Tuesday, 21 January 2020
Business of Seanad: Motion
I thank the Cathaoirleach and Leas-Chathaoirleach, all of the Seanad staff, Conor Stitt who served with me on level 6, and Tonie Walsh, an icon of mine who joined me this year in the office. It has been a great privilege to serve as the youngest Member of the Oireachtas. I think I have always been valued as equal to everyone else here. I thank colleagues for that and for their generosity. It has been an incredible privilege to advocate for the things that I love, for arts and culture and for the LGBT community. I am reflecting on what I found was one of the most productive periods of my time here, the Seanad reform implementation group. I pay tribute to my party colleague on that group, Senator Ó Donnghaile, and to Senators Higgins and McDowell.It was a productive period and I wish that the Taoiseach took the conclusion of that period more seriously. On that front, Members of the next Dáil and Seanad should put their heads together on Seanad reform. The people must begin to have their say. Senators must be directly elected and have the confidence of the people. The first part of the reform should involve lowering the voting age, followed by the abolition of Taoiseach's nominees. A maximum of ten seats for local councillors should be kept and there should be an absolute gender balance. Finally, as the general election campaign is under way, we should address what the Americans call campaign finance to ensure there is a limit on campaign spending.
I thank my partner Stephen, who has been by my side in political life. My experience has given me respect for those who travel from Belfast, the Glenties, Mayo and Cork and are unable to go home on weekday evenings. There have been some unexpected friendships built around political and personal issues and I thank everyone for that. I thank Senators for their generosity and for sharing their experience, knowledge and time.