I am honoured and proud to have been elected to the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach. I thank my proposer, Senator Darragh O'Brien, and my seconder, Senator Cummins, and all of the other Members who spoke so kindly about me, including Senators Bacik, Norris, Cullinane, O'Sullivan and van Turnhout. I hope I have not left anyone out.
Five weeks ago I was fortunate to win a seat on the agricultural panel. Serving as Leas-Chathaoirleach or holding any other position in the House was the furthest thing from my mind at that point. However, it is a great honour to have been elected to the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach. I hope I can emulate the Cathaoirleach who for the past nine years has been an excellent Leas-Chathaoirleach. I am sure I can learn a great deal from him. I would like to work with him and with the officers of the House, including the Clerk, Ms Deirdre Lane, and all the staff in ensuring that the Seanad maintains its dignity and retains the important position it holds into the future.
When I first entered the House in October 1989, the Clerk was Mr. Kieran Coughlan, who is currently Clerk of the Dáil, the Leader was former Senator Mick Lanigan, the leader of the Opposition was former Senator Doyle from Wexford and the then Cathaoirleach was the late Senator Seán Doherty. That is a long time ago and we were all a great deal younger then. Many changes have marked the intervening period. Since I was first elected to the local council in 1985 I have fought a total of 17 elections. Unfortunately, I did not win all of them but that is the way politics goes.
This is a very proud day for my family and I pay tribute to them. Not all of my family are present in the Chamber. If they were, it would be possible to fill the Visitors' Gallery twice over because I am the youngest of 11 children. I pay tribute to my partner, Eileen, my daughter, Naomi, my son, Luke, and his wife, Marian, my son, Gerard, and his wife, Clare — who is not present — and my only grandchild, Lucy. I would have loved it if Lucy were here but she is only a year old and I am sure she is oblivious to what is happening to her grandfather. I pay tribute to my son, Donnachada, my partner Eileen's two daughters, Julie and Glenda, and my sister, Sheila, who is one of my seven sisters, thankfully, not all of whom are present. I also pay tribute to my sisters, Margaret and Noreen, Noreen's husband, John, my brother, Thomas, and his wife, Sadie, my brothers-in-law and all my friends who came to the Seanad today to support me. I hope I have not left anyone out.
This is a very proud day for me. I am honoured to be elected to serve as Leas-Chathaoirleach. I hope the Cathaoirleach will not crack the whip too hard in my direction and that we will get on together. I hope we have a good working relationship. I look forward to working with everyone in the House. I refer, in particular, to the new Senators, many of whom I have not yet met, in this regard. I look forward to meeting them and to fulfilling the role of Leas-Chathaoirleach in the manner that was envisaged when the Constitution was formulated in 1937. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.