Seanad Éireann - Volume 144 - 12 July, 1995

Election of Cathaoirleach.

Cléireach an tSeanaid: The first item being the Election of Cathaoirleach, in accordance with Standing Orders, I call on Senator McGowan, as the Senator with the longest continuous period of service, to take the Chair and preside over the election of Cathaoirleach.

Senator McGowan took the Chair.

Acting Chairman: I thank Members for the honour of presiding on this important occasion.

Glacfaidh mé le tairiscintí anois.

I will now receive motions.

Mr. Manning: On behalf of the House, I thank Senator McGowan for chairing this part of today's business. I have great honour in proposing Senator Liam Naughten to be Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann. Our last Cathaoirleach left an indelible stamp on the office of Cathaoirleach. He did this because he [834] respected the office, he did not seek to personalise it and he upheld the highest standards of integrity and impartiality in the Chair. In proposing Senator Naughten, I am conscious that he follows in the tradition of the late Seán Fallon.

Senator Naughten is an experienced Chairman. He has been Leas-Chathaoirleach since 1989 and we have all seen at first hand his fairness, his courtesy and his honesty. Senator Naughten is not confrontational but he is firm. He has a strong sense of this House and a great respect for the office of Cathaoirleach. He will bring to the office of Cathaoirleach his vast experience, his patience and firmness, his fair play, his integrity and a great sense of natural courtesy and personal goodwill towards all Members of this House. Most of all, he has a sense of humour which, in the office of Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, is a quality often called into play and is much needed.

I have great pleasure in proposing my good friend. Senator Naughten for the high office of Cathaoirleach and, in so doing, I thank the parties of the Opposition, and especially Fianna Fáil, for continuing the tradition of sharing the top offices in this House. It is one of the things that contribute to good relations in this House and it is much appreciated.

Mr. Cosgrave: Molaim toghadh an tSeanadóra Liam Ó Neachtain mar Chathaoirleach. It is a great privilege and personal pleasure to second the nomination of my good friend and colleague, Senator Liam Naughten, to the position of Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann. In his 21 years in public life, he has given distinguished service in the various roles in which he has served. Senator Naughten has served as Leas-Chathaoirleach since 1989 and has carried out his duties to the satisfaction of Senators by his fairness, his knowledge of procedure, his good humour and, at times, his patience. All these qualities give us confidence that he will continue to serve with distinction.

[835] The Seanad has come through difficult times in the past few weeks with the loss of our Cathaoirleach, the late Senator Seán Fallon, who did so much to improve and maintain the workings of the House to the highest standards. We all owe it to his memory to ensure that the fine tradition is continued and, with the devoted support of our loyal staff, I am confident that it will be.

Acting Chairman: Cuirfidh mé an cheist anois.

I shall now put the question.

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

Question, “That Senator Liam Naughten be elected and do now take the Chair of the Seanad as Cathaoirleach”, put and declared carried.

Acting Chairman: I trust that the Cathaoirleach will have a happy time presiding over this very important House. I join with all Members in wishing him success in his new office.

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

An Cathaoirleach: I thank most sincerely my proposer, Senator Manning, and my seconder, Senator Cosgrave. I also thank the Members of my party for selecting me and the Members of the House for electing me to the most prestigious position in this House. We are all extremely conscious that we wish things were different and that this occasion did not arise as a result of the death of our Cathaoirleach. However, I want to assure Members that I will endeavour to continue the same high standards, fairness and efficiency in which he carried out his duties. I also wish to continue the reform which has commenced in this House over the previous few years as it has been beneficial to the Members of [836] the House and the people whom we have the honour to serve. I intend, with the co-operation of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, to continue that work.

It was a great honour for me to serve as Leas-Chathaoirleach of this House for the last five and a half years. I have worked in co-operation with the Clerk, the Clerk Assistant and the other staff in the Seanad, past and present, and it has been a great honour for me to have worked with those people. I have no doubt they will show me the same courtesy and kindness which they showed in the past, and that that will be extended to every Member. Their door has always been open and my door will also be open.

I thank every Member most sincerely. Our job is to make the Seanad an efficient and effective democratic institution.

Mr. Manning: I have great pleasure in formally offering my congratulations to you on your election. It is a great tribute to you that all parties and groups in this House have welcomed your election. It is reassuring to hear you believe that the process of reform of this House, which has been ongoing for the past couple of years, should be continued. I wish you every success in the high office which you now hold.

Mr. Wright: On behalf of the Fianna Fáil Group I extend our congratulations to you. We have seen over the past number of years, in your role as Leas-Chathaoirleach, your fair mindedness and impartiality in running the House. On many occasions the late Cathaoirleach, Senator Seán Fallon, confided in me the high esteem in which he held you. If a member of the Fianna Fáil Party was not to take his place, I am sure he is very happy that you have taken over the most onerous task of Cathaoirleach. I assure you of the respect and courtesy of my party and wish you every success and a long and happy stay as Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann. Congratulations.

[837] Dr. Henry: On behalf of the Independents, I congratulate you on your appointment. While today must be tinged with sadness for you because of the death of our late Cathaoirleach, I am sure you will continue not only with the fairness and efficiency which he showed but also with his great good humour. With two such women on your right hand, who could fail to run the Seanad in the manner in which it has been run to date?

Mr. Lanigan: Sexist remark.

Dr. Henry: I expect that you will explain, as Cathaoirleach, in the kind way you have, to both Senator Honan and myself that when we cannot speak on various amendments we can, of course, speak on the section. This will lead to an even more exciting time for some of us in the Seanad while you are Cathaoirleach.

Mr. Dardis: On behalf of the Progressive Democrats I join with other Members in extending our congratulations to you. It comes as no surprise that your election was unanimous, given that you have served a very distinguished apprenticeship and have always conducted matters from the Chair in a very even handed and courteous manner. There must be something about Athlone because it has produced its second Cathaoirleach in succession and we miss Senator Fallon very greatly. If you can continue the tradition and standards he set for us, you will have done very well indeed; I know that is your intention. You have our support and we look forward to working with you in the future.

Ms O'Sullivan: On behalf of the Labour Group I congratulate you on your unanimous election as Cathaoirleach and we will fully support you. I have no doubt that you will continue in the fine tradition of the late Senator Seán Fallon in promoting and facilitating consensus in the running of this House. I know you worked very closely with him as Leas-Chathaoirleach, [838] as a friend and as a colleague from the area. In your five years as Leas-Chathaoirleach you have shown the same standards and attitude to the House of promoting consensus and working with all groups.

Our group will not be contesting the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach which falls vacant on your election as Cathaoirleach. We support the tradition of an Opposition Senator filling that post. We believe that facilitates the operation of the House and constructive rather than confrontational debate, which is very much the style of this House. That results in a positive input to legislation and public debate and we are very anxious to continue that tradition. I wish you well and assure you of our full support in your role as Cathaoirleach.

Mr. Mullooly: A Chathaoirligh, ba mhaith liom comhghairdeachas a dhéanamh leat ar do roghnú d'aon ghuth mar Chathaoirleach ar Sheanad Éirinn. Tá súil agam go mbaineadh tú taitneamh agus sásamh as do théarma mar Chathaoirleach. Tá mé lán cinnte go gcomhlíonfaidh tú do dhualgaisí go diagrasach agus go dícheallach agus go dtabharfaidh tú cothrom na féinne do gach ball den Seanad.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to express to you my warmest congratulations and very best wishes on your elevation to the high office of Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann. I probably know you for longer than any other Member of the House as we were both elected to Roscommon County Council in June 1974. Even though we were on opposite sides of the political divide, we have had a friendly and cordial relationship over the last 21 years. You served as Chairman of Roscommon County Council and, more recently, as Chairman of the Western Health Board. In both offices you carried out your duties with courtesy, efficiency and impartiality. For almost six years you have carried out your duties as Leas-Chathaoirleach in a similar manner. I am satisfied you will be [839] a worthy successor to our much loved colleague, the late Senator Seán Fallon, and that you will uphold the high standards he set in the office of Cathaoirleach. I wish you a happy and successful term of office.

Mr. Finneran: It is a great honour for you and your family that you have been elevated to this high position. I join with my colleagues in congratulating you and wishing you well. We have known each other for many years; we come from the same electoral area of Roscommon County Council and our paths have crossed on many occasions during Seanad election campaigns. You have done an excellent job in the offices you have held over the years and I am satisfied you will do the same as Cathaoirleach. As I said, your election is a great honour for you, your family, your county and your party and I wish you well in the position.

Mr. Quinn: I add my voice to that of Senator Henry on behalf of the Independents. I speak as one of those who became Members of the House two and a half years ago and, therefore, I speak as a rookie who witnessed the efficiency and fairness exercised by the late Senator Seán Fallon. I am convinced that what we saw in him was not just efficiency and fairness but also a sense of humour which I know you also possess. Those of us who became Members over two years ago have been impressed with your firmness and dedication and your commitment to making this House carry out the work entrusted to it. I know I speak for everybody in the House when I offer you congratulations, wish you well and praise you for your effort and work over the last two and a half years. The fact that your election is not contested is evidence of the great regard, respect and confidence the House has in you.

Mr. Farrell: I wish to be associated with the congratulations offered to you on your attainment of the position of [840] Cathaoirleach. I have no doubt you will perform as efficiently and effectively as you did when you were Leas-Chathaoirleach. Senator Dardis said that Athlone has now had two Cathaoirligh in a row. Roscommon has had three in a row as far as the Chair of this House is concerned. Beir bua agus beannacht Dé leat sa Chathaoir.

Mr. McDonagh: For you, your wife and family this is a day in your political career which is unsurpassed. We are all delighted with your success. Even though your county, Roscommon, has challenged my county, Galway, many times in the football arena and is now taking us on in hurling, I am delighted for you. You have a high standard to follow in the late Seán Fallon, who was outstanding in every sense of the word and we all miss him greatly. We have great confidence in your ability and know you will adhere to the highest standards. You have a great deal of talent, you are unassuming and you are eloquent without being verbose. We can look forward to distinguished leadership from you.

One of your greatest qualities is that you believe in public representatives, regardless of political affiliation, and you will see to it that Members, regardless of the parties to which they belong, will get fair play at all times. I congratulate you, wish you well and hope you have an enjoyable, successful and long term as Cathaoirleach.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Ba mhaith liom mo chomhgháirdeachas a ghabháil leat. Beidh job an-deacair agat bróga Sheán Uí Fhallún a líonadh, ach tá súil agam go mbeidh an t-ádh leat agus, mar a dúirt an Seanadóir Mullooly, go dtabharfaidh tú cothrom na féinne do gach duine sa Teach seo.

I congratulate you on your elevation to this high office. You carried out your duties as Leas-Chathaoirleach in an exemplary manner. The former Cathaoirleach often said he was lucky to have you at his side. I wish you well and [841] you can be assured of my full co-operation at all times.

Miss Ormonde: I congratulate you on your new position. Since I became a Member two and a half years ago, the qualities of courtesy, gentlemanliness and a sense of fairness always came to the fore every time I dealt with you. These are the qualities needed in any leadership or high profile position. I wish you well and I give you my co-operation.

Mr. Byrne: I congratulate you on your unanimous appointment as Cathaoirleach and wish you every happiness in that post. I am sure that, because of your experience over the last few years and the manner in which you conducted affairs in the House in the absence of the Cathaoirleach, the burden of office will not be too heavy on you. I wish you every success and will give you every co-operation.

Ms Honan: I congratulate you and wish you well in your term of office which I hope will be long and successful. Since I became a Member I have always found you extremely fair but firm. You are good humoured and you have great patience, particularly with some of us who became Members for the first time two and a half years ago. You, the late Senator Seán Fallon, and the staff of the Seanad Office ran the House and made it look easy but this was obviously due to the efficiency, professionalism and competence of all those behind the scenes. I wish you a successful term as Cathaoirleach. This is a great day for you and your family.

Mr. Daly: I extend sincere congratulations to you on your nomination and appointment and I assure you of our full co-operation and support.

Mr. Reynolds: I congratulate you, your wife, Mary, and your family on your election; this is a proud day for you. I have no doubt you will carry out your functions with the same respect [842] you showed for the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach over the last few years. I first met you at a count during the 1977 general election. I was only five or six years old at the time.

An Cathaoirleach: Do not make me out to be so old.

Mr. Reynolds: I have no doubt that with the support of the Clerk and the Assistant Clerk you will have no problem carrying out your duties and I hope your term of office will be long.

Mr. Mooney: I come from a neighbouring county and we see this as much an honour for the west as for you, Mary and your family. Perhaps the best way of describing your standing in our part of the country could be reflected in the feeling of disappointment, which transcended party politics, on the loss of your Dáil seat in Roscommon. I do not mean to raise this to cause pain but to express the deep esteem in which you are held by people across the political spectrum. Perhaps that is the greatest tribute that can be paid to anybody, if one thinks of the biblical reference of no man or woman being a prophet in their own land. County Roscommon, the west and County Leitrim are particularly proud of you and I wish you well in your new position.

Mr. Lydon: I congratulate you in attaining your new post. You are, like the late Senator Fallon, a gentlemen. As a person who has benefited from your immense personal kindness, I wish you every success for as long as you hold this exalted office.

Mr. Lanigan: I also join other Members in congratulating you on becoming Cathaoirleach of the Seanad. Judging by the comments this morning, there may not be much need for you to sit in the Chair because everybody will co-operate with you.

[843] Mr. Farrelly: As always. Leading by example.

Mr. Lanigan: I guarantee I will be among the most co-operative.

An Cathaoirleach: I am glad to hear that.

Mr. Lanigan: It is about time we broke up this cosy relationship with the Athlone-Roscommon axis. The rest of the country must get a look in.

Mr. Farrelly: Is the Senator making his pitch?

Mr. Lanigan: Absolutely. Having said that, the former holders of the office of Cathaoirleach have served the Seanad well and I know you will do the same. I wish to congratulate you and your family because this is a great honour and I know you will carry it through successfully.

An Cathaoirleach: I thank all the Senators for their good wishes. I sincerely hope you think as much of me when I am leaving the Chair as you do today.