Seanad debates

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

2:30 pm

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I had not intended to speak but I wish to add a few words. I thank the Cathaoirleach and Leas-Chathaoirleach for their professionalism and courtesy to me during the past four years. I also thank the Clerk, Martin Groves, the Clerk-Assistant, Bridget Doody, and all of their staff for the help and assistance they have given me and my colleagues on this side of the House, and all of the other staff who have been mentioned, such as the ushers and the reporters, who assist us on a daily basis.

Since 2002, it has been an honour to serve in this House with four different collections of people, very few of whom remain here. Each and every person I have met and served with in all of those four Seanaid have been exceptional and outstanding people in their own way and in their own field. Some of them have gone to their eternal reward and we have paid tribute to them down through the years. This Seanad is unique in one sense.It never remains the same, normally because of people who are elected to other offices, get jobs where they cannot be involved in politics or, unfortunately, pass on before the Seanad comes to an end. Thankfully, we have had new Members join us over the last years here, but none because we lost somebody to his or her eternal reward.

I, like Senator McDowell, have been out of the country just twice during this Seanad, and four times in the 18 years I have been here. Like Senator McDowell, Senator Ruane was one of the comrades we had on one occasion, going to Morocco. She was an outstanding guide, host and historian, who was able to enlighten us on the history of Morocco and the things to do and, mainly, what not to do while we were there. On the last occasion I was out of the country, I was in Taiwan and I recently returned. I have much respect for the country. On that occasion, I was accompanied by Senator Lawless, who represented the rest of the world apart from Ireland, Senator Marshall, who was the expert on Brexit and got the outcome of it right, to my amazement, and the hypnotist himself, Senator Ó Céidigh. All three were excellent ambassadors for our country in Taiwan. Senator Ruane, the Cathaoirleach and the others who I accompanied to Morocco were also outstanding ambassadors for our country. That is true of everybody from this Chamber who represents our country in one forum or another.

As Senator McDowell said in concluding his remarks, this Chamber is exceptionally important for our democracy and it is important that we retain it. It is also important to remember that we still exist as a Seanad and as Senators until the day when those of us who are going for re-election go into the count. They then walk out as a Senator or a former Senator. People tend to forget that this House exists under our Constitution. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that we may even sit before the Seanad election is held if a Government is formed fairly quickly after the general election. It is an important House. I agree that it needs to be reformed but it needs to be reformed with the consensus of the people who are elected to it and in conjunction with proposals that can be put forward and agreed by colleagues of all parties and groupings. It is also important to point out that while excellent work was done by the committee set up under Senator McDowell, unfortunately that committee now falls with this Seanad, as does the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill in the Lower House. We will start all over again and hopefully I will be here to contribute to it.

I am very honoured to be one of only seven Cavan people who have been elected to this House since the foundation of the State. Senator Conway-Walsh said that it is important to have the views of the people from the North represented here, naming Senators Ó Donnghaile and Marshall, and I totally agree. They are outstanding contributors to this House and representatives of the people of the Six Counties. It is also important that the three remaining counties of Ulster are represented in this House. I think that my colleague, Senator O'Reilly, would agree with me on that point.We want people to bear that in mind when they are marking their ballot papers.

I ask the Cathaoirleach to bear with me. Senator O'Reilly was very gracious in his comments about me. I have known him since 1985. It is a long time ago, but I was very young. Since the late 1980s I have been working through every general election since he first stood to ensure he would not be elected to the Dáil. However, I was disappointed in recent weeks to learn that he had decided not to contest the general election on this occasion. I was disappointed because if Fine Gael is to win one of the five seats in the Cavan-Monaghan constituency, I was hoping that Senator O'Reilly would be that one. Unfortunately that will not be the case.

Senator O'Reilly has been totally underestimated by his party - not by the people of Cavan and Monaghan. When Deputy Enda Kenny carried out his first reshuffle of his first Government, there was great expectation that Senator O'Reilly would get promotion, but unfortunately that did not happen. His loss of promotion was Deputy Heather Humphreys's gain when she was appointed Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht on that occasion. I remember remarking in this House that it was unfortunate that somebody of Senator O'Reilly's stature and experience was not appointed to that position. He subsequently pointed out to me that he was not really qualified for that position because he had only an honours master's degree in history, he was only fluent in Irish, he had been involved in the arts for three decades and had been an all-Ireland winning actor. Perhaps Deputy Enda Kenny was right; the Senator may have been overqualified for that position. Sometimes it might be better to have somebody with less experience in the Department.

I wish everybody well in the forthcoming elections both to the Lower House and to the Upper House. To those who are retiring, especially those who have decided to retire-----


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