Monday, 30 April 2012
Business of Seanad.
May I take this opportunity to thank the Minister for her forbearance and for the clarity she brought to the debate? The discussion that has taken place over the last couple of days on this very important legislation has considerably enhanced the status of this House. The contributions on all sides were of the highest quality. I thank my colleagues on the opposite side of the House for the manner in which they carried out their duties, and I thank the Leader, who not only allocated time for the debate but also facilitated us in the scheduling of the debate to allow more than the usual amount of time. I am grateful for that.
I wish to add my voice to Senator Mooney's with regard to the quality of the debate that has taken place here. As I said this morning, I feel it was even better than what took place in Dáil Éireann. Maybe this proves there is a future for this House.
I join with the previous speakers in thanking the Minister for her patience and her comprehensive responses to the debate. We had a great exchange again this morning for six hours. The social protection budget is €20 billion. I would love to see the Minister come back to the House on another occasion so we could have an input into areas in which we could get the most bang for our buck. Some good ideas came up this morning, and we would love such an opportunity. Maybe the Leader would organise for the Minister to come back some time for a wide-ranging debate and discussion.
I thank the leaders, especially of the Government parties, for the absolute support they have given to me during these important days of debate. I also thank the leaders of the Opposition parties and the Independents for the courtesy they have extended to me during this discussion. The debate has been extremely worthwhile. We have had a considered discussion, particularly about child care and preschool and after-school care. In terms of the history of the Seanad, this will be seen as an important issue that got a fair hearing from both sides. I also thank the staff of the Department of Social Protection, who worked very hard, and the staff of the Seanad for working on this technically complicated Bill. We had some technical but important amendments to put through with regard to pensions. I thank the Cathaoirleach for his courtesy.