A Thaoisigh and a Theachtaí Dála, Dublin Central is the constituency I represent with my colleagues, Deputies Mary Lou McDonald and Paschal Donohoe.
We had the lowest voter turnout in the country and only three constituencies reached a turnout of 70%. I ask myself why there was that sense of alienation, disillusionment and apathy. Part of the answer lies in the way we conduct business in this House, the way we conduct ourselves and the way we treat each other. At times we leave the electorate feeling frustrated, angry and let down because they expect so much more of us. We owe it to the electorate, those who voted for us, those who voted for our opponents and those who did not vote at all, to do our business in a way that will make the Dáil meaningful and relevant to them and acting in their best interests. We have to show we are listening to the electorate and that we realise they want us to put in place a government to deal with the issues and problems facing the country, and to do so in a fair, more open and just manner.
It is a privilege and an honour to be elected. I am conscious of those former colleagues from the 31st Dáil who lost their seats and are not here today.
I was part of the Convention on the Constitution that discussed Dáil reform - how to make it more accountable, democratic and efficient. It is positive and progressive that the position of Ceann Comhairle is no longer in the gift of the ruling parties. It is very positive that each of us sitting here today had the possibility of standing in this election and there have been five nominees in the end. It also would be positive and progressive if voting did not follow party and non-party lines - I may be voting myself out of a job before it even happens.
I did not actively seek the nomination, but I was encouraged to have my name put forward by Deputies, and with the support of my canvassers and campaigners in the Gregory group. I thank those who nominated me and the others who wanted to nominate me but I had the requisite number.
In my six and a half years here I have always tried to be fair, to respect the views of others, to respect difference and to listen. Almost everything in life is done in a collaborative way, through compromise, consensus and reasoning. I have experienced that here. I was a member of the Oireachtas group on mental health. I was a member of another group that worked on prisoner issues. I chaired the Irish section of AWEPA. I was part of the Justice for the Forgotten group and a group on animal welfare where members from political parties and Independents worked together. In each case it was the issue that brought us together and we worked on that issue regardless of our political views. Of course, the Technical Group was a good example of working in that collaborative way. Ceapaim gurb é sin an tslí is fearr chun dul chun cinn a dhéanamh ag obair le chéile. Tá ciall san seanfhocal, "ní neart go cur le chéile".
People voted for change and they are looking to us to deliver that change. That begins with reforming the way we do business here in the Chamber and in committees. It is both a challenge and an opportunity. Whoever is Ceann Comhairle must, with the relevant committee of like-minded people who are committed to reform, deliver on that reform. It is a reform that I hope will mean people will have credibility and confidence in democracy. It means doing whatever is necessary to increase the authority and autonomy of the Oireachtas so that we legislate in ways that are fair and equitable. It also means an electoral commission really getting going. It means committing to the procedures and practices that encourage and ensure transparency in all decision making. It means equality-proofing of budgets and an evidence-based approach to all resource allocations.
It means moving from the adversarial, the conflict, the theatrics, the shouting-down, and the interrupting that sometimes has this House looking more like the Coliseum than a parliament. It means a different way of setting agendas. It also means accepting that whoever is in government is not all-seeing and all-knowing and that those not in government have something to offer. It also means being prepared to involve others who are not political. That means a Ceann Comhairle who will ensure respect for difference, who will ensure questions are answered, who will ensure meaningful debate and constructive criticism, and who will drive an appropriate agenda. It might not make the headlines; it might not make for good or sensational television, but it would go a long way towards eradicating the apathy and disillusionment I mentioned at the beginning.
Bismarck said that politics is the art of the possible. Anything is possible, including a woman Ceann Comhairle, which would be a precedent. I am conscious of those countries where women do not have a voice at all today. Most importantly we need a person who is best for the job regardless of gender, age or politics.
We have major challenges ahead, including in housing and homelessness, and health, especially for those with disabilities, with mental health issues and those in addiction. We have major challenges regarding climate and the environment. We have challenges regarding our new communities and we are a long way from being progressive in animal welfare. I think our communities and our youth services are areas of great need.
Deirim arís, ní neart go cur le chéile. Tá seans againn rudaí a dhéanamh i slí dhifriúil. Caithfimid é sin a dhéanamh anois. Tá sé riachtanach.