Order of Business (Resumed).

Without being parochial, I pay a warm tribute to the Chair on his retirement. He and I come from the same part of the country and served locally together in public life. At times we have had debates and arguments, but we have always been good friends and respected each other's point of view. I pay tribute to him for his work over the last five years as Cathaoirleach. He has brought nothing but respect and dignity to the House in the way he has carried out his work. I say that genuinely because he has done an excellent job and whoever replaces him will have a huge act to follow. I pay him every tribute and give him every thanks.

I also join in the welcome given to the new Members, Senators O'Rourke and Mackin. Senator O'Rourke often came to the House as a Minister and though we often had clashes, of all the Cabinet Ministers who came to the House over the last five years she was the one who paid the greatest attention to what Members had to say. She dealt in great detail with the amendments we brought forward whether she agreed or disagreed with them. She always engaged in the debate in a real way for which I thank her, though we often disagreed. I said publicly at the time that it was a matter of great regret that she lost her Dáil seat, but she is very welcome to this House.

Regarding the other retiring Members, one can get into an invidious situation when naming people, but I have been deputy leader under Senator Manning for the last five years and he has made a most distinguished contribution to this House. He has been articulate and spoken eloquently on a range of issues. He was well informed on every piece of legislation that came before the House and made some wonderful contributions. It is a matter of regret that the House is to lose somebody of his calibre and character. I wish him well as I do all the others who are leaving us on this occasion. Each one of them made an excellent contribution.

We are often the subject of criticism. Recently I listened to a radio programme in relation to this House when a not only misinformed but downright ignorant comment was made about the House by people I have never seen in the press gallery or in the Visitors Gallery. That is taken as gospel because it is put out on an important current affairs programme by the public service broadcaster. We are not good enough at standing up for ourselves. I am a veteran of 20 years in these Houses, ten years spent in the other House and ten years in this House. The quality of debate and the level of participation by Members here is much greater than in the Lower House. The proportion of Senators who contribute in a meaningful way to legislation is much greater than the proportion of Members in the other House who make a contribution to legislation. Often we draw back from making that point about the role we play. The level of debate and analysis of legislation is much greater here than in the other House. We ought to say that a little more often about ourselves and not be ashamed to say it.

I thank you, a Chathaoirligh, for the opportunity to make these points. I wish you well and thank you for the contribution you have made.

I welcome Senator O'Rourke and Senator Mackin to the House. I join in the tributes paid to the Cathaoirleach. You have been a brilliant Cathaoirleach but you have also been a brilliant Member of this House and your advice was always good. I thank you particularly for nominating me as one of your assistant chairmen of the House. It was an honour to sit in that chair and referee the debate. As others said, debate in this House is brilliant.

As one who left national school at 14 years of age and spent two years in a local tech in the village of Grange, I was pleased to achieve the honour of coming here as an elected Member. I have not calculated the figures but I do not think that more than 200 or 300 people have been Members over the years. It is a great honour to walk up the 36 steps from the main hall to this room and take one's seat as an elected Member. I thank all the county councillors and the electorate who supported and voted for me over all those years. To those who voted for me and who are, I hope, in a brighter place I say, go ndéana Dia trócaire orthu. I made great friends in this House and as far as I know I made no enemies.


Hear, hear.

I contributed on many occasions on many subjects from my heart and there was never any rancour or venom. Senator Norris and I had a little verbal battle on one occasion.

It was in good form.

He was very friendly and we are great friends ever since. The little discussion we had brought us closer together.


I am delighted to say that about this House.

I pay tribute to Deirdre Lane and Jody Blake, who were always helpful and did wonderful work, and all their staff. I pay a special tribute to Senator Maurice Manning. It was an honour to know and work with him. I met many of his past pupils who would always ask if I knew him because he was a wonderful lecturer and great teacher. He taught everyone here a lesson also. He was brilliant and easy to work with. When I became Whip, with Senator Paddy Burke, we could arrange the work and the votes. As Senator Ryan said, there is honour in this House and if the Members said they were calling a vote, it was up to us to have the numbers here. If they said they were not calling a vote, they would honour that.

As Senator Ryan also said, we do not talk often enough about the honourable people in politics. There is nobody in politics today who has not been elected by at least 9,000 or 10,000 people. What mandate do those on quangos, journalists and others who criticise us have? They write articles about this House and think they are an authority on it, but we were elected by the people.

I was elected in 1967 and I am always pleased to say I never left this country to earn a living. In 1967, when I joined the council, my priority was to set up regional water schemes, promote tourism in the west and create jobs. Long before we had these organisations which purport to save the west, county councillors like myself were working in the council chamber on the provision of services and infrastructure and creating jobs in the west. I have seen men going around in Jaguars and Mercs with chauffeurs and PR people trying to get elected to this House while I was going around in my little Citroen Dyane, which was all I could afford to run. If money could have got the people concerned elected, the likes of me and many of us here would not have seen this House except on a postcard or passing Kildare Street. The electorate are honourable people who vote for us on our merits and what we have to give to society.

I pay tribute to two great men standing in the hall, Paddy Behan and Tony O'Reilly, and offer my sincere thanks to all the ushers. They were always courteous and could not do enough to help us. We thank them sincerely.

I also pay tribute to Don Rice and the restaurant staff on a job well done. I particularly thank the self-service staff because as many Members know, as a pioneer who does not drink, I came up to Dublin on the train for safety one time, walked over to Store Street, tripped, fell and broke my remaining good hand. For a few weeks I was practically handless. I pay tribute to the staff in the self-service restaurant who literally fed me for those three or four weeks.

I thank the secretary in the Whips office, Ellen Byrne, who did a great job, my own secretary, Audrey Eager, and all my secretaries during the years. I thank the Taoiseach, who appointed me Chief Whip. It is a great honour to leave as Chief Whip and leader of the Fianna Fáil group, even if it is only for one day.

I thank Deputy Cassidy, who is present in the Visitors Gallery. It is unusual to see him there as he should be here beside me. He did a mountain of work. A total of 67 Bills were passed in the House during his term as Leader. He elevated the House in a big way. He did great public relations work with the media in order that the House received more coverage than ever. The House rarely featured in "Oireachtas Report," but through his good offices, as communications spokesperson, he got us more publicity than ever. He did a wonderful job and will be missed. I wish him every success and hope he will go further because he has the ability, intelligence and initiative to do so.

I am reminded of a story. There was a man from my county whose brother was a superintendent in Wexford. The brother died suddenly and a telegram was sent to the local Garda barracks. A girl arrived at the man's house and asked him if she should go into the house and break the news to his mother. He said he would do it himself. There were no telephones at the time, but the brother used to regularly write to the mother. The man walked into the house and asked the mother if she had the last letter his brother, Matt, had written to her. She said it was on the mantelpiece. "Ah well," he said, "it was the last."

Deputy Cassidy, during his time as Leader, gave me an opportunity to debate alcohol abuse on two occasions. It is the greatest curse in this country today. Everybody is talking about it, including the media, but voluntary organisations should stop seeking more money and get at the root cause. I would like a Minister to introduce a law to make alcohol abuse as socially unacceptable as smoking. There was a time when Members smoked in the House, but one dare not light a cigarette in it today or at any other gathering. Anyone who smokes can be seen on the streets because they must leave their offices and shops, for example, to do so. However, unless alcohol abuse becomes as unacceptable as smok ing, we will have serious troubles. I thank Deputy Cassidy and Opposition Members, particularly Senator Manning, who facilitated two great debates on the issue.

I wish those Members who are also retiring today every success and hope we will meet from time to time through the retirement club of the House. I also wish those on the road doing the 10,000 mile circuit of Ireland in four weeks every success and hope many of the number ones remain because all of them think they are winning, but only a handful win at the end of the day. I wish them well and ask them to drive carefully in order that they are not involved in accidents. I am driving since 1948 and pleased that I have not marked a car yet, touch wood. I hope those campaigning for Seanad seats drive around Ireland safely and soundly. I thank my colleagues in the Fianna Fáil Party, those who have worked with me and the Progressive Democrats' Members, particularly Senator Dardis, who have supported me since I was appointed Chief Whip. It was a great pleasure to work with them for the past 16 years and I look forward to retirement.

I take it very kindly, a Chathaoirligh, that you have summoned me to speak because I feel rather abashed. I do not feel worthy to follow in the footsteps of St. Brendan Ryan, but I am probably one of those terribly stupid people by whom he is surrounded, who form the vast majority of the Members of the House and leave him in lonely isolation being right all the time. Therefore, I take it very kindly that you permit me to speak on this occasion.

I join other Members who have paid tributes. I will not repeat what was said because it might get a little bit close to the Oscars, but would like to pay tribute to you, a Chathaoirligh. You have shown great forbearance, a great sense of humour and great wisdom in your judgments. I do not think you have alienated a single person in this House from the position you preside over and that is a great tribute to you.

I also join in the tributes to Senator Manning. He gave great dignity to this House and he increased its calibre through his distinguished contributions. He is a most eloquent speaker with a superb command of rhetoric. One thing I very much like about him is that he has never used notes. He is able to produce a perfect, balanced sentence without reading it off a page. For that reason I regret very much that he is not a candidate. I think Fine Gael made a disastrous and possibly mischievous mistake in withholding a nomination from him. That is a disgrace and I will find it very difficult to give votes to my friends and colleagues in Fine Gael because of it. It really shows a very low standard in Irish political life and it is most regrettable.

I mentioned that Senator Manning did not use notes and I welcome the former Minister, Senator O'Rourke, who is another person who did not use notes. What was delightful about her was the banter between us in this House. She is the intellec tual equal of anybody in this House. She was always fully in command of her brief and never had to turn back to her civil servants. She was right on target. I am delighted she is in this House and I look forward to her continuing the wonderful work she did for the transport network, particularly in helping us on this side of the House in pushing for the metro to go underground and to get it built as rapidly as possible. She at least understands all the arguments. I am sorry Senator O'Rourke had that unfortunate accident in the other House but I am glad she is here and I hope she enjoys her time with us.

I almost forgot to say that another thing I like about Senator Manning is his characteristic honesty. He told the plain, unvarnished truth and he did it in such a way that it did not raise protest. If I had said, as he did today, that there was a low level of debate in county councils, I can imagine the howls from the other side of the House, but I agree with him. He is absolutely right—


He did. Look at the records. The Members are very difficult to stir up today; I do not know what is wrong with them all.


That reminds me that Nice is pronounced "Nice" and not "nice". I wish to propose an amendment to the Order of Business to take No. 23, motion 15, in the names of the Independent Senators, first. We are supposed to advise Government – we are a kind of advisory Chamber. If we are only brought back in September, it will be much too late to advise the Government and it is showing clear signs of getting it wrong again on Nice.

Why will it not put in a Danish-style protocol? There is no reason not to do so. The little advertisement the Taoiseach is talking about does not matter a damn; it has no validity whatsoever. He started calling the "No" campaigners whingers and this will alienate the voters also. The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Dermot Ahern, thinks neutrality should be put into the Constitution, but this is a recipe for disaster as it was in the case of abortion.

Rather than leaving it until September we should come back earlier to discuss this matter so that we will be in a position to carry out our constitutional function of advising the Government. There is no point advising it when it is too late, as it will be in terms of the Nice referendum by September. I propose my amendment to the Order of Business and I understand that my colleague and friend, Senator Ross, will second it.

I had an opportunity on the last day to express opinions about various Members of the House and in particular the Cathaoirleach and the staff of the House. I will let the comments I made on that occasion stand, but things have changed since then. We heard today from Senator Des Hanafin, who has been here for 41 years. In the annals of this House, it will be recognised as the longest service of anybody past or future. I do not think it can happen again and we should congratulate him on the stamina he has shown, but also on the amount of goodwill that has been shown towards him throughout Ireland over many years. When we look at one brand new Senator and one reformed Senator back in the fold, Senator O'Rourke—

Born again.

The difference between one and 41 in terms of days and years is massive. Regarding the comment made by Senator Norris about reading from notes in the House, when I first came into this House in 1977, it was forbidden to read from scripts. Members had to extemporise, to stand on their feet and say what they felt from their hearts. In other words, they had to do the work outside and bring it into the Chamber, but that changed. I remember former Minister, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, one day speaking about a particular Bill. He suddenly discovered he was speaking on the wrong Bill. All the papers ended up all over the place, but he just continued on. He moved from speaking about the wrong Bill onto the right Bill and, as usual—

Did anybody notice?

He did himself and the House justice. Regarding the position of Senator Manning, it is not for us on this side of the House to suggest what Fine Gael should do or what they have done, but it has been a privilege to work with the Senator. The comments that were made by Senator Farrell have to be acknowledged also. Three of my family went to university and were lectured by Senator Manning. They all suggest that he was the best in his field of academia. He should be congratulated on making the transition from academia to this House because many people have come from academia into this House but have not succeeded. He has been able to do that and we thank him.

Senator O'Toole said I was narrow and broad in my views. I will not let myself or my cause down by not mentioning the situation of the Palestinians. I could not leave today, on my last occasion in the House, without suggesting that what is being done to the Palestinians is totally wrong. What Israeli Prime Minister Sharon has preached to the President of the United States is totally wrong. The invasion by the United States into what might be the outcome of an election in Palestine is absolutely wrong. It is up to the Palestinians to decide who will lead them. It is up to the Palestinians to decide what sort of state they will have and when they will hold their next elections. Israel is wrong, but it knows it has might on its side. I could not leave this House without saying what I feel – what is happening in Palestine is a disgrace to society in Europe as well as the rest of the world. I ask the Deputy Leader to suggest to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who is sympathetic, to act as strongly as possible at EU level to ensure that fairness comes into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because there is a need for peace in that area. There is undoubtedly wrong on both sides, but we must see that the Palestinians get their rights.

I never over-step my time limit. I have never annoyed you, a Chathaoirligh, and, unfortunately, I will never annoy you again in this situation.

I second Senator Norris's proposal that No. 23, motion 15, be taken first.

I know this is something of a lap of honour, but it is difficult for people to allow Members like you, a Chathaoirligh, to depart without paying tributes. As one of only two Members you have had to remove from the House, you are forgiven. Indeed, it took you an unseemly length of time to do it and you left us at our wits' end as to what to do next to get ejected. I thank you for that and for all that you did for the House. The whole House genuinely appreciates it. It was difficult to remember sometimes that you belonged to a party, which is the highest tribute that I can pay to you for your actions.

Former Senator Cassidy was also extremely generous to the Opposition. He often wanted something back, but that is the nature of politics and he always got something. However, his interest in the House was for its own good.

Many of us are losing good friends. Senator Lanigan and I, in former days, got into unmentionable scrapes which I will remember for many years, although I will not tell the House about any of them. Nevertheless, I will miss them and him.

Senator Hanafin is a man of enormous integrity, crusty but great nevertheless. One admires his honesty so much sometimes that one identifies with him and is in danger of identifying with his causes. I never succumbed to the temptation, but his beliefs are never in question. He is a beacon of honesty which all sides of the House must admire. I will also greatly miss Senator Cosgrave, who has decided not to carry on, signalling the end of a great dynasty in Irish politics.

I welcome the former Minister, Senator O'Rourke, who, despite our differences on many matters, was one of the finest Ministers, if not the finest in the last Government, and its loss is our great gain. She brings experience, political astuteness and a sense of humour, which will be welcome. We are lucky that people of her experience want – and publicly express their desire on defeat in the elections – to come to this House, which is a credit and compliment to us.

I have served in this House for nearly as long as anybody, with Gordon Wilson, Jim Dooge, Seamus Mallon, Mary Robinson and many others who are regarded as great, but say without doubt that Senator Manning is the finest Senator with whom I have served. His commitment is unmatched by anyone. It must be said it is an appalling tragedy that some back room cabal in Fine Gael decided that he should not be nominated.

Hear, hear.

I do not mean to be sensational and hope it is not picked up by anyone. However, this House was served so superbly by Senator Manning that those of us who turned on the television at night hoping to see ourselves would inevitably see him, since he was either the leader of the Government or Opposition side. Occasionally we might have wished that it was us instead of him, but I always felt great pride that at least he was the Seanad's face for almost 20 years and we could identify with his innate dignity, elegance and eloquence. We have lost possibly the finest Senator we ever had. He had the greatest commitment, politeness, sense of humour, knowledge of Northern Ireland and balance. It is a tragedy for this to happen. He will continue in politics in some capacity and I hope he may return here in a representative one. We should examine ourselves, and if we, or any party, think we can afford to lose someone of his calibre, we are wrong.

I second Senator Ryan's motion for an amendment to the Order of Business regarding the proposal to take the freedom of information regulations without debate. We did this before and it is not good practice. Freedom of information legislation is extremely significant and has major consequences in all areas of public life. Media reports state some Government backbenchers want it reviewed. No regulation should be passed without debate in either House.

I also add my words to the tributes paid here today. It is a privilege to be a Member of Seanad Éireann, particularly on a day like this when so many historic words are being spoken. It is important to have such a day. I listen with awe to the words of retiring Members, in particular. I thank the Cathaoirleach for his help and support to all Members, but also to myself for the last five years. I wish him every happiness in his retirement, and all other retiring Members also. I heard with regret through the media that Senator Manning would not be joining the new Seanad. As others said, he will be a great loss, not only to the House, but also to the Oireachtas and public life. I also pay tribute to the work of that great Tipperary man, Senator Hanafin, and wish him and his wife, Mona, every happiness in retirement. I thank him and all other retiring Senators for their contribution to this House, public service and political life.

Many of us were stung by remarks made in the media recently about this House. Some were misinformed, but others reflected something that we must take seriously, that is, the need to change. We must examine and embrace change as it is inevitable. In doing so, I hope we embrace it collectively in a manner which ensures our basic principles and values will always be preserved. That can undoubtedly happen. I hope it will as I hope to be here and be part of it.

I support the calls for the Seanad to give time soon to debating the Ansbacher report, due to be published next week, and also to ensure the extremely important issue of our future in Europe and the future of the European Union through the Treaty of Nice is debated here. As Members of the Upper House, we should be allowed to give our views to the Government on the treaty, the debate and the referendum. I appeal to the Government to allow this in order that we can make, as usual, a considered, valued contribution.

I pay tribute to the Cathaoirleach, who has been such a success. Should it be a prerequisite for any future Cathaoirleach to have been a primary school teacher, as it appears to be the ideal training for managing an institution such as the Seanad? I also add my words to the tribute paid to Senator Manning. I was proud when he asked me to sign his papers and appalled to discover that he was not going to run due to a foolish decision. I was impressed that he asked me to support another person who also asked me to sign the papers as he would not like us to withhold votes from any of the excellent people seeking election because of what happened to him.

It is a great honour to be here with the former Minister, Senator O'Rourke. I welcome her and Senator Mackin.

It was a privilege to serve with Senator Hanafin. The two of us were never on the same side of any issue, except in practical matters. During one of the numerous referenda on which we were on different sides our opposing groups were to meet at the gates of Leinster House and it was raining. I remember that Senator Hanafin and I shared an umbrella on the way out to the gate, but by the time we got there the two groups were fighting mano à mano and had to be separated by the ushers. We decided to act together again and did a circle and came back around and up to Leinster House. Sometimes it is advisable to co-operate with those who support a different side of an argument.

I ask the Leader of the House to add another matter to the Order of Business. There has been appalling trouble in the Irish Blood Transfusion Service again, which is causing great dismay among the general public. The medical director of the Cork institution was removed and reinstituted while the chief executive officer was removed and reinstituted by the courts. That is a serious situation in such an important institution. Will the Leader ask the Minister for Health and Children to make a ten minute statement on the position at the end of business today to give reassurance to the general public and, I hope, ensure we will not have a repeat of the problems we had earlier this year and in previous years regarding the number of donors coming to the clinics? If that is not possible, I ask the Leader to take up Senator O'Toole's suggestion that we meet again next Tuesday and that this matter be added to the list of subjects he suggested we should discuss.

I welcome Senator O'Rourke and Senator Mackin to the House and wish them well. I pay a special tribute to the Cathaoirleach for the past five years. He was a great Cathaoirleach and courteous to everybody, which ensured everyone got a fair chance.

I also pay a special tribute to the former Leader of the House, Deputy Donie Cassidy, who did a tremendous job in getting many Bills through this House, for which we are indebted to him. I wish him well in the other House.

I also pay a special tribute to my opposite number, Senator Tom Fitzgerald, with whom I worked as Government Whip and Opposition Whip. It was great to work with him and Senator Farrell. They were easy to work with and very co-operative. They gave great assistance, irrespective of whichever side one was on, whether in government or opposition.

I wish Senator Cosgrave well in his retirement. He played a significant role in this House over many years. His retirement marks the end of a dynasty in both Houses. He deserves that I wish him well.

I pay a special tribute to my leader, Senator Manning, who played a significant role as leader on the Government and Opposition sides of the House. He can be best summed up by referring to his achievements during the two and a half years he was Leader of the House during the minority rainbow Government. He steered that Government through without losing a single vote in this House. He had a good Whip at the time. That was a tremendous achievement and showed his strength. It was probably the only minority Government in the history of the Seanad. His steering that Government through without losing a single vote in this House is a major achievement that will go down in history as a mark to him.

I read the book Quo Vadis many years ago and recall a character in it, on hearing of Christianity for the first time, saying he did not think that God had organised things well enough because of the way the world seemed to run. If I was creating a world, I would ensure people would go through various phases. They would be a student, a warrior, a Senator and at the end of their term, their friends would gather and say goodbye and praise them, and then they would go to Heaven.

Today is one of the joyful days in being a Senator. One of the traditions of this House is that we pay tribute to former Senators on their passing. Perhaps they hear us wherever they are. This is one of the occasions on which we have the opportunity to thank those who have put such effort, commitment and hard work into the work ings of the House. Senator Farrell talked about counting the 36 steps up to this House. Senator Manning spoke of the pride he experienced on being elected to one of the Houses of Parliament of this State. All of us have had the opportunity to do so, but we have not had the opportunity too often in the past to thank those leaving us. I will not follow through on this with many words.

I had a meeting with Lord Williams, the Leader of the House of Lords, with whom the Cathaoirleach also had a meeting. He came to talk about the running of this House. It was rather late in the day when I met him by which time he had learned a great deal about this House from the Cathaoirleach and others. The amount of respect, recognition and understanding this House deserves, but does not always get, is due in no small way to the work put in by those who have been referred to today. I refer particularly to the work the Cathaoirleach has put in in recent years.

I became a Member of this House nine and a half years ago. I telephoned Gordon Wilson when I knew that he would also be a Member. I think I was the only Member he knew when he came to this House. Like a baby taking his or her first steps, I came through the doors of this House to learn my way around.

The Cathaoirleach, who has served here for 21 years, is receiving the key to a door that is different from the key one normally gets after 21 years. He is entering another phase of his life. I know he will show the same interest and commitment in that phase as he has shown in the past in the workings of this House. We were honoured to have him as Cathaoirleach, to have benefited from the effectiveness with which he did his job and the humour and great style he showed. That has been greatly appreciated.

I add to what has been said about Senator Manning. He will continue to do a great deal of work. He leaves behind not only the words he spoke, but also the amount of literature he has left in the form of his publications, which I am sure he will continue to turn out in the years ahead. Those of us who know the work he has put into efforts to reform this House, to make sure it becomes even more recognised and respected for the work that it is possible to do in the future, are aware that such drive comes from a dedication and love of this House and a love of parliamentary democracy that he has shown. From our point of view, we have gained a great deal from this, and will continue to gain from it with his work in the future.

I also wish to say goodbye not to all those leaving this House – I will not repeat all the names – but to two families. Senator Burke talked about dynasties. I speak of Senator Hanafin and Senator Cosgrave. Everyone did not always agree with Senator Hanafin, but it is great that the family tradition is being maintained. Senator Cosgrave is leaving this House and politics after the work of at least three generations. We will miss that interest and the work put in. Family traditions are strong in both Houses.

On that basis, I welcome Senator Mackin and, particularly, Senator O'Rourke to this House. When former Minister, Senator O'Rourke accepted one of my amendments to one of the first Bills on which I spoke when I became a Member, another speaker said she is a listener. I was impressed that she listened to us and without notes was able to mention, say, points one to four that a Senator made. We do not have the benefit of enough of that type of work. We have not had such success on every occasion in terms of Ministers putting in such an amount of work. This House will benefit from the arrival of Senator O'Rourke. She comes from a tradition of families and generations that continue in the other House.

Senator O'Toole mentioned something and I, too, am puzzled by it. If we are trying to gain respect and recognition from the nation, why are we meeting for only one day? Next week we will have the Ansbacher report, yet we are not due to meet again until September, for just two weeks which are allocated for the debate on the Nice treaty. The nation and the people query our commitment. We have sat for only 23 days this year despite all the work done. Allowing for the two weeks allocated for the debate on the Nice treaty we will have sat fewer times this year than last year. I would like a commitment from the Leader that it is intended when we come back – I hope next week but even if it is not until September – that there will be no break from then. I know it is being suggested that there will be a two week recess after the debate on the Nice treaty. I suggest that we should continue to work through until Christmas to gain the respect and recognition that the Cathaoirleach and others leaving the House strove to ensure for the future of the House.

Aontaím go hiomlán leis an méid atá ráite ar do shon agus ar son na Seanadóirí atá ag éirí as oifig inniu. I join in the welcome to Senator O'Rourke and Senator Mackin, valuable additions to this Chamber who will make good contributions in the future.

Today is really a day to pay tribute to declared outgoing Members – many of us are hoping not to be outgoing Members, but nobody knows who will or not be here. There are many distinguished Members who will not be Members of the next Seanad. Chief among them is the Cathaoirleach who has graced the Seanad for many years. One could not but be impressed by the manner in which he conducted his duties both inside and outside the Chamber. He was a tremendous ambassador for the Upper House and always conducted business in a fair and impartial way which brought credit not just to himself, but also to the Seanad and the Houses in general. I join all those who wish him well for the future.

I pay tribute to the outgoing Leader who has been relegated to the Lower House and his successor, Senator Farrell, who has taken over for one day. He has had a long worthwhile career in Seanad Éireann and been a friend of many of us for a long time.

Senator Manning has received well deserved tributes from all sides of the House. His contributions which were always incisive, articulate and constructive enhanced the Seanad. He will be sadly missed and difficult to replace.

I have served with and known a number of the others for a considerable time. My neighbour, Senator Lanigan, has been a friend for many years. He has been a strong advocate of fairness for parts of the world where fairness has not always pertained. His contributions on the Middle East were valuable at sensitive times internationally. I wish him well for the future.

Senator Hanafin has been the champion of many fine causes and was never afraid to articulate his strong and sincere beliefs. He gained a reputation for his courage in many areas and his contribution is a legacy that will stand the test of time.

Today may not be the day to raise this, but I know people are looking for debates on the Ansbacher accounts and other issues. There is no better way of feeling the pulse of the nation and knowing the issues important to it than through a general election campaign. The one issue which struck me throughout the campaign was the series of difficulties arising from increased costs in the insurance industry. Many small businesses will find it increasingly difficult to sustain themselves and remain viable unless this issue is tackled. I hope the Seanad will ventilate it at an early stage. Whether it is addressed by phasing awards, which are excessive in some instances, or whether the Government will face up to the issue of legal costs, this House has a role to play in leading the campaign to ensure businesses do not suffer or are not forced out of business by the prohibitive cost of insurance.

I welcome the new Senators, particularly Senator O'Rourke. I was thrilled that on the day she was defeated she could say she was not prepared to step down. She is coming to this House as a fine and solid person. She did not have an easy year. First she lost someone dear to her and then her seat. She is very welcome and I know she will do us proud.

I thank the Cathaoirleach, in particular. Someone said he sat in the Chair like a person who was not a party member but an independent person. He is independent, kind, sincere and loyal. When the chips are down he is well able to handle the matter and put people in their place. I congratulate him on this and wish him well. I do not think he is retiring from politics but just stepping down – no politician retires.

I pay tribute to all my friends, on all sides of the House, who are retiring, particularly Senator Farrell. He is unique. He is a fine person who can speak without briefs or notes. I wish him well.

I also wish Senator Lanigan well. He spoke well on foreign affairs. To look at him one would not think he had a word to say on foreign affairs, but he could speak for a month on the topic. I was always surprised at this. As a spokesperson on Kilkenny, he always found Kilkenny was best, but in listening to him speak on foreign affairs one could only say he knew his business.

My friend, Senator Joe Doyle, is unique in many ways and I wish him well. I also wish all other friends who are not standing again well. In particular, I wish Senator Manning well. I could not believe he was not nominated. As a backbencher, I always felt proud of him. I was privileged to be able to sit down and listen to him. He was always prepared to tell others they had done well. I do not understand the reason he is not standing for the Seanad or was not nominated. He is one of Ireland's finest. My family and I could always listen to him. He has done Ireland and this House proud. Many pointed out how good he was. It is sad to think that he will not be a Member of the next Seanad. We need people of his character and ability. He puts things across in such a way that one would never think he was an academic. He is well able to say things in a way that the ordinary person can understand. Those who were taught by him say he treated them well. I wish him well and know he will do well. I do not read many books, but have read some of his fine and unique work. It is a sad day when we lose people of his calibre.

I welcome Senator O'Rourke and Senator Mackin to the House and I look forward to working with them.

I pay tribute to the Cathaoirleach for looking after me when I became a Member of the House in 1992 and explaining to me its electoral system and various procedures. I pay tribute to him for the fair and loyal manner in which he performed his duties as Cathaoirleach. He showed integrity in the manner in which he ensured all our views were reflected. As others have mentioned other aspects of this, I will not elaborate on it any further.

I am sorry to learn that Senator Manning will not be part of the next Seanad, as I have always worked well with him. He was always helpful and gentlemanly when I asked him for advice on particular issues I was trying to tease out. He makes one feel that the point one is making is a good one. I am sorry to see him go, but I hope our friendship will persist. A fine man like him should not be out of politics.

Senator Des Hanafin's connection with the Ormonde family goes back to the 1960s when he and my father were candidates in an election. He often telephones me when I am travelling around the country to ask after me and ensure I am not breaking the speed limit. I will miss that protective instinct, at least in this House, when he retires.

I am well acquainted with Senator Mick Lanigan from the Waterford and Kilkenny areas of the south east. Our families go back a long way and I hope we will remain friends. I wish him well in his retirement.

I got to know Senator Willie Farrell very well when I was elected in 1992 and have worked closely with him since that time. I admire his interest in all issues, as he expresses a heartfelt view on everything and his thoughts are constructive. I hope he enjoys his retirement.

My thoughts are with those of us running in the Seanad elections. I hope we are all elected.

Hear, hear.

Although this is a great Chamber in which to work, there is great scope for its reform, as Senator Manning has said on many occasions. The next Seanad should strive to ensure reforms are implemented, as the systems in place do not work as they should. Certain Members can talk at length on any subject, but some observers have the impression that the House is merely a platform from which to jump off, or a place where people can settle down. That is a pity as it is not fair to those of us who would like to make a huge contribution on many issues. The many issues involved in the Nice treaty, for example, could be discussed in this Chamber. I hope reforms will be put in place in the next Seanad to reflect the points of view I have expressed. I wish health, happiness and many years of public life outside the Chamber to those Senators who are retiring.

I would like to be associated with the many genuine and warm tributes which have been paid today, all of which have been deserved. I welcome Senator O'Rourke and Senator Mackin to the House. It has been pointed out that Senator O'Rourke was very attentive to the interests of this House when she was a Minister and was associated with a great deal of the legislation initiated here.

Even when we were trying your patience, a Chathaoirligh, you demonstrated a kind and even-handed manner, although I should point out that all my contributions were brief. I respect the fairness and respect shown to Members in a kind and jovial manner. I wish you many years of happy retirement. Similarly, I wish Senators Mick Lanigan, Willie Farrell, Ann Leonard and the father of the House, Des Hanafin, a happy retirement. Although we will miss them as Senators, we will retain them as good friends whom we will meet on an ongoing basis.

On this side of the House, I pay tribute to Senators Joe Doyle, Liam Cosgrave and Maurice Manning. Senator Cosgrave has given distinguished service as Cathaoirleach and Leas-Chathaoirleach. Senator Doyle, as Fine Gael's spokesman on finance, always displayed a great touch and mixed it well with the Minister, Deputy McCreevy.

It has been pointed out that it is a matter of some regret that Senator Manning will not be standing again, but I think it is more than that as he is far too young and fresh for retirement. He has always been greatly helpful to us, particularly with his advice and encouragement when we were first elected. As we know, he is a distinguished academic and historian and we greatly admire his flow of words. I have no doubt that he will continue to make an important contribution to national life as he is a man of the Irish scene. I hope important work will be found for him to do. As Senator Dardis said, he has been an honest and straight politician. I wish all Members of the House well in their future endeavours.

It may not be the best reason, but I decided to speak when I realised that everyone else had. I did not wish to miss the opportunity to add to the paeans of praise to outgoing and incoming Senators. I sincerely say you have been kind and wise, a Chathaoirligh, even if you did once mistake me for a nun. I forgive you for the error and wish you well. I once had quite a robust debate with Senator Farrell and wish him well also. I welcome the feisty Senator O'Rourke. It is good to see another woman in the House.

A decent Senator is a decent Senator, regardless of gender.

I do not care what anyone says about sexism or ageism.

Spare us.

Senator O'Rourke will be a success in this House. I regret, however, that the Taoiseach did not ask me if I would consent to a nomination, as I would have been delighted to do so.

He must have had prior knowledge.

As it is highly unlikely that he will nominate me, I will have to join my colleagues on the road. We are like travelling troubadours or God's gentry, having to beg for succour, in the form of votes in the Seanad election.

I reserve my final remarks for my dear friend and colleague, Senator Manning, who is a superb man. I am reminded of the story of the final seat at the round table, which was won by the noblest of all the knights. As Senator O'Rourke said, people do not always appreciate the wisdom, experience, humour and hard work brought by slightly older or more mature people to every aspect of life, particularly politics.

The secret is to stop when one is in good shape.

I am sure not only that Senator Manning will rebound, but also that his worth, character and efficiency will be noted and accolades will follow. I thank the Cathaoirleach and hope he enjoys his retirement too.

While I do not wish to be repetitive, I join in the tributes to the Cathaoirleach and Senators on both sides of the House who are retiring. They deserve our sincere thanks for the contribution they have made in this Chamber during the last five years. I can honestly say some of them, including Senator Manning, are irreplaceable. We all admired him for the strength, vitality and integrity of his contributions and the judgment he showed on every occasion, sometimes in difficult circumstances. He will be irreplaceable and this Chamber will be the poorer for his going.

You, a Chathaoirligh, have been the essence of impartiality. Any time speakers stepped out of line, you reluctantly reined them in and conducted the business in an exemplary fashion down through the years. All Members join in paying you a special tribute.

I will not name individual Senators who are leaving the Chamber, except to say that a fellow countyman of mine, Senator Willie Farrell, is also leaving. I wish to pay a special tribute to him because we travelled together to many funerals in Sligo and throughout the area. I always found him most co-operative and a very fine Senator.

I welcome the new Senator O'Rourke and Senator Mackin, who I am sure will play a major role in the new Seanad. I hope all of us who aspire to be here in the future will be here to join them and listen to them. As spokesman on public enterprise during the last few years I battled with Senator O'Rourke on many occasions. It was not a very vigorous battle on many occasions but I always admired the way she accepted sensible and well thought out ideas and contributions on legislation.

I do not wish to delay the House, but I reiterate the sentiments of the other Senators and wish the retiring Members every success and good health in the future.

The remarks made by Senator Manning will be usefully looked at by the incoming Seanad with regard to the European dimension and how the Seanad conducts its business. He will have left us with something to think about even after he is gone.

I wish to say to the Cathaoirleach that his patience has endured to the end, even though it may have been tested. The one thing you and Senator Manning have in common is an enduring modesty. They might be tempted not to recognise themselves in some of the things that were said but I assure them they were very well merited in both cases.

On the Order of Business, Senator O'Toole spoke about taking all Stages of Nos. 5 and 6. The Senator will be aware that I am very reluctant to go through all Stages and it is certainly not the practice in the House to guillotine a Bill.

It is with No. 6 that I have a problem.

I thought the Senator had a problem with Nos. 5 and 6.

No. 5 is straightforward.

No. 6 is straightforward also. It is of some urgency because it has to go through in this session.

The urgency is—

It has lost a section in its passage through the Dáil. It is now two sections and it is something the House can dispose of quickly. In the spirit of the occasion, I ask Senator O'Toole to accommodate the Government side this time.

I do not dispute the comments he made in regard to the importance of the benchmarking report and the report on the Ansbacher accounts. These are two highly significant events. However, I cannot give a commitment that the House will sit to consider them, but I am sure they will be widely debated in the wider society.

Senator Ryan spoke about the freedom of information regulations and taking No. 1 without debate. A Chathaoirligh, you will be aware that when the Bill was debated, it was a very long debate. There were many contributions from Senators in their capacity as county councillors and otherwise. It got tremendous debate and the regulations were discussed by the Committee on Finance and the Public Service. Therefore, I ask that the matter be taken without debate.

Senator Farrell spoke about his qualifications. I think we can all learn from his experience in the university of life. He could probably teach the academics a thing or two when it comes to the university of life.

Senator Norris proposed an amendment to the Order of Business with regard to No. 23, motion 15. Unfortunately, there will not be time today to debate that matter. There will be a very extensive debate in the incoming Seanad on the Nice treaty and the legislation in regard to the referendum.

I acknowledge what Senator Lanigan said with regard to the Palestinian issue. I will bring this issue to the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It is significant that the European Union has taken a different line from the United States on this matter. He is correct that it is a matter for the Palestinian people to decide who their leader should be and that should be done without interference. Listening to the radio this morning, I understood that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, intervened with the president of the Palestinian state following the events of 11 September with regard to the response of the Palestinian Authority. What he did in that regard was very helpful and it is something with which he is well acquainted.

I would dearly like to give Senator Quinn a commitment in regard to what the next Seanad will do.

We think Senator Dardis is safe.

Unfortunately, I cannot do so because it would be entirely inappropriate to give a commitment on behalf of the next Seanad.

Senator Henry referred to the Blood Transfusion Service which is a significant issue. It would be an appropriate issue to discuss on the Adjournment.

I regard political loyalty as a very important attribute – loyalty of any description is important. If people are loyal to their parties, their parties have an obligation to be loyal to them.

Hear, hear.

Those are my final words to Senator Manning. Ave atque vale, a Chathaoirligh.

Two amendments have been proposed to the Order of Business. I will deal with them in the order in which they were raised. Amendment No. 1 to the Order of Business is in the name of Senator Ryan, "That item 1 be debated with the contribution of each spokesperson not to exceed ten minutes and every other Senator not to exceed eight minutes." Is the amendment being pressed?

Mr. Ryan


Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 2 is in the name of Senator Norris, "That item 23, motion 15, be taken before item 1." Is the amendment being pressed?

Yes. It is vital that this matter is dealt with today.

Amendment put.

Burke, Paddy.Coghlan, Paul.Connor, John.Cregan, Denis (Dino).Doyle, Avril.Henry, Mary.McDonagh, Jarlath.Manning, Maurice.

Norris, David.O'Meara, Kathleen.O'Toole, Joe.Quinn, Feargal.Ridge, Thérèse.Ross, Shane.Ryan, Brendan.


Bohan, Eddie.Callanan, Peter.Cox, Margaret.Dardis, John.Farrell, Willie.Gibbons, Jim.Glynn, Camillus.Hanafin, Des.

Kett, Tony.Kiely, Rory.Lanigan, Mick.Leonard, Ann.Mackin, Martin.O'Rourke, Mary.Ormonde, Ann.Walsh, Jim.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Norris and Ross; Níl, Senators Farrell and Gibbons.
Amendment declared lost.
Order of Business agreed to.