Election of Leas-Chathaoirleach

I move: "That Senator Denis O'Donovan be elected Leas-Chathaoirleach."

It is a great honour and pleasure to propose Senator Denis O'Donovan for election to the post of Leas-Chathaoirleach. Not only is he a colleague of mine, he is someone I consider a friend. He is a friend to many. He is a decent, honourable and experienced Senator. He has had the honour of serving in both Houses, the first time being in 1989 when he was nominated to the Seanad. His breadth of experience speaks for itself. He is well regarded in all parties and among the Independents. I can think of no one better to serve in the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach and assist the Cathaoirleach in his role.

Senator O'Donovan has been involved in national politics since 1989. He is a proud native of west County Cork, in particular the Beara Peninsula. This will be a special day for his partner, Eileen; his daughter, Naomi; his sons, Luke, Gerard and Donnachada, and the rest of his family who are in attendance. I can think of no one better and it is a pleasure and honour to nominate him for the post of Leas-Chathaoirleach.

It is my pleasure to second the nomination of Senator Denis O'Donovan who is a fitting person to be Leas-Chathaoirleach. He has given great service in this and the Lower House. In the spirit of cross-party co-operation, I have no problem in seconding his nomination.

I am happy to support the nomination of my old colleague and friend, Senator Denis O'Donovan, as Leas-Chathaoirleach. He is a distinguished Member of the House and a well known solicitor in Bantry or somewhere in west County Cork. His legal knowledge and expertise have been made available to the House in a quiet and gentlemanly way. He was a member of the Joint Committee on the Constitution, to which I made submissions. While serving on the committee, he was always extraordinarily courteous and careful to listen to and balance all of the evidence presented. He never got into difficulties or rows, however contentious matters became and some contentious matters were raised by groups which were displeased with the direction the committee took.

As I stated in another forum today, I know well the phrase, "If you cannot stand the heat, get out of the kitchen". Senator O'Donovan will be well able to stand the heat, as I am. What I did not realise was that it was Celebrity Chef Kitchen and I was going to have filthy language, knives and plates thrown at me. I doubt if this will ever happen to Senator O'Donovan, given his charming manner.

Senator O'Donovan was also involved in the Abbeylara committee. That experience will prove useful, as I understand the Government intends to revisit the matter. We are very lucky to have such a distinguished Member being put forward for the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach. I look forward to what I am sure will be his uncontested election.

I completely agree with the Leader, Senator Cummins, that this too is an example of cross-party co-operation. I hope we will continue to go about our business in respect of this matter in a non-contentious way and will not become involved in the kind of ping pong in which we usually engage on Wednesday evenings. It would ill become me to be contentious on this happy occasion of electing a distinguished Member, who is a friend to everyone in the House, as Leas-Chathaoirleach.

On behalf of the Labour Party, I support Senator O'Donovan's nomination as Leas-Chathaoirleach. He is an excellent choice for the position. I had the pleasure to mark him on the justice portfolio when we were on opposite sides of the Chamber during the lifetime of the previous Seanad. He was always very courteous, easy to deal with, knowledgeable and well-informed. We engaged in some excellent debates, particularly during the Committee Stage deliberations relating to justice Bills. I look forward to the same quality of debates during the lifetime of this Seanad. It is unfortunate that the Senator, as Leas-Chathaoirleach, may not be quite as able to participate in those debates. I look forward to seeing him in the Chair as Leas-Chathaoirleach and I support his nomination.

On my behalf and that of my Fianna Fáil colleagues, I give 100% support to the nomination of Senator O'Donovan as Leas-Chathaoirleach of the House. As Senators Darragh O'Brien and Norris highlighted, Senator O'Donovan has a very proud record of service in both Houses of the Oireachtas. Being elected to the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach is a great honour for him and his family. I wish him well in his role as Leas-Chathaoirleach of the 24th Seanad.

I add Sinn Féin's full support for the appointment of Senator O'Donovan as Leas-Chathaoirleach. This is a great occasion for the Senator and his family, members of which are present in the Visitors' Gallery. I wish him the very best of luck in his endeavours.

I add my voice to those which have already proposed Senator O'Donovan as Leas-Chathaoirleach. The Senator has been an active Member of this and the Lower House. He has been committed to subjects in which he has a particular interest, including fishing, harbours and ports and anything to do with the sea. The House has benefitted from the commitment he has shown. I believe he holds the record for the longest ever contribution in the House. I congratulate him on that.

Senator O'Donovan serves as a reminder that when someone is really interested in, enthusiastic about and committed and dedicated to a particular topic, he or she can get things done or change perceptions. The Senator's record provides evidence in this regard and I am sure he will be an excellent Leas-Chathaoirleach.

I indicate the support of my group for the nomination of Senator O'Donovan as Leas-Chathaoirleach. We look forward to working with him.

Senator O'Donovan and I have been friends for a lifetime. I am regarded as his main sidekick in the House. I will be at a major loss because he will be obliged to spend much more time in the House carrying out his official duties. I will, therefore, be forced to do much more socialising on my own.

Surely we can find Senator O'Sullivan a sidekick.

On a serious note, Senator O'Donovan is an outstanding Member of this House and he was also an outstanding Member of the Dáil. He is something of a legend in the electoral history of Fianna Fáil because he managed to win a seat in a constituency where it was seen as being almost impossible for my party to do so. By a quirk of misfortune, he lost out in 2007 when he was destined to serve either in Cabinet or as a Minister of State as a result of his performance in the previous Dáil.

Senator O'Donovan is a man of great grit and courage and he understates his legal ability and knowledge. However, he is always available to help anyone who needs it and has certainly been a great friend and adviser to me. We could select no better person to serve as Leas-Chathaoirleach. I look forward to his elevation.

Question put and agreed to.

As Cathaoirleach, I congratulate Senator O'Donovan on his election. As a number of speakers indicated, he is a long-serving Member of both Houses and is extremely familiar with the procedures and Standing Orders relating to this House. I have no doubt that he will do a tremendous job as Leas-Chathaoirleach and I look forward to working with him in the 24th Seanad.

I am honoured and proud to have been elected to the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach. I thank my proposer, Senator Darragh O'Brien, and my seconder, Senator Cummins, and all of the other Members who spoke so kindly about me, including Senators Bacik, Norris, Cullinane, O'Sullivan and van Turnhout. I hope I have not left anyone out.

Five weeks ago I was fortunate to win a seat on the agricultural panel. Serving as Leas-Chathaoirleach or holding any other position in the House was the furthest thing from my mind at that point. However, it is a great honour to have been elected to the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach. I hope I can emulate the Cathaoirleach who for the past nine years has been an excellent Leas-Chathaoirleach. I am sure I can learn a great deal from him. I would like to work with him and with the officers of the House, including the Clerk, Ms Deirdre Lane, and all the staff in ensuring that the Seanad maintains its dignity and retains the important position it holds into the future.

When I first entered the House in October 1989, the Clerk was Mr. Kieran Coughlan, who is currently Clerk of the Dáil, the Leader was former Senator Mick Lanigan, the leader of the Opposition was former Senator Doyle from Wexford and the then Cathaoirleach was the late Senator Seán Doherty. That is a long time ago and we were all a great deal younger then. Many changes have marked the intervening period. Since I was first elected to the local council in 1985 I have fought a total of 17 elections. Unfortunately, I did not win all of them but that is the way politics goes.

This is a very proud day for my family and I pay tribute to them. Not all of my family are present in the Chamber. If they were, it would be possible to fill the Visitors' Gallery twice over because I am the youngest of 11 children. I pay tribute to my partner, Eileen, my daughter, Naomi, my son, Luke, and his wife, Marian, my son, Gerard, and his wife, Clare — who is not present — and my only grandchild, Lucy. I would have loved it if Lucy were here but she is only a year old and I am sure she is oblivious to what is happening to her grandfather. I pay tribute to my son, Donnachada, my partner Eileen's two daughters, Julie and Glenda, and my sister, Sheila, who is one of my seven sisters, thankfully, not all of whom are present. I also pay tribute to my sisters, Margaret and Noreen, Noreen's husband, John, my brother, Thomas, and his wife, Sadie, my brothers-in-law and all my friends who came to the Seanad today to support me. I hope I have not left anyone out.

This is a very proud day for me. I am honoured to be elected to serve as Leas-Chathaoirleach. I hope the Cathaoirleach will not crack the whip too hard in my direction and that we will get on together. I hope we have a good working relationship. I look forward to working with everyone in the House. I refer, in particular, to the new Senators, many of whom I have not yet met, in this regard. I look forward to meeting them and to fulfilling the role of Leas-Chathaoirleach in the manner that was envisaged when the Constitution was formulated in 1937. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.