Friday, 18 December 2020
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Gabhaim buíochas leis an Leas-Chathaoirleach agus guím Nollaig Shona dó freisin. It is pleasure working with him. I thank him for his kind words.
It has been an extraordinary year for the Leader, who, like all Senators, has done an extraordinary job under really difficult circumstances. I congratulate Senator Bacik on her good news.If times were different, we would organise a little reception to celebrate the good news. Please God, we will be able to do so in the new year. Other Senators, including Senator Boyhan, referred to Senator Flynn. I do not know if they saw the extraordinary interview she did last night but we are truly privileged to have her in the House. Her achievement would have been unimaginable a number of years ago but she has brought new ideas and new achievements to this Chamber.
The UN human development index measures health, education and income. In a world where there is very little good news, we have seen that Ireland is ranked joint second with Switzerland on that index, one place behind Norway and ahead of the likes of France and Germany, which is an extraordinary achievement. When we joined the index more than 30 years ago, the average life expectancy was 74. It is now 82. The average number of years our people spent in education was then nine and is now 12. That kind of achievement is only possible through the work of extraordinary people in this Chamber down through the years since Independence. We are truly standing on the shoulders of giants in that regard.
Many have raised the issue of the front-line workers, whose service and sacrifices have meant that, while the pandemic has affected many, it has not been the disaster it has been in many other jurisdictions. We acknowledge them for the service they have given so far. When we are at Christmas dinner, they will be out working. We also think of those who will have empty chairs this Christmas. They are in our thoughts and prayers as well.
I thank all the ushers, the cleaners, the catering staff and everybody else who works in Leinster House. I also thank Mr. Martin Groves and Ms Bridget Doody, who do extraordinary work late into the night to get all the amendments organised and issues resolved to ensure the Seanad works as smoothly as possible. I thank Ms Carol Judge, Ms Carmel Considine, Ms Ilinca Popa, Mr Eden McLaughlin, Ms Aisling Hart and, of course, Ms Grace Coyle in my own office for their extraordinary work throughout the year. It is quite extraordinary that such a small team runs such an important part of our legislative process. I also thank Ms Orla Murray in the Leader's office, who also does extraordinary work. I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the use of the Chamber. Nothing says more about how historic this year has been than the Seanad sitting in the Dáil Chamber. We thank the Ceann Comhairle for his generosity in that regard.
Finally, I wish all Members a safe Christmas. I hope they get time to spend with their families and friends. Please God, we will see them all in the new year.