I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Seán Power. I agree with Senator Browne that the lines in question should be deleted. It is nonsense to include subsections (3)(a), (3)(b) and (3)(c) in the Bill and I do not know what they are about. It is inferred that a board member would not be ethical and that there would be a conflict of interest. I was appointed to the board of the Higher Education Authority by former Taoiseach Charles Haughey, to the board of the National Museum of Ireland by the Taoiseach and to the boards of Bord Bia and the National College of Art and Design by former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds. Owing to my experience in business, I was appointed a second time to the board of An Bord Bia. When I became a Senator I had to resign and was amazed. I had to withdraw after having offered four years of service in spite of my having had considerable experience of small and medium-sized business in Ireland.
There is an inference that Oireachtas Members and local authority members do not know how to behave themselves. Why is the provision included in the legislation at all? Is it because certain individuals feel they are holier than thou, better than everybody else, squeaky clean and do not want those who are not squeaky clean? I do not understand it.
If a potential conflict of interest arises in any part of life, the culture and format ordain that one should resign. If Senator Feeney felt there could have been a conflict of interest regarding some of the positions to which she was so honoured to have been appointed, she could have withdrawn from the discussions in question. We are either behind the concept of withdrawal or we are not. One should be entitled to be a member of a board if one is an Oireachtas Member or local authority member.
Local authority members have been excluded from the HSE. I pushed in all the discussions for their having a very responsible role in the fora but this did not come to anything. The legislation is outdated and archaic and infers elected representatives would not be able to handle themselves, would become involved in conflicts of interest and do something immoral. I do not understand it. We need individuals with experience who are close to the communities and constituents. The Members of the Oireachtas and local authority members have their fingers on the pulse of what is happening in this country and that is why they should be on boards.
I would love to hear why Senator Feeney feels I had to resign from a board when I became a Senator. I started a business out of nothing with Connie Doody, I was the first small business person to be appointed to the board of Bord Bia and was able to change its direction during my time as a member. There is no question about this because many of the marketing grants were being given to companies that would spend money on marketing in any case. I kept tackling this until I achieved redress. Certain companies of a certain size did not need the money to market themselves.
All of us in this Chamber, if we are good politicians, have our fingers on the pulse of society. A motion that local authority members should be allowed to participate on boards has been passed at a meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party that involved Ministers. I do not understand the provision in the legislation and have difficulty with it. Is there something wrong with me that I would not be able to handle a conflict of interest? I resent the implication. I am passionate on this issue as I was forced to resign from the board of Bord Bia. I was taken aback when I had to do so after having put myself under severe pressure to serve as a board member. As a board member, I had to take time out from my business to attend meetings and study all the board papers. Those appointed to a board are not given glamorous positions. As Senator Feeney knows, much homework must be done.
I do not know what the situation will be when we are voting on this legislation. We should have a free vote. Roll on the day when it will be possible to have one. If I am re-elected to the Seanad I will advocate immediately that the ballot paper not be presented alphabetically from A to Z. There should be a draw at every election. The system is so undemocratic as most people read from the first candidate to the last and do not understand proportional representation. I did a degree in economics and politics and it took me a long time to understand it myself. The public has never been educated on the proportional representation system——