Seanad debates

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

2:30 pm

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Cathaoirleach and the Leas-Chathaoirleach for their courtesy over the past four years. It was a pleasure to work with both of them. It was not an easy task for them because there was no majority in this Chamber for one of the few times ever; we have probably had the most diverse Seanad in its history.

I thank Martin Groves and Bridget Doody, and all the support staff who work to streamline how the Seanad runs.We take an awful lot for granted as to how the House operates and runs. When we really dig down and see how the Order Paper is produced, and see the day-to-day running of the Seanad, the Library and Research Service and all of the services we take for granted, we can see that a lot of hard work has to go into all of that. We finish on some nights at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. but there is an Order Paper the following morning, and the same applies to amendment for Bills and all of that sort of work. We do not really appreciate how it has happened and how it is put together. Great credit is due to the House for the way it operates under the Clerk, Martin Groves.

The past four years have been different from all of the previous terms in which I have been a Member of the Seanad. It has been a more diverse Chamber and there has not been a majority. There is no reason to say the next Seanad would not have the same type of membership and I believe it will do an even better job than it did in the past four years. While the Dáil holds the Government to account, this Chamber can play a hugely important role in framing legislation. I believe the next Seanad will play an even more important role in holding the Government to account and in regard to how legislation is teased out and framed.

As previous speakers have said, this is a very important Chamber and it plays a very important role. I hope it will move forward at the same rate as it did in the past four years with regard to the changes that have happened. Before this, Governments had a majority, or had a majority with the support of Independents or a smaller party, and they pushed through legislation. In the past four years, this was not the case. The Government and its Ministers had to accept amendments. The Government lost votes and it has learned from the votes it lost. This House will play a hugely important role in the future and I hope that, whoever is here, they will see to it that this will continue.

There was a 60% turnover of the Members of the previous Seanad and only six Senators here today were here four years ago, so there is no guarantee that anybody here will be in the next Seanad. I wish the best to those who are retiring. They have played a hugely important role in dealing with legislation. Some of them have been Members of both Houses and more have been Members of just this House. When we sign up for public life, we are there to be scrutinised by the public, who can take a shot at us. A person needs to have great courage to put their name before the people, whether as a councillor, a Deputy or a Senator. They are held to account and scrutinised. I wish those who are retiring very well. They have done magnificent work in both Houses of this Oireachtas. I wish those standing again the very best of luck. As I said, it takes great courage for candidates to put their names before the people, whether they are council representatives or members of the public. A total of 12 Fine Gael Senators are running for the Dáil and I wish them all well, as I do every other Member standing for Dáil Éireann.

Senator Wilson was quite parochial with regard to the seven Senators from Cavan. There are five Mayo people or honorary Mayo people in the Chamber, namely, Senators O'Mahony, Conway-Walsh, Marie-Louise O'Donnell, Noone and me, and I think it is the highest representation ever from County Mayo. I hope we will have good representation when the House comes back.

With that, I wish the Cathaoirleach and the House well, and I wish everybody well in their endeavours over the next couple of weeks.


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