I am sure it is well tended. Well deserved tributes were paid to the late Cathaoirleach, Senator Naughten, and I will not repeat them. However, it will be very difficult for his successor to fill his shoes. The late Senators Fallon and Naughten were excellent Cathaoirligh and conducted the business of the House in an even handed, efficient and courteous manner.
This is a momentous occasion because we will be electing someone to the Chair of Seanad Éireann, which is one of the most important constitutional offices. We must realise that we are electing a Member to the Council of State who will act in the place of the President when he or she is absent from the country.
We are fortunate that two candidates of the calibre of Senators Cosgrave and Mullooly are standing for election. I am deeply aware of Senator Cosgrave's long family tradition of public service to the State. It is not an exaggeration to state that, but for the even-handedness of his grandfather, Ireland might be the democracy it is today and we must be conscious of that fact.
Senator Mullooly has served in the Seanad since 1981 and has filled the office of Leas-Chathaoirleach with distinction. He conducted the affairs of the House very well when he was in the Chair. I would be happy to see either elected. However, we can only elect one and I am sure that the individual in question will do well.
I am aware of the tradition whereby the Government side has always elected the Cathaoirleach. However, this is an unusual and unprecedented situation in that the transfer of Government took place without a general election and changed the balance of the House. The normal rules do not apply in this case. It would be easy for Opposition Members to want Senator Cosgrave to take the Chair, purely on the basis that voting strength on the Government side would be reduced. In the event that he is elected, it will make the Government side's voting position more difficult. We look forward to the debate on the Universities Bill to see how that minority performs.
The Progressive Democrats have a history of adopting a reasonably independent line on these matters. Members will recall that, when they first entered the House, the three Senators from my party, who were nominated by the then Taoiseach, abstained in the vote for the election of the Cathaoirleach because they did not regard him as the most suitable person for the job. Our record stands comparison with others on that score. The fact of the matter is that we are in Opposition and we will be supporting the candidacy of Senator Mullooly.