Gnó an tSeanaid - Business of Seanad

Sula bhfiafraím ar Threoraí an Tí an tOrd Gnó a thairiscint, ba mhaith liom fáilte ar ais a chur roimh gach Comhalta den tSeanaid ar ócáid an chéad suí tar éis an athchóiriú a bhí le déanamh ar feadh dhá bhliain anuas. Táim cinnte go n-aontóidh sibh liom go bhfuil obair den scoth déanta faoi threoir Oifig an nOibreacha Poiblí. A huge amount of work has been done during those two years, much of it invisible. That is because the restoration project was mainly concerned with strengthening floors, improving fire insulation and rationalising the cabling that has proliferated under floors and behind walls over many years. It was about ensuring that a 270 year old family home was equipped to serve as the home of our national Parliament for at least another century. That said, anyone who has walked through the corridors and seen this Chamber will have been impressed by the magnificent job that has been done to enhance the presentation of Leinster House to the increasing number of people who visit the Oireachtas every year. This is a building that we can be proud to show to the school children and community groups, the tourists and the foreign delegations we welcome daily to the Chamber.

I am pleased that the project has allowed us to adapt the Chamber in order to ensure improved access for people with disabilities. Proper provision has been made for wheelchair users, whether visitors or Members. Camera points to facilitate Irish Sign Language broadcasting have been installed and the loop system for those with hearing difficulties has been upgraded.

Many people have contributed to the success of this restoration project. From the point of view of the Seanad, the restoration would never have been possible if we had not found a suitable place in which to conduct our business while the work was being carried out. I have to express particular gratitude to the director, board and staff of the National Museum of Ireland who facilitated our sittings in the Ceramics Room and the Japanese Room. Under the exemplary stewardship of the Ceann Comhairle and Chair of the Oireachtas Commission, Deputy Ó Fearghaíl, an excellent relationship has been developed with our next-door neighbours in the museum, a relationship which, I have no doubt, will endure and develop further to the mutual benefit of our two institutions.

I commend, in particular, the Office of Public Works which oversaw the restoration. An historic building that is nearly three centuries old presents considerable technical challenges and responsibilities. The work the OPW has done in Leinster House speaks positively to its reputation for highly-competent and sensitive management of the State's stock of historic buildings. The main contractor, Duggan Brothers, and the many subcontractors involved in the restoration deserve our gratitude for their sterling work, as do our own contractors who manage the electronic voting, sound and broadcasting systems. Last but not least, the staff of our own facilities management unit have been immersed in this project for the past few years. They have worked flat out, especially throughout the summer, to ensure the effective co-ordination and delivery of the many aspects of the complex project. Special mention must be made of Mr. Michael O’Brien, who has worked tirelessly to ensure Leinster House would be open for our sitting day.

I thank all the staff of the Seanad for their patient endurance and the staff of the Houses who helped us over the past two years in a different facility. I acknowledge the presence today of acting Superintendent, John Flaherty. I thank all the Leinster House staff, including the ushers, who have been so facilitating, courteous and kind not only to me but also to all the Members. On behalf of all Members of the Seanad, I thank everyone involved for a job well done. Ba chóir dóibh go léir bheith bródúil as an méid agus an gcaighdeán oibre atá déanta acu. The fantastic work on the restoration of the building, which has been painted in colours similar to those of 1748 when similar colour patterns were used, represents a wonderful achievement for all involved. It brings to mind a quotation that my father taught me around the fireside in west Cork when I was a child. I am not sure if it is from Thackeray or Goethe:

Do I sleep? do I dream?

Do I wonder and doubt?

Are things what they seem?

Or is visions about?

Ar aghaidh linn.