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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 20 Feb 2020

Vol. 992 No. 1

Selection of Candidate and Election of Ceann Comhairle

Cléireach na Dála

The next item of business is the selection of the Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann – Ceann Comhairle Dháil Éireann a roghnú. I will now proceed to the secret ballot in accordance with Standing Order 6.

I must inform the House that, having received and examined nominations for the position of Ceann Comhairle, the following is the list of validly nominated candidates: Deputy Denis Naughten and Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl.

As there is more than one candidate, the candidate who will be proposed for election by the House will be selected by secret ballot. Before proceeding to the secret ballot, I will in alphabetical order call on each candidate to speak on his own behalf, or where the candidate has been nominated by another Member to speak on his behalf, I will call on that Member. Each Deputy will have five minutes. I now call on Deputy Denis Naughten.

Ar an gcéad dul síos, gabhaim comhghairdeas le gach duine eile atá tofa go dtí Dáil Éireann. Is mór an onóir dúinn uile ionadaíocht a dhéanamh ar son ár dtoghthóirí. Is cúis bhróid dom a bheith ainmnithe mar iarrthóir do phost an Chinn Comhairle.

Today, 48 Deputies take their seats for the first time. Their arrival is the culmination of campaigns on issues they care for and a cause in which they believe. Those of us here longer share their enthusiasm, but we can also share with them our experience. In my own case, I have been in Cabinet and on the backbenches, in government and opposition, as a party Deputy and as an Independent Deputy.

I understand every perspective in this House because I have lived it. As a committee Chairman and Acting Chairman of this House, I have worked to vindicate the rights of my fellow Members. I have directly engaged in Dáil reform and participated in an informal committee on supporting the rights of Members. I have been more than happy over the years to provide advice and assistance to new Members, regardless of political views, as I firmly believe there is a responsibility on every Member to support less experienced colleagues in doing the best job they can as Members of Dáil Éireann.

I am putting my name forward because one of the messages I consistently received on the doorsteps during the general election concerned public frustration with accountability of the public service and public authorities. In an open and questioning culture, we need an effective and questioning Parliament. Getting straight answers to straight questions is becoming more difficult in Dáil Éireann. This is reflected in that public frustration. Deputies are not just messengers for the people; they are also messengers to the people. This is neither fully understood nor effectively prioritised by our public service. The non-political nature of our public service and the job security of public servants are a strength of the State but in exchange for that security, public services must be accountable to Dáil Éireann through its Members. I firmly believe this accountability is being slowly lost through incremental disempowerment of Deputies.

We can consider the simple example of the Health Service Executive. After its establishment, Deputies had quarterly meetings with the local management of hospital groups and community health services. However, this practice has evaporated completely. The sole means of accountability for officials now is through the Oireachtas joint committee dealing with health matters or through parliamentary questions, the replies to which in many cases take ten weeks. This is a far cry from the accountability required to Dáil Éireann.

The Office of the Ceann Comhairle has a restricted role in the reform of Dáil Éireann but one of the primary functions of the office is to protect the existing rights of Members. This is not just about ruling parliamentary questions out of order or the disrespect demonstrated by a single sentence reply to such a question or referring a Member to a website. This is about the failure to brief Deputies on the actions being taken by agencies such as the HSE. Sometimes the very last person to know about a matter is the very Deputy whose constituents are directly affected. This is both a cultural and administrative issue. It is part of the cultural change on which I want to help deliver in order that Dáil Éireann can become an effective forum for the people who elect us.

We now face a greater threat. The general data protection regulation, GDPR, a tool to protect all citizens, is being used to avoid answering legitimate questions from Deputies. This has far-reaching implications for public policy and for the Dáil. Protections for citizens cannot be deployed as barricades against elected representatives doing essential parliamentary work on behalf of the same people. It is essential for the House to consider this matter.

It would be an honour to be Ceann Comhairle but it would be a greater honour still to use the office, within its confines, to hold, protect and reaffirm the legitimacy of Members of Dáil Éireann to seek answers and ensure accountability. With profound respect for this House, I humbly ask its Members for the opportunity to preside over the House as their advocate and servant. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.

Cléireach na Dála

I call Deputy Seán Ó Feargháil.

Ar an gcéad dul síos, is cúis ghliondair croí dom a bheith ar ais anseo arís sa Tríocha-tríú Dáil. Gabhaim comhghairdeas le gach duine - iad siúd atá atofa agus iad siúd atá nuathofa. Tá súil agam go mbeidh rath Dé ar a gcuid oibre. I thank the Clerk and congratulate Mr. Peter Finnegan and his excellent team on the preparations for today that allow this assembly to function as efficiently as always. I am grateful for the opportunity to say a few words to Members this afternoon and to congratulate my colleague and friend, Deputy Naughten, on his entering this competition. Competition is an essential part of the democratic process and I know Denis to be a very fine parliamentarian and a man of considerable integrity.

Four years ago I stood here seeking support for election as Ceann Comhairle. I was then something of an unknown quantity to many Members. Today I seek a renewal of the mandate and I hope my work over the past four years has assisted the progression of the crucial Dáil reform agenda to make our Dáil more reflective of and responsive to the needs of a national Parliament in 2020. I work on the basic principle of respect for the mandate that each Member of the Dáil has received from the electorate. That mandate is in every respect equal and deserving of similar priority.

In the Thirty-second Dáil, we worked together in a more collegial fashion than ever to create a progressive Dáil reform committee at which each group in the House was represented. We achieved change by working in a collaborative way to alter how the business of this House is conducted. We established a fully representative Dáil Business Committee that succeeded, for the most part, in building consensus around the weekly and sessional Dáil agendas. We established an independent Parliamentary Budget Office, which is now fully operational, and which supports all Members in budgetary processes. We have also set in train that office's ability to cost legislative proposals and in time, it will be able to do the same for political manifestos. We have built that independent Parliamentary Budget Office to emulate the United States Congressional Budget Office on Capitol Hill, which is viewed internationally in a very positive light.

We have augmented our Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisers to offer expert advice and support to Members both in writing and amending legislation in an efficient and effective manner. The Irish Women's Parliamentary Caucus in the Houses of the Oireachtas was also established and within months of its creation and under the leadership of Deputy Catherine Martin, it hosted the first major international conference of women's caucuses in Dublin Castle. This is a clear and practical example of parliamentarians working together towards a clear and important end result for the benefit of all of us.

There were critical all-party committees on health under the chairmanship of Deputy Shortall, on housing under the chairmanship of the former Deputy Curran and on the Traveller community under the chairmanship of Senator Kelleher. These are just a few examples of how we have worked well for a common cause and the good of groups and individuals whose interests we must pursue in this Thirty-third Dáil with even greater enthusiasm, energy, effectiveness and absolute urgency. We have engaged with the youth of this nation on the crucial matter of climate change. We worked with RTÉ in bringing the young people protesting outside the gates of Leinster House into the Chamber to sit in the seats we now occupy. At that youth assembly - a world first - our country's future debated meaningful, sensible and often inspired proposals and practical solutions to that existential matter.

All this work must continue with efficiency and urgency so I seek Members' support this afternoon to continue that collegial approach to addressing our problems and to finding solutions with the necessary alacrity. In another example of a changed approach, we have provided a platform here for a variety of international voices to speak with us in this Chamber on matters crucial to our country's interests. We welcomed Nancy Pelosi, Jean-Claude Juncker, Guy Verhofstadt and Michel Barnier to engage with us on matters of the greatest importance. As we move forward, we can seek the views of other international voices in this Chamber to inform our work and challenge our views. Respectful debate is the lifeblood of this Chamber and I will strive to have all voices heard.

In the past two years we celebrated the centenary of both the first sitting of Dáil Éireann and women's suffrage. We did that with dignity, respect and public and international support. For our part, as an Oireachtas we must ensure the important commemorative events that lie ahead are conducted with sensitivity and absolute integrity.

In short, as I stand before the House and mention just some of the many valuable initiatives we have taken together over the past four years, I humbly seek Members' support to continue to work in partnership with them to make the Thirty-third Dáil an assembly of which the Irish people can be proud, one which, working with Government and Opposition, helps us to deliver the meaningful change that our masters - the people - urgently demand and deserve. Our challenge is to decipher, interpret, respect and act upon the people's voices, as articulated in the general election earlier this month. If honoured to take the Chair of this assembly, I resolve to continue my work in promoting and respecting all voices of this House without fear or favour.

We have challenges as we move to express the will of the people who have put us here. I seek to build upon the relationships made, the friendships formed and the consensus achieved in the last Dáil by serving the Thirty-third Dáil to the best of my ability. As I said in 2016, my ambition is to serve the Members rather than become a slave to any system. We have much important work left to undertake to make this Thirty-third Dáil a fit, productive and fully relevant assembly. I hope Members will honour me by allowing me to continue for now to chair this assembly.

Cléireach na Dála

That concludes the contributions from the candidates. We will now ring the bells for six minutes. When they stop, we will wait a further four minutes and then proceed to the secret ballot. All the doors into the Chamber, except for the two on either side of the Ceann Comhairle's chair, will then be locked. I ask all Members to re-take their seats when the bells have stopped.

Members proceeded to vote in a secret ballot in the order directed by the Clerk of the Dáil.
Sitting suspended at 1.10 p.m. and resumed at 3.10 p.m.

Cléireach na Dála

In accordance with Standing Order 7(3), I inform the House that Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl is the successful candidate selected by the secret ballot for the position of Ceann Comhairle. I now put the question that Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl, who is the successful candidate duly selected by secret ballot by the Members of Dáil Éireann, be elected and do now take the Chair of the Dáil as Ceann Comhairle.

Question put and agreed to.
Whereupon Members rose in their places and remained standing while the Ceann Comhairle proceeded to the Dais.
Standing beside the Chair, the Ceann Comhairle, addressing the Dáil, said:
A Theachtaí, dearbhaím go sollúnta go ndéanfaidh mé, go cuí agus go dílis agus a mhéid is eol agus is cumas dom, oifig Cheann Comhairle Dháil Éireann a fheidhmiú gan scáth gan fabhar, na rialacha mar atá siad leagtha síos ag an Teach seo a chur i bhfeidhm go cothrom neamhchlaonta, ord a choimeád agus cearta agus pribhléidí comhaltaí a chaomhnú de réir an Bhunreachta agus Bhuan-Orduithe Dháil Éireann.
I do solemnly declare that I will duly and faithfully and to the best of my knowledge and ability execute the office of Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann without fear or favour, apply the rules as laid down by this House in an impartial and fair manner, and maintain order and uphold the rights and privileges of Members in accordance with the Constitution and the Standing Orders of Dáil Éireann.
The Ceann Comhairle took the Chair.

I have always had problems with this gown. Those of you who were here in 2016 will remember that it had been worn by Seán Barrett so it was a little on the long side for me. In the aftermath of the counting of the votes, it miraculously got shortened. The Ceann Comhairle's gown, by the way, was the subject of a freedom of information request during the course of the year where somebody wanted to know what it had cost and how much its dry-cleaning cost, and we discovered it was here so long that nobody knew what it had cost and it had never been dry-cleaned. I assure the House it has been cleaned and it is now being reused.

First, I commiserate with my good friend, Deputy Denis Naughten. He is a parliamentarian of very considerable standing. He has done great work for the country and for his constituency, and it was an honour to compete with him.

I thank each and every one of you - those who voted for me and those who did not, and the two who decided that they would not vote for either of us. Let us hope I can win them over in the period that lies ahead.

We are in a challenging position but this Parliament has a responsibility. This Dáil must work together, but we must work carefully, intelligently and as urgently as possible, because the problems that remain to be confronted are substantial. We have the ability, working together, to solve those problems. Have we not shown today that we can be very decisive indeed when we put our minds to it? Let us be decisive in the period ahead and let us decide to work together in the interests of the people who sent us here.

This afternoon, realising the importance of inter-parliamentary relations, I will write to Mr. Alex Maskey, the Speaker in the Northern Assembly, and to the Speaker of the House of Commons asking for the earliest possible opportunity to meet so that we can consider how on this island we can strengthen inter-party relations and how the east-west relations between our parliaments can be strengthened as they most undoubtedly need to be in the aftermath of Brexit.

I also ask for the approval of the House at this very early stage to re-establish the all-party Business Committee. It is written into Standing Orders. It simply needs to be populated. It is set up and structured in such a way as to give representation to all the distinct groups in this House. If we could get the Business Committee up and running it could start some meaningful work while the challenging job of Government formation continues. I first ask if Deputies will approve us moving to establish the Business Committee to undertake those works. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Unanimously. Hear, hear.

I thank the Deputies. I call on the parties present to make their nominations for Taoiseach. I first call on Deputy Durkan.

A Cheann Comhairle, if I may just say a word.

Ar dtús báire, ar mo shon féin agus ar son Pháirtí Fhianna Fáil, déanaim comhghairdeas leat as ucht a bheith tofa mar Cheann Comhairle na Dála seo. Léiríonn an móramh mór a fuair tú an t-ardmheas atá ag Teachtaí ó gach aon ghrúpa sa Dáil ort. Sa Dáil seo caite, thug tú sárcheannaireacht den scoth dúinn. Stiúir tú an Dáil agus na díospóireachtaí éagsúla go macánta agus go féaráilte. Bíonn tú réasúnta i gcónaí agus déanann tú iarracht cothrom na Féinne a thabhairt do gach éinne.

On behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party and on my own behalf, I congratulate you, a Cheann Comhairle, on your re-election to an office which is one of the most important in our democracy. I also extend those congratulations to your wife, Mary Clare, to your children, Aoife, Caoimhe, Eoghan and Nessa, and your wonderful mother-in-law, Beth Meaney, for their support. We all know how families have to endure and share the burden of our political lives and they have stood loyally with you down through the years. This is the second time the position of Ceann Comhairle has been filled following a direct competition involving a secret ballot. I commiserate with Deputy Naughten, a person for whom we have all great respect in this House, a fine parliamentarian who makes a significant contribution on an ongoing basis to public life. When we supported this reform some years ago, we did it because we thought it was important that the Dáil should have a stronger role in regulating its own affairs, which should start with increasing the status of the Ceann Comhairle. We believe that this change has been successful and that the success has in large measure been due to how you have filled that role, a Cheann Comhairle. We have no doubt that in what is likely to be a challenging Dáil, you will fill the role with fairness, balance and integrity.

This is the most diverse Dáil in the 101 years of this institution. Each party and each Independent Deputy brings with them a distinct mandate. It is the very essence of democracy that this diversity be respected. I hope that we will not see in this House the populist intolerance and aggression which seeks to shout down dissenting opinions and instruct others on what they are and are not allowed to do with their mandates. There is a lot of work which this Dáil needs to do. We must complete the job of becoming more effective, not just in holding Government to account but in applying serious standards of review to all elements of our work. We must take action which is not just a long wish-list but a focused, urgent and credible agenda for delivering. We hope that under your direction in the coming term, we will go to the next stage in terms of the independent financial and legal review of all matters which come before us, building on the excellent work of the last Dáil during which the Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisers was strengthened and the Parliamentary Budget Office was established. Outside of Leinster House, the role of Ceann Comhairle is often seen as resembling a referee presiding over disputes on the evening news. However, the office goes well beyond this and we look to you to be our leader in pushing us to do our work on behalf of all of the people in a professional, respectful and effective manner. We salute the leadership you have shown today in reaching out to the Northern Assembly and indeed the British Parliament in nurturing and strengthening the different sets of relationships that are so critical to the future of this island. You have our full support in that regard. We have no doubt that you will be just such a leader for this Dáil.

Déanaim comhghairdeas leis an gCeann Comhairle ar a cheapachán mar chathaoirleach ar an Tríú Dáil is Tríocha. Is onóir mhór duit agus do theaghlach é. Táim cinnte go ndéanfaidh tú do dhícheall do chuid gnó iomlán a dhéanamh go cruinn. Ar mo shon féin agus ar son Sinn Féin déanaim comhghairdeas leat.

Many congratulations to the Ceann Comhairle and, of course, commiserations to Deputy Naughten. We all know that the job of Ceann Comhairle is not an easy one. We all at times have given and no doubt will again give cause to keep you on your toes, a Cheann Comhairle. It is a very important role, not least because you are tasked with defending the rights of Members of this Dáil. It is your job that the mandate of every Deputy is respected and, by extension, that the people who sent us here are represented well. I think you have done a very good job in the role of Ceann Comhairle over the past four years. You undoubtedly have the skill set and the ability to continue the much-needed process of Dáil reform, which you steered over the course of your tenure, to make this Dáil more responsive to the everyday needs and concerns of citizens.

The people have voted for change. They have expressed their democratic demand for a politics that is firmly focused on addressing the challenges that they face in their everyday lives. They want change and they want solutions. That desire, that instruction from the people, must be reflected here in the Dáil Chamber in how we engage, how we communicate, how we do our business and, I would argue strongly, in how we form the next Government to be a Government for change. However, I am also mindful of the need for this Dáil to be a Dáil for change, a House that genuinely strives to deliver for all our people. The people have called for a new departure in Irish politics, a future not dominated by a restrictive two-party system but one in which their interests are the priority of everybody elected to the Dáil. It is all of our responsibilities and not just yours alone, a Cheann Comhairle, to ensure that the people are delivered the change they have voted for. For our part in Sinn Féin, I want to assure you of our support in all of your work. I look forward to working with you. I look forward to putting you on your toes and perhaps you keeping me on mine. We wish you well from all of us. From this enlarged Sinn Féin team, we say go n-éirí an t-ádh leat agus le do chlann. Go raibh míle maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle, for all your service.

Commiserations to Deputy Naughten and congratulations to the Ceann Comhairle. You were superb, a Cheann Comhairle, in the last Dáil. I saw you in all those committees where you were fair and forward-thinking. I do not know if there is a record but there was no one thrown out, as I recall, in the last Dáil. That should not be an encouragement in this Dáil for someone to try to test the limits of it. You were an ambassador for this House. I saw you in the trip to Egypt and the hugely beneficial work you did.

I have been asking myself if there is any chink in your armour or any room for improvement. An anecdote came to my mind. Back in the distant time of my youth, there was a local priest and we gave him the nickname Slap-Dash Harry. He had that nickname because we were guaranteed when he would do the half five mass on a Saturday evening, I think he got it down to about 15 minutes. It was the fastest mass one would ever go to. We would be home in time for the news or the match or whatever. We chose in the last Dáil to hold this minute's silence. I am not criticising here because it is a small thing but I think yourself and the former Leas-Cheann Comhairle, Pat the Cope Gallagher, had a competition for who could shorten the minute's silence down. I had you timed at 11 seconds once, a Cheann Comhairle. I think we will need that minute's silence in the coming months and years. We will need moments to get peaceful reflection and draw our breath before we speak. That is the only small change I would make. You were a brilliant Ceann Comhairle and I wish you the best of luck in this new role.

On behalf of the Social Democrats, and it is a very proud moment even to be able to say that, I would like to congratulate you warmly, a Cheann Comhairle. It was very important that there was a contest - I even toyed with the idea of entering it myself - and a secret ballot.

The authority that comes from the Dáil electing the Ceann Comhairle is very important. We saw that over the past four years. Deputy Ó Fearghaíl has very definitely been a reforming Ceann Comhairle. Any of us who sat on the Sub-Committee on Dáil Reform, which he chaired, and considered the substantial changes made to Standing Orders, which may seem like a very dry subject, saw that this was done in a collaborative way and, as a result, that Dáil was much more inclusive than had previously been the case. For example, the previous Dáil was the first to have real control of its agenda, which is set out in the Constitution, but this was the first time it happened in practice. That was very important.

As a member of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, I witnessed the Ceann Comhairle's work as chairman on behalf the Oireachtas in its totality. The challenges that face the country face this Chamber, those in government and opposition. The tone of the debate is very often set by the Chair. That has been one of the Ceann Comhairle's best attributes. We have known each other a long time because we sat on a county council together for many years, as well as sharing this Chamber. I wish him well. We know that the Chair is in good hands.

Comhghairdeas leatsa, a Cheann Comhairle, as a bheith atofa i do Cheann Comhairle. The office of Ceann Comhairle is one of the most important in this State. Deputy Ó Fearghaíl held it over the past four years, with great skill and forbearance, more often than not. He steered a difficult Dáil through those four years with enormous understanding of the role of Parliament.

I commiserate with Deputy Naughten who brought many ideas to the debate. I hope those ideas will be advanced by this Dáil. Other speakers talked about the reform agenda and I was privileged to work with the Ceann Comhairle on the Sub-Committee on Dáil Reform, which I hope will also be reconstituted quickly so that in the period between now and the formation of a government, we can consider how we can ensure that the fundamental role of this House in holding the Executive to account is achieved. Since I first came in here, I have grappled with the rebalancing of the Executive and the strength of the Government, which includes the permanent government in the Civil Service, being held to account by the House.

Deputy Naughten's points on parliamentary questions are valid. We all feel frustration and need concrete solutions to that. Those of us who have been asking Taoiseach's questions over the past few years realise that it is not a good use of our time to have set questions rolled over every day and answered pro forma. We need to fundamentally change that. There are things to be learned from how prime ministerial questions operate in other jurisdictions. We need to insist on the attendance of Ministers in the House. There were one or two who seldom came in to answer questions. The idea of putting questions to the full Government and of Ministers being able to answer off the cuff, not in detail but with an understanding of their own area, would make this a much more forceful and central Parliament. We also need to consider how we can reconnect Parliament with people. We have seen extraordinarily good initiatives, for example, the Citizens' Assembly, which has fundamentally altered the way citizens make an input in the formulation of policy, and have smoothed over fundamental policy shifts in a way that debate in this House has not done. We could have more outreach by way of parliamentary scrutiny with citizens' groups to make this place central and relevant to all the people. They are the tasks that lie ahead.

I congratulate the Ceann Comhairle and his wife and family, not only on his re-election but on the very strong and overwhelming vote for him. The first port of call is not to wait for the announcement of the result here; I looked online and found it on The Irish Times website. The vote underscores the high regard the Ceann Comhairle is held in by Members of this House of all shades of political opinion and points of view. I hope that will encourage him to continue with the reforming zeal he showed in the past four years. I look forward to working with him, in whatever role I happen to play in the coming months and years, to ensure that Dáil Éireann is among the most respected, forceful and authoritative parliamentary chambers in the world.

I offer congratulations to the Ceann Comhairle on his re-election and I offer commiserations to Deputy Naughten. While he failed to be elected he made some very good suggestions, which we should consider seriously. Many of us share his frustration with parliamentary questions, for example, those on health, which are batted from the Department to the HSE and take a long time to come back. He made some very useful suggestions in that regard. His appeal for us to always consider the rights of all Members, particularly those who are not in groups, is an important point.

I commend Deputy Ó Fearghaíl on being a very fair, accessible and reforming Ceann Comhairle over the past four years. The Business Committee was a particular success in getting everybody involved in setting the agenda of the Dáil. He was always very fair and accommodating in trying to ensure that as much as was possible all items suggested for the agenda were put on it. That has made this Dáil a more relevant and accessible place where Deputies can not only make suggestions but be the vehicle through which groups in society that wanted to raise particular issues here were able to get them on the agenda. It is terribly important that we continue to do that. I commend the Ceann Comhairle on facilitating that on the Business Committee and the Sub-Committee on Dáil Reform.

I congratulate the Ceann Comhairle. For all of us elected for the first time and those re-elected, it is a privilege to be in here but it is also a heavy responsibility that we owe to the people who put us in here, to make sure we give real effect to their wishes and aspirations for a better, fairer society. I am confident that the Ceann Comhairle will facilitate us in trying to achieve that, and I hope we can take things further and better in the coming Dáil.

On my own behalf and on behalf of the Rural Independent Group, I warmly congratulate the Ceann Comhairle today. I thank him and his team and staff for the courteous way they dealt with us all in the previous Dáil. I also wish Mary Clare and their family the very best too.

I extend commiserations to Deputy Naughten on entering the race and not being successful but he made it all the more interesting. The suggestions he made are very valid and relevant. I thank the ushers, the tellers and all the staff for counting the votes so quickly and diligently.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for his co-operation, dedication and calmness at all times on the committees on which I worked with him, especially the Business Committee. He helped to keep many of us calm as well during those debates and arduous times.

It did not always work.

It did not always work but it worked most times, thankfully. We hope and pray, and wish him well in this new Dáil. I quipped during the applause that if it was as easy to elect a Taoiseach, we would have no problem and the country would be in safe hands by tonight.

It will not be as simple as that. It is testament to the respect that the Ceann Comhairle held in this House, at home in Kildare, among his supporters and everybody else. I wish him the very best and offer our co-operation to him in his role on different committees, to work alongside Peter and the whole team. Go n-éirí go geal leat.

Ar mo shon féin agus ar son mo chomhghleacaithe in Independents 4 Change, déanaim comhghairdeas leis an gCeann Comhairle. Guím gach rath air ina ról nua. Bhí sé cothrom i gcónaí agus tá súil agam go leanfaidh sé ar aghaidh sa bhealach céanna. Ba é an teachtaireacht ba láidre a tháinig trasna sa toghchán seo ná go bhfuil athruithe ag teastáil. Tá súil agam go mbeidh ról lárnach ag an gCeann Comhairle ag soláthar na n-athruithe sin. Guím gach rath ar an Teachta Naughten agus déanaim comhbhrón leis. Táim cinnte go mbeidh lá eile ag an bPaorach. Idir an dá linn, beidh deis ag chuile dhuine a bhfuil suim aige nó aici i ról mar chathaoirleach feabhas a chur ar a chuid Gaeilge. Táim ag tnúth leis an lá go mbeidh bean láidir sa suíochán.

A bit like the wedding feast at Cana, we now go to the Taoiseach.

I did not realise the Taoiseach was present at the wedding feast at Cana but you never know. Ar dtús, déanaim comhghairdeas leis an gCeann Comhairle. Is lá speisialta é dó féin agus dá chlann. Guím gach rath air. Is dea-chomhartha é den ardmheas agus gean láidir atá ag daoine ó gach taobh den Teach air gur toghadh é tríd na ballóidí rúnda. Táim cinnte go rachaidh sé i mbun a chuid oibre le hionracas agus comhionannas a léireoidh an onóir ar thug sé don Oireachtas mar Bhall den Teach. Tá a fhios agam nach mbeidh aon deacracht aige ord agus eagar a choimeád. Níl aon amhras orm ach go mbeidh aon easaontas a tharlódh gearrthréimseach agus réitithe gan dua.

I congratulate the Ceann Comhairle on his re-election. I know this is a very special day for him and his family, who are gathered here today. On behalf of the Fine Gael Party, I offer him every success over the next few years. He holds the distinction of being the first Ceann Comhairle to be elected by secret ballot, and now the first to be re-elected by secret ballot. It is a new system that I think started in the last Dáil and that will serve us well. It ensures that the Ceann Comhairle is truly elected and selected by all Members of this House and not by any one party or the lead party. His election by secret ballot is an indicator of the significant respect that we hold for him in this House and the very fair job that he has done over the past few years as well as, I believe, a strong personal affection for him. I know the Ceann Comhairle has approached the job with integrity and fairness, reflecting the honour that he has brought to the Oireachtas as a Member of the House and the way in which he has represented the country abroad as chairman of our Parliament. I am confident that he will have no difficulty keeping order and that any falling out will be short-lived and easily resolved. I promise that my party will do everything it can to help him in his work.

I offer my commiserations to Deputy Denis Naughten. I thank him for putting his name forward. There is no democracy without candidates and a contest. I congratulate him on being re-elected so decisively in the difficult and challenging constituency of Roscommon-Galway, which will thankfully not now be a two-seater at the next general election. I am sure he will have many other happier days.

This is an important time in our political history and the future is not clear. However, I am certain that the Ceann Comhairle will be successful in this role and will serve our Dáil and country with great distinction. My party will do everything that it can to ensure that the business of this House runs smoothly and that our work is meaningful and engaging. I believe that one lesson from the last Dáil is that Members must be held accountable for what they do and do not do here. Sometimes this did not happen and faith in our political life was eroded and damaged to the detriment of all of us. We need to find robust mechanisms in this new Dáil to ensure transparency and accountability when it comes to voting, attendance and other matters. No one should be in any doubt that we are here as servants of the people and must serve them with integrity to the best of our abilities, or there will be consequences, not just for them but for everyone else.

I congratulate the Ceann Comhairle again and wish him good luck in his term. I wish him and his family good fortune over the lifetime of this Thirty-third Dáil.

I was very humbled by the result of the election earlier. I am even more humbled by the graciousness of the comments that have been made. I pinched myself at one stage to make sure I was not dead. I appreciate what Members have said and guarantee them that it will spur me on to work more diligently and effectively on behalf of all Members of this House.