Election of Leas-Chathaoirleach

We will now deal with Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, motions re election of Leas-Chathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann.

I move: "That Senator Máire Devine be elected Leas-Chathaoirleach."

Máire has been an elected councillor since 2011 and worked diligently for her constituents in the south Dublin area for many years. Before being elected as a public representative, as a psychiatric nurse she had years of sterling commitment in the area of psychiatric care and was a champion of people who were being abandoned by the system. Wherever institutions were being threatened with closure, she worked with communities to ensure patients received the care and support they needed. She was very passionate about that issue, in particular. On the broader issue of workers' rights, she has been a trade union official and a leader and spokesperson for many years.

We want to see strong women coming to the forefront of Irish politics and being elected to senior positions. Máire is a strong woman. She is a spokesperson, a campaigner and a fighter for disadvantaged people and for those who do not otherwise have a voice. I am delighted to nominate Máire to be Leas-Chathaoirleach of the House.

I second the nomination of Senator Máire Devine as Leas-Chathaoirleach. As Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn stated, Máire is a nurse, a mother, a lifetime trade union member and a member of the Psychiatric Nurses Association. However, the issue is wider. We have to understand that by not electing Máire we are complicit in creating an institution that has not elected a woman Cathaoirleach, in any case, for almost 40 years. That sends a message-----

Not so. What about Tras Honan?

Yes, but it has been 30-something years.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh to continue, without interruption.

It sends a message that this institution is not serious about gender equality and which states clearly that party politics comes before gender equality. I remind people that this is not a Masonic lodge and that it does not say in the little black book that we have to elect a man every time. No disrespect is intended to the men who have been elected, including the Cathaoirleach, but we have an opportunity to elect a strong, capable woman. Sinn Féin will keep putting forward strong, capable women for positions of leadership in this House until we either have a woman elected or force other parties to put forward women in the House. There are many strong, capable women in this House who deserve to be elected.

Mná na hÉireann.

I will take all of the nominations together. I call Senator Ivana Bacik to move the motion proposing Senator Denis Landy for election.

I move: "That Senator Denis Landy be elected Leas-Chathaoirleach."

I speak as a former Deputy Leader of this House. Quite a number of women have held the positions of Leader and Deputy Leader in recent years. In fact, the Seanad has a much better record than the Dáil - it just needs to be stated - in terms of women's representation. That is an important point. We have hit the figure of 30%. The Dáil still has not got to that point.

It gives me great pleasure to nominate Senator Denis Landy for the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach. As leader of the Labour Party group, I am delighted to do so. I have worked with Denis for the past five years. Many of those who were Senators during the previous session will know him as an active and highly engaged Senator. For those who do not know him and are new to the House, he is from Carrick-on-Suir. He was a councillor for many years before his election to the Seanad in 2011 and has long experience of chairing meetings at local level as a councillor, as well as at national and European level. Colleagues may be unaware that he previously chaired a committee within the Committee of the Regions at EU level. I think all will acknowledge that he is regarded as fair, trustworthy and honourable in his dealings with his colleagues and in the work he has done and will continue to do in this term as a Senator.

I ask colleagues of all parties and none to consider supporting, in the spirit of the new politics, Senator Denis Landy as Leas-Chathaoirleach. We have already paid tribute to the Cathaoirleach who is not from the largest party in the House but who is from one of the two largest parties in it. I suggest, in the spirit of new politics, that the Leas-Chathaoirleach not be drawn from one of the two largest politics in the House and that instead we look to someone from a different grouping. In particular, I ask colleagues to support Senator Denis Landy for the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach. Senator Kevin Humphreys will second the nomination.

I second the nomination of Senator Denis Landy. I have known him for the past 20 years. He would bring great experience and fairness to the post. There is one thing that everyone who deals with him knows, which is how fair and honourable he is. His word is his bond. When he gives a commitment that he will chair meetings in this House fairly, he will do so and will deliver. I ask all Members of the House, including non-party Members, in the spirit of new politics, to vote for him today.

I ask the Leader, Senator Jerry Buttimer, to propose Senator Paul Coghlan.

I move: "That Senator Paul Coghlan be elected Leas-Chathaoirleach."

Molaim an Seanadóir Paul Coghlan mar Leas-Chathaoirleach ar an Seanad. Is mó bliain atá tugtha don pholaitíocht ag an Seanadóir, ní hamháin ag leibhéal an rialtais náisiúnta ach ag leibhéal an rialtais áitiúil leis. Leas-Chathaoirleach cumasach neamh-chlaonta a bheidh ann.

It is my privilege, on behalf of the Fine Gael group, to propose Senator Paul Coghlan for the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach. He comes to this position with huge experience in local and national government, with his tremendous business acumen from his role as a business person. He is also a husband and a father and will bring to the role of Leas-Chathaoirleach an experienced voice and a fair perspective that will embrace all sides of the House. In all his time in this House, I am sure, he has never had a cross word with anyone. He was elected to Killarney Town Council in 1985, Kerry County Council in 1991 and Seanad Éireann in 1997. As we all will remember from the Seanad election just gone, his Lazarus-like resurrection, thanks to a huge outpouring of transfers, will testify to his warmth and the goodwill towards him across the political divide. He will bring to the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach a wide network of friends and contacts with which he can work.

It is also as a Member of this House that Senator Paul Coghlan has demonstrated his ability to work on many issues. They include banking and industry and commerce issues, as well as issues regarding, in particular, the British-Irish Parliamentary Association where he was the chairperson of Committee A. The committee produced an important report on illicit trade and police co-operation and the Government accepted the recommendation made in it that a task force be established.

Equally, Senator Paul Coghlan's efforts in regard to cultural life in County Kerry, in particular Muckross House, have shown his ability to work on many facets. Those of us who know him will know and understand his love and passion for Muckross. He was a trustee and is a former chairman of Muckross House which he revolutionised and transformed into a very important visitor centre for the people of Killarney. He played a pivotal role in that regard.

Those of us who used to work in local radio will know that he was one of the pioneers of the local radio movement when it began and is to this day involved with Radio Kerry. Those of us who live on the Cork-Kerry border regularly hear him on a Saturday morning speak about anything from the price of milk to the price of whatever you want across Europe or the world. He appears regularly on Radio Kerry.

It is important in this era of new politics that we have a person of experience. I commend the other Senators for their nominations and contesting this election. They are two very fine candidates. I know Senator Denis Landy better. He is a very fine person and I wish him well, as I do Senator Máire Devine. I hope she understands there is nothing personal in our putting forward Senator Paul Coghlan. It is important that we have a person of his calibre to deputise for the Cathaoirleach and be an impartial Chair of the House in his absence. He is a man of the people, this House and the Oireachtas. He is extremely able, conscientious and firm and gives wise counsel. Those who have met and known him during the years will recognise this. I have had the pleasure of having him as my beau on several occasions and he has been a very able date. On a serious note, it is my pleasure as Leader of the House to propose him.

It is a pleasure to second Senator Paul Coghlan’s nomination. He has been a county councillor, a Senator and, for the past few years, a member of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. He is also a former banker and a member of the Institute of Banking. He was a member of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers. He was also involved in establishing links with the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry. As a member of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, he co-authored a report on illicit trade and police co-operation North and South which highlighted all criminal trading along the Border and recommended the establishment of a task force to tackle such issues. He brings with him a wealth of experience from inside and outside the House. I have no doubt that he would be an excellent Leas-Chathaoirleach. He has been an Acting Chairman in this House for the past ten years and has gained valuable experience. He is also an undertaker and was the last man to put a smile on a lot of faces. I have no doubt that he is an ideal candidate for the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach.

Is the Senator saying he will be the last man to let him down?

We will move on to the next motion. Senator Michael McDowell wishes to propose Senator Gerard P. Craughwell.

I move: "That Senator Gerard P. Craughwell be elected as Leas-Chathaoirleach."

This House, unlike the other one, has never addressed seriously the manner in which its Chairman and Vice Chairman are elected. It is not a position that should be in the gift of any other House or any person who is not a Member of this House. It is not a position that should be bartered in a process of exchange for support in the other House for people who want to be elected to positions in that House. The time has come for this House to seriously consider how it elects its own officers and to accept for itself the autonomy of deciding who should and should not be its Chairman and Vice Chairman in the future. We are blessed on this occasion that all the candidates proposed and the candidate I am proposing are suitable to be appointed Vice Chairman of this House as the Cathaoirleach was to be appointed Chairman. All, I have no doubt, are worthy of the position. The only way to ensure that in the future this House will take its autonomy seriously and elect the person it really wants to have in a position, rather than engaging in horse-trading among various outside interests or the interests of the Government or the Opposition because the new politics may not always prevail, is to make the changes to the Standing Orders of this House that were made to the Standing Orders of Dáil Éireann to provide for a system of election by secret ballot on a proportional representation basis. That was done in Dáil Éireann as a result of a campaign. I played a minor part in that campaign, speaking in Glenties in County Donegal about the necessity for it to happen. A campaign was carried out to ensure the last Dáil was not dissolved without making the position of Ceann Comhairle autonomous, with the person to be elected by the Members without reference to party Whips, diktats from the Government or deals between parties but on the basis that each individual Member, voting with his or her conscience, experience and judgment, would vote for the candidate he or she thought best. This House should follow the precedent the other House has set and give itself the scope of private judgment to decide these matters rather than reading about them in the newspapers. I read a fortnight ago about what was likely to happen today and that people were putting together deals on positions in the other House. This does not apply to Senator Paul Coghlan, but I read in one newspaper article that a particular outcome had been bartered between two groups, depending on support in one House for one outcome and for another in this House. That is not right.

Turning to the merits of my candidate, Senator Gerard P. Craughwell is a former president of the Teachers' Union of Ireland, TUI. He has immense experience in chairing individual institutions. He has chaired conferences. He has chaired the national executive committee of the TUI and joint meetings between the TUI, the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland, the Irish National Teachers Organisation and the Irish Federation of University Teachers. He has chaired further education and training committees and the organisation and training committee of the TUI.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell came into this House by the Independent route. He has no party political baggage behind him. He would discharge his functions in a totally independent and non-partisan way. Therefore, it gives me great pleasure to nominate him. In nominating him, Senator Victor Boyhan and I want to make it clear that the group to which we belong, the Seanad Independent group, is not allied to any other political party and not part of some informal coalition. We will exercise our independent judgment on all issues. In that spirit and for that reason, I commend Senator Gerard P. Craughwell for election as Leas-Chathaoirleach of the House.

I endorse what Senator Michael McDowell said, first about the call for a secret ballot to fill these positions. That is very important and valid. It has happened in Dáil Éireann; why should it not happen in Seanad Éireann? That is a challenge to all of us as Senators with our respective contacts and parties.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell is neither an undertaker nor a caretaker but has proved himself very hardworking. I spoke to several independent councillors yesterday about local government reform and local councils and they asked me if it ever would be possible for an Independent to be elected to either of these prestigious positions. We have heard a lot in the past few days about new politics. Let us not cod ourselves: it is about the reality of a new political issue. We have been dealt figures and numbers on the returns in the last general election and the last Seanad election. We have to face up to a new political reality, but to gloss it as something else is a little misleading. I endorse the nomination of Senator Gerard P. Craughwell and I am happy to second Senator Michael McDowell's proposal.

Question put: "That Senator Máire Devine be elected Leas-Chathaoirleach."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 7; Níl, 39.

  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.

Níl

  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Davitt, Aidan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Freeman, Joan.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Lawless, Billy.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • Ó Céidigh, Pádraig.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Swanick, Keith.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Gavan and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh; Níl, Senators Paddy Burke and Frank Feighan.
Question declared lost.
Question put: "That Senator Denis Landy be elected Leas-Chathaoirleach."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 5; Níl, 27.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.

Níl

  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Lawless, Billy.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Richmond, Neale.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Kevin Humphreys and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin; Níl, Senators Colm Burke and Frank Feighan.
Question declared lost.
Question put: "That Senator Paul Coghlan be elected Leas-Chathaoirleach."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 36; Níl, 11.

  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Davitt, Aidan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Freeman, Joan.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Lawless, Billy.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Céidigh, Pádraig.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Swanick, Keith.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Colm Burke and Frank Feighan; Níl, Senators Paul Gavan and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.
Question declared carried.

Senator Paul Coghlan is the new Leas-Chathaoirleach. Consequently, the following motion, proposing the name of Senator Gerard P. Craughwell, lapses. On the occasion that is in it, I call on the new Leas-Chathaoirleach to say a few words.

I am slightly emotional. I sincerely thank proposer the motion, Senator Jerry Buttimer, and its seconder, Senator Paddy Burke. They said a few things about me.

The Senator is entitled to be emotional. Tóg go bog é.

If I may say so, they employed some poetic licence. They made it sound as if I was a Jack of all trades but, I hope, not a master of none. Senator Jerry Buttimer joked about me. I believe I was at a function with him once and must say he was a very pleasant dining companion. I was very happy to accompany him. He picked me up at home to take me to that lovely place in Killarney where he was guest of honour at an Irish Medical Organisation do. Then I had Senator Paddy Burke talking about my days as an undertaker. The only undertaking I do now is undertaking to be scrupulously fair and impartial any time I occupy the Chair.

I commend everything that has been said and sincerely commend the other candidates.

As Senator Michael McDowell said, any one of the them would have been fit to occupy the Chair. I think we are going to get on well together in the new politics in which we are all now engaged. I am very grateful. Go raibh maith agaibh.

I ask Senator Denis Landy, one of the defeated candidates, to say a few words. I suggest everyone keep his or her comments brief.

I will be very brief and not get emotional either. I could cry, but I am not going to do so. I congratulate Senator Paul Coghlan on achieving the post. He is one of the longest-serving Members of thie House and I wish him well as Leas-Chathaoirleach. On a personal level, we are very good friends and shall remain so.

One often hears that a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush and we learn what that means every day. I did not realise Senator Paul Coghlan had had so many professions, which gives a new meaning to the phrase "He has the measure of you". We now know that he will be watching all of our sides. I shall finish by saying "well done" and extending congratulations to him.

I congratulate the Leas-Chathaoirleach on his election. He is a lucky man that I did not speak ahead of him because his words have left me feeling deeply emotional. In all fairness, he will be an excellent Leas-Chathaoirleach and I am very happy for him. He canvassed hard for the post and did very well. I extend my congratulations to him and look forward to working with him and perhaps watching him rise to his feet to ask me to sit down every now and then. I wish him well in the future.

On behalf of the Sinn Féin team, I congratulate Senator Paul Coghlan and wish him well. I am glad that the role means a lot to him and that he is committed to maintaining impartiality. We look forward to working with him in a constructive and collaborative way.

I thank the Senator.

I do not normally give precedence or priority to Kerry people, but the Leas-Chathaoirleach is affectionately known as Lord Killarney; therefore, I had better let the two Ciarraíoch, Senators Mark Daly and Ned O'Sullivan, say a few words.

I thank the Cathaoirleach. I congratulate my fellow Kerryman. It is obvious that his appointment means a lot to him. He has been a Member of the House since 1997 and given a lot of service to it. He has fought quietly for its protection and change. He is very much of County Kerry. The voice of the Kingdom is not just Sentor Paul Coghlan, it is also Radio Kerry, of which he was one of the founding members. He has also protected Killarney House and seen the project to fruition. He has done tireless and quiet work. He has also been a member of the trustees' board for Muckross House. He is very proud of Killarney, but he is also very proud of County Kerry and the people of County Kerry are very proud of him. He has also worked on the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and British-Irish relations. Again, he has been a quiet advocate in that regard. This is a great day for him and his family. It is good for the House to see someone who has such regard for this institution getting the recognition he deserves. On behalf of the Fianna Fáil group, we congratulate him and know that he will do a great job.

I will be very brief. As the senior Senator for County Kerry, I congratulate Senator Paul Coghlan very sincerely. We have been friends a long time. He is a legend in County Kerry, as he is here. We served for a period on the county council, but he was always destined for the Seanad. He was born a Senator, he has adorned the Seanad and is an exceptionally popular choice. I am delighted for him, his wife, Peggy, and family. It is a proud day for all of them.

On behalf of the Labour Party group, I add my voice to those congratulating Senator Paul Coghlan on his election as Leas-Chathaoirleach. He will do a superb job. It has been a pleasure to work with him in the past five years and I look forward to working with him in the future. I have had the pleasure that not many colleagues may have had of seeing him in his natural habitat of Muckross House in Killarney. I saw how well revered he was there. Perhaps now, as Leas-Chathaoirleach, he might achieve the ambition he has often expressed in this House, which is to bring it to Muckross House. One never knows; he may succeed in bringing the Seanad to County Kerry.

The Senator mentioned Senator Paul Coghlan's natural habitat. He reminds me of a little red squirrel, which is a protected species.

We have a few of those, too.

On behalf of the Civil Engagement group, I warmly congratulate Senator Paul Coghlan on his election as Leas-Chathaoirleach. We very much look forward to benefiting from his experience and deeply felt commitment to the Seanad and what it can be. We also appreciate his commitment to working in an impartial manner. I know that he has experience of facilitating various voices on Radio Kerry. We hope we will now see all the voices of the nation, in its diversity, being facilitated in a constructive manner in the Seanad chamber. I congratulate the Senator and look forward greatly to working with him.

Before I allow the Leader the last word, I want to say two things as Cathaoirleach. First, I sincerely thank all of the Members who have showered bouquets on me. A little like the Leas-Chathaoirleach, I am not sure if I have yet earned such accolades, but time will tell. I sincerely thank everyone for his or her kind remarks.

I wish Senator Paul Coghlan every success as Leas-Chathaoirleach. As someone said, he has been an Acting Chairman for the past ten years; therefore, he is quite experienced. I have no doubt that he will do a fantastic job and that he will let me away every second day.

On my own behalf and that of the Fine Gael group, I congratulate Senator Paul Coghlan. I did not know that there were going to be tears in Beauty's Home this evening. The emotion the Senator showed on the announcement of his appointment is a demonstration of the love and affection he has for this House and the Seanad Chamber. I congratulate him and pay tribute to his wife, Peggy; his sons and daughters and his brother, Michael, who are seated in the Visitors Gallery. I welcome all of them and congratulate him. He will bring his keen sense of fairness and equity to his new role. We all look forward to working with him and wish him every success.

It has been suggested by Senators that we take a sos until 3.10 p.m.

I propose that we suspend the sitting for 20 minutes.

Sitting suspended at 2.50 p.m. and resumed at 3.10 p.m.