Seanad debates

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

2:30 pm

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Cathaoirleach. I wish to start where he left off in his remarks. I want to thank him for the pleasure of working with him and the guidance and leadership he has given the Seanad over the last few years. As the Cathaoirleach said, he and I do go back a long time. We began here, I think, together, and hopefully we are not finished here yet. It has been a pleasure to work with him and he is accepted across this House as an exemplary Chair, and a man of personal integrity. In that regard I would echo the kind words to my colleague, the Leas-Cathaoirleach. He is a man of no small account and has done a good job too.

The main purpose of any of us standing up, certainly in my case, is to wish colleagues well whatever their destiny. Whether they intend to fight to come back here or they intend, as in the case of Senator Conway-Walsh, to run for the Dáil, or whatever their destiny or career, like my good friends who intend to take other paths in life, I wish them all great fortune in their pursuits. If they bring the same idealism, capacity and integrity to the roles that they take up in the future, and no doubt they will, they will enhance those roles and those situations greatly, as they have done this one.

The Seanad has been very much a part of my life down the years. I have either sought to be here and failed, or I have been here for a number of terms. It is something that I cherish and is very important to me.

I want to echo the remarks to the staff here who are exemplary people. We are blessed in Ireland in this regard. I know it merits repetition but when I am abroad I often say our diplomatic service does an exemplary job for this country. We have an exemplary Civil Service, which is non-partisan. It is a continuous force for good in our country, is available to all of us and works in a very real way, which is good.

A remark made earlier merits repetition. I have had the privilege of serving on Cavan County Council, and indeed being cathaoirleach of it for a term.I have had the privilege of serving here and in Dáil Éireann, and I have to say that the vast majority of people I have served with, of all parties and none, are in politics for the right reasons, are in it to do good for others, are in it to improve the lives of people around them, and they do that very successfully through genuine effort. I would have difficulty counting on one hand the people whom I ever come across who were any different. I want to acknowledge that fact. It is something that we should be proud of collectively and individually, and whatever nuances on policy and personality differences exist, they are differences of style, operation, direction or ideology, but there is no difference in a willingness and a desire to do good. There is a camaraderie and a community in Leinster House. It is a very friendly environment, and in that regard, it is right that we pay tribute today to all the ushers and auxiliary staff and to everybody in Leinster House who contribute to making it a warm, pleasant community.

On a personal note, and it is a little bit of a distraction or on a slight tangent from the normal pattern of these kinds of speeches, I thank my own county colleague, Senator Diarmuid Wilson, for his eternal good humour and banter. Self-deprecatory humour, banter and a capacity to take ourselves in context and have a sense of humour about ourselves is very important in our work. Senator Wilson has that in abundance, and I find it a joy to work with him at home and here. He does a lot for his community, and in fact he underestimates the degree to which he is a great ambassador for his county. I am also inspired by my great friend and exemplary, one of our national treasures and a person of great integrity and quality. Senator O'Mahony made the point that with the privilege of being here comes the responsibility to do good. That is a responsibility we take seriously, but it is a responsibility I exhort everyone who is re-elected to go on taking seriously. It is a huge privilege that we have a democracy. It is a huge privilege to be selected within that democracy to lead and to be a member of a parliament, and with that privilege, we have a duty to be honest, we have a duty to be exemplary in the way we seek to do our business, we have a duty to give proper leadership, and we have a duty to lead our communities and to avoid populism for the sake of the common good. We must be capable of avoiding the lowest common denominator on populism.

I wish everybody well, and let us hope wherever we end up, whatever our destiny, that we will go on doing good and being relevant to others. Finally, I would like to have it on the record, because I would like my family to read this, that I am blessed to have the support of my wife and three sons and extended family. Similarly with everyone here, without our families, we could not do what we do. They are the unsung heroes of what we do, and we should recognise that, appreciate their role and the sacrifices they make to keep democracy working.


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