Once one does that, it is the most wonderful feeling in the world. One is one's own mistress or master. They are behind one, but one is on one's own feet, using one's own voice. It is a most wonderful experience knowing what to do at a particular time and I have done it on many occasions. People have learned to live with that and if they did not like it, they respected me for it.
We are like supplicants, to take up a point made by Senator Ryan, and regardless of whether we like it, we are regarded within the elected sphere as the poor relation. We have managed to assert ourselves this year with the co-operation of all the Members and the Ministers and staff who have come here, but we are still seen as a type of Cinderella in that sphere of democracy.
We are the supplicants at the door asking for the Clerk of the Seanad to be a member of the commission. It is not because the present Clerk to the Seanad is a woman. There are glass ceilings all over the world and we have to thump at them and try to break through. I have been at it for many years. The incumbent in question is a person of intellectual calibre, dedicated to her job, as indeed are all the people who work in the Seanad office. I would challenge the inherent unfairness of what is now being done. It is being railroaded through, over our heads as elected Members.
Imagine when the history of this comes to be written. There are two Houses of the Oireachtas, the Dáil and the Seanad. Of course we are going to have the Clerk of the Dáil on the commission and he is to have a grand new title, Secretary General. Then there is the Seanad, the second House, with its own place in the Constitution. The response in effect is: "No, we cannot take the Clerk to the Seanad. No thank you. The man we have got will be wonderful." Of course he will be very good. Let nobody say we are casting aspersions on Kieran Coughlan, the Clerk of the Dáil, who is a person of excellent intellectual calibre.
It is the sheer unfairness of what is being proposed in our names that I am referring to, because we are the elected people. We are the Members. We pass the legislation. We debate serious issues and come to serious conclusions. We are, under your aegis, a Chathaoirligh, reasonably run and led by the leaders of all of the parties and the representatives of the independent Members. Yet somehow, we are being put out the back door and told to come in the tradesman's entrance rather than through the main door. One does not know what upset the Clerk of the Seanad might cause. She is not to be taken on board this important commission. It is a total disgrace.
As with Senator Mansergh, I will be voting with my party, but it does not stop my tongue. Nor will it stop what is in my head from coming out. I am determined to say it. I am equally determined to submit a motion at the meeting next week of the committee on the reform of the Seanad calling for the amendment of the Bill so that this House can stand on its own feet and have its Clerk as a member of the commission.
We could fling ourselves out the window, but that would do no good. I am disappointed, but I do not blame the Minister. The Minister was well able to flex his muscles and still is. He was well able to give me a dressing down – which I duly gave back to him – at a feisty meeting of 600 or 700 people in Athlone.