Wednesday, 8 June 2016
Election of Cathaoirleach
Clerk Assistant of the Seanad:
The next business under Standing Orders is the election of the Cathaoirleach. Under Standing Order 2, the Chair will be taken by Senator David Norris, the Senator with the longest continuous period of service in the House. He was elected on 14 April 1987 and has served continuously since. I call on him to take the Chair.
Ladies and gentlemen and fellow Senators, it is, first of all, my great pleasure and honour to welcome you to this magnificent Chamber. It is a privilege to work in a place of such aesthetic beauty and I hope that it will not be too long before the necessary repairs are completed and Seanad Éireann can return permanently to its proper home.
When I was elected some 30 years ago, this room was also closed for refurbishment and for the first term, we met in the ante chamber. However, I managed to sneak in and examine the ceiling, which I at once identified as the work of the master stuccadore of the 18th century, Michael Stapleton. The entire central section and the apse were unstable and had to be replaced. It amuses me sometimes when I hear visitors to Leinster House look up at Stapleton’s great ceiling and say, "Ah Jaysus, they could do great work in them days but they couldn’t do it now. They don’t have the talent." I then explain to them that one third of the ceiling is a completely modern reinstatement and that even I could not tell the difference, so Ireland most definitely still has the talent.
That talent politically expressed is to be found here today in the Members of Seanad Éireann. There is, of course, criticism of some of the methods of election and selection by which Members arrive in the House but very few would deny the ability and capacity of virtually all Members. I might, however, be forgiven a degree of amusement at the presence of a number of new Members or, indeed, former Members who campaigned vigorously for the abolition of the very House in which they now sit. To show how complex political life is, despite their dismissive attitude, I recognised their genuine contribution to public life and I voted for some of them. In addition to welcoming the new Senators, I must say that there is also a sense of loss in the absence of some valued Members who sadly were unsuccessful in the recent election. I think in particular of Maurice Cummins and Dr. Sean Barrett. Maurice Cummins was certainly the best Leader I have encountered in a long career as a Senator. It is a sidelight on the exigencies of the political system that it so signally failed to recognise his qualities despite his sterling record perhaps-----
-----but because of his loyalty to this House when his party tried to suppress it. No attempt was made by Fine Gael to come to his aid.
My colleague, Dr. Sean Barrett, was unequivocally the best Member of the Senate. Many amendments in his name were successfully passed. He introduced a number of excellent legislative proposals and was an important and diligent member of the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis. Moreover, I understand that he was also frequently consulted by Government on economic matters. It was a travesty that such a man should lose his seat and an indication that the public remains largely unaware of the valuable work done by Senators.
In the period of the last Oireachtas, two major referenda were fought - one on marriage equality and the other on the abolition of the Senate. The move towards marriage equality started in this House with the Civil Partnership Bill 2004, something of which Seanad Éireann can feel legitimately proud.
In the debates on abolition, I was appalled that so many Senators on orders from party headquarters actually voted for the destruction of their own House. I said at the time that they were not just turkeys voting for Christmas but turkeys who obligingly rolled over and then trussed, stuffed and eviscerated themselves.
With three weeks to go, we were losing the referendum according to the opinion polls. I discharged myself from hospital and together with the former Senators, Dr. Barrett and Professor Crown, turned it around just in time. John Crown night after night eviscerated Cabinet Ministers on Radio Éireann. Sean Barrett marshalled meetings in every university in the Republic. I did the "Ray D’Arcy Show" as well as all the provincial radio stations and commanded a national Twitter campaign. In the end, we prevailed. The Taoiseach admitted taking a knock and in Dublin Castle Yard promised reform but nothing is happening. There is already in existence a Dáil reform committee but, as yet, no sign of a Seanad reform committee, and I hereby call on the Taoiseach to include reform of the Seanad in the remit of this committee.
There is virtually unanimous agreement that reform is necessary but will we get it? At present, the party system has the Senate in thrall and it is highly unusual for political parties to yield power. According to the Fianna Fáil leader, Deputy Micheál Martin, as reported in The Irish Timeson Saturday, 7 May:
First of all, the Oireachtas needs to be freed from the absolute control which government currently has on its work. Few parts of the Constitution are ignored as much as article 28.4.1 which states that: "The Government shall be responsible to Dáil Éireann." In practice the Taoiseach and his ministers exert near total control over Dáil.
In the Senate, the control is not just total it is in fact complete. A proper reform of the Senate requires visionary imagination. Yet how can anyone defend a system under which at the last by-election some months ago a seat in our national Parliament was won with a total electorate of a mere 200 votes. We hear a great deal of talk these days about new politics but as a long-time observer of the political scene, I can only say that I see little sign of this.
Instead we have the indecent spectacle of individuals and parties jockeying for political or personal advantage under the guise of the national interest. The only targets so far for reform have been the university constituencies. It is proposed that the existing constituencies of Dublin University - Trinity College - and the National University of Ireland should be abolished in favour of one single third level super-constituency of six seats.That would mean the end of Trinity College Dublin representation in the Seanad. Dublin University has a proud record of being represented in the Irish Parliament in an unbroken line since the 17th century and I believe its representatives, from Dr. Noel Browne to Owen Sheehy-Skeffington, Professor W. B. Stanford, Mary Henry and Mary Robinson, have done the State some service. Moreover, part of the inspiration for the establishment of the Seanad came from the Provost of Trinity College Dublin at the time. Were the Government’s proposals to be accepted, it would lead to a constituency of 850,000 to 1 million voters, thus eliminating the independent voice and leaving the way open to invasion by the political parties. The ludicrous nature of this scheme is further exposed by the fact that it would leave the 43 panel seats with 1,000 voters and the Taoiseach’s 11 nominees with one vote. The whole nature of the Taoiseach’s 11 nominees is repulsive to democracy and renders the Seanad, at base, a political arena.
In the weeks since the general election the fact that the positions of Cathaoirleach and Leas-Chathaoirleach have already been decided and commented on in the media opens up the democratic system to ridicule. The positions of Cathaoirleach and Leas-Chathaoirleach should be decided in a free and secret ballot of the whole House. There is widespread clamour for a system of "one person, one vote", as is already the case in the university constituencies. A great deal would be achieved in the way of democracy if the nominating bodies for the panels were to be revised and brought into the 21st century and a vote given to their ordinary membership. We would then have something for which Deputy Micheál Martin has called, "an independent and professional chamber".
The purpose of the Seanad is not to defeat the Government but to advise it. There is also a lot to be done in revising the Standing Orders of the Seanad. For example, while Standing Order 30 provides for the raising of a matter of national importance during the day's business, this is something that is virtually never allowed. I remember raising the matter of an ESB strike, but it was held by the then Cathaoirleach not to be of national importance, while simultaneously in the other House, the then Taoiseach, Mr. Charles J. Haughey, was declaring it a national emergency. The Cathaoirleach should as a matter of course be required to give the reasons for his or her decision.
In addition, on matters of conscience, Members should be allowed a free vote in the Seanad. I found it regrettable when Members of this House were expelled from their party for openly expressing their view on abortion, albeit one with which I did not agree.
A great deal of legislation has been passed by the House, some of which derived from non-Government sources, but such Bills are routinely left hanging after the passage of Second Stage. In the future they should automatically be referred to the appropriate committee for further examination.
It may seem to Members that I have taken a strong line in defence of the idea that the Seanad, if it is to perform its proper function, very badly needs revision and reform. I make no apology for this. I am not known for concealing my ideas, even when they are controversial, and believe that if the Seanad is to survive and perform its function in the interests of the people, the matter of its reform must be urgently addressed. I very much hope all Members will give careful thought to this matter and express their opinions clearly and courageously in what will be the most important debate ever to take place in this House.
I have pleasure in welcoming every Member, congratulating them and their families on their election and wishing them a happy and productive period in Seanad Éireann, however long or short that may be.I will now accept a proposer and a seconder-----
The Senator is very quick off his feet. I have not finished speaking yet. I will accept a proposer and seconder for any Member for election as Cathaoirleach. The first Member on his feet was Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.
Ba mhaith liom tréaslú leis an Seanadóir Norris as ucht na blianta fada seirbhíse atá tugtha aige agus as ucht an job atá á dhéanamh aige sa chathaoir i láthair na huaire. Faraor, níl mé chun é féin a ainmniú do Chathaoirleach an tréimhse seo, ach b'fhéidir am éigin eile. Is lá an-stairiúil é agus ag breathnú timpeall ar an áit seo inniu, tá cuid mhaith daoine anseo atá thar a bheith cumasach agus a bheadh breá ábalta an post mar Chathaoirleach a ghlacadh.
Looking around the Chamber, I see many faces and many competent people who could be nominated for the position of Cathaoirleach. It is incumbent on us to recognise the role played by the outgoing Cathaoirleach, Senator Paddy Burke.
Apart from the few times when he used his casting vote to vote with the Government, his impartiality was impeccable and he always gave us very fair hearings here. Hopefully, the new Cathaoirleach will do the same. It is very important we do not dance to the media tune which would lead us to believe everything has already been decided. Given that the Seanad is sitting and no vote has been taken, it is up to the Members to decide who should be Cathaoirleach. We are told there is an agreement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, which would lead us to believe we may have a "Fianna Gael" coalition for however long we will be here. I hope it is not the case. It would not be to the benefit of the Seanad.
I nominate my colleague, Senator Rose Conway-Walsh for the position of Cathaoirleach. It would be an important decision on the part of the Seanad to put a woman in the Chair. I have known Senator Conway-Walsh for a very long time. She has been an impeccable councillor. She is very fair minded and will listen to everybody's point of view. She has wonderful experience in Mayo County Council, where she has had to adjudicate in many battles. Senator Paddy Burke has shown that the people from Mayo have particular mettle when it comes to sitting in such a position. Senator Conway-Walsh also has extensive experience in community development working in her local community in Belmullet.
Tá mé cinnte gurb í an bhean is feiliúnaí don phost. Tá an-onóir orm go bhfuil mé in ann í a ainmniú inniu don phost mar Chathaoirleach. Tá súil agam go dtabharfaidh daoine ó gach taobh den Teach tacaíocht di le cinntiú nach bhfuil an móramh - Fianna Fáil agus Fine Gael - ag rialú gach rud a tharlaíonn sa Teach seo. Tá sé tábhachtach go dtabharfaí aitheantas do na grúpaí eile atá anseo: na Neamhspleáigh, lucht na hollscoile, na páirtíthe beaga ar nós Pháirtí an Lucht Oibre, muid féin i Sinn Féin agus mar sin de. Tá sé fíor-thábhachtach go dtaispeánfar inniu go bhfuilimid chun seasamh suas, go mbeidh an Seanad seo difriúil agus go mbeimid ag déanamh gnóthaí ar bhealach atá an-dhifriúil ón mbealach a bhí sé á dhéanamh go dtí seo.
Cuireann sé gliondar ar mo chroí tacú leis an moladh atá déanta ag an Seanadóir Ó Clochartaigh maidir le hainmniú Rose Conway-Walsh mar Chathaoirleach ar an Seanad. I support Senator Ó Clochartaigh's nomination of Senator Rose Conway-Walsh. I do so very proudly as a Northern voice in this institution. Senator Norris, in his impassioned contribution, referred to the reform of this institution. The most glaringly obvious reform required is the need to give voice to Irish citizens across the country, thereby making it a truly national Parliament. The greatest anomaly for me is that while I can be elected to this institution and speak here, I cannot vote in the election of its Members and nor can my family, friends or neighbours back home in Belfast. I hope, as we progress, that we will look on this institution on a national basis and that we will take on the interests and concerns of citizens across our 32 counties.
As a proud Northern voice, I second the nomination of a very proud, dedicated and committed western voice to take on the role of Cathaoirleach. It is vital for the running of this institution that we have somebody who can garner the support of all Members. It is also vitally important for public confidence, as we steer through some of the more choppy waters to which Senator Norris referred in his contribution, that we have a Cathaoirleach who does not come from Fine Gael or those who sustain that party in government, Fianna Fáil.I am delighted to second the nomination of Senator Rose Conway-Walsh.
On behalf of the Fianna Fáil group, I congratulate Senator Norris on his standing as father of the House and on his long and distinguished service in the Seanad. I was very pleased to see him elected to Seanad Éireann again.
Today, I have the great honour as Fianna Fáil leader in the House to propose Senator Denis O'Donovan for the position of Cathaoirleach. The position must be filled by a person with the highest levels of integrity, professionalism and fairness and, above all, by a person who respects the democratic mandate on all sides of the House. Senator O'Donovan is such a person and if elected will bring a wealth of experience to the role. He was elected to Cork County Council in 1985 and was chairman from 1989 to 1990. He first took office in Seanad Éireann in 1989. During his career, he has served on numerous committees and chaired the all-party Committee on the Constitution during his time as a Member of Dáil Éireann from 2002 to 2007. Under his stewardship, the committee made considerable progress in a number of important areas, including paving the way for the civil partnership Bill and a referendum on the rights of the child. More recently, Senator O'Donovan served as Leas-Chathaoirleach in the Twenty-fourth Seanad and I have no doubt his experience as Leas-Chathaoirleach will only enhance his performance as Cathaoirleach should he be elected.
As some Members may know, Senator Donovan was one of 11 children from the Sheep's Head Peninsula in west Cork. While many of his siblings emigrated, he was able to take advantage of the system of free education introduced at the time and attend college. He studied law in UCC and was admitted to the role of solicitors in 1978. He enjoys the support of his partner, Eileen, and his four children Naomi, Luke, Gerard and Donnachada, all of whom live in Ireland. I have no doubt that if elected Senator O'Donovan will carry out the duties of Cathaoirleach efficiently and with professionalism, integrity and, most of all, with fairness. For these reasons, I have great pleasure in proposing Senator O'Donovan for the position of Cathaoirleach of the Twenty-fifth Seanad.
I thank Senator Ardagh. May I say after that elegant and eloquent speech, Fianna Fáil is in good hands in the House. I also recognise the distinguished presence of the former leader of Fianna Fáil in the House, Senator Darragh O'Brien.
I congratulate Senator Norris on taking the Chair and refereeing this part of the occasion and on his re-election and his long service. He championed causes when they were not popular and he has seen them through.
It is a great honour for me to second the proposal of Senator Denis O'Donovan as Cathaoirleach of the Twenty-fifth Seanad. As a Kerry man, it is always an honour to support people from Cork, in everything except football. I hope he will earn the position today because of his tireless work for his community, his devotion to his constituency and his service to his country. He has earned it because of his great determination and relentless effort in public service. Denis was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth; he was born in the isolated Sheep's Head Peninsula, one of 11, eight of whom emigrated to the United States. Given the fact many of his family are in the United States, I suggest that if he takes the Chair, he might invite the Vice President to address us in the House when he visits Ireland.
At the age of 17, Denis emigrated to London where he worked on building sites to help pay his way through college. In 1976, tragedy struck the family when his father, Tommy, passed away. As well as using his earnings from the building sites in London to pay his way through college, he also used those earnings to support his mother, Mary. He qualified as a solicitor and set up a successful practice in Bantry with his business partner, Flor Murphy. At the age of 30, he was elected to Cork County Council and served in that august body on three occasions. Having first been elected to office half a lifetime ago, it has been a great journey for him to be here today for this occasion and to arrive at this moment.Half a lifetime ago, he was first elected to public office. It is a great journey for him to be here today for this occasion and to arrive at this moment.
It shows his determination and grit that he ran for Dáil Éireann on five occasions before being elected in 2002. That says much about his character and devotion and it says more than any words of mine could ever do. He has served in the Seanad on more than five occasions. As many of us know, this is one of the most difficult elections in any democracy in the world. In Leinster House, he has represented the farming community but especially the fishing community, due to his love of the sea and his having lived by it for so long. His great recreational pastime is mackerel fishing. If one cannot get Senator O'Donovan on the phone, it is probably because he has literally gone fishing.
One of Senator O'Donovan's greatest achievements was his chairing of the committee on the Constitution in 2002. He identified the fact that the rights of the child were not adequately protected within our Constitution. That ultimately led to the 31st amendment of Bunreacht na hÉireann. John F. Kennedy said that everybody can make a difference and everyone must try. Most certainly, Senator O'Donovan has made that difference.
Politics and politicians have many critics. I am still waiting for those critics to come up with the alternatives. Public representatives, as we all know, have been targeted for criticism, often unfairly. We have often been on the receiving end of that criticism ourselves. As we start a new Seanad and elect a new Cathaoirleach, we might reflect on the words of another public representative, former US President Theodore Roosevelt, who had some words of wisdom on that particular topic. It is called "the man in the arena":
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Senator O'Donovan has shown great enthusiasm and given great devotion. If he has failed, it is only because he has failed while daring greatly. This day is rare in the life of a public representative. It is a day when one among us actually knows that feeling of the triumph of high achievement. The Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann is one of the few positions mentioned in our most important legal document, Bunreacht na hÉireann. The Cathaoirleach is one of the highest posts in this Republic, and in the one 100th anniversary of the proclamation of that Republic, it makes the position of Cathaoirleach all the more special.
This day is a great honour for Denis and also for his family. As we all know, families sacrifice so much because their loved ones have to give so much time in public service, leaving little time for family. It is a special day for the family, friends, relations and supporters. They have been with him in days when the failures came despite their best efforts, but they are here today on this day of high achievement.
Senator O'Donovan is perfectly suited to be the Cathaoirleach because he served as Leas-Chathaoirleach in the last Seanad. His door has always been open to everybody, regardless of their political persuasion, just as his door has always been open in his constituency in west Cork. Having been the man in the arena, he is well suited to be the person who will chair this arena. It is my distinct honour and privilege to second the proposal of Senator Denis O'Donovan as the Cathaoirleach of the Twenty-fifth Seanad.
Ar an gcéad dul síos, ba mhaith liom mo chomhghairdeas a ghabháil do gach Seanadóir as a mbuanna sna toghcháin. Go mórmhór, cuirim fíor-fháilte roimh na tuismitheoirí, clanna agus cairde atá bailithe anseo inniu. Today, is lá iontach, lá spioraid agus lá samhraidh é. Táimid bailithe le chéile sa Seanad nua.In welcoming friends, family and the new Senators today, and in thanking Senator Norris for his stirring words, it would be remiss of me, as leader of the Fine Gael group in Seanad Éireann, if I did not pay tribute to Paddy Burke, the outgoing Cathaoirleach, for his sterling service in the last Seanad, the manner in which he dealt with the business of the House and way in which he represented all in the Oireachtas abroad and at home. On behalf of the Fine Gael Party, I want to thank Paddy, his wife Dolores and his family for their immense work, dedication and commitment to public service.
In his remarks, Senator Norris rightly made reference to the outgoing Leader, Maurice Cummins. I want to pay tribute to him for the way in which he, as Leader of the House, operated and did business. I hope I can, in some small way, follow in his footsteps.
Today, the Fine Gael Party is happy to support Senator Denis O'Donovan for the position of Cathaoirleach. As has been outlined by Senators Daly and Ardagh, he comes with a vast array of experience, both local and national. I have got to know Senator O'Donovan on a personal level over my years in Seanad Éireann. I wish him well and look forward to working with him.
In speaking today, I am conscious that we are gathering for the first time as an elected second Chamber - the Upper House. I am conscious we have the eyes of the nation on us. It is incumbent on all of us to be the voice of the people in a way that is open and transparent and, equally, that we bring about our work through the people, which means we collectively and collaboratively work together to ensure we can bring through the reforms that are needed. I would refer Senator Norris and other Senators to the programme for Government, of which the Manning report is part. I am sure we will see movement around that in the next couple of weeks. It is important, if we are talking about new politics, that this new politics means we embrace what it is, and that we cast aside the old ways and do not seek to oppose for the sake of opposition. We should be conscious of Senator Norris's words that the Seanad is not about defeating the Government, but about advising and working with the Government.
As Leader of the Seanad, I look forward to working with all Members. I am sure I will, like many others, play a role in bringing through legislation and trying to effect change and make our country a better place. Our party, as the party of Government, has never been afraid to do that. Today is not a day for political speeches, however, but a day of celebration for our new Senators. I welcome them to the House today and wish them well. I hope we are here for five years, not just two years. I hope we will together ensure that this Upper House, this august Chamber, will shatter the expectations of so many and that we will tell the sceptics that we can do things better.
I thank Senator Buttimer. I give him my heartiest congratulations on being made Leader of the House. I was not sure that was official but I heartily congratulate him on it. I remember him as a Senator in this House, when he was nearly as rambunctious as I was. I also remember his wonderful chairing of the health committee hearings into the matter of abortion in this Chamber, and how magisterial that was. I look forward to working under him as Leader of this House.
I also did not mention it, because he is out of my line the sight, but we have a great character in the House as well, a former Leader and former Cathaoirleach, Mr. Donie Cassidy. He is very welcome.
As there is more than one proposal, I am required to deal with the nominations in the order in which they were proposed. The question on the first proposal is as follows: “That Senator Rose Conway-Walsh be elected and do now take the Chair of Seanad Éireann.” Is that agreed?
It was agreed from one side but there was dumbstruck silence from the other side of the House.I heard a little meek "Níl".
I will not do what I am told because I noticed Senator Bacik wishes to speak. I can allow Senator Bacik speak.
I will speak briefly on behalf of the Labour Party group. I congratulate Senator Norris on his status as father of the House. It has been my pleasure to serve with him as a Dublin University Senator for the past two terms and I look forward to serving with him this term. I echo Senator Norris's words about our former colleague, Dr. Sean Barrett, and I welcome Senator Lynn Ruane, our new colleague from Dublin University. I pay tribute to the former Leader of the House, Mr. Maurice Cummins, whom we miss, and the former Cathaoirleach, Senator Paddy Burke. I congratulate Senator Buttimer on his role as Leader of the House. I am sure we all look forward to working with him.
My party will support Senator O'Donovan for Cathaoirleach of the House. The Labour Party group is in opposition but, as Senator Buttimer stated, we do not believe in opposition for the sake of opposition. We will deal with issues on a case-by-case basis.
Senator O'Donovan will make an excellent Cathaoirleach. I served with him on the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. He has been Leas-Chathaoirleach of this House and others have spoken about his experience and the expertise he will bring to chairing this House.
I would say, however, that in keeping with the spirit of new politics - there might be a good deal of cynicism about new politics - we should look to have a secret ballot for the election of Cathaoirleach and Leas-Chathaoirleach of this House. I hope we will see that come about in the future as a part of a Seanad reform proposal.
Finally, I welcome all of the new Senators and their family, relatives and friends who are in the Chamber. It is a day for celebration and congratulations. I look forward to working with all Senators and to genuinely bringing the new politics alive. It could be an exciting, dynamic and active Seanad and I look forward to working with all Senators in the years, I hope, ahead for the Twenty-fifth Seanad.
It is a great pleasure for all of us today, sitting here observing what is happening. We all have taken a long journey. We have come here with our own experiences, traditions, cultures and challenges and I agree it is a day of celebration. I thank Senator Norris for his words, which were, in some ways, provocative. However, many of them need to be examined. No doubt we have looked at them.
I will support Senator O'Donovan. He is a man of exceptional talent when one looks at his contribution as a county councillor, as a Deputy, as a Senator and as a Leas-Chathaoirleach and, in particular, at his work, which Senator Norris mentioned. He also chaired the committee in regard to the Judge Brian Curtin case. They were challenging and difficult times and they showed the parameters of Seanad Éireann and the potential it has.
It is extraordinary that of the 60 Members of the Twenty-fifth Seanad, 42 of us are new Members. Some have been here before in other capacities but it is remarkable that 42 of the 60 Members from the island of Ireland are new to the House. That is remarkable and a challenge to us all to work together.
I congratulate Senator Buttimer on his appointment. He is a man of great ability and he is very brave, very courageous and very imaginative. He is someone who will have the support not only of this House but of Dáil Éireann and of the public at large. There are challenges for us but we can work together. It will need a strong, decisive and fair Cathaoirleach.
More importantly, we have had reform. A Bill was published by a group of Independent Senators that will be brought before this House and will give one person one vote, which so many from all parties in this House campaigned for. It is interesting to look at the literature - I had a look at it this morning - from many distinguished Members sitting here on their commitment to Seanad reform. There is an opportunity now for us all to engage in a meaningful Seanad reform. That will be the basis - it will not be a panacea or provide all the solutions - for going forward.
I look forward to working with everyone in this Seanad and I particularly want to wish Senator Denis O'Donovan well and endorse his election as Cathaoirleach.
I, too, add my voice to the call to nominate Senator O'Donovan. When I came into this House, I was a very lonely individual having won a by-election against the odds thanks to my colleagues in Fine Gael and, in particular, the Taoiseach.
In speaking in favour of the nomination of Senator O’Donovan, two Members of the previous Seanad stand out in my mind, the first being Senator Paddy Burke, who has been mentioned by everybody present. I had difficulty obtaining speaking time here but, in fairness, Senator Paddy Burke acted as the most fair Cathaoirleach and ensured that, any time I wished to speak, I got an opportunity to do so. When his colleague, Senator O’Donovan, the then Leas-Chathaoirleach, was in the Chair, he also ensured I got the opportunity to speak.
Like Senator Norris, I note that there are a number of Members in the House today who believe it should have been abolished. They are quite happy to be back here now as Senators. We will have to learn to work together. Those on the Government side who enjoyed an enormous majority under the previous Administration could come in and ram anything they wished through the House. Those days are gone. They will have to learn to talk, negotiate and make new friends in order to get what they need to go through the House. I look forward to working with them and assure them that, as in the previous Seanad, I will not vote against legislation just because they are bringing it forward. However, we will have to learn to work together and co-operate with one another.
I noted when I came in here today that there was a massive rush to this side of the House and that the other side was empty. There was fierce reluctance to sit on the other side today. We will see what way the seating arrangements work out over the next few days. I have no qualms whatsoever with the other nominee other than the fact that I have personal experience of Senator O'Donovan, whom I wish well.
I wish Senator Buttimer well as Leader of the House. I have enjoyed many a joust with him on Twitter and I am looking forward to jousting with him in this House. He has a tough act to follow in following former Senator Maurice Cummins, who is without doubt one of the finest gentlemen I have known in my time. Although I did not agree with him on everything, he was a tremendous Leader of this House and one who will be sadly missed. Senator Buttimer has a big act to follow but I wish him well.
Senator Craughwell stated that everyone who spoke so far paid tribute to Senator Paddy Burke. He is not quite right because I did not do so. I would like to take this opportunity to pay the heartiest tribute to my old friend and companion, Senator Paddy Burke. He was an imaginative, dignified and thoughtful Chairman of Seanad Éireann but that did not mean he did not always have a wicked sense of humour. I am very glad to see Paddy back. I thank him for the years he spent as distinguished Cathaoirleach of this Chamber.
As there is more than one proposal, each will be dealt with in the order in which it was made. I will put the question on the first vote and then yield to the Clerk Assistant of Seanad Éireann for the remainder of the proceedings until he calls me back to welcome the individual who, one assumes, will be the victor on this occasion.
- Frances Black
- Rose Conway Walsh
- Maire Devine
- Pádraig MacLochlainn
- David Norris
- Trevor Ó Clochartaigh
- Niall Ó Donnghaile
- Fintan Warfield
- Catherine Ardagh
- Ivana Bacik
- Colm Burke
- Paddy Burke
- Ray Butler
- Jerry Buttimer
- Maria Byrne
- Lorraine Clifford Lee
- Paudie Coffey
- Paul Coghlan
- Martin Conway
- Gerard Craughwell
- Mark Daly
- Paul Daly
- Aidan Davitt
- Frank Feighan
- Joan Freeman
- Robbie Gallagher
- Maura Hopkins
- Gerry Horkan
- Kevin Humphreys
- Denis Landy
- Billy Lawless
- Terry Leyden
- Tim Lombard
- Michael McDowell
- Michelle Mulherin
- Jennifer Murnane O'Connor
- Gerald Nash
- Catherine Noone
- Pádraig Ó Céidigh
- Brian Ó Domhnaill
- Aodhán Ó Ríordáin
- Kieran O'Donnell
- Marie Louise O'Donnell
- Denis O'Donovan
- John O'Mahony
- Joe O'Reilly
- Ned O'Sullivan
- James Reilly
- Neale Richmond
- Keith Swanick
- Diarmuid Wilson
- Catherine Ardagh
- Victor Boyhan
- Colm Burke
- Paddy Burke
- Ray Butler
- Jerry Buttimer
- Maria Byrne
- Lorraine Clifford Lee
- Paudie Coffey
- Paul Coghlan
- Gerard Craughwell
- Mark Daly
- Paul Daly
- Aidan Davitt
- Frank Feighan
- Joan Freeman
- Robbie Gallagher
- Maura Hopkins
- Gerry Horkan
- Kevin Humphreys
- Denis Landy
- Billy Lawless
- Terry Leyden
- Tim Lombard
- Michael McDowell
- Michelle Mulherin
- Rónán Mullen
- Jennifer Murnane O'Connor
- Gerald Nash
- Catherine Noone
- David Norris
- Kieran O'Donnell
- Marie Louise O'Donnell
- Denis O'Donovan
- John O'Mahony
- Joe O'Reilly
- Ned O'Sullivan
- Pádraig Ó Céidigh
- Brian Ó Domhnaill
- Aodhán Ó Ríordáin
- James Reilly
- Neale Richmond
- Keith Swanick
- Diarmuid Wilson
I count that as a really good standing ovation and one Senator O'Donovan richly deserves. I did not mention former Senator Francie O'Brien and a great Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann, former Senator Rory Kiely, because I did not see them in the Gallery.
I wish to add my words of praise to Senator O'Donovan. I have known him for many years and have witnessed him here quietly and effectively, but also passionately, defending those things he saw as being important. In particular, I have been in the House when there was almost nobody else listening to him speak with immense conviction about the question of fishing. We talk about the European Union and how much we owe it but it owes us €200 billion in terms of our fish stocks and it is people like Senator O'Donovan who defend the fishing reserves of the country. In the Chair, he was open-hearted and reasonable. I think I only saw him lose his temper once and I will not sully the record of the House by disclosing where it was. It gives me great pleasure in this moment of my brief glory to call a very popular Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann, Senator O'Donovan. I offer him my strong support and send him my very best wishes for a splendid term as Cathaoirleach.
Tá an-bhród orm agus ar mo chlann go bhfuil an lá seo tagtha. Tá áthas mór orm bheith anseo inniu mar Chathaoirleach Sheanad Éireann. Cé nach bhfuil an Ghaeilge go flúirseach agam, molaim do na Seanadóirí go léir í a úsáid chomh minic agus is féidir. Tá grá mór agam don teanga, ach tá a lán de caillte agam de bharr easpa cleachtadh, is dócha. Mar sin, ba mhaith liom an Ghaeilge a úsáid chomh minic agus is féidir sa seomra seo.
I am very honoured and privileged, as is my family, and I am reflecting on a matter. My father used to tell us a few stories over the old open fire. I am not sure from where the quotation comes but it flips into my mind today and it is important to mention it.
Do I sleep? do I dream?
Do I wonder and doubt?
Are things what they seem?
Or is visions about?
I might have to ask the Clerk Assistant to pinch me later to see whether this is real.
I pay tribute to all those who voted for me, to my proposer, Senator Ardagh, and my seconder, Senator Daly. Both very eloquently said things about me which I am not sure I deserve. I also acknowledge the contest by the Sinn Féin lady. It is important to have contests and, as I have said to Senator Ó Clochartaigh and others, I do not bear grudges and I will be fair, reasonable and impartial in the Chair and in all my dealings and to the best of my ability.
I did not write a big speech but wrote a few brief notes. It is a great occasion for my family and I particularly welcome and pay tribute to my soulmate and rock, Eileen, my partner of 11 years. I do not know how she has put up with me. Without her, I do not know if I would have had the impetus to run for election, particularly as I must travel from west Cork to the Seanad. I sometimes did not get home for a month. If one goes to the west or to Donegal, it is a long way back to west Cork. Also here today are my sons Luke, Gerard and Donnachada. My daughter, Naomi, is a midwife and, unfortunately, she is not here due to duties in Cork University Hospital. Her priority is delivering babies, so I will excuse her for that purpose today. I have seven sisters and here today is my sister Sheila, who I do not remember emigrating to the United States because I was a baby. She sent home dollars to her family in west Cork, which was typical at the time, when I could not wipe my own backside.My sister Margaret and my brother Thomas, who are great supporters of mine, are here. I am very fortunate to have a family which is very united. When one of us is down or is defeated in an election, they all come together. Unfortunately, due to numbers, some of my family could not get into the House. Watching in the AV Room is my daughter-in-law Claire O'Flynn, or now O'Donovan, and Marion, with two of my grandchildren, Ellie and Tom. Glenda, Eileen's daughter, is there also with Anna, as is my brother-in-law Finbarr O'Donoghue, Aidan McCarthy, a supporter, Kevin Murphy, Kathleen Lane and Tony Lane. Unfortunately, due to the restrictions today, only some - I think, seven or eight - could get into the House.
We are in a totally new Seanad and I congratulate all the new Senators. I congratulate, in particular, Senator Jerry Buttimer, the new Leader of the House, a very prudent appointment by the Taoiseach, the Whips and all the Members. As somebody said, there are 42 new Senators. It is a huge occasion. I was appointed to the Seanad in 1989. I believe this is my fifth term here and I stood for seven Dáil elections, for my sins. I am not sure if it is a bit of madness but sometimes I think that maybe it is dedication to public life. It is 31 years - June 1985 - since I was first elected to the council for the old Skull electoral area. As I was celebrating my victory on 21 June of that year, a very sad event happened off our coastline in south-west Cork, namely, the blowing up of the Air India aeroplane by, I think, Sikh separatists, although it was never proved. Many of the bodies and the debris were brought to Cork. There is a little memorial in my home parish of Ahakista and it is a site I am very proud of. One of my first jobs as a young councillor was to propose that the community would provide a site for the Indians and the Canadians at which to mourn. They come over every year and the anniversary is coming up. That is one of the memories I have.
I acknowledge the presence of a great friend of mine, former Cathaoirleach, Mr. Rory Kiely. I also welcome another great friend who came into the Seanad with me back in 1989, Mr. Francie O'Brien, and a former Leader of the House, the inimitable Mr. Donie Cassidy. I pay tribute to Senator Terry Leydon who democratically and fairly challenged me for the position within my own group. Many Members families and friends in the Visitors Gallery but there is one person in the Visitors Gallery who I would like to mention because her late husband was a great friend of mine. It is a great honour that Máire Ardagh is here with her daughter, Senator Catherine Ardagh. I could write a book, some of which might not be printed, on the exploits I had with Seán over the years. He was a great colleague of mine. He passed away recently and I am sure he is here is spirit with both Máire and Catherine.
I wish to mention friends of mine in the Visitors Gallery, including Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony from west Cork. I am very proud that she is here. I did not do a lot for her in her election campaign but I did a small bit. Deputies Dara Calleary and Darragh O'Brien are present and I am delighted they are here to support me.
Today is an extraordinary day. It is a new Seanad. Many have praised all the new Members and I wish them all well. It is a challenge in that the structure of the Seanad is most unique, with six new groups. I thank all those who supported me, including some of the Independents and, in particular, the Labour Party. I also thank Fine Gael for its support. To those who did not support me, I acknowledge that is their democratic right.
I will list all our former colleagues who soldiered with us for the past five years and who made strong contributions in different ways. I will do so apolitically and in the order I printed off who lost out and is not back here and who decided not to run, so that they are not forgotten. We had a lovely intelligent girl here the last time, Ms Kathryn Reilly from Sinn Féin. There was Mr. Tony Mulcahy, Mr. John Gilroy, a fellow Corkman, Mr. Paul Bradford, who was here for a long time and joined Cork County Council with me in June 1985, and Ms Cáit Keane, a Fine Gael Senator. Some of them fought in the Seanad election but did not make it and some of them fought in the Dáil election. There was Ms Averil Power and Mr. Fearghal Quinn, who a bit like Senator Norris, the father of the House, made a huge contribution here over the years.There was Mr. Michael Mullins of Fine Gael, Ms Fidelma Healy Eames, Ms Marie Moloney of Labour from Kerry, Mr. Tom Sheahan and Mr. Paschal Mooney. Paschal was a tremendous contributor here on many issues and I was sad, even though we were on the same panel, that he lost out. There was also Mr. Michael Comiskey, Mr. James Heffernan, Mr. Jim D'Arcy, Ms Mary Moran, Ms Susan O'Keeffe, Labhrás Ó Murchú and Mr. Jim Walsh. There is one I see missing here from the list, that is, a great character who, unfortunately, is not back here, fondly known as "the Scobe", Mr. Terry Brennan from Carlingford in Louth. It is important to remember them.
At this juncture it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the great job done by the Acting Cathaoirleach today, Senator David Norris. I have known David for four decades. On a personal basis, I have huge admiration for what he has done. He is a poet, a scholar, a rascal and he can be a thorny contributory here in this House. Having said all that, I admire those who try. There are victors and vanquished. Senator Norris was strong enough and made a unique election by putting his name forward for the Presidency, and that is something that stuck out. Perhaps if the ball broke differently for him he could well have been in the Áras. However, our current President, Michael D. Higgins, is doing a wonderful job. I do not intend to ráiméis on. I think I have covered most of the points I wanted to make. There will be other days for speeches.
However, I wish to acknowledge that the Twenty-fifth Seanad is an unusual Seanad. There are Members here with immense contributions to make. I would hope that there would be some cohesion here because sometimes we can be abrasive. There is the Whips system and the challenging situation of the Government versus the rest, etc. If this Seanad is to make a mark, we must rise above that. The Seanad, in its contribution, is supposed to be more than just Members reading the morning newspapers, listening to "Morning Ireland" or one of the chat shows and trying to come in and make a point on what is common knowledge on the business of the day. There are Members here who can come in of their own right and bring up issues from across the board.
Senator Norris mentioned my attempts over many decades to raise the plight of the fishermen and the way they were badly treated by Europe. Unfortunately, as Cathaoirleach, I will have to bí cúramach, watch myself and not take sides. However, there are many, many issues. I look at the Senators across the Chamber. I have met practically all of them, bar two or three, and note the quality of the people who are in here. It is up to everyone here as individuals to make this Seanad work. If we want to be cynical on this issue, we can, with the maximum vote of the Government at any given time probably being 21 or 22, ensure that no legislation gets through or whatever. Sometimes Governments have brought in important legislation and sometimes, when we do not get all our own way, we must concede that where a Bill is 90% acceptable, but there is 10% one strongly disagrees with, one does not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
There will be many issues for the Seanad to deal with. I hope that it will be a fruitful and unique reform Seanad and that when this Seanad ends, however long it will last and whatever the tenure will be, it will be a Seanad that will be remembered for the contribution that we, as a group or individually, will make. My wish is that it will be an extraordinarily good and constructive Seanad and that divisions, when they take place, will be for a reason.
A few Senators have indicated they want to say a few words. I will start with the Leader of the House, Senator Buttimer, whom I again congratulate and wish well.
Ar an gcéad dul síos, ar mo shon féin agus ar son Fhine Gael, ba mhaith liom mo chomhghairdeas a dhéanamh leat agus ardtacaíocht a thabhairt duit mar Chathaoirleach an tSeanaid. Bain taitneamh as an lá. Is lá bródúil é do do chlann agus do do pháirtí, Eileen.
In congratulating the Cathaoirleach, I pledge to him my support and that of the Fine Gael Members. We look forward to working with the Cathaoirleach in ensuring that this Seanad is a Seanad of reform and that it is one that will define how politics in this House is done in the future.
I pay tribute to the Cathaoirleach. I had the pleasure of getting to know him in the previous Seanad and to count him as a friend. Senator Norris was being a little unfair when he mentioned the harbours.He nearly managed to put the harbours Bill into the ether with the length of his speeches and the tome of work from which he read. He comes to the office of Cathaoirleach with huge knowledge and a wealth of experience in local and national government. We will work with him to ensure our business is carried out in a way that is beneficial to the workings of the House. I look forward to working with everybody in the House.
As I stated, I commend and thank Senator Rose Conway-Walsh for contesting. It is important in a democracy that there be a contest. It is healthy.
The membership of this Seanad is vastly different from that of the last one. There is a change in the order of over 75%, the biggest in the history of the Seanad. That will bring its own challenges. I join the Cathaoirleach in paying tribute to the outgoing, retiring and defeated Members of the last Seanad for the immense work they did. I welcome a former Leader of the House, Mr. Donie Cassidy, a former Cathaoirleach, Mr. Rory Kiely, and former Senator Francis O’Brien to the House.
It is not a day for long speeches, but I wish to make two final remarks. I join the Cathaoirleach in paying tribute to our late friend Seán Ardagh and sympathising with the Ardagh family. I also extend my sympathy to Senator Grace O’Sullivan of the Green Party whose father, John, passed away after the election. I sympathise with her and her sister in Waterford, Councillor Lola O’Sullivan.
This is a day of celebration for all of us in the House. It is a day on which we acknowledge and embrace what is good about Irish politics, that is, that the Upper House can meet in such august settings, with the country and the world watching us. We are joined by people from across the world, which means that there is an international dimension to our work today, one which will continue, I am sure, under Senator Billy Lawless.
I thank the staff of the Seanad Office for their courtesy to all of us. I also thank the staff of the Houses for their support, particularly for the new Members. The work and courtesy of the staff of the Seanad Office and staff around the Houses belittle the criticism one hears of public servants. I thank them on my own behalf and that of the Cathaoirleach for their work and dedication to the new Members.
I wish the Cathaoirleach the best of luck. We all wish him well. I am sure he will have more difficulty with his own Members than with those us on this side of the House. We will work in collaboration. If we want to see new politics achieve anything, it will have to be about collaboration and what happens in the future. It must be about reform and redefining how politics is conducted. I look forward to working with all Members, particularly the Cathaoirleach. This is his day. He deserves the honour of being elected Cathaoirleach. He is a decent, honourable, good Corkman and I look forward to working with him.
When I came up here, I was slightly sidetracked by Senator David Norris who put me in the Minister’s chair for a while. I thank the Captain of the Guard, Mr. John Flaherty, for escorting me to the Chair. I should have said this at the start.
On the list of people I read I noticed that one of the most able contributors to the last Seanad was probably an anchorman on the Government side, Senator Maurice Cummins, who is a great friend of mine. I really felt sorry that he had lost out. His name is not on my list, but that is my problem. I wish to mention the tremendous work he did as Leader of the Seanad for the past five years.
My predecessor, Senator Paddy Burke, was tremendously able. He is fairly quiet-spoken and probably milder than I am. In five years we did not exchange a cross word. When he was away or absent, for whatever reason, as sometimes happened, I performed my responsibilities as Leas-Chathaoirleach. The Senator was a pleasure to work with and a gentleman and he is back in the House again.
On the order of Members’ contributions, it is important that Senator Rose Conway-Walsh who put her name forward be let say a cúpla focal. It is good to have a contest.
Comhghairdeas leis an Cathaoirleach. I wish him and his family the very best in the time ahead. On the left and the right we see a perfect example of the love that dare not speak its name. What a beautiful baby they have produced in the Cathaoirleach. I am sure his daughter, Naomi, will agree, given the useful work she does. It is not unnatural, nor is it something about which people are concerned on the ground.However, on behalf of the Sinn Féin team of seven Senators I have the privilege to lead, I wish the Cathaoirleach well. He can be assured of our support and co-operation. I also thank Senator Buttimer for his kind words. I want to be associated with those words spoken about his courageousness and the good work he has done.
On this special centenary year, the electorate presented us with a unique dispensation to make the Seanad count for the ordinary people across the Thirty-two Counties, to count for the families and children with autism struggling to get services and supports, to count for the people in my community and rural Ireland who spend their last days on this earth on hospital trolleys and for those experiencing mental health difficulties. It is important that we remember the 451 people who died as a result of suicide in the past year. The Seanad must count for the people sitting the leaving certificate today. I particularly want to acknowledge the young people sitting the leaving certificate applied. The struggles many of them have had and the obstacles they have overcome to sit those examinations are what drives me and the rest of my team on to make this Seanad count for them and to acknowledge what they have done. I particularly want to make the Seanad count for rural Ireland, jobs, broadband and emigration. I am delighted that, like me, the Cathaoirleach has a special interest in fishing and farming. He knows the unfairness with which our fishing communities have been dealt with in recent years and which causes fishermen to risk their lives. Unfortunately, it has cost the lives of many fishermen across the country. He is also aware of proposals such as a single boat payment. I look forward to working with the Cathaoirleach on this.
As we all bring experience and expertise to the Seanad, we must not get stuck in raising awareness. We are in a privileged position in that we can influence policy which will matter to the people, as well as protect and affect the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society. I want to imagine supports and services will be delivered from a human rights perspective. What a difference it could make if many of our health practitioners and others were trained in human rights to put people to the front and at the centre of everything they do.
Sinn Féin is determined to effect change from this Chamber. The only and first way to do this is through reforming the Seanad substantially. That is why we tabled a motion on Seanad reform which suggests the creation of a sub-committee to examine this matter over a period of six weeks. The key reason we want to do this is to ensure that the 42 new Senators have an input into that matter. I acknowledge the recommendations contained in the Manning report and the draft Bill. However, it is important to take up the proposal for a six-week examination to see how we can do business better.
I look forward to working with everybody across all parties. Let us put our heads together and make the Seanad count for the ordinary people who are really depending on us.
I congratulate Senator O'Donovan on his decisive election as Cathaoirleach of the Twenty-fifth Seanad. It is an enormous honour that he is serving in this important position in this commemorative year. I also pay tribute to Senator Paddy Burke, an excellent Cathaoirleach, as well as those former Cathaoirligh in the Gallery.
The Cathaoirleach has experience and knowledge from his former role as Leas-Chathaoirleach. I know he will treat this House fairly. Every Member is elected equally. We are all Members of the Twenty-fifth Seanad. How we are elected or come to serve here is set out in the Constitution.Nobody has greater rights than anybody else, whether by virtue of their experience or the method by which they were elected. We were all elected in accordance with the Constitution.
I look forward to a very productive Seanad over the coming years. The Seanad has an enormous opportunity to bring forward Private Members' Bills. For years, I tried to get a Bill through the House. On one occasion, I got it through and all the parties - Fine Gael, the Labour Party, Fianna Fáil - agreed with it. When we returned in the previous Seanad, one of the Government Ministers rejected it. I hope it will be brought before the House and passed, with the approval of Fianna Fáil. It is called the Registration of Wills Bill. This is the first opportunity since the foundation of the State that we will have an opportunity in the Dáil and Seanad to bring legislation through the Oireachtas.
Senator Jerry Buttimer will play a very important role as a very progressive Leader of the House. I also acknowledge the leader of the Fianna Fáil party, Senator Catherine Ardagh, and I am glad her mother is here today. I also acknowledge the deputy leader, Senator Mark Daly, the Whip, Senator Diarmuid Wilson, and the deputy Whip, Senator Gerry Horkan, and all the spokespersons appointed by the Fianna Fáil leader last night. I wish them well in their work.
I ask the Leader to consider putting a joint motion before the House in the next week or so for the immediate release of an Irish citizen, Ibrahim Halawa, who is in prison in Cairo, Egypt. He has served 1,000 days and has said it was like 1,000 years. His mass trial has been delayed 13 times. The next trial date has been set for some time in June. Amnesty has conducted a review of the prosecution evidence and concluded that Ibrahim Halawa would not have committed the crimes for which he has been charged. The Twenty-fifth Seanad must campaign for the immediate release of Ibrahim Halawa. We have tremendously experienced people in the House, human rights advocates and legal experts, and we could take it on very quickly. This young man is languishing, in terms of suffering and torture, in jail in Cairo.
I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, to come to the House and explain the situation as quickly as possible. Could the Leader make contact with the Minister to see if we can get an up-to-date report on the situation? Could all 60 of us unite in putting forward a motion to the Egyptian Government to release that young man as soon as possible?
On behalf of the Labour Party group, I welcome Senator Denis O'Donovan's election as Cathaoirleach and wish him well and comhghairdeas. He will make an excellent Cathaoirleach. I welcome the appointment of Senator Jerry Buttimer as Leader of the Seanad, and leader of the Fine Gael group. I saw how well the Senator chaired the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children during the previous term of the Dáil and Seanad. He will do well and I look forward to working with him and with Senator Catherine Ardagh, as leader of the Opposition. She will make an excellent leader. I knew her father, who chaired the justice committee when I was first elected to the Seanad. He was a superb representative.
It is not a day for long political speeches. We will all work together in a spirit of collaboration and new politics in this new Seanad to be an effective and progressive Upper House. We all feel very strongly about particular issues around equality, human rights and social justice. I agree with Senator Leyden that a joint, cross-party motion, agreed by all the leaders of the different groups, on the release of Ibrahim Halawa would be a very good way for the new Seanad to begin its work. There are many other issues on which we will all be working over the coming years and I look forward to working with all the Senators in that spirit. It can be a very exciting and progressive Seanad and I look forward to it.
It is a great pleasure and privilege for me to stand along with the 59 other Senators who have the privilege and honour to be here to work for and on behalf of the Irish people.I am delighted for your good self, a Chathaoirligh, that you have been elected. I have known you for five years, although not as long as many others in the House. I worked with you on the justice committee and your contributions were always constructive. Indeed, one of the best reports produced during the previous Seanad was the public consultation committee's report on farm safety. It was a groundbreaking report, which gained enormous publicity and took a shot on behalf of farm safety. The people who had lost loved ones as a result of farm accidents were pleased that the Seanad made farm safety such a priority. That was an example of new politics that was initiated in the previous Seanad. We are talking about various forms of new politics but with the greatest of respect to the previous Seanad, there was a great deal of consensus as well as division. Members such as the Cathaoirleach, Senator Paddy Burke, and the former Leader made an honest effort at new politics through the Seanad Public Consultation Committee and by allowing many debates. I look on that very much as the starting point. We have a great deal of work to do.
I congratulate my good friend, Senator Buttimer, on becoming Leader. His record speaks for itself. He will be Leader of the most exciting Seanad ever because of the diversity in the various groups and the many talented individuals among those of us who were lucky enough to serve in the previous Seanad along with the many new Members who bring a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise to this Chamber.
We are entering an era of consensus politics. The election on 26 February threw up a result that many had predicted but few were prepared for. That result has forced people to start working together. It certainly has forced my party and Fianna Fáil to at least start a dialogue of understanding and co-operation. That type of politics works in other parts of the world and other parts of Europe, such as in Germany and in the Netherlands. I refer to the new committee on budgetary scrutiny. That is the norm in other European countries where similar committees work well. The Budget Statement should be a summation of the work of the committee.
The House not only has a role in supporting and advising Government but it also has a role in coercing, cajoling and forcing Government to do the right thing. The House has always championed human rights issues and there is positive legislation on the Statute Book to protect human rights but more is needed. For example, the State has not yet ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. It is a crying shame that the country has not done so. The House should and will champion that as time goes on. We also need to promote and develop the mindset of people. They cannot just subscribe to equality; they need to believe it. Many of our citizens promote equality but others do not necessarily and we need to appeal to their hearts and minds as well.
The House has a huge opportunity. We can drive political reform in this country and we can make political reform happen. The House has a proud history and will have a fantastic future.
Before I call on my good friend and another Kerry Senator, Ned O'Sullivan, to say a few words, I would like to acknowledge the presence in the Gallery of Mr. George Jeffery. He represents the Munster Agricultural Society Company Ltd., which is my nominating body. Fortunately for him, Senator Lombard, another west Corkman, and I were both elected and I am delighted he is present.
Cuireann sé gliondar chroí orm mo sheanchara, Donncha Ó Donnabháin, a fheiscint tofa mar Chathaoirleach ar Seanad Éireann. Tá an gradam seo fíor tuillte aige, mar is duine agus polaiteoir den chéad scoth é. Guím rath Dé ar an obair tábhachtach atá roimhe. It is a great joy for me personally to see my old friend elected as Cathaoirleach of the Seanad. He was elected virtually by acclaim - almost unprecedented acclaim. In fairness to Sinn Féin Senators who it is clear were entitled to put forward their own very able candidate, even the ranks of Tuscany could scarcely forbear from cheering when the Cathaoirleach was elected. That is a tribute to his standing in Leinster House, both formerly as a Deputy, latterly as a Senator and today as Cathaoirleach. As Senator Mark Daly said, he has proved himself in the arena. He and I were elected to local government in June 1985 - he was elected in County Cork, while I was elected in County Kerry. He has fought a great fight for his party and his beliefs in the council, the Dáil and the Seanad, from the hard cockpit of real politics in west Cork. He is a credit to his party, supporters and Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony and, of course, a great credit to his partner, Eileen, his brothers, sisters and the rest of his family. It is a proud day for him and I am glad to be here to share it with him.
This will be a great Seanad. I like new politics, but there will only be new politics when we are in a situation where we have to make it work. We have many templates from elsewhere in Europe where there are minority governments, but we are Irish and will do it the Irish way. However, we will have to learn. We will have to invent our own wheel and I am sure we will do so in both the Dáil and the Seanad.
I compliment my former colleague, Senator Jerry Buttimer, who is a great choice as Leader. He will find himself in the funny position where he will be poacher turned gamekeeper because when he was here last, he gave the then Leader an awful time. It will be fun watching how he will progress.
I will mention only one former Member. We all sense the loss of the former Leader, former Senator Maurice Cummins. He was a pure gentleman who was popular on all sides of the House. He gave great service as Leader, but that is politics - good and bad things happen. However, he is still a young man and beidh lá eile aige.
I will not make a long speech, but we have lots to do and what an eclectic bunch we have. Naturally enough, the media will focus on the Independents, the university Senators and those on the left. However, we should not forget that those of us from rural areas of Cork, Kerry and Donegal have plenty to say here also.
Comhghairdeachas, a Chathaoirligh. I offer warm congratulations to the Cathaoirleach on his election. I will say a few words on behalf of the Civil Engagement Group. I also congratulate the new Leader of the House, Senator Jerry Buttimer.
We very much look forward to being part of the new dynamic. Both the Cathaoirleach and the Leader have expressed their interest in and commitment to new ways of doing politics and new ways of working together. We have an extraordinary opportunity with a very diverse group of Members. We will have ideas coming from all sides of the House, not simply the Independents. There are many exciting and new ideas from all of the political parties which will have a chance to flourish and bloom as we work together, moving past any complacency while working creatively and co-operating on the motions that have been proposed. We have already heard talk about motions today. We have heard, for example, ideas about legislation being really tested, debated and discussed on its merits. We have also heard about a commitment to human rights from all sides of the House. I hope that commitment to public duty, for example, on equality and human rights, will be part of the merits that we will, as a House, look for in legislation. Those of us in the Civil Engagement Group are very excited to be part of that process. We come from all civil society movements. This House can be a key point of engagement for civil society in the wider political and legislative process. We are, of course, also happy to support the proposals mentioned on Seanad reform, but the chance to debate them and the Bill we have put forward will come on another day.Again, I offer my congratulations. We look forward to working under the Cathaoirleach's stewardship.
At the end of my few words, I was going to note that the Cathaoirleach is a west Cork man. I know that Senator Buttimer's roots are also in west Cork, and, as was mentioned, Bernie is also in the audience. As a proud Westmeath man, I find myself in the precarious position that, irrespective of whether I am at home or at work, I will be answerable to somebody from west Cork. I will just have to get used to it.
I congratulate the Cathaoirleach. Many Members have worked with him over a 30-year period, whereas I have only got to know him since the start of the Seanad election campaign. As they say, however, first impressions give the best reflections. While we were on the same panel for the same party, scurrying after the same votes throughout the country, I was - like a young footballer coming onto a team - often left wide open whereas the Cathaoirleach was the senior hard hitter. He could have taken me out at any time but, irrespective of that, he was a thorough gentleman. Any conversation or communication we had was always full of advice, goodwill and good wishes. As I said, I formulated my opinion on first impressions and, as has been reiterated by everyone who has spoken, I got it right. Senator O'Donovan was an honourable gentleman during the campaign and he is the ideal man for Cathaoirleach. Although this is my first occasion in the, I have been watching politics and often watched "Oireachtas Report", so I know he was an excellent Leas-Chathaoirleach. I know he will bring all of those qualities to the Chair.
Like most of those who have spoken, I have come to this House with a brief. Today is the Cathaoirleach's day but I am looking forward greatly to the Chamber beginning to function so we can start raising the issues we want to highlight and dealing with the problems we are here to solve. Today is not that day; today is his day. I again give my heartiest congratulations to the Cathaoirleach, to Eileen and to his entire extended family.
Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a ghabháil leat, a Chathaoirligh. Cuireann sé gliondar i mó chroí a chluinstin go bhfuil tú ag iarraidh níos mó Ghaeilge a úsáid anseo agus an teanga a chur chun cinn.
I want to congratulate the Cathaoirleach on his election and I look forward to working with him during the coming Seanad term. There is much diversity among the individuals in the Chamber but, for all our egos and idiosyncrasies, all eyes will not be on us today. The boys in green are heading to Paris and, if Twitter is anything to go by, they are currently over England on the aeroplane, and are tweeting away. I know those in this Chamber will send their best wishes and good luck to both teams from the island that are heading to the European Championships.
I congratulate Senator Buttimer on his appointment. I ask that he consider bringing the Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources before the House. I certainly hope Ireland are in the European Championships for as long as they possibly can be, but there many issues faced by those of us living in the North. Unfortunately, we cannot access many of the games via RTE and, despite the very positive news advertised by RTE and the FAI that much of the commentary would be available as Gaeilge for those who wanted to avail of it, this will not be available for viewers in the North, even for those who can watch the games. While I appreciate that it is one of the more minor issues, nevertheless, it is one which resonates with many people. If we are serious about promoting the profile and use of the language, we should put our money where our mouth is. Perhaps that is something the Leader, Senator Buttimer, will consider.
Go raibh maith agat, a Chathaoirligh. Caithfidh mé a rá go bhfuil an gliondar is mó i mo chroí inniu ós rud é go bhfuil tú tofa mar Chathaoirleach ar an Seanad.
On behalf of my family, I want to thank the Cathaoirleach for his kind words in regard to my father. Not only were they colleagues, I know he and my father were good friends. He will be delighted to see Senator O'Donovan elected today. As my colleague, Senator Paul Daly, said, this is not a day for any of us; it is a day for the Cathaoirleach and his family. I congratulate him and the his family. I hope he enjoys the day. I know he will preside over this House with fairness and integrity. I look forward to working with him, Senator Buttimer and Senator Conway-Walsh during the tenure of this House.
The next speaker is Senator Wilson, a long-standing Senator who has been a friend and colleague for many years. He has an unenviable job from time to time as Whip, and has served as Government and Opposition Whip. Across the House many Members state he is not just the Whip but also a gentleman. I will let him say a few words and ask him not to be too hard on me.
On my behalf and on behalf of his former colleagues in Fianna Fáil, I congratulate Senator O'Donovan on his election as Cathaoirleach of this great Chamber. It is a great day, as colleagues have said, not only for him but for his partner, Eileen, his sons, daughter, sisters, brothers, grandchildren and his many supporters and friends in west Cork. It is a great honour to be Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann and I am delighted he has succeeded to this great role.
I pay tribute to the outgoing Cathaoirleach, Senator Paddy Burke, who was very fair, balanced and impartial. I wish him well in his many years ahead as a Member of the House. I also congratulate the Leader of the House, Senator Jerry Buttimer, or as some former colleagues used to refer to him, Senator Butterfield, on his appointment. I have known Jerry for many years. When the Cathaoirleach and Senator O'Sullivan were first elected to public office, Senator Buttimer and I were in college together. Little did we know we would end up yet again in the same Chamber. I am delighted for him and I congratulate him wholeheartedly on his appointment.
I acknowledge the presence of the iar-Chathaoirleach of the House, Rory Kiely. I have the unique distinction of being the only person he put out of the House when he was Cathaoirleach, when I would not sit down when ordered to do so. Nevertheless, he is very welcome today and I am glad to see him so hale and hearty. I also welcome my former colleague from Monaghan, Francie O'Brien, a good personal friend of mine. They are both very welcome and I am delighted to see them here this afternoon.
I congratulate everybody on their election or re-election to the House. It is a great honour for any of us to serve in this great Chamber. Like other colleagues, my thoughts are with those who sought re-election but were unsuccessful. In particular, I fondly remember the former Leader, Maurice Cummins, with whom I worked very closely.
I look forward to the term ahead. How long it will be none of us knows. I hope it will be a couple of years at least. We all have a contribution to make regardless of from what background we come. Seanad reform, in my opinion, must come from the Chamber itself. I congratulate those who have tabled motions and legislation in this regard. Combining the knowledge and experience on all sides we can come up with a reformed Seanad that is acceptable to everybody.
Once again, I congratulate the Cathaoirleach on his election and look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead.
I congratulate the Cathaoirleach on being elevated to the position. I have no doubt he will make an excellent Cathaoirleach. He comes to the Chamber with a wealth of knowledge and experience. He has been a Member of the other House and this House over a long number of years. He has chaired many committees and has been a member of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges for a long number of years. He has a wealth of experience which I know he will bring to the position of Cathaoirleach. I have no doubt he will need all the experience he has, given the diversity in the House. If we had had Seanad reform before this I do not know whether it would have thrown up the many changes that have come to the House at this particular time.I wish the Cathaoirleach well and congratulate him again. It is a great day for him and his family.
I thank the staff of the House for their co-operation in the past few years, including the Clerk of the Seanad, Ms Deirdre Lane, who is not with us today and the Clerk Assistant, Mr. Martin Groves. The House has a very small staff. I believe there are only four or five and they do a tremendous job. The House sits long hours from 10.30 a.m. to on some occasions 10.30 p.m. or midnight and perhaps all night long, but we are still left with only four or five staff. They have given tremendous service to the country for many years and I take the opportunity to congratulate them.
I wish Senator Jerry Buttimer well as Leader of the House and leader of the Fine Gael group. I congratulate him on his elevation to his post, as I do Senator Catherine Ardagh as the leader of the main Opposition party. I commiserate with my county colleague, Senator Rose Conway-Walsh. I wish her well and no doubt there will be another day.
I, too, wish to be associated, as I am sure everybody here does, with the very important and kind remarks made by Senator Paddy Burke about the staff of the House who do tremendous work which sometimes goes unappreciated.
Ba bhreá liom comhghairdeas a ghabháil leis an gCathaoirleach agus lena mhuintir, dár ndóigh. Go mairfidh a phost nua. Tá sé tuillte go maith aige. Níorbh aon cháineadh é ar an Seanadóir Conway-Walsh gur éirigh leis an Seanadóir O'Donovan inniu. Táim cinnte go mbeidh sí go hiontach mar Sheanadóir. Is cinnte, ón vóta a bhfuair sé inniu, go raibh fhios ag gach duine anseo dáiríre nach amháin go bhfuil an saineolas aige - is cinnte ó bheith ag breathnú air go dtí seo an cur amach atá aige ar na rialacha agus an saineolas atá aige ó bheith páirteach i gcoistí éagsúla - ach freisin go bhfuil an cuirtéis aige mar dhuine, ó bhí sé sa chathaoir mar Leas-Chathaoirleach. Táimid fíor-bhródúil as agus guímid gach rath air. As I said, I congratulate the Cathaoirleach who very much deserves this appointment. His expertise, knowledge of the Standing Orders of the House and courtesy show that it is not his first time in the Chair. Everybody realises he is eminently fit for the position he now holds. I congratulate him and all of his family.
I also congratulate the new Leader of the House, Senator Jerry Buttimer, who was one of the best hecklers when he was previously in the House. I believe it was former Senator Phil Prendergast who dubbed him "Senator Butt-in-more" on one occasion, but that is in no way to take from his substance. He is a fine politician who will make an excellent contribution. We look forward to witnessing his hard work, but he has his work cut out for him. It is a while since a Leader did not enjoy a majority in the House.
"New politics" has become an awful cliché, but we all look forward to working with each other. It is, in many way, the Seanad of all the talents. D'fhéadfainn a rá gur Seanad ildánach atá ann agus go bhfuil daoine le gach sórt scile agus saineolais anseo, idir ghnó, leigheas agus go leor rudaí eile.
This promises to be a very interesting time in the Seanad. We have all longed to prove to the public what the Seanad can be. During the Seanad abolition referendum campaign many of us pointed out that the way forward was not to abolish the Seanad, as some present wanted to do, but to show how it could be effective as a review Chamber and in bringing forward amendments not unduly subject to party Whips and so on. We have a real chance to show the people what a vital role the Seanad could play in the formulation of policy and legislation, in particular. It is down to us to prove it.
I congratulate everyone present, including those who perhaps would rather be in the other House, but I am sure they already realise they have come to a more transcendental place where a higher form of existence awaits them. Let us all surprise each other with our openness to new ideas and initiatives. Let us look forward to making a real contribution to what will I hope be the continued recovery of the country.
I add my voice to all the other voices in congratulating Senator O'Donovan on being elected Cathaoirleach today. What will be required in the coming months and, hopefully, years will be exactly what the Cathaoirleach has done, namely, exude calmness. It will also require a relaxed person who will sit back and listen to the debate, who will move the debate along and who will ensure the debate has a finality but also a result. I have watched Senator O'Donovan doing just that in the Chair over the past five years. It is extremely important. Experience is important but if the person in the Chair does not show energy, calmness and interest in the debate, he or she will be quickly found out by the Senators.
I should have said at the outset that I am delighted to be sitting here with 42 new Senators and some of the old fogies, such as Senator Wilson, from the previous Seanad. I look forward to the debate.
What will be needed in this Seanad, and which I say against my own party and the other party in government on the previous occasion, is more respect for the House, for the Senators and for the work we must do in this House. In the previous Seanad, I sat long hours on many occasions. I held four spokesmanships and I treated each of those with the proper merit it deserved. However, I sat here with Ministers who did not show respect to the House. If we are to get work done and if the Government wants to get legislation through, we are now in a completely different world in terms of numbers and the numbers game. That is what I would like to go out from here today. The Government should respect us and we will respect it. If one comes in here with an attitude in terms of what one thinks about this House or otherwise, one will go out with a different attitude because respect will not be reciprocated.
I stood against my own party and canvassed for the retention of the Seanad. I have seen 13 reports on Seanad reform. For me, the most positive reform would be the willingness of the party in government to listen to good debate in this House from all quarters and to act and amend legislation where necessary. That would not require any reform. It would require a Cathaoirleach with common sense and respect from the Ministers who come in here. All of us 60 Senators have our own qualities, ability, integrity, knowledge and expertise. If we put all of that together, we will get better legislation on behalf of the people. That would be my wish.
I congratulate Senator Buttimer on his role. Like others here, I knew him first as a councillor. I also congratulate the other leaders, Senator Ardagh, Senator Conway-Walsh and, indeed, my own leader, Senator Bacik. I hope that we can work well together. We will have disagreements. That is part of democracy. We will vote against each other and with each other. That is also part of democracy. At the end of the day, however, our job is to see good legislation leave this House after us having put our stamp on it and I look forward to doing that.
Before I call Senator Ó Domhnaill, I mention one of my people who travelled with me today and who worked tirelessly and voluntarily for many years for me as a Deputy, as a Senator and as a councillor. He escaped to the other Gallery. I refer to Mr. Jimmy Collins, a former president of the INTO. My apologies for neglecting to mention him earlier.
I now call Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill. Ar aghaidh leat, mo chara.
Ba mhaith liom i dtús báire comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis na Seanadóirí úr tofa atá anseo inniu. Tá a fhios agam gur lá mór atá ann dóibh agus dá dteaghlaigh agus daoine muinteartha. Ba mhaith liom fosta comhghairdeas a dhéanamh le mo chomhghleacaithe go léir atá atofa anseo arís agus a bhfuil anseo chun seirbhís a dhéanamh ar son an Stáit sa thréimhse amach romhainn. Is dócha gurb é an rud is mó a theastaíonn uaim a rá ná comhghairdeas ó chroí a dhéanamh leat féin, a Chathaoirligh, tar éis duit bheith tofa anseo mar an 23ú Cathaoirleach ar Sheanad Éireann.Tá gliondar chroí orm go bhfuil tú tofa. Tá dílseacht bainte amach agat don Stát thar thréimhse fhada - níos mó ná scór go leith bliain. D'obair tú go crua anseo le cúig bliana anuas agus fiú roimhe sin nuair a chuaigh tú i ngleic go trom leis an dúshlán a bhaineann leis an tseirbhís phoiblí. Tá obair mhaith déanta agat thar ceann do lucht toghchánaíochta thar thréimhse fhada. Tá mé lán-cinnte go gcuirfidh tú seirbhís iontach isteach sa ról úr atá agat anois. Guím gach uile rath ort féin go pearsanta agus fosta ar do chlann agus ar do bhean, Eileen.
I congratulate everyone who was re-elected and also new Members who are here for the first time. It is a momentous occasion to be elected or appointed to one's own Parliament. I congratulate each and every colleague and particularly their families, especially those of the new Members.
The tone of the discussion has been very reflective, and rightly so. We have elected one of our own to lead the House as Cathaoirleach. If I am not mistaken, he is the 23rd Cathaoirleach of the Seanad since the foundation of the State. The 20th Cathaoirleach, Mr. Rory Kiely, is among us today in the Distinguished Visitors Gallery. Senator Denis O’Donovan will do the State incredible service as Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann over the coming period. His is a distinguished office. He has been a colleague of mine since I was first appointed to the Seanad in 2007. He has been diligent, effective, selfless and energetic, and he has always put the needs of others before his own. I am delighted to see him elected today. I wish him well.
It is a great day for west Cork and the Sheep's Head Peninsula. I had the distinguished honour of visiting Sheep's Head a short few years ago at the Senator’s request. I noted there the esteem in which he is held by his own people. He has done his own people in west Cork a great honour in being elected here today. I wish him well and also the people of west Cork and his family, including his partner Eileen and his boys.
A friend of many of the Senators is in the Gallery today, namely, Senator Francis O'Brien, who served here for many years. He will be very happy, along with Mr. Rory Kiely. It is great to see former Members with many years of experience. Perhaps they could give us some of that experience over the next while.
I wish the Cathaoirleach well. I congratulate the new Leader of Seanad Éireann, Senator Jerry Buttimer. I also congratulate and wish well the leader of the Fianna Fáil group, an Seanadóir Catherine Ardagh, who spoke so eloquently today.
Guím fad saoil agus gach rath ar an gCathaoirleach. He should remember he is only one of 23. Go raibh míle maith agat, a Chathaoirligh. Guím fad saol agat agus gach rath ort.
Despite my youthful appearance and status as a new Senator, I have the distinction of having come into the Seanad with the Cathaoirleach in 1989. I have very fond memories of that. It is for that reason I rise to congratulate him. Since that time, I have known him as an absolute gentleman. He brings his gentlemanly qualities into his interaction with colleagues. They are a facet of all aspects of his life and the reason he is in politics.He is here to do good and will be an excellent Cathaoirleach. I congratulate him warmly.
I congratulate Senator Jerry Buttimer, a colleague and friend with whom I served in a previous Seanad, on his selection as Leader. He is a person of great intelligence and personal courage within his personal life and in the public arena. I congratulate him warmly. I will leave the more ponderous remarks to another day when we discuss Seanad reform, which is a debate I would like to take part in and, on this felicitous day of camaraderie, welcome my former colleague and friend from County Monaghan, Francie O'Brien. I acknowledge my other constituency colleague who has been reinstated as Fianna Fáil Whip, Senator Diarmuid Wilson. He must be doing something right.
I congratulate the Cathaoirleach and wish him well for the next two, three, four or five years. I commiserate with my friend, Senator Rose Conway-Walsh, who I am delighted to see here today. We are coming from a background over the last 35 years of very difficult times. Today, Ireland is the 12th most peaceful country on the planet. A lot of people from all political parties have worked extremely hard to bring that situation about with the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Good Friday Agreement and its implementation. In the last Dáil, I was Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. A great deal of good work has gone on there and it is great today to see Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile coming down from Belfast as a Member of the Seanad. He will be a valued Member.
I would like to ensure that we talk about a united Ireland. We need to unite the people of Ireland. I was in Wales yesterday for the opening of the Welsh Assembly. There is a Parliament in Scotland, an Assembly in Northern Ireland, a House of Commons and a House of Lords and this House along with the Dáil and a lot more work can be done to bring together politicians from all parts to see what is done. In this building in the last three or four years, we have had meetings of the North/South Inter-Parliamentary Association with MLAs coming from the North and meeting in this room but it has gone unnoticed because it has not been reported on. It has meant a huge difference for me in terms of getting to know politicians from the other side. We sat in this Chamber and in Stormont.
There will be a great many serious issues to debate and I look forward to debating them. I was honoured to be a Member here from 2002 to 2007 and I am also honoured to be the Taoiseach's nominee. He chose extremely well. We talk about politics and it is a race to the bottom sometimes, but politicians come from their own backgrounds. Everyone here comes from a background that they can contribute. We were not all born politicians. We were born in business or academia or wherever else. I am very happy that there are so many Independents and parties here today who are willing to contribute. They will contribute very well to the next Seanad. The coming weeks will tell on one issue, which is the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom. Whatever happens will have profound implications for our State. Whatever happens in the coming months, I look forward to the debate in the Seanad on the implications of Britain staying in or going out. I am delighted to be here today and look forward to working with the Cathaoirleach and everyone else to ensure that this is the best Seanad we have ever had.
Senator Mark Daly mentioned my humble background earlier and the fact that I was fortunate that Donogh O'Malley introduced free education in 1967.A few of us got an education. My first leap into secondary education was at the old boys club in Bantry, which was no more than a glorified shed. My class was small, and seven of them have, unfortunately, gone to their eternal reward. I forgot earlier that one of my classmates, Phelim O'Sullivan and his wife, Jane, are in the Visitors Gallery. We go back a long way. He felt that going beyond the junior certificate, then called the intermediate certificate, was probably a leap too far for me. At least I am here now. I welcome them, along with my daughter-in-law, Claire, who has just come into the Visitors Gallery.
I join with all the words of congratulations to the Cathaoirleach, commiserate with my Mayo colleague, Senator Rose Conway-Walsh, and congratulate Senator Jerry Buttimer. I look forward to working with Senator Buttimer, who will make a very fine Leader. I understand the Cathaoirleach holds the distinction of having spoken for 28 hours on a piece of legislation, the Harbours (Amendment) Bill. I am sure he will show great latitude when we feel very impassioned about particular topics.
We have had many congratulatory statements, and rightly so. While we have focused on what is happening in the Chamber today, the public are asking when we are going to get on with the work. I propose that we take a motion that this House will sit tomorrow to debate one of a number of matters. We could take maiden speeches from those who wish to make maiden speeches. We have heard about the case of Ibrahim Halawa and the issues around Brexit and housing. We have former Ministers in the House who would have much to say about health issues. Now that all 60 Senators are on the payroll and are here and ready to work, we should get down to work. Let us get on with the new politics tomorrow rather than waiting. I see no reason why we should not do so.
It is a long point of order but I must rule it out of order. Standing Orders require the Seanad to fix a date for the election of the Cathaoirleach, immediately followed by the election of the Leas-Chathaoirleach. This is a constitutional provision and is also set out in Standing Orders. Whether we like it or not, under Standing Orders, a minimum notice period of four working days must be served before the election of the Leas-Chathaoirleach. I researched the point when I felt I might become Cathaoirleach. Unfortunately, we will have no Order of Business today. The only purpose for which we are called here today was to elect a Cathaoirleach and the other business must take place after the election of the Leas-Chathaoirleach next week. I have no choice in that, given that, even if we were to proceed with the election of the Leas-Chathaoirleach tomorrow, there would be objections that it was against Standing Orders. I am bound by this constitutional provision and I hope the Senator will submit to my ruling.
No, unfortunately. I think it is in Standing Order 179. There is no Order of Business today. This is how it is framed. With regret, not satisfaction, I must rule against the Senator on this occasion. I understand where he is coming from and maybe the issue can be raised on the next occasion. This is why I was asking the Leader when it is proposed to sit to elect the Leas-Chathaoirleach.