Seanad debates

Friday, 16 December 2022

Election of Leas-Chathaoirleach


11:30 am

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I want to do two things. First, I want to congratulate the well-deserved incoming Leas-Chathaoirleach and then I want to say a couple of word about my time in the role and thank some people. I will do all of that as succinctly as I can.

I said some things earlier today about Senator Mark Daly and the energy, courtesy and all of the great qualities he brought to the role of Cathaoirleach. He was an excellent Cathaoirleach and he will be an outstanding Leas-Chathaoirleach. I missed one dimension earlier but I was conscious that I would be speaking again later. I mentioned that he did huge work with young people, in relation to Europe and on the Seanad 100 celebrations but he also did huge work on the national question and the constitutional issue. He invited people from diverse traditions to speak in this Chamber and that was very good. Senators Buttimer and Mark Daly, as Cathaoirleach and Leas-Chathaoirleach, respectively, will make a very formidable team and will achieve an awful lot together. I have no doubt that Senator Daly will make a great Leas-Chathaoirleach and I am very happy to endorse him. The only apprehension I have in endorsing him is that he might do the job better than I did and that would be a pity. If he is just a little bit less good than me, that will do. Hopefully, he will be a huge success. Indeed, I have no doubt that he will be. He will have institutional knowledge and wisdom to share with the Cathaoirleach, who will bring his own flair and vision to the role. As a team they will be excellent and will do a lot for the image of this House.

I now want to say some words about my time as Leas-Chathaoirleach. Apart from the light-hearted comment about funerals, I want to say that I deeply appreciate all of the sentiments expressed by my colleagues. I know they were heartfelt and they were lovely. I appreciate those sentiments and what is most encouraging about them is they identify things that I set out to do. I wanted to be fair, inclusive, good at listening and at bringing people with me. I also wanted to give space to everyone to talk, to reflect their views, to be part of the debate and to be valued and from what I have heard, I have achieved some of that. That is what I set out to do and the affirmation that is coming back at me now is wonderful. If I had been asked on the first day what I would like to achieve, those would have been the things on my list so I am particularly gratified in that regard.

Senators of a certain age will remember the song, "Thank You Very Much, Mr. Eastwood", and what I am about to say will be a little like that. I want to thank my colleagues all around the House, not only for their lovely words today but for their co-operation and work while I was Leas-Chathaoirleach. Everybody in this House, without exception, understands the privilege of being here and the gravity of what we do. Everyone understands that it is a huge responsibility and a great honour and privilege to be here and that public service is the noblest and highest calling. That is well understood and all Senators responded very well to that. I thank them for the way they co-operated with me when I was in the role.

Today is a wonderful demonstration of our vibrant democracy, 100 years after the founding of the State. We have a healthy democracy, as is very clear in both Houses of the Oireachtas. One of the great hallmarks and pearls of our democracy is that we have an excellent Civil Service. We have a Civil Service that survives all Administrations, responds and adapts to the hues, policies and orientation of all Administrations and which is, without fear of favour, on the side of the people. They are servants of the people and in this House we have an exemplary group of people working with us. That is something that I want to acknowledge. Mr. Martin Groves, Ms Bridget Doody and every one of their team are lovely people, individually but not only is it a joy to know them as people, they are also hugely committed and very professional. They are wonderful civil servants and we should be proud of them. This is not something to take for granted. Several colleagues made very kind references to my involvement with the Council of Europe. Senator Gavan is also involved with the Council and is, I must say in passing, a rising star out there.Senator Gavan would know this. We spend a lot of time talking about corruption, corrupt public servants and administrations and how to go about eliminating and fighting corruption. Thank God, we have the opposite here.

I acknowledge the wonderful staff of this House - Martin Groves, Bridget Doody and all the others. I acknowledge the wonderful ushers who are also excellent. I find them extremely courteous at all times. I acknowledge Senator Mark Daly’s personal secretary, Grace Coyle, who is always very pleasant to me and with whom I worked on a number of occasions. I used to meet her when I visited Senator Daly’s office. I also acknowledge the two people who work with me. The first is Mary O’Connor, a proud Kerrywoman who is known well to many in this House. Mary is a wonderful person with a keen political brain and a great literary sense. If I disappear for a while, she writes letters for me and needs no prompting. I also acknowledge Mary Keogan in my Cavan office who invented empathy and is wonderful with people. She has queues of people coming into her all the time because she is such a lovely lady and does so well.

I congratulate my constituency colleague, Senator Gallagher, a good personal friend of mine, on becoming Chief Whip today. It is a great honour for him. He is not here but maybe somebody would convey the message to him. I thank Senator Kyne who did a wonderful job as Chief Whip. It was great to work with the former Leader, Senator Doherty, in my role as Leas-Chathaoirleach, and with the former Deputy Leader, Senator Chambers, whom I congratulate on becoming Leader.

I do not think I missed anybody but I also thank any officials or others with whom we came in contact.

I enjoyed the term as Leas-Chathaoirleach. It is a great privilege to be in this House, no matter what the role. It also a great honour and responsibility, which we should not take for granted. If we chose to stop doing this job, many excellent people outside the gate would be very happy to take our places. We should not grouse. I enjoyed the years in the job. Senator Mark Daly will be an exemplary Leas-Chathaoirleach. I am a little scared that he might even be better than I was. I wish him well, as I do the Cathaoirleach.


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