Dáil Éireann - Volume 456 - 10 October, 1995

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Seanad Éireann Vacancy.

4. Miss Harney asked the Taoiseach when he intends to nominate a person to fill the vacancy in Seanad Éireann. [13374/95]

The Taoiseach: This vacancy will be filled in due course and an announcement will be made in the normal way.

Miss Harney: Some time ago I wrote to the Taoiseach in relation to this vacancy and suggested a particular name. I do not want to go into that now but has the Taoiseach given consideration to appointing somebody free from a party whip, particularly someone who might reflect the Unionist perspective in Northern Ireland?

An Ceann Comhairle: We are having quite an expansion of this question now.

The Taoiseach: I have been accused of representing that perspective; one of the Sunday newspapers has portrayed me in that way. A final decision has not [1417] been made in regard to filling the position. It has been vacant for approximately three months but the previous Seanad vacancies, which were filled by my predecessor the day before he left office, had been vacant for eight and six months respectively and those people have been voting consistently against measures proposed by my Government even though they are my representatives.

Miss Harney: Will the Taoiseach give an assurance that he will give serious consideration to appointing somebody from Northern Ireland to fill this vacancy?

The Taoiseach: We will give serious consideration to it but I would not like to belittle the unusual situation in which the Government finds itself. Notwithstanding the fact that the Constitution provides that the Taoiseach of the day can nominate 11 Members so that the Government would have a majority in the Seanad, we are in a situation where the majority of those 11 nominees are now voting against the Government which I believe is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, although I am sure other people would argue a different point of view on that subject. I am sure they will listen to my views on that, now that they have been expressed in such a friendly tone. Obviously the Government's majority in the Seanad, in common political prudence, is a matter I have to take into account.

An Ceann Comhairle: May I remind the House before I entertain Deputy Bertie Ahern, that 30 minutes only are available to us for dealing with questions to the Taoiseach? I shall be going on to priority questions at 3.5 p.m. because of our lateness in commencing.

Mr. B. Ahern: As you will recall we were here. Will the Taoiseach accept that the vacancy created by the death of Gordon Wilson, who personified a desire for peace in the country, is not a [1418] normal vacancy? He represented a particular viewpoint in Seanad Éireann to great effect, as we all said in the House on the occasion of his death. There would be a hollow ring about it if he were not replaced by somebody from the North. I agree with the remarks made by Deputy Harney.

The Taoiseach: As the Deputy is aware my predecessor, on the day before he left office, appointed a person from Northern Ireland, a member of the Deputy's party now, Senator Haughey. It would be wrong to say that Northern Ireland is not represented. My understanding is that that Taoiseach's nominee, who is now my representative in the Seanad even though he does not vote frequently for my Government's proposals, represents Northern Ireland. I would have assumed that was one of the motives of my predecessor in appointing him. The void left by Gordon Wilson in the Seanad is unfillable in the sense that Gordon Wilson was able to fill it. He was quite a unique person in the oratory, compassion and commitment he had and his ability to bring a sense of truth and spirituality to the discussions in the Seanad on the most difficult moral issue this country is facing — namely, the peace process.