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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 27 Apr 1938

Vol. 21 No. 1

Election of Cathaoirleach

Cuirim an Rún seo os cóir an tSeanaid:

Go dtoghtar an Seanadóir Seán Mac Giobúin agus go dtéighe sé i gceannas an tSeanaid anois mar Chathaoirleach.

Cuidím leis an rún sin.

Ba mhaith liom a thairisgint don tSeanad go dtoghtar an Seanadóir Séamus O hEochadha— an Fear Mór—mar Chathaoirleach. Tá aithne agam air le deich mbliana fichead ach ní gá dhom a mhola d'aoinne anso ná d'aoinne taobh amuich den Tigh seo go bhfuil Gaoluinn aige nó aon tsuim aige i gcúrsaí na Gaoluinne. 'Na dhiaidh san, ní mar gheall ar Ghaoluinn amháin atáim-se á iarraidh oraibh é chur sa Chathaoir indiu. Tá na tréithre go léir aige a théigheann chun Cathaoirleach maith do dhéanamh— stuaim agus ciall agus cneastacht, éirim aigne agus sláinte cuirp, tuiscint agus cothrom focal agus foidhne an mhúinteora oilte. I dteannta an mhéid sin go léir, níl aon nimh ná aon tsearbhas ná aon domblas ná mioscaisí gránna ag baint leis. Fear oscailte fíor-Ghaolach íseadh é gan aon chumhangracht aigne ann ná aon aindeise ná aon achrann. Tuigeann sé cúrsaí gnótha. Tá a fhios againn go bhfuil gnó agus obair mhór déanta aige go siachtmhar agus go héifeachtúil. B'fhuirist dó dul i dtaithí na hoibre atá le déanamh anso agus ní baol ná go bhfuigheadh gach aoinne cothrom na Féinne uaidh. Ba mhó-de gradám an tSeanaid agus b'fhearr-de an obair anso é bheith againn mar Cathaoirleach. Tosnú maith a bheadh ann, tuar misnigh do Ghaodhlaibh, tuar tairbhe agus onóra don tSeanad, don Stát agus do phobal na hÉireann.

I desire to propose that Senator O hEochadha, an Fear Mór, be elected as Cathaoirleach of the Seanad. The Fear Mór is a very old friend and colleague of mine and it may seem strange that I should propose his nomination now in the English language, seeing that I think I have never had a conversation with him in that language. I have transacted a great variety of business with him in Irish and he is a complete master of the language. But my reasons are not addressed to Irish speakers alone nor are they based solely or even mainly upon Irish language considerations.

I believe that the Chairman of this House should have a sound knowledge of the Irish language and should be able to understand fully, and at once, speeches made in that language and questions put to him in that language. He should be able adequately to deal in that language with any situation which may arise. That is surely the minimum right of an Irish speaker in the Seanad under the Constitution and even in the natural order of things. A mere nodding acquaintance with Irish does not suffice in the Chair. But I am not one of those who would put into the Chair here an incompetent person merely because that person had a knowledge of the Irish language. If, however, a person otherwise thoroughly competent is available who also has the necessary grasp of the Irish language then, I think, the case for that person is overwhelming. The Senator whom I am now nominating has not only a thorough grasp of Irish as a business tongue but also many other qualifications.

The qualities necessary for a good chairman are commonsense, good judgment, patience, good temper and the capacity to grasp not only general principles but also details. He should be slow to interfere but, at the same time, capable of making up his mind correctly and swiftly. He should be open to argument and persuasion but resolute to see that his decision, once given, is accepted. An Fear Mór is and has been a figure in Irish life— a figure in that part of Irish life which is not political and about which we all can, and many of us do, agree. He comes to us from a vocational body and has been vice-chairman of the County Waterford Vocational Education Committee for some years.

He is one of the very best known persons and, perhaps, the most successful person in the Irish-Ireland movement, if we are to count definite, tangible work for the Irish language as success. He has done that work in a thorough fashion but with unfailing good humour and broadmindedness. He has the patience and the tolerance which are the marks of a good teacher and which will, in all probability, be necessary in the Chair. He has built up successfully, relying on his own efforts and the help of his colleagues, but without criticising Governments of any political complexion and without making appeals for assistance from Governments. He has not taken an active part in politics and, at this present moment, I am unable to say what his Party affiliations are. If he has not taken an active part in politics, he has never ceased to work in the national interest and for the national language. Those who know his work in Ring—they are many and extend beyond the boundaries of Waterford—will understand to what I allude. He has done that work in a thorough and a tolerant and commonsense fashion and proved his capacity for constructive effort. He has knowledge of administration, and capacity, I am confident, to learn the details of parliamentary work and chairmanship. If the House elects him as chairman, he will give a fair deal to every member on every occasion, respecting the rights of the minority and of individuals as well as recognising—as every chairman must recognise —the legitimate claims of the majority.

The Cathaoirleach, apart from his duties here, has certain other functions under the Constitution. With the Chief Justice and the Ceann Comhairle, he forms part of the Commission which carries out the duties of the President when the President is for any reason unable to act. The Chairman of the Dáil has been selected from the ranks of the Government Party. We have today a proposal that another member of the same Party should be appointed chairman here, and, in consequence, a member of the Presidential Commission. That is a bad scheme, a Party scheme and a narrow and short-sighted gesture at the very opening of our proceedings. If the Seanad agrees to that scheme, we shall have set a party-political stamp upon our proceedings from the very outset. The proposal that I have the honour to make is of a different character and sets the House upon a different and a wiser course.

It might very well be said about our present Constitution and of this House, that, in the words of the French proverb, "the more it changes the more it is the same thing." But these considerations apart, this House is at the beginning of its career and the direction and the tone which we give to our proceedings at this, our first, meeting will have a very important effect upon the future of the Second House in this country and upon the character of the legislature of which it is part. We need a chairman free from Party affiliations, who can preserve pleasant relations with all the members, who can give not only dignity but efficiency to our proceedings. If our proceedings are harmonious, as I hope they will be, and if we do our work competently, dignity will follow of itself.

I am confident that Senator O hEochadha would do the work admirably, would reflect credit upon himself and upon us all and I have very great pleasure, indeed, in moving that he be elected and do now take the Chair as Cathaoirleach of the Seanad.

It gives me great pleasure to second the motion put before the House by Senator Hayes. I do so entirely in the exercise of my own judgment, and because of my acquaintance with Senator O hEochadha's character and with the work he has for a long time been doing. I do so with particular pleasure as one of the representatives of educational institutions, because few men in Ireland at present have done more solid, more lasting or more far-reaching work not only on behalf of the Irish language but on behalf of education in Ireland. I made the Senator's acquaintance a great many years ago when we were both members of the Gaeltacht Commission and travelled over the country together. I have still a very strong recollection of the very favourable impression I formed at that time both of Senator O hEochadha's character and ability. Like Senator Hayes, I am entirely ignorant as to what his views on politics, or what his Party affiliations, if he has any, are. I am seconding this proposal purely on the ground that it would be impossible for the Seanad to get a more suitable man than Senator O hEochadha from amongst its members to be its Chairman. In electing him as our Chairman we shall be reflecting the greatest credit on ourselves at the opening of our proceedings, and we shall be giving recognition, where recognition is not very easy to get, to a man who has for many years been doing first-class work in an entirely unassuming but yet thorough, solid and lasting way on behalf of the Irish language and the Irish nation. I have no doubt that Senator O hEochadha will have no trouble in becoming fully conversant with the niceties of procedure here. My reason for seconding this proposal is that I am acquainted with Senator O hEochadha, know his work and that I do not think we can get a better man to fill the place.

I wish to support the nomination of Senator O hEochadha. I know that An Fear Mór has made a practical success of the teaching of the Irish language, and the development on a sound business basis of a college in an Irish-speaking district. In addition to that I know that he is a practical businessman, whose brains and tolerance fit him eminently for the position of Cathaoirleach of this House, and I hope that the House will honour itself and him by electing him its Cathaoirleach.

Coming as I do from the same area as An Fear Mór, and knowing him for a very considerable number of years, I think I should not allow this opportunity to pass without saying a few words in support of his nomination. An Fear Mór, as the House is aware, is a big man, a very reasonable man, and a very broad-minded man. He is, to my knowledge, a very sound administrator, and he has a very thorough knowledge of procedure. These qualifications, together with his knowledge of the Irish language, should single him out as an ideal Cathaoirleach for this Seanad. Should the Seanad elect him, I am sure An Fear Mór will succeed in making this Assembly one big happy family, with each member striving to do his or her best for Éire. I support the nomination put forward by Senator Hayes.

Question put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 26.

  • Byrne, Christopher M.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Condon, Thomas.
  • Conway, Michael.
  • Corkery, Daniel.
  • Farnan, Robert P.
  • Gaffney, John.
  • Hawkins, Frederick.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Hearne, Michael.
  • Honan, Thomas V.
  • Hughes, Gilbert.
  • Johnson, James.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • Kennedy, Margaret L.
  • McShea, Thomas.
  • MacWhinney, Linda Kearns.
  • Moore, Maurice G.
  • O'Callaghan, William.
  • O'Donovan, Seán.
  • O'Dwyer, Martin.
  • O Máille, Pádraic.
  • Nic Phiarais, Maighréad M.
  • Quirke, William.
  • Robinson, David L.
  • Ruane, Thomas.
  • Stafford, Matthew.
  • Tunney, James.
  • Walsh, David.


  • Alton, Ernest H.
  • Barniville, Henry L.
  • Baxter, Patrick F.
  • Butler, John.
  • Caffrey, William J.
  • Crosbie, James.
  • De hIde, Dubhghlas (An Craoibhín Aoibhinn).
  • Douglas, James G.
  • Doyle, Patrick.
  • Hayes, Michael.
  • Johnston, Joseph.
  • Keane, Sir John.
  • Kennedy, Cornelius.
  • MacDermot, Frank.
  • McGillycuddy of the Reeks, The.
  • McLoughlin, John.
  • Madden, David J.
  • Milroy, Seán.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Newcome, John J. O'Rourke, Bernard.
  • O'Sullivan, Gearóid.
  • Parkinson, James J.
  • Rowlette, Robert J.
  • Tierney, Michael.
  • Twomey, Michael.
Tellers:—Tá: Senators Hearne and Robinson; Níl: Senators Crosbie and Milroy.
Question declared carried.
Senators rose in their places and remained standing while the Cathaoirleach proceeded to the Dais.
Standing beside the Chair, the Cathaoirleach said:
Cúis onóra dhom bheith toghtha mar Chathaoirleach don chéad tSeanad a cuireadh ar bun fé chomhacht Bhunreacht na hÉireann agus táim anabhuidheach díobh mar gheall air sin. Déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall cothrom na Féinne a thabhairt do gach dream, agus is eól dom go mbeidh bhúr gcongnamh le fáil agam chun mo chuid ghnótha a chur chun críche, agus tá súil agam go n-éireoidh le hobair an tSeanaid seo chun leasa ár dtíre agus chun Éire saor Gaodhalach a bhaint amach.