opinions, their sentiments and their concerns. We should remember that if the floor of this House is not to be the forum where we articulate the public's views, concerns and, at times, anger, then we will be failing in that primary constitutional duty, undermining the position of this House and the role of parliamentary democracy.

I regret what I had to do last Tuesday.

Deputies:

Does he?

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I believe, however, that I had an obligation to do that, no matter how unpleasant it may have been and whatever the consequences may have been. I believe I had a duty to do that.

Photo of Chris AndrewsChris Andrews (Dublin South East, Fianna Fail)
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It was the lowest common denominator.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I carried out that duty and I believe I did so fairly.

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Ar mo shon féin agus ar son Teachtaí Shinn Féin, glacaim leis an rún an Teachta Séamus Ó Cuirc a thoghadh mar Cheann Comhairle. Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a ghabháil leis an Teachta agus é chun a post nua a ghlacadh i gceann tamaill. Is onóir mór é d'aon Teachta an Chathaoir a ghlacadh sa Teach seo. Is dualgas mór é freisin. Guím gach ráth ar a gcuid oibre.

On my behalf, and that of the Sinn Féin Deputies, I wish Deputy Kirk well as he faces election as Ceann Comhairle today. It is a great honour as well as a great responsibility and I wish him well in his work. I have known Deputy Kirk since before my election in 1997. I have always found him a courteous and hard-working colleague. I have no doubt he will conduct his work as Ceann Comhairle with fairness and efficiency. I again record my appreciation of the fairness and efficiency demonstrated by his predecessor, Deputy O'Donoghue.

The new Ceann Comhairle will take up his responsibilities at a time of necessary change in the way affairs are managed in the Houses of the Oireachtas, particularly in the Dáil. We look forward to working with the new Ceann Comhairle for the remainder of this Dáil for however long or short a time that may be. Ba mhaith liom a rá go n-éirigh leat a Cheann Comhairle nua.

Deputies:

Tá dhá thairiscint faoi bhráid an Tí. De réir na mBuan Orduithe, tógfar iad ins an ord a tairgeadh iad. There are two motions before the House and, in accordance with Standing Orders, they will be taken in the order in which they were proposed.

Deputies:

Tá mé ag cur na ceiste: "Go dtoghfar an Teachta Séamus Kirk agus go rachaidh sé i gceannas na Dála anois mar Cheann Comhairle."

Deputies:

I am putting the question: "That Deputy Séamus Kirk be elected and do now take the Chair of the Dáil as Ceann Comhairle."

Question put.

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 87 (Dermot Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Chris Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Bobby Aylward, Joe Behan, Niall Blaney, Áine Brady, Cyprian Brady, Johnny Brady, John Browne, Thomas Byrne, Dara Calleary, Pat Carey, Niall Collins, Margaret Conlon, Seán Connick, Mary Coughlan, Brian Cowen, John Cregan, Ciarán Cuffe, Martin Cullen, John Curran, Noel Dempsey, Jimmy Devins, Timmy Dooley, Frank Fahey, Martin Ferris, Michael Finneran, Michael Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Beverley Flynn, Paul Gogarty, John Gormley, Noel Grealish, Mary Hanafin, Mary Harney, Seán Haughey, Máire Hoctor, Peter Kelly, Brendan Kenneally, Michael Kennedy, Tony Killeen, Michael Kitt, Tom Kitt, Séamus Kirk, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Michael Lowry, Tom McEllistrim, Finian McGrath, Mattie McGrath, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, Martin Mansergh, John Moloney, Arthur Morgan, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Darragh O'Brien, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, John O'Donoghue, Noel O'Flynn, Rory O'Hanlon, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Mary O'Rourke, Maureen O'Sullivan, Peter Power, Seán Power, Dick Roche, Eamon Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Eamon Scanlon, Brendan Smith, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Mary White, Michael Woods)

Against the motion: 51 (Bernard Allen, James Bannon, Seán Barrett, Pat Breen, Richard Bruton, Ulick Burke, Catherine Byrne, Joe Carey, Deirdre Clune, Paul Connaughton, Noel Coonan, Simon Coveney, Seymour Crawford, Michael Creed, Lucinda Creighton, Michael D'Arcy, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Olwyn Enright, Frank Feighan, Charles Flanagan, Terence Flanagan, Brian Hayes, Tom Hayes, Phil Hogan, Paul Kehoe, Enda Kenny, George Lee, Pádraic McCormack, Shane McEntee, Dinny McGinley, Joe McHugh, Olivia Mitchell, Denis Naughten, Dan Neville, Michael Noonan, Kieran O'Donnell, Fergus O'Dowd, Jim O'Keeffe, John O'Mahony, John Perry, James Reilly, Michael Ring, Alan Shatter, Tom Sheahan, P J Sheehan, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Leo Varadkar)

Question declared carried.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and David Stanton.

Deputies:

Iarraim anois ar an Teachta Séamus Ó Cuirc, Comhalta do Dháilcheantar Lú, dul i gceannas an 30ú Dáil Éireann.

Deputies:

I now call on Deputy Séamus Kirk, Member for the Constituency of Louth, to take the Chair of this 30th Dáil.

Deputies:

Whereupon Members rose in their places and remained standing while the Ceann Comhairle proceeded to the Dais.

Deputies:

Standing beside the Chair, the Ceann Comhairle, addressing the Dáil, said:

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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A Thaoisigh agus a chomh-Theachtaí, tá mé an-bhuíoch daoibh as an onóir mór a bhronn sibh orm inniu agus mé a thogadh mar Cheann Comhairle ar Dáil Éireann. Gabhaim buíochas ó chroí libh uilig. Geallaim libh go ndéanfaidh mé mo dhícheall obair na Dála a riaradh de réir ardtraidisiún na hoifige, gradam na hoifige a chaomhnú agus cothram na féinne a thabhairt do gach Teachta.

An Taoiseach and Members of Dáil Éireann, I value very highly the great honour you have conferred on me today by electing me as Chairman of Dáil Éireann and I thank you most sincerely for the honour. I realise fully it is impossible to carry out the work of this office without the full co-operation of all Members and, because of this, I now humbly seek that co-operation. I trust and, indeed, feel sure this co-operation will be readily forthcoming at all times from all sides of the House.

My aim will be to carry out the work of the Chair in such a manner as to give full expression to all Members consistent with our Standing Orders and the due business of the House before us. In seeking to uphold the best traditions of this House, I am mindful of my many illustrious predecessors. It would be remiss of me if I did not mention, in particular, my immediate predecessors, two of whom are serving Members, Deputies Rory O'Hanlon and John O'Donoghue. Both have made significant contributions to upholding the office of the Ceann Comhairle and the development of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission. It is widely acknowledged by all sides of the House that Deputy O'Donoghue was a very good Ceann Comhairle and his easy style in the Chair, tinged with wit, found favour with all Members. I might also mention that I am particularly proud, coming from the Louth constituency, to follow in the footsteps of a former Ceann Comhairle, Padraig Faulkner, who is more than 90 years of age and in good health.

I am by nature progressive and will readily embrace and faithfully implement any change to Dáil procedures made by Members to the Dáil reform sub-committee. As incoming chair of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, I look forward to continuing and encouraging further modernisation of the parliamentary administration within the current programme of cutbacks already adopted by the commission to ensure that the support services for the running of the House are of the highest standards in keeping with the best international practice and governance.

I must perform my first official duty as Ceann Comhairle. In accordance with Standing Order No. 8 of the Standing Orders relative to Public Business, I wish to make the following declaration:

I do solemnly declare that I will duly and faithfully and to the best of my knowledge and ability execute the office of Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann without fear or favour, apply the rules as laid down by this House in an impartial and fair manner, maintain order and uphold the rights and privileges of Members in accordance with the Constitution and the Standing Orders of Dáil Éireann.

Mar fhocal scóir, tá mé fíor-bhuíoch díoch agus guím rath Dé oraibh go léir san Dáil nua seo.

The Ceann Comhairle took the Chair.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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Tá go maith. Bhuailimid ar aghaidh anois. I wonder if-----

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Before you say, "bhuailimid ar aghaidh", while we did not support your nomination for the reasons I have stated, I congratulate you on your election by the Dáil and wish you every success in the Chair. I am glad to hear you pronounce that you will follow the rules and guidelines of the House in a fair and impartial manner. Arising from that, you can rest assured of the co-operation of the Members of this side of the House in doing our duty.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I would like to congratulate you formally on your election as Ceann Comhairle and to assure you of the co-operation of the Government in the performance of your duties in the House and in your capacity as chairman of the Oireachtas commission. You will be an excellent Ceann Comhairle. It is a very proud day for yourself, your family, your many supporters and all of your colleagues, both parliamentary and locally in the Louth constituency.

As we pass to a new Ceann Comhairle, I want to commend, if I may, Deputy John O'Donoghue on his work as Ceann Comhairle. Today, he displayed in the substance of what he had to say much upon which this House must and should reflect.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I wish to congratulate you on your election as Ceann Comhairle of the House. In your acceptance speech, you asked for the co-operation of all sides of the House in the conduct of the duties that you must now perform. I assure you of my co-operation and that of the Labour Party. I wish you well for your term of office.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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I congratulate you on your election as Ceann Comhairle. It is a great honour and privilege for you and your family. On behalf of the Independent group, including Deputies Maureen O'Sullivan and Joe Behan, we are delighted that you have taken this position and we wish you well. It is an important constitutional position, as many know. In the debates, it is important that all Members of the Oireachtas and all views be respected. Under the rule of the previous Ceann Comhairle, Independent Deputies were always treated with respect. Once again, I wish you well in your new job.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Ba mhaith liom mo chomhghairdeas a ghabháil leat, a Cheann Comhairle, ar mo shon féin agus ar son Teachtaí Shinn Féin.

I wish to extend my and my party colleagues' congratulations to you on your election to the position of Ceann Comhairle. I have every confidence that your stated commitment to ensuring fairness and efficiency, which will be the catch words of your term as Ceann Comhairle, will prove to be the case. I look forward to co-operating with you over the period of your time in office for the remainder of the current Dáil, however long that may be.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)
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On behalf of the Green Party, I warmly congratulate you on your elevation to the position of Ceann Comhairle. It is a privileged and responsible position and your task is onerous. You will carry out your duties with distinction and I wish you and your family well on this happy day for you all.

I know you to be a quiet man of great courtesy, but I have also heard that, given your GAA days, you are also a man who can keep people in check. This is probably a skill that you will need.

I join others in wishing Deputy John O'Donoghue well. He served with distinction and was fair-minded. I know that the Ceann Comhairle will carry on that honourable tradition in the House.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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A Cheann Comhairle, is mian liom mo chomhghairdeas a ghabháil leat agus le do chlann, go háirithe do bhean cheile, as ucht an oifig seo a bhaint amach. Geallaim leat go ndéanfaidh mé mo dhícheall do vótaí a roinnt go cothrom eadrainn nuair a thiocfaidh an chéad toghchán eile.

I wish you and your wife and family every success. I have known you for many years, longer than either of us would care to recall. Our battles were never personal and, as you know, we will be very good friends indeed from now on. To prove your fairness when it comes to the votes that would have been cast in your favour at the next general election, you will make sure to divide them evenly among all parties in the House.

Photo of Arthur MorganArthur Morgan (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I wish to congratulate Deputy Kirk on his election to a very important office. I also wish to empathise with his family because everybody in this House knows the lifestyle of parliamentarians causes huge disruption and sometimes hardship on those family members so I wish them well. I am a little envious that he is leaving it to Deputy Dermot Ahern, Deputy Fergus O'Dowd and myself to sweat it out at the next election while he can cosy through but that is part of the office. I wish to assure him that I will look after his constituents as best I can

I hope Deputy Kirk does not, as Ceann Comhairle, repeat the experience of his predecessors who sought to expel me from this Chamber on at least two occasions. I will try to avoid that if I can. I accept that maintaining order is an important part of the Ceann Comhairle's function. I sincerely wish Deputy Kirk the best of luck in the office and I look forward to working with him. Go raibh maith agat.

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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Mar an iarrathóir eile a raibh a ainm os comhair an Tí anseo inniu, ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas ó chroí a ghabháil leat agus tú a thoghadh mar Cheann Comhairle, oifig an-tábhachtach bunreachtúil san Oireachtas. Ón aithne atá agam ort le blianta anuas, toghadh an bheirt againn sa bhliain chéanna. We were both elected the same year; I happened to come to the House in February and the Ceann Comhairle in November. I know from associations I have had with him down through the years that he will be fair to every side of the House. It is a great day for him and for his family. I would also like to thank my own party leader, Ceannaire Fhine Gael, an Teachta Enda Kenny, a mhol m'ainm os comhair na Dála agus an Teachta McCormack a chuidigh leis. Tá súil agam go mbeidh saol breá agat ansin agus go mbainfidh tú taitneamh as but that it will not be there for too long.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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As a constituency colleague I also wish to offer my congratulations, coimhghairdeas and also to his wife, Mary and his family and also to his hard-working secretary of many years, Dymphna Neasy. It will be an interesting constituency from now on. He is leaving me with a very heavy burden of looking after the entire constituency which now stretches from Omeath, Fairyhill on one side and as far down as Gormanston. I can assure the Ceann Comhairle that I will well look after it in the meantime.

I also wish to confirm to the House that it is clearly the case that the Ceann Comhairle is an innately fair man and I have no doubt that he will chair the proceedings of this House with that fairness. He has been a gentleman in the constituency and a good colleague. I know that when he returns to the constituency after the next general election he will again serve the people of County Louth as he has served them over the past few decades.