Seanad Éireann - Volume 20 - 19 May, 1936
Public Business. - Clerk and Assistant Clerk—Motion of Appreciation.
Mr. O'Farrell Mr. O'Farrell
Mr. O'Farrell: I move:—
That the Cathaoirleach be requested to acquaint Mr. Donal O'Sullivan, Clerk of the House, and Mr. Diarmuid Coffey, Assistant Clerk, that this House desires to express its appreciation of the manner in which they have uniformly discharged the duties of their important offices during the long period spent by them in the service of this House.
This motion, which it is my privilege to move to-day, is possibly the last that  the House will be asked to adopt. Regardless of Party affiliations or commitments, and notwithstanding the varying viewpoints which we hold on many questions, I think I can claim with confidence that there will be complete unanimity on the part of every section of the House, and of every member of it, so far as this motion is concerned. I had the great privilege of being a member of the first Seanad. I have had a continuous association with it from its first meeting until this day. I took part in its first discussion and it is my lot to-day to initiate what may be its last. I shall personally carry away many abiding memories of these anxious, historic years, but none more enduring than my recollection of the efficiency, loyalty, tireless energy and unfailing courtesy of our brilliant Clerk, Mr. Donal O'Sullivan, and his able assistant, Mr. Diarmuid Coffey.
Senators: Hear, hear.
Mr. O'Farrell Mr. O'Farrell
Mr. O'Farrell: When we came together in the early days of the infant State, we were largely an Assembly of individuals without Standing Orders to regulate our work, without established tradition to guide us and with only a few of our members having any previous Parliamentary experience. They were abnormal days, for there was civil war in the land and the future was dark and gloomy in the extreme. It was in these very unique and difficult circumstances that our newly-appointed officers took up their work, and well they discharged their task. It is only one like myself, who sat on the first Committee of Procedure and Privileges, who can form any comprehensive idea of the variety and the complexity of the task with which they were faced and the work which had to be done in order that this House might function efficiently and smoothly as a Parliamentary Assembly. It is true that in theory this work was primarily the responsibility of members of the House, but as happens in all such cases the great bulk of the duties devolved upon our Clerks. By intelligent research, by able memoranda, by assembling a whole fund of indispensable information, as well as by helpful suggestions put forward with great modesty, they made a major  contribution to the creation of the elaborate and smooth-running machinery by which the Seanad has since been enabled to discharge its various duties. Since then they have had many new duties and they were not easy. They have had many problems and they were complex, but they have brought to bear upon these the same unfailing ability and the same fidelity to the discharge of their duties, as they brought to their first task.
The Seanad had good cause to be thankful for the fact that it had for its first officers—and as it now proves, probably its last also—officials who were the best that any country could produce. Procedure and Parliamentary etiquette have hitherto prevented us from giving any public expression of our appreciation of their services, but the circumstances in which we meet to-day enable us to do so for the first and, I suppose, for the last time. I am sure every section of the House will avail of the opportunity with sincerity and enthusiasm. In saying that we shall be very sorry indeed to have to terminate our long association with Messrs. O'Sullivan and Coffey, may I be permitted to say, because of the circumstances in which we are assembled, what I think is uppermost in the mind of each of us-that we also regret having to say farewell to one another, at least in the capacities in which we have been working for the last 13 or 14 years? By our contacts and associations as members of the Seanad we learned to understand one another's viewpoint much better than if we had not met. We learned to put forward sharply opposing political viewpoints without recourse to that churlish and disorderly behaviour which has impaired the proceedings of other Assemblies older and more experienced than ours. We gradually learned that as citizens of the country we had more in common with one another than we thought originally to be the case.
I, for one, am grateful for having had the privilege of playing a part in the contribution which this House has made to the legislative code of this country during what was, perhaps, the most critical period in all its long history. We remember, too, with pride the fact that the House included at one  time or another in its membership, leading men and women of whom any country might well be proud, people such as the late Mrs. Stopford Green, the late Dr. Sigerson, Dr. Douglas Hyde and Dr. W.B. Yeats. We have had amongst us poets, dramatists and great writers. We have had also eminent representatives of industry, of the learned professions, of finance and of agriculture. We have had the lords of the manor and we have had the representatives of labour. In short, representatives of every aspect of Irish social and economic life have had their place in this Assembly and made a contribution to its deliberations. I believe personally that there have been no enemies of this land on the membership roll of this House. I believe that at heart each member was passionately devoted to his country, proud of its traditions, its history and its storied past. After all, different people have different methods of working for the same ideal, and patriotic speeches replete with fiery national sentiments are not the only means by which one can serve his country.
The battle for the life of this Assembly has been fought and lost. We must probably leave to other days and other men to say who has taken the right course and who has taken the reverse. At all events, I hope that every member of the Assembly voted for the course which he or she considered the best calculated to serve the nation's interest. That being the case, we, individually at least, accept the result without complaint and without asperity, although, perhaps, not without a little anxiety as to the future.
We met originally almost as strangers. We part to-day as colleagues and friends. With every apology for this digression, because of the special circumstances in which we are assembled, I would like on my own behalf and I believe on behalf of every member of this Assembly to assure Mr. O'Sullivan and Mr. Coffey that we deeply and sincerely appreciate the able and unselfish services that they have rendered to this House during the whole of its chequered history. We wish them and theirs the best of luck down through all the coming years.
Mr. Dowdall Mr. Dowdall
 Mr. Dowdall: As a member of this House since its inception, I desire to second the motion proposed by Senator O'Farrell, and to be associated with the expressions of appreciation of the untiring energy and unfailing courtesy of Mr. O'Sullivan and Mr. Coffey in their office as Clerk and Assistant-Clerk of this House. As you know, Sir, I am one of those who, from time to time, have exercised the right of private judgment in certain matters. At certain times I did not always agree with the decisions given by you, and subsequently went to discuss them with Mr. O'Sullivan and Mr. Coffey. Whether or not I agreed with them eventually, I never failed to come away satisfied that they were only actuated to do the right thing for the service and dignity of this Assembly, and for the well-being of the country. I am sure we all wish to be associated with the expressions of goodwill, happiness, success and good luck that have been voiced in their regard.
Mr. Jameson Mr. Jameson
Mr. Jameson: There was no member of the House, I think, better qualified to bring forward this motion than Senator O'Farrell. I have been associated with him from the beginning. Looking back over all the years that have passed since this House was established, when, if I may so put it, we used to be in each other's wool, I think I may say that as time has gone on we have learned to acquire a greater respect for each other's views. Senator O'Farrell has a very full and intimate knowledge of the work done by this House from the very beginning, so that in my opinion no better selection could have been made to bring forward a motion such as this. He has had an excellent opportunity of estimating the value of the work done by Mr. O'Sullivan and Mr. Coffey. The Senator's motion sets out in excellent diplomatic language what I am sure every member of the House feels. I would like to say, on behalf of both myself and of all those with whom I have been in the habit of working as a member of the Seanad, that we feel we owe a great debt of gratitude to both the Clerk and to the Assistant Clerk. Not only do we feel that, but we think that the whole Seanad owes them a great debt for the amenities  with which all our debates have been carried on. Their advice and their knowledge have ever been at our disposal. When difficult and critical legislative matters were to come before us, we have been able to go to them for advice, and in that way many of our difficulties were smoothed out beforehand for us. Both gentlemen have had a great effect upon the course of our debates here, and of the conduct of business in the House. That, I am sure, is what all of us feel, and what I know the latest recruits to the House must recognise. I am sure that both thoroughly understand that, as legislators and personally, we are parting with them with great regret indeed. We wish them in the future all health and happiness, and we feel that they will never regret the labours which they have rendered to this House.
Mr. Counihan Mr. Counihan
Mr. Counihan: As a member of the House since its inception, I would like to associate myself with the views expressed by previous speakers in praise of the services rendered to this Assembly both by Mr. O'Sullivan and by Mr. Coffey. Personally, I would like to express my own sincere appreciation of the help which I received from them. When I became a member of the House I had no knowledge of Parliamentary procedure, especially in regard to the drafting of amendments to Bills. I knew, of course, what I wanted to get done, and when I put my views before Mr. O'Sullivan and Mr. Coffey they were able to translate them into the correct Parliamentary forms, and in my opinion they always did so with great efficiency. It was a labour of love to them to assist every Senator who came to them seeking their advice.
Mr. Blythe Mr. Blythe
Mr. Blythe: As, perhaps, the Senator with the shortest service in the House, I wish to say that I agree with the Senators who have already spoken in regard to the manner in which the officials of the House have discharged their duties: very often difficult and delicate duties. As a member of the Government for a considerable time, I had contact with the officials of the House from another angle. I must  say that I always found, while the Government was met in every way, as it ought to be met, that the care that should be taken for the dignity, the right and interest of this House was taken by the officials, and that just as they discharged their duties impartially and courteously as between members of the House, they discharged them with the same courtesy and the same impartiality and the same correctness as between the House and the Government of the day which might have wanted business dealt with in a particular way, or which might have wanted concessions of one sort or another in regard to facilitating matters which the Government wish to be hurried.
I am perfectly sure that the work of the officials contributed greatly towards making the work of this House as efficient as it was, and towards giving this House a character that was in keeping with its duty and with its particular constitutional status. There is no doubt at all that the proceedings of the Seanad have always been marked by, I will not say an atmosphere of aloofness, but an atmosphere of impartiality and an absence of heat which undoubtedly gave great weight to the views expressed here. The rules of order, the precedents that were established and the influence that was exercised by the officials undoubtedly contributed very much towards that result.
Miss Browne Miss Browne
Miss Browne: May I add my small word to the gratitude that has been expressed and that we all feel so deeply towards Mr. O'Sullivan and Mr. Coffey? A woman, I think, feels it more difficult than a man to fill a position such as membership of this House entails. I have had my own difficulties since I came here, but in all my difficulties I had only to go to the two gentlemen whose names are included in this motion, when they were always smoothed out with unfailing courtesy. No matter how busy or how hurried they might be, both always found time to attend to my smallest request.
It is a thing of which I am proud—  perhaps it is the proudest boast that any woman could have—that I, in a very small, unworthy and humble way was found to be the person to fill the place left vacant by the death of Mrs. Stopford Green. I do not for one moment believe that I have been capable of filling that place as it should have been filled, but it is my greatest pride that the members of this House who gave me their votes when I was elected felt that I was in some way fitted to fill that place. If they had not thought so, I am sure they would not have given me their votes, and for that I am deeply grateful to them. I am very glad to be here to be able to give this small expression to my feelings on this occasion.
Mr. Farren Mr. Farren
Mr. Farren: I would like to say that I think I am the only member of the House present who was on the committee appointed by the House at its first meeting to interview and to select officers for the House. I think that the best tribute that I can pay to the officers that we selected on the recommendation of that committee is that I have no regrets for the recommendations which the committee, of which I was a member, made on that occasion. With regard to the general question, this is probably the last occasion that I will have the opportunity of meeting my colleagues in this House. At different times and on different issues I have had big differences of opinion with the members of all Parties, except my own. I think that I may say that I was delightfully impartial in attacking the members of all the other Parties who could not see the point of view of the Party of which I am a member. As I have said, we had our differences of opinion and our arguments about one thing or another, each one putting forward what he conscientiously believed to be right. I think it is highly creditable that during the history of this House, in the last 13½ years, our business has been conducted in a manner at least as good as that in which business has been conducted in any other Assembly of the kind throughout the world. That fact is noteworthy because of  this, that this House was born during a period of civil war and continued to carry on its business during a subsequent troubled period. It is there fore, I think, a great credit to our people that we are able to place on record the manner in which the business of the country was done in this Assembly. It is a tribute to the people at large.
We must have some regrets at parting on this occasion, in view of the fact that we have been associated together for such a long time. We can congratulate ourselves on this, that no matter what our differences of opinion may have been on the various issues that cropped up from time to time, our personal friendships were maintained and will, I hope, continue.
Question put and agreed to.
Cathaoirleach: I shall certainly endeavour, in the most appropriate language I can conceive, to convey to the Clerk and Assistant-Clerk your resolution.
Seanad Éireann 20 Public Business. Clerk and Assistant Clerk—Motion of Appreciation.