Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Friday, 18 Sep 2020

Vol. 271 No. 2

Election of Leas-Chathaoirleach

I move: "That Senator Joe O'Reilly be elected Leas-Chathaoirleach."

I am privileged to stand here today and nominate Senator Joe O'Reilly because he is one of my oldest friends, not in age but in terms of the length of time we have been friends, in my short political life. He is a titan not only of this House but of the Dáil and Cavan County Council. I propose him for the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann.

The Senator entered politics when he was elected to Cavan County Council in 1985 when I was only a young one. Since then, he has represented his county and neighbours numerous times in the Seanad, Dáil and at council level over the past 30 years. He is a familiar face on posters at almost every level of politics - local, national and European. Perhaps a run for the Áras might be in his future.

We all know the Senator as a great orator, intellect and a wise man. I will put the emotional and human nature of him. In 2006, before my very first election in 2007, I was nobody. Nobody had heard of me in my own county, let alone in my party. I was heavily pregnant with my fourth child and there was not a huge amount of support coming from quarters. I got a lovely letter and gift from Joe in the post. He did not know me, had never even met me before, so that is a testament to the kind of man he is, politically and personally. He is a gent and I give him my full support.

I know the House will face difficult and challenging times ahead. Tough decisions are going to have to be made and strong debates will be had. I know the roles of Cathaoirleach and Leas-Chathaoirleach will be regularly tested and there is a real need for respected and experienced voices in the Chair for these debates. I know that Senator Mark Daly and, please God, Senator Joe O'Reilly will provide the most impartial and fair rulings for the running of this House in the future. I nominate the Senator.

I am pleased to follow the Leader of the House, Senator Doherty, and second the nomination of my friend and colleague, Senator Joe O'Reilly, for the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach. My family's connection with Senator O'Reilly goes back to many years before I was even born. It started in 1980 when my dad first started to go out with my mam. They used to meet in a pub called Beagans in Seatown in Dundalk. Back then, a young Joe O'Reilly used to travel from Bailieborough over cross-country roads to Dundalk to meet his future wife, Mary. It gives me great pleasure as a Member of Seanad Éireann, 40 years later, to propose Senator O'Reilly for the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach.

Joe was first elected to Cavan County Council in 1985 and he was then elected to the Seanad in 1989 on the cultural and educational panel. I say with the greatest of fondness and respect that Joe ended up in the most unenviable position in which any Senator would ever want to find themselves. In 1993, he was beaten on the inside-outside rule. On the first count in the Seanad elections in 1993, he scored 76 votes while his Fine Gael colleague, Maurice Manning, scored 60 votes. However, Maurice was on the inside and Joe was on the outside and despite Joe having 127 votes to Maurice's 86 at the final count, Joe was beaten on the inside-outside rule.

I am thankful to say that, 14 years later, Joe found himself back in the Oireachtas after achieving 10,000 votes in the general election of 2007, the highest of any unelected candidate in the country.

He then returned to what I would hope he calls his natural home, Seanad Éireann. After five years in Dáil Éireann between 2011 and 2016, which I would refer to as his wilderness years in the Lower House away from his natural home of Seanad Éireann, he found his way back here to all of us in 2016. I believe I speak for all of my newer Fine Gael colleagues in the Seanad when I say that the Senator is something of an elder statesman for us. He is always there to provide a listening ear and to give us advice about the inner workings of the House and how we, as new Senators, can navigate the issues of the day. His renowned wit and ability to get along with colleagues of all political persuasions and none is a testament to his character and to his likeability. It is, perhaps, one of the key reasons he is held in such high regard by so many of us in this House.

To wrap up, I will acknowledge a career of 35 years of public service. We are all public servants in this House. A career of 35 years cannot be achieved without the support of a loving family. While today is a wonderful day for the Senator personally, it is also a wonderful day for his family - his wife, Mary, and his sons, Eoghan, Alexius and Daire. Today is their day as much as the Senator's. It is an absolute honour to second the nomination of Senator Joe O'Reilly for the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach.

I move: "That Senator Fintan Warfield be elected Leas-Chathaoirleach."

In nominating Senator Warfield, I make the point that we in this House are very lucky and very privileged to have candidates of such calibre before us this afternoon. I echo and agree with the remarks made in respect of our colleague, Senator Joe O'Reilly. I have spoken to the Senator and I know he understands our thinking behind this process this afternoon. I have got to know the Senator since coming into the Seanad in 2016. Apart from his thoughtfulness and leadership in this Chamber, which have been mentioned, one of my abiding memories of him was that he led a delegation from the Seanad Special Select Committee on the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU on a visit to Belfast. He did so impeccably and with all the astute political prowess he has gained as a Member of this House. I am very thankful to him for that and, like Senator Warfield, I wish him very well in today's business and in what may come after. The Leader touched on the possibility of a run for Áras an Uachtaráin down the line. I hope we get that referendum. One never knows where the Senator might feature on the card. Given that I am doing this to the Senator today, I may owe him a vote, should I get one.

Our candidate this afternoon is, to put it bluntly, not old enough to run for the Áras as one has to be 35 to do so. It shows quite positively the breadth of experience and perspective in this Chamber that we are able to nominate a young man such as Senator Warfield, who could bring something entirely different although equally as positive and worthwhile to the role of Leas-Chathaoirleach. He could take on that position in an outward-facing and active way which showcases to a whole range of groups in our society that, no matter where one comes from or what one's background is, one is able to attain a position in this House and in that prestigious Chair. On behalf of the Sinn Féin grouping, I nominate my friend and comrade, Senator Fintan Warfield, for the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach. I wish him and Senator Joe O'Reilly the very best.

I second the motion.

As leader of the Green Party in the Seanad, I am delighted to see both of these candidates nominated. I have known Senator Joe O'Reilly for a considerable length of time, which is to say two and a half months, and in that time we have spent a good bit of time chatting together. I am delighted to see an O'Reilly nominated for the position.

Senator O'Reilly gave me some homework to do over the recess. I am delighted to say I have completed that homework and we will chat again afterwards. I wish to formally say that I am delighted to see him in this position today. I know that my colleague is keen to say a few words as well at some point today, with your permission, a Chathaoirligh.

We are fortunate to have two capable and qualified candidates for the post. I am the leader of the Independent group and I will share with the House a discussion we had. Some of us chatted the other day when there was talk or speculation of three candidates from Fine Gael. A number of us suggested that if Fine Gael did not propose Senator Joe O'Reilly then we would propose him. I shared that with him yesterday.

I know Senator Warfield. He has an exceptional record but on this occasion we will vote for Senator Joe O'Reilly. We do so because he is an exceptional man. He is, as I have described in this House, a bit of a character. I mean that in the nicest sense. My own father was described as a character and it was not perhaps always positive. It is a term we use in Irish life. At funerals we say the deceased was a great character. I say that in the best way. He is a wonderful character. He is articulate and friendly. To lose a seat and come back is the hardest thing. The hardest thing is to fall and get back up and running again but Senator O'Reilly did that.

It is important that we have a competition. We are fortunate on this occasion. These are difficult circumstances, especially in how this position is being filled. I want to acknowledge Senator Buttimer for his work as Leader in the past and as Leas-Chathaoirleach. He did an exceptional job. He brought extraordinary energy to the job and was greatly committed. Times move on, however, and these are different times and different circumstances. I wish both the candidates well but in particular I want to wish Senator O'Reilly well, as I have connections with Cavan and he is a Cavan man.

Another Cavan man who wishes to make a contribution is Senator Wilson.

I speak as a Cavan man, on behalf of my colleagues in the Fianna Fáil party and as a personal friend of Senator Joe O'Reilly for many decades, even though I am far younger than him. If times were different - I hope they will be in the not too distant future - we would be welcoming his wife, Mary Tully. Senator McGahon has referred to her. She is a native of Roscommon. It was not until Mary Tully encountered the then Councillor Joe O'Reilly that he started to be formed properly into the person we see before us on a daily basis in this House. Mary is a public health nurse and, along with her colleagues, has done Trojan work to ensure the people of Bailieborough and east Cavan have been well looked after during the Covid-19 crisis. I would also like to refer to his sons, Alexius, Eoghan and Daire, all three of whom I have known from when they were young children. They are a credit to both Joe and Mary. I know that Senator Joe O'Reilly would want me to mention his late brother Alexis, to whom he was very close, as well as his sisters Caroline and Bea. I am deeply indebted to our colleague, Seán McKiernan, a former a member of Cavan County Council, for filling in some of the blanks among the few brief words I have to say about Senator O'Reilly.

Bearing in mind that we are privileged and speak under privilege when we speak in this House, I am aware of the high legal qualification that Senator O'Reilly has. In order not to libel him I will put down some words to give the House a slight background to the man who we will be voting for here today. Before I do that I want to pay tribute to Senator Fintan Warfield. I know that his day will eventually come.

Senator Wilson is right.

Tiocfaidh ár lá.

I am going to stick to the English language, if Senator Norris does not mind.

Senator O'Reilly is a native of Mountain Lodge, County Cavan. He is the son of the late Francis O'Reilly, a founding member of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, and his wife Susan. Incidentally, God be good to her, she lived to her 96th year, so Joe could be around for some time yet.

At a time of limited education and mass emigration, Joe's father Francie was the local scribe for the people of Mountain Lodge, Laragh and Kill, a trade Joe picked up on at a very young age and put to great use politically in subsequent years. He attended St. Aidan's comprehensive school in Cootehill, along with a future constituency colleague of his and ours, the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, although if given the opportunity she always stresses that she was in first year when Joe was sitting his leaving certificate. He went on to earn a BA degree in Irish at UCD, a first class honours master's degree in history, a higher diploma in education, a national school teaching qualification and the very highly rated diploma in law to which I referred earlier. He taught at all three levels of education before settling on national school teaching. I know from my former role as a Youthreach co-ordinator that Joe had a great passion for working to tackle educational disadvantage in Cavan town before it became common practice. Joe was a great debater while in UCD and even before he got to UCD he won many national debating awards as Béarla and as Gaeilge. It is worth noting that his classmates in UCD included our constituency colleague, Deputy Brendan Smith, Deputy Charles Flanagan and Professor Gerry Boyle, who is now head of Teagasc. Joe is following in great footsteps and is rightly going into high office. If the vote goes the right way his elevation will be well deserved.

Senator Joe O'Reilly has shown great personal and political resilience in his life, while weathering family tragedy and political loss. He has always kept a very strong sense of self, while displaying a great sense of humour and a huge capacity for helping others, maintaining friendships and making new friends. He was elected to this House in 1989 and in 2007, but there was a gap of 15 years when he was not a Member of the Oireachtas. The next comparable gap I can find is in the case of my party colleague and former Senator, Terry Leyden, who was out of the Oireachtas for ten years. Even during the time when Senator Joe O'Reilly was not in this House, the people of County Cavan affectionately called him "Senator Joe". It is also worth noting that he has been elected to this House on three separate panels: cultural and education, industrial and commercial and labour. In this feat, he emulates his great friend, and a great friend and mentor of mine from the 1980s, the late Senator Andy O'Brien, who was also elected on three panels and spent 18 years in this House.

Joe was chairman of Cavan County Council from 2004 to 2005. I was honoured to serve with Joe on that council from 1999 to 2004. He initiated the chairman's award, which continues to this day. He represented Cavan County Council in two different electoral areas, Cavan and Bailieborough, as well as serving on County Cavan VEC, which allowed him to share and develop his love for education. He served in the Dáil from 2011 to 2016 but, sadly, lost his seat by a very narrow margin against the backdrop of the constituency losing a seat and significant territory. He has been a Member of this House since 2016. As both a Dáil Deputy and Senator, Joe is known for his wide network of clinics and his personal attention to ensuring any query brought to him is pursued as far as it can possibly go.

Joe is a founding chairman of Bailieborough Mental Health Association and both he and his wife Mary have used the Hideout bar, which they still own - I hope it is serving food - to host many worthwhile charitable fundraising events down through the years, especially for the Irish Wheelchair Association. Some Senators might be amazed to discover that Joe was also well known as the PRO of the Cavan Ploughing Association.

Senator Joe O'Reilly is a good man.

He has devoted his entire adult life to politics, his community and the Fine Gael Party while also nurturing a family and not forgetting his friends. There has been much talk of new politics in recent years but Senator Joe O'Reilly represents everything good about old politics - decency, loyalty, courtesy, kindness and consideration. The new politics needs more of these values. To paraphrase James Dillon, who was a hero of the Senator's, Senator O'Reilly has shown that politics is a vocation. Even though it has drawn him into stormy waters as well as calm ones, he has not given up or given in. The people of County Cavan are proud of him. I trust that, in presiding as Leas-Chathaoirleach of the House, the Senator will remember another great maxim of Dillon's also: united we stand and divided we fall. I wish the Senator the very best of luck.

While I appreciate Senator Warfield's qualities and I am sure he will see his day come, I will be supporting Senator Joe O'Reilly. I am delighted to see him as a candidate. As my colleague Senator Boyhan said, if the Senator's party had not nominated him, we would have nominated him. That is how highly thought of he is in this House. I note that the Leader mentioned the only post the Senator has not yet challenged for is that of President of Ireland. I would be very happy to advise him on that when the time comes-----

The Senator should not listen.

-----as I have some experience in that area. I wish Senator O'Reilly well.

I am delighted to support Senator Joe O'Reilly today. I am from County Cavan as well. There was always a division in our house between my mother and my father. My father used to say he was Fine Gael and my mother was a staunch Fianna Fáil woman so there were always rows in our home. Senator O'Reilly was the local councillor in our area. He served on the council with my uncle, the late Danny Brady and my late aunt, Veronica Sharkey. They would want me to support the Senator today. I am also supporting him because he is very close to the Keogans of Killyteane and they too would want me to support him. I am going to do the honourable thing and support the Senator today. I wish him well; he is a gentleman. He has a very kind and gentle nature and I am very pleased he will be taking the position of Leas-Chathaoirleach today.

Áras an Uachtaráin awaits Senator Warfield; his time will come.

I echo the Members who have said we were lucky in this House to have two such talented candidates for this office. I have known Senator Warfield for some years and have been very impressed by his meticulous attention to detail in discussions with Government and so on. On a number of occasions on which I have visited Government offices with him, he has given very commanding performances.

I am interested that so many Senators have today admitted that they come from County Cavan. I must say I have no such distinction. My roots are firmly in County Laois, which, as Senators will know, is the greatest of all of our 32 counties. I have known Senator Joe O'Reilly for many years and have the greatest respect and affection for him. He is a man of great decency and integrity and we have been privileged to listen to his contributions in this House over many years. The only negative or sad thing I can say is that it is such a pity that Senator O'Reilly's family cannot be here with him today because of Covid. I expect they are watching proceedings on the twiddly-diddly, the thingamajig, and I am sure they are rejoicing with him and us today.

This is a good day for Seanad Éireann. It is also rather good that there was such cross-party support for Senator O'Reilly. Hearing such an informed and positive contribution from Senator Wilson of Fianna Fáil about a Member from Fine Gael is how the Seanad should go. Well done to all involved.

Senator Wilson's generosity in his remarks epitomises the spirit in the Seanad. It is also a great tribute to Senator Joe O'Reilly. There is a bit of a scene. Senator Norris left out Monaghan. The constituency is Cavan-Monaghan. Many careers that were launched in Cavan-Monaghan crashed and burned. When Senator O'Reilly had his success postponed in 2007, there was another wannabe on the ballot paper. There were about 16 runners and riders. I was in the loser's camp on that occasion. There was a lovely collegiality in the count centre, and Joe was always very inclusive, warm and consoling to those two great imposters, victory and defeat, in exactly the same way. In parts of Cavan and Monaghan he is endearingly known as Gentleman Joe, a gentleman to his fingertips and a wise person. I am confident that in his new and important role he will put co-operation before confrontation and inclusivity before exclusivity.

Although I am long since happily ensconced in the lilywhite county of Kildare, I come from Monaghan. There is a lovely respect in our constituency of Cavan-Monaghan. It does not extend to the Ulster championship. If Iraq was to play Monaghan in the first round of the Ulster championship, in Monaghan we would worry who Cavan would support. When a team from the province of Ulster qualifies, there is always 110% well-wishing and support for that team to go through.

The class of 2007 really goes back to 1999. So many people have made acquaintances: Senator Joe O'Reilly, Senator Wilson, Senator Gallagher and the Minister, Deputy Humphreys. A then very young Deputy Matt Carthy and I were elected at the same time in 1999. There is a lot of respect. Politics can be brutal at times. It is tough and, without patronising the profession, a real vocation. I think all politicians have great empathy, understanding and respect for one another as we all go about trying to do our best. I know and I am assured that Senator O'Reilly will do his absolute very best in this new role.

Senator Warfield is just like me in 2007, I am afraid to say. It is never over until it is over, but if there were a bookmaker in the House he or she would say Senator Warfield could be a few votes short today. I hope that will be only a postponement of his success because it is great to see young people going forward. We should celebrate the fact that there is a contest today. There is nothing wrong with democratic contest; in fact, it strengthens the mandate of the successful person and doubles the resolve of the person who would be his or her successor, temporarily postponed. I wish Senator Joe O'Reilly well on this occasion. Although we cannot always be taken for granted, the Green Party is in Senator O'Reilly's camp.

I will keep this brief because I know we have to move on. Senator Wilson's contribution was very fitting. I have known Joe for many years. I think we first met during my broadcasting days, on one of many trips I made up to Cavan when I was with Shannonside Northern Sound. I always got a céad míle fáilte from Joe. Senator Wilson mentioned that Joe's wife comes from Roscommon. I know the Tully family very well. They are very well thought of in County Roscommon, and I know that Joe is also very well thought of in the county. When there are fewer restrictions around, we hope to have a little celebration down in Roscommon for him. I am glad to support him today. I know he will be an outstanding Leas-Chathaoirleach. He is always a gentleman and a great man to give advice in a gentle and mild-mannered way. That is very important, and I echo all the words around the House today. I wish to acknowledge Senator Warfield, a very hard-working Member, for putting his name forward. I also wish to remember Senator Buttimer today for his hard work and fairness.

I wish to take this opportunity to wish Senator Joe O'Reilly the very best in what, I hope, will be his new role and also to wish Senator Warfield well in his future.

As others have said, a contest is important but obviously I will support Senator Joe O'Reilly. I have known him since 2011, when we were both new Deputies. Our paths diverged after that but it was a pleasure to serve and he is certainly one of the most honourable, if not the most honourable, person that one can find in politics. He has cross-party support and respect for his manner and being. He has significant experience as a Senator having served three different terms and, as Senator Wilson said, he was on three different panels, which I did not know. He has had a long and distinguished career in these Houses and at local authority level. We all wish him the best in his future role as Leas-Chathaoirleach. We look forward to working with him and to continued friendship in the coming years.

I wish Senator O'Reilly well. I will support him. I am not from Cavan but from Longford. They are neighbouring counties and rivals on the football field. I have family from Cavan who have known the Senator for many years and have been great supporters of his. Everything has been said here today. I came in when Senator Wilson was speaking and he epitomised Joe in the way he spoke. Well done to Senator Wilson on his comments. "Gentleman Joe" has been said, and he is a pure gentleman. I wish him well in his role. I wish Senator Warfield well as well. He has a bright future. Senator O'Reilly is an ideal man for the job. I also echo what Senator Murphy said and acknowledge Senator Buttimer.

I congratulate both candidates. I will support my colleague, Senator O'Reilly. It will be lovely to see a fellow northerner in the Chair. It is a proud day not only for his family but also the network of Fine Gael in Cavan and the councillors there. I enjoyed listening to Senator Wilson's contribution. He is absolutely right about old politics versus new politics. Much of politics is about building relationships and that is what Senator O'Reilly epitomises. One can even see that today in the people who are here supporting him. It is cross-party, cross-age and cross-life stage. He has substantial support because he gives us substantial support. As a new Senator, we need people across the board who we can go to for friendly advice. I wish him the best of luck. It is a proud day for him and his family. It is a pity that Mary is not here but hopefully good times are ahead.

I congratulate Senator O'Reilly. It is a wonderful day. There was much support in Roscommon, especially from Pat, Mary's brother. It is a special day and the Senator will celebrate it well with his family. These are difficult and challenging times but the Senator will show us, in the time to come, all the wisdom and experience that he has learned so far. He has been very helpful to us, particularly to new Senators such as Senator Currie and I. It is a baffling, bewildering world at times, but Senator O'Reilly has always had a kind word and the door has been open for us to have a chat. I wish Senator O'Reilly well and look forward to seeing him as Leas-Chathaoirleach in the years ahead.

Question, "That Senator Joe O'Reilly be elected Leas-Chathaoirleach," put and declared carried.

As the motion in respect of Senator O'Reilly's nomination has been successful, the motion proposing Senator Warfield lapses. I call on the Leas-Chathaoirleach, Senator O'Reilly, to address the House.

Is cúis áthais dom a bheith tofa inniu mar Leas-Chathaoirleach. Tá a fhios agam go dtagann freagracht thromchúiseach leis an onóir a chuir sibh orm.

Tá sé de dhualgas orm mo dhualgas a chomhlíonadh go cóir agus go huile. Bí cinnte go ndéanfaidh mé mo fíor-dhícheall jab den chéad scoth a dhéanamh. Oibreoidh mé leis an gCathaoirleach agus leis an bhfoireann riaracháin ar bhealach comhoibritheach. Táim ag tnúth le bheith ag obair go dlúth agus go measúil le gach Seanadóir.

A Chathaoirligh and fellow Senators, if I might say on a whimsical note, I was thinking as people were speaking that so many people on this Earth do not have this experience. They are hearing it from the other side, but it is nice to have a pre-run of this while one is alive. It gives me a flavour and I hope some of this will transfer there.

I thank the Cathaoirleach and my fellow Senators for conferring this great honour on me today. I am appreciative of and moved by their overwhelming, generous and enthusiastic support. I thank my Fine Gael colleagues for selecting me to go forward and in doing so, I acknowledge the quality and ability of my two fellow candidates, Senator Kyne, our honoured and regarded Chief Whip, and, of course, Senator Lombard. Either of them would have been outstanding in the role. I appreciate Senator Kyne's generous remarks and I can assure him, as I did previously, that were the role reversed, and they could readily have been, I would be proudly making the same speech. Senator Kyne is an absolute gentleman, as is Senator Lombard.

I thank Senators Doherty and McGahon for proposing and seconding me. I actually did not write their speeches nor did they even consult me. It is gratifying that they could say such nice things while not under duress.

It may be a good juncture at this point to remember my council colleagues around the country who elected me here. In that regard, as was so eloquently put in such a lovely speech by Senator Wilson, I want to remember my old mentor, the late Senator Andy O'Brien, whose daughter, Madeleine, I believe called up a number of Senators on the phone before our votes etc. It is an appropriate time to do that.

I wish to thank the Independent Senators here for not opposing my nomination. By this I mean all the collective Independent Senators who break into a couple of groups. I will do my very best to honour the trust and friendship arising from our years of working together.

I pay a heartfelt tribute to Senator Warfield, who is a highly regarded person by all of us. There is an old saying that third time is lucky. Senator Warfield has a crack at the next time although I hope that will not be for a while. I wish him well.

I acknowledge our colleagues in government from Fianna Fáil and the Green Party for their support here today. In that regard, I wish to thank the contributors. It is because I am naturally a little moved by the occasion and a little unsteady, as we all are in these situations, that I will not go through the individual speeches or people who said the wonderful things. I will only say that I really appreciate them and hope to get to say it to them individually because I am moved by the things they said. The only generous or proper response I can give to their wonderful and lovely remarks is that rather than thanking them individually in a long, rambling speech, the best way to honour them is by giving an all-round, all day, every day commitment to doing the job well. That is how I will try to honour the lovely remarks from all of them. I appreciate and will get to speak individually with people. I am overwhelmed by it and it is almost like a pageant or something they had arranged. I did not arrange any of it. I thank them very much. It is deeply appreciated. I will not go through names in case I make a mistake.

At this juncture, I wish to acknowledge my wife, Mary, and sons, Alexius, Eoghan and Daire. They are watching this remotely at the moment out in Effra Road in the house of a friend of mine, Luke Smith, who is a friend of Senator Wilson's also.

They are remotely watching because they are observing House protocols. We will try to celebrate in the evening. The advice of the administration services here was that they should not attend. They appreciate that good advice and they are observing it. I thank them for the years of love, support and affirmation. We all thrive on affirmation.

I acknowledge and thank Mary Keogan, a cousin of Senator Sharon Keogan, who fronts my Cavan office, and Mary O'Connor, who is very well known to the Members of this House, who fronts my office in Leinster House. They are both loyal and efficient and committed to public service.

I acknowledge the competent, fair chairing of Seanad proceedings by my immediate predecessors, Senator Buttimer and former Senator Paul Coghlan. I look forward to working closely with the Cathaoirleach. I know that he shares, and has already displayed, a commitment to fair play for all. I will try at all times to be fair and to ensure that the mandate of every Senator in this House is properly respected. I assure the House that I will be available to every Member and will be only delighted to take their ideas on board. I know that they are here because of a desire to provide public service and enhance the lives of others. There is no Senator in this Chamber who is not motivated by high ideals and it is my job, and that of the Cathaoirleach, which he does admirably, to ensure that every Senator gets access and opportunity for full, free and fair expression.

Over the years, the Seanad has been a catalyst for social change and new thinking. Nobody will begrudge a special mention of the father of the House, Senator Norris, in this regard. We have initiated new legislation and scrutinised and amended legislation before us. Alongside the Cathaoirleach, Senator Daly, I will work to extend our possibilities, be that in the realm of select committees, invitations to guests or our interaction with Northern Ireland and Europe.

The arrangements for guarding the Seanad and its establishment were not the subject of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and so it was a matter for the Oireachtas and the Government of the day to set the provisions subject only to the referendum required. In September 1922, after the deaths of Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins, the then President of the Executive Council, W.T. Cosgrave, set out those provisions to the Dáil and outlined the Government's commitment to the creation of an Upper Chamber and the limits that would exist to that Chamber. Obviously, the Seanad created in 1922 was overtaken in 1937 with the enactment of Bunreacht na hÉireann and its adoption by referendum. In referencing previous Seanaid and the foundation of the Seanad on two occasions I think it appropriate to quote the words of Thomas Westropp Bennett, the last Chairman of the 1922 Seanad, who said of the old Seanad in Leinster House on 19 May 1936:

We have finished our labours, and nothing remains to be done but to ring down the curtain. I think we may congratulate ourselves on having done the State some service. .... We emerge in light, conscious that we did our duty, and conscious that, in our every act, we tried to build and strengthen this infant State.

I am sure that all of us here today, and Senators in their offices, would like to be able to say the same of our work in this House during this session when it ends. It is my job, in co-operation with, and working alongside, the Cathaoirleach, Senator Daly, to ensure that that is our epitaph.

In its original manifestation, Members of the Seanad originally had to be at least 35 years old. I say that conscious that we now have many young Members, who are particular friends of mine and who had particularly gracious things to say about me earlier. I also recognise that it is tremendously important that we have young Members of the extraordinary calibre that was displayed earlier. This allows the House to be more representative of the population as a whole. Our young Members are our greatest jewels.

Although the office of Leas-Chathaoirleach is not referred to Articles 18 and 19 of the Constitution, which deal with the Seanad, it is alluded to in Article 14, which sets out the provisions relating to the Presidential Commission. I am aware that some of my predecessors as Leas-Chathaoirleach have been called upon, with the Ceann Comhairle and Chief Justice, in this regard.

In conclusion, this is a special day for me. Growing up on a small farm in Cavan, I would never have thought that I would one day become Leas-Chathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann. I mention that not only to underline my gratitude but to tell young people that, in this great Republic, they can be anything they want to be. All of us in this Chamber will work every day to remove any remaining obstacles to that. Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teach.

Senator Buttimer has indicated that he would like to contribute.

I dtús báire, déanaim fíorchomhghairdeas le mo chara, an Leas-Chathaoirleach nua, an Seanadóir Seosamh Ó Raghallaigh. I congratulate the Senator on his elevation. I hope his tenure is longer than mine. I wish him every success and pledge to him my full co-operation. We have had the pleasure of contesting two Seanad elections on the same panel and never once was there a cross word or any incursion from either of us. The Senator is a person whom many of us hold in high regard. His 35 years of dedication as a public representative today culminates in his election as Leas-Chathaoirleach. I congratulate the Senator's wife, Mary, and his three sons. I pledge him my full support and wish him every success. Déanaim comhghairdeas leis arís.

I thank Senator Buttimer for his contribution and for his service to this House. I thank all Members for their contributions in respect of Senator Joe O'Reilly. It is a great day for the Senator and his family. We are all disappointed that they cannot be here with us today to celebrate the Senator's great contribution to public life and public service. Senator Joe O'Reilly spoke about his family. His father was a scribe and a man of great learning. The Senator referred to hearing his mother's words from the afterlife. It is great that he can hear them now because I am sure they are truly honoured that he has become Leas-Chathaoirleach of this Seanad.

In my research into the Senator, I found that he had a great fondness for a teacher in the school in Carrickallen, Mrs. Smith, who gave him the love of learning he has brought all the way through to share with us here today. The Senator has 35 years of experience, including serving as a Vice-President of the Council of Europe twice. He will bring that vast experience and knowledge to the role he is to fulfil for us. We are delighted to have him.

In his fitting contribution, Senator Wilson spoke about Senator Joe O'Reilly's service on Cavan County Council, on which he served as chairman. Senator Wilson's uncle was, of course, on the famous 1947 team that beat Kerry in the all-Ireland final at the Polo Grounds in New York.

I would say that as a day for Cavan this is up there with beating Kerry in the all-Ireland final. I look forward to working with Senator O'Reilly and to his advice and the wisdom of his 35-year contribution to public service. If we, as Members of the House, give half as much as Joe has given over the years we will be doing very well.

Sitting suspended at 12.50 p.m. and resumed at 1.15 p.m.