Seanad Éireann - Volume 75 - 20 June, 1973

Election of Leas-Chathaoirleach.

An Cathaoirleach: Since items No. 1 and 2 both relate to the election of Leas-Chathaoirleach, they will be debated together, both motions being moved at the commencement of the debate.

[73] Mr. Lenihan: I move:

That Senator Kit Ahern be elected Leas-Chathaoirleach.

On the occasion of the last meeting, last Friday fortnight, I indicated that we would not oppose Senator Dooge for election as Cathaoirleach on the basis that we in the Fianna Fáil group in the Seanad took the view that the sharing of power and offices within our democratic assembly should be maintained and continued.

Since its formation under the new Constitution—the Seanad has operated now for 35 years—we have maintained a very honourable and valuable tradition in our democratic public life by sharing the offices of Cathaoirleach and Leas-Chathaoirleach. In 1961 and 1965 Senator Ó Maoláin, who was then Leader of the House, went to the extent of specifying that this was the convention. It was the honourable tradition and precedent and on both of those occasions there was a contest for the office of Leas-Chathaoirleach between the nominees of the Fine Gael and Labour Parties. We stated quite categorically that it was their right, our nominee having been elected Cathaoirleach, that a Member of either or any group other than the Fianna Fáil group was entitled to election as Leas-Chathaoirleach. On both those occasions the contest was between the Fine Gael and Labour Party nominees.

I emphasise this point to show that for 35 years the Seanad has maintained an honourable position in this regard. I should like to emphasise that in this respect we as a Government, when in Government, sought to do similarly in regard to various appointments under our control. From the office of Chief Justice to many District Court office holders we, as a Government, appointed people who were notably opposed to us and quite vociferous in their support of both Labour and Fine Gael.

Similarly, it happened in regard to various State-sponsored bodies in which I personally was involved. I had the honour with my predecessor, Mr. Erskine Childers, to serve in Governments where many people other than [74] those of our political persuasion were appointed to State-sponsored body positions. This is one of the most valuable aspects in the political tradition which we have established in this part of Ireland. At no period in this country's history is it more important to emphasise this tradition of power sharing.

We are all aware that the whole impetus of civilised thinking and development towards dealing with the tragic events in the North-Eastern part of our island is directed towards a large element of power-sharing between the communities in the North of Ireland. Here are we in free Ireland, having carefully built up in 50 years a tradition of democratic representative Parliamentary Government, something of which we can be very proud. It is unfortunate, to put it mildly, that at this time in 1973 we should seek here in this House, with a very honoured past and tradition in this respect, to besmirch this tradition. It is very unfortunate in the context of our own development as a Parliamentary democracy. It is doubly and trebly unfortunate in the context of the power-sharing efforts which are now being made in part of this island and to which the attention of the world is being directed as some way forward towards the solution of grievous problems in that part of our island.

In saying this I want to emphasise that there is in no sense any personal slight in regard to Senator Evelyn Owens. I am talking strictly from the point of view of principle and precedent—she is an excellent person. However, we feel that in our candidate, Senator Kit Ahern, we have an outstanding candidate for this position in the sense that she is a person who has been associated with the vocational life of this country as a former President of the Irish Countrywomen's Association. She has taken a vital interest in a practical way in the furtherance of the involvement of women in politics, in the vocational organisation of our people outside politics and in the rehabilitation of rural life, which is so important in our national life to-day. We are very proud to offer her candidature.

[75] The opposition to her candidature, which was quite clearly indicated would be the case both in the House and afterwards by Press release last Friday fortnight, is motivated not by Senators of the opposing political parties. I have heard expressed on a personal basis in the lobbies and in the House from many Senators the view that this matter should be unanimous. In my view it is part of a vindictive process on the part of very petty-minded people who comprise the present Government. Undoubtedly the opposition to Senator Kit Ahern stems from a Government decision. It indicts the present Government as a Government of total mediocrities. I should like in particular that the media spell that out.

Mr. Brosnan: Ba mhaith liom, agus is onóir dom comh maith, cuidiú leis an tairiscint a mhol an Seanadóir Ó Luineacháin. Mar a dúirt sé, togha duine an Seanadóir Uí Eachthéirn. Ó thaobh cultúra, ó thaobh oideachais, ó thaobh taithí ar rith agus ar rialú an tSeanaid, ní dóigh liom go bhfuil a sárú le fáil sa Teach seo ná leasmuigh den phost seo. Tá ionadh ormsa agus tá díomá orm go bhfuil sé beartaithe anois ag an gComhrialtas an post seo do sciobadh agus do choinneáil chucha féin faoi mar a dheineadar sa Dháil. Is suarach an sompla é agus is náireach an sompla é dúinne, dona daoine leasmuigh agus go mór mhór do mhuintir an Tuaisceart. Is suarach fós é anois nuair atá cothrom na féinne agus roinnt-na-cumhacht á lorg ag gach éinné.

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: I move:

That Senator Evelyn Owens be elected Leas-Chathaoirleach.

In doing so I do not wish to follow Senator Lenihan down the trail which he has blazed, but I should like to remind him that the Labour Party also have rights. I propose Senator Owens because I believe she would be a most worthy occupant of the post of Leas-Chathaoirleach of the Seanad. Since Senator Owens was elected to this House in 1969 she has proved herself to be a most active [76] and dedicated Member. She has contributed regularly to the debates and especially to those relating to trade union legislation and the social welfare code. The fact that she is a nominee from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on the Labour Panel is proof of the esteem in which she is held by her colleagues in the trade union movement.

I should also like to point out that Senator Owens was President of the Local Government and Public Services Union for two years and Vice-President of that union for three years. She also served as Chairman of the Women's Advisory Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for four years. As Senators are aware, this committee participated actively in the preparation of the submission of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to the Commission on the Status of Women. In view of her record in that field I feel she would be an excellent choice for the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach and that she would be a distinguished Leas-Chathaoirleach in keeping with the great tradition of Leas-Chathaoirleachs of the past. It gives me great pleasure to propose Senator Owens for the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach.

Mr. Moynihan: I am pleased to second the motion nominating Senator Owens for the post of Leas-Chathaoirleach. In this Senator we have a candidate of excellent qualifications. She is very experienced in the industrial and trade union world and in the conduct of meetings. She has an excellent record of service in this House. This makes Senator Owens an excellent choice for the post of Leas-Chathaoirleach.

In addition to these qualifications she is a member of the Labour Party, the oldest political party whose members sit in this House. That party have played a valuable part since their foundation in 1912 in the development and growth of this nation. Since the foundation of this State in 1922, now 51 years ago, the Labour Party became involved in the development of this nation. In these 51 years it is regrettable that no member of that party was elected or offered the post of [77] Cathaoirleach or Leas-Chathaoirleach of this House. On that basis alone I can see no conflict arising on the power-sharing philosophy which Senator Lenihan has raised. We in the Labour Party do not have to apologise for nominating a Member for any post in this or the other House. I have pleasure in seconding Senator Owens's nomination for the post of Leas-Chathaoirleach. I would ask for the support of the House for her election.

Mrs. Robinson: As an independent Senator I should like to support the Fianna Fáil candidate for the post of Leas-Chathaoirleach. I regret very much that the Labour Party have seen fit to nominate a candidate. I should like to express my pleasure that the choice for this post rests between two women. We ought to see much more of that in public life. I should also like to make it very clear, as did Senator Lenihan, that nothing I say reflects in any way on Senator Owens. She is aware of the esteem and respect I have for her. I regret that she has become in a sense a pawn in this power game.

It is important that the Houses of the Oireachtas are seen to have this tradition of fairness and impartiality. I note that in the other House the Government parties have the monopoly of the Chairmanship—they hold the posts of Ceann Comhairle and Leas-Cheann Comhairle. They are now attempting to do the same thing in this House. This is highly regrettable. Whatever factors were present in choosing the Ceann Comhairle and Leas-Cheann Comhairle they do not carry over into the Seanad. The Seanad has its own traditions and they are very different from those in the other House.

In this context let me cite as an example that the Seanad had not traditionally looked for a quorum. Do we now become a highly political assembly in the sense that every time we fall below a quorum do we look for that quorum? Do we bring in a bitter note into our debates? Do we focus more on the political points than on the merits of the measures which come before us? We are described by constitutional writers as a vocational [78] body which is basically a different composition to the Dáil, yet we are reducing ourselves by this political game to the level of a fight between the Government party seeking the monopoly of the Chairmanship and the Opposition asserting their right to a sharing of this power. The point is well made that we have here an example of an inability to share power.

A few days ago we saw an example in the city of Derry of the ability to share the chairmanship and vice-chairmanship between the SDLP and the Loyalist parties. In this House we seem to be incapable of coming to the same type of arrangement on this occasion. Senator Lenihan has made it clear that this is a new step in the procedure of the Seanad. I have no doubt that when the Fianna Fáil Party are returned to power they will seek a monopoly of the posts of Cathaoirleach and Leas-Chathaoirleach of this House.

Mr. Lenihan: I wish to say we will not.

Mrs. Robinson: It would be very difficult to argue against this precedent. I should be very glad to know that such would not be the case.

Mr. Lenihan: I should like to indicate that we will not. We do not propose to follow this dastardly procedure.

Mrs. Robinson: I am very glad to know that this will be an isolated case, if the Labour Party achieve their ambition and get this post. It has been made clear from the statements of Senators J. Fitzgerald and Moynihan that this is an attempt not by the Coalition Government but by the Labour Party to nail this job. This is a sign of political immaturity. We have been told the Labour Party have rights too. The Seanad has a right to have a sharing of power and a balance in the assembly and we are being deprived, it would appear by the strength of the voting on the Government side, of this power. I hope this will not introduce the elements of a bitter political forum which were absent in the last Seanad and which are not part of the tradition of the Seanad which, speaking as an independent Senator, I find a very valuable attribute of this House.

[79] Mr. McGlinchey: Senator Lenihan stated that we would not follow this dastardly behaviour. I must admit he is more charitable than I. This is the fourth occasion on which I have been present for the election of a Leas-Chathaoirleach. The action of the Coalition parties in opposing Senator Ahern for this post to-day demonstrates clearly that they are earning for themselves the reputation of being the “grab all” parties.

For years we have listened to their pious platitudes condemning Fianna Fáil for putting their people into every post in this country; however, today they seek to break a long-standing tradition that has existed in this House. Senator Moynihan, a short time ago, stated that the Labour Party never got an opportunity of electing a Leas-Chathaoirleach. Does Senator Moynihan know why? On 3rd January, 1962, I was here when Senator Miss Davidson was proposed by the Labour Party. She was opposed, not by Fianna Fáil, but by Senator Lindsay of Fine Gael.

On that occasion the then Leader of the House, Senator Ó Maoláin, is on record—at col. 56 of the bound volume of the Seanad Official Report of 3rd January, 1962—as stating that the post of Leas-Chathaoirleach is traditionally filled by a Member of the Opposition. Senator McAuliffe may recall that on 30th June, 1965, he was proposed for the post of Leas-Chathaoirleach. It was not Fianna Fáil that deprived Senator McAuliffe of that position on that occasion. Again, in the records of this House we find the statement from the Leader of the Opposition of that time, Senator Ó Maoláin, that this post was traditionally filled by a Member of the Opposition. On 30th June, 1965, Fine Gael and Labour—the new-found bed-fellows—fought it out in this Chamber eight years after their marriage was dissolved in 1957 and, ironically enough, eight years before they were re-wed in 1973.

This marriage will not last forever either. The Members of Fine Gael and Labour should remember this. This marriage could be dissolved again. Their union may later become sterile [80] or perhaps pregnant with broken promises. Whether sterile or pregnant, the union will be dissolved and then Fianna Fáil will be back in office. If I had my way——

Mr. W. O'Brien: Which Fianna Fáil?

Mr. McGlinchey There is only one Fianna Fáil.

(Interruptions.)

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator should be allowed speak without interruption.

Mr. McGlinchey: The issue before us is clear: whether we should break with tradition or whether we should accept the situation as Fianna Fáil did when they were in office. I would warn you that the day will come when Fianna Fáil will return to office and, in spite of what Senator Lenihan has stated, I, for one, hold that they will remember the action here in this House today.

Mr. Harte: I should like to be clear on a particular point. Senator McGlinchey has made great play of the fact that the Fianna Fáil Party did not oppose either Senator Davidson or Senator McAuliffe. Did Fianna Fáil vote for them?

Mr. McGlinchey: The post was traditionally filled by the Opposition and we took no part in the voting.

Mr. Harte: If you did not vote for them when heads were counted, then you voted against them.

Mr. Yeats: I was deeply disappointed when I heard at the end of last week that it was proposed by the Government side of the House to oppose our nominee for Leas-Chathaoirleach. I was deeply disappointed not simply because—and I hope Senator Ahern will forgive me for saying it—this meant that Senator Ahern would not be elected Leas-Chathaoirleach. We know, on all sides of the House, that in every respect she is a completely suitable candidate for the post and would make an excellent [81] Leas-Chathaoirleach. Throughout her time in this House she has gained the respect of Senators on all sides. I was deeply disappointed, not only for this reason but also for what I think is a more important reason, and that is that this marks a complete and—I am happy to say—an unprecedented breach in the tradition of 35 years that has existed in this House. The tradition has always been, for 35 years past, that the Government of the day fill the position of Cathaoirleach and that the main Opposition party fill the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach. This was the position when Fianna Fáil were in office and I am happy to say—and I will give them credit for this—that it was also the position during the first and second Coalition Governments. It is only now, with the arrival on the scene of the third Coalition Government, that we have a breach in this.

Senator McGlinchey has already mentioned the attitude we took on the two occasions in 1961 and 1965 when there were two candidates for the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach, both from the Opposition parties. I think it worthwhile to quote the speech that Senator Ó Maoláin, the then Leader of the House, made on 30th June, 1965, when you A Chathaoirleach were first elected to be Leas-Chathaoirleach, at col. 132:

The position of Leas-Chathaoirleach is traditionally filled by a Senator who is not a supporter of the Government. When there was only one candidate, he was elected unanimously. This time, however, we have two candidates equally qualified for appointment, and I feel that the choice is one that should not be influenced by those who support the Government in this House. We shall, therefore, abstain from voting.

Senator Harte suggested, if I understand him correctly, that Fianna Fáil were to be blamed for not voting for the candidate. The line we took, quite simply, was that the position of Leas-Cathaoirleach is one that goes traditionally to the main Opposition party. Where there were two Opposition parties we simply felt that it would be totally wrong for us, as the Government party, who had a majority [82] in this House, to decide for the Opposition who their Leas-Chathaoirleach should be. We felt that this would be open to the greatest criticism and therefore we should just stay out of it and allow them to decide it between themselves. It was therefore, as has been pointed out, the Fine Gael Party who voted down the Labour candidate, as they were entitled to do. This, of course, happened both in 1961 and in 1965.

It is not merely the Senators who have long experience of the divisions in this House who have accepted that this situation existed. I hope Senator Brosnahan will not mind my quoting a speech he made on that same day, 30th June, 1965, column 132, when he explained how he proposed to vote in the election. He said:

In 1961 I asked my executive... —that is the executive of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation—

...for a direction on how to vote in the filling of the two posts which are held in this House for Cathaoirleach and Leas-Chathaoirleach. I was advised to observe the status quo since there was a custom that the post of Cathaoirleach went to the largest party in the House and that of Leas-Chathaoirleach went to the next largest party.

In other words, this is an accepted precedent not merely in political circles but in this very important trade union. I would commend this feeling of theirs to certain Members on the opposite side of the House. This very important trade union felt, quite rightly, that this is a matter which traditionally has been split in this way.

I have been in this House, on and off, for approximately 15 years. Perhaps only Senator Ryan has had longer experience of membership of it. I can say, without any doubt whatever, that one of the great things about this House has been, year in and year out, that while we disagree on many things we have never had any difficulty about deciding such matters as this. However strongly we might disagree—our disagreement was always strongest just immediately after a general election [83] when we meet for the first time—we have always been able to agree on the positions for the Chair. I am sure the Chair will agree with me—from his own personal experience—that the position of Cathaoirleach or Leas-Chathaoirleach has always been, in one respect at any rate, an easy one in that there has always been a real, genuine feeling of co-operation among Senators on all sides of this House. It is a very great tragedy that, after all these years this very genuine feeling of co-operation has been shattered in this way, in this undignified hunt for jobs.

In conclusion, I would ask the Fine Gael Senators opposite, whom I take it are going to vote for the Labour candidate on this occasion and thereby break the tradition of 35 years, to stand up and justify this performance. I hope they will not just walk into the Division Lobbies. I would like them to stand up and explain to the House and the public why, on this fundamental matter of the rights of all sections of this House, they are breaking the tradition of 35 years.

Mr. McAuliffe: There has been mention of 1965 during the debate today but I wish to go back to 1961, when I first entered the House, when we put forward Senator Miss Davidson as a candidate. There was no National Coalition at that time; Fine Gael and Labour were two independent parties then. There was an argument used, in favour of Senator Lindsay, that he had such a great knowledge of the Irish language that he should be appointed, which insinuated that the other candidates had not got sufficient knowledge of Irish, which was correct.

Mr. McGlinchey: It was Fine Gael who made that argument.

Mr. McAuliffe: On the next occasion I was put forward and therefore they could not make that argument again. I received only six votes then. I approached the Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party that day and told him that he should give his party a free vote and allow them to elect whatever candidate they wished but they would [84] not agree. If you, a Chathaoirleach, were a candidate on that particular day I am quite sure you would have got a majority vote. I have never heard Senator Robinson speak before today but she really shocked me when she spoke about the immaturity of the Labour Party. As Senator Moynihan has said, we are the oldest party in the country. We are established since 1913 long before the other parties. To speak about the Labour Party being immature is ludicrous. We have never received any fair play in the House as regards the post of Leas-Chathaoirleach. The fate of that post rested in Fianna Fáil hands while they sat on these benches. No Member of the House is entitled to occupy a seat here without voting on this issue. I have no time for people abstaining. They should vote for the proposal or against it. People who are elected to this House should exercise their power to vote on any issue that comes before the House. I certainly will never occupy a seat here and abstain from voting. I have never done so as a county councillor or as a Member of this House.

It is not in this House that the difficulty regarding the election of a Cathaoirleach or a Leas-Chathaoirleach started. It started in Dáil Éireann on the day the new Dáil assembled. The National Coalition were prepared to allow the sitting Ceann Comhairle to remain in that office but a few people in the Dáil wished to weaken the position of the National Coalition by withdrawing him from that position. That was the cause of the difficulty that has arisen here today. I repeat again, with no apologies, that we are seeking this post because we have never been afforded an opportunity in the past of getting any of the honourable posts attached to this House.

Mr. Horgan: I cannot hope to imitate Senator McGlinchey's imagery but one can certainly say to Senator McAuliffe that age is not necessarily a guarantee of wisdom. A lot of talk has been heard about power-sharing over the past few years both inside and outside this House. It appears now, as Senator Robinson pointed out, that we have a very limited concept of power-sharing on the Government [85] benches and that we are—if the vote goes as it looks like going—to have a situation in which the precedent of 35 years will be broken.

I believe that there are precedents which should be broken, there are precedents which no amount of years or of usage will justify and there are precedents which are good in themselves but which can be broken in favour of a better precedent. I am sorry that the Government have adopted this course of action because I feel they could have adopted a course of action which would have created a new precedent in this House. May I remind Members of the House of what this House is and of what it is supposed to be. Senator Robinson has already pointed out that it is supposed to be largely a vocational assembly and Senator Yeats has spoken of the type of spirit of co-operation that has characterised its debates. That spirit certainly has been apparent since I came into this House in 1969.

The opportunity, which I believe has been lost on this occasion, is the opportunity to underline the fact that there are still vocational elements in this House. This could have been done by availing of the opportunity to nominate an elected independent, vocational person to the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach. As I said, there should be power-sharing, but all democracies have experience of the situation in which the big people get together to squeeze the small people out. From this point of view I would be less than totally happy, although I would probably grudgingly accept power-sharing as between the two big blocs in this assembly—the Coalition, on one hand, and the Fianna Fáil Party, on the other.

I should like to remind the House that there are seven or eight Independent Senators in this House, all of them elected, discounting completely any nominated persons. That is a body of persons large enough and with collective and individual experience broad enough to justify the selection of one of their Members for this position. In the last Seanad one can cite, for example, Senator Sheldon, who filled the Chair as Acting Chairman for many, many hours at a stretch. [86] I do not think anybody could be found on any side of the House who would disagree with his conduct of the business of the House.

I, and at least one other Senator in this House, have our own ideas about who should be nominated from among the Independents to this position. We have refrained from nominating anybody because, in the circumstances of this vote and in the circumstances of these motions, it would merely be an empty gesture. It is the mercy of God that there are not three parties taking part in the present Government, because then we might find ourselves in a pretty pickle indeed.

I thought that this might have been the occasion for the creation of a new tradition—all traditions have to be created some time—a tradition of giving explicit recognition to the vocational and independent character which still lives on in this House despite attempts made to smoke it out. For that reason I propose to vote against both the candidates.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: I think the plea made by Senator Yeats was a reasonable one and deserves a response. I would have preferred, quite sincerely, that this situation had not arisen. I would have preferred coming in to this discussion and to make this decision, that circumstances would have been such that the traditions which other Senators have spoken of might have been adhered to. We must place this in its proper perspective. We must look upon our decision here today in context. No matter how wishfully some of us may think, let us for heaven's sake recognise the reality that, by and large, this House is composed of members of political parties and that it is a political assembly.

Mr. Lenihan: It should not make us uncivilised.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: We hear phrases used by the Leader of the Opposition, such as this “dastardly procedure” which seeks to besmirch the traditions of this House. We hear people who are not here to defend themselves today characterised as petty, mean-minded people. First of [87] all, I want to reject categorically Senator Lenihan's notion that any Member of my party—and I am sure I can say this also for Members of the Labour Party—received any orders or instructions whatever from any member of the Government in regard to the election of Leas-Chathaoirleach.

Mr. Lenihan: Why the delay of two weeks in putting in the nomination?

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: Would Senator Lenihan let me speak? I did not interrupt Senator Lenihan or anyone else.

Mr. Lenihan: I was just asking a question. As a matter of information, why was there a delay of two weeks in submitting a nomination?

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: There have been no Government directions whatever, but for Senator Lenihan's information I should like to tell him that, even after both motions went in—and this is no secret to my friends and colleagues in the Labour Party—I took some considerable time to consider and deliberate what my attitude in connection with this discussion should be. We must look at this thing in its context. It is all right to talk nicely about power-sharing, about a non-political approach or about sacred traditions, if we forget how this arose. How did it arise? I am sincerely sorry that the ultimate victim in this House of the decision of the Fianna Fáil Party to play politics with the Chair in the other House should be Senator Kit Aherne. Fianna Fáil have not merely the right to oppose vigorously, but they have also a duty to oppose responsibly. While they were still in government, for political party reasons they refused to supply the Chair in the other House and withdrew the occupant of the Chair from that position.

Mr. McGlinchey: On a point of order, is it in order to discuss the affairs of the other House in this House?

An Cathaoirleach: It is normally not in order or customary to refer to [88] debates in the other House. However, it is proper to refer to the reasons for which a Senator may wish to take certain action in this House.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: That decision of the Fianna Fáil Party was clearly a political decision. It was taken solely in the interests and for the advantage of the Fianna Fáil Party. It demonstrated clearly—and let us not forget this and let us not go up into the clouds talking about sacrosanct traditions and a nice power-sharing, non-political approach—that, when it suited Fianna Fáil, they were prepared to tailor their approach to the question of who should be the occupant of a Chair in order to suit their own political expediency. It was a political manoeuvre directed against the present Government. Of course, Fianna Fáil were entitled to do that. The justification for it was purely and simply the advantage of Fianna Fáil and an effort to damage the prospects of the incoming Government.

I have already said that I wished this situation had not arisen; but it has arisen, and I say bluntly that, if Fianna Fáil want to play rough, they should not squeal if they come out of it with bloody noses. As far as I am concerned the choice in this matter is a choice between——

Mr. McGlinchey: You got a bloody nose on 30th May.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: Perhaps I did because the same type of elephantine subtlety that is being used in this debate in the approach to power-sharing was used on that occasion.

Mr. Yeats: It is this House the Senator is hitting, not Fianna Fáil.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: I was going to say a few words about the suitability of the candidates. Let me say it. I regard both of the candidates as eminently suitable for the post. As regards qualifications, perhaps there is not a lot to choose between them. They both have shown in their contributions [89] to discussions in this House that they are able to approach the business of this House on a very high level. They have, each of them in their own way, on different occasions made outstanding contributions to the discussions in this House. Perhaps there is not a great deal to choose between them there. I do not know whether there is anything much to choose between them on the grounds of experience as far as chairing meetings is concerned. I am prepared to accept that there is not.

Fianna Fáil had it open to them, if they wanted to, to put into the field in this election a person who had outstanding qualifications in that connection and a person to whom I paid tribute on more than one occasion in this House, notwithstanding his interruptions when I was speaking a few minutes ago, and that person was Senator Yeats. They chose not to do that, and they leave the choice between two Senators about whom I think one can say there is probably not a great deal between them on qualifications.

Therefore I am asked, to choose between a Labour nominee and a Fianna Fáil nominee. I have no hesitation whatever, when being presented with that choice, in choosing the Labour nominee.

Professor Quinlan: I find it very difficult to speak on this situation because I am genuinely anxious to see the new Government succeed and also to see a coalition working, because I believe that condemnations of coalition in the past were neither justified nor correct. I believe that all life is a coalition. I was one of the many people in the country who were exhilarated by the prospect of a change after 16 years' rule by a single party. In any country that is good. I have also been quite excited by the calibre of some of the Ministers in the new Government. I have admired and will continue to admire many of their decisions and actions in cutting through ridiculous red tape and in showing that they are in control. Unfortunately, I cannot go along with this effort, which I am assured is not a Government decision, [90] and I am relieved to hear that from Senator O'Higgins. I think it is a very ill-thought-out decision by the Labour Party who have been given more than their fair share of posts in the sharing out within the Government. May I pay tribute to their Ministers for doing a good job.

We are a small community. We have got to work together. We have always done this here in the Seanad. I hope that is a pattern for united action in our free part of the country and ultimately in a united country. Let us forget about today. Whatever the rights and wrongs of what happened in the Dáil with regard to the Chair it should not have come in here. The tradition should have been continued. I have been 16 years working with Senator Ryan and I share the record of being one of the longest serving Members here.

I am exceedingly well disposed to the Government and exceedingly anxious to see them succeed in the task they have. I should like to see them allowed a proper period for carrying out that task. I have no doubt that they will get the full period and, perhaps, a second one to carry out the task. As one who has great faith and confidence in this Government I appeal to the Labour Party not to repeat this type of drab policy again. The Coalition is where it is due to the faith and confidence that the country placed in one person mainly, in Mr. Liam Cosgrave, who is Taoiseach today. He came across as a man we could trust in all respects, not merely in regard to law and order but also in regard to fair play for all. Please let this be the last of this and let us not have separate party decisions on these drab lines. Let the Government rule and decide whether we are going to continue our valuable tradition or not. In protest against what has been done I intend to abstain from voting on this.

Mr. Lenihan: I shall be very brief. I have said all I had to say in proposing Senator Kit Ahern. There are one or two points in the debate arising out of what Senator O'Higgins stated that I would like to refer to. [91] This is not a matter of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or Labour. It is all right for the rough and tumble of politics to reduce the debate to that level. This is a matter of preserving the basic democratic institutions which we have established at great pain and cost over the past 50 years. It is the basic convention in relation to power-sharing of the kind that has operated in the Seanad for the past 35 years that maintains these institutions.

We have today above all else, more particularly at this period in our history, a duty to the community in which we live to ensure that what has been achieved here is shown to the world to be a continuing attitude towards democracy in Ireland. We have had enough of the other type of publicity in part of this island. They are now making the painful efforts through power-sharing procedures in the North Eastern part of our island to establish the sort of democracy that we have established here and cemented over the past 50 years. In my view what we are doing today is a very grievous blow towards this particular aspiration which is the objective of every right-thinking Irish man and woman, namely the establishment of democratic procedures in every part of this island; democratic procedures under which it is acknowledged that the people opposed to you have a right to speak, a right to participate and a right to share. We, in our group, represent practically 50 per cent of the Irish people. We feel we have a right to participate and a right to share.

As I have already stated, I have met many Senators from all parties in the lobbies and corridors since we put forward Senator Kit Ahern's name last Friday fortnight and have found a complete unanimity of view that she should be elected. After we put her name forward last Friday fortnight the [92] name of another candidate was put forward at the last minute. I am driven to the conclusion, and the facts are inescapable that the Government decided at a meeting—which is usually held on Friday morning and a Motion was sent in last Friday afternoon—to direct the Labour and Fine Gael Parties to adopt this mean, petty, despicable attitude. This indicates, as I said initially, that despite the media projection, this Government is basically a Government of mediocrity.

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: I wish to assure the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Lenihan, that this was not a Government decision. This was a decision taken by the Labour Party not on Friday last but a long time ago, and the fact that that name was not made public until last Friday was not for the reasons given by Senator Lenihan.

Mr. McGlinchey: Because the Senator was selected first.

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: Yes, my name was mentioned first in this, and at no time had I any ambition to be Leas-Chathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann. I wish to assure Senator Lenihan and the media that the Government had no hand, act or part in deciding what the Labour Party would do. It was our decision and we make no apology to Senator Lenihan or anyone else for this.

Mr. Lenihan: The Senator was very apologetic in mentioning the matter to me last Friday.

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: I spoke to the Senator only at that door last Friday and said we were putting forward——

Mr. Lenihan: We shall leave it at that.

Question put:

That Senator Kit Ahern be elected Leas-Chathaoirleach.

The Seanad divided: Tá, 18; Níl, 31.

Aylward, Bob.

Brennan, John J.

Brosnan, Seán.

Browne, Patrick (Fad).

[93]Keegan, Seán.

Killilea, Mark.

Lenihan, Brian.

McGlinchey, Bernard.

McGowan, Patrick.

Cowen, Bernard.

Dolan, Seamus.

Eachthéirn, Cáit Uí.

Hanafin, Des.

[94]O'Callaghan, Kevin.

Robinson, Mary.

Ryan, Eoin.

Ryan, William.

Yeats, Michael B.

Níl

Barrett, Jack.

Blennerhassett, John.

Boland, John.

Burton, Philip.

Butler, Pierce.

Deasy, Austin.

Farrelly, Denis.

FitzGerald, Alexis.

Fitzgerald, Jack.

Halligan, Brendan.

Harte, John.

Higgins, Michael D.

Horgan, John S.

Kerrigan, Patrick.

Kilbride, Thomas.

Lyons, Michael Dalgan.

McAuliffe, Timothy.

McCartin, John Joseph.

Mannion, John M.

Markey, Bernard.

Moynihan, Michael.

Mullen, Michael.

O'Brien, Andy.

O'Brien, William.

O'Higgins, Michael J.

O'Toole, Patrick.

Owens, Evelyn.

Russell, George Edward.

Sanfey, James W.

Walsh, Mary.

Whyte, Liam.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Hanafin and W. Ryan; Níl, Senators Halligan and Sanfey.

Question declared lost.

Question put:

That Senator Evelyn Owens be elected Leas-Chathaoirleach.

The Seanad divided: Tá, 30; Níl, 18.

Barrett, Jack.

Blennerhassett, John.

Boland, John.

Burton, Philip.

Butler, Pierce.

Deasy, Austin.

Farrelly, Denis.

FitzGerald, Alexis.

Fitzgerald, Jack.

Halligan, Brendan.

Harte, John.

Higgins, Michael D.

Kerrigan, Patrick.

Kilbride, Thomas.

Lyons, Michael Dalgan.

McAuliffe, Timothy.

McCartin, John Joseph.

Mannion, John M.

Markey, Bernard.

Moynihan, Michael.

Mullen, Michael.

O'Brien, Andy.

O'Brien, William.

O'Higgins, Michael J.

O'Toole, Patrick.

Owens, Evelyn.

Russell, George Edward.

Sanfey, James W.

Walsh, Mary.

Whyte, Liam.

Níl

Aylward, Bob.

Brennan, John J.

Brosnan, Seán.

Browne, Patrick (Fad).

Cowen, Bernard.

Dolan, Seamus.

Eachthéirn, Cáit Uí.

Hanafin, Des.

Horgan, John S.

Keegan, Seán.

Killilea, Mark.

Lenihan, Brian.

McGlinchey, Bernard.

McGowan, Patrick.

O'Callaghan, Kevin.

Ryan, Eoin.

Ryan, William.

Yeats, Michael B.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Halligan and Sanfey; Níl, Senators Hanafin and W. Ryan.

Question declared carried.

Miss Owens: Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis na Seanadóirí as ucht mé a cheapadh mar Leas-Chathaoirleach. Déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall cothrom na féinne a thúirt do gach duine.

I should like to thank the House for electing me to the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach. I should like to assure all Members of the House that, as far [95] as I can, I will ensure everyone receives fair play.

Cáit Uí Eachthéirn: Is mian liom, ar an gcéad dul síos, comhgháirdeas a dhéanamh le Evelyn Owens agus cúpla focal a rá ina dhiaidh sin. Níor chuir sé íonadh ar bith orm nár tugadh an Leas-Chathaoir do lucht Fhianna Fáil mar tá an Comhrialtas bunaithe ar an creach a roint. Sin é direach an rud atá déanta acu anois. Muna mbéadh sin agus muna mbéadh an margadh sin a bheith eatarthu, ni fhanfaidís le céile ar feadh leath-uair an chloig. Ar an dara dul síos, muna mbéadh gur roghnaigh Fianna Fáil mise don phost, fear a bheadh ag an Comhrialtas. Sé an fáth gur vótáil siad go léir ar son Evelyn, gur theastaigh uathu cúiteamh a dhéanamh le mná na h-Éireann, gur theastaigh uathu an masladh a thugadar roimhe sin a leigheas beagánín. B'é an masladh é sin nár ainmnigh an Taoiseach oiread agus bean amháin i measc an aon duine déag a mhol sé don tSeanad. Is dóigh liom, leis, mar bhárr ar gach donais, go dtugann sé árd-mhisneach do na hAontachtóirí sa Tuaisceart a bhí ag brath orainn cothrom na féinne a thúirt do gach páirtí anseo. San am gceanna is buille fealtach é gan cothrom na féinne a thúirt don páirtí is mó sa tír seo. Tá athas orm go ndúirt an Seanadóir Lenihan cúpla nóimead ó sin go dtabharfaí cothrom na féinne don bpáirtí ba mó san bhFreasúra nuair a thiocfadh Fianna Fáil thar n-ais—agus ní fada uainn é sin. Arís is mian liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh le hEvelyn agus guím rath Dé uirthi sa Chathaoir agus go n-eir-eoidh go geal leí na dualgaisí atá uirthi a chomhlíonadh.