When we came together in the early days of the infant State, we were largely an Assembly of individuals without Standing Orders to regulate our work, without established tradition to guide us and with only a few of our members having any previous Parliamentary experience. They were abnormal days, for there was civil war in the land and the future was dark and gloomy in the extreme. It was in these very unique and difficult circumstances that our newly-appointed officers took up their work, and well they discharged their task. It is only one like myself, who sat on the first Committee of Procedure and Privileges, who can form any comprehensive idea of the variety and the complexity of the task with which they were faced and the work which had to be done in order that this House might function efficiently and smoothly as a Parliamentary Assembly. It is true that in theory this work was primarily the responsibility of members of the House, but as happens in all such cases the great bulk of the duties devolved upon our Clerks. By intelligent research, by able memoranda, by assembling a whole fund of indispensable information, as well as by helpful suggestions put forward with great modesty, they made a major contribution to the creation of the elaborate and smooth-running machinery by which the Seanad has since been enabled to discharge its various duties. Since then they have had many new duties and they were not easy. They have had many problems and they were complex, but they have brought to bear upon these the same unfailing ability and the same fidelity to the discharge of their duties, as they brought to their first task.
The Seanad had good cause to be thankful for the fact that it had for its first officers—and as it now proves, probably its last also—officials who were the best that any country could produce. Procedure and Parliamentary etiquette have hitherto prevented us from giving any public expression of our appreciation of their services, but the circumstances in which we meet to-day enable us to do so for the first and, I suppose, for the last time. I am sure every section of the House will avail of the opportunity with sincerity and enthusiasm. In saying that we shall be very sorry indeed to have to terminate our long association with Messrs. O'Sullivan and Coffey, may I be permitted to say, because of the circumstances in which we are assembled, what I think is uppermost in the mind of each of us-that we also regret having to say farewell to one another, at least in the capacities in which we have been working for the last 13 or 14 years? By our contacts and associations as members of the Seanad we learned to understand one another's viewpoint much better than if we had not met. We learned to put forward sharply opposing political viewpoints without recourse to that churlish and disorderly behaviour which has impaired the proceedings of other Assemblies older and more experienced than ours. We gradually learned that as citizens of the country we had more in common with one another than we thought originally to be the case.
I, for one, am grateful for having had the privilege of playing a part in the contribution which this House has made to the legislative code of this country during what was, perhaps, the most critical period in all its long history. We remember, too, with pride the fact that the House included at one time or another in its membership, leading men and women of whom any country might well be proud, people such as the late Mrs. Stopford Green, the late Dr. Sigerson, Dr. Douglas Hyde and Dr. W.B. Yeats. We have had amongst us poets, dramatists and great writers. We have had also eminent representatives of industry, of the learned professions, of finance and of agriculture. We have had the lords of the manor and we have had the representatives of labour. In short, representatives of every aspect of Irish social and economic life have had their place in this Assembly and made a contribution to its deliberations. I believe personally that there have been no enemies of this land on the membership roll of this House. I believe that at heart each member was passionately devoted to his country, proud of its traditions, its history and its storied past. After all, different people have different methods of working for the same ideal, and patriotic speeches replete with fiery national sentiments are not the only means by which one can serve his country.
The battle for the life of this Assembly has been fought and lost. We must probably leave to other days and other men to say who has taken the right course and who has taken the reverse. At all events, I hope that every member of the Assembly voted for the course which he or she considered the best calculated to serve the nation's interest. That being the case, we, individually at least, accept the result without complaint and without asperity, although, perhaps, not without a little anxiety as to the future.
We met originally almost as strangers. We part to-day as colleagues and friends. With every apology for this digression, because of the special circumstances in which we are assembled, I would like on my own behalf and I believe on behalf of every member of this Assembly to assure Mr. O'Sullivan and Mr. Coffey that we deeply and sincerely appreciate the able and unselfish services that they have rendered to this House during the whole of its chequered history. We wish them and theirs the best of luck down through all the coming years.