Wednesday, 19 May 2004
Business of Seanad.
Before calling on the Leader, I will make a statement for the information of the House on the proceedings of the motion moved by Senator Mansergh last Wednesday. I will not allow the statement to be the subject of comment or debate.
The Chair is the sole judge of order in the House and, where necessary, must rule on matters not covered by Standing Orders. This was the position on Wednesday last. Standing Orders make no provision for confusion of Members about procedures. The Chair must be sure that when the House makes a decision, Senators know what is being decided. Where there is confusion or ambiguity, the Chair will do his best to clarify the situation. On Wednesday last, as soon as Senator Mansergh raised a point of order, it was clear to me that there was a misunderstanding about the questions that had been put and the decision declared as a consequence. In these circumstances the Chair had both the right and the duty to put the question formally in order to clarify the position. This I did as the debate closed. Senator Brian Hayes has written to me on these matters and I will be replying to the Senator later today.
While I understand the ruling of the Chair, I must say publicly that I disagree fundamentally with the statement the Chair has made to the House because I believe it overturns a decision of this House. Not even the Chair can overturn a decision of this House.