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.