Seanad Éireann - Volume 115 - 03 April, 1987

Business of Seanad.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Fitzsimons): When is it proposed to sit again?

Professor Dooge: On a motion that we adjourn sine die, as a Senator who will not be here on whatever that particular dies happens to be, I feel an urge within me to move an amendment that the Seanad do not adjourn in order to prolong my membership. Before we enter on the full debate on the Adjournment, I would like to say a few words based on my experience in this House since 1961. I do not want to draw comparisons with [2225] other places; I merely want to state what has been my experience here. It has been an experience not of conflict but of comradeship, not of confrontation but of an attempt to reach consensus.

I have many happy memories of this House, of being a fellow Senator as were Senator MacDonald, Senator Willie Ryan, Senator Eoin Ryan with those who were responsible for the establishment of the State, Senator Michael Hayes who was the first Ceann Comhairle, and Dr. Jim Ryan and Gerry Boland who passed a short time here after their long service as Minister. We have had the privilege of listening to the glorious Irish of An Seabhac in the Seanad. These are memories that will remain with me all my life. I feel impelled to move an amendment to the motion before the House that this should not end — but all good things must come to the end.

I hope those who will be returned next week to Seanad Éireann and to succeeding Seanaid will experience as much pleasure as I have from service in this House.

Mr. Ferris: I shall be brief at this hour of the night. It would be remiss of us if we did not record our appreciation to those Members of the House who will not be coming back — most of them by their own choice. They have served long and well here and made our service with them all the more pleasurable and beneficial. All of us have learned much from the people who have been referred to by Senator Dooge. I would put Senator Dooge in the category of great persons who have worked in this House. He fulfilled many roles from Cathaoirleach to the Leader of the House. He used this House to his utmost under the last Government. Many Bills were initiated here. He was loath to adjourn the House sine die. We always had business to do. We always ensured that the Government used this House to the fullest extent and we always adjourned the House to a date we agreed amongst ourselves.

The Cathaoirleach paid tribute this morning to those who had been successful in elevating themselves to another [2226] House. Many of us would consider that that is not an elevation in legislative terms. To Deputy Michael D. Higgins, Deputy Howlin, and Deputy Michael Smith who is now a Minister of State in the new Government, Deputy Michael Lynch, Deputy John Ellis and Deputy Jim Higgins we wish happiness and as much satisfaction in the new House to which they have aspired as they had in this House. Senator Durcan is not seeking re-election. To our new Members, Senator O'Toole and Senator Nuala Fennell we wish luck in their short term in this Seanad and we hope they will be successful in the next Seanad.

We wish the Cathaoirleach well. He has a long family tradition of service in the Houses of the Oireachtas. As Senator Lanigan, the new Leader of the House, said we hope your name will be continued here and that the opportunity will arise during the next few days to ensure that. That would meet the wishes of many Senators on all sides of the House. To the outgoing Leader of the House, Senator Dooge, I wish many happy years in retirement. He has served the State well. It was a pleasure for us to serve with Senator Dooge. There are many other Senators whose names I should put on the record of the House now because this will be my last opportunity in this session. I aspire to future membership of the House but that is in the lap of the electorate at present. We can only hope for the best. We have Senators Andy O'Brien and Luke Belton who have served many years with us. Senators Helena McAuliffe and Timmy Conway because of other situations, find themselves without an electorate to re-elect them; this is possibly one of the reasons they may not be going forward. I know they contributed well and ably while they were here. Senator Eoin Ryan has had many long years of service here and has been a peer to many of us. We always looked upon him as a fatherly figure in the House and he always made excellent and sensible contributions. Senator Martin O'Donoghue participated fully today with us. I pay tribute also to a very dear colleague of [2227] ours, Séamus de Brún who was nominated and finally elected by the closest of margins, but was considered by everybody to be a gentleman. I hope Séamus and the organisation he represented will prosper for many years and that he will have a long and happy life in his retirement.

Senator Mark Killilea, who is not with us just now, was a great blustering boisterous Senator who has gone to greener pastures as a member of the European Parliament. He was not slow today to let us have the sharp end of his tongue, which most of us enjoyed very much. Senators Pat Magner and Stephen McGonagle, have not offered themselves for re-election. Both of them were nominated by the then Taoiseach on the recommendation of the then Tánaiste, Deputy Spring. Both brought a dimension to this House which is to be welcomed. Senator McGonagle, in particular, from across the Border, with his vast experience in the trade union movement, and as an ombudsman with so much involvement in the North of Ireland will be missed in this House. His two colleagues, Senators Brid Rogers and John Robb, made major contributions and for the first time we had a kind of cross-Border dimension which is important to us all. Last but not least, we have Senator Seán O'Leary who is not offering himself for re-election. I have no doubt that somehow, some time Senator O'Leary will be back in the benches again. If not, it would be a tragedy because he was magnificent in his contributions towards the betterment of legislation and he had his own way of doing it. I hope that people in that category who offer themselves for re-election will be successful. Indeed I hope that all those seeking re-election will be returned.

Mr. Hussey: On behalf of the Government I would like to join in the tributes that have been so ably and deservedly paid to the Senators who are finishing their sojourn in this House tonight and who are not seeking re-election. All of them have played a noble part. They [2228] have served their country well. They have served this House well and they have served well the various committees of which they were members during the years they were here. I thank them for all the work they have done. I mention in particular Senator Dooge, because he has been the Leader of the House since I came here. He has been very courteous and helpful to all the Members, and particularly to new Members who did not know the run of the House. He has been a trojan worker and has set a record regarding the number of sittings of this House during the past four years. I wish Senator Dooge and all the other Members who are not seeking re-election every success and happiness in their retirement. Knowing those men as the workaholics they have been, I know that they will be active in other spheres and I wish them success. We will miss their service in this House. We will miss their words of wisdom but I am confident that they will continue to serve their country and their party in other spheres. I hope they will enjoy many happy years.

Mr. W. Ryan: I join the other speakers in their tributes and, like them, I shall refrain from mentioning names, with the exception of a couple of people to whom special tribute must be in order. First, I mention you, a Chathaoirleach. You were elected to the Dáil at the same time as I was elected to the Seanad. In the past 25 years, whether as a Deputy or a Senator as well as Cathaoirleach, you have given distinctive service.

In the past four years here you have been most fair to all sides of the House. Indeed, we are sorry that you have decided to call it a day and retire. I have known you for many years. I met you only a short time after you were elected a Deputy and I a Senator; we were staying in the same hotel during a by-election.

I want to pay a very special tribute to the Leader of the House for the past four years, Senator Dooge. I have been Whip here since 1973. The last four years were my happiest years here because Senator [2229] Dooge never changed business or anything else in this House without acquainting me of the fact. I often got telephone calls from him from as far away as Warsaw. If there was only the slightest change to be made in business he contacted me. During that four years there were no rows about the Order of Business as happens elsewhere, and I will not say where. Senator Dooge was elected to the Seanad on the same day as myself, 25 years ago. I regret that he too has decided to call it a day. Another Senator who was elected on the same day, Senator McDonald, is not calling it a day yet.

Mr. McDonald: Hopefully not.

Mr. W. Ryan: I hope he will be back here again when the new Seanad assembles because he has been a good Member of this House and he has made very good contributions here.

We were in Opposition for the past four years. When we return here after the election of the new Seanad, I hope that the same co-operation will obtain. A great deal has been said about this House by people who do not know much about it. They say that it should be abolished and so on. Senator Dooge, in his term here, has uplifted this House. We sit almost as often as the Dáil. Bills are discussed and teased out here much more than in the other House, where they are rushed through. We take our time at them, otherwise we would not be here now, at midnight. I hope to be back here after the election, and I hope this House will remain as long as the Dáil exists.

Mr. Browne: Ar eagla nach mbeadh seans agam labhairt sa Seanad núa — tá súil agam go mbeidh an seans sin agam ach ar eagla na h-eagla — ba mhaith liom cúpla focal a rá anseo anocht.

I realise that it is getting late but as one of the rookies who came in here four years ago, I would like to pay tribute to many of the people who have done so much to make my four years here such an enjoyable experience. In thanking you, a Chathaoirligh, for the way you conducted business, for the jovial way in which you [2230] dealt with many a serious problem and the way in which you treated us who helped you out on occasions, I wish you every success in the many years, I hope, left you to enjoy away from the hustle and bustle of serious politics. In the absence of the Leas-Chathaoirleach, Senator Tras Honan, who is obviously trying to pick up more votes than she needs, I want to thank her for looking after us so well, and I wish her well in the election.

Referring to my own side of the House I want to say it has been a privilege for me to have worked with Senator Dooge, who with his wonderful clarity of thought and speech has set a standard for us that many of us envy but will never reach. I thank him for the leadership he has given us. Senator O'Leary has at all times shown that he has a wonderful intellect and at times a wonderful tongue in which to take people apart if they try to tell him where he is going wrong. It has been a pleasure for me to work with him. It has been a pleasure too for me to have shared the experience of our Northern Ireland colleagues, Senator McGonagle, Senator Rogers and Senator John Robb, not alone for the way they expressed their views so fearlessly but for giving us the views of people who share experiences that some of us are sheltered from. I regard it as a privilege to have worked with them.

To my colleagues across the House in Fianna Fáil I want to say that people down the country think that politicians are always tearing one another apart. It has been a pleasure to be here with people, to have different views, to argue cases here but at least to be extremely civilised and friendly.

Do mo chara nua agus do mo shean chara, Séamus de Brún, nach bhfuil anseo anocht, ba mhaith liom a rath Dé a guí air. Bhí sé ina fhear uasal.

I wish every success to those from Mayo who have left us, Jim Higgins who has gone to higher levels whether for better or worse, and to Senator Durcan who is taking a rest and who I hope will be back shortly as he has much to contribute.

[2231] Mr. McDonald: I should like to take this opportunity of joining in the very fulsome tributes that have been paid to yourself. Sir, on your retirement from public life and to the Leader of the House, Senator Dooge and all my colleagues who are not contesting the election. It has been a great experience to work here. We can make a good deal of progress here perhaps by virtue of the fact that this House is not as political as the popularly elected assembly. The Seanad carries out a constitutional role. It has been a great success. We can see the progress that has been made and the effects of full co-operation. I wish you and my other colleagues very sincere good health and happiness in retirement. Perhaps it is because the numbers of the House are very small that we get to know our colleagues better than in other larger assemblies. We have to rely on one another to get the business through. That perhaps is one of the reasons that so many people enjoy their membership of the Seanad. To all of you who have been so kind to me over the years my very sincere thanks.

Mr. Durcan: I, too, would like to express briefly my thanks to you for your chairmanship of this House during my four and a quarter years membership. I want to thank you for teaching me many things I did not know when I first came here. I want to join with other speakers in wishing you well in your retirement after a long, distinguished and constructive parliamentary career in this House and elsewhere. I should also like to pay tribute to Senator Dooge for his leadership of the House over the past four and a quarter years. Senator Jim Dooge taught all of us much and I, in particular, perhaps learned more than most from him. I always marvel at his tremendous ability to return from abroad and discuss with us, his colleagues on the then Government side, complex legislation and immediately grasp and know precisely what has to be known and what was relevant for us in a tactical parliamentary sense. I remember one day him saying to me, when we were dealing [2232] with the Dentists Bill: “If you want to learn something about parliamentary procedures, then get stuck into this Bill”, which I did and I think other people did, too. It was certainly one Bill which taught many of us much about the role of Parliament and how we could mould legislation here. I want to thank Senator Dooge for that and for his many personal kindness to me and to every Member of this House during our period here.

I should also like to thank Senator Mick Lanigan, the Fianna Fáil leader in this House, with whom I had a fair amount of contact. I say in a very affectionate and fond way that I have always regarded him as being the Flurry Knox, as it were, of the Seanad. There was always a certain unpredictability about him, which was in the best sense of Irish parliamentary tradition. I hope he is returned and that he leads the next Seanad for Fianna Fáil.

I want in a special way to thank tonight the Clerk of the House, Jack Tobin, who is not here and who will be retiring in the next few months and also his present assistant and former assistant. His office made available to me and to all Members a great fund of knowledge, a tremendous courtesy at all times and a great willingness to help in every way. With that, I want to couple my thanks to the staff of this House. Speaking as somebody who is not seeking election I can only marvel at the tremendous help and assistance every member of the staff of this House gave to me during my four and a quarter years here. It is something which I appreciate and for which I want to thank them.

Finally, to those who try to demean the role of this House publicly, in my view this House has a very important role to play. If one examines the way in which we looked at legislation over the past four and a quarter years, one will see that in terms of hours we spent as long dealing with legislation as did the Dáil. I believe we had a far greater input into legislation than the Dáil did and I do not say that in a critical way of the other House. If the record of this House over the past four [2233] and a quarter years is examined, its relevance will be seen. Certainly, there is need for reform of certain aspects of the Seanad, but I think this House has a role and a role which must be confirmed for the future. With that, I wish to thank you, a Chathaoirleach, to wish you well and to thank everybody associated with this House.

Mr. Hanafin: I certainly should like to be associated with all the remarks that were made here tonight. I should like, in particular, to wish you, a Chathaoirleach, well although I have a feeling at this stage you would rather I was wishing you goodnight. However, there are things that should be said, no matter how late it is. I should like to wish you many happy years in retirement. You have given many years to politics and yours is a respected and honourable name in politics. It is very difficult to start singling out people. Senator Dooge is, of course, a person about whom one could speak quite a lot. He is a very gentlemanly type of man. As a Senator he was selected by the Taoiseach of the time to be a Minister, which is a great honour. It has not happened many times; as far as I know it happended only three times.

Professor Dooge: Three times under this Constitution.

Mr. Hanafin: It was a great honour and it rarely happens. By the selection of Senator Dooge, the Seanad itself was honoured. Senator Eoin Ryan is an exceptional man.

Professor Dooge: Hear, hear.

Mr. Hanafin: I shall greatly miss Senator Ryan, who is a great friend of mine. I shall miss him in the House. He is a very dependable man and is a man of great integrity. He brought great dignity and honour to politics and to the Seanad. To Senator O'Leary, who is not contesting, and Senator Durcan I wish both of them well. I got to know both of them very well. Senator O'Leary's contributions were excellent. I am sorry to [2234] see men like that not being here. The only other Senator for mention, then, is Senator Séamus de Brún. If I were asked to describe Séamus de Brún I should describe him as a beautiful man and I think all of you would agree with that.

Professor Dooge: Fear ann féin.

Mr. Hanafin: He spoke beautiful Irish and very simple English. To me, he represented all that was nice about being Irish. To Jack Tobin, I wish him well in the future. Jack is retiring and I hope he will have many happy years in retirement. To all Senators who are seeking re-election, I hope they will be reelected, but that they will not cost me my seat in the process. Thank you, a Chathaoirleach.

Mr. O'Leary: This is the first time in the course of this Seanad that I have got up to say anything nice about anybody. I am not going to make a habit of it, I can assure the House. There are a few people I should like to mention. I would like, first of all, to mention Dr. Garret FitzGerald who did me a great honour by nominating me to this House. Secondly, I would like to mention you, a Chathaoirleach. You come from a family with a long tradition of public service and you have lived up to that in the best possible way. Senator Dooge, who I have known for many many years, from the time he lived in Cork, is an excellent man. Senator Eoin Ryan— what can I say about him? Lastly, I shall mention one other person, Senator Tras Honan. During the period of time when I had difficulty in this House Tras Honan was very good to me and I appreciated it.

Mr. McGonagle: In the absence of my two colleagues from the North, I think I must assume the position of speaking on their behalf and to thank you, a Chathaoirleach, for your wonderful chairmanship during this period of time. I thank Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and, above all, the Labour Party Senators. I want to thank all the political parties in the [2235] Republic — all, I said — for their contribution to the democratic evolutionary position as distinct from the revolutionary. That must be said tonight.

Professor Dooge: Hear, hear.

Mr. McGonagle: Reason must take over. Intelligence shows that reasoning is the way to do it. From the North, I have to say it, that you are going about it the right way. There is a challenge and it is a challenge to democracy. It is not a challenge to Fianna Fáil, it is not a challenge to Fine Gael, it is not a challenge to The Workers' Party, it is not a challenge to any political party, as such and that is not a contradiction. It is a challenge to democracy.

Coming from the North we feel this. We feel that this traumatic experience we are now going through in Ireland must be faced. Reason and intelligence must take over eventually. We cannot have the gun and the bomb. It is not reasonable, it is not reasoning and it is not intelligent. I must assume I am speaking also for Senator Robb and Senator Rogers when I say that you in the Republic have made a great contribution to the democratic principles involved in seeking a solution to terrible problems. I have had a wonderful experience during all the time I have spent in the North trying to wrestle with whatever problems the Northern majority felt they had. They are sincere in their belief that there are problems for them. James Connolly said, “Ireland means nothing to me without her people”. The unification of Ireland, that loose phraseology, should be identified this way: it is not territory about which we are bothered, not green fields but people. I believe sincerely that the people in the Republic have made a powerful contribution, in their popular democratic style, articulated in the Dáil and Seanad, in appealing to the Northern people with reason and intelligence. It is the reasoned and intelligent approach that must win. It will take a long time to do so but time is on our side. I believe that eventually the people in the Thirty-two Counties will [2236] accept the democratic principle so that the people of Ireland will be able to reach, not a compromise, but an accord or agreement on the basis of acceptance of all the traditions in this country.

I want to pay tribute to all the political parties in the Republic on their reasoned and intelligent approach to this problem. That approach is crystallised in the Anglo-Irish accord. I am not saying that the Anglo-Irish accord will provide a solution; I have never said that. It is just a step in the right direction. I insist that time is on our side but I insist also that the use of the bomb and the bullet must be regarded as offensive, unintelligent and unreasonable. I believe that the Irish people, North and South can come to the position of unity eventually.

The traumatic experience of the past 20 years must have made an impression on the youth of this country but the youth, North and South, will make the necessary changes within the democratic context; they are bound to because they are intelligent, much better educated than those who have gone before them and they understand. There may be radical changes which many of us will not like but they will make the changes and before too long, eventually establish a new relationship with their friends in Great Britain. That is what the Anglo-Irish accord means. It is part of the aspiration for unity.

The accord has to be reviewed. I would like to think that such review will take the form of our young people: where do we go now?

I pay a great tribute to you, a Chathaoirleach, as Chairman of this Seanad. Over the past four years I have always felt very privileged to have been here at all.

An Cathaoirleach: I would like to wish all those Members seeking re-election the best of luck. As somebody said, unfortunately there will not be seats for them all. To the people retiring, myself included, the best we can wish each other is the best of health; if we have that we will be happy. I, too, would like to pay [2237] tribute to the Leader of the House, Professor Dooge. I have worked with him for the past four years, together with Senator Lanigan, Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party, and Senator Michael Ferris, Leader of the Labour Party. I always had difficulty in finding out who was Leader of the Independents; most frequently I thought they were all Leaders. I must say that the Leaders of the three parties and the three Whips were most helpful and kind to me at all times. I should like to pay special tribute to the three Independent Senators from Northern Ireland who honoured their obligations to this House. I thank them very much.

I want to thank also the Leas-Chathaoirleach, Senator Honan, who unfortunately is not with us today. Senator Honan was most helpful to me during my four years as Cathaoirleach. I should like to extend my thanks also to the Clerk of the Seanad, Mr. Jack Tobin, and the three Assistant Clerks we have had during the four years — Mr. Martin McMahon, Mr. Kieran Coughlan and now Mr. Deirdre Lane. Just this morning we had the experience of Senator Charles McDonald submitting a motion that was late and of Standing Orders unfolded something which permitted me to accept the motion. The three of us talked and argued about it — I will not give the opinions of the other two people — but we decided to take the motion. That was the procedure followed every time we had a motion submitted about which there was any doubt. The Clerk, assistant-Clerk and I met. We talked about it and cleared it with the relevant Department. No matter how many motions were submitted I always accepted the first received, the second being second and so on. The Clerk and the Assistant-Clerk knew that and that there was no way I would break that rule. I hope whoever succeeds me will engage in the same practice because it relieves many problems encountered in the arrangement of our business. Miss Josie Briody I should like to thank also whom we tended to see only when we are in trouble. She has been most efficient, courteous and helpful to [2238] everyone. That lady proved most helpful to everybody.

The Official Reporters were most kind to Members of the House and I thank them for that. The press were in our favour on occasions but against us on others. One often wondered what side of the road they were on but, however, I was never too particular about that and I do not think other Members were. The Ushers we met here and around the House were most helpful to us. The gardaí were always helpful to Members and I convey our thanks to them.

Above all, I thank Members who acted as temporary chairmen, particularly those who acted in that capacity when I was ill. I was absent from the House through illness for almost three months and there was never any problem because a number of Members acted as temporary Chairmen. To them I must express sincere thanks. I wish the Taoiseach, the members of his Cabinet and his junior Ministers the best of luck. They have a hard road ahead of them but I can assure them of my co-operation. I am one of those people who was fortunate, or unfortunate — I often think I was more unfortunate than fortunate — in that I was born into politics. I did not even have a choice in the party I joined. Both my parents were Members of the Dáil. I do not think there is any person in the country who can make the same claim yet. I was a member of Leitrim County Council for 45 years, for 15 of which I was chairman of that body. I was a member of the Dáil or Seanad for 26 years and I enjoyed every moment. When it comes to the end of the trail a look back often brings tears to one's eyes but that is the way life is.