Seanad Éireann - Volume 187 - 26 September, 2007

Election of Leas-Chathaoirleach.

  Senator Frances Fitzgerald: I move: “That Senator Paddy Burke be elected Leas-Chathaoirleach.”

It gives me great pleasure to propose Senator Burke for the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach. He has been a Member of the House since 1993 and served with distinction as Leas-Chathaoirleach of the last Seanad. At its final sitting on 4 July, the high respect for and regard in which the Senator was held by his colleagues on all sides of the House was clear. Senator O’Toole described the Mayo sense of calm Senator Burke brought [65]to the House in his role as Leas-Chathaoirleach. I do not know whether that is true.

  Senator Paul Coghlan: And Offaly.

  Senator Frances Fitzgerald: Former Senator John Dardis praised Senator Burke for the even-handed manner in which he conducted proceedings. “Calmness” and “fairness” are appropriate words to describe him, as those qualities are vital in a Leas-Chathaoirleach. When combined with Senator Burke’s experience in the role and in the House, there is no doubt in my mind that he is an ideal candidate for the position.

From entering public life in 1979 when he served on Mayo County Council to the present, Senator Burke has proved to be a diligent and effective politician and a helpful and knowledgeable colleague. For these reasons, I am delighted to propose him for the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach and to recommend him to the House.

  Senators: Hear, hear.

  Senator Maurice Cummins: I second the motion. Is mór an onóir dom an Seanadóir Padraig de Búrca a mholadh mar Leas-Chathaoirleach ar Seanad Éireann. Senator Burke has been the Leas-Chathaoirleach of the Seanad for the past five years, during which period he carried out his duties in an exemplary manner by upholding the traditions and rules of the House. He has been known to give latitude to Members as the Cathaoirleach has done today, but he was to the fore in his quiet and efficient manner when order was required.

Two weeks ago, we spoke of the Cathaoirleach’s prowess on GAA pitches. It may not be known that Senator Burke played at under 21 and senior levels for County Mayo.

  A Senator: It could do with someone like him.

  Senator Maurice Cummins: He has no intention of making a comeback and has turned his attention to the small ball. Not the sliotar, but the golf ball. He has probably spent as much time doing that as Padraig Harrington.

Like the Cathaoirleach, Senator Burke is respected by all sides of the House. He is a fitting person to hold the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach and I second his nomination.

  Senators: Hear, hear.

  Senator Donie Cassidy: It gives me great pleasure to support the nomination of Senator Burke. He has been a Member of the House for 15 years and he is impartial and committed to its operation. Since 1937, the Fianna Fáil Party has always agreed to the nominee of the largest political party in opposition. It did not happen in our case in 1973, but we always keep ourselves well above what is right. It is right and fair to support [66]the nomination of Senator Burke. Through the years, he has been a friend to many of us. He can always be depended upon and, like the Cathaoirleach, he is a safe pair of hands, which is what the House needs. The House will be in safe hands with the Cathaoirleach and Senator Burke as the Leas-Chathaoirleach.

  Senators: Hear, hear.

  Senator Joe O’Toole: The Independent group will not put forward a name. We had a long and deep discussion and the unanimous opinion was that Senator Burke did an excellent job during the previous Seanad. We were impressed by his calmness, openness and how he accepted voices equally from both sides of the House. We are happy to see him nominated and wish him well in the job.

  Senator Alex White: The Labour Party will support Senator Burke’s nomination to the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach. Unlike the Leader, I have not scanned the records to determine the Labour Party’s history of supporting people nominated to that position.

  Senator Donie Cassidy: It was the Labour Party’s own nominee.

  Senator Alex White: The Leader is still a little sore about the matter, but we must move on.

  Senator Donie Cassidy: No. I am just putting it on the record for the young Members.

  An Cathaoirleach: Senator Alex White, without interruption.

  Senator Alex White: I have met Senator Burke only once or twice since being honoured to join the House, but he seems to be a congenial and thoughtful person. He will grace the Chair when the Cathaoirleach is not available. The Labour Party will not oppose Senator Burke’s nomination and we wish him well in his position.

  Senators: Hear, hear.

  Senator Dan Boyle: On behalf of my colleague Senator de Búrca and I, I am happy to endorse Senator Burke’s nomination to the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach. While she and I are new to the Chamber, I had many contacts with Senator Burke around Leinster House during my previous incarnation. I know of his record in the House. His appointment and the Cathaoirleach’s appointment at our last sitting indicate the pre-eminence of counties Offaly and Mayo in the political orbits of the country’s two largest parties.

I wish to put down a marker. While we are new to the Chamber and I have the honour of being deputy leader for this session, my party aspires to receive some form of condescension from other [67]political parties for the positions of Cathaoirleach and Leas-Chathaoirleach some day.

  An Cathaoirleach: I will call a fellow Mayo Senator, Senator Carty, who wishes to be associated with the nomination.

  Senator John Carty: I take this opportunity to congratulate my fellow countyman on his nomination to the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach. In the past five years, he did a great job and the Cathaoirleach and he will be a good combination. While the Cathaoirleach can keep an eye on the sliotar, Senator Burke will keep an eye on the football. He is also handy with the small ball.

I had the pleasure of serving with Senator Burke on Mayo County Council. In the past five years while I was in the other House and he was in this one, we worked and got on well together. I do not doubt that will continue while this House sits. I wish the Senator and his wife well. The Leader of the Opposition observed that he is a calm person. I can assure Members that this is so.

  Senator Pearse Doherty: Ba mhaith liom cur le moladh an Seanadóir Pádraig de Búrca a thoghadh mar Leas-Chathaoirleach. San am gairid ina bhfuil aithne agam air, tá sé tar éis comhairle a thabhairt dom agus é ina shuí anseo in aice liom. Bhí an comhairle sin de dhíth orm mar gur mé an t-aon Seanadóir atá ag Sinn Féin sa Teach seo. Tá a fhios agam go mbeidh mé sásta comh-oibriú leis an Seanadóir, mar an gcéanna agus atá mé sásta comh-oibriú leis an Chathaoirleach ar fad an seal ina bheidh mé sa Teach seo. Molaim an Seanadóir Pádraig de Búrca mar Leas-Chathaoirleach.

  An Cathaoirleach: I wish to be associated with the sentiments expressed by Members. Senator Fitzgerald’s remarks on Senator Burke’s calmness and fairness reflect my experience in my dealings with him. I have known him for some ten years and have always found him to be a fair and efficient person both as a Senator and in the Chair. If other Members treat him and me in the same fashion as he has treated them in the past, this House will run smoothly. I wish Senator Burke well in the future.

Question put and agreed to.

  Senator Paddy Burke: I thank my proposer and seconder, Senators Fitzgerald and Cummins. I also thank my party leader for nominating me for the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach. I also thank the Leader of the House and the leaders of the other Government parties in the House for their support. I thank the other Opposition party leaders and the Independent Members for their unanimous support for my nomination. In view of today’s proceedings I have no doubt that this will be a lively Chamber in the coming years. I [68]look forward to co-operating with all Members and the leaders of the various party groups in an impartial manner and to supporting every Member.