Seanad debates

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

2:30 pm

Photo of Niall Ó DonnghaileNiall Ó Donnghaile (Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

-----but I will say it anyway. I suppose that has been my mantra since coming to this House. Sometimes I have got it right and I acknowledge and appreciate that sometimes I have got it wrong. We all need to be big enough to recognise our own failings in life, whether they are political or otherwise.

It has been a great privilege to come into this institution and to be a bit of a "Nordie" nuisance, to give voice to people who, perhaps as a result of historical misconceptions, have not always featured within the confines of this House as they should have done. On that note, I thank the Leader for recognising the remit and the role of this place beyond those, perhaps perceived, confines and for pursuing initiatives such as inviting the then Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Deirdre Hargey, to make a historic address to us - she has subsequently become a Minister in the new Executive and I wish her well. I also recognise our own work as Seanadóirí in travelling to Belfast for the sitting of the Ballymurphy inquest, at which all parties and groups were represented. On many occasions, Senator Marshall and I have looked at one another in terms of the very courteous references made to us in this Chamber in the context of our providing diverse voices from the North. We want to get to the point where that will no longer be a novelty but will instead be just the norm and where those from the different traditions - fellow Irish citizens from the North and the representatives who give them a voice here - will be treated just the same. I recognise, respect and deeply appreciate the way colleagues in the Seanad have received that voice, have understood the political dynamic that is at play across our island and have shared in our work on, for example, the omnibus legislation relating to Brexit and the Seanad special select committee on Brexit, chaired by Senator Richmond. That work has shown that we are up to the challenges that lie ahead.

The unique privilege that is afforded to this institution is that it can be nationally representative and representative of our diaspora and our global family as well. That gives us a great strength. I hope it will be more so down the line. At times, however, it has provided us with challenges as well because, regardless of where we fall down in respect of the issue or how enthusiastic, or not, we are about it, there is no doubt that the dynamics on this island are changing. Politics and society on this island are changing. The Seanad shown and proven, in a modest way initially, that we can play a role in helping to create a platform for, engage with, give voice to and provide representation for the changing dynamic that is out there.In the climate we are in, the Seanad has an opportunity to play a positive and important role. As we enter into the Twenty-sixth Seanad, for those of us who come back one way or the other, one of the first things we should do is fulfil the long-standing promise - it was not the fault of this Seanad by any means - to have an address from the First and deputy First Minister of the institutions in the North. That was meant to happen previously with the former holders of that office. Unfortunately, however they have left us and are not able to do that.

We have the institutions back up and running, however, and have an opportunity to work collaboratively, positively and collectively for the betterment of all. The Seanad can be proud of the role it has played in giving that national representative voice, and we as Senators can, should and must do more. Go raibh ceád míle maith ag na Seanadóirí uile.


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