Seanad Éireann - Volume 135 - 17 February, 1993

Election of Cathaoirleach.

[9] Clerk of Seanad: Glacfaidh mé le tairiscintí anois. I will now receive motions.

Mr. Wright: It is an honour for me to propose the name of Senator Sean Fallon. He has given 12 years of excellent service to this House. He has served as spokesperson on Finance and on Health and between 1990 and 1992 he served with great distinction as Leader of the House culminating in the last year in his election as Cathaoirleach. Senator Fallon was a fair chairperson. His friendliness and courtesy are by-words in Irish public life. His total commitment to this House is well known. He is an excellent ambassador for the Seanad and it is my honour to propose Senator Sean Fallon for the position of Cathaoirleach.

Ms. O'Sullivan: On behalf of the other party in Government I have pleasure in seconding the nomination of Senator Sean Fallon. I have not had the privilege of serving in this House before but I know he has been a fair and democratic Cathaoirleach and all sides of the House know that to be the case. I am sure the business of the House will be constructively and efficiently executed under his chairmanship.

Mr. Manning: In accordance with the practice and good traditions of this House we will not be opposing the re-election of Senator Sean Fallon as Cathaoirleach. I welcome the selection of Senator Fallon by his own group as their nominee. His record in the Chair has been one of fairness and courtesy to all sides. He has performed his duties with dignity and good humour. I can assure him of our cooperation in the effective running of the House.

This is the first meeting of the 19th Seanad and it comprises the highest number of new Members. Many old familiar faces are gone and they will be missed. However, they know, as we all know, that politics can be a rough, tough and very unsentimental business.

[10] All Members of the House will agree that we are entering a new phase in our history when the public is impatient. People expect politicians and the institutions of the State to deliver much more than they have already done. A process of reform was begun in the last Seanad and progress was made. This process must be continued at an accelerated pace, it must be radical. We do not have to wait for Government to do this for us or for Government to lead us. We can and we must do it ourselves. We must give the lead in this matter. Reform of this House must be a priority and we must be seen to be serious about it. No one group in this House has all the answers; no one group has a monopoly on the wisdom of what needs to be done. However, if we work together in this House in common cause I believe we can make this a worthwhile and productive session.

My group will be vigorous and vigilant in Opposition to this Government. We will be constructive and positive in furthering the development and relevance of this House. As an indication of that, I will be asking for major debates on two of the most important issues facing this country — the currency crisis and Northern Ireland. I would take it as an earnest of the Government's good faith if they would accede to this request at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. O'Toole: During the election of Cathaoirleach it is important to note that we on the Independent benches look forward to a Cathaoirleach who will be fair, open and honest and who will lead in the reform of this House. The reputation of the House needs to be improved in the public eye. We have come through an election system which is undemocratic, unrepresentative and opaque to the general public. It deprives many people from becoming involved in Seanad elections and needs to be changed in order to give universal franchise to members of the community.

The operation of the House will have to be seen to move with the times and to be relevant to people's problems. As a House, we have a reputation for being [11] irrelevant and untopical. This has to change. We look forward to a Cathaoirleach who will bring change and reform the operation of the House so as to ensure full participation by the elected Members. Every Member of the House should be clear about this.

It is not the intention of the Independent group to propose anybody for the position of Cathaoirleach. However, we intend to put forward a proposal for the position of Leas-Cathaoirleach. It has been traditional for the Leas-Chathaoirleach to come from the non-Government side and we hope that practice will continue. The five Independent University Members have formed a group and for technical purposes, the Progressive Democrat and Democratic Left Senators will be part of that group. We hope both parties in Government will look favourably on our proposal for Leas-Chathaoirleach.

Mr. Dardis: On behalf of the Progressive Democrats, it gives me pleasure to support the nomination of Senator Fallon for the office of Cathaoirleach. We paid well deserved tributes to him in the outgoing Seanad and I know he will bring the qualities of which we are all aware to this important constitutional office. Senator Fallon has one unique political characteristic; I have never heard anyone speak ill of him. That says a lot about the man. I am pleased that he will be our new Cathaoirleach and I hope that will be achieved by unanimity.

I re-echo some of the words spoken by Senator Manning. I hope we can advance the reform which began in a small way during the last Seanad and that the House will become a more relevant arm of State where society's problems can be discussed more easily on the floor of this House. I am sorry some of our former Members are not back with us, but I welcome the new Members and I am sure we will work well together in the coming months and years. In particular, I welcome the nomination of Senator Wilson to the House and I know he will make a major contribution.

[12] One of the issues we must address is the degree to which the Executive feels Parliament can be by-passed. That is something which must not happen in a democracy.

Mr. Lanigan: I join with those who have suggested that Senator Seán Fallon should be unanimously elected as Cathaoirleach. I have served in this House for many years and Senator Fallon always did what we wanted. He was evenhanded in his dealings with all sides of the House.

I refute the argument that Senators are elected by a minority of the people. We are elected to this House and we represent the majority of the people, unlike those who are elected by the universities——

Mr. O'Toole: The system of University Senators does not appeal to any of us on these benches.

Mr. Norris: It appeals to me.

Mr. Lanigan: I join with my colleagues in welcoming the election of Senator Seán Fallon. I suggest that the newspapers who are well represented here today — and who are not normally represented here — should take note of the fact that we were elected by the people through our county councillors. We are not a unique group.

Mary Cummins suggested in an interview——

Mr. Norris: The Senator should not name people.

Mr. O'Toole: It is unacceptable for Members to name individuals.

Mr. Lanigan: —with Mary Jackman that the Seanad is not covered in the news because of time constraints. It is only those who speak on the Order of Business who are mentioned in the papers. If this is true then the press should cover the proceedings of the Seanad at all times. If the media wants to report Oireachtas proceedings effectively, then those [13] reporters who are present today, but who will not be here for the next five years, should leave now.

Mr. Sherlock: It is a great tribute to Senator Seán Fallon that he will be elected unopposed. It is generally accepted that Senator Fallon is a popular man.

I have been a public representative at local and national level since 1967 and I acknowledge that I am a novice in this House. I have a lot to learn but I hope I can make a positive contribution to the work of Seanad Éireann. I am not the only new face here and the fact that there are so many new Senators will, I hope, revitalise public interest in this House and ensure that it receives a fair share of media coverage.

Seanad Éireann has been the subject of much criticism over the past few years, much of it misdirected, but that does not mean there is not an urgent need for this House, and the Oireacthas generally, to update its procedures, to facilitate Members who want to make a constructive contribution to the work of the House, to enable it to respond more rapidly to important political issues as they arise and to show the people that it can be relevant to their lives. In this context, it is disappointing that the Seanad was ignored on the discussions between Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party, not even meriting a mention in the programme for Government.

There have been considerable discussions on the proposals for reform of the Dáil and the TDs are devoting two days this week to a general debate on Dáil reform. I hope the Seanad will undertake a similar exercise at the earliest opportunity and I am anxious to hear the views of more experienced Senators on this matter. One area being talked about is the introduction of a form of Question Time. The ability to raise matters on the Adjournment would also be valuable.

The relevance of the Seanad will be determined largely by how much the Government allows it to have a real rôle in the legislative process. If this House is [14] merely to be used as a rubber stamp for legislation already processed in the Dáil, it will be seen to have little relevance. On the other hand, if more legislation is initiated in the Seanad, as is permitted under the Constitution, if it is allowed to seriously examine legislation, if Ministers are prepared to listen in a rational way to views put forward and to give serious consideration to amendments tabled here, it can have a positive rôle to play in the legislative process and make an enhanced contribution to public life.

As a Member of the Dáil in the past, I have been conscious of the fine work the Seanad has done on many Bills, particularly in the detailed line by line examination. Bills such as the Electoral (Amendment) Bill and the Environmental Protection Agency Bill have emerged much improved from consideration by the Seanad and the Dáil has been left with relatively little to do. Because of the unique nature of the Seanad electoral system debates can take place on a more rational basis than in the politically confrontational atmosphere of the Dáil. The Seanad is especially suited to dealing with legislation that is complex, detailed and requiring particularly close examination. I hope the Government will give it the work to allow the Members to do the House justice.

Mr. Norris: I am afraid I am going to disappoint the House because I will not be coerced by the speech of Senator Lanigan into a cosy unanimity in regard to this matter. This is, after all, an election and in most elections you hear what the candidate stands for. We have a track record. I have no personal difficulties or disagreements with Senator Fallon. I have always found him a reasonable, courteous and decent man. I would like to hear from him before I decide whether to abstain or to vote against. I will not vote for, because Senator Fallon, like many other people, is the product of a vitiated electoral system. This is not a personal attack; it is an attack on the system and it is my responsibility to make that attack. I would like to hear from [15] Senator Fallon if he has a programme for reform of the Seanad.

I took seriously the onerous responsibility placed on me and all the other Members to vote, not once, but five times on the corrupt panel system. Each of those votes is multiplied by 1,000, you have a descending order of preference, that means you have 10,000 or 15,000 votes per panel——

Mr. Lanigan: I object to that. Your system is more corrupt. The Senator is looking for publicity.

Mr. Norris: Each Senator, each member of a county council, each Member of the outgoing Dáil has the equivalent of about 100,000 votes——

Mr. Lanigan: You represent nobody.

Mr. Norris: Unlike the universities which have real constituencies. I listened with great interest to Senator Mooney this morning on Radio Éireann. He said he would vote against the interests of the nominating bodies if he was so instructed by a party whip. How gutless are those nominating bodies? When are they going to do something about it? I call on the nominating bodies under the machinery by which the Seanad is established to refuse to take part in this charade in future.

Mr. Lanigan: You are a member of a nominating body.

Mr. Norris: They can only nominate people who are prepared to vote against their interests if they are instructed by the party Whip. No ordinary member of any nominating body has the power to vote. What are you afraid of, gentlepersons all? Are you afraid a little breath of democracy might blow some of you out the window? Why do you not put yourself before the people and stand for election in a real way?

Mr. Lanigan: Rubbish. Nominating bodies select the people.

[16] Mr. Norris: After the last election we had a similar cosy arrangement. The Cathaoirleach stood in the general election for the Dáil and was rejected democratically by the people, he stood in the European elections and was rejected democratically by the people, then parachuted in, using the panel system to get into the Seanad and became Cathaoirleach. To show I am not partisan, the Leas-Chathaoirleach, from this side of the House, also ran in the general election for the Dáil, was rejected and managed to get through the panel system because of the cronies on the county councils.

Mr. Lanigan: No cronies in Trinity?

Mr. Norris: I noted in the election manifestos how many candidates avoided political issues and concentrated on how they would improve facilities for county councillors. Senator Fallon also did a good job in the last Seanad election. When I perused his nicely produced election material I find a photograph of President de Valera with his first Cabinet, which is 60 years out of date, some records of his sporting achievement, his membership of Westmeath County Council and Athlone UDC for 20 years, in addition to being Cathaoirleach of the Seanad. That is useful and valuable material but it is not the kind of serious political record in which I am interested. There were many more — there were worse cases. From the Fianna Fáil side the best manifesto I saw was from Professor Conroy, who did not manage to get back. That indicates how seriously this wonderful democratic electorate takes politics.

When are the nominating bodies going to get some guts and stand up against this contradiction of their interests? Look at what happened to the Royal Irish Academy. They nominated their president. How many votes did he get? None.

Mr. Lanigan: Rightly so.

Mr. Norris: Of course he was not a county councillor.

[17] After this glorious democratic election in which each of us cast the equivalent of 100,000 votes, the situation is so pitiful that in order to provide a fig-leaf for democracy the whole election has to be engineered and jigged, and results multiplied by 1,000 to make it appear real. Let us remember what happened at the end of the last session. As I said, the Cathaoirleach failed in the European election, failed in the Dáil election, the Leas-Chathaoirleach failed in the Dáil election. My good and genial friend whom I am delighted to see back here, Senator Lanigan, did the decent thing. He did not stand for the Dáil, he did not stand in the European election, he stood in the Seanad election and lost his seat. He was then nominated. All three named officers of Seanad Éireann after a democratic election were rejected by the people of Ireland. Is that not interesting?

In Trinity we have an electorate of 22,500. The National University of Ireland has an electorate of 75,000. We are called undemocratic. It would be democratic if you had the guts to enfranchise the ordinary members of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry, the Irish Insurance Federation or the farmers.

Mr. Lanigan: I represent the Society of the Irish Motor Industry, Sir.

Mr. Norris: I believe many Members would get re-elected if only they had the guts to stand a real test. I do not take seriously the protestations about reform of the Seanad. I welcome Senator Sherlock to this House because we can have good debates and the record of The Workers' Party can be looked at. I remember debates here where they were dragged through the hedge backwards and there was nobody to defend them because they had no representative here. Senator Sherlock was perfectly right. I looked from end to end of the programme for Government and there was no one single mention of Seanad Éireann, even when talking about committees which are supposed to be committees of both Houses of the Oireachtas. I will [18] listen with great interest to what Senator Fallon says and, accepting the inevitability of his appointment, if I get the opportunity, I will be happy to congratulate him.

If anybody is serious about Seanad reform they have to look at the panels because even the nominating body's sub-panel do not have a vote on their own panel. That is ridiculous. I call on the nominating bodies to get together and have a meeting to discuss their attitude towards the Seanad. Let them put it clearly to the Government that if there is no reform they will not participate in this charade, they will not nominate anybody and they will not allow anybody to be nominated in their name until they get some degree of participation in Government. That, in my opinion, is what ought to happen.

Let us examine this. I am aware that the principal political parties refused nominations to some of their members if they would not stand for Dáil seats. That tells us the way in which political parties have invaded this House and — and I use the word advisedly — have corrupted us. I do not mean that individual Members are corrupt but the system most definitely needs a clear determined examination. If the nominating panels were enfranchised we would not have what appears to be a distortion of the six University Senators who have an independence of mind and who operate as a kind of scrutinising body. There would be a complete spread throughout the country because it would not be just the universities who are elected in this proper fashion; there would be Senators presenting the farmers, the insurance industry, etc. I suggest that it is in the Government's interest to look seriously at Seanad reform, not tinkering with the number of Adjournment debates and so on, but introducing real Seanad reform instead of this smoke screen of attacking the University representation which is the only panel that works as intended.

I will take more seriously the protestations of democracy from this new Government, which now has a Labour [19] element, if it gives some indication that it is prepared to behave in a way that is less reminiscent of East European regimes when it comes to legislation, in other words, it is not being a “dog in the manger”. For the second time in nearly 40 years the Government might accept one non-controversial Bill from this side of the House. There are several which could be disposed of in about three quarters of an hour; they have all party agreement and yet the Government will not permit them to proceed.

Let us see if any of these reforms are carried through. I also suggest that the Cathaoirleach might try to ensure that people actually choose to come into this House by arranging the same date for nomination for Seanad and Dáil. It is a matter of regret to me that so many of the incoming Members have, with commendable honesty, indicated that they are only having a little rest here while they position themselves to take a seat in the Dáil.

I hope there will be an extended detailed debate, in which I hope to participate. With regard to reform of the Seanad, I do not share all Senator Lanigan's strictures on the press. They do not just concentrate on the Order of Business, although sometimes that is an interesting period.

Mr. Lanigan: The Senator gives them his speeches beforehand.

Mr. Norris: There is an uneven spread between the different newspapers and I think it ill behoves people who do not fully understand the machinery of Seanad Éireann to suddenly make themselves experts and criticise. In addition to its defects, which I feel very keenly, in my opinion we are not paid half enough. We do not get proper facilities as secretaries have to work under conditions of extreme pressure and strain. We have six University Senators, two secretaries, two political assistants and various other people crammed into three tiny cupboard rooms on what is euphemistically called the lower ground floor but is actually a [20] basement. These conditions are probably breaking the Factories Act.

Mr. Lanigan: A bunker.

Mr. Norris: We should be given proper facilities.

I will listen with great interest to what Senator Fallon has to say and depending on that, I will decide whether to reserve my vote or to cast it against him. If I do take that decision I know, because he is a gentleman, that he will not take it in a personal way, he will understand that I make this intervention because I do not want us to get off to too cosy a start, I do not want us to be too comfortable. I want this House to address the real issues in a forceful and vigorous way and I do not really care whether it is non-confrontational or confrontational. If there are real confrontations, let us face them in a civilised but forceful and vigorous way. This is the place to discuss disagreements and I hope we do not have this awful soporific, anodyne, anaesthetic core of agreement and approval.

Mr. McGowan: I am very pleased to be back in the House and I welcome and congratulate all the people elected and nominated to the House. I give a very special welcome to Senator Gordon Wilson. The nation and Europe knows that Senator Wilson has a very courageous past and he will need all his courage to survive and maintain his sanity in this House.

I am disappointed to see these learned people taking advantage of the situation where the Clerk is, by obligation, presiding as we do not yet have a Cathaoirleach to control the House. It is wrong of Senator Norris to take advantage. The press will not waste time listening to hot air being let off in this House by people like Senator Norris——

Mr. Norris: It was not hot air.

Mr. McGowan: I did not interrupt anybody. The Constitution preserves a privileged position for people like Senator Norris to be here and if there is any [21] reform needed then it should start in the area Senator Norris represents. In the reform of this House I would like those educated people, the self-styled elitists, to recognise that different vocations are entitled to make their contributions in this House.

I value this House. I am the longest serving Member in this House and I have learned something in the past. I described Senator Norris as a “bookserologist”. He quietly called me to one side and asked if I was being rude to him. I said no, that word is in the dictionary but he did not seem to know it. I explained to him privately that a “bookserologist” is a person who knows everything about everything. It is very good to have that kind of person participating and teaching those who are less learned in this House.

This House will function if it is allowed to do so. There are new Members with fresh ideas and we, in Government, have partners and recognise that they, too, have a contribution to make. I am delighted Senator Seán Fallon has been nominated as Cathaoirleach because he has the strength ability and respect to preside over this House and to keep order. I suggest that Senator Fallon start with those who would hold this House up to ridicule by wasting time——

Mr. Norris: That is you gone for a start.

Mr. McGowan: It is awful that one cannot make a contribution without being interrupted. I feel sad for those who do not have the manners to behave themselves in the House. Those who come from rural areas realise that a little manners will take you a long way; it is a pity others are deprived of that common touch.

I support Senator Maurice Manning's reference to the priority of the day. I, too, would like a debate on the difficult problems of the North and I look forward to hearing contributions from Senator Gordon Wilson and others. Unemployment and the North are the two issues the majority of reasonable people in this House are interested in. I ask those [22] Senators who prevent normal discussion to allow every person including those not as eloquent or as educated, to make their contribution and then we will get results.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Ba mhaith liom cóaontú leis an moladh rúin go dtoghfaidh Seán Fallon mar Chathaoirleach ar an Seanad. Bheadh sé tuillte aige dá bhfaigheadh sé fein an post mar tá fhios ag gach éinne go bhfuil meas an-mhór ar gach éinne anseo, gach ball den sean-Seanad, ar an Seanadóir Fallon agus tá súil agam go mbeidh torthaí a shaothar aige anseo agus go n-éireoidh leis agus le gach éinne againn obair an Seanad seo a chur ar aghaidh sna blianta seo romhainn.

I would like to be associated with the motion to nominate Senator Seán Fallon. It is invidious to suggest that any Member who is proposed for office here, or in any democratic assembly, should acclaim their qualifications and virtue before we, their peers, judge them fit for the job. I am not aware of any assembly, be it ancient or modern, in which a person nominated for a post such as Cathaoirleach or Chairperson would acclaim his or her virtue to their peers before being judged suitable. There is no precedent for it and Senator Norris must be aware of that fact. I do not think there is even a precedent in social organisations, much less in democratic political assemblies.

It is time we recognised our established political responsibility. I am very conscious of that fact — I am privileged to come back to the Seanad after 28 years; I was first elected in 1965 when I was in my mid-twenties — because at that time some of the names associated with the establishment of this State, whose families had created the conditions in which we could enjoy the democratic right of free expression, were also Members of the Seanad. Senator McGowan is the only other surviving Member from that time. Today I begin to doubt that I have a right to be here in view of the suggestion by Senator Norris that if one is defeated in the Dáil elections one has no right to be here. However, I do not intend to contest the suggestion.

Consider the fact that Senators Margaret [23] Pearse, Nora Connolly—O'Brien and the late Tim Ryan were members of that Seanad. All three, in one way or another, were very closely associated with the great event of 1916, an event that is honoured and recognised outside this country as a vindication of the rights of people to govern themselves. That was how it was in the Seanad 28 years ago and we should not undermine that by unnecessary confrontation.

I was encouraged by what I heard from a longtime friend and colleague, Senator Maurice Manning, and by the views of others. That is not to suggest that people should not have the right to dissociate themselves from any motion proposed by the majority group — that is, of course, an essential element in any society or democracy but the issues mentioned by Senators McGowan and Manning are important and are causes of concern to the people of Ireland. These issues are crying out for our concentrated attention and I hope we would not, on this first day, look for division in the Seanad on grounds that, in the view of the young people who are unemployed, are totally and utterly spurious.

I do not question the fact that other Senators are here by virtue of a different mandate from mine. I have always recognised the role of Senators, particularly those with a different mandate. I recognised it when I was a Minister and I came to this House more often than any other Minister. We should remember what a wise old man, Socrates, said over 2000 years ago — the beginning of knowledge is to recognise the extent of your ignorance. We might stop preaching to each other and try to find a common cause.

The Seanad represents all the elements of society under the current constitutional arrangements. Of course there is room for improvement, of course there may be better ways to elect Senators; there may also be reasons to represent other universities, like Dublin City University, or Limerick University, different areas from those represented on this side.

[24] Mr. O'Toole: And the regional technical colleges.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Let us also recognise people who have made significant contributions in their own spheres of academic and business life before coming to this House. By this I mean people such as Senator Wilson whom we all welcome here, who has touched the hearts of the people of Ireland and Senator Brian Crowley, who has suffered a disability. Surely on this day we can at least express that common purpose. No one of us is fully qualified to represent that common purpose but if there is one person in this House who is ideally suited to do so that person is Senator Fallon. For that reason, I am happy to be associated with his nomination and I hope that his election will be the beginning of co-operation and understanding towards a common purpose of this country.

Mr. Roche: I had not intended to speak on this matter but I felt, listening to the contribution from Senator Norris, how easy it is for pomposity to displace commonsense.

Mr. Norris: On which Senator Roche is an authority.

Mr. Roche: I also welcome the proposal that Senator Fallon should be Cathaoirleach of the Seanad and that he has the support of the majority.

Another thing that was shown in Senator Norris's contribution was rank hypocrisy. I will illustrate by three examples. First, Senator Norris is one of the representatives of a university, which has a much smaller electorate than the NUI. I cannot understand what logic makes the vote of an NUI graduate less valuable than the vote of a Trinity College graduate. Indeed — and I stand to be corrected on this — maybe Senator Norris will illustrate how concerned he was for democracy in the university panels by bringing forward, in the next few days, the number of occasions when he moved to extend the franchise in the manner the Irish people voted on so [25] many years ago. There is clearly an anomalous situation——

Mr. Norris: On every single occasion; the Senator should seek the information that came before the House.

Mr. O'Toole: On at least six occasions.

Mr. Roche: I will not be shouted down by either of the Senators but I am sure Senator Norris will bring that information forward in due-course. He represents an electorate on which the people have given their views, and that is that the electorate should be extended to the university panels.

Senator Norris showed a degree of hypocrisy when he spoke about a gentleman from the Royal Irish Academy. He explained how horrific it was that this candidate received no votes. I did not vote for this candidate and we can assume Senator Norris did not vote for him either.

A third example of Senator Norris's hyprocrisy was illustrated when he had the effrontery to refer to Oireachtas joint committees. In the last Dáil I was chairman of an oireachtas committee and Senator Norris played footsie with a Member of this House when they changed from being an Independent Senator to a party Senator and they took the party Whip. Senator Norris was so unconcerned about the voice of the Independent Senators that it took him six months to act and he acted only when I goaded him and the other so-called Independent group. As Members of this House know, before Senator Norris acted to give the Independent Senators a voice he threatened legal action against me.

Mr. Norris: I ask the Senator to confine himself to the truth. I know it is not easy but perhaps the Senator might make some attempt at it.

Mr. Roche: I did not come here to taunt Senator Norris.

Mr. Norris: Please do; I love it.

[26] Mr. Roche: Nor did I come here to appeal to any of Senator Norris's proclivities. I came here to participate in a part of the Oireachtas.

I have watched Senator Norris on many occasions in this House. If he stopped acting the clown and focused his considerable intellect on the business of the House, he would serve us and the electorate better than he has done so far.

Mr. Enright: I join with the other Senators who have spoken this afternoon in supporting the nomination of Senator Sean Fallon for the position of Cathaoirleach.

I am from a neighbouring county and I have seen the work Senator Fallon has done over the years. He is well suited to the high Office of Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann. I welcome him to that position and he has our full support.

Senator Maurice Manning in his address spoke of the need for co-operation. However, we will analyse legislation put forward and oppose it or make changes where appropriate. We will be vigilant and responsible in Opposition. Our support of Senator Fallon is not a cosy arrangement. We do so because we believe he has been an excellent Cathaoirleach and has carried out his duties in a fair and impartial manner.

Politicians and political parties are accused, often unfairly, of too much political fighting and infighting. On this occasion we are trying to show a spirit of generosity in this House. Generosity is required in this country both North and South. I expected the Independent Senators to support our effort of co-operation.

Mr. O'Toole: The Independents have given no indication of how they are voting.

Mr. Enright: Senator, your colleague beside you has not yet made up his mind and would appear to be speaking in opposition to the nomination.

Mr. O'Toole: We are not the Opposition.

[27] Mr. Enright: I will return to that point in a moment. On this occasion we would like to work in a spirit of co-operation.

Senator O'Toole has reminded me that the Independent, Democratic Left and the Progressive Democrat Senators intend forming a group. I do not know whether you have appointed a Whip or what process you have gone through but I am pleased to see you have organised your own Independent group. However, many people were of the impression that they were voting for Independent Senators or, in some instances, political parties. It is rather strange that individuals elected on an Independent ticket should now come together but that is part and parcel of the workings of democracy.

Mr. O'Toole: It is required by the Standing Orders of the House.

Mr. Enright: You can phrase it whatever way you like but you have set up a group and are committed to working together as a group.

Mr. Lanigan: If the Independents become a group they are no longer independent.

Mr. Enright: I do not want to enter into any personal discussions with anybody but I am concerned about remarks made by Senator Norris. The electoral system of this House was described as being a corrupt panel system. I take umbrage at this because I have been a councillor for many years. I travelled approximately 10,000 miles during the Seanad election campaign and I met many very hard working councillors both men and women. One Sunday morning while campaigning I visited a man in Mayo. He was replying to representations made to him. He was getting nothing for it but felt he was serving the local needs. I do not believe that it was in anyway corrupt for this man to vote for me because I was on a particular panel system. This man wanted to do something of a voluntary nature for the community and he was doing so.

This system was approved by the [28] people. It can be improved if we work together as a team, but I do not think we should belittle this system as many people are doing outside the House. One of this morning's national newspapers estimated the running costs of this House at £2 million per year. I am not certain of the actual cost but at least we have a system that is working.

We have in Seanad Éireann a Senator from the North of Ireland where, unfortunately, they have not a system of democracy as we would like, and I am sure as Senator Wilson would like, a system where governments are elected by the people. We should value our system of democracy and make every possible effort to ensure that it works properly.

I read the programme for Government and I was concerned that it made no reference to this House. There are three Houses of the Oireachtas — the Presidency, the Seanad and the Dáil. We are all part of the constitutional system and it saddens me that no reference was made to this House.

Stephen Collins, a senior journalist in the Sunday Press, spoke of the proposed changes in the committee system. He mentioned we will have a plenary session of the Dáil once a week while committees will meet every other day. Question Time, apparently, will be taken once a week. At present this system is being considered. In the last Dáil I was on two committees. One dealt with the Solicitor's Bill, which received little or no media coverage. Senator Roche and I were involved in the Committee Stage proceedings of the Finance Bill on which all the committee members worked hard. I was opposed to many proposals in that legislation. They were severe and I felt they would damage the economy and cause unemployment. My opposition did not get a single line of coverage in any of the national papers, or on radio or television. I am not blaming the journalists. They are also working under certain difficulties — constraints of time, space, etc. Nonetheless not a line was written in the newspapers about what happened here. The people did not know [29] what was happening. They had no idea of the proposals in the Bill and of the additional severe penal powers being granted to the Revenue Commissioners until these proposals were enacted into law. I am in favour of change and improvements, but we must ensure that everybody knows what is happening.

I am concerned about the effort to curtail comment. During the period 1973-77 when the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition were in power there was a TV programme called “Hall's Pictorial Weekly” where Frank Hall poked fun at Michael O'Leary, Liam Cosgrave and other public figures.

Mr. Lanigan: Red Richie.

Mr. Enright: It was a very good programme. I am sure that Liam Cosgrave and the others enjoyed it even though it was hard hitting. However, shortly after Mr. Lynch returned to Government as Taoiseach Frank Hall imposed self-censorship. Why I do not know, but soon after that he was appointed chairman of the Censorship Board.

People like Dermot Morgan, whether we like him or not, were criticising what was happening in these Houses and I think that was a good thing. Many people may disagree, but it was an expression across the airwaves of what was happening here. It happens in Britain, and it is good for Britain, and it should happen here. I am in favour of allowing people to make comments in a humorous and witty way. That type of critical exposure can deflate powerful people.

When the Taoiseach was a year in office I was amazed that two minutes of a TV news bulletin showed how the system of Government works. That should not have been shown on a news bulletin.

I wish Senator Fallon every success and hope he is elected.

Mr. Magner: There have been many fine words spoken here since 2.30 p.m., but the only change effected in the House was by someone who has not spoken yet and that is Senator Crowley. His presence [30] has made access to this House possible for the disabled. All this is possible because the Taoiseach nominated that brave man to the Seanad.

The other person who should be a cause of inspiration is Senator Gordon Wilson because of his personal courage, his deep Christianity and his sense of reconciliation. There is little evidence that he has had any influence so far judging by the allegations hurled across the floor about the systems of election which none of us as individuals has devised but from which we have all benefitted, including myself and I am happy to be here.

Senator Enright referred to the programme for Government and I hope we will not finish that debate today but that it will be debated over the next four years in an exhaustive way.

There is little doubt in my mind that if we debate the election of Cathaoirleach until 6 p.m. Senator Fallon will command the respect, affection and the majority of votes and I suggest we proceed.

Mr. Wilson: Little did I think as I left my home this morning and drove around the War Memorial on my way to Dublin that I would be in my seat within one hour of the Seanad opening, but I cannot go away from this session without saying a very simple but very sincere thank you for the welcome all Members, within and without the Seanad, have given me this morning. It would be very ungracious of me not to say so.

I am very conscious of the fact that I come from — and I mean no disrespect — the bogs of Leitrim via Enniskillen and via the War Memorial to this House. It is a very great honour for me to be here. I can only ask for your good wishes and prayers that I get the grace to live up to the expectations and hopes that have been asked of me.

On the motion, I support Senator Seán Fallon for Cathaoirleach.

Mr. Quinn: I intend to establish a record for brevity. It gives me great pleasure to support Senator Seán Fallon as Cathaoirleach.

[31] Mr. Reynolds: I also support Senator Seán Fallon's nomination for the position of Cathaoirleach. My father had the pleasure of being Acting Chairman of this House for a number of years and I know Senator Fallon will carry out his duties with fairness and impartiality.

As a County Leitrim man it is a great pleasure to welcome Senator Gordon Wilson to this House. He has been a symbol of great courage and peace for the people of this island. I hope his presence here will do untold good for the people of Ireland in general. I also compliment the Taoiseach on nominating Senator Wilson to the House.

Dr. Henry: I too support the election of Senator Fallon.

I wish to point out something that came to my attention last weekend which makes one realise what a very small island we live on. My father came from Sligo and 50 years ago he was employed by Senator Wilson's father. I went to Cork at the weekend and mentioned to my mother how pleased I was to be coming to the Seanad today and how wonderful Senator Wilson's nomination was. She got from my father's papers — he has been dead for 25 years — a photocopy of a document showing that my father was employed by Senator Wilson's father in 1928. This is a coincidence that both of us, their children, should be in this House today and shows what a small island we live on.

Mr. Crowley: It is a great honour for me to get such a warm welcome from Senators across the House. It is a reflection of all the good will that has been shown not only to me but to all people who are handicapped or disadvantaged. I would like to make a special mention of the staff who have been so helpful. I especially thank the Taoiseach for nominating me to this esteemed Chamber.

I also welcome my very good friend Senator Seán Fallon as Cathaoirleach. He has been very helpful to me at all times.

[32] Clerk of Seanad: Cuirfidh mé an ceist anois.

I shall now put the question.

Cuireadh an cheist: “Go dtoghfar an Seanadóir Seán Ó Fallúin agus go rachaidh sé í gceannais an tSeanaid anois mar Chathaoirleach.”

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

Mr. Norris: I wish to be recorded as dissenting from the nomination.

Question declared carried.

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

An Cathaoirleach: Ar dtús ba mhaith liom fíor-bhuíochas a ghabháil díobh go léir mar gheall ar an anóir mhór a bhronn sibh orm. Ba mhaith liom a rá go ndéanfaidh mé mo dhícheall cothrom na Féinne a thabhairt do gach Seanadóir.

I thank the House for the great honour they have bestowed on me in electing me Cathaoirleach of the 19th Seanad. I thank my party for selecting me and I thank my proposer, Senator Wright and my seconder Senator O'Sullivan. The fact that I have not been opposed adds greatly to the high honour and I take particular personal pleasure from this. I thank Senators on all sides of the House for their kind remarks. To Senator Norris, I say that at least he is being consistent.

At all times I have advocated co-operation rather than confrontation and I see no reason that should change. We are a very important House and we must never forget that. I confess to a strong commitment to this House. The last Seanad undertook a review of the role of this House and certain changes in procedures were adopted within the parameters set down by the Constitution. I hope this process of reform can continue but I must put down a marker. I strongly believe this House is not and cannot be a carbon copy of the other House. We should strive to carve out a distinctive and individual role for this important House of the Oireachtas. The last Seanad ran [33] smoothly, a result of great co-operation from all sides of the House; again, I seek your full co-operation.

For my own part, I am available to Senators and my office is open to lend advice and to give guidance to all Members, in particular, the new Members of the House. I have arranged the distribution of an information pack, including the Standing Orders which will be of benefit particularly to new Members. I recall Senator Ross telling me that Senator Norris used to carry a copy of Standing Orders in his breast pocket when he first came into the Seanad. He dropped Joyce and this was compulsive reading for him. I hope the Senator will put it back into his breast pocket.

I welcome the new Senators and I am happy to see many of my old colleagues back. I offer sincere commiserations to those good friends and former Senators who were, unfortunately, defeated. Some of them went to the Lower House and are doing fine; I see many of them with us in the Gallery today.

I would like to single out two Senators for special mention. Senator Brian Crowley is making history as the first wheelchair Member of the Oireachtas. His courage and endurance are an inspiration to us all and will be seen as a signal of hope and encouragement for other disabled people. Senator Crowley is a fine young man who has won the admiration of many people.

Senator Gordon Wilson has also won the respect of the Irish people for his courage and magnanimity of character since the carnage of the Enniskillen [34] bombing. He has opened minds to the dignity of suffering and the depth of emotion that is part of the tragic violence in the North. It would have been very easy and natural for Senator Gordon Wilson to show hate in his heart but instead he choose forgiveness. As a result he has become a symbol of reconciliation in every sense of the word.

I congratulate Senator Joe Sherlock who is making his own little piece of history in being the first member of his party to be elected to this House. Again, I thank everybody and I look forward to a reciprocal support arrangement. I sincerely hope this Seanad will be distinguished and successful.