Tuesday, 21 January 2020
Business of Seanad: Motion
It is a day of new beginnings, departures and farewells. Some people will be packing up by choice while others may be packing up but hoping to come back. Whatever road they take, I want to wish them well and every success.
I want to thank you, a Chathaoirligh, for your work over the last few years and the way you have conducted this Seanad. It is exemplary and shows your parliamentary experience and I want to acknowledge your work. I want to thank the Leader and the Deputy Leader, who cannot be here today as they are involved in the election. I particularly want to thank Orla Murray, who supports them and the staff who run this House and put together the Order Papers and all the documents that go with it.
I want to thank the Clerk of the Seanad, Martin Groves. His calm, sure and steady hand on the proceedings of this House is never in doubt. I want to thank Ms Bridget Doody, and all the staff and background staff. I particularly want to thank the parliamentary reporters, the sound technicians and all the back-up team. I particularly want to thank the Captain of the Guard and the ushers who play an exceptional role in the conduct and the swift and professional running of this House. I do not want to forget the caterers, the gardeners and all the other staff who feed and manage us in this place because that it is really important.
I want to acknowledge the work of Peter Finnegan and the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission and how it runs this House. It is not always an easy task, and there have been many controversies and setbacks, particularly in the last year, in relation to the conduct of Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas. They have had to take much flack on behalf of a lot of people, and they are in many cases, the unsung heroes of the constant Civil Service who keep this institution and establishment going. It is important that they are acknowledged here today.
When I came in here today, I tried to summarise for myself what we did here in the last few years. The best thing I did, because I can only speak for myself, related to the power of soft power and what soft power means. As Senators we have an opportunity to shine a light in many dark places, to bring many issues to the table of these Houses of the Oireachtas, to negotiate and mediate and share our concerns with Government Ministers who we meet on the corridors and with Dáil Deputies with whom we have an opportunity to meet. That is really important. I particularly want to acknowledge the importance of the joint committees and the power and influence we can have within these committees. If I was to leave here today, and never come back, the greatest contribution I made was through the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government, of which I was a member. I found it fulfilling. I was happy there, I was valued there, and I believe, like all its members, we made a contribution. I want to acknowledge and thank the three Ministers responsible for that Department who actively negotiated and kept in touch. They are, of course, the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy; the Minister of State, Deputy English; and the Minister of State, Deputy Phelan. They were active in their work on that committee and it is important that we acknowledge them.
I think we all accept that there are limitations on the Seanad, but we had the possibility and the opportunity to bring a soft power, and to bring our unique experiences and our diversity to the deliberations of this House. We all played a role based on our experience, and that has to be acknowledged.
I want to thank the press. We get a lot of bad press, but the press have a job to do and a story to tell. They, too, have to shine a light on many a shady space and many a dark corner and, on the whole, they have served the Oireachtas well.
I want to thank the Oireachtas Library and Research Service, which is one of the greatest services in this House and which we perhaps underestimate. The team consists of a dedicated group of people who we often do not see, but whom we can call upon to provide independent, validated research and support for our work as Oireachtas Members. I could not let the opportunity go without particularly thanking them for the enormous support that they give each and every one of us.
To those who seek re-election to this House, I wish them well. I will be one of them. For those who are retiring, I wish them well and I hope they will stay in contact. More importantly, may we support and encourage younger people and new people to come into both Houses of the Oireachtas.This is a noble profession. It may be a difficult one from time to time, but let us be advocates for Parliament, politicians and lawmakers, and let us support people in our communities into the future to come and take seats in both Houses of the Oireachtas.
I thank the Independent councillors that I have had the pleasure of leading for the past few years. We are very different and diverse but we have used our talents to the best of our ability. We have made an impact, as has the other Independent group in this House. The contribution that group has made has been exceptional. One of the great things about this House is that not only political party members but also Independents can be elected to serve, be valued and make a contribution. I am confident as I stand here today that there will be many new Independent Senators, as well as some old ones, in this House making contributions into the future.