Seanad Éireann - Volume 131 - 23 January, 1992

Election of Cathaoirleach.

Clerk of Seanad: Glacfaidh mé le tairiscintí anois.

I will now receive motions.

Mr. Wright: It is my pleasure, on behalf of the Fianna Fáil group, to propose my colleague, Senator Sean Fallon, the present Leader of the Fianna Fáil group, for the position of Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann. Senator Fallon has served the Seanad with distinction for the past 11 years and has held many important Front bench positions, in particular, Health and Finance and for the past two-and-a-half years has been the Leader of the House. During that time he showed total commitment to the promotion and welfare of Seanad Éireann. His contributions, in my view, have always been balanced and fair. He commands the respect of all sides of the House. It is my view that he will be an excellent ambassador for Seanad Éireann. I so propose him for the position of Cathaoirleach.

Mrs. Honan: It is with great pleasure I second Senator Fallon to be appointed Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann. I do so as a former Cathaoirleach and also as one who was a candidate for the party nomination today. There will be races on [126] other days and I will be in them. I wish Senator Fallon well. As Senator Wright said, Senator Fallon's commitment to this House and the manner in which he cooperated with all of us has been absolute. In his promotion we will lose a very good Leader who was able to command the co-operation of the House but I am sure we will have no trouble in finding an excellent Leader again. I congratulate Senator Fallon and I have great pleasure in seconding him after I was defeated in the party contest by him.

Mr. Manning: There is a long practice in this House whereby the office of Cathaoirleach and Leas-Chathaoirleach are shared between Government and Opposition. It is a good practice of practical power sharing and it has created harmonious good relations and good working in this House. I am pleased to inform the House that we will not be opposing Senator Fallon. In fact, I can go much further and say — I am sure I speak for all my colleagues — that we warmly welcome Senator Fallon as the new Cathaoirleach and will give him our full support. He is one of nature's gentlemen and I believe he will be a first-class Cathaoirleach. He brings to the office qualities of integrity, decency and a great respect for the House and the people who work in it. We welcome the nomination of Senator Fallon as Cathaoirleach.

Mr. O'Toole: It was the intention of the Independent group to propose somebody for this office today but having considered our position we are happy with the person proposed by the Government side, Senator Sean Fallon. In our dealings with him, we have always found him to be honourable, decent and reliable and a person who keeps his word. He has won the trust not only of his colleagues but of Members on all sides of the House. We have had many differences of opinion. Indeed, we look forward to further differences of opinion at various times as he takes up higher office.

I should say also that agreements [127] between the Government and the Opposition should not ignore the cross benches and Independents. It was for this reason that we put forward proposals on previous occasions. We see it as our role to be prepared to fill whatever office should present itself even though we are happy at this time to go along with the proposal from the Government benches. I look forward to working with the new Cathaoirleach but this is not to say there will not be altercations, differences of opinions, rows about procedure and demands made on him in his new office. As I said, I look forward to working with him.

I hope also that he will be a catalyst for change and reform which is badly needed in the House. As Leader of the House, he expressed his views at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and other places. We certainly hope he will bring those views with him to the Chair and take the lead in bringing about the changes which are so badly needed.

Dr. Upton: On behalf of the Labour Party, I wish to state that we are quite happy to go along with tradition which has been established in this House during the years, namely, that the nominee of the Government side for Cathaoirleach should be accepted. We are quite happy to do that and we will not be opposing the nomination of Senator Fallon.

I am very pleased to see Senator Fallon nominated. Since he took over the job of Leader of the House, he has been a very capable, pleasant and courteous Leader who has always paid great attention to detail and answered the various points raised by Senators from this side of the House. It is my experience that invariably he has sought co-operation which has been the hallmark of his behaviour as Leader of the House. For that reason, I am very happy to be associated with this proposal.

During the years Senator Fallon has always put the welfare of the Seanad first. I believe he is greatly committed to the functions and welfare of this House and to the idea and notion that it should play a major role in the democratic process.

[128] That is another reason I am happy to see him nominated this afternoon.

Mr. Dardis: I am very pleased indeed that Senator Fallon has been nominated as Cathaoirleach. Since he was appointed Leader of the House he has won the respect, admiration and affection of everybody in the House. I can think of no one better qualified in this House to assume this responsibility and he has our good wishes in that respect. I am very pleased to continue the tradition whereby his nomination is agreed to by everybody. If candidates had been put forward by the other groups naturally our group would have put forward a candidate also. Happily, we do not have to do so. It is a mark of the stature of our new Cathaoirleach that he has gained widespread support.

Mr. Norris: I am sorry to be the lone dissenting voice. I learned only a short time ago that the Independent group were not putting forward a candidate. Without casting any aspersions on the integrity, courtesy, or gentlemanliness of Senator Fallon I have to say that I regret this cosy arrangement is once again being entered into without a proper election taking place. I will not be supporting Senator Fallon——

Senators: Shame

Mr. Norris: ——and my reason is——

Mr. Lanigan: It is of no consequence.

Mr. Norris: ——that over the past session of this Parliament Fianna Fáil have lost the moral authority to nominate a Cathaoirleach to this House. As part of that group, I believe Senator Fallon has also not won the right to have my absolute support. I say that with regret in a tradition of independence which I have every intention and entitlement to carry through. As I say, I deprecate the cosy arrangements, the cosy divisions of spoil which mark this Parliament, and expressions which are not always what they might be. It is a pity there is no contest for an election because the essence of democracy is to have a contest. I repeat, and I say this without wishing [129] to cast any aspersion on Senator Fallon's integrity, courtesy and gentlemanliness that I will not support him in this vote.

Mr. Naughten: I join with my colleague, Senator Manning, and other speakers in congratulating Senator Fallon on his election as Cathaoirleach of the House today. As Senator Manning has pointed out, it is a longstanding tradition that the Government party have the post of Cathaoirleach and the Opposition the post of Leas-Chathaoirleach. I am delighted Senator Fallon has been nominated for this post because I believe he will bring to the office of Cathaoirleach dedication and commitment. I knew Senator Fallon long before either of us became involved in politics. As a fellow parishioner, I take great pleasure in congratulating him and look forward to working with him during the lifetime of this Seanad.

I want also to wish the former Cathaoirleach, Senator Seán Doherty, every good luck in his retirement. It was a pleasure to work with him during the past two years and I wish both him and his wife all the best in the years ahead.

Mrs. Hederman: I welcome the possibility of Senator Fallon taking over as Cathaoirleach of the House and, if elected, I wish him well because I believe he will do a very good job. As a new Senator, I have served under one Cathaoirleach only. Therefore, I am in no position to make comparisons between the previous Cathaoirleach and any of his predecessors but one of the ongoing problems in relation to the Cathaoirleach since I became a Member of the House was that he wished to become involved in politics in the Dáil. He, therefore, got involved in constituency and party political matters which were not appropriate here.

I have checked the limited information available to me on the record of Senator Fallon and it is indeed an illustrious record. He has been a Member of this House for many years and is obviously very committed to it. While he did run for the Dáil in 1977, 1 am genuinely convinced that Senator Fallon is happy to be in this House, wants to be in this House [130] and will be fully committed to this House. To me that is very important.

It is a matter of regret, however, that the Independent group, of which I am a member, is not putting forward a candidate which is what we had originally intended to do. I believe the Independent group is in an ideal position to provide a Cathaoirleach for the House because of the fact that we are Independents and do not have to adopt any party political position and, therefore, we can be entirely impartial. That is not to say that I found the previous Cathaoirleach, or suspect that Senator Fallon, will be anything other than fair. That is a point which should be made in this House. For that reason, as I said, it is a matter of regret that we are not putting forward a candidate but, unlike my colleague, Senator Norris, I will not be voting against the nomination of Senator Fallon.

May I say to Senator Fallon that, if elected, I hope he will endeavour with great vigour and determination to improve the workings of this House and move forward with the reforms which are desperately needed. On many occasions he has said this House is not and should not be a mirror image of the Dáil. I have spoken on that and made it clear why I think there is a fundamental problem in this House. I believe Senator Fallon will do all he can to expedite the reforms and I urge him to do so. If Senator Fallon is elected, I wish him every success in the future.

Mr. Lanigan: On my behalf and that of my party I wish Senator Fallon well in his new office as Cathaoirleach. I have served in this House for many years under Cathaoirligh of distinction and I always found that the person in the Chair was honourable in the task they undertook. When Senator Honan was in the Chair, she did an excellent job; she was the first female Cathaoirleach of the Seanad. I know that Senator Fallon has a commitment to this House and the House will be enhanced by his elevation to the Chair. I know that he has a commitment to the Members of the House but he also has a commitment to the Seanad as an institution of Government and we have a part to play.

[131] This House is not a mirror image of the Dáil and anybody who tries to make it so is going against tradition and parliamentary democracy. We are protectors of democracy in this House. If Senator Fallon is appointed to the Chair today he will do an excellent job in furthering the interests of this House and of each individual Member. I sincerely wish him every success in his position as Cathaoirleach. I believe he will do an excellent job.

Professor Murphy: When I was first elected to this House, the then Clerk of the Seanad, Jack Tobin, said something to me which I still remember very well. He said that this House makes its own rules and nobody else makes the rules for it; it makes its own rules for its own good order and efficient working. I believe this House should also make its own rules for the Cathaoirleach who has a high status in this House, who personifies this House and who, of course, in Bunreacht na hÉireann is a very important personage indeed.

During the disastrous Cathaoirleachship which has now ended — I think a great number of the Members opposite will agree that it was a fundamental mistake — we never really got down to the question of fundamentally discussing what the Cathaoirleach can do as Cathaoirleach, in terms of public life in politics. We should all agree — we do not need the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to tell us — that now is the time for us to lay down clearly that the Cathaoirleach should be above party politics and that he should not be party political during his term of office. One of the points made against that was that the Cathaoirleach, unlike the Ceann Comhairle in the Dáil, has no constitutional entitlement to automatic re-election and that, therefore, he or she has to be seen to have a high public profile. I submit that the Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann, by virtue of his office, already has a high profile and if he or she acts in a dignified manner and gains the respect of the Members of this House, then automatically they will be re-elected by outgoing Senators. [132] I would certainly always give my No. 1 vote to such a Cathaoirleach in whatever panel he was entering. I do not think a good Cathaoirleach should have to worry about that kind of re-election to this House. The problem is, of course, that the last Cathaoirleach wanted as soon as he could to be elected to the other House and that way lies disaster. I recognise it as a fact of life that many Senators on both sides want to be elected to the other House. I deplore that but it is a fact of life. However, that should not apply to the Cathaoirleach. I am very pleased that it does not arise now.

As a tribute to the previous occupants of the office, I may say that it did not arise with Senator Honan who was always totally dedicated to this House and I am sure the same is true of Senator Fallon. I am very glad that he has been nominated. I do not have to say perhaps that it was I, as the most senior, if nothing else, of my colleagues, who was intended to be put forward as a nomination from the benches here. I confess I would not have minded being Cathaoirleach and there is a sense in which I feel entitled to some comforts at this stage in my career, but there are things that we do not attain in this life. I now accept, for example, that I will never be Archbishop of Cashel, at least not this time around, but one has to accept these facts of life with equanimity. But more particularly and more seriously, there are circumstances in which I would have allowed my name to go forward today. I do not intend to elaborate on those but on a previous occasion, my name went forward. I would be glad to do that in other circumstances, but not in today's circumstances.

I sympathise with Senator Norris's position and he is perfectly entitled to hold that view, and this is the glory of the Independent benches. However, I do not see much point in taking out on Senator Seán Fallon Fianna Fáil incompetence in the context of the last Cathaoirleach, because I think Senator Fallon is by far the best man for the job and I am very pleased to support his nomination. There is no point in empty gestures; there is some point in making a gesture but not [133] an empty gesture and I have had enough of lost causes at this stage.

Mar sin féin, tá pointe tábhachtach eile a ba mhaith liom a dhéanamh. Nuair a hainmníodh an Seanadóir Honan cheana féin, ní raibh mé sásta glacadh léi in ainneoin na gcáilíochtaí a bhí aici toisc go raibh mé amhrasach faoin a cumas sa teanga Ghaeilge. Níl mé tagaithe ar athrú aigne sa mhéid sin. Tá mé fós ar an dtuairim láidir go bhfuil sé an-tabhachtach, má táimid fiú amháin leath i ndáiríre faoi athbheochan na Gaeilge — agus is í athbheochan na Gaeilge an cuspóir is tábhachtaí nó ceann de na cuspóirí is tábhachtaí fós ag Fianna Fáil — go mbeadh dóthain Gaeilge ag iarrthóirí ag cur isteach ar oifigí arda an Stáit.

Tuigim go bhfuil go leor Gaeilge ag an Seanadóir Fallon agus muna bhfuil flúirse Gaeilge aige bheinn ag súil go gcuirfeadh sé leis an méid atá aige, go mór mhór nuair atá an dea-shampla tugtha cheana féin ag Uachtarán na hÉireann. Tá mé ag súil leis sin, ach sin a bheith ráite, guím sonas air, gura fada buan é.

That last wish, of course, I do not mean in its literal sense because everyone knows that he will, not be buan for more than a couple of weeks, but I hope he will enjoy it anyway. I hope his appointment will restore something of the harmony that should be proper to this House.

Mr. Hanafin: I, too, offer my congratulations to Senator Fallon. I have absolutely no doubt that he will bring a great dignity to the Chair because the man does possess a great dignity. I know he will give a first-class account of himself in the Chair and that he will be fair.

I agree with Senator Murphy that the position of Cathaoirleach should be above and beyond party politics. That is very important. Perhaps the group leaders will discuss that because it is important to maintain the dignity of the House at all times.

I am speaking today as runner-up in the contest for the Chair. I seem destined to be runner-up. The first time I had the opportunity of being Cathaoirleach was in 1977 but Jack Lynch was Taoiseach at the time and asked me to stay on to fund-raise. In 1979, Jack stepped out and [134] Charlie stepped in and I was neither fund raiser nor Cathaoirleach and on the last occasion my name was not drawn out of the hat.

Senators should think about what they missed if my name had been drawn out of the hat: they might not have so much to give out about, history would be different and there would be no meetings of the kind which are going on at present. Today, I was beaten fairly and squarely in the contest; there was very little in it. It does not matter whether there is a difference of one, ten or 100 votes — one either wins or loses a contest. I have no animosity or rancour towards Senator Fallon. I am a great believer that things happen for the best. That is my philosophy in life.

I was sorry to hear Senator Murphy say he had given up all hope of being Archbishop of Cashel and Emly. All I can say is, he may have given up hope but I have not.

Mr. Costello: I should like to be associated with the remarks of congratulation to Senator Seán Fallon on his nomination. And to confirm as my colleague, Senator Upton said, that the Labour Party will not be contesting the nomination by putting forward a candidate. I would like to have had the opportunity to support the nomination of Senator Murphy as Cathaoirleach but he did not put his name forward. If he puts his name forward for the position of Cathaoirleach on some future occasion we may have the opportunity of supporting him.

I am very happy in the present circumstances to support the nomination of Senator Fallon as Cathaoirleach. He has been an excellent Leader of this House. He has been very fair and even handed and has conducted the business of the House very efficiently. I have no doubt that he will bring all those qualities to the office of Cathaoirleach.

The issue which has perhaps affected our deliberations most in this House is how we carry out our business. We are very anxious that the House would be reformed so that we can fulfil the role which we, as elected Members, believe we [135] should fulfil. I do not believe this has been the case over the years. I should like to see this House play a full and proper role for the lifetime of this Government, the maximum amount of legislation introduced and for us to get through the maximum amount of business. That is the way we should proceed.

Finally, I sympathise with the other candidates who sought the nomination but were unsuccessful. Perhaps they will have another day.

Mr. Lydon: I too, wish to be associated with the kind remarks about Senator Fallon made by most speakers. I was saddened to hear Senator Norris say he would not be supporting Senator Fallon's nomination. I respect his right to say so and appreciate his desire to retain his independence. Knowing Senator Norris, he will always have that independence. I also understand what he meant when he said he would like to have seen a contest. However, there are some people who, by their genuineness and sincerity, their dedication to the job in hand and, above all, their integrity, inspire confidence in other people. I believe Senator Fallon is one of those people. For that reason I make a special appeal that Senator Norris might reconsider his position. It would be a great start for the new Cathaoirleach if we were all behind him for at least one day.

Mr. B. Ryan: I am well aware of the personal qualities of Senator Fallon. I have been in this House with him for ten years, a considerable period of which he spent on this side of the House. I have a suspicion that it may not be too long until he will again be on this side of the House the way the world is developing. I look forward to continuing my acquaintance with him.

In the meantime — however short or long it may be — he will obviously be the choice of the House for Cathaoirleach. I have no doubt that he will restore to that office a considerable part of the dignity it has lost. My contribution to the restoration of that dignity will be enhanced by the fact that, if I am suspended again, I will be out of the House for a month [136] which, in the present circumstances, could be the duration of its existence. Therefore, I have an incentive to behave myself under Senator Fallon's chairmanship.

I have a certain regret that Senator Hanafin was not elected because, with the prospect of a referendum, Senator Hanafin's depoliticisation in the office of Cathaoirleach might have been a considerable asset to the rest of us in the course of that referendum. The Senator's organisational skills, in which apparently Fianna Fáil lost interest, as he described to us, were used to awesome effect in a certain other organisation and it would have been useful to have him depoliticised for a few years in the future. I am sure he would have stuck to his guns and stayed depoliticised, notwithstanding the issues involved.

As it has been raised, I have no objections to my colleagues in this House aspiring to be TDs. I might even run into such an aberration, although whether the electorate would have the foolishness or the wisdom to elect me is another matter. I do not have any great objections to that aspiration and I do not think that inhibits people.

Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil Gaeilge chuibhseach maith ag an Seanadóir Fallon agus go gcuirfidh sé, más gá, feabhas ar a chuid Gaeilge le linn dó bheith in a Chathaoirleach ach ní thuigim mo chomh-Neamhspleách, an Seanadóir Murphy, duine atá ag caint linn le beagnach 20 bliain anois faoin riachtanacht atá ann dúinn ár gcomhÉireannaigh i dtuaisceart na tíre ón tradisiún eile a thuiscirt, ag rá go mbeadh daoine dícháilithe mar Chathaoirligh do Sheanad Éireann toisc nach bhfuil baint acu leis an tradisiún Gaelach sa tír seo. I understood there were two traditions in this nation, therefore, I was somewhat astonished to hear my colleague, Senator Murphy, of all people, say——

Professor Murphy: The Senator should read the Constitution.

Mr. B. Ryan: ——that people who come from the tradition which perhaps would not have had the opportunity to learn the Irish language are somehow [137] not qualified to be Cathaoirleach of this House.

Professor Murphy: Dualgas bunreachtúil.

Mr. B. Ryan: Ní fheadar faoin dualgas bunreachtúil ach tá bunphrionsabal daonlathach ann chomh maith agus dá mhéad é an tábhacht a bhaineann leis an Ghaeilge, ní dóigh liom gur cheart an daonlathas a shárú.

My only reservation about the election of Sentor Fallon as Cathaoirleach has nothing to do with his qualities. However, I have a serious question whether the party of which he is a member are currently fit to put anybody into any office in this State.

Mr. Hanafin: Come off it.

Mr. Lanigan: That is an unbelievable statement.

Mr. B. Ryan: I have profound reservations and a large majority of the Irish people share that view. The nomination of Senator Fallon is a very fine example of a party putting their best face forward in very difficult circumstances. I congratulate Senator Fallon. I know he will be an impeccable Cathaoirleach. However, that cannot be separated from the party who are nominating him and the state they are in.

Mr. Bohan: I congratulate my neighbour, Senator Fallon, on his nomination for Cathaoirleach. I was very sad to hear Senator Murphy criticising the former Cathaoirleach who did a very good job when he was in the Chair and ran this House very well. It is sad to hear a Member criticising somebody who is not here to defend himself. Senator Doherty did a very good job while he was in office.

Mr. Harte: I wish to join with my colleagues in welcoming the fact that somebody of the calibre of Senator Fallon has been nominated for Cathaoirleach. I do not wish to repeat all the rosy remarks that have been made; I would probably stumble on some of the words. I have had many dealings with Senator Fallon [138] over a long time as a colleague, as Leader of the House and as Whip and he did a very good job and was very fair. I wish him the best of luck.

Mr. Foley: I would like to be associated with the tributes paid to Senator Fallon today and to offer him my congratulations. We have been friends for many years. We met many years ago on a basketball court in Athlone and on that occasion he was a loser. I have no doubt, as has been said, that he will bring a new dimension to the Office of Cathaoirleach and I wish him well.

Mr. R. Kiely: The leader of the Fine Gael group has said the question should be put, but contributions should not be curtailed. We have been elected to the Seanad and we are entitled to pay our tributes to Senator Fallon who has been nominated as Cathaoirleach. I congratulate Senator Fallon on that nomination. I have been a Member of the House since 1977, with the exception of a short period when I was forced to take leave of absence. Senator Fallon will be a good Cathaoirleach and he should get the co-operation of the House. As I mentioned on one occasion when I was elected to the House in 1977 the Order of Business took only a couple of minutes but now it can take one hour. Items that are not relevant to this House are raised by Members of the Fianna Fáil Party as well as by Members of the Opposition. I appeal to Senators to co-operate with the Cathaoirleach so that the business of the House can be carried out in a dignified manner.

I wish Senator Fallon every luck. He has been a great Leader of the House since his election to that post. I would like to compliment previous Leaders of the House — former Senator Eoin Ryan, who was Leader when I was elected first, Mrs. Gemma Hussey, former Senator James Dooge and Senator Lanigan. They were great leaders of the House, and when Members say Senator Fallon was a great leader it should not reflect on the others I mentioned because they did great work. I wish Sentor Fallon every success and give him my guarantee of co-operation. I appeal for co-operation from [139] all sides of the House with Senator Fallon in his office as Cathaoirleach.

Cuireadh agus aontaíodh an cheist: “Go dtoghfar an Seanadóir Sean Fallon agus go rachaidh sé i gceannas an tSeanaid anois mar Chathaoirleach”.

Question, “That Senator Sean Fallon be elected and do now take the Chair of the Seanad as Cathaoirleach”, put and agreed to.

Whereupon Senators rose in their places and remained standing while the Cathaoirleach proceeded to the Dais.

An Cathaoirleach: I would like to thank my proposer, Senator Wright, and seconder, Senator Honan. It is indeed a great honour for me to have been elected Cathaoirleach of the Seanad. I am certainly committed to the Seanad and the constitutional role of the Seanad. I assure every Senator that I will do my utmost to uphold the dignity of the position of Cathaoirleach. I will endeavour at all times to be fair and impartial. I assure Senators that they need have no worries about my commitment. At all times my theory in life has been to seek co-operation rather than confrontation, and I will be doing that in my position as Cathaoirleach.

Maidir leis an cheist ón Seanadóir Murphy, níl an Ghaeilge go fhúirseach agam — tá sé sin fíor — ach déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall cothram na Féinne a thabhairt do gach Seanadóir.

I am indeed thrilled, delighted and excited at the prospect of this new challenge. I am grateful to Senator Manning, the leaders of the other parties and the other Senators who spoke, particularly Senators Hanafin and Honan who contested this position. I am grateful for the commitment, dedication and co-operation of people throughout the House. I will certainly endeavour to live up to the Senators' expectation and hopefully will prove to be a fair Cathaoirleach. I repeat that I will uphold the dignity of the position of Cathaoirleach.

My first task is to select an item on the Adjournment.

[140] Mr. Manning: On a point of order, before the Adjournment matter is taken I seek to move the suspension of Standing Orders to enable item No. 44 on the Order Paper to be taken.

An Cathaoirleach: The advice available to me is that I should first select the item for the Adjournment.

Mr. Cassidy: A Chathaoirligh, may I offer my congratulations before we proceed?

Senators: No.