Election of Cathaoirleach

Clerk of the Seanad

The next business is the election of the Cathaoirleach. Under Standing Order 2, the Chair will be taken by Senator David Norris, the Senator with the longest continuous period of service in the House. He was elected on 14 April 1987 and has served continuously since. I call on him to take the Chair.

Senator David Norris took the Chair.

Beannaím do na Seanadóirí uilig agus ar an gcéad dul síos déanaim comhghairdeas le gach éinne tar éis an toghcháin. Is mór an onóir dom bheith sa Chathaoir stairiúil seo mar athair an tSeanaid ar an ócáid an-tábhachtach seo. Tá sé an-tábhachtach go pearsanta dom féin freisin. I congratulate each and everyone on becoming a Member of the 34th Seanad — sorry, the 24th Seanad — I hope there will be a 34th Seanad. It is a privilege and an honour for all of us. I have always believed being called to serve one's country in public life is the highest accolade for a citizen. To re-elected Members, I say welcome back. To new Members, I say they will find the staff of the House extremely helpful. There have been many changes; many old faces are gone and many new ones are appearing for the first time. All of us involved in political life have a degree of ego but one should not feel discouraged if one is not instantly recognised or if one's name is confused by colleagues. I have been here for a long time and I am still often confused with another former Member of the House who was also a member of the Church of Ireland. Perhaps we all look the same. In any case, please do not hesitate to ask the staff or colleagues for advice or information. If I as Father of the House can be of any help, just ask.

The Upper House of the Oireachtas has an august tradition. Members have included the Nobel Prize winning poet William Butler Yeats who supervised the design of a beautiful coinage of the new state that was the envy of Europe. Fellow poet, doctor and Dublin wit, Oliver St. John Gogarty, was also a Member. In more recent times Seanad Éireann has been graced by the presence and passionate eloquence of figures such as Owen Sheehy Skeffington, Noel Browne and Mary Robinson and it is worth noting that Professor James Dooge sat in this Chamber as Minister for Foreign Affairs. It was the Seanad that provided the entry point into politics for the late Dr. Garret FitzGerald. It would be exceeding my brief to pay a lengthy tribute to him, as I know the incoming Cathaoirleach will undoubtedly arrange for appropriate tributes to be paid by all sides of the House on another occasion. However, I am sure Members will forgive me if I express personal sympathy to Dr. FitzGerald's family and the Fine Gael Party. These were all individuals who had a hand in founding and shaping the State in which we live today.

I congratulate the Taoiseach on the innovative approach he has displayed in making his nominations to the Seanad. It is by far the most imaginative selection I have seen in my 25 years in the Seanad, ranging through the areas of culture, politics, social justice, human rights, enterprise and sport. The vitality of the Taoiseach's choices suggests he has not entirely closed his mind to the revival of a radically reformed Upper House. It is a particular pleasure to note that, thanks to his choices, there has been a significant rise in the number of women Members of Seanad Éireann who now comprise approximately 30% of the membership.

Make no mistake, this is a critical time not just for the Seanad but also for the entire Irish population. We are beset by financial difficulties that have cut to the core of our sense of well-being as a nation. However, even in these troubled days, our spirits have been lifted by two remarkable visits achieved by the combined efforts of the Government and the President, Mrs. Mary McAleese. In one wonderful week the mood of the country was changed to one of happiness and celebration by the historic opportunity to welcome to our shores the Queen of England and the President of the America, showing again to the world in the words spoken by Yeats in this very House, that we are "no petty people", but a change of mood is not enough. This is something upon which we must build in the most practical fashion possible.

Originally it seemed, when the unexpected announcement of the proposed abolition of the Seanad was put forward, that the present Government, then in opposition, appeared to think that this could be done by the diktat of the political parties alone. They have now realised that this is not the case and the matter cannot be settled without going to the people in a referendum. This is as it should be. In all these matters it is essential for the people to be consulted. I believe that a fair case must be presented and it is very significant that following an historic Supreme Court judgment some years ago, a referendum commission will have to be established. This commission is constitutionally charged with putting both sides of the argument equally and fairly before the people. This has not been done before and it must be done now. I look to that commission for the vindication of the people's right to choose for or against the survival of the Seanad in an appropriate manner and with full and correct information.

Today, the Seanad faces its greatest challenge since the 1930s. To put it bluntly, we are confronted with the possibility of extinction. It would no doubt be politically easy at this time to make the Seanad a convenient scapegoat for the entire ills of the nation.

There have been glaring faults and, if we are to survive, these must be faced with honesty and courage. Our credibility as an institution has been challenged and we all, as individuals and parties alike, must take our share of the blame. The entire Oireachtas needs reform, not just Seanad Éireann alone. No one can deny that the venal actions of some politicians have brought the whole profession of politics into disrepute. People all over the country are questioning our relevance and our apparent insulation against financial and personal difficulties they themselves have to face day by day by day. It is our responsibility, by reason of our privileged position, not to encourage the notion that we are a special class. Politicians are merely ordinary people who have taken on an extra burden of responsibility on behalf of the wider community. We should not see ourselves or behave as if we were an elite.

History, we know, has a tendency to repeat itself. In 1936, Éamon de Valera abolished the Seanad because he thought it was unfairly obstructing the work of the Government. Nevertheless, within a year, under the new Constitution of 1937, he reinstalled the Seanad in a renewed form.

We now have a challenge to demonstrate to Government and people alike that a reformed Seanad will be a valuable part of the legislative arm of the State. This, so to speak, is a rather awkward half time for the Seanad. We were all thrilled recently by the superb sportsmanship shown in the Leinster v. Northampton match. At half time it was 22 to 6 and all seemed lost. However he did it, Jonathan Sexton used the half time to inspire his team to a magnificent victory. That match will be long remembered not just for the winning but for the manner of that winning, and was there not another occasion when at a different match supporters were actually seen on our television screens leaving the stadium disappointed just before the most extraordinary turnaround victory settled matters?

We believe that our new leaders in the Seanad to be elected today can, if they choose to, inspire us in just the same way. I wish them every success in so doing. The newspapers tell us, and it must be true for it was in the newspapers, on the radio and on television, that we are shortly to have a new Cathaoirleach, Senator Paddy Burke, a new Leader of the House, Senator Maurice Cummins, and a new leader of the Opposition, Senator Darragh O'Brien. If this is confirmed by democratic vote later, we will indeed have a team that will have the energy and the moral authority to restore the tarnished image of Seanad Éireann and I look forward to congratulating them later.

The eagles of the legions of the Roman Republic set forth to battle emblazoned with the letters SPQR, Senatus Populusque Romanorum — the Senate and the Roman People. They triumphed because those two elements, the Senate and the people, were united, but we have allowed this great institution to become separated and remote from the people we are paid to serve.

A few simple reforms would help to remedy this. We could review and revise all the nominating bodies to ensure that, as far as possible, all citizens and all interest groups were represented on them but, most important, to grant, for the first time, to the ordinary members of these bodies, be they nurses, farmers, trade unionists or business people, the right to vote to choose their representatives. At the end of the day, Seanad Éireann, like all the great institutions of our republic, belongs not to the parties but to the people of Ireland.

The media can also play their role. This House needs adequate coverage, which it clearly does not receive, but we must also provide debate and argument, motions and resolutions that deserve to be covered and we have shown that we can do it. In the previous session, Bills originated in this House provoked superb debate on issues as diverse as climate change, civil partnership and building contracts. It is the clear responsibility of Government to provide the Seanad with an adequate flow of legislation and a proper timetable of debate. Like the ancient Hebrews, even we, in Seanad Éireann, cannot make bricks without straw.

Ireland is embattled. Our country needs every ounce of its moral resource and intellectual strength to prevail. It would be a serious step at this stage arbitrarily to amputate one of the two legislative arms of the State. No army in history has prevailed by mutilating itself in advance of battle. Like an army, the Seanad should be reorganised, drilled and disciplined, with us keeping ourselves honed in mind and body for the coming conflict. This is a task to which we, as Senators, must pledge ourselves today. We are on probation in the eyes of the people. I say to all Members and to myself that the future of this venerable institution, despite its troubled history, depends on our collective decision to show respect and responsibility in every single action we perform as Senators. I wish success and a positive future to each and every Member, to Seanad Éireann and to this wonderful country and people, which it is our honour to serve.

I will now accept a proposer and seconder for any motion relating to the election of the Cathaoirleach.

I first pay tribute to Senator Norris for his eloquent and thought provoking address.

Senators

Hear, hear.

I assure the House I will arrange time on an appropriate day to pay tribute to the late, great Garret FitzGerald, who was a wonderful man. I assure Members we will do that in early course.

As the House will be aware, the Government has committed itself, as the Cathaoirleach stated, to a referendum on whether the Seanad should continue or not. The referendum will take place within two years and the people of Ireland will decide on the merits of the proposal. Today is not a day, however, to dwell on this subject and I am sure Members will have ample opportunity to express their views on this matter at another time.

I welcome all new Members to the House. It is a wonderful honour for all of them and for their families to be elected and appointed to this House. Members such as I who were re-elected are outnumbered by new Members but I am sure we will all work together in the interests of the country and to maintain the best traditions of this House through good debate and proper scrutiny of legislation.

I formally move that Senator Paddy Burke be elected as Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann. Senator Burke has held the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach of this House since 2002. He was first elected to the House in 1992. He has conducted proceedings in the House in an even-handed, calm and fair manner at all times — qualities which are vital for the role of Cathaoirleach. His experience will be crucial in charting the Seanad on a proper course and in keeping an even keel should we encounter any stormy waters.

Senator Paddy Burke entered public life in 1979 when he became a member of Mayo County Council. He played Gaelic football at under-21 and senior levels for his county. If elected today, Senator Burke will carry out his duties in an exemplary manner by upholding the traditions and rules of this House. He is respected by all sides of the House. I believe him to be a fitting person to hold the position of Cathaoirleach. I formally propose the name of Senator Paddy Burke.

Senator Paddy Burke has been formally proposed and seconded.

Senators

No.

I beg your pardon. May I have a seconder please?

I thank Senator Norris for his eloquent address and gracious welcome to all of us, both those of us who were re-elected and to the new Senators too. Like Senator Cummins I extend a welcome to all the familiar faces and new faces in the Seanad Chamber. I am delighted to see everyone. I am especially delighted — as Senator Norris indicated — to see so many women. Nearly one third of Seanad Members are women. I am delighted also to be leader of the Labour group, which is made up of 50% of women — the highest representation we have had of women in any political group.

I second the nomination of Senator Paddy Burke as Cathaoirleach. I have known him a little less long than Senator Cummins has — since I was first elected in 2007. He was Leas-Chathaoirleach for the duration of the previous Seanad. He always brought a great measure of impartiality, fairness and calmness under pressure to that role. He is also a complete gentleman, very affable, personable, a warm and kind-hearted man who will be eminently well suited to carrying out the role of Cathaoirleach. I know he will do so in a way that is fair and that he will not be afraid to keep us in order when the need arises. I am sure he will not let us get away with much.

We face tough economic times. We have had a week in which we have seen two very uplifting events with the visit of Queen Elizabeth and President Barack Obama. Although it was a very sad occasion, the funeral of Garret FitzGerald was an uplifting one too. I add my voice to those who wish to offer sympathy to his family. His funeral reminded us of the transformative power of politics and of what can be done by those in political life who uphold the high standards he did.

We in the Seanad face our own particular challenge in this institution. It is up to all of us as Senators in the 24th Seanad to make the case for an effective and radical Seanad that can play its part actively in cultivating debate, taking on challenging issues and in dealing with legislation in a way that brings a higher level of scrutiny to bear than can be borne in one House alone. With those words I second the proposal to nominate Senator Burke as Cathaoirleach.

I thank Senator Bacik. It is an indication of the cross-party and non-confrontational nature of the Seanad that her support comes from a different party. I have great pleasure in calling on Senator Darragh O'Brien.

The Fianna Fáil group supports the nomination of Senator Paddy Burke. I might get an opportunity post the election to say a few more words.

That is an even greater example of inter-party co-operation.

I also take this opportunity to congratulate the Chair on his fine speech to the House. As somebody not unduly given to short speeches, it was without trepidation that I heard the rumour that his speech went to 13 pages, because I knew every word would be worth hearing. I thought the words "Check against delivery" might be appropriate, but they were not and I was delighted by that. The Chair managed to express many of the sentiments people here feel about the Seanad and its potential.

Is mór an onóir domsa a rá go bhfuilimid ag tacú agus nach bhfuilimid ag cur in aghaidh ainmniú an Seanadóir Paddy Burke mar Chathaoirleach. Senator Paddy Burke enjoyed the respect of all of the outgoing Senators and will soon enjoy the respect and trust of all of the incoming Senators. He is very experienced, a man of tremendous courtesy. I have watched him many times when he has taken the Chair and I admire the approach he takes to the exercise of his authority in the Chair. He knows his way around the place. To borrow a phrase beloved of my home area, "He certainly would not take a bite out of a stone." However, he manages to get his way in a manner fitting to this Chamber. I know he will not be unduly obsessed by the clock when valid points are being made.

Tacaím go mór leis an rún go n-ainmneofar agus go gceapfar mar Chathaoirleach é agus tréaslaím leis ar an ócáid seo.

As there are no other nominations, I shall put the question.

Cuireadh agus aontaíodh an cheist: "Go dtoghfar an Seanadóir Paddy Burke agus go rachaidh sé i gceannas an tSeanaid anois mar Chathaoirleach."

Question, "That Senator Paddy Burke be elected and do now take the Chair of Seanad Éireann", put and agreed to.
Whereupon Senators rose in their places and remained standing while the Cathaoirleach proceeded to the Dais.

I congratulate Senator Norris, the father of the House, on a wonderful and Presidential type speech.

It is a great honour for me to have been elected as Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann and I thank Members for the privilege they have conferred unanimously on me in electing me Cathaoirleach. I am especially grateful to my party leader, the Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, and my party and Government colleagues who selected me as their nominee. I thank my proposer, Senator Maurice Cummins, and my seconder, Senator Ivana Bacik and thank Senators Mullen and O'Brien for their kind words.

We live in a time of great change, nationally and globally. The ability to embrace change, welcome new opportunities, accept openness and new ways of doing business are the hallmarks of successful and dynamic nations. As a nation, we have demonstrated our ability to meet and overcome any trials and tests we face in order to change, transform and embrace openness and to demonstrate our natural hospitality. Only last week, we witnessed the historic and successful visit of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth ll, which demonstrated a new maturity in our relationship with our nearest neighbour. The visit on Monday of US President Barack Obama was also an historic occasion which reinforced our bonds of friendship with the United States. These successful visits demonstrated that our standing in the world and that of our international reputation remains strong. However, we should not be complacent.

We also live in a time of unprecedented challenges, financial, economic, social, environmental and political. In the face of these challenges, there has been much discussion about the relevance of politics in providing solutions to our problems. There has been much discussion about the future role of the Seanad. Whatever the future holds for this House, it is incumbent on us as Senators in the 24th Seanad to demonstrate how we can contribute in a meaningful way to the democratic life of the State, meet and overcome the sizeable challenges we face, play a part in the regeneration of the country and thereby help to improve the lives of all citizens. The Seanad has an important role to play in Irish politics and I am keen that the 24th Seanad will form an effective and relevant part of the Oireachtas alongside the President, Dáil Éireann and Oireachtas committees.

My priority as Cathaoirleach will be to ensure there is a positive public perception of the Seanad. I take the opportunity to pay tribute to my immediate predecessor, Pat Moylan, and the other previous holders of this office. I will do my utmost to live up to the high standards set by them and maintain the excellent record of impartiality and fairness which has been the hallmark of Cathaoirligh of Seanad Éireann.

In this House and throughout the Oireachtas we are fortunate to be served by loyal, dedicated and hard-working staff in the Clerk of the Seanad, Ms Deirdre Lane, and the Clerk Assistant, Ms Jody Blake, who I am sure will be only too happy to provide guidance and advice for Members of the House, particularly the new Members — young Senators as I call them. My door will always be open to Members if they require assistance or help in any way.

Before I finish, it would be remiss of me not to take the opportunity to pay tribute to a former Member of the House and of Dáil Éireann, the former Taoiseach, Dr. Garret FitzGerald, who passed away last week. He was an example of a true politician, loyal public servant and statesman.

I thank my wife, Dolores, my mother, brothers and sister for the encouragement and support they have given me at all times in my involvement in public life. I also thank ICOS which nominated me and all those who voted for me in the Seanad election. As I take the Chair of the Seanad, I will endeavour to carry out my duties in an effective, fair and impartial manner.

A Chathaoirligh, I warmly congratulate you on your elevation to the post of Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann. It is obviously an example of the respect in which you are held across the House that you have been elected unopposed. On behalf of my Fianna Fáil colleagues in Seanad Éireann, I congratulate you. When the proposal was put to them, there was no difficulty in giving their support to your nomination as Cathaoirleach.

As Senator Cummins said, there will be other days to debate how this House and the Oireachtas operate. It is very clear that changes need to be made and that we need to be cognisant of the views held outside the House about how it operates. This Seanad comprises the elected Members and the Taoiseach's 11 nominees whom I welcome. I am not sure if the Cathaoirleach was referring to me as one of the younger Senators — I will take it that he was. I look forward very much to this term, as do my colleagues. From the Fianna Fáil group, the Cathaoirleach can expect our respect and co-operation. We will be constructive at all times and intend to play a robust part in opposition when the time comes. We look forward to meeting the challenges that will face us as Members in serving the people in Seanad Éireann. It is a great honour for all of us to be here.

I again congratulate the Cathaoirleach, his wife, Dolores, his mother and extended family. I am certain that he will do a fantastic job. It is another great day for County Mayo. We Dubs will probably have to wait for the All-Ireland championships for retaliation. I wish the Cathaoirleach the very best.

I extend my sincere congratulations to you, a Chathaoirligh. I know you will be one of the finest Cathaoirligh ever. You served for nine years as Leas-Chathaoirleach during which time I found you to be extremely fair and able. I am delighted you have been elected unanimously by the House, rightly so. I wish you every success.

This is an historic Seanad: the 24th Seanad is the Seanad of all the talents. I compliment the Taoiseach on his imaginative appointment of the 11 Senators he nominated, as well as those who elected the other 49. They were brilliant choices.

The report produced by Mary O'Rourke on Seanad reform should be read by every Member. We should use it as a template for reform of the House. It is to be a case of reform, redundancy or abolition. Reform is the way forward.

I compliment Senator David Norris on making one of the finest speeches he ever made in this House. I had the honour of meeting Queen Elizabeth II last week and said to her that she made the finest speech of the 21st century. Senator Norris made the second best speech of the 21st century.

I congratulate the Cathaoirleach on his appointment. I have had the pleasure of working with him for the past nine years. On each occasion he acted as Chair in that period, he gave us all great confidence and will do so as we look to the future of what will be a pivotal Seanad.

Like Senator Leyden, I pay tribute to Senator Norris, who made a very good speech on which we should all reflect. If we are all to take our responsibilities seriously, we should reflect on how best to repay the office we will be honoured to hold over the coming years. I, too, am a reformist as opposed to an abolitionist and believe the Seanad can make a wonderful contribution. The Seanad, despite some of its great achievements and the great people who have served therein, as mentioned by Senator Norris, has performed below its potential. With the Taoiseach's 11 nominees and the talent we have on both sides, including new and older Senators, there is a great opportunity to seize the day and make a contribution to the recovery of this nation. This can be achieved through reform of the Seanad and by acting outside normal day-to-day political gunfire, as we have done today through the unanimous election of the Cathaoirleach. I hope the kind of constructive debate we have heard today will continue.

It would be remiss of me, as somebody from the west, not to mark the unusual circumstances whereby so many Members from Sligo have been elected. I wish them all, my neighbours, every success and look forward to working with them in all our interests and in the interest of all the vocational panels and other interests that will be so important as we try to navigate our way through the difficulties of the coming months and years.

Tá mé an-sásta bheith anseo mar Sheanadóir. On behalf of Sinn Féin, I welcome the appointment of Senator Paddy Burke as Cathaoirleach. He has the full support of the full Sinn Féin team in the House. My party looks forward to working with him constructively in the months and years ahead. I commend Senator Maurice Cummins, who is to become Leader of the House if rumours are to be believed. He is a fellow Waterford man and I look forward to working with him also.

On behalf of Sinn Féin team, I extend our sympathies to the family of the late Dr. Garret FitzGerald. As with other Senators, I look forward to making a further contribution in this regard.

I welcome my party colleagues, Senator Kathryn Reilly from Cavan and Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh from Galway. I am very proud to stand here as Sinn Féin group leader in the Seanad as part of an enlarged Sinn Féin team and as part of an enlarged Sinn Féin team in the Oireachtas as a whole. We want to play a very constructive role in the Oireachtas and deal with the very real and substantive political, social and economic challenges faced by the country at present.

On behalf of my party, I very much welcome the Taoiseach's nominations. The Taoiseach has shown imagination and it is good that he has chosen people from across a broad spectrum of society. I welcome the fact that the nominated Senators will act as Independents and will be free from a party Whip. I state, however, that nobody should be appointed to this House. We should have a Seanad, a second Chamber elected by the people. Senator Norris first stated extinction was a possibility for this House. The House, as currently constituted, should become extinct. If it is to have a future — my party and I believe there is room for a second Chamber——

——it must be subject to universal suffrage.

The people should not only have a vote but have one that is relevant such that the Chamber can act on behalf of citizens and, crucially, act as a check and balance against the Dáil.

As a member of a Sinn Féin delegation, I appeared before the Seanad in 2003. Senator Leyden, who is seated in front of me, has a document which was drawn up by the former Senator, Mary O'Rourke, who was the then Leader of the House. The delegation in which I participated in 2003, eight years ago, put forward a raft of proposals aimed at reforming this House to make it democratic and relevant and to ensure it acted as a check and balance. None of the proposals from Sinn Féin or any other political party or from people both inside and outside the House was taken on board. The reason this House is now facing extinction is the failure of the political establishment to reform it and make it work. It must take primary responsibility for that.

We have now arrived at a point where abolition is a real possibility. I believe there should be a referendum because when the political establishment fails, the people should have their say. If there is a referendum, it should not be a case of either-or in terms of retaining the Seanad as it is or simple abolition. Those of us who believe in the second Chamber have a collective responsibility to ensure we put in place a relevant option and let the people decide whether they want a Seanad that is truly democratic, can serve citizens and can be the check and balance it should be. They should have the right to vote on that. The referendum should not be a simple choice of retaining or abolishing the Seanad.

As an Irish republican, and Sinn Féin's primary goal is the reunification of Ireland and the establishment of a republic, I believe it was remiss on the part of the Taoiseach not to nominate to the Seanad someone from the Unionist community in the North. Gestures are one thing but actions speak louder than words. That was a missed opportunity.

Earlier, Senator Norris referred to W. B. Yeats. As an Irish republican I am mindful of the words and sentiments of the United Irishmen of 1798 who wanted to unite Catholic, Protestant and dissenter and the founding mothers and fathers of this State, the 1916 leaders, who wanted to establish a genuine republic. When members of Sinn Féin become members of chambers such as this, we wish to play a positive and constructive part in building that republic and ensuring the 1916 Proclamation is not just words but comes to life. The pressing problems of forced emigration and massive unemployment — there are 400,000 people out of work, of whom 14,500 are in my native county of Waterford — as well as other big challenges must be tackled. We must rise to those challenges, both social and economic. If we fail to rise to the challenge of reforming the Seanad, the people should make it extinct. Those who wish to achieve a different type of Chamber must work constructively together.

I look forward to working with the Leader of the Seanad and the leaders of the other groups in playing a positive and constructive role in this House into the future.

Ba bhreá liom a rá arís go maire tú do phost, a Chathaoirligh. Tá sé tuillte go maith agat. I have the privilege of being the group representative, as the word "leader" should never go beside a group of independents. If it does, it should be used with quote marks, as Senator Norris frequently reminded the last so-called leader of the Independent Senators. As group representative of the university Independent Senators, I have the honour of congratulating you, a Chathaoirligh, on your appointment.

I also take this opportunity to congratulate the new Senators here today and the members of their families and loved ones in the Visitors Gallery. It is not the first time there has been a large influx of new Senators in the House. I estimate there are 34 new Members who have not previously been Members of the Dáil, the Seanad or the European Parliament. This augurs well. I welcome in particular the 11 Members nominated by the Taoiseach. It has been well said that these nominations by the Taoiseach are both exciting and innovative. It is not usual to recognise so many names among the Taoiseach's 11 nominees, and that is not to take from those nominees who are political party members. It is an exciting and interesting choice, as I said.

It would not be in keeping with the best traditions of Independent Senators or Independent politicians were I to cavil to any degree; one naysayer did suggest, on seeing the list, that the Taoiseach had been taken prisoner to some extent by the left-wing intellectuals of the Labour Party. Personally, I would have liked to have seen a clearer vindication of the need to include all strands of opinion in our representative democracy. More visible representatives of the thinking approach to the traditional values that form such a constituency in Irish life would perhaps have been welcome. However, that does not take in any way from my high estimation of those who have appointed, nor does it seek to prejudge the potential of genuine diversity among the ranks on the Government side. It is merely to say that it should not be left to the graduates of the National University of Ireland to supply the necessary diversity, although I am glad they did so in such resounding terms.

This leads me to a challenge, of which Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor of the The Sun, was aware when he and his journalists were once treated to what could only be described as a boozy lunch by some business people or vested interests who wanted to tame them in some way. After a lengthy liquid lunch, Mr. MacKenzie took his journalists back to the office where he said to them, “Now boys and girls, let us stun them with our ingratitude.” My invitation to the Taoiseach’s 11 nominees is to stun the Taoiseach with their ingratitude by being genuinely independent, unpredictable and diverse voices. That challenge should not be issued to the Taoiseach’s nominees only. It must be extended and issued to all Seanadóirí on the Government side. Whether the Seanad has a future will depend on our capacity to act more like a chamber of 60 independent representatives of the people rather than as unthinking followers and slavish obeyers of the party Whip. It is only in that respect that I dissent from Senator Norris’s excellent speech, in which he invited us to be disciplined. My suggestion to those on the Government side is that they should not be too disciplined. It would be much better were they to come here with considered and carefully researched contributions and feel no fear about dissenting with the party line. It is when it descends from the party line that Seanad Éireann is at its best.

I congratulate my new Sinn Féin colleague on his well made point, if I understand it correctly, that the people should not be presented with a simple choice to abolish the Seanad or keep it as it is. Dressing up such a choice as a genuine attempt at political reform would be a parody of the truth and what is needed. I have suggested, as have others, that the correct approach would be to offer the people an initial opportunity to decide the way we should go. I suggested the holding of a preferendum which could be held in conjunction with the Presidential election, when the people would have an opportunity to decide on a number of possible options, including abolition, leaving it as it is, or having some kind of reformed Chamber that would provide, among other things, for the right of every citizen to participate in the election of Seanadóirí. Having established the primary wishes of citizens, we could then prepare a final proposal that could be put to the people on the same day as the next local elections are held. That would be a much more considered approach to political reform. What we have had so far is not worthy of either our political system or the people. The leader of the main Opposition party offered a simplistic solution and the leaders of the other two main parties rushed lemming-like to support him.

Let us move towards being thinking parliamentarians. Let us seek to restore credibility to the legislative arm of our democracy. We can only do that if those who subscribe to the party whip recognise that it ought to be much lighter in this Chamber than it is in the other. I hope all will find their independent streak. That will be the test. That will shape public opinion about the future of the Seanad much more than anything else will.

It has been stated that we have had happy days and sad days recently and that is very true. We have happy days and sad days ahead as well. In our efforts to contribute to improvement in the country we need to recognise that many of the debates on economic issues will be outside of our capacity to decide. Some of the most important debates in the Seanad in future will take place around social issues, around the shape and texture of the society we want to create, about how we deal with a diminishing pot of resources and the key values we want to emphasise in our democracy.

I welcome the members of the media and ask them not to be strangers. They should put us to the test by their presence so that we will feel under the necessary pressure or encouragement — depending on which word one prefers — to come in here with considered, thoughtful and carefully researched answers and suggestions to deal with the challenges we all face. A Chathaoirligh, go maire tú do phost arís.

I congratulate you, a Chathaoirligh, on your appointment. As a fellow west of Ireland man, you will get my full support. I hope, when the Rossies beat your county in the Connacht championship this year, you will fully support me thereafter.

I am honoured to be the first elected Oireachtas Member for the Labour Party from Roscommon-South Leitrim. It is a great honour for my father Kevin Kelly, who is in the Visitor's Gallery today, my mother, my wife Bríd and my three kids who are downstairs.

Furthermore, I am thrilled to be in a position from where I can make positive contributions to the business of this House. My objective is not to focus on the past because the past has been replayed too much. We should focus on the future. The question that will consume me over the duration of the House operating will be what I can do to make positive change here. In the future I hope to use my unique expertise to inform the House on such issues as how we can best use the social welfare budget more effectively.

I want to reopen the debate on the restructuring of rural Ireland because its full potential has not yet been exploited. In that respect, I was not surprised when NBC covered ten minutes of the US President's European tour in a small village called Moneygall. It was the centre-piece highlight of its coverage. The station chose to focus on the magic and mystery of it and the huge céad míle fáilte that rural Ireland has to offer.

My aim is to make a positive contribution to this House. It will not be made up of sound bites — hopefully, just substance. For me, the future starts today.

It is my pleasure to congratulate Senator Paddy Burke on his appointment today as Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann. From personal experience, I always loved speaking when he was in the Chair because he was so tolerant. He was not rigid on time keeping.

Be careful, things could change.

I appreciate that. I look forward to the same treatment from him in the future.

I draw Senators' attention to the Taoiseach's 11 nominees today. If I may be allowed to pick out one, Dr. Martin McAleese, who so elegantly supported President Mary McAleese over the past 14 years, and whom we saw last week side by side with her on the visits of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, and President Obama, I thank him, on my behalf and on behalf of all of my colleagues.

Senator McAleese is an iconic human being in our country. Our country was privileged and lucky to have him as the President's consort.

I will have to get used to referring to Senator Burke as the Cathaoirleach, having had the pleasure of referring to him previously as the Leas-Chathaoirleach. It has been mainly, not exclusively, the west of Ireland representatives who have been standing in the House to compliment him and I want to add my sincere good wishes to him and to his family. I am proud to call him a friend and political colleague and I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that he will continue in the proud tradition of many of his predecessors. A great deal of discussion has taken place on his election and it is instructive that it was unanimous with no dissent on any side of the House. This is the greatest tribute to him personally and gives him a tremendously strong mandate in the job and in facing the difficult challenges he outlined.

I also compliment my friend and colleague, Senator Norris. Someone, perhaps it was the Cathaoirleach, referred to his speech as presidential, and this is probably as accurate as one can get. Those of us who know the eloquence of Senator Norris will not be at all surprised at the manner in which he carried out his duties today prior to the election of the Cathaoirleach. He provoked the subsequent comments that have been made, and Senator Norris has always been good at stimulating and provoking debate inside and outside the House. I wish him well in his continuing endeavours.

I want to pick up on something Senator MacSharry said about the number of Sligo Senators. As a very proud Leitrim man, I am joined by Senator Michael Comiskey and another proud son of Leitrim whose late father, like many of my countymen, had to emigrate, and that is Senator John Crown. I am particularly pleased that he was able to find his way to Leinster House and I look forward to meeting him and hearing his very thoughtful contributions in the House.

I join other Members in expressing our deepest sympathy to the family of the late former Taoiseach and Senator, Dr. Garret FitzGerald. As the Leader stated, we will have an opportunity to pay tribute in a more substantive form. In light of all the comments made about Seanad reform, I noticed that among the myriad of activities in which the then Senator FitzGerald was involved was the Seanad reform commission established in the 1950s.

To take the point made by others which, I have no doubt, will be repeated as this debate continues, I understand 14 reports on Seanad reform have been published since the Constitution was inaugurated in 1938. Senator Cullinane is absolutely correct to state it has been a failure not of this House or of our predecessors but of the political establishment and successive Government demonstrations, and, more recently, as Senator Leyden stated, a failure to implement even one part of the O'Rourke report which, for the record, was compiled and agreed by all the party groupings and the Independent grouping in the House. This is what gave it its strong mandate. It is called the O'Rourke report because the then Senator O'Rourke was the Leader of the House. It followed very intensive cross-party negotiations inside and outside the House, and this report has been allowed to lay fallow.

I welcome the new Sinn Féin Members to the House. They continue to embrace the democratic tradition and I gently remind Senator Cullinane and his colleagues that we in this House are all republicans. We all subscribe to the Constitution and support the Army, Garda and all the institutions of the State.

Senators

Hear, hear.

I welcome what Senator Cullinane said, and I understand that it will be required that a referendum be held and there will not be any debate about this. A referendum must be held and the people will decide on the future of the House. In excess of 60 references are made to it in the Constitution and I wish well the best brains in the Attorney General's office in drafting a suitable question to be put to the people on this issue. Senator Cullinane is absolutely correct in saying it would be impractical, if not counter-productive, and an offence to the House, its traditions and its contribution as an arm of Parliament to have a simple "Yes" or "No" question. It would be quite impossible. These are matters for another day.

Having referred to Senators Comiskey and Crown, I will add an anecdote of my own. My late father, Joseph Mary Mooney, served in the House during the 1960s. At that time, the Cathaoirleach was Senator Burke's fellow county man, Paddy Lindsay, who went on to have a very successful career in politics and at the Bar. In his memoirs, he stated he had some difficulty with Senator Mooney whenever he spoke on any debate in that he always mentioned Drumshanbo, County Leitrim, irrespective of whether it was on fisheries, foreign affairs or anything else. I am not sure I will continue that proud tradition but I am sure I will have a little latitude from my fellow west of Ireland man if I do, on occasion, drift away from the subject and put on the record that we have issues in County Leitrim. I know this will be supported by my county colleagues and the wider electorate.

I endorse everything stated about the Taoiseach's 11 nominees. Their nomination was inspired. I feel quite honoured and humbled in some instances to be in the presence of some very distinguished people who have joined the House. My late father often spoke about his time here in distinguished company and this is a continuation of a proud tradition. I am pleased the Taoiseach was allowed because of the political configuration that resulted from the general election to be able to indulge in putting forward people that previous taoisigh would wish to have done but did not. We will have not only a challenging future but a very exciting period ahead as we will have the benefit of vast experience and expertise, which has been traditionally brought by elected Members, from the nominated Members. I wish them and their families well. Many family members are present and others are watching in the audio-visual room. I know how proud the new Senators are to be here today and I look forward to joining with them in the debates that follow and in the challenge that we as the Seanad must face. I believe we will do so in a very positive and beneficial manner for all the people.

Tréaslaím leis an gCathaoirleach ar a cheapachán mar Chathaoirleach. Gan aon amhras, glacaim go bhfuil cuirtéis faoi leith ag baint leis an Seanadóir. Ag an am céanna, thug mé faoi deara go minic gur sheas an Seanadóir an fód nuair a bhí gá leis agus go raibh neart ann. Táim cinnte go mbeidh ar a chumas smacht a choimeád orainn anseo nuair a bheidh tuairimí éagsúla á phlé. Tá súil agam go leanfaimid ar aghaidh leis na tuairimí éagsúla sin. Ní cóir agus ní gá go mbeadh gach Seanadóir ar aon fhocal sa Teach seo. Cabhródh sé go mór le stádas an tSeanaid dá mbeadh tuairimí faoi leith ag teacht trasna agus dá bhféadfadh muid iad sin a phlé agus ómós agus meas a bheith againn ar thuairim gach duine sa Teach.

There is no doubt in my mind the Cathaoirleach will be able to bring discipline to the House in the many diverse debates we will have. We should underscore the idea of diverse debates because they are essential to the Seanad. We have the future of Seanad Éireann in our hands. When the photograph of Senators was taken outside on the plinth, there was a greater sense of expectation. I certainly believe the House has a very exciting and constructive composition.

It would be wrong to take the honour and glory and not endeavour to reform the House. While we have this honour we are here at the behest of the people. In the past, the Seanad has given a voice to those who had none. I have seen this on many occasions, especially in the area of human rights. We have always had Senators prepared to put their heads above the parapet, even if it did not always seem to be politically correct. At times, we did not toe the line of the international powers which is very often imposed on us. I recall one occasion in the House when I spoke on the invasion of Iraq.

Simply because I took a different line to Government, as I did on each occasion I spoke on that, I got a call from a journalist who asked me if I was given a rap on the knuckles from Fianna Fáil for having done so. I asked why should I be given a rap on the knuckles. In many ways, those of us who took that line at that time have been proved correct.

In the same way, we gave a voice to the Palestinians when they did not have one. We saw what happened in the Gaza Strip where inhuman things were being done to those people and where people were starving. Some of us were prepared to give them a voice. I am glad to say I see movement in the right direction.

In many ways, we can learn from our legacy and history when it comes to the North of Ireland. I am delighted Sinn Féin is playing a full role not only in the life of the Seanad but in that of the Dáil and in the same way it has played a full role in the North of Ireland. We owe it a huge debt of gratitude. When no one gave a voice to the Nationalists in the North, Sinn Féin gave them one. We must now work in the new Ireland.

There are opportunities for this House not to be always politically correct in a contrived manner but to speak out openly and be tolerant towards the views of others. If people are weary of the Seanad, perhaps there are reasons for that. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Taoiseach for raising the issue in a proactive manner because it made us stop and think. Was the Seanad operating in the manner in which it was intended? I do not believe it was.

I am delighted with the Taoiseach's 11 nominees who come from important backgrounds and have great experience. That is what people have been looking for. I hope they too will put their heads above the parapet on issues which arise in this House.

We should not be seen as in some way subservient to Dáil Éireann. It is often overlooked but in one term, more than 37 Bills were initiated in this House. Major legislation to harmonise copyright law was initiated in this House. Sometimes the impression is given that we only rubber-stamp legislation from the Dáil. Hundreds, if not thousands, of amendments tabled in this House were accepted and some made very fundamental changes to proposed legislation. The only way we can do that is if this House is respected as an important House of Parliament and if the Dáil keeps in mind that we are not here for the reasons put forward in the past.

We are not here to gain seats in Dáil Éireann and to have a pension when we retire. As with many Deputies and county councillors, many Senators went into public life because they had a vision and a belief and wanted to give service to the people. Sometimes that may be diluted and misrepresented but, fundamentally, those who become Members of this House want to give service and we must facilitate them in doing so. The House may need reform to do that.

There have been ten reports on reform of Seanad Éireann which are lying on shelves somewhere and which are perhaps well past their sell-by date. I support the concept of at least starting with the last report because the input into it was comprehensive, extensive and well thought out.

I say céad míle fáilte to the new Senators. I have no doubt that they will find this an exhilarating experience. I compliment the Cathaoirleach, the Leader and all the new officers of this House. No matter how long the current Government lasts — it will probably be a long time — I am fairly certain that at the end of the term of this Seanad, people will see it in a totally different way. One should bear in mind that the last survey done away from the heat of the general election showed 50% in favour of retaining the Seanad. I believe that will change gradually as we prove once again, with the support and help of everyone here, the importance of the Upper House in the Oireachtas. As much as we can, let us try to leave partisanship to one side and ensure personalities do not become dominant in the debate because that is not productive.

Two issues stood out where unanimity was secured in this House. The first was on the 20-year strategy for the Irish language and the second was looking for official working status for the Irish language in Europe against all the odds. The more we see of that, having expressed our diverse views, the better the Seanad and the country will be.

Arís, a Chathaoirligh, comhghairdeas leat agus go raibh rath Dé ar do dhualgaisí i gcónaí.

I will be brief because I know other Members wish to speak. I congratulate the Cathaoirleach on his unanimous election and compliment my colleague, Senator Norris, on his excellent opening remarks. I do not know why but when we were waiting for the photograph to be taken on the plinth, Senator Norris remarked that he would be only joining us for a very short period of time and that he hopes to be here for less than a year. I wish him the best of luck in his endeavours in regard to the Presidency.

It is a proud day for the Cathaoirleach and his family. When his name was mentioned at the Fianna Fáil group meeting, there was unanimous approval for his candidacy, to such an extent, that in the unlikely event of anybody else being nominated, we were going to vote for him. That should put him at ease.

I take the opportunity to congratulate Senator Cummins on his appointment by the Taoiseach as Leader of the House. There was some uncertainty about whether he would be Leader but as the Fianna Fáil Whip, I can confirm that Senator Cummins is the Leader of the House. While we will provide robust opposition, I give him a commitment that we will not cause him too much difficulty today.

I congratulate the Government Chief Whip, Senator Paul Coghlan, on his appointment and look forward to working with him. I also congratulate Senator Ivana Bacik on her appointment as the deputy leader of the House and look forward to working with her.

I congratulate all Members on their election to this House. It is a great honour to serve as a Member of the Seanad. In particular, I welcome the 11 Taoiseach's nominees and, as a republican from Cavan and an Ulsterman, I welcome Senator McAleese who represents the Nationalist and Unionist traditions in Northern Ireland. I also welcome a fellow Cavan person, Senator Kathryn Reilly, who at 22 years of age is the youngest Member not only of the Seanad but of the Houses of the Oireachtas, and look forward to working with her.

On behalf of all your Fine Gael colleagues, I congratulate you, a Chathaoirligh, on your election. It is a wonderful honour for you, your wife, mother and family. This is your day and it is not one for long speeches or for people to set out their political stall. I congratulate the Cathaoirleach most sincerely on his election to that high office.

I welcome the new Members, including Sinn Féin Members. I remind my friend and county colleague that Sinn Féin is now part of the political establishment, which I welcome. I look forward to many riveting contributions by all colleagues in the next few weeks and months. I wish everyone success in the future. This is a day for them and their families to enjoy. They should go and celebrate.

On behalf of the Labour Party group, I add my voice to that of Senator Cummins. This is Senator Burke's day and we are delighted he has been unanimously elected as Cathaoirleach. I extend congratulations to him, his wife and family.

There has been a lot of talk about diversity. The Labour Party has 12 Members who are a diverse group and come from all corners of Ireland. I welcome the Taoiseach's nominees who represent a diverse range of issues and bring a great deal of experience and expertise to the House. I look forward to working with them and everyone else.

I thank Senator Wilson for his kind words. This is not a day for long speeches on the abolition, retention or reform of the Seanad, on which we have strong views and no doubt we will see lively debates in the House. We must ensure we function as a House that serves the important role of scrutinising legislation and as a forum in which challenging debates take place on pressing issues.

On behalf of the Labour Party group, I look forward to working with our colleagues in Fine Gael and on the Opposition benches, including the members of the Independent group, Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil. I also look forward to a productive and radical term in the 24th Seanad.

Ba mhaith liom an deis seo a ghlacadh comhghairdeas ó chroí a dhéanamh leat, a Chathaoirligh, tar éis duit bheith tofa d'aon ghuth anseo inniu mar Chathaoirleach ar an Seanad. Tá súil agam go n-éireoidh an bóthar leat i do phost úr. I am delighted that you have been elected unanimously as Cathaoirleach. You are one of the gentlemen of politics. In my term in Seanad Éireann I have always enjoyed your company and taken your advice at all times. I wish you well in your new position and know that you will serve in that capacity with distinction and pride. We all look forward to working with you. I also wish the new Leader of the House, Senator Cummins, well, with the new deputy leader, Senator Bacik, and all those Members who have been given leadership roles.

There has been a discussion today on the future of the Seanad, on which I do not want to dwell too much. We should have a debate on the issue which we should lead from within the House prior to having a discussion at national level or holding a referendum. Varying views have been expressed. I have strong opinions on what Seanad Éireann should be and whether it should have a role in the future. It should form part of the new Ireland, long into the future, giving everyone the opportunity to have issues raised in the House. I impress upon the Leader of the House to take the matter seriously and have a constructive and engaging debate within the House on what we, whether in government or opposition, consider the Seanad should be. This may require special sittings of the House.

I pay tribute to the Taoiseach's 11 nominees to the Seanad. As a former nominated Member in 2007, I commend the Taoiseach whose 11 nominees reflect a changed view in his mind and the fact that he is looking at the Seanad as a House in which there can be an expression of opinion different from that in the other House. Considering the varying backgrounds of the 11 nominees, without referring to any one of them in particular, we can have an engaging and challenging debate on all issues of relevance to the people.

As Senator Norris said in his eloquent contribution, we are in a difficult position as a country. Every family is experiencing difficulty. In the next three or four years this House should champion social justice issues to ensure the State provides for all those experiencing difficulty. If we can achieve this, from our different political perspectives, we will serve the people well in the next few years.

Molaim an Chathaoirleach. Tá a fhios agam go ndéanfaidh sé jab iontach. Tá mé ag súil go mór le comhoibriú a dhéanamh le gach Seanadóir sa Teach seo. I am delighted to see so many new faces in the House. I wish every new Senator well, both nominated and elected, and look forward to playing a part in conjunction with my colleagues in the Seanad.

Ar an gcéad dul síos, ba mhaith liom aontú le morán atá ráite ar do shon, ó Seanadóirí eile inniu. Cuirim mo chomhgairdeachas féin leat as ucht an onóir a bronnadh ort inniu. Tá an post tuillte agat agus go n-éirí go mór leat san post tábhactach ar son an tSeanaid sna blianta atá romhainn. I congratulate the Cathaoirleach to whom Senator Ó Domhnaill referred as one of the gentlemen of the House. This was recognised by all sides of the House. The Cathaoirleach's amiability will bring harmony to the workings of the House and I hope we can conduct our business in a less partisan manner than what we see in the Lower House. Unfortunately, we do not receive recognition for this because the rows tend to garner headlines and fill space in the newspapers. We serve a better purpose by conducting our business in this way.

Whether one is involved in a local GAA club, soccer club, voluntary organisation, national body, international body or at Government level, the most significant aspect is leadership, of which there is a dearth in society. I congratulate Senator Cummins on his appointment as Leader of the House and Senator O'Brien as Leader of the Opposition. Under the stewardship of the Cathaoirleach, we can make a significant difference for the people we represent.

This is not a day on which to dwell on the reform or abolition of the Seanad, but I wish to sound a note of caution. Contributions to date have concentrated on the Seanad, but this is only one of the three component parts of the Oireachtas. All three are in need of scrutiny and improvement. In that regard, the Dáil is most in need of scrutiny and improvement. The influence of the Executive on the workings of the Dáil has contributed to illustrating that the economic crisis means the political system is not fit for purpose. Others, including individuals in high public office and paid very good salaries, have also been found wanting. We owe it to the people to ensure they get value for money and that there are quality personnel available commensurate with the cost to the taxpayer. As one of the institutions of State and the Oireachtas, I hope we can show leadership in that regard. In many ways the Seanad can make a contribution to dealing with the current economic difficulties. Individuals with international expertise could also play a significant role.

I agree with Senator Cullinane that this House could play an important part in building bridges in Northern Ireland. Every political party in the House has its genesis in those who took part in the Rising of 1916, Laochra na Cásca, and those who fought in the War of Independence. Therefore we have a common objective to try to pursue and achieve the ultimate aspiration of those people, which is still very strong in the hearts of Irish people. We can do this in peaceful and constructive ways, as has already been done with the peace process and the efforts made after the Good Friday Agreement.

Much of the legislation we will see passing through this House has a basis in decisions and directives already made in Brussels, and there is a real need for pre-emptive scrutiny and debate of those in these Houses. The Seanad has been identified as a very useful forum for undertaking that important work. Under the leadership of the Cathaoirleach I look forward to much innovation in the Seanad, and if that happens people on all sides of the House will co-operate in the interests of the better well-being of our people and in looking to build on the confidence generated in recent weeks.

Like my fellow Senators, I am absolutely delighted to congratulate Senator Burke on assuming the role of Cathaoirleach of the Upper House. I am the only Fine Gael woman returned from the last Seanad and I was honoured to serve with the Cathaoirleach in it. I saw at first hand how he always conducted his business very fairly; he is a man of integrity, he is patient and he always has a smile. Anybody watching can see he has a great smile. I have no doubt that all those qualities will be called on again in his new position as Cathaoirleach.

I pay tribute to Senator Norris for a very fine and challenging address today. He has put to us many of the issues we must face up to in the House, and the manner in which he addressed us augurs well for his own future. I congratulate the respective leaders of the new groups. Senator Maurice Cummins is Leader of the House and has quite a task ahead of him. I wish him well in the role. Senator Ivana Bacik is deputy leader of the House and leads the Labour Party. Senator Darragh O'Brien is leader of Fianna Fáil and Senator David Cullinane is leading Sinn Féin.

I, like others in the House, compliment the Taoiseach on his nominated Members. They bring a breath of fresh air and much talent and colour to the House. I look forward to hearing their contributions on how we can better serve our country, which is ultimately why we are here. We are a function of the people and here for no other reason but to serve the people. It is heartening to see so many people in the Visitors' Gallery and the press here in numbers. As has been mentioned before, that has not always happened.

This may be the last Seanad but it could be the best. That is the challenge before us today. I welcome the returned Senators, as it has not been easy for many of us, and I welcome the new Senators. I was helped in the past three and a half years and I hope I can be of help to the new Senators as we go forward together. It is heartening, as Members have indicated, to see the increased number of women in the new Seanad. That women make up 30% of the House is heartening because their perspective and experience will be critical if we are to be truly representative and give leadership to our citizens.

The 24th Seanad may be the final sitting of the Upper House but it could also be the best; it is up to us to make it so. We can be sure that there will be change after this Seanad, either through abolition or reform. Ultimately, the people will decide on the change. I compliment and endorse the comments of Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú regarding the actions of the Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, in bringing this to a head. That there were 14 reports on reforming the Seanad without any action is a shame and disgraces the political establishment. The Taoiseach has finally brought the matter to a head and will allow the people to decide.

We now have a duty and a role to work together as 60 Senators and ask if we are worth keeping. It will ultimately be our actions, contributions, initiatives and fresh thinking that will guide the people in making a decision. I will say no more other than to point out that this is a day for every one of the 60 Senators in the House. It is a great moment to be elected and we have all been chosen. It is an especially proud moment for the Cathaoirleach. I wish him well but we will all need each other as we go forward.

A Chathaoirligh, a Sheanadóirí agus a dhaoine uaisle go léir, "Is féidir linn" an rosc catha a bhí ag an Uachtarán Obama agus é ag tabhairt aithisc spreagúil uaidh an Luan seo caite agus é ar chuairt anseo in Éirinn. Ach ní léiríonn an mana sin ach an fhéidireacht atá ionann agus ní ionann caint agus gníomnh. Caithfear gníomhartha dearfacha, fad-radharcacha a ghlacadh le fís ar bith a shaolú agus is fúinne atá sé ár bhfís chomhaontaithe a chur i gcrích. Is fúinne atá sé mar thír, dóchas a thabhairt dár bpobal gur féidir linn teacht as an duibheagán eacnamaíoch ina bhfuilimíd. Caithfear sin a dhéanamh trí leas cothrom agus ciallmhar a bhaint as ár gcuid acmhainní ar fad, acmhainní airgeadais, acmhainní daonna agus acmhainní nádúrtha.

Is fúinne atá sé mar Sheanadóirí díospóireachtaí bríomhartha, ciallmhara a bheith againn maidir leis an reachtaíocht a bheidh os ár gcomhair chun cinntiú go bhfuil muid ag freastal ar ár gcuid saoránach ar fad, idir sean agus óg, lag agus láidir, saibhir agus daibhir. Is fúinne ata sé freisin mar dhaoine aonar ár gcuid féin a dhéanamh le bun-luachanna daonnachta, cothramaíochta agus ceartais a chur chun cinn ag gach leibhéal den Státchóras agus, go háirithe, anseo i dTithe an Oireachtais.

I stand here today and the words of President Obama are still fresh in our memories. "Yes, we can", he reminded us, "is féidir linn". He is right, but it will be up to us as individuals, public representatives and a nation to rise to the challenges facing us collectively and overcome them in a manner which will not jeopardise our sovereignty. We must not have one law for the ordinary person struggling to repay a mortgage and another for the crooked banker who put such people in an impossible position in the first place. We should not cut back essential public services to feed the greed of a European financial clique preying on vulnerable economies.

It is up to us to also ensure that the burdens for our economic difficulties will be borne by those most able to bear them and others will provide support when the need arises. It is up to us to inspire our young people through our language, culture, heritage, arts and sports to believe in themselves and help us realise our amazing potential as a country. It is up to us not to forget our history and the sacrifice made by those who struggled for Irish freedom. That struggle was recognised by the British Queen when she laid a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance last week.

Let us also not forget those whose death 30 years ago on hunger strike was for the cause of achieving equality, civil rights and a bright future for all the citizens on this island. On 11 March 1981, Mr. Bobby Sands wrote "There is no equality in a society that stands upon the political ... bog if only the strongest make it good or survive." Those sentiments have a poignant resonance today as we face the struggle of an economic crisis and the challenge of rebuilding our country into a republic of equals. It is up to us to strive to build an Ireland which includes all of our people and one of which we are all proud.

Tá mé bródúil a bheith i mo sheasamh anseo os bhúr gcomhair inniu mar Sheanadóir nua-thofa. Tá mé coinsiasach den stair ársa as a dtagaim agus as an gceannródaíocht a thug na daoine eile a tháinig romham. Tá mé ag súil go mór le hionadaíocht a dhéanamh ar mhuintir na hÉireann ar fad ar fud an oileáin seo, ach go speisialta muintir Chonamara agus Árainn, muintir na Gaillimhe, pobal na tuaithe, lucht na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta, ár bhfeirmeoirí, iascairí, ceardaithe, ár státseirbhísigh, daoine le riachtanais ar leith, iad siúd atá faoi bhrú, agus lucht na healaíona, an cheoil agus na siamsaíochta.

I am proud and humbled to sit in this House as a newly elected Senator for Sinn Féin. I am conscious of the proud history which has formed me and the great example shown by those who bravely went before me. I relish the opportunity to represent all the people of this island and, in particular, those of Connemara, Aran and Galway; our rural communities; Irish speakers and those from Gaeltacht areas; our farmers, fishermen and tradespeople; those working for the State; people with special needs; those carrying burdens, be they mental or economic; and our artists, musicians and entertainers. I acknowledge the support of my wife, children, relatives and friends, comrades in Sinn Féin and the many others who have helped me to achieve the great honour bestowed on us.

I pledge to work tirelessly with my fellow Senators and parliamentarians to make Ireland a proud but humble example of success, prosperity, charity and generosity once more. It is up to us. With this office, however, comes the burden of responsibility. A friend of mine, upon hearing of my election, sent me a goodwill message with a blessing which I wish upon all my colleagues as we undertake our new responsibilities. Her blessing was that my election would afford me the opportunity to do the work we as a country need those in power to do. I look forward to sharing this experience with my colleagues agus guím gach rath ar bhúr saothar, fad saol agus sonas oraibh. San obair seo ar fad, beidh ról an Chathaoirligh rí-thábhachtach. Tréaslaím leis an gCathaoirleach as ucht a cheapachán. Beidh gach tacaíocht aige uaimse agus ó mo chomhleacaithe i Sinn Féin lena chuid dualgas a chomhlíonadh go críochnúil agus goproifisiúnta i gcónaí. "Is féidir linn" a chairde, ach is fúinne atá sé. We can do it but it is up tous.

Ba mhaith liomsa mo chomhghairdeas a chur in iúl don Chathaoirleach ar bheith tofa inniu mar Chathaoileach ar Sheanad Éireann. Tá mé lán sásta gur thug mo pháirtí tacaíocht dó. Níl aon dabht faoi ach go bhfaighfidh sé tacaíocht ón taobh seo agus tá súil agam go bhfaighfidh sé tacaíocht ó ghach taobh den Seanad.

Ba mhaith liom freisin mo chomhghairdeas a ghabháil leis an Seanadóir Norris maidir leis an ráiteas iontach a thug sé ag tús an tseisiúin inniu. Léiríonn sé dúinn go dtuilleann sé a bheith, ar a laghad, mar iarrthóir don Uachtaránacht. Tá áthas orm go bhfuil comhairleoirí Fhianna Fáil ar fud na tíre ag tabhairt na deise sin dó. Tacaím le hiarrachtaí mo pháirtí i gContae na Mí an deis sin a thabhairt don Seanadóir.

Ba mhaith liom freisin mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le mo chlann, mo bhean Ann agus mo pháistí agus, go háirithe, le m'athair a sheol ar an mbóthar seo mé.

I welcome everybody to the House, including myself. I have been elected for the first time to this House and it is ironic to be welcoming colleagues when we have only arrived today. The 11 Taoiseach's nominees reflect well on the Taoiseach and society but I also want to pay recognition to the university Senators. The university panels are criticised as being undemocratic but there are some remarkable individuals among them and their contribution needs to be acknowledged. I give particular thanks to Senators Bacik and Barrett for their role in educating me at Trinity College.

Senator Norris did not teach me. I was not good enough to get into any of his classes. There has been considerable discussion about Seanad reform but the real work of the House is to pass legislation to improve the country and to give hope back to the people. If we pass the right legislation in this Chamber, that will be a reform in itself. Let us get on with the real work of the people and let the Seanad referendum happen when it happens.

Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh le Senator Paddy Burke ar bheith tofa mar Chathaoirleach. When Senator Mary White indicated that she would single out for special mention one of the Taoiseach's nominees, I was disappointed that it was not me. However, I will get over that. I agree with my Sinn Féin colleague, Senator Cullinane, that it might be a good idea to have a representative from the North sitting in the Seanad. Bearing in mind what Senator Ó Clochartaigh said, ní ionann cáint agus gníomh. It might have been a good idea to invite the daughter of Mrs. Jean McConville or some such person to be in the Seanad.

I am from Haggardstown and I have never heard of a Haggardstown republican or a Dungarvan republican. We are all Irish people. The great Sinn Féin was founded by Arthur Griffith, a pacifist and a monarchist. I was disappointed that Sinn Féin stayed outside the gate during the Queen's visit. We even had Mr. Tom Elliott and Mr. Peter Robinson. A balance must be struck but I will not spend the next few years listening to debates about who is or is not a republican. I have to get that off my chest.

I was warned that the speech of the Joycean scholar, Senator Norris, would be lengthy but I enjoyed every minute of it. It is time we stopped seeing ourselves through the looking glass of a servant. We are a proud people, as we proved this week and last week. We are all Irish people and I am here as a Haggardstown man, a Dundalk man and an Irishman.

The Cathaoirleach is a good guy. I am delighted he is in the Chair and I look forward to working with him.

The House is fortunate to have Senator Paddy Burke in the Chair. We were elected to the Seanad on the same occasion a little more than 18 years ago and I have admired the way he handled his responsibilities as Leas-Chathaoirleach over those years. I was impressed that several Senators stated that they would not make lengthy contributions. I have learned over the years that it is possible to say what one needs to say with brevity but the Cathaoirleach's task, which I know he will manage very well, is to ensure we behave ourselves when we make our points. A former American president advocated speaking softly while carrying a big stick. The Cathaoirleach has a little stick but I am sure he will be able to make us behave ourselves when we attempt to convince others to change their minds or get the Government of the day to accept the amendments we propose. I have learned over the years I have served in this House that it is possible to convince others by force of argument. There is a great sense of achievement when that happens. Laws have been amended and improved because of the debates held in this House. It is our task to ensure the Oireachtas is as healthy as it can be. Whether it means change, reform or abolition we must make sure that we play our part in arguing that case.

The Cathaoirleach has big shoes to fill. I recall the five or six Cathaoirligh of the Seanad since we entered this House and the jobs they have done. As far as I could see they all seemed to have been from the west——

——or the vast majority of them. The new Senators also have shoes to fill. In his wonderful speech earlier Senator Norris spoke about some of those who were Members in the past but in my time here one of the first people I met and who became a Member on the same day as me was the late Mr. Gordon Wilson, a representative from the North. Since then we have had Dr. Maurice Hayes, another representative from the North. Mr. T.K. Whitaker, originally from Rostrevor, County Down, and who came in last month and had dinner with some of us, was also a Member of this House. We have the shoes to fill of those who have done a good job in the past.

I read a quote recently which states: "In a society that values its philosophers more than its plumbers, then neither its ideas nor its pipes will hold water". It is a lovely quote and I am reminded of it because that is the diversity of this House. That is what has made this House. It is not just three or four political parties. It is a House of 60 Members with ideas, thoughts and inputs of their own.

I have been impressed by the work done here in the past. I am even more impressed today listening to some of the new speakers. We will have a lively Seanad. It is a Seanad that will earn its keep because that is what we must do. We must earn the respect of this nation which will say that it needs a Seanad. We need something that can achieve what it set out to achieve.

I wish to quote a man I admire who stated: "Whether you believe you can or whether you believe you can't, you're right". I believe we can. That is the message we must get across in this nation. In fact, I believe we will. If we in this House believe in ourselves, we can achieve all we want to achieve. We can make this the Ireland we all wish for.

I am delighted the Cathaoirleach is here. I am honoured to have you and I know you will perform and make this House one of which we will be proud.

As Members are aware, I do not have a Standing Order for today but then again it is difficult to stop Senators speaking when they are saying nice things about one.

It will be just today.

Comhghairdeas leis an gCathaoirleach. Go n-éirí leis agus beannacht Dé ar an obair. I had not planned on making a maiden speech today but I must admit that Senator Mooney made me a little sentimental with his references to north Leitrim. When I thought of the concept of making a maiden speech, I have to make the confession that, not uniquely in this House but in a very distinct minority as a maiden speaker, I was not made in Ireland. I was born in New York. I stand to be corrected on this, but I believe I am the second parliamentarian to walk the halls of this building who is from the Kings County of Brooklyn in New York, the original one being Eamon de Valera. I am very proud of that connection and like Eamon de Valera I am proud to call myself an Irish republican. I call myself an Irish republican because I am a citizen of a real Republic to which I owe allegiance.

I mention again, following the inspirational lead of Senator Mooney, the little village of Lurganboy, in north Leitrim, because I did not realise until several weeks ago that Lurganboy, which has a population of about 40 people and which is where my late father, Lord rest him, came from, now has two Senators with origins in that area. The original one was the late Senator Gordon Wilson, whose family originated in Manorhamilton, near Lurganboy in north Leitrim, and where he maintained a home for many years. In thinking of the great contributions that great peacemaker made to this House, I could not let the occasion go without acknowledging those who were lifelong peacemakers in this island. There are many people here who did not need to be converted to the cause of peacemaking and sometimes we forget the contribution they made. Those people included Mr. John Hume, Mr. Ivan Cooper and Mr. Austin Currie but they also included the late Baron Gerry Fitt, whose name should ring in this House from time to time.

In mentioning Lurganboy I must say we stand in pale comparison to another small village in the west which must be regarded — and we have all been talking about diversity — as the very temple of diversity in Ireland. The village of Ahascragh, in east Galway, has not only given us my esteemed colleague, Senator Mullen, but also the former Minister, Ms Mary Harney, and our Tánaiste, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, as well as the Queen's hat maker, Mr. Philip Treacy. I cannot think of a greater level of diversity coming from one small village.

We are renaming it "ahatscragh".

On a serious note, I congratulate the Cathaoirleach, the newly elected Leader, the Taoiseach's nominees and all of my new fellow Senators. It is very nice to be elected to an organisation where for a change I am not one of the older people — I think I am correct in that regard; I refer to my university colleagues — and to be referred to as a freshman Senator.

On this sad day when 46 nurses and doctors are in prison in Bahrain, some of them under sentences of death, for doing nothing other than honouring their duty to patients who were brought into their casualty department with wounds, I will conclude by saying that the work of this Seanad will be important. It is not in the gift of any person in this Chamber to decide whether this will or will not be the last Seanad. It is within all our gifts, however, to decide if it will be the best Seanad. SPQH, Senatus populusque Hibernia. I thank Members for their attention.

I congratulate you, a Chathaoirligh, on your not unexpected but well deserved promotion to high office. I am sure you will do a superb job. I also congratulate Senator Maurice Cummins on becoming Leader of the Seanad. Senator Cummins will bring to the House not just a great deal of experience but a different sort of political tradition which we often speak about, namely, the long-standing Redmondite parliamentary tradition of politics. It might be new to some of my colleagues but it is a tradition which Senator Cummins represents proudly in this House. He is the ultimate democrat and he will do a marvellous job as Leader.

It would be remiss of me not to congratulate my room-mate who may shortly have to move to higher office, Senator Coghlan, on his promotion to the job of Government Chief Whip. If we fail to resolve in-house any little disputes we may have, we will be able to resolve them in another place with a more rarefied atmosphere. The appointment of Senator Coghlan is inspired and he will bring calm and reassurance to all of us.

We have been advised not to make long contributions today but I wish to make a number of comments. I congratulate every Member of the House, whether elected by the vocational panels, the Discover Ireland route, or the more rarefied electorate of the university centres and last but by no means least those people who were fortunate enough to receive a telephone call from the Taoiseach last Friday. They are not members of an exclusive political club in this House. They are members of a vital component of the Irish democratic system.

The one point I picked up from one or two of my friends on the opposite side of the House was when they promised robust opposition. I do not say this by way of any criticism but what we should aspire to have in this House, and what we have always had, is robust debate. I have been fortunate to serve in both Houses of the Oireachtas. We do not engage in the Punch and Judy politics of Dáil Éireann. We have genuine, serious political discourse. That is the foundation block on which Seanad Éireann was built and on which we must continue to engage in genuine political discourse that is robust, realistic and radical.

I congratulate the Fianna Fáil Senators. That may be unusual coming from this side of the House but we were on that side once. We were in that position following the 2002 election. I know they have come through very difficult political times and I congratulate each of them on being here today. Obviously, the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party are now much bigger. We have a different set of responsibilities to lead the political debate but I am sure we will all work together.

I will break with tradition and congratulate Senator Jim D'Arcy on his maiden speech and his delivery of it. I have had a huge interest in the politics of Northern Ireland over the past 20 years. I served in the British-Irish body and in various North-South bodies. However, we are in a space regarding Northern Ireland where we can finally start calling a spade and spade and stop the tiptoeing politics of pretending that black is white and white is black. A great deal of realistic talk about republicanism has been brought to the House by Senator Jim D'Arcy. We will have a much more proactive debate about the future of this island.

Senator Ó Murchú mentioned how Sinn Féin had carried out a valid role in speaking for the Nationalists of Northern Ireland. I do not disagree but we should never forget the very valid role carried out by the SDLP which decided to take the road less travelled. SDLP members, Seamus Mallon and Bríd Rodgers, sat in this House long before members of Sinn Féin. I recall Seamus Mallon coining the phrase, "Sunningdale for slow learners", and the thousands of people who died who could be alive if people had taken his advice 20 years previously.

To conclude on a more harmonious note, I am pleased to be re-elected and I look forward to working with all my colleagues. It will be an interesting Seanad and if this afternoon's preview is anything to go by, we will have robust debate and dialogue. My friend, Senator Mullen, appeared slightly concerned that there is a drift to the left ideologically. I assure him that the Christian democratic wing of Fine Gael is alive and kicking.

As a new and young Senator, I have not worked with the Cathaoirleach, as many others have, but it is obvious from the glowing tributes paid to him that he will be a fitting and popular holder of the position and I look forward to working with him in the coming years.

Today is not a day for political speeches as there will be many days ahead for such speeches and debates. Today is a day for us all to enjoy with our families. However, I come from a constituency which has more Senators than Deputies. Members can read into that what they like. Like the GAA, when we are out there fighting for our clubs, we all wear different jerseys, but when we come to Dublin, we wear the same jersey and play for the county. I am sure my colleagues from Kerry will play on the same team and we will represent our county with pride while bringing the views of the people of south Kerry to the Oireachtas. I hope every Member will support us, like they do when we play in the all-Ireland final.

I congratulate Senator Norris on his wonderful and fantastic speech. I also congratulate Senators Cummins and Bacik and look forward to working with everyone in the coming years.

I congratulate Senator Burke on his elevation to this important constitutional position. He has always struck me as a man with a cool head. He will do an excellent job as Cathaoirleach because sometimes in the heat of battle, coolness is required. I wish him every success and good luck.

I also congratulate the new Leader of the House, Senator Cummins; his deputy, Senator Bacik, who has roots close to my home in west Cork; the Government Chief Whip, Senator Coghlan, a dear Killarney man and an old friend of mine; Senator Darragh O'Brien, the new leader of the Fianna Fáil group; Senator Wilson, the Fianna Fáil Whip; and his able assistant, Senator O'Sullivan.

I have always advocated reform of the Seanad. I have served in both Houses of the Oireachtas over the past 17 years but during the previous two Seanaid, we failed to grasp the nettle of reform and we will probably suffer because of that. We should address three areas in the context of reform. First, the House must have a European dimension. When the Seanad was reformed under the 1937 Constitution, our membership of the European Union was not even envisaged. We are members of various European institutions and not alone are they our economic masters, they are also our political masters to some extent. If the House had a European dimension, Commissioners could be invited to attend important debates every three or four months, and we should do this.

Second, thankfully, the Good Friday Agreement has been ratified on all sides but the Seanad needs to embrace more Northern Irish politicians, irrespective of their background. For example, if it is possible, the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister should be invited to address the House in rotation. If we are seriously thinking about a united Ireland down the line, which is my dream, we should use the House to bolster that important notion.

Third, I am the youngest in a family of 11, eight of whom emigrated. I emigrated for a time many years ago but I would like a reformed Seanad to include our diaspora. I am delighted President Obama visited Ireland. Five of my sisters emigrated to the United States and four are still there. There are approximately 40 million Irish Americans, yet when members of our families emigrate, we seem to forget about them politically. That is fundamentally wrong and there should be a voice in the House for our diaspora. I hope the Leader will take that on board and we have a debate another day. I congratulate the Cathaoirleach and wish him the best.

For the benefit of the House, Senator O'Donovan holds the record for the longest uninterrupted speech, which went on for more than a day. I hope no one intends to break that record during this term.

Tréaslaím leis an Chathaoirleach as ucht a bheith tofa mar Chathaoirleach an tSeanaid agus guím rath Dé air leis an obair thábhachtach atá roimhe. Go n-éirí an t-ádh leis.

I had not intended to contribute because many colleagues, especially new Members and the Cathaoirleach, are anxious to be reunited with their families, but one might as well be out of the world as out of fashion. Lest my silence be interpreted in any adverse way, I am delighted that Senator Burke has been elevated to the Chair. Short of any one of my own party colleagues being elected Cathaoirleach, the Senator is the person I would have most liked to take up the position because he has earned it having served as Leas-Chathaoirleach for many years. I endorse all the words of praise bestowed on him because he is a sound, decent man who will be a fair and competent Cathaoirleach.

It has been a wonderful year for his party in County Mayo. It has the Taoiseach, four Deputies and now the Cathaoirleach. I hope that is some consolation for the indifferent fortunes it has experienced on the football field. Now that there are five Members from County Kerry in the House, we almost have a football team ourselves.

I sincerely congratulate my old friend, Senator Cummins, on his appointment as Leader — we soldiered together for many years on county council committees — and Senator Bacik on becoming deputy leader. I cannot leave out Senator Coghlan who will be the new Government Chief Whip. He is a fair-minded man who will work well with our Whip, Senator Wilson. I also congratulate the new Leader of the Opposition, Senator Darragh O'Brien, who will give a good account of himself.

I welcome every Senator, new and old, nominated or elected. I regard it as a great privilege to be a Member of the House. I was a county councillor for 22 years and, therefore, I had served my time well before I was elected to the House in 2007. Each Member will be proud of his or her achievement in being either nominated or elected to the House. Like others, I particularly welcome the Taoiseach's nominees. His choice was inspired and I look forward to interesting and diverse debate during this term.

Senator Healy Eames said this Seanad may be the best and the last. It could well be the best and if it is, it will definitely not be the last. It is up to Members to prove the Seanad's worth. It is as important an institution of State as the Presidency or the Dáil and it is up to us to prove this. I would like the Taoiseach who is doing a great job so far to come regularly to the Seanad to participate in debates and see the contribution we can make. He may revise his thinking on how to approach the future of the Seanad.

I endorse the words of praise bestowed upon my colleague, Senator Norris, for the wonderful speech he made in which he outlined his vision for the Seanad. It was remarkable. I wish him well in his quest to become President. It is right and proper that he should receive a nomination to run for the Presidency. It will be anti-democratic if he does not. I praise my own party leader, Deputy Micheál Martin, who has had the vision to allow free votes for party members in councils throughout the country from which Senator Norris is seeking a nomination. I ask other party leaders to follow suit. That would be democracy in practice.

Go raibh maith agat, a Chathaoirligh, agus comhghairdeas arís.

I congratulate you, a Chathaoirligh, on your election. I also congratulate all the other officeholders in the Chamber.

A cloud over the country has two origins: the bank rescue on 29 and 30 September 2008 and the rescue of the country on 1 December 2010 when we had to receive an €85 billion bailout from the IMF, the European Union and the ECB, €35 billion of which was for the banks and €50 billion for the Department of Finance. These two events illustrate a serious problem of moral hazard, failed bankers, failed regulation of the banks and failed policy making at senior level. In this Seanad we will have to provide for checks and balances, scrutiny and accountability tests on all of the people who have brought the country to the desperate economic situation in which we find ourselves. That will be our test — to prove to those who sent us to the Seanad that those who got the country into this economic situation will be called to account and subject to scrutiny and that we will not have the opt-out mentioned in the Nyberg report that the cause was a collective mentality. People made these choices. We tried to rescue a banking system which was five times the size of the economy, as outlined in the letter to the IMF from the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, and the Governor of the Central Bank, Mr. Honohan. That is imposing a burden on the unemployed, those who have had to leave the country and generations ahead. The people want the answers that have not been provided for that conduct. I hope the Cathaoirleach will assist the House in having some of these issues resolved because the path to reform is ensuring these events never happen again. We must deal with the reasons we had to be rescued by the IMF and the banking system was able to so easily lobby the Government one evening and walk away with unlimited guarantees at such cost to the rest of society.

I thank all Senators for their good wishes, vision and aspirations for this House, as well as their commitment to work together for the betterment of the House and the people.